Cast & Crew
In contemporary Los Angeles, California, obsessively insecure screenwriter Charlie Kaufman considers himself fat, ugly and loveless. In 1998, after being thrown off the set of Being John Malkovich , even though he wrote the screenplay, Charlie humbly reviews his origins from the earth's evolution to his birth. Later, at a contemporary Los Angeles café, Charlie meets studio executive Valerie Thomas, who hires him to develop author Susan Orlean's non-fiction book The Orchid Thief into a screenplay. Charlie anxiously expounds on his belief that the film should mirror the conceit of the book and focus on flowers, rather than degrade into a "Hollywood" formula movie involving guns, car chases and characters learning profound life lessons. In New York, three years prior to this meeting, Susan Orlean writes the first draft of an article for The New Yorker magazine, "The Orchid Thief" which was the basis for her book. Susan describes John Laroche, a brilliant, eccentric and passionate horticulturist who two years earlier worked with Seminole Indians to steal rare orchids from the Fakahatchee State Preserve in Florida. John and three Indians, including Matthew Osceola and Russell, waded through swamps to obtain a "ghost" orchid and numerous other protected plant specimens, then tried to use John's copious knowledge about related court cases to dissuade a sheriff from arresting them. In contemporary Los Angeles, Charlie returns home to learn that his unemployed twin brother Donald has decided to become a screenwriter. Charlie is offended by Donald's enthusiastic but formulaic ideas about screenwriting. However, later that night, Charlie's own attempts to write are foiled by his thoughts about food. Years earlier, Susan is also at work writing about the history of orchid hunters, many of whom died during expeditions. Susan surmises that John is as devoted to the inherent danger of orchid hunting as he is to the flowers themselves. She attends John's court trial following his encounter in the preserve, after which he accepts her proposal to write an article about him. During her first interview with John in his filthy van, he explains his plan to cultivate the ghost orchid to prevent future poaching. Susan takes notes about his "delusions of grandeur." In present day Los Angeles, Charlie reads Susan's book following a failed romance with Amelia Savan, a violinist whom he was too afraid to kiss. His frustration deepens when Donald blithely announces his intention to pitch his screenplay idea the next day. Three years earlier, Susan continues meeting with John. Although she becomes entranced by John's lofty views about orchids, she belittles him in absentia at a dinner party attended by her husband and several sophisticated friends in New York. However, while writing that night, Susan concedes her longing for a passion as intoxicating as orchid hunting. Charlie also fantasizes about passion as he reads Susan's book. Donald interrupts one sexual fantasy about a waitress named Alice to discuss the plot of his script. The story, which conflates a murderer, his victim and a policeman into one person, is the kind of crime movie Charlie despises, and he exposes Donald's flawed logic. Another day, Charlie attends the Santa Barbara Orchid Show alone after Alice evades his clumsy attempt to invite her. There he is inspired by Susan's book to imagine the elegant orchids as women of all varieties. While Charlie's insecurity impedes his love life and the Being John Malkovich crew still ignores him, Donald falls in love with Caroline, a make-up artist from the set, and encounters no difficulties in writing his script. Charlie's struggle finally eases when he is inspired by Charles Darwin's theories about evolution and adaptation, and interweaves the story of the orchid with John's and Susan's narratives. Charlie works feverishly and conceives of opening the film with the evolution of life on earth, to be followed by a scene depicting Susan at work on the book. Susan continues to develop her article around John's life, and learns what happened nine years earlier when he owned a nursery: John inadvertently causes a car accident, after which he loses his front teeth, his mother and uncle are killed, and his wife spends three weeks in a coma. After her recovery, John's wife divorces him, and a month later, Hurricane Andrew destroys his nursery. John is then hired to work at the Seminole nursery and longs to create "something amazing" for them. Susan uses John's sentiment as the subtitle for her 1996 article. Soon after its publication, Valerie buys the film rights to Susan's unfinished book. Writer's block continues to plague Charlie, who is pressured by his agent, Marty Bowen, to meet Valerie's deadline. Although he is inspired anew by Susan's photograph, his insecurity and self-loathing spur him to refuse Valerie's offer to introduce him to Susan, and he decides to write himself into his screenplay. When Charlie finally resolves to go to New York to meet Susan, Donald advises him to attend his screen writing mentor Robert McKee's seminar. While he is on the plane, the closing lines of Susan's book reveal that when John took her into the swamp to find a ghost orchid, they got lost and she never saw the flower. Although Charlie reaches The New Yorker office, he is too paralyzed by fear even to speak to Susan when she coincidentally boards the elevator with him. In his hotel room that night, Charlie explodes in anger following a telephone call during which Marty praises Donald's screenplay, and suggests that Charlie seek writing advice from his brother. Terrified by impending failure, Charlie forces himself to attend McKee's seminar, which he previously disparaged as formulaic. McKee publicly berates Charlie after he admits that he has written a