From left, American Gangster’s poster; New York, August 14, 2000.Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Sure, in years past we’ve noticed the annual screenplay dance that Oscar contenders do, committing obvious category fraud in blatant attempts to position their screenplays in the categories where they have a better crack at a nomination. We chuckled when O Brother, Where Art Thou? was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, even though the Coen brothers bragged they’d never actually read The Odyssey. We laughed when Syriana was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, even though it was based on Robert Baer’s book See No Evil. But we never thought such evil would strike so close to home!
Variety’s Red Carpet District blog reports that Universal is positioning American Gangster as an original screenplay, even though it is based on Mark Jacobson’s New York Magazine piece “The Return of Superfly.” As in, the producers optioned the article, hired Steven Zaillian to write a screenplay, and made a movie out of it. Universal is claiming, according to Variety, that since Russell Crowe’s character was only a minor part of Jacobson’s article, the movie is not truly an adapted work. We call BS!
From the closing credits of American Gangster.Courtesy of Universal Pictures.