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Adaptation. (2002)

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A lovelorn screenwriter becomes desperate as he tries and fails to adapt 'The Orchid Thief' by Susan Orlean for the screen.



(book), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
2,487 ( 393)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 60 wins & 95 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Russell (as G. Paul Davis)
Ranger Steve Neely (scenes deleted)
Orlean's Husband


While his latest movie Being John Malkovich (1999) is in production, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is hired by Valerie Thomas to adapt Susan Orlean's non-fiction book "The Orchid Thief" for the screen. Thomas bought the movie rights before Orlean wrote the book, when it was only an article in The New Yorker. The book details the story of rare orchid hunter John Laroche, whose passion for orchids and horticulture made Orlean discover passion and beauty for the first time in her life. Charlie wants to be faithful to the book in his adaptation, but despite Laroche himself being an interesting character in his own right, Charlie is having difficulty finding enough material in Laroche to fill a movie, while equally not having enough to say cinematically about the beauty of orchids. At the same time, Charlie is going through other issues in his life. His insecurity as a person doesn't allow him to act upon his feelings for Amelia Kavan, who is interested in him as a man. And Charlie's twin ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


From the creator of Being John Malkovich, comes the story about the creator of Being John Malkovich. See more »


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, sexuality, some drug use and violent images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

14 February 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Orchid Thief  »

Box Office


$19,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$384,478 (USA) (6 December 2002)


$22,245,861 (USA) (18 April 2003)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (TV)

Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Charlie Kaufman won the Bafta in 2003 for Best Adapted Screenplay, he was unable to attend the ceremony, and Meryl Streep accepted the award on his behalf, reading out a speech he had faxed. Instead of saying, "I would like to thank Spike Jonze", she said, "I would like to spank..." and the audience applauded wildly. See more »


When the twins talk about the serial killer in the script of "The 3" being a literature professor, Charles' hands are clasped. In the close shot of Donald with Charles in the foreground out of focus, his arms are folded. See more »


[first lines]
Charlie Kaufman: [voiceover] Do I have an original thought in my head? My bald head. Maybe if I were happier, my hair wouldn't be falling out. Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I'm a walking cliché. I really need to go to the doctor and have my leg checked. There's something wrong. A bump. The dentist called again. I'm way overdue. If I stop putting things off, I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass. If my ass wasn't fat I would ...
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Crazy Credits

Special thanks to the guy on the bench. See more »


Referenced in Film 2016: Episode dated 11 February 2014 (2014) See more »


Dead Melodies
Written by Beck (as Beck Hansen)
Published by BMG Songs, Inc. o/b/o itself and Cyanide Breathmint
Performed by Beck
Courtesy of Geffen Records
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

From portals to orchids, Jonze and Kauffman strike again
9 January 2003 | by (Northern California) – See all my reviews

Three years after director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kauffman's brilliantly offbeat masterpiece Being John Malkovich, comes their latest stream of conscious head trip. Yes folks, this one stars Nicholas Cage...and, Nicholas Cage.

The film starts off appropriately enough inside Being John Malkovich(or more precisely on the set of Being John Malkovich when Malkovich is inside his own head) But this is no sequel...no no, much more than that. We soon go back to the beginning. Not the beginning of the movie, but to the beginning of it all. To the dawn of the universe, a zero in the fabric of time itself hurling toward the deep chasm of entropy. From the primitive scribblings of early man to the manic late night scribblings of the neurotic Charlie Kauffman(played by Cage)

What we have here is a film about orchid thieves, high society New York socialites, screenwriters, identical twins, crocodiles, narcotic rings, and internet porn...err, more aptly put: a movie about a guy writing a movie about a book inside of another movie. Oh yeah, and it's based on a true story. Sound confusing?

Adaptation is the screen treatment of the best selling non fiction book The Orchid Thief. Only thing is the main character in the film is doing the adapting, and writing himself into script. In the film we go from early primordial man to Being John Malkovich's floor seven and a half...and somehow it all makes sense.

Is this an incoherent parable on the parasitic relationship between writers and their subjects? The evolution from single cell organisms to paleolithic glee? Or a look at how everything seems to have a purpose in life? Somehow between the obscure Hollywood industry injokes, Silence of the Lambs references, and celebrity Boggle tournaments I missed something.

Unfortunately by the third act(when the movie goes from non fiction to fiction) Adaptation unravels and ends up gravely falling apart. But perhaps that is the point. A film about a real life struggle to adapt a book that doesnt have much suspense in it, and the peril of trying to work some fictional thriller plotlines in at the last minute. Either way, hats off to Jonze and Kauffman for once again bringing us an audaciously unconventional idea and tearing down the box. All this from the adaptive skills of an orchid.


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