Judd Apatow Criticizes ‘Insulting’ Decision to Make ‘Barbie’ Compete for Adapted Screenplay Oscar: ‘There Was No Existing Material’

The Oscar race received a major shakeup this week when the Writers Branch executive committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ruled that “Barbie” will have to compete in the Adapted Screenplay category. Warner Bros. had previously campaigned for the film, which is written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, to compete for Best Original Screenplay. The move meant that Gerwig and Baumbach will have to compete with the likes of Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorsese in the crowded Adapted Screenplay field.

The film’s classification had sparked a spirited debate throughout the film industry. The movie is based on the iconic line of Mattel dolls, but the lack of existing story material surrounding the toys meant that Gerwig and Baumbach created their story and characters from scratch. Other than the names “Barbie” and “Ken” and a multitude of references to past Barbie products, the story was original. Many cited “Toy Story” — which received a Best Original Screenplay nomination in 1996 despite featuring pre-existing toy brands like Mr. Potato Head and Slinky — as a precedent that justified Warner Bros.’ plans for “Barbie.”

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On Saturday, January 6, one of Hollywood’s most high profile screenwriters weighed in on the issue. Judd Apatow took to his personal X account to express his displeasure with the Academy’s decision.

“It’s insulting to the writers to say they were working off of existing material,” Apatow wrote. “There was no existing material or story. There was a clear box.”

Apatow’s thoughts echo sentiments previously voiced by Baumbach in a recent interview with IndieWire.

“By design, dolls are empty vessels for us to put our own imaginative ideas and thoughts and feelings and fears,” Baumbach said. “And these dolls are being played with by kids. So these dolls have a childlike quality to them. So it starts with the creation story. We were inventing it as we went.”

Oscar voting is set to take place from January 11 through January 16, with nominations being announced on Tuesday, January 23.

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