Adaptation. (2002)


Adaptation. is a 2002 American comedy-drama film directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman. The film is based on Susan Orlean's non-fiction book The Orchid Thief through self-referential events. The film stars Nicolas Cage as Charlie and Donald Kaufman, Meryl Streep as Susan, with Chris Cooper, Cara Seymour, Brian Cox, Tilda Swinton, Ron Livingston and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The film tells the story of Charlie Kaufman's difficult struggle to adapt The Orchid Thief into a film. In addition, Orlean romances with John Laroche while Charlie enlists the help of his fictional twin brother Donald. 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. In turn Kaufman wrote a script about his experience adapting The Orchid Thief into a screenplay. Tom Hanks was at one point set for the role of Charlie Kaufman while John Turturro was approached to portray Laroche. Jonze signed to direct and filming finished in June 2001. Adaptation achieved critical acclaim, as well as outstanding success at the 75th Academy Awards, 60th Golden Globe Awards and 56th British Academy Film Awards.


While Being John Malkovich is being filmed, the self-loathing and agoraphobic Charlie Kaufman is hired to write the screenplay for The Orchid Thief. Charlie is going through melancholic depression and is not happy that his twin brother Donald has moved into his house and is mooching off him. Donald decides to become a screenwriter like Charlie and attends Robert McKee's famous seminars. Charlie, who rejects simplistic formulaic script writing, wants to ensure that his script is a faithful adaptation of The Orchid Thief. However, he comes to realize that there is no narrative to the book and that it is impossible to turn into a film, leaving Charlie 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, while Charlie accidentally starts writing his script with self-reference. Already well over his deadline with Columbia Pictures, Charlie visits Susan in New York for advice on the screenplay. Unable to face her, Charlie visits McKee's seminar in New York and asks him for advice and then brings Donald to New York to assist with the story structure. Donald pretends to be Charlie and interviews Susan but is suspicious of her account of events because it is too perfect. He and Charlie follow Susan to Florida where she meets Laroche. It is revealed that the Seminole only wanted the Ghost Orchid to manufacture a drug that causes fascination; Laroche introduces this drug to Susan. Laroche and Susan catch Charlie observing them taking the drug and having sex, so Susan decides that Charlie must die. She forces him at gunpoint to drive to the swamp where she will kill him. Charlie and Donald escape and hide in the swamp where they resolve their differences and Charlie's problems with women. Then, Laroche accidentally shoots Donald. Fleeing, Charlie and Donald drive off but crash into a ranger's truck which kills Donald. Charlie runs off into the swamp to hide but is spotted; Laroche is killed by an alligator before he can kill Charlie. Susan is arrested. Charlie then 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.