script in which nothing happens. Afterward, McKee privately encourages Charlie to revise his script with characters who experience change and an ending that "wows" the audience. When McKee discovers that Donald and Charlie are brothers, he reminds Charlie that Casablanca 's brilliant screenplay was written by brothers Julius and Philip Epstein. Inspired, Charlie invites Donald to New York to help him with his script. After impersonating Charlie and meeting with Susan, Donald becomes convinced that she had an affair with John. His suspicions are confirmed when he visits John's new pornographic website and sees a nude picture of Susan. That night, Charlie and Donald use binoculars to spy on Susan, and learn that she has booked a flight to Florida. Unaware of the brothers' espionage, Susan lies in bed and reflects that she lied to her husband as well as to the readers of her book, about how she was changed three years earlier: During her visit to the swamp, Susan does see a ghost orchid, and is unmoved. John sends her some of the drug extracted from the orchid, which will give Susan the passion she is seeking, admitting that he is cultivating the flower because it can be used to create a ceremonial drug prized by the Seminoles. Susan becomes addicted and she and John become lovers. In the present, Donald and Charlie follow Susan to Miami. At night while Donald waits in the car, Charlie peers through the window of John's house and sees him and Susan making love and inhaling the orchid drug. When John catches Charlie and Susan recognizes him, she decides to kill him in order to avoid being exposed. John opposes the idea, but follows them in his van to the swamp. Donald, who has been hiding in the car's back seat, prevents Susan from shooting Charlie by opening the back door and knocking her down. As the brothers hide in the swamp, while John and Susan search for them in vain, Charlie gains a new appreciation of his brother. The next morning, when the brothers try to slip away, John shoots and wounds Donald. He and Charlie escape in their car but are hit by a ranger's truck. The impact propels Donald through the windshield to his death, but Charlie is saved by the driver's side airbag. Susan and John then chase Charlie back into the swamp, where John is mauled to death by an alligator before he can fire at Charlie. Susan spits insults at Charlie that expose his worst fears about himself, while cradling her dead lover in her arms. After police arrive on the scene, Charlie calls his mother with the tragic news. He returns to Los Angeles and incorporates the Florida events into his script, including the guns, car chases and characters learning profound life lessons. Charlie later meets Amelia for coffee, and finally admits his love for her. Although she reminds him that she is involved with someone else, Amelia returns his affection, then leaves. Charlie decides to end the script with this encounter with Amelia, which has filled him with hope, and he exits the parking garage onto Sunset Boulevard. The flowers in a planter on the street open and close with the passing days and nights.
G. Paul Davis
David O. Russell
Roger E. Fanter
Danny M. Anderson
Kent James Stewart Barber
Michael R. Berry
Maria K. Chavez
David A. Cohen
Lawrence L. Commans
Peter R. Davidson
Mark W. Fay
Shari D. Gray
J. Roy Helland
Stacy M. Horn
Jeffrey Paul Johnson
Thomas H. Lohmann
Michael G. Maurer
Henry S. Miller
Hans Michael Pickel
Andrew J. Sacks
Grant D. Samson
Adam Milo Smalley
Gregory J. Smith
Matthew D. Smith
Thomas Patrick Smith
Rick C. Taplin
Vernon R. Wilbert Jr.
Mark H. Williams
Matthew W. Williams
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actor
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Supporting Actress
Adaptation [listed as Adaptation. on the film's title card] features intermittent voice-over narration by Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep as their respective characters. The narrative timeline of the film is inconsistent, and it is unclear if some scenes were intended to appear as occurring in 1998 or later. End credits include a number of names and companies under "Special Thanks," including Descanso Gardens, The New Yorker, Seminole Tribe of Florida and Santa Barbara International Orchid Show. Actors John Cusack, Catherine Keener and John Malkovich, who appeared in the film as themselves, also received special thanks but no official cast credit.
The closing credits also feature the following quotation from the fictional screenplay The Three, written by Charlie Kaufman's fictional brother, Donald: "We're all one thing, Lieutenant. That's what I've come to realize. Like cells in a body. `Cept we can't see the body. The way fish can't see the ocean. And so we envy each other. Hurt each other. Hate each other. How silly is that? A heart cell hating a lung cell." These lines are attributed to a character named "Cassie." After this quotation, the credits conclude with the following dedication: "In Loving Memory of Donald Kaufman."
Real life author Susan Orlean's article "The Orchid Thief," on which her book was based, was first published in the January 23, 1996 issue of the New Yorker magazine. As credited onscreen, Adaptation is based on Orlean's book, as well as screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's real-life attempt to develop Orlean's book into a screenplay. Kaufman suffered "writer's block" during this process and incorporated this writing experience, as well as fictional elements, into the script of Adaptation. Kaufman created the character of a twin brother and co-screenwriter named Donald Kaufman, also played by Cage. The actor used prosthetics and gained weight to alter his appearance for his role as the twins. The fictional sibling receives onscreen credit as the screenplay's co-writer.
