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20th Century Studios has announced its exclusive plan to campaign for “The Bikeriders” in the upcoming awards season, specifically targeting the Best Original Screenplay category. The film, directed and written by Jeff Nichols, made a significant impact at the Telluride Film Festival and features a star-studded cast including Austin Butler, Jodie Comer, and Tom Hardy. Despite its source material being the 1968 photo and interview book of the same name, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has classified the script as an original work rather than adapted.
“The Bikeriders” movie weaves a fictional narrative inspired by the Midwestern motorcycle club depicted in Danny Lyon’s photo book. Lyon’s book, first published in 1968, provides an intimate look into the lives of the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club through black-and-white photographs and transcribed interviews. Jeff Nichols, the film’s director and screenwriter, emphasizes the complexity of the script, describing it as the most intricate he has ever written. He takes pride in crafting a full narrative structure from a source that lacked one, combining words and images to evoke nostalgia and capture a specific time and place.
Mike Faist, known for his role in “West Side Story,” portrays Danny in the film. Danny is a writer and photographer who interviews Kathy (Jodie Comer) about the rise and fall of the Vandals, a motorcycle gang. Danny’s character is based on the author Danny Lyon, a law student turned photojournalist, whose work served as the inspiration for the fictionalized script.
While the WGA will list “The Bikeriders” among the original screenplay candidates during the crucial WGA Awards, the determination of its official categorization by the Academy Awards remains uncertain until members cast their votes. The Writer’s Branch committee within the Academy has the authority to assess a film’s eligibility independently of the WGA. In the past, films like “Moonlight” were initially campaigned as “original” by the WGA but were later categorized as “adapted” by the committee due to unique circumstances.
Jeff Nichols has previously faced a similar situation with his film “Loving” in 2016, which depicted the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving. Despite crediting the documentary “The Loving Story” as foundational to his script, the Academy labeled it as an adapted work, resulting in a nomination snub.
The debate over what constitutes an original or adapted work has sparked discussions on social media. Nevertheless, if “The Bikeriders” retains its original designation, Jeff Nichols may have a smoother path to securing his first-ever Oscar nomination. Despite his track record of critically acclaimed films like “Take Shelter” and “Mud,” Nichols has received just one Oscar nomination, in the Best Actress category for Ruth Negga’s performance in “Loving.”
“The Bikeriders” is set to hit U.S. theaters on December 1st, and its unique categorization will be closely watched as the awards season unfolds.