To be nominated by your peers for directing or screenwriting is a true accolade, honouring film authorship. Screen assesses this year’s contenders for director and original and adapted screenplay at Bafta and Oscar.

Director screenwriter lead

Source: Rob Latour / Jordan Strauss / Jack Plunkett / Invision / AP / Shutterstock

[Clockwise from top left] Steven Spielberg, Charlotte Wells, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Sarah Polley

The 94th Academy Awards and 75th Bafta Film Awards in March this year bestowed their highest directing honours on Jane Campion for The Power Of The Dog — only the third woman to win the category at either ceremony, following Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 for The Hurt Locker and Chloé Zhao in 2021 for Nomadland. Campion had also won an Oscar for The Piano in the original screenplay category in 1994.

Both of the 2022 ceremonies saw Sian Heder claim the adapted screenplay prize for Coda. The original screenplay award went two separate ways, with Kenneth Branagh picking up the Oscar for Belfast and Paul Thomas Anderson adding to his trophy cabinet with the Bafta for Licorice Pizza.

None of those names has a film in the mix this year, but many directors and screenwriters who won prizes in recent years have returned with a new title — including Sam Mendes, Guillermo Del Toro, Damien Chazelle and Alejandro G Iñárritu — facing off against seasoned veterans and awards newcomers.



Source: Scott Garfield

‘Emancipation’ director Antoine Fuqua

It is hard to see past Steven Spielberg, the revered silverback of the Holly­wood jungle who, a year after an Oscar nod for West Side Story, looks set to seduce voters with his semi-autobiographical drama The Fabelmans.

The story of an aspiring young filmmaker who comes of age against a backdrop of familial love, heartbreak and antisemitism is a salad of classic Spielberg ingredients — expert story­telling, entertaining set-pieces and bravura technical accomplishment — minus the sentimental dressing we have come to expect. He is arguably the contender to beat, beloved by Holly­wood and nominated eight times for the direct­ing Oscar (with wins forSav­ing Private Ryan in 1999 and Schindler’s List in 1994) and six times a Bafta directing nominee (winning for Schindler’s List).

Canadian actress turned filmmaker Sarah Polley has inspired great admiration over a relatively short career. That the likes of Frances McDormand, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy and Ben Whishaw signed up to Women Talking speaks volumes about Polley’s reputation. The engrossing story of Mennonite women debating their next moves after a wave of abuse by the community’s menfolk could well earn Polley her first Oscar and Bafta directing nods.

Vastly different to anything in the awards race — at least in this multi­verse — is Everything Everywhere All At Once, a brain-melting adventure comedy from Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (aka the Daniels). Michelle Yeoh is put through her paces as a mother and small-business owner who travels through alternative realities as she scrambles to file her tax return. The Daniels picked up a couple of Independent Spirit and Gotham nominations with debut feature Swiss Army Man, but hardly crossed the minds of many Oscar or Bafta voters. The sheer chutzpah and technical brilliance on display in Everything Everywhere All At Once must make them a strong bet to join the awards major league. The filmmaking team behind the highest-­grossing A24 release of all time are bound to be popular with young voters and present possibly a challenge for the more senior ranks.

Another talent who has claimed his place high on the list of contenders ever since his film premiered at Venice is Todd Field for TÁR. A prowling wolf of a genre film dressed up in arthouse clothing, the story stars Cate Blanchett as the eponymous Lydia Tár, an intimidating and monstrously charismatic orchestra conductor who strives to push her brilliant career beyond the grasp of a personal and professional reckoning that awaits in the wings.

Like Polley, Field does not have many features to his name — he debuted with In The Bedroom in 2001 and followed that up with Little Children in 2006. Yet three films in and he has already been hailed in some quarters as a master, earning three Oscar nods for writing and producing but never for directing.

