The zig-zag path from Fitzgerald short story to Fincher epic is outlined in the NYTimes, following The Curious Case of Benjamin Button across a minefield of interpretations (a comedy starring Martin Short!), as the property was passed many hands over the past two decades (Speilberg and Spike Jonz among the directors once attached.) It’s a rewrite history that began in the early ’90s with producer Ray Stark; stalled when the artisic demands could not be fulfilled until technology caught up; and re-ignited when Forrest Gump author Eric Roth’s script landed at Paramount — with particuar focus on Brad Grey and his desire to occasionally “serve art and commerce in the same picture.”
Under Mr. Grey, who took charge of Paramount in 2005, the studio has been an aggressive player in the Oscar game. But usually it has sought awards through its Paramount Vantage division, which is now cutting staff and looking for crowd-pleasers as much as award contenders. ‚ÄúBabel,‚Äù a best-picture nominee in 2007, and ‚ÄúThere Will Be Blood,‚Äù nominated as best picture this year, both came from that unit.
The article has ‘Oscar’ in the headline, offers a year-end rundown of the same titles we’ve been discussing for Best Picture for months, and poses a December showdown based on early impressions from industry insiders:
Some publicists who specialize in Oscar campaigns are privately predicting a year-end shootout between ‚ÄúButton‚Äù and ‚ÄúFrost/Nixon,‚Äù a planned December release from Universal Pictures, directed by Ron Howard and with Michael Sheen and Frank Langella in the title roles. The films have been seen by few, but the campaign machinery is already lining up behind them.
Though the time-span of Fitzgerald’s story extends from the 1860’s to World War I, Fincher’s adaptation shifts the action forward so that it now begins in the Twenties and bridges more than 80 years of New Orleans history all the way through Katrina.