‘Booksmart’: Olivia Wilde Details the Journey from 2019 Black List to WGA Nomination

     January 8, 2020

If you told me we’d be celebrating a Collider FYC screening for Booksmart back when the movie first premiered at SXSW in March of 2019, I might not have believed you. Not because I didn’t think the movie was deserving back then but more so because it isn’t easy for an R-rated high school comedy, especially one that hits theaters earlier in the year, to build and sustain the buzz necessary for it to go head-to-head with more traditional awards season fare. But now look at where we are!

Talk about timing, right? The day of our Collider FYC screening for Booksmart, not only was star Kaitlyn Dever nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award, but the script also received a nomination from the WGA for Best Original Screenplay. And on top of that, Beanie Feldstein had also just celebrated a Golden Globes nomination for her performance in the film. The awards season stars are aligning for Booksmart and it was a treat and honor to get to celebrate that Monday night at The Dome at the ArcLight Hollywood. 

Image via Annapurna

After a packed screening of the film, Dever, Feldstein and director Olivia Wilde joined us for a Q&A filled with Booksmart behind-the-scenes details like the decision for Dever and Feldstein to live together after being cast, the things Wilde learned working as an actor that informed the environment she created on this set, and also the script’s lengthy journey from the 2009 Black List to its 2020 WGA nomination. Wilde told the crowd, “It was a long journey for this movie, like a lot of great movies, I feel. Sometimes they take a while to kind of find their home.” She also broke down the stages of the screenplay, step by step:

“In 2009, two great writers, Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern who are a writing duo, wrote the original version of Booksmart and it was about two best friends who were women who truly, deeply loved each other and that resonated with people enough that it was on the Black List. It got a lot of people’s attention, but it didn’t ultimately make its way to production, like so many good scripts. And then in 2014 it was then in the hands of Annapurna and then Susanna Fogel came on to do a pass, and it moved further in the direction of where it ended up and evolved, and that was the draft I originally read. And I was so excited that someone wanted to make a movie about two women who loved each other completely and they were not trying to assimilate to be cool or to find boyfriends or any of the bullshit we’ve all been fed our entire lives by these movies.”


Image via Annapurna

After a big round of applause from the audience for that last little bit, Wilde continued by explaining how screenwriter Katie Silberman (who’s now a WGA, BAFTA and Independent Spirit Award nominee) entered the picture:

“And I pitched my heart out and when I got the gig, I said my dream is to now update this because now it’s 2016 and I’m like, we need to match this story with the world today and this young generation today who are growing up in this insane time. And I asked if I could bring on a writer and, of course, they said yes and that’s when I met Katie Silberman.” 

What made that first meeting a slam dunk for Silberman? A take on the story that really made everything click for Wilde:

“And I’ll never forget that in our first conversation when I said, ‘What would you do to take this story to the next level? I really want to bring in the theme of judgment into this story.’ And she just said, ‘What if all the other kids weresmart?’ And I was like, [mind blown]. ‘That’s it!’ I was like, ‘Can you start today?’ And she did and it was just thrilling.”

For more on the making of Booksmart from Wilde, Feldstein and Dever, check out the full Collider FYC Q&A in the video at the top of this article. And if you’re looking for even more FYC content, you can find the latest episode of the show with our final Oscar nomination predictions right here.

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