One of my absolute favorite comedies is Withnail and I (1987). Written and directed by Bruce Robinson, the movie features amazing performances by several actors including Richard E. Grant as Withnail, Paul McGann as I (Marwood), and Richard Griffiths as Uncle Monty. Here’s a summary (IMDB) of the plot:
London 1969 – two ‘resting’ (unemployed and unemployable) actors, Withnail and Marwood, fed up with damp, cold, piles of washing-up, mad drug dealers and psychotic Irishmen, decide to leave their squalid Camden flat for an idyllic holiday in the countryside, courtesy of Withnail’s uncle Monty’s country cottage. But when they get there, it rains non-stop, there’s no food, and their basic survival skills turn out to be somewhat limited. Matters are not helped by the arrival of Uncle Monty, who shows an uncomfortably keen interest in Marwood…
The movie is full of great scenes, but I chose the sequence featuring Danny “the headhunter”. As far as I know, there’s no script available online, so we have to make due with a transcrip:
The Bathroom [I is in the bath shaving.] I: Speed is like a dozen transatlantic flights without ever getting off the plane. Timechange. You lose, you gain. Makes no difference so long as you keep taking the pills. But sooner or later you've got to get out because it's crashing then all at once the frozen hours melt out through the nervous system and seep out the pores. [Withnail enters with their lunch from the chippy] Withnail: The bastards. Justice suck. It's a miserable cheap cigar and the bastards won't see me. I: Why are we having lunch in here? Withnail: It's dinner and Danny's here. I: Danny!? How did he get in? Withnail: I let him in this morning. He lost one of his clogs. He's come in because of the perpetual cold. I hope the buggers sales plummet. I: I've got your savaloy. Here. I don't want it. Withnail: Then stick it in the soap tray and save it for later. [He scrunches up the paper that was holding his chips and puts it in the toilet] I: Don't vent spleen on me. I'm in the same boat. Withnail: Stop saying that. You're not in the same boat. The only thing you're in that I've been in is this fucking bath. I: Danny's here. Head hunter to his friends. Head hunter to everybody. He doesn't have any friends. The only people he converses with are his clients and occasionally the police. The purveyor of rare herbs and prescribed chemicals is back. Will we never be set free? [I comes out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel.] I: Danny. Danny: You're looking very beautiful man. Have you been away? St. Peter preached the epistles to the apostles looking like that. Have you got any food. I: Mmm, As a matter of fact, got a savaloy. Danny: How much is it? I: You can have it for nothing. [Danny sniffs the sausage. Withnail enters from the kitchen gluing the sole back on his shoe. He is wearing a rather expensive looking suit.] Danny: I see you're wearing a suit. Withnail: What's it got to do with you? Danny: No need to get uptight man. I was merely making an observation. I happened to be looking for a suit for the coal man two weeks ago. For reasons I can't really discuss with you the coal man had to go to Jamaica. Got busted coming back through Heathrow, had the weight under his fez. We wored out that it would be handycarma for him to get hold of a suit but he's a very low temperature spade the coal man, went into court wearing a kaftan and a bell. This doesn't go down at all well. They can handle the kaftan but they can't handle the bell. So there's this judge sitting there sitting in a cape like fucking batman with this really rather far out looking hat Withnail: A wig. Danny: No man, this was more like a long white hat. So he looks at the coalman and says 'what's all this. This is a court man. This ain't fancy dress' and the coal man looks at him and says 'you think you look normal, your honour?'. Cunt give him two years. [I laughs a little. Withnail looks on unamuzed.] Danny: I'm afraid I can't offer you gentlemen anything. I: That's alright Danny. We'd decided to lay off for a bit. Danny: That's what I thought. Except for personal use I concur with you. as a matter of fact i was thinking of retiring and going into business Withnail [Scoffing]: Doing what? Danny: The toy industry. [There is a strange looking contraption on the table involving a bottle.] Withnail: Thought you were in the bottle industry. Danny: No man, that's a side line. You can have that. Instructions are included. Yeah. My partner's got a really good idea for making dolls. His name's 'Presuming Ed'. His sister give him the idea. She got a doll on Christmas what pisses itself. Withnail: Really. Danny: Then you've got to change its draws for it. Horrible really but they're like that the little girls. So we're going to make one that shits itself too. Withnail: Shits itself!? Danny: He's an expert. He's building the prototype now. [To I] Why's he behaving so uptightly. Withnail: Because a gang of cheroot vendors consider a hair cut beyond the limit of my abilities Danny: I don't advise a hair cut man. All hairdressers are in the employment of the government. Hair are your aerials. They pick up signals from the cosmos and transmit them directly into the brain. This is the reason bold-headed men are uptight. Withnail: What absolute twaddle. Danny: Has he just been busted? I: No. Danny: Then why's he wearing that old suit? Withnail: Old suit? This suit was cut by Hawke's of Saville row. Just because the best tailoring you've ever seen is above you fucking appendix doesn't mean anything. Danny: Don't get uptight with me man. Because if you do I'll have to give you a dose of medicine and if I spike you you'll know you've been spoken to. Withnail: You wouldn't spike me you're too mean. Besides, there's nothing invented I couldn't take. Danny: If I medicined you you'd think a brain tumour was a birthday present. Withnail: I could take double anything you could. Danny [removing his sunglasses]: Very, very foolish words man. I: He's right Withnail. Look at him . His mechanisms gone. He's had more drugs than you've had hot dinners. Withnail: I'm not having this shag-sack insulting me. Let him get his drugs out. [Danny gets a doll out of a bag.] Danny: This doll is extremely dangerous. It has voodoo qualities. [Withnail snorts. Danny takes the head off the doll and extracts a handful of pills.] Danny: Trade: Phenodihydrochloride benzelex. Street: The embalmer. Withnail: Balls. I'll swallow it and run a mile. Danny: Cool your boots man. This pill's valued at two quid. Withnail: Two quid! You're out of your mind. I: That's sense Withnail. Withnail: You can stuff it up your arse for nothing and fuck off while you're doing it. Danny: No need to insult me man. I was leaving anyway. Have either of you got shoes?
Such inanity! Fantastic stuff! Actor Ralph Brown, who played Danny, reprised a variation of the role in Wayne’s World 2 (1993) as Del Preston, the ultimate roadie who was prone to dispensing sage advice like this:
Listen, sonny Jim. Sleeping like this will add ten years to your life. I learned it from Keith Richards when I toured with the Stones. This may be the reason why Keith cannot be killed by conventional weapons.
Any Withnail and I fans out there?
[Originally posted February 26, 2010]
UPDATE: I have been chastened by @ToWitLudo for using a transcript as s/he has a hard copy of the script for Withnail & I. To wit, here is a sample of the wonderful screenwriting skill of writer-director Bruce Robinson:
— Ludo Smolski (@ToWitLudo) February 9, 2014
Now I’m off to “send a case of the finest wine known to humanity to Bruce Robinson to atone.”