Great scene: “Broadcast News”

November 20th, 2015 by

I love the movie Broadcast News (1987), written and directed by James L. Brooks. The movie is full of great scenes, but this one might be the funniest: The famous “flop-sweat” scene starring Albert Brooks. Playing Aaron, a field reporter desperate to get one shot at being an on-air news anchor, Aaron finally has the opportunity – only to fail in a most visible and embarrassing way:

	INT. NEWS STUDIO - NIGHT

	WE are on the studio floor, FOCUSING on the activity around
	the Anchor Desk and three cameras... The FLOOR MANAGER stands
	ready to cue Aaron, the script is ready to roll on the prompter
	machine.

				FLOOR MANAGER
		Twenty seconds.

	ON AARON

	Making sure he is seated on his jacket -- taking one last look
	at the hand mirror being held by the MAKEUP WOMAN.  She starts
	off -- but Aaron regrabs the mirror almost making her lose her
	footing -- a check -- then another check -- he points to a spot
	on his forehead which she dabs with the makeup sponge... Both of
	them fuss enormously with his hair -- four busy hands.

				FLOOR MANAGER
		Ten seconds.

				AARON
		How many?

				FLOOR MANAGER
		Ten.

				AARON
		Okay.

	He watches the Makeup Woman scurry underneath a camera lens,
	resits on his jacket and finally has the moment the system has
	been denying him for years.  We can HEAR the END OF HIS CUE
	in a barely AUDIBLE CRACKLE from the Floor Manager's earphones...
	"...with Aaron Altman."

				AARON
			(on TV)
		Good Evening...In mood and language
		better suited to an espionage novel
		than the delicate world of the Western
		Alliance, the British Foreign Secretary
		today pounced on what he termed, 'The
		nest of profession spies and amateur
		traitors who were turning NATO
		Headquarters into an instrument whose
		only true function is folly.'  We begin
		our coverage with Edward Towne in London.

	Aaron looks up -- takes a breath.  He's done well -- he's
	punched his words and his one thought for the story.  His gaze
	has been steady, his voice firm but he has begun to perspire.
	He dabs with his finger at the first trickles from his brow --
	brushes some more prominent sweat from his upper lip... He
	beckons nervously to the Makeup Woman -- who comes in and dabs --
	then dabs again as Aaron feels himself under his arms...

				MAKEUP WOMAN
		Gee whiz.

				FLOOR MANAGER
		Five seconds.

	She scurries away, Aaron reaching for another Kleenex from her
	box and missing it... A graphic illustrating his next scripted
	section appears behind him.

				AARON
		...the sub-bases referred to are
		located in five countries...

	And now the moisture on his face is clearly discernible -- the
	Floor Manager and Makeup Woman grimacing at the growing specter
	as they look at a large monitor.

				AARON
		France, Belgium, the Netherlands,
		Spain as...

	And now so much moisture sprouts from his upper lip that he
	pushes his lower lip out to slurp away the sweat... The Makeup
	Woman laughs briefly out loud before catching herself...
	Aaron's eyes dart angrily in her direction.

				AARON
		We well as Great Britain...Our own
		State Department was rocked not only
		by the revelation but from the highly
		unusual persistence from the State
		Press Corps.  Martin Klein reports on
		the ruckus at Foggy Bottom.

	Half-beat until he's sure that he's off -- his shirt now
	showing distinct sweat stains...

				AARON
		Help me.

	The Makeup Woman picks up her Kleenex box -- then thinks
	better of it...

				MAKEUP WOMAN
		Someone finds me some big towels.

	ON AARON

	He blots his face -- some makeup streaked -- by the towel.

				FLOOR MANAGER
		Five seconds.

	ON MAKEUP WOMAN

	As she scurries away, this time entering the control room
	trotting up one stair to look at the monitor... the Director
	talking to his Camera Operators.

				DIRECTOR
		I'd go looser but we wouldn't
		see the graphic.

				TECHNICIAN
			(to other Technician)
		No -- this is more than Nixon ever
		sweated.

