Columbia University alumus and former Spectator staff writer Graham Moore's screenplay for "The Imitation Game" took home the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay on Sunday night.
"The Imitation Game" follows Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, a British cryptanalyst who was crucial in cracking the Nazis' Enigma Code during World War II. Later prosecuted for homosexuality, Turing's ostensible achievement faded into history. "The Imitation Game" was also nominated for Best Picture, but ultimately lost the top prize to "Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)."
Moore's screenplay for "The Imitation Game" topped the 2011 Black List, the annual survey of the best motion picture screenplays not picked up for production. The script was acquired by Warner Bros. in 2014 for $7 million, the largest amount paid for U.S. distribution rights at the European Film Market.
Moore received a degree in religious history from Columbia in 2003. In an interview with Buzzfeed, he admitted to not having enjoyed his time at Columbia first, though his Great Books class with English professor Peter Pouncey made an impact.
"Every year I think college got better for me, so at the end I was really enjoying it, but at the start… I did not enjoy it very much. Except for this class," Moore said in the interview with Buzzfeed.
From 2000 until 2003, Moore worked for Spectator, reviewing music records. He reviewed a number of artists, such as Radiohead, The Smashing Pumpkins, and R. Kelly.
For his final Spectator column, "Under the Sea and Over Your Head," he reviewed The Coral's 2002 self-titled release with staff writer D. Sloane Morris—while both were under the influence of alcohol.
Before becoming a screenwriter, Moore worked in music production. His writing career began in collaboration with his friend and NYU Tisch graduate Ben Epstein, with whom Moore wrote the 2008 comedy short "The Waiting Room" and the 2005 comedy short "Pirates vs. Ninjas." He was also a writer for the TV series "10 Things I Hate About You."
In 2010, his debut novel "The Sherlockian" topped the New York Times Bestseller List. As announced in 2012, he is slated to write the screenplay for the Warner Bros. film adaptation of the novel "The Devil in the White City," which will feature Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead.
Six Columbia alumni were nominated at the 2015 Oscars. Producer Dede Gardner, CC '90, was nominated for Best Picture for "Selma." "Foxcatcher," by screenwriter Dan Futterman, CC '89, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. "The Tale of Princess Kaguya," producer by Geoffrey Wexler, Law '93, was nominated for Best Animated Feature. Cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman, SoA '77, was up for Best Cinematography with "The Grand Budapest Hotel." "Finding Vivian Maier," by Associate Producer Mary Prendergast, GS '93 and SoA '98, was nominated for Best Documentary Feature.
Moore, however, was the only winner this year. And he delivered a particularly moving acceptance speech.
"When I was 16 years old, I tried to kill myself, because I felt weird and I felt different and I felt like I did not belong," Moore said. "And now I'm standing here, and I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she's weird, or she's different, or she doesn't in anywhere—yes you do. I promise you do, you do, stay weird, stay different, and then when it's your turn, and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message to the next person who comes along."
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