Oscars Shakeup! ‘Barbie’ Moved to Adapted Screenplay by Academy Despite WGA Classification as Original

Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” has undergone a significant shift in its Oscar campaign, as the film is now competing in the Adapted Screenplay category, despite its initial classification as an Original Screenplay by the Writers Guild of America (WGA). This development was exclusively reported by Variety.

Understanding the Category Change

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Writers Branch executive committee made this decision as the official Oscar nomination voting is set to begin on Thursday, Jan. 11. Voters will now consider the script, penned by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, in the Adapted Screenplay category.

“Barbie”, featuring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, explores the iconic doll character’s existential crisis and subsequent journey to the real world. Originally, Variety had reported the film’s campaign under the Best Original Screenplay category, aligning with the WGA’s designation.

Why the Shift to Adapted Screenplay?

The Academy’s classification differs from the WGA due to distinct rules and criteria for screenplay categorization. Notably, each awarding body operates independently regarding these classifications. In the past, films like “Moonlight” and “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” experienced similar shifts in categories between the WGA and the Academy. The fundamental reasoning for “Barbie’s” reclassification likely stems from the fact that Barbie and Ken are pre-existing characters, originally Mattel dolls, before becoming film characters.

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Precedents in Screenplay Categorization

To illustrate this point, let’s consider other films. “Toy Story 3” and “Borat 2”, which revolved around pre-existing characters, were classified as adapted screenplays. This pattern extends to “Barbie”, as its main characters have a long-standing cultural presence outside of cinema.

Comparatively, original films like Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” were rightly placed in the Best Original Screenplay category. However, its sequel, “Glass Onion”, falls under the adapted screenplay category since it derives from characters established in the original film.

Potential Impact on Gerwig and Baumbach’s Oscar Chances

This category shift places Gerwig and Baumbach, both celebrated for their screenwriting prowess, in a new competitive landscape. Gerwig has a history of nominations in both original and adapted screenplay categories, while Baumbach has been recognized for his original screenplays. “Barbie” now joins other strong contenders in the Adapted Screenplay category.

The Ripple Effect on the Original Screenplay Category

With “Barbie” moving to Adapted Screenplay, the Original Screenplay category opens up for other films. Titles like “Past Lives” and “The Holdovers” could now emerge as frontrunners. This shift also affects the race’s dynamics, offering opportunities for other films to gain prominence.

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“Barbie’s” Awards Season Journey

Despite the category change, “Barbie” continues to make a significant impact this awards season. It has tied the Golden Globes record for the second-most nominations and is expected to perform well in upcoming ceremonies, including the BAFTAs.

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