Oscars: How Brie Larson Became Ma and 5 Other Nominated Roles that Grew From Fiction

11:00 AM 2/8/2016

by Anna Lisa Raya

Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and nominated screenwriters reveal how novel-based characters came to life onscreen.


  1. 1

    Saoirse Ronan

    Ronan as Eilis in 'Brooklyn' from Colm Toibin's 'Brooklyn'

    Fox Searchlight Pictures

    "Everything that Eilis goes through was exactly what I was going though at that point in my life, and I'm still going through now," Ronan has said of filming the immigrant tale based on Toibin's best-selling novel (with a screenplay by Nick Hornby) shortly after her own move from her native Ireland to New York.

  2. 2

    Matt Damon

    Damon as Mark Watney in 'The Martian' from Andy Weir's 'The Martian'

    Aidan Monaghan/Twentieth Century Fox

    "What Andy does so well in the novel, and what Drew [Goddard] captured," says Damon, "was all the stakes and the tension of being in this horrible situation but the sense of humor that the character has. There's a lightness that makes it really entertaining and fun and funny, but without sacrificing any of the intensity."

  3. 3

    Cate Blanchett

    Blanchett as Carol Aird in 'Carol' from Patricia Highsmith's 'The Price of Salt'

    'Carol,' Wilson Webb

    Blanchett's last collabora­tion with director Todd Haynes (I'm Not There) also landed her an Oscar nom. Working on a film based on a Highsmith novel, "the interior life of the characters is so rich," the lead actress nominee has said, drawing on her experience filming The Talented Mr. Ripley, another Highsmith adaptation. "She's masterful at dealing with characters who acknowledge, in a way, that every adult has a secret."

  4. 4

    Brie Larson

    Larson as Ma in 'Room' from Emma Donoghue's 'Room'

    Courtesy of George Kraychyk/A24

    Though Donoghue wrote the novel entirely from the perspective of 5-year-old Jack, she expanded the role of Ma (more of an essence in the book) when adapting Room for the screen. "I've learned a lot about the strength of women and how ferocious the love of a mother is," lead actress nominee Larson has said of playing the role.

  5. 5

    Rooney Mara

    Mara as Therese Belivet in 'Carol' from Patricia Highsmith's 'The Price of Salt'

    'Carol,' Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

    Mara originally said no to the role that earned her a supporting actress nom­ination. A fortuitous gap in production brought the actress back to the project, and no one was more excited than screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, a friend of Highsmith's who waited more than 20 years for the adaptation to be made. Nagy saw a lot of Highsmith in Mara. "A certain stillness," the nominated screenwriter has said. "A certain catlike thing."

  6. 6

    Charlotte Rampling

    Rampling as Kate Mercer in '45 Years' from David Constantine's 'In Another Country'

    Courtesy of Sundance Selects

    In adapting Constantine's short story, writer-director Andrew Haigh changed the point of view entirely to lead actress nominee Rampling's Kate. "There are many films and works of fiction that deal with the male existential crisis," he has said. "I wanted to take a different perspective."