Damien Chazelle on the 'Babylon' set

Source: PICJER

Damien Chazelle on the ‘Babylon’ set

Babylon director Damien Chazelle knows a thing or two about early acclaim, after his second feature Whiplash earned Oscar and Bafta screenwriting nominations in 2015. He followed that up two years later by winning the directing award from both bodies for La La Land. His latest film, feted as a decadent romp through the early years of Holly­wood, stars Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and relative newcomer Diego Calva. Fans of old Hollywood may lap up the period and the excess, while awards voters can never get enough sagas about the industry and could well bestow further glory on Chazelle.

Never bet against Oscar winner James Cameron (Titanic), and if Avatar: The Way Of Water delivers the year-end box-office punch the industry so desperately wants, then a grateful tide may swell in his favour and a third Oscar directing nod (he was also nominated for Avatar) could be on the cards. Do not count out Martin McDonagh, either, for his arch, darkly comedic story of a friendship terminated in The Banshees Of Inisherin; nor Gina Prince-Bythewood The Woman King, led by Viola Davis.

Antoine Fuqua directed Denzel Washington to a best actor Oscar win and Ethan Hawke to a best supporting actor nomination in 2002 with Training Day, but has never been a Bafta or Oscar nominee himself. That could all change this year — he is fast building momentum for the American Civil War-era Emancipation.

Baz Luhrmann has been feted by Bafta, winning two awards in 1998 for directing and co-­adapting Romeo + Juliet, and earning five other nominations, but his sole Oscar nod came in 2002 for producing Moulin Rouge!. Meanwhile, films Luhrmann has directed have netted wife Catherine Martin four Oscars and five Baftas for production design and costume. This year’s Elvis should see plenty of attention from the academies — perhaps including for Luhrmann as director.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Ruben Östlund has hitherto picked up Oscar and Bafta nominations in the categories reserved for foreign-language films. The English-language Triangle Of Sadness could see him land accolades further afield — in either director or original screenplay.

Original screenplay

Everything Everywhere At Once

Source: Allyson Riggs, Courtesy of A24

SXSW 2022 opening film ‘Everything Everywhere At Once’

In a category honouring originality, the DanielsEverything Everywhere All At Once may take some beating. Endowed with huge heart and imagination, the multiverse-hopping tale has also ingrained a number of unforgettable images. Hot dog fingers, anyone?

Spielberg and regular collaborator Tony Kushner (Lincoln, West Side Story) are riding high on tremendous goodwill for The Fabelmans. The trust between the co-writers enabled Kushner (adapted screenplay Oscar nods for Lincoln and Munich and a Bafta nod for Lincoln) to prise out moments of raw emotion from the characters — essentially young Spielberg and his family and friends in all but name — and use them to tinge a highly entertaining love letter to filmmaking and family with poignancy and a sense of deep yearning.

McDonagh’s The Banshees Of Inisherin — the best screenplay choice of the New York Film Critics Circle this year — is a strong candidate, and has the advantage of hailing from not just an acclaimed filmmaker but a widely admired playwright who is one of the most garlanded writers in contention. The London-Irish writer received original screenplay nods for In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and has a distinctive wit and wisdom that is in rare supply in Hollywood.

With TÁR, Field deserves acclaim simply for inventing Lydia Tár, the furious and funny conductor whose lifeforce demands to exist beyond the film. A third Oscar screenplay nod may await following recognition in the adapted category for In The Bedroom and Little Children; so far, nothing from Bafta.

Wunderkind Chazelle will look to add to his trophy cabinet with Baby­lon, a wild ride with several characters who partied through the early years of Hollywood. A third Oscar screenplay nomination could well materialise after earlier kudos in the original (La La Land) and adapted (Whiplash) categories.

Dana Stevens

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Dana Stevens

The above names suggest a male-dominated original screenplay field this year — but momentum is building for Charlotte Wells with her debut feature, UK indie drama Aftersun, starring Paul Mescal as a divorced young father taking his 11-year-old daughter on holiday. Aftersun won seven prizes at the British Independent Film Awards and has earned five Independent Spirit nominations.

