EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - The Academy Awards, host or no host, are ready to begin in Los Anglees tonight, following the walk on the red carpet, featuring architectual hair creations, sumptuous gowns, shiny and slim tuxedos, and a diverse group of nominees. The picture most deserving of support here in East Brunswick is BlacKKKlansman, the true story of a police officer who infiltrates the Klu Klux Klan through a process of both good police work and self-discovery. For those of us here, we are celebrating the achievement of East Brunswick High School graduates Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz, who, along with Kevin Wilmott and Spike Lee are nominated for an Oscar for "Best Adapted Screenplay."
Their award is among six of those for which BlackKKKlansman is nominated. The others include Best Picture; Best Supporting Actor for Adam Driver; Best Director for Spike Lee; Best Original Score, and Best Editing.
Wachtel and Rabinowitz tell the story to Indie Wire, a trade publication for fillmakers, of their pursuit for the rights to tell the story of Ron Stallingworth, an African-American police officer who "gets a bite" after a cold phone call about membership in the Klan. Their story is that of the pursuit of an idea that takes them directly to Stallworth, then to producer Jordan Peele, then to Spike Lee. "We were just a couple of young, idealistic strangers with a Hollywood pipe dream," they said, but their dream was intelligent and followed through thoughtfully. "We also were very much aware of the elephant in the room — we were a couple of white guys writing about the experiences of an African-American man. Seeking his (Stallworth's) approval and having his voice represented on every page was the only way to tell his story responsibly."
In a surprise upset, BlacKKKlansman lost for Best Adapted Screenplay in the coveted Writer's Guild Award to Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a bio-pic starring Melissa McCarthy last week. What are the chances for tonight? "There’s the Spike Lee factor. With Best Director basically locked up for Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), Best Adapted Screenplay is the best place to give the overdue Lee, who co-wrote the script with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott, his first competitive Oscar. That might be enough to help push BlacKKKlansman over the line.," says Joyce Eng of Gold Derby. Our guys from East Brunswick are up there with the real pros.
Rolling Stone prefers BlacKKKlansman, calling the adapted screenplay "incendiary:" "Spike Lee and his script collaborators did an incendiary job adapting Ron Stallworth’s memoir about a 1970’s-era black cop (John David Washington) who infiltrated the KKK into sharply satiric take on racism — then and now."
In an interview in Filmmaker magazine, Wachtel and Rabinowitz, talk about the tough choices that led to to development of the character Flip Zimmerman, a fictionalized version of the real police officer who portrayed Stallworth in the movie. "When we first wrote the script was we wanted to make Flip’s Judaism something that was very matter of fact. His character didn’t really grow up practicing Judaism. That he’s not seeing really about other people as a Jew, makes him think, “Well, I’m not really a Jewish person,” even though he technically is 100 percent. You don’t think about it until you’re confronted with it. What Spike and Kevin Willmott did was, they not only preserved that, but they expanded on it a little bit more. A lot of what they did with the screenplay was take things that were already there and make them more extreme," said Rabinowitz. His portrayal of the character earned Adam Driver an Academy Award nomination.
Our East Brunswick guys are on the line tonight for a movie about racism, police work, civil rights, domestic terrorism, and human relationships. They are in the company of talented professionals who borught this movie, with its comedic and terrifying message of idiocy and violence to the screen.