Some people watch movies because of a certain actor or an ensemble of actors. Some even go so far as to follow certain directors (a very intelligent move, considering certain directors bodies of work: i.e. Spielberg, Howard, Scorsese,etc.). And there are even some who follow producers (a more difficult selling point, but one you hear on movie trailors quite often). But I am a writer and I follow the writers as well as certain actors and directors (producers not so much). One of those screenwriters is up for an Academy Award February 22 for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” His name is Eric Roth.
I began following Eric Roth when he took an excellent sociopolitical satire by Winston Groom an translated into one of the greatest movies of all time: “Forrest Gump.” The book, which I read before it was optioned, is a jaunty piece that takes Forrest Gump through various adventures. Although not exactly true to the novel, “Forrest Gump” the movie was an excellent extrapolation and remained true to the spirit of Groom’s book.
I found out through IMDb.com that Eric Roth had also penned “Suspect,” an great 1987 movie starring Dennis Quaid, Cher, and Liam Neeson.
Roth would go on to be nominated for and win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Forrest Gump.”
And then he wrote the screenplay for 1997’s “The Postman,” an excellent adaptation of David Brin’s award-winning post-apocalyptic 1985 novel of the same name. Although panned by many critics, “The Postman” was a Kevin Costner-directed film in which Costner also starred, and, for this writer, a winner on three fronts – screenwriter (shared with David Brin), director, and actor.
But then Eric Roth adapted a novel by Nicholas Evans, “The Horse Whisperer,” for Robert Redford. Having read somewhere that Redford had acquired the rights to “The Horse Whisperer,” I bought the book. And hated it. To be honest, just the ending. The rest of the novel was actually pretty good.
It would be nearly a year after “The Horse Whisperer” was released to theatres that I would see it, so reluctant was I to see it, despite the fact that Robert Redford, a artist I admired, had directed and acted in it. At the time, I was managing a movie rental store and happened to be looking at the credits on the back of a rental box when the name “Eric Roth” presented itself. I had no idea. Knowing his particular magic with novel-to-screen adaptation, I decided to give it a watch.
And loved it. Eric Roth, genius writer that he is, had altered the ending and, at least for this movie viewer, saved the story.
Eric Roth would go on to pen screenplays for more successful films, such as “The Insider” (starring Russell Crowe and Al Pacino; directed by Michael Mann), “Ali” (starring Will Smith; directed by Michael Mann), “Munich” (starring Eric Bana; directed by Steven Spielberg), and “The Good Shepherd” (starring Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie; directed by Robert De Niro). All are great movies. Eric Roth was nominated for “The Insider” for Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published in 2000 and for “Munich” for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2005.
So Eric Roth’s nomination for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” shared with Robin Swicord, is not his first. Hopefully, win or lose, it will not be his last.
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was adapted from an F. Scott Fitsgerald story. Its nomination for adapted screenplay is one of thirteen for the film at the 2009 Academy Awards.
Needless to say, this writer will be pulling for him to win.
He is up against some very good competition. The other Oscar nominees in the category are: John Patrick Shanley, “Doubt”; Peter Morgan, “Frost/Nixon”; David Hare, “The Reader”; Simon Beaufoy, “Slumdog Millionaire.”
The 81st Annual Academy Awards air on February 22.