I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: most NYC media know squat about how Hollywood really works. A perfect example is this screaming headline from New York mag’s Vulture blog today: “Universal Claims American Gangster Is Not an Adapted Screenplay?” (What about Imagine?) The magazine is pissed because the pic is based on Mark Jacobson’s NYM piece “The Return of Superfly” and as a result Steve Zallian’s script shouldn’t be eligible for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar. So I called up Universal for a response, and the studio politely told NYM to go hell:
“As in every instance, the writing credit determination on American Gangster was made by the WGA, who ruled that Steven Zaillian’s screenplay qualifies as an original work. Universal is following their direction.
Mark Jacobson’s article ‘The Return of Superfly’ was used as research material, but the film depicts a much more expansive portrait not only of Frank Lucas but of the period and includes many other sequences and characters that don’t appear in Jacobson’s piece. Most notably, the character of Richie Roberts, who represents an equally weighted half of the film, does not ever appear in the article.
Jacobson’s article is, in essence, an extended interview with Frank Lucas and was used as one contributing source of research along with many others. After reviewing the screenplay and the source material, the WGA awarded the ‘original screenplay’ designation.
Any questions as to how the ruling came to be are more rightly directed to the WGA, not Universal. It is exclusively their purview.”