	The Makeup Woman now looks at the bank of monitors.

				MAKEUP WOMAN
		Can't you just die for him?

	ON MONITOR

	Aaron's makeup-streaked face.

Here is the scene from the movie:

When you write comedies, you pray for comic bits. Then you milk them for all you can get. This is a GREAT comic bit… and milked for all it’s worth, which is why it’s a Great Scene.

[Originally posted August 15, 2008]

Great Scene: “Blue Velvet”

November 11th, 2015 by

Blue Velvet (1986) confused many viewers and even critics. Was it a thriller? A satire? A dark comedy? But one thing was certain: This scene is one of the most memorable in the last two decades. Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) finds himself in a most interesting situation: Stripped to his shorts at knife-point by Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini). Then a knock on the door. And soon to enter, one of the creepiest bad guys of all time: Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper).

There's a KNOCK, KNOCK on the door.  Dorothy looks VERY frightened.  She 
quickly moves a finger to her lips in a "quiet" sign and whispers to 
Jeffrey.

					DOROTHY
				 (whispers, frantic)
			Shut up. Hurry! Go in the closet. Don't
			say anything or you'll get killed. I mean
			it.

KNOCKING is heard louder at the door.  Jeffrey picks up all his clothes 
and gets in the closet.  He's naked and hiding in the closet.  Dorothy 
closes her robe and glides to the front door.

Jeffrey sees FRANK come in.

Frank is medium height and stocky with a burr hair cut.  He is wearing a 
tight blue t-shirt and an old black sports jacket.  He's got on a pair of 
blue jeans and boots.  He has a raw, mean sexuality - a "bomb about to go 
off" - presence. 

He comes into the room slowly, always looking at Dorothy.  He sits on the 
couch.

					DOROTHY
			Hello, baby.

					FRANK
                      (annoyed, condescending)
			Shut up. It's daddy. shithead.

					DOROTHY
			Hello, daddy.

					FRANK
			  (can't-you-remember-
			   anything-attitude)
			. my bourbon.

Dorothy goes into the kitchen to get Frank his drink.  As she passes the 
closet, Jeffrey can see the fear in her face.

She returns with a small glass of bourbon and hands it to Frank.  Frank 
sips on it.

					FRANK
			. sit down. get your chair.

Dorothy brings a small chair over from the wall and sits down.  She 
adjusts her robe.

					FRANK
				 (studying her)
			. spread your legs.

Dorothy slowly spreads her legs.  She can see Jeffrey staring out of the 
darkness of the closet at her.

					FRANK
			wider.

She opens her legs wider.  Frank looks at her crotch and drinks his 
bourbon.  He stares at the floor for a moment, then slowly looks back at 
Dorothy, her body - her crotch.

Dorothy looks up at the ceiling, waiting.  Frank suddenly reaches to his 
belt, where he has a small canister and a mask.  He opens a valve on the 
canister and places the mask over his nose and mouth.  The canister is 
filled with helium, which makes Frank's voice very high and strange 
sounding.  The result is frightening.

					FRANK
				   (high voice)
			. mommy.

Dorothy jumps.  She keeps looking at the ceiling.

					FRANK
			   (continuing, with high voice)
			. MOMMY!.

					DOROTHY
				    (frightened)
			. mommy's here.

					FRANK
				  (high voice)
			Baby wants to fuck.

Then, Frank's voice goes to normal.

					FRANK
			(normal voice, but loud - like
    			 an army order to himself)
			GET READY TO FUCK!

Frank goes to Dorothy and kneels down in front of her.  He takes one more 
gasp of helium.

					FRANK
				   (high voice)
			Baby wants blue velvet.

Dorothy opens her robe and gives a part of the robe to Frank.

					DOROTHY
				   (whispering)
			Okay.

Frank slowly moves

Frank slowly moves his mouth to the robe and runs his lips along the 
texture of the velvet.  His hands rub the velvet and feel Dorothy's body 
underneath.  His hands start feeling her breasts as he sucks and bites the 
velvet robe.

