David Fincher’s Gone Girl is about to make in 4 weeks what Benjamin Button made in 18. Argo totaled out at $136 million, and didn’t get where Gone Girl has gotten until about 18 weeks. Gone Girl will likely hit $150 million before it leaves theaters. It’s estimated at $124 million right now. It continues to hold the zeitgeist and remains the most talked about film of the year.
The remarkable thing about it is that Gone Girl was written solely by a woman, produced by a woman, and stars mostly women. Right now, it’s about to hit somewhere around $120 million. In 4 weeks. While the success of films like Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, Maleficent and Frozen can be marginalized as appealing to young girls, Gone Girl appeals across the board to men and women, and especially adult women. This represents a significant step forward. The only remaining question is whether Oscar voters will embrace the film fully, as Kenneth Turan at the LA Times has done, or cooly reject it the way Manohla Dargis at the NY Times has done.
Recent history tells us that once the Academy narrowed the nominee list from ten to five, films by and about women have gotten the shaft; with only five choices the mostly male Academy leans towards male driven cinema, give or take a Gravity.
The box office story of Gone Girl is a very big deal, though you’d never know it by the way other pundits and reporters are talking about it. They’re mostly writing it off, probably because of the star power of Ben Affleck. It reminds me of other films pundits underestimated like Silence of the Lambs and The Departed. That means I think Gone Girl could be a very strong Best Picture contender, no matter what my colleagues like Scott Feinberg, Kris Tapley and Thelma Adams think. It could prove, by year’s end, that they turn out to be right. But something tells me that Gone Girl will make history, becoming the first film to be written by a woman who has adapted her own novel. The only other woman who managed this feat was for the play Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman.
Here are the previous Oscar winners and nominees who adapted their own work for the big screen:
John Irving won for Cider House Rules
Michael Blake won for Dances with Wolves
Alfred Uhry won for Driving Miss Daisy
Christopher Hampton won for Dangerous Liaisons
Peter Shaffer for Amadeus
Ernest Thompson for On Golden Pond
Mario Puzo, Francis Coppola for Godfather II
William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist
Mario Puzo, Francis Coppola for The Godfather
Paddy Chayefsky, Marty
Daniel Clowes and Tery Zwigoff for Ghost World
Scott Smith for The Simple Plan
Authur Miller for the Crucible
William Nicholson for Shadowlands
Michael Tolkin for The Player
Ron Kovic for Born on the 4th of July
Mark Medoff and Hesper Anderson for Children of a Lesser God
Horton Foote, Trip to Bountiful
Willy Russell for Educating Rita
Ronald Harwood for The Dresser
Harold Pinter for Betrayal
Bernard Slade for Same Time, Next year
Neil Simon, California Suite
Nicholas Meyer, The Seven Percent Solution
Neil Simon, The Sunshine Boys
Julian Barry, Lenny
Robert Anderson, The Nun’s Story
John Gay, Terence Rattigan, Separate Tables
Reginald Rose, 12 Angry Men
John Dighton, Roger MacDougall, Alexander Mackendrick, The Man in the White Suit
Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire
Graham Greene, The Fallen Idol
Lillian Hellman, Little Foxes (1941)
It shouldn’t need explaining, why this matters. Other writers should be covering it and noticing. You will have to draw your own conclusions about why they haven’t. But let it be known that David Fincher held out for Gillian Flynn. There was much pressure from the studio to have an established male screenwriter adapt it. Alfonso Cuaron held out for Sandra Bullock last year despite pressure to cast a male. While it seems archaic in 2014 that this is how you play Hollywood chess, but nonetheless, this is the reality. One great thing about Gone Girl is that it shows how much better things will be for women if we allow ourselves to dip into the darker, less flattering arenas of the female experience; forcing ourselves to only depict “positive role models” or politically correct feminist leaders on film – well, we severely limit our power as artists.
Gone Girl’s box office will make it yet another of 2014’s extraordinary success for women driven films, despite the pummeling they took from critics:
Maleficent – $241 million
Divergent – $150 million
Lucy – $126 million
Gone Girl – $124 million
The Fault in Our Stars – $124 million
Before we get to the part where the 6,000 mostly male voters in the Academy obliterate all hope for women in film, this is something to celebrate.
As an added bonus, just writing about this topic opens the door for an all-out troll offensive, a cacophony of caterwauling by men who hate it when women talk about women. You call it harassment. I call it fun.