Also challenging the boys club is the screenplay for The Woman King — written by Dana Stevens, from a story by Stevens and Maria Bello. 

Adapted screenplay

There is a lot of admiration for Polley’s Women Talking screenplay, based on Miriam Toews’ novel about women’s response to systemic abuse on a remote religious colony. As the name suggests, the spoken word is the star of the show and it is to Polley’s credit that Women Talking makes riveting drama from verbal discourse. Polley earned an adapted screenplay Oscar nod for Away From Her in 2008 and a second could be about to come her way.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is the flamboyant interloper among this year’s somewhat sobering crop of lead contenders, and after the success of Knives Out, writer/director Rian Johnson clearly relished the task of delivering an even larger-than-life follow-up. This time around an A-list Hollywood ensemble travels to an absurdly opulent island retreat owned by a tech bro who is not averse to stirring things up between his friends. Johnson is a master plot-wrangler and propulsive storyteller — and he could land an adapted screenplay Oscar nomination to add to his original screenplay Bafta and Oscar nod for Knives Out.

Appreciation of Samuel D Hunter’s adaptation of his own stage play The Whale has been gaining traction and is really a vehicle for Brendan Fraser to deliver the performance of a lifetime as an obese online tutor who tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter. As ever, director Darren Aronofsky’s focus is on extremity and the way people find meaning at the boundaries of their own existence — yet it is all in service to the framework of Hunter’s touching story.

She Said

Source: Universal

‘She Said’

She Said written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz is another heavy-hitter that has been winning admirers. Based on the book by The New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the film follows their investigation into multiple claims of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein that ultimately toppled the film mogul and put him in prison for rape and sexual assault. Lenkiewicz has never earned Oscar or Bafta writing nods but her work speaks for itself — Disobedience, Ida, Colette — and her screenplay is a no-nonsense procedural starring Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan as the journalists who pay close attention to detail.

Another strong contender is Living from The Remains Of The Day author and Nobel Prize for literature winner Kazuo Ishiguro, who adapted Akira Kurosawa’s lauded 1952 drama Ikiru. Bill Nighy plays a world-weary civil servant in 1950s London who decides to live a little on receiving a terminal diagnosis. The Remains Of The Day earned eight Oscar nominations including adapted screenplay for Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, but Ishiguro’s own work as screenwriter has hitherto not been recognised by the US or UK academies.

Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 1985 breakout novel White Noise has divided critics since it premiered at Venice, yet it has earned plaudits for making a complicated book about fear and the vortex of US consumerism relatable by focusing on the married couple whose family is the story’s beating heart. Baumbach has Academy Award original screenplay nods under his belt for The Squid And The Whale and Marriage Story, as well as a Bafta nod for the latter.

A coming-of-age cannibal road-movie romance may not seem like obvious awards-bait, but David Kajganich is winning admiration for his adaptation of the Camille DeAngelis novel Bones And All for director Luca Guadagnino. Similarly, Guillermo Del Toro and Patrick McHale will be hoping Oscar voters will offer Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio the first screenplay nomination for an animation since Inside Out in 2016. Also in the running for that accolade is Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, written by Dean Fleischer-­Camp, Nick Paley and Jenny Slate, which was named best animated film by the New York Film Critics Circle. 

Also in contention


  • Oliver Hermanus, Living
  • Rian Johnson, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
  • Joseph Kosinski, Top Gun: Maverick
  • Sam Mendes, Empire Of Light
  • Park Chan-wook, Decision To Leave

Original screenplay

  • Bill Collage, Emancipation
  • Baz Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner, Elvis
  • Sam Mendes, Empire Of Light
  • Ruben Östlund, Triangle Of Sadness
  • Park Chan-wook and Jeong Seo‑Kyong, Decision To Leave
  • Jordan Peele, Nope

Adapted screenplay

  • Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell, All Quiet On The Western Front
  • Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie, Top Gun: Maverick
  • Krysty Wilson-Cairns, The Good Nurse
  • Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton, The Son