Dorothy is very frightened but she is getting hot in spite of her fear.  
Then Frank, in a sort of sickening way, pulls Dorothy down to rug.  He 
warns her.

					FRANK
			Don't look at me!

He begins stuffing part of the robe into her mouth.  Then, he pushes her 
arms back and she keeps them back, letting Frank have his way.  Frank 
sucks and bites the velvet coming out of her mouth, while he pinches and 
feels her breasts in a strange, compulsive, timidly sickening way.  
Dorothy is moaning.  Frank is breathing very heavily. He feels her crotch.

					FRANK
			Don't look at me!!!
			     (heavy breathing)
			Daddy's home.

He starts stuffing the robe in his mouth now and he gets on top of Dorothy.
He starts humping her and pulling her nude body up and down him.  Faster 
and faster, then he has a climax in his pants.  Dorothy's head is falling 
back.  She can see Jeffrey blurred in the distance - in the closet.  
Cautiously, she looks sideways at Frank.

					FRANK
				    (screaming)
			Don't look at me!!!

He slugs her in the face.  His nose is running and he's stifling sobs from 
deep within him.  On his hands and knees, he moves away.  The robe pulls 
out of his mouth.  His breathing is even heavier now.  He stands and 
begins to move around the apartment.  He goes to a wall, turns off the 
lights, then turns and walks into the bathroom, all the while breathing 
big, heavy breaths, trying to stop the crying.  Dorothy moans softly.

It gets very quiet and still for a moment.  Then, Jeffrey hears Frank 
with his high helium voice talking to himself in the bathroom.  The high, 
strange sound reverberates in the distance.  Jeffrey can't make it out - 
soon, he hears Frank's high laughing.  Frank comes back into the living 
room.  The mask is around his face.  All his breathing - every sound is 
high . He laughs a little and crosses the darkened room to the door.

					FRANK
			Stay alive baby. See you next Christmas!

Frank leaves and shuts the door.  The apartment is silent except for 
Dorothy's moans.  

Jeffrey is stunned.  He doesn't move.  He watches Dorothy in the 
half-light.  She rolls over and starts crying.  The crying is deep and 
genuine.

Here is the scene from the movie:

If you’re going to have a Bad Guy, why not make him a really bad guy? And while you’re at it, why not let your imagination run wild, dig deep into your own dark psyche, see what sorts of quirky, weird, even demented behaviors you repress — then project those onto your Nemesis. And what you may get is not only an a bizarre, aberrant sexual behavior, you may also get a character like Frank Booth, a metaphor for the ‘evil’ that exists under the pretty little surface of a suburban American town.

[Originally posted May 29, 2009]

Great Scene: “Big Night”

November 4th, 2015 by

I can’t find a screenplay to accompany this clip, but the scene is definitely worth including in our Great Scene series. From a wonderful indie movie Big Night (1996), it is the very last scene. On the surface it’s notable because the scene is 5:09 in length — and has virtually no dialogue. The camera is stationary, the only movement provided by the three characters in the scene. And yet it is mesmerizing – and deeply touching. Here is the IMDB summary:

Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) are two brothers who have emigrated from Italy to open an Italian restaurant in America. Primo is the irascible and gifted chef, brilliant in his culinary genius, but determined not to squander his talent on making the routine dishes that customers expect. Secondo is the smooth front-man, trying to keep the restaurant financially afloat, despite few patrons other than a poor artist who pays with his paintings. The owner of the nearby Pascal’s restaurant, enormously successful (despite its mediocre fare), offers a solution – he will call his friend, a big-time jazz musician, to play a special benefit at their restaurant. Primo begins to prepare his masterpiece, a feast of a lifetime, for the brothers’ big night…

In the preceding sequence, the brothers have sunk all their remaining cash resources into the masterpiece — but although the food turns out to be a stupendous success, the ‘big night’ turns out to be a huge disappointment. Many harsh words were spoken. The brothers wake up the next morning facing a most uncertain future.

The scene’s three-movement structure:

Beginning: Secondo prepares an omelet.

