Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Delivering bad news

December 8th, 2012 by

We have had a week of uplifting dialogue courtesy of Sabina Giado with her suggested them: Confessions of love. Now I figure it’s time to go in another direction: Delivering bad news.

Several movie moments spring to mind, but as usual, I’ll hold off with my ideas, only backfilling if need be over the course of the week. Daily Dialogue is for you!

The usual drill:

* Copy/paste dialogue from IMDB Quotes or some other transcript source.

* Copy/paste the URL of an accompanying video from MovieClips or YouTube.

I’d also ask you to think about why the dialogue is notable. Is there anything about the dialogue which provides some takeaway re screenwriting?

Also please note:


So if you have any ideas for other Daily Dialogue themes, please post those in comments along with suggestions for this week: Delivering bad news!

13 thoughts on “Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Delivering bad news

  1. blknwite says:



    Throw your gun down now!

    What are you talking about? What happened?

    Are you listening to me, Detective Mills?
    I’m trying to tell you how much I admire
    you… and your pretty wife Tracy.

    Mills freezes, turns to Doe. Doe smiles. Somerset is close.

    Throw your weapon, detective! Now!

    (to John Doe)
    What did you say?

    It’s surprising how easily a member of the
    press can purchase information from the men
    in your precinct.

    David… please…

    I visited your home this morning, after you

    Mills is filled with an aching terror.

    I tried to play husband… tried to taste
    the life of a simple man, but it didn’t
    work out. So, I took a souvenir.

    Mills turns to look at Somerset with pleading eyes. Somerset
    holds out his hand.

    Give me the gun.

    Her pretty head.


    Because I envy your normal life. Envy is
    my sin.

    Somerset can’t hold back tears.

    Fury rises in Mill and he turns to level his gun at John Doe.

    Somerset raises his gun and points it at Mills.


    Mills sees Somerset’s gun, raises his gun to Somerset.

    Tell me it’s not true.

    I can’t let you do this…

    Mills steps forward, enraged.

    Put your gun down!!

    Don’t do this… please…

    Put the gun down, Somerset!

    A pause. Somerset’s gun hand is trembling. The wind whips
    across them. The HELICOPTER can be HEARD distantly. Somerset
    throws his gun down.

    David, listen to me…

    Mills goes to grab John Doe by the throat and puts the gun to
    Doe’s forehead, blind with rage.

    Somerset holds his hand behind his back, opens his switchblade.

    He wants this! He wants you to do it!

    Doe is staring into Mills’ eyes with wild expectation.

    Kill me.

    Doe lowers his head, waiting for execution.

    Mills holds the gun at Doe’s head, undecided, furious.

    Somerset edges towards them.

    (looks to Somerset)
    Stop it! You stay away!

    Somerset moves the switchblade so he’s holding it by the blade,
    ready to throw, keeping it hidden.

    I can’t let you do this!

    Mills kicks Doe and throws him backwards on the ground. The

    Mills stands over Doe and points the gun.

    She begged for her life, and for the life
    of your baby inside her.

    Mills’ face fills with confusion — then a wave of horror.

    Doe’s eyes register shock.

    You didn’t know.

  2. Ahh… there’s nothing like delivering bad news disguised as a motivational speech and in the form of a baseball bat to the back of the head.

    The Untouchables (1987), written by David Mamet, based on books by Oscar Fraley and Eliot Ness. Robert De Niro as Al Capone.


    “A man becomes preeminent, he’s expected to have enthusiasms. What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy? Baseball! A man. A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he stands alone. But in the field, what? Part of a team. Looks, throws, catches, hustles. Part of one big team. Bats himself the live-long day, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on. If his team don’t field, what is he? You follow me? No one! Sunny day, the stands are full of fans. What does he have to say? I’m goin’ out there for myself. But, I get nowhere unless the team wins.”

    1. Teddy, Teddy, Teddy… If you’re gonna go in that direction, you have to go to the source.

      Two from the Godfather. Why are these awesome? *subtext*


      [as Tessio and Hagen walk to Michael’s house, they are met by a bodyguard, Willi Cicci]

      Willi Cicci: Sal… Tom… the boss says he’ll come in a separate car. He says for you two to go on ahead.

      Tessio: Hell, he can’t do that; that screws up all my arrangements.

      Willi Cicci: Well, that’s what he said.

      Tom Hagen: I can’t go with you either, Tessio.

      [just then, Michael’s bodyguards materialize around them, Tessio understands everything]

      Tessio: [to Hagen] Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him.

