Adaptation Information

Adaptation. is a 2002 American semi-autobiographical drama metafilm directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman. The film is based on Susan Orlean's non-fiction book The Orchid Thief, with numerous self-referential events added. The film stars Nicolas Cage as Charlie and Donald Kaufman, and Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean, with Chris Cooper, Cara Seymour, Brian Cox, Tilda Swinton, Ron Livingston and Maggie Gyllenhaal in supporting roles.

Though the film is billed as an adaptation of The Orchid Thief, its primary narrative focus is Charlie Kaufman's struggle to adapt The Orchid Thief into a film, while dramatizing the events of the book in parallel. Adaptation. also adds a number of fictitious elements, including Kaufman's twin brother (also credited as a writer for the film) and a romance between Orlean and Laroche, and culminates in completely invented events including fictional versions of Orlean and Laroche three years after the events related in The Orchid Thief, Kaufman and his fictional twin brother.

The film had been in development as far back as 1994. Jonathan Demme brought the project to Columbia Pictures with Kaufman writing the script. Kaufman went through writer's block and did not know what to think of The Orchid Thief. Finally he wrote a script based on his experience of adapting The Orchid Thief as a screenplay. Jonze signed to direct, and filming was finished in June 2001. Adaptation achieved critical acclaim, and gained numerous awards at the 75th Academy Awards, 60th Golden Globe Awards and 56th British Academy Film Awards, especially for its writing and acting. Cooper won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, while Kaufman won the BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.


The self-loathing Charlie Kaufman is hired to write the screenplay for The Orchid Thief. Kaufman is going through depression and is not happy that his twin brother Donald has moved into his house and is mooching from him. Donald decides to become a screenwriter like Charlie and attends one of Robert McKee's famous seminars.

Charlie, who rejects formulaic script writing, wants to ensure that his script is a faithful adaptation of The Orchid Thief. However, he comes to realize that the book does not have a usable narrative and that it is impossible to turn into a film, leaving him with a serious case of writer's block.

Meanwhile, Donald's spec script for a clichéd psychological thriller, called The 3, sells for six or seven figures. Kaufman accidentally starts writing his script with self-reference. Already well over his deadline with Columbia Pictures, he visits Orlean in New York for advice on the screenplay. Unable to face her, Kaufman visits McKee's seminar in New York and asks him for advice. He brings his brother Donald to New York to assist with the story structure.

Donald pretends to be Charlie and interviews Orlean, but is suspicious of her account of the events of her book because it seems like too perfect a story line. He and his brother Charlie follow Orlean to Florida where she meets Laroche, the orchid-stealing protagonist of Orlean's book and her secret lover. It is revealed that the Seminole wanted the Ghost Orchid in order to manufacture a drug that causes fascination; Laroche introduces this drug to Orlean. After Laroche and Orlean catch Charlie observing them taking the drug and having sex, she decides that Charlie must die.

She forces Kaufman at gunpoint to drive to the swamp, where she intends to kill him. Charlie and Donald escape and hide in the swamp where they resolve their differences and Charlie's problems with women. Laroche accidentally shoots Donald. Fleeing, Charlie and Donald drive off but crash into a ranger's truck; Donald dies in the accident. Charlie runs off into the swamp to hide but is spotted by Laroche. However, Laroche is killed by an alligator before being able to kill Charlie.

Orlean is arrested. Charlie makes up with his mother, tells his former love interest Amelia that he is still in love with her, and finishes the script. It ends with Charlie in a voice-over announcing the script is finished and that he wants Gérard Depardieu to portray him in the film.


Tom Hanks was originally set for the double role of Charlie and Donald Kaufman. Variety reviewed the film as if Donald were a real person. Cage took the role for a $5 million salary, and wore a fatsuit during filming.

Streep expressed strong interest in the role of Susan Orlean before being cast, and took a salary cut in recognition of the film's budget. John Turturro was approached to portray John Laroche. Cooper strongly considered turning down Laroche, but accepted it after his wife urged him to. Albert Finney, Christopher Plummer, Terence Stamp and Michael Caine were considered for the role of Robert McKee, but McKee personally suggested Brian Cox to filmmakers.