Middle: Primo enters which creates the dramatic question in the scene — how will the brothers react to each other after last night’s disaster. So much to say – but how to say it?

Ending: The brothers eat side-by-side and acknowledge acceptance for each other through the gestures of their hands.

Great drama in simplicity.

The scene demonstrates that a movie doesn’t need pyrotechnics and bombast in order to entertain. As long as we care about the characters and what is going on in the story, even a five-minute slice-of-life can make for a compelling scene.

Tucci co-directed the movie along with Campbell Scott, and also co-wrote the screenplay (with Joseph Tropiano). If you haven’t seen Big Night, it’s definitely worth screening.

[Originally posted August 28, 2009]

Great Scenes: “Big”

October 28th, 2015 by

It’s a wonderful thing for a screenwriter when you confront a typical story issue and come up with a great solution that not only services the plot, but also create a memorable scene. Such is the case with this famous keyboard-dance scene from the movie Big. The credited screenwriters are Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg (Steven’s sister); I don’t know which of them came up with this idea, but the situation might have been something like this.

You’ve gotten Josh a job at the toy store, but he’s just a low-level nothing with nothing exciting for him to do. Wouldn’t it be great if you (screenwriter) could jump him up to a high-level executive position so Josh (Tom Hanks) could bring his childish sensibilities to the business of toys? But how to do that? Perhaps he could do something to impress the owner of the company Mac (played by Robert Loggia). But how to intersect the two, then what could Josh do to win over Mac?

Well, on a weekend, it makes sense that Josh would go to the toy store – after all, he’s a boy (inside) and he likes toys. It’s also logical to think that Mac, who’s a rather old school businessman, might visit toy stores in order to stay in touch with consumers. In fact, earlier in this sequence, Mac says to Josh, “Me too … I come here [ toy store] every Saturday.” So there’s your point of intersection: Josh will run into Mac at the toy store.

But what can I have Josh do to really blow Mac away? Okay, how about Josh gives Mac an earful about some toys Mac’s company produces. That’s how this scene begins with Josh’s honest appraisal of a toy. But I want something more. I want something to go beyond logic and hit Mac in a way that moves him emotionally.

That’s when you remember seeing that news piece over the holidays about FAO Schwartz and the floor keyboard. “Holy crap! I could have Josh start to play the keyboard, just mess around… then, then… uh, a song… he could tap out a song. What’s a simple song that a kid would know… ‘Heart and Soul,’ of course. And whoa! What if Mac used to play the piano when he was a kid? And he joins in to play the song!”

Maybe the creative process was something like that, maybe not. But this scene does everything you could want in a scene from its primary point for existing — to get Josh promoted — to creating a memorable moment. And when you think of the movie Big, this has got to be one of the scenes that jumps to mind. All that makes it a great scene.

DOLLY SHOT - MAC AND JOSH

They walk side by side down the aisle of the toy store.

JOSH
...See the Starfighters are good
cause you can change the pieces
around. I don't like the Galacticons
'cause you just get one robot and
it doesn't come with a vehicle.

MAC
I see.

JOSH
Plus they can't go underwater.
Now with ...

At that moment, there is a musical note coming from
beneath him. Josh stops and looks down.

WIDER ANGLE - JOSH AND MAC

Josh is standing on a huge piano keyboard that is clearly
meant to be walked on. He steps on a different key and
another note comes out. Josh steps on two keys in
succession and it's the beginning of a song.

JOSH
Neat!

DIFFERENT ANGLE

Mac watches as Josh starts into the first four notes pro-
gression of "Heart and Soul." After a couple of tries
the familiar bass line of the song begins to emerge.

ANGLE ON MAC

He watches in amazement as Josh does a little two-step
across the piano keys. Mac smiles slightly.

MAC
Piano lessons?

JOSH
(nodding)
Three years.

Mac watches him for a moment, then glances over his
shoulder. He pauses, then reaches out with his toe and
taps the first three notes of the song.

"HEART -- AND -- SOUL"

Josh looks up at him startled.

