'Lee Daniels' The Butler' takes less crowded original screenplay path under 'inspired by' classification
You may have heard about Wil Haygood's 2008 Washington Post article "A Butler Well Served by This Election," which told the story of Eugene Allen, an African American butler who served 30 years of presidents in the White House, from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. His story, and that article, became the inspiration for the film "Lee Daniels' The Butler," and in some ways, it could be argued as an adapted screenplay.
However, surely sensing that there was leeway, and no doubt taking note of how typically competitive the Best Adapted Screenplay race is this year, The Weinstein Company has kept the rhetoric on "inspired by." Ergo, the distributor will be angling for Best Original Screenplay consideration on the awards circuit. I called the WGA's credits department this afternoon, and indeed, the guild classifies the script original as well.
Given the liberties taken with Allen's story, this isn't really a surprise. We've been running on an adapted assumption around here but there we are. But I'm nevertheless reminded of a somewhat similar situation back in 2005 regarding the screenplay for Stephen Gaghan's "Syriana." I remember it well because I broke the story.