Read ‘em and weep: The books that spawned this year’s Oscar-nominated films

Before it was an acclaimed art house hit, "Philomena" was a non-fiction book by Martin Sixsmith. Credit: Alex Bailey
Before it was an acclaimed art house hit, “Philomena” was a non-fiction book by Martin Sixsmith.
Credit: Alex Bailey

If you’re looking for some good reading material, the Academy’s Best Adapted Screenplay category is a good place to start — though you’ll be searching Amazon in vain for “Before Midnight,” as it’s considered “adapted” because it’s based on the characters from previous films “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset.” But you can always cozy up with the following.

“A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangerous Days at Sea,” the book by Richard Phillips with (co-writer Stephan Tally), became “Captain Phillips,” with Tom Hanks stepping in to portray Phillips’ hijacking by Somali pirates.

“The Lost Child of Philomena Lee” by Martin Sixsmith, which obviously became “Philomena” starring Dame Judi Dench as Lee and Steve Coogan as former BBC presenter Sixsmith. Coogan admits he took a lot of liberties with the details of Lee and Sixsmith’s journey for the sake of making a more cohesive and entertaining film.

“12 Years a Slave,” the harrowing 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup that became the acclaimed film of the same name, was originally published with the lengthy subtitle “Narrative of Solomon Northup, citizen of New-York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana” — which, honestly, kind of gives away the ending.

— Reading Jordan Belfort’s own accounts of his exploits in the memoir “The Wolf of Wall Street” might help illuminate why the film’s chronicle of bad behavior seemed so infatuated with its subject, who earned a tidy $1 million for the movie rights.

Over in the Best Documentary category, you can pick up Jeremy Scahill’s “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield” if you want to learn more about the troubling details in the nominated film “Dirty Wars.” And there are also some entries in the Best Original Screenplay category that inspire some further reading. For instance, did you enjoy Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine”? Then maybe have another look at the Tennessee Williams play “A Streetcar Named Desire.” And “American Hustle” was originally based much more in fact in its retelling of the ABSCAM scandal. If you want to know the real story of Mel Weinberg (the basis for Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld character), check out Robert W. Greene’s “The Sting Man: Inside Abscam.”


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