MAC
(smiling)
Me too. Every day after school.

Mac steps onto the keyboard. He starts to tap out the
melody, stepping nimbly across the keys. Josh grins at
him and Mac sticks out his hand like an old vaudevillian.
The two of them dance their duet across the keyboard, like
something out of the Catskills. When they reach the
crescendo, Mac sweeps his foot across the keyboard in
a huge flourish. He turns to Josh with a grin on his
face.

MAC
What division you say you worked in?

Here is the scene in the movie:

[Originally posted January 30, 2009]

Great Scene: “American Beauty”

October 14th, 2015 by

Today’s great scene comes courtesy of writer Alan Ball and the fantastic dark satire he wrote American Beauty (1999). This is a hauntingly beautiful moment and drives home how even the most mundane events — such as a plastic bag caught up in the wind — can translate into powerful drama.

  
                           RICKY (CONT'D)
               Want to see the most beautiful thing 
               I've ever filmed?

     INT. FITTS HOUSE - RICKY'S BEDROOM - LATER                  

     On VIDEO: were in an empty parking lot on a cold, gray day.

     Something is floating across from us... it's an empty, 
     wrinkled, white PLASTIC BAG. We follow it as the wind carries 
     it in a circle around us, sometimes whipping it about 
     violently, or, without warning, sending it soaring skyward, 
     then letting it float gracefully down to the ground...

     Jane sits on the bed.  She watches Ricky's WIDE-SCREEN TV, 
     her brow furrowed, trying to figure out why this is beautiful.

     From a chair across the ROOM, RICKY watches, smiling.

                           RICKY
               It was one of those days when it's a 
               minute away from snowing and there's 
               this electricity in the air, you can 
               almost hear it, right?

     And this bag was like, dancing with me.  Like a little kid 
     begging me to play with it.  For fifteen minutes.  And that's 
     the day I knew there was this entire life behind things, and 
     ... this incredibly benevolent force, that wanted me to know 
     there was no reason to be afraid.  Ever.

     A beat.

                           RICKY (CONT'D)
               Video's a poor excuse. But it helps 
               me remember... and I need to 
               remember...

     Now JANE is watching him.

                           RICKY (CONT'D)
                    (distant)
               Sometimes there's so much beauty in 
               the world I feel like I can't take 
               it, like my heart's going to cave 
               in.

     He points a REMOTE at the TV and switches it off, then just 
     sits there lost in thought, not unlike his mother.

     After a moment, JANE gets up. RICKY watches impassively as 
     she kneels in front of him and takes his hands and kisses 
     them. Then she leans up and kisses him softly on the lips.

And here is the scene itself from the movie.

From an Amazon.com interview with screenwriter Alan Ball:

Amazon.com: There’s something so simple and poetic about Ricky’s encounter with the plastic bag that just keeps whirling in the breeze. You’re not sure what it means, but the simple beauty of it has a profound effect. How did that come about?

Alan Ball: I had an encounter with a plastic bag! And I didn’t have a video camera, like Ricky does. I’m sure some people would look at that and go, “What a psycho!” But it was a very intense and very real moment. There’s a Buddhist notion of the miraculous within the mundane, and I think we certainly live in a culture that encourages us not to look for that. I do like, though, that Ricky says, “Video’s a poor excuse, but it helps me remember.” Because it’s not the video he’s focused on; it’s the experience itself. He’s very connected to the world around him.

The miraculous within the mundane. Yes, so true. Little things can take on a world of meaning depending upon the characters and the situation.

But here’s another takeaway from this scene: We, as writers, have to be observant, pay attention to the world around us, be mindful of narrative possibilities. Alan Ball happened upon a dancing plastic bag. He could have simply passed by. He didn’t. His eyes captured the moment. And that inspired one of the most memorable scenes in this memorable movie.