      Tom Hagen: He understands that.

      Willi Cicci: [removing Tessio’s gun] Excuse me, Sally.

      Tessio: Can you get me off the hook, Tom? For old times’ sake?

      Tom Hagen: [shakes his head] Can’t do it, Sally.

      [Hagen watches sadly as Tessio is led by Cicci and the others to a waiting car]

      and then:


      [Tessio brings in Luca Brasi’s bulletproof vest, delivered with a fish inside]

      Sonny: What the hell is this?

      Clemenza: It’s a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.

  3. Saving Private Ryan

    The mother collapses on her porch when the priest and two military couriers arrive with the death notification of her sons. I don’t think there’s any dialogue, except maybe the Bixby letter from Lincoln being read.

    Powerful scene!

    Sorry…best I can find.


  4. DD Suggestions:

    Famous mentally challenged characters who turn out to be heroic (To Kill A Mockingbird).

    Coming of Age scenes (Sandlot)

    Gangster deaths

    Bios of famous musicians

  5. I submit this mostly because it is the first thing I thought of when I read the topic – the ‘bad news’ scene from Robin Hood: Men in Tights. I’ve always felt more could have been done with the concept, but it is a…unique way of delivering bad news.


    Sheriff of Rottingham: Sire, I have news!
    Prince John: And what sort of news do you have? It’s not bad news, is it? You know I can’t take bad news. The day started out so good. I had a good night’s sleep, I had a good B.M. I don’t want to hear any bad news. So, what kind of news is it?
    Sheriff of Rottingham: Well, to be perfectly frank, it’s bad.
    Prince John: [shouts] I knew it! I knew it would be bad news. Wait, I have an idea. Maybe if you tell me the *bad* news in a *good* way, it wouldn’t sound so bad.
    Sheriff of Rottingham: [thinking] The bad news in a good way. Yes, I can do that. The bad news in a good way. Well, here it goes.
    Sheriff of Rottingham: W-wait till you hear this! I just saw Robin of Locksley, he’s back from the crusades.
    Sheriff of Rottingham: You know, he just beat the *crap* out of me and my men.
    Sheriff of Rottingham: He hates you and he loves your brother, Richard!
    Sheriff of Rottingham: And…
    Sheriff of Rottingham: … he wants to see you hanged!
    Sheriff of Rottingham: We, we’re in a lot of trouble!
    [laughs and snorts loudly]
    Prince John: [furious] What, are you crazy? Why are you laughing? This is terrible news!

  6. ALIEN (1979) directed by Ridley Scott screenplay by Dan O’Bannon, Walter Hill (uncredited) and David Giler (uncredited), story by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett

    Ripley: Ash, can you hear me? Ash?
    Ash: Yes, I can hear you.
    Ripley: What was your special order?
    Ash: You read it. I thought it was clear.
    Ripley: What was it?
    Ash: Bring back life form. Priority One. All other priorities rescinded.
    Parker: The damn company. What about our lives, you son of a bitch?!
    Ash: I repeat, all other priorities are rescinded.
    Ripley: How do we kill it, Ash? There’s got to be a way of killing it. How – how do we do it?
    Ash: You can’t.
    Parker: That’s bullshit.
    Ash: You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
    Lambert: You admire it.
    Ash: I admire its purity. A survivor … unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.
    Parker: Well, I don’t. I’ve heard enough of this, and I’m asking you to pull the plug.
    [Ripley moves to turn Ash off, but he interrupts]
    Ash: Last words.
    Ripley: What?
    Ash: I can’t lie to you about your chances, but … you have my sympathies. [he smiles]

    Dialogue takeaway: What makes this dialogue really frightening is not only Ash’s admiration for the alien but also his sense of kinship with it – he’s similarly “unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.” And the mocking “you have my sympathies” is a great last twist of the knife.

    couldn’t find a clip for this one


    DD suggestions: Negotiations, Profanity

  7. From As Good As It Gets (1997). Directed by James L. Brooks, screenplay by Mark Andrus and James L. Brooks.

    Couldn’t find a clip of this scene, unfortunately.

    Verdell lies just inside the front door, whimpering for Melvin. Jackie sits across from Simon’s wheelchair. She has some index cards in her lap which she occasionally consults and shuffles.

    I feel terribly that I have to…Simon? Forget about the dog for a second.

    Sorry. What are those cards?