In addition to fictional characters, contemporary persons portrayed by actors include Orlean, Orlean's husband, John Gillespie, Jr., horticulturalist John Laroche, Columbia Pictures executive Valerie Thomas, Kaufman's agent Marty Bowen and screenwriter-teacher Robert McKee, as well as numerous others. In addition, cinematographer Lance Acord and first assistant director Thomas Smith from the 1999 production Being John Malkovich, which was written by Kaufman, appear as themselves in Adaptation. Sequences that are featured in Adaptation but are not referenced in the plot synopsis above include scenes depicting a bee pollinating an orchid while Laroche describes the philosophical nature of the process, 19th century orchid hunters William Arnold and Augustus Margary meeting their deaths, and 19th century naturalist Charles Darwin writing about evolution and adaptation. The Margary and Darwin scenes are in black-and-white. In another scene, the name of the film's second assistant director, Brian O. Kelley, appears on an audio tape box of The Writings of Charles Darwin in Laroche's truck. It has not been determined if Kelley actually recorded the tape that is heard in the scene.
A April 6, 2000 news item in Daily Variety reported that Tom Hanks was considered for a role in Adaptation, and an article in the November 2002 issue of Entertainment Weekly noted that Jonathan Demme originally intended to direct this film. As noted in a November 10, 1999 news item, Demme's production company, Clinica Estetico, initially optioned the script for production through Universal Studios. According to a December 9, 2002 article in Time, a cameo appearance by Orlean was cut from the final print. As noted in the onscreen credits, Adaptation was shot on location in California, New York and Florida.
In addition to being selected as one of AFI's top ten films of 2002, Adaptation won Golden Globe awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, (Streep) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Chris Cooper). Additional Golden Globe nominations included Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy, Best Performance by an Actor-Musical or Comedy (Cage), Best Director (Spike Jonze) and Best Screenplay (Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman). Cooper won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, with Cage receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, Streep being nominated for Best Supporting Actress and the Kaufmans being nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Adaptation also received a BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay. Cage was nominated by SAG as Best Lead Actor in a Movie, while Cooper received a Best Supporting Actor in a Movie nomination. The entire cast was nominated by SAG for the Outstanding Performance by a Cast award.
The film was also received the following awards and nominations: it was honored by the National Board of Review for Supporting Actor (Cooper) and Screenwriter of the Year (Charlie Kaufman, for Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Human Nature); The PGA nominated the film for its Darryl Zanuck Producer of the Year Award; the New York Film Critics Circle included Adaptation in its list of top ten films of the year and awarded Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman Best Screenplay; the Los Angeles Film Critics Association named Cooper as Best Supporting Actor; the Broadcast Film Critics Association Critics' Choice Awards nominated Adaptation for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Cooper), Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Writer (Charlie Kaufman); the film placed fifth on The New York Times Ten Best Movies list; the National Society of Film Critics awarded Cooper Best Supporting Actor, Runner-up; and the New York Film Critics Online ranked the film sixth on their list of ten best films of the year, as well as awarding Cooper as Best Supporting Actor, Runner-up; and Kaufman as Winner for Best Screenplay.
Co-winner of the 2002 award for Best Director (Spike Jonze), shared with Denzel Washington ("Antwone Fisher") and Sam Mendes ("Road to Perdition") by the Washington D.C. Film Critics.
Co-winner of the 2002 award for Best Screenplay (Charlie Kaufman), shared with Nia Vardalos ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding") by the Washington D.C. Film Critics.
Co-winner of the 2002 award for Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper), shared with Dennis Haysbert ("Far From Heaven"), by the Washington D.C. Film Critics.
Nominated for the 2002 award for Best Adapted Screenplay by the Writer's Guild of America (WGA).
Nominated for three 2002 Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) awards, including Best Actor (Nicolas Cage), Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper), and Best Ensemble Cast.
Voted one of the 10 best films of 2002 by the American Film Institute (AFI).
Winner of four 2002 awards from the Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA) including: Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Nicolas Cage), and Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper).
Winner of the 2002 award for Best Screenplay from the New York Film Critics Circle.
Winner of the 2002 award for Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper) by the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association.
Winner of the 2002 award for Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper) by the Seattle Film Critics.
Winner of the 2002 award for Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper) from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
Winner of the 2002 award for Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper) from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.
Winner of the 2002 award for Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper) from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.
Winner of two 2002 awards by the Broadcast Film Critics Association including: Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper) and Best Screenplay (Charlie Kaufman). Also nominated for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep).
Winner of two 2002 awards by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, including Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper) and Best Screeplay (Charlie Kaufman).
Winner of two 2002 awards from the Chicago Film Critics Association, including Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep) and Best Screenplay (Charlie and Donald Kaufman).
Released in United States Winter December 6, 2002
Released in United States on Video May 20, 2003
Released in United States February 2003
Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (in competition)February 6-16, 2003.
Charlie Kaufman was named the 2002 Screenwriter of the Year for his screenplays: "Adaptation", "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" and "Human Nature".
Released in United States Winter December 6, 2002
Released in United States on Video May 20, 2003
Released in United States February 2003 (Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (in competition)February 6-16, 2003.)
Winner of the Jury Grand Prix - Silver Berlin Bear at the 2003 Berlin International Film Festival.