[Originally posted August 29, 2008]

Great Scene: “Almost Famous”

October 7th, 2015 by

Some times it’s a great idea to put your story’s characters together in a situation that ‘rattles their cages’ — and that’s certainly what happens in this great scene from Almost Famous (2000), written and directed by Cameron Crowe. The movie’s premise per IMDB:

William Miller is a 15 year old kid, hired by Rolling Stone magazine to tour with, and write about Stillwater, an up and coming rock band.

In this scene, Miller (Patrick Fugit) accompanies Stillwater on an airplane to the band’s next gig. Other key players in the scene are the two leaders of the band Russel Hammond (Billy Crudup) and Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee). Tension between the two about the band’s direction and their own personal lives has been simmering for a while and what transpires in this scene raises the stakes:

	147   INT. BAND PLANE -- DAY						147

	Russell and William are in mid-interview.  The kid's microphone
	is out.  It's a little bit of a rough flight.  William wears
	the same clothes.

					RUSSELL
			Why didn't you come back to the party?
			Bob Dylan showed up.  He was sitting
			at our table for... had to be an hour,
			right?  Just  Rapping.  Bob Dylan!  I
			kept looking for you.  I was going to
			introduce you.

	The kid feels pain.

					JEFF
			What happened to you last night?

					WILLIAM
			It's a log story.

	A sharp jolt of turbulence.  Russell begins pounding on the
	card table in rhythm.

					RUSSELL
				(singing Buddy Holly)
			"Peggy Sure... Peggy Sue... "

					DICK
			Please.

					RUSSELL
			"Pretty pretty pretty pretty Peggy
			Sue... "

	A moment of laughter, and then bam.  Jeff's drink rises and
	suspends briefly in mid-air.  The plane takes another mighty
	knock.

					JEFF
			We shouldn't be here.

					RUSSELL
			Doris, we miss you!

	Fear is creeping in around the edges.  William, already an
	uneasy flier, looks down.

					PILOT'S VOICE
			This is Craig, your pilot.  It appears
			we've caught the edge of that electrical
			storm we were trying to outrun.  Buckle
			up tight now.  We're gonna do our best
			to getcha out of this.

	The rocking of the plane worsens, as all buckle up.

					JEFF
			"Electrical storm?"

					RUSSELL
				(strapping in for a roller
			coaster)
			Rock and roll.

	The sky darkens abruptly. William looks up, increasingly
	nervous, stares straight ahead.  The plane suddenly drops and
	stabilizes.  Everyone is silent but Russell.

					RUSSELL (cont'd)
			Wooooooo Baby!

	A moment later, an ashen-faced CO-PILOT emerges, balancing
	himself with hands on the ceiling of the shuddering plane.

					CO-PILOT
			We're gonna try to land in Tupelo.
			We're going to have to cut the inside
			lighting for the next several minutes.
			We found a field to land in.

	The kid notices Silent Ed is rubbing a small crucifix.

					DENNIS HOPE
			A field?

					JEFF
			I can't breathe.

	Push in on Russell. We hear a series of unfamiliar electrical
	sounds.  The plane screwballs through the sky.

					CO-PILOT
			It might be a rough set-down.  We should
			be fine.
				(cracking at the edges)
			But what we do say in a situation like
			this is - We would pass but before the
			plane ... disassembled.  However, God
			help us, if there's anything you want
			to say to each other, any secrets,
			anything like that, now would be a
			good time.  But just hang in there.
			We'll get you out of this.

	He returns to the cockpit.  The weather worsens, as the hail
	suddenly pelts the plane, and it comes down hard.  Inside lights
	shut off.   William stares straight ahead, as the cockpit door
	swings open - total chaos visible inside - and then shuts again.

					DICK
			And everyone thinks it's so glamorous
			out here.

					LARRY
				(oddly detached)
			He just told us we're gonna die.

					JEFF
				(insecurities running wild)
			We're gonna crash in Elvis' hometown --

					RUSSELL
			Shut up.

					JEFF
			-- we can't even die in an original
			city!

					RUSSELL
			C'mon Dennis, get us a better city.

	Nervous laughter.  Another sheet of hail hits the plane.

					LESLIE
			Oh my God.

