Over the years, Hollywood’s Black List has developed a reputation for showcasing the bold and the quirky: unproduced scripts that went on to become left-field hits like “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Juno” -- or, like the drunk-Kermit script that topped the list a few years ago, are still waiting for someone to take a flier on them.
The annual list, founded and run by development-world veteran Franklin Leonard, did not disappoint when it was announced Monday. Andrew Sodroski’s “Holland, Michigan” — a thriller about infidelity from a former Harvard medieval history major who now lives in Kosovo — nabbed the top spot. It narrowly edged out Aaron Berg’s “Section 6,” a fact-based tale about the creation of England's MI6.
While some Black List scripts languish for years before nabbing financing, documentary maestro Errol Morris is attached to direct “Holland, Michigan,” with Naomi Watts on board to star and the top-tier Le Grisbi Prods. attached to produce. There are no star attachments yet on “Section 6,” though just this fall Universal bought rights to the spec for a pretty penny. “Holland” bested “Section” in votes, 46-44.
Still, mainstream studios and even independent financiers remain cautious about projects they deem unusual or risky, of which the Black List contains plenty. The number of movies with financiers attached is down from 37% to 33% compared with last year, Black List principals said.
Based on the votes of more than 250 film executives, the Black List aims to offer a barometer of “most liked,” not necessarily the highest-quality scripts, as principals are quick to remind.
Others in this year’s top 10 include Patrick Ness’ adaptation of his supernatural coming-of-age novel “A Monster Calls"; Geoff Tock and Greg Weidman’s “Sovereign,” about a man who travels to outer space to kill the now sentient craft that murdered his wife; and “Shovel Buddies,” Jason Mark Hellerman’s comedic look at a group of buddies who try to dig up the body of a deceased friend to put him in an Eagles jersey and fulfill other so-called "shovel list" requests.
Meanwhile, the writer Elijah Bynum ended up in the top 10 with his small-town drama “Hot Summer Nights,” one of two scripts he had on the Black List.
Organizers also note that this year’s list includes “3 scripts featuring terminally-ill teenagers” (last year’s buzzed-about “The Fault in Our Stars” made the grade, so a trend is afoot; it includes Simon Stephenson’s third-ranked “Frisco”), "2 scripts about … Mister Rogers” and “2 scripts about the making of ‘Jaws.’”
There is, however, only one script that can call itself a Stanley Kubrick-faked-the-moon-landing with titular overtones of “Dr. Strangelove” tale: Stephany Folsom’s “1969: A Space Odyssey or How Kubrick Learned to Stop Worrying and Land on the Moon,” which came in at No. 23 with 13 votes.
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