To see that Fences was nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category yesterday was no surprise; the Denzel Washington and Viola Davis vehicle is one of award season's biggest contenders. What is remarkable, however, is this: The man who wrote said screenplay is also the person who wrote the original play on which it is based. That man, August Wilson, died in 2005.
Some context: Fences, which already delivered Wilson a Pulitzer and a Tony in its play form, took years to develop for the screen because the late playwright insisted upon having a Black director. Washington, nominated for Best Actor in his lead role of Troy Maxson, finally stepped up to the plate, agreeing to both direct and star in the film version. Playwright Tony Kushner was brought on board to finesse Wilson's original script, but only Wilson is credited and, therefore, eligible for an Oscar win in that category.
It sounds unusual, and it is, but it's certainly not unheard of. Dozens of filmmakers, composers, writers, and costume designers have died before getting the call from the Academy. Actors, too, have earned posthumous (as in, after death) Oscar nominations, though only two have gone on to win. They're both Australian, and they're both men: Network star Peter Finch and The Dark Knight's Heath Ledger.
We'll have to wait until February 26 to see if the late Wilson wins an Oscar more than 11 years after his death. In the meantime, review our selection of notable people who have received posthumous Oscar nods.