	PUSH IN ON WILLIAM

	Just shaking.  Nearly in tears.   Hyperventilating.

					RUSSELL
			If something should happen.  I love
			all of you.  I don't think we have to
			do the secrets thing.

	The plane shakes.  Now lightening strikes very close.  A
	flashing wall of electricity rolls through the plane and
	evaporates with a burning smell still in the air.  In the
	darkness:

					DENNIS HOPE
			I once hit a man in Dearborn, Michigan.
			A hit-and-run.  I hit him and kept on
			going.  I don't know if he's alive or
			dead, but I'm sorry.

					LESLIE
				(gripped with fear)
			Oh my God.

	The plane wildly rises, and falls.  It stops for a moment.  A
	strange smooth patch.

					DICK
			I love you all too, and you're my
			family.  Especially since Marna left
			me.  But if I ever took an extra dollar
			or two, here and there, it was because
			I knew I'd earned it.

					RUSSELL
			I slept with Marna, Dick.

					JEFF
			I did too.

					LARRY
			I waited until you broke up with her.
			But me too.

					JEFF
			I also slept with Leslie, when you
			were fighting.

					RUSSELL
			You... slept with Jeff?

					LESLIE
			Yes, but it didn't count.  It was the
			summer we decided to be free of all
			rules.

					RUSSELL
				(to Jeff)
			And you say you "love me."

					JEFF
				(the truth)
			I don't love you, man.  I never did.

					RUSSELL
			Please.  Enough.

					JEFF
			NONE of us love you.  You act above
			us.  You ALWAYS HAVE!!

					LARRY
			Finally.  The truth.

					JEFF
			You just held it over us, like you
			light leave... like we're lucky to be
			with you. And we had to live with it.
			I had to live with you, and now I might
			die with you and it's not fucking fair.

	William watches, catatonic.

					RUSSELL
				(to Larry and Ed)
			You hate me?  You too?

	Larry stares at him.  Ed says nothing.

					RUSSELL (cont'd)
			All this love.  All this loyalty.
				(incredulous, giddy)
			And you don't even like me.

					JEFF
			And I'm still in love with you Leslie.

	Bam.  The plane is pulling sideways, and dropping altitude.

					LESLIE
			I don't want to hear anymore.    Shut
			up! Shut up!  Shut up!

					RUSSELL
				(to Jeff)
			Whatever happens, you're dead.

					JEFF
			Don't be self-righteous, Russell, not
			now.  You were sleeping with Penny,
			that groupie.  Last summer, and up
			until yesterday.  Why don't you tell
			Leslie THAT?

	Russell tries to get up and attack him.  The force keeps him
	in his seat.  He yells.  Loud.

					DENNIS
				(freaking out)
			I quit.

	The turbulence worsens.  William finds his mouth saying
	emotional words he cannot control.

					WILLIAM
			"That groupie?"  She was a Band-Aid.
			All she did was love your band.  And
			you all -- you used her, all of you.
			You used her and threw her away.  She
			almost died last night, while you were
			with Bob Dylan.  You're always talking
			about the fans, the fans, the fans.
			She was your biggest fan and you threw
			her away.  And if you can't see that,
			that's your biggest problem.

	Russell and Jeff stare at each other.   The plane is rocking
	very very hard.  Leslie is crying.

					ED
			I'm gay.

	They all turn to the silent drummer.  (It's his first spoken
	dialogue of the movie.)

	Then.

	The plane pops out from below the clouds.  Sunshine spikes
	through the embattled windows of the plane, as they float
	downwards to the city of Tupelo, Mississippi.  A very very
	uneasy silence fills the plane.  No one can look at each other.
	Out bursts the Co-Pilot, giddy with victory.

					CO-PILOT
			Thank God above, WE'RE ALIVE!!   WE'RE
			ALIVE!!  WE'RE GONNA MAKE IT!!

	Shot of all the occupants, ending with Russell.  Suddenly, the
	alternative seems far more attractive.  We hear Rod Stewart's
	"Jo's Lament" as music plays over their still-shocked faces.