    Frank’s idea. He thought I should have notes so I did this right…maintained focus, didn’t get emotional and tried not to terrify you.

    Terrify me?

    See, he’s right. I need the cards.

    (reading from card)
    Simon, you’re broke.

    As their conversation continues, the dog is distressed.

    The medical bills are 61 thousand now. I’ve spoken to your parents and they didn’t hang up or anything – they just said they would feel strange calling you.

    Well, I can’t call them.

    Verdell walks out on the terrace and looks off. He turns for:

    (to Verdell)
    Here, baby…what is it, Verdell? You miss the tough guy…

    (imitating Melvin)
    Well here I am, you little pissant mop, happy to see me? How about another ride down the chute?

    (back to normal)
    Oh, God…I didn’t mean it, sweetheart…

    (on Jackie’s look)
    I’m sorry. I know…

    Frank loves you. You know that…but I’ve spoken to him and he feels that –

    (reading from card)
    – as a businessman, with limited resources…

    I’ll be able to keep my apartment and studio, won’t I? Just tell me.

    As Jackie looks at him, then thumbs for a card


    He reaches out a hand to pet Verdell and the dog ducks away.

    Takeaway: I love how the dialogue in this scene. Both characters speak in incomplete sentences and Simon is constantly distracted by his dog – it just feels real and natural to me. I also love that Jackie (a minor character) is more stressed than Simon for much of the scene. You watch her struggle to keep her cool (which adds comedy to the scene), and Simon struggle to win Verdell’s affection…and you also see Simon hit rock bottom – not only is he broke, he’s losing his apartment and his studio…even his dog doesn’t love him anymore. There’s so much going on in such a short scene, and so much is conveyed without being said.

    As Good As It Gets is one of my favorite movies, and still stands out to me for its memorable dialogue and characters.

  8. Dean Scott says:

    My suggestion – Pub fights!

  9. GITSfan says:

    Dialogue delivering bad news? First that comes to mind:

    “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

    Such a great line, also a good fit for an understatement Daily Dialogue theme.

    Clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gciFoEbOA8

  10. Contagion (2011), written by Scott Z. Burns.


    Dr. Arrington: So, uh…despite all our efforts, she failed to respond.
    Mitch Emhoff: Okay.
    Dr. Arrington: And her heart stopped.
    Mitch Emhoff: Okay.
    Dr. Arrington: And unfortunately she did die.
    Mitch Emhoff: Right.
    Dr. Arrington: I’m sorry, Mr. Emhoff.
    Social Worker: I know this is hard to accept.
    Mitch Emhoff: Okay. So, can I go talk to her?
    Dr. Arrington: Mr. Emhoff, I’m sorry, your wife is dead.
    Mitch Emhoff: What do you mean? I just…I just saw her. We…we were just at home.
    Dr. Arrington: Is there somebody that we can call? Someone who you think should be here with you?
    Mitch Emhoff: We had dinner, we had pizza. She…she…she said she was jet lagged.
    Dr. Arrington: You mentioned that she was away, Hong Kong? We checked the latest bulletins, the only things there were measles and H1N1, and this was not that.
    Mitch Emhoff: Then what was it?
    Dr. Arrington: We don’t always know. Some people get a disease and live, some get sicker and die. Now, we’re gonna have to notify a medical examiner and they may request an autopsy. Or if you wish, we can order one. But I can’t guarantee it’s gonna tell you anything more than I can. My best guess is this was either meningitis or encephalitis and with encephalitis we’re in the dark a lot of the time. Now, if it was summer, I might say uh…a bug bite, West Nile, herpes can cause encephalitis.
    Mitch Emhoff: She didn’t have herpes! What are you talking about? What happened to her? What happened to her?!
    Dr. Arrington: Okay. Okay. Mr. Emhoff, there are grief counselors who are very helpful with this sort of passing. Okay? You might find some resolution there. Now, I am sorry.

  11. You know it’s bad news when Death himself shows up to deliver it.

    The Seventh Seal (1957), written by Ingmar Bergman.


    Antonius Block: Who are you?
    Death: I am Death.
    Antonius Block: Have you come for me?
    Death: I have been walking by your side for a long time.
    Antonius Block: That I know.
    Death: Are you ready?
    Antonius Block: My body is ready, but I am not.

    The KNIGHT has risen to his feet. He shivers. DEATH opens his cloak to place it around the KNIGHT’S shoulders.

    Antonius Block: Wait a moment.
    Death: You all say that, but I grant no reprieves.

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