Oscar 2014: I Coulda be a Contender–Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game, one of the highlights of the movie year, marks the first produced screenplay from the young and gifted Graham Moore.

The film stars the estimable Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, both likely to get Oscar nominations, as Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.

 

Moore was involved in every major decision, nobody else was brought in for rewrites, and the awards buzz has been steady since Telluride.

The project took shape just as he was about to give up.  He banged around as a writer, finally landing a six-month gig on the ABC Family series “10 Things I Hate About You,” but he admits, “I was not a successful TV comedy writer.”

He had a better time writing novels, like The Sherlockian, in 2010, about Arthur Conan Doyle, which reflected his love of research and history.  He told his manager, with sad matter-of-factness, “This movie-TV thing hasn’t worked out.”

Then in summer 2010, he went to a party at TV producer Nora Grossman. “I heard her talking about optioning her first book, so I asked what it was about and I heard those fateful words ‘Alan Turing.’ I freaked out. I had known about Alan Turing since I was a kid; I heard about him at space camp or maybe computer-programming camp. Turing was always a legend among computer/geeky kids. He was such an outsider in his own time and because of that, he was able to see things differently. It was a story that had been well told in books, onstage and on TV, but never on film.”

Moore didn’t know Grossman, but he pursued her and the project. “I begged her to let me write it. I’m sure she thought I was a psycho.”

He adapted Andrew Hodges’ book “Alan Turing: The Enigma.” The film was at Warner for awhile, but they let it lapse.  So producers Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman went shopping elsewhere.

It was financed independently, “so there was no corporate structure around us,” says Moore. It found a home at Weinstein Co., a much better fit than a major studio. “There was a small team of Morten Tyldum, the director, the three producers and me. The five of us were at every meeting and on the set every day.”

Moore says, “I have writer friends who go to the premiere of a film with their name listed as the writer, but they are shocked: ‘That’s not what I wrote!’ So I know how lucky I am.” Moore is not the only first-time scripter in the Oscar race.  The list also includes Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”; James Lapine, “Into the Woods”; and Jon Stewart, “Rosewater.”  All of them are aware that their experiences are rare for newcomers.