For the last several months, Benedict Cumberbatch has been drawing attention for his performance as Alan Turing in the sure-to-be awards juggernaut “The Imitation Game.” But the critically acclaimed role would have never happened without Graham Moore’s accomplished screenplay for the film, based on the biography “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges.
It’s first screenplay by the 32-year-old to make it to the big screen (it spent a year at the top of The Black List — an annual compendium of hot unpublished screenplays — before getting snatched up). Prior to “The Imitation Game,” Moore was on the writing staff of the short-lived TV series “10 Things I Hate About You,” and published bestelling novel “The Sherlockian” in 2010. Next up for Moore is an adaptation of the non-fiction book “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson, set to star Leonardo DiCaprio.
Indiewire spoke with the young writer about his wild rise and his passion for Turing’s legacy.
I still remember being on set, and I had never really been on a film set before. Morten [Tyldum] would come up to me in the mornings and he would quiz me on the names of the various machines and devices on the set that day. He’d go, “Graham, what lenses are we using on set today?” And I would guess and be wrong and I would lose for the day. It was to haze me and tease me over the fact it was my first film set.
I was lucky enough to know Alan Turing stories since I was a teenager. I was an incredible computer nerd as a child. I went to computer camp. I want to science camp. And among awkward computer minded kinds, Turing’s legacy loomed quite large.
We got the words “Alan Turing” in Vogue last week, which is something that probably doesn’t happen often. That feels like a job well done in a sense.
One of the most fulfilling moments since we’ve finished the film is that we’ve had a number of screenings for mathematicians and scientists, and I’ve had a number of people come up to me after screenings and say, “Oh, I studied Alan Turing in college and my senior thesis was about him, and I never knew he was gay. I never knew any of this actually happened to him.”
Our greatest goal with the film was to have it serve as some small kind of historical corrective, that it could kind of put Alan Turing back with the legacy he deserves. We want his name to be as well known as Newton’s, Einstein’s and Darwin’s. He deserves that.
I look at Benedict’s face on the cover of Time Magazine and, on one level, you wish it had been Turing’s face fifty years ago, but I’m glad at least it can be his name now. It seems a small help to be a historical corrective. I hope that through the film we can get him the recognition he never got in his own life.
Telling Alan Turing’s story in a two-hour film was a tremendous challenge. It felt in some small way like our filmmaking version of breaking the enigma code.
His life is so fantastic and so layered and rich, you could make 10 movies about him easily.
I didn’t want to make a sort of dusty standard biopic. A lot of biopics to me feel very much like someone is standing in front of the camera and is reading a Wikipedia page to you, like someone is reciting event. Did you know this happened? Did you know that happened? But Alan Turing’s life deserved a sort of passionate film, and an exciting film.
One of the many things I love about Turing as a figure is how unapologetic he was about his sexuality. He was totally unashamed. We know this from the way he talked to friends about it and from the way he wrote about it in his own life. He had such a logical mind, and he viewed his sexuality so matter-of-factly because of that. To him it was just another preference. Just as you like chocolate and I like vanilla, you like girls and I like boys.
When the Second World War broke out, Turing was 27, he had never been outside of the university essentially, and now he was going to work for MI6 trying to break this code, working alongside the most senior spies in Britain. He was basically living inside a spy novel, and that feeling was something we wanted to convey.
I write books too, so I’m finishing up a second novel. I started a novel right before “The Imitation Game,” so it’s funny now four years later to be coming almost back to finishing it.
I love the filmmaking process. It can be loud sometimes, and people love having conference calls, so working on a book is the polar opposite. It’s very relaxing.