Litefoot and Jay Tavare have small roles as Seminole. John Cusack, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, Lance Acord and Spike Jonze have uncredited cameos as themselves in scenes where Charlie Kaufman is on the set of Being John Malkovich, which he also wrote. Additional cameos include Doug Jones as Augustus Margary, Jim Beaver as Ranger Tony, director Curtis Hanson as Orlean's husband, and David O. Russell as a New Yorker journalist.



The idea to do a film adaptation of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief dates back to 1994. Fox 2000 purchased the film rights in 1997, eventually selling them to Jonathan Demme, who set the project at Columbia Pictures. Charlie Kaufman was hired to write the script, but struggled with the adaptation and writer's block. Kaufman eventually created a script of his experience in adaptation, exaggerating events, and creating a fictional "brother" named Donald Kaufman. Kaufman put Donald Kaufman's name on the script and dedicated the film to the fictional character. By September 1999, Kaufman had written two drafts of the script; he turned in a third draft in November 2000.

Kaufman explained,
"The idea of how to write the film didn't come to me until quite late. It was the only idea I had, I liked it, and I knew there was no way it would be approved if I pitched it. So I just wrote it and never told the people I was writing it for. I only told Spike Jonze, as we were making John Malkovich and he saw how frustrated I was. Had he said I was crazy, I don't know what I would have done."
In addition Kaufman stated, "I really thought I was ending my career by turning that in!" Adaptation went on fast track in April 2000, with Kaufman making some revisions. Scott Brake of IGN leaked the script on the Internet in June 2000, as did Drew "Moriarty" McWeeny of Ain't It Cool News in October. Columbia Pictures committed to North America distribution only after Intermedia came aboard to finance the film in exchange for international distribution rights. Filming started in late March 2001 in Los Angeles, and finished by June. The "evolution" fantasy sequence was created by Digital Domain, while Skywalker Sound was responsible for the audio mixing of Adaptation.


Columbia Pictures had at one point announced a late 2001 theatrical release date. Adaptation opened on December 6, 2002 in the United States for a limited release. The film was released nationwide on February 14, 2003, earning $1,130,480 in its opening weekend in 672 theaters. Adaptation. went on to gross $22.5 million in North America and $10.3 million in foreign countries, coming at a total of $32.8 million. Based on 197 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Adaptation. received an 91% overall approval rating. Metacritic scored the film 83 based on 40 reviews.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times believed the film was something "That leaves you breathless with curiosity, as it teases itself with the directions it might take. To watch the film is to be actively involved in the challenge of its creation." He later added the film to his "Great Movies" collection. At the end of 2009, Ebert named the film one of the best of the decade. Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe thought "This is epic, funny, tragic, demanding, strange, original, boldly sincere filmmaking. And the climax, the portion that either sinks the entire movie or self-critically explains how so many others derail, is bananas." David Ansen of Newsweek felt Meryl Streep had not "been this much fun to watch in years", while Mike Clark of USA Today gave a largely negative review, mainly criticizing the ending: "Too smart to ignore but a little too smugly superior to like, this could be a movie that ends up slapping its target audience in the face by shooting itself in the foot."

Chris Cooper won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, while Nicolas Cage (Actor in a Leading Role) and Streep (Supporting Actress) were nominated. Charlie and Donald Kaufman were nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Donald became the first truly fictitious person nominated for an Oscar. Cooper and Streep won their respective categories at the 60th Golden Globe Awards. Spike Jonze, Cage and Kaufman were nominated for awards while Adaptation was nominated for Best Motion Picture " Musical or Comedy. Cage, Cooper and Streep received nominations at the 56th British Academy Film Awards, with Kaufman winning Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was also nominated for the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics.

Home Media

Adaptation was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in September 2012. The DVD is compatible with region code 4 and includes special features such as the behind the scenes featurette titled How To Shoot In A Swamp and talent profiles.

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Adaptation_%28film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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