	148   INT. TUPELO AIRPORT CORRIDOR -- DAY				148

	Music continues, as they walk together like ghosts in a long
	and very pregnant silence, ignoring the kid.  Everything is
	different now.  The kid peels off and throws up in a dumpster.
	We continue with the band, unhappily moving forward.  William
	hustles back to catch up.  They ignore him.  There are much
	bigger thoughts in play.  No one wants to speak.

					JEFF
			Well, I think we can build on this new
			honesty.

	Boom.  Russell attacks him, and they're pulled apart.  The
	band continues moving forward, arriving at a fork in the airport
	terminals.  William stops.  This is where he must part company.
	He stands at the mouth of the next terminal, as the band
	continues, unaware he's split off.   He watches their backs,
	they've forgotten him.

	Then Russell turns, sensing something missing.  William.  All
	now stop and turn.  Still shell-shocked, they summon a pre-
	occupied but heartfelt goodbye.  William waves.  Music
	continues.

The scene in the movie:

I talk a lot about the External and Internal Worlds of a story universe, that while something is going on in dialogue and action, there should be something else going on underneath in characters’ subtext and intentions. There are times when you want all that ‘stuff’ in the Internal World to erupt into the External World. Putting your characters under pressure is an excellent way to foment moments of explosive emotional honesty — just like this great scene from the wonderful Cameron Crowe movie Almost Famous.

[Originally posted April 23, 2010]

Great Scene: “Alien”

September 30th, 2015 by

Scenes that totally surprise a viewer — those can be great scenes. And memorable. I still remember when I watched Alien in a theater, leaping out of my seat when I first experienced this scene. I’ve included the preceding bit of business to warm you up.

        INT. MESS

        The entire crew is seated.
        Hungrily swallowing huge portions of artificial food.
        The cat eats from a dish on the table.

                                 KANE
                  First thing I'm going to do when
                  we get back is eat some decent
                  food.

                                 PARKER
                  I've had worse than this, but
                  I've had better too, if you know
                  what I mean.

                                 LAMBERT

                  Christ, you're pounding down this
                  stuff like there's no tomorrow.

        Pause.

                                 PARKER
                  I mean I like it.

                                 KANE
                  No kidding.

                                 PARKER
                  Yeah.  It grows on you.

                                 KANE
                  It should.  You know what they
                  make this stuff out of...

                                 PARKER
                  I know what they make it out of.
                  So what.  It's food now.  You're
                  eating it.

        Suddenly Kane grimaces.

                                 RIPLEY
                  What's wrong.

        Kane's voice strains.

                                 LAMBERT
                  What's the matter.

                                 KANE
                  I don't know... I'm getting cramps.

        The others stare at him in alarm.
        Suddenly he makes a loud groaning noise.
        Clutches the edge of the table with his hands.
        Knuckles whitening.

                                 ASH
                  Breathe deeply.

        Kane screams.

                                 KANE
                  Oh God, it hurts so bad.
                  It hurts.  It hurts.
                         (stands up)
                  Ooooooh.

                                 BRETT
                  What is it.  What hurts.

        Kane's face screws into a mask of agony.
        He falls back into his chair.

                                 KANE
                  Ohmygooaaaahh.

        A red stain.
        Then a smear of blood blossoms on his chest.
        The fabric of his shirt is ripped apart.
        A small head the size of a man's fist pushes out.
        The crew shouts in panic.
        Leap back from the table.
        The cat spits, bolts away.
        The tiny head lunges forward.
        Comes spurting out of Kane's chest trailing a thick body.
        Splatters fluids and blood in its wake.
        Lands in the middle of the dishes and food.
        Wriggles away while the crew scatters.
        Then the Alien being disappears from sight.
        Kane lies slumped in his chair.
        Very dead.
        A huge hole in his chest.
        The dishes are scattered.
        Food covered with blood.

                                 LAMBERT
                  No, no, no, no, no.

                                 BRETT
                  What was that.  What the Christ
                  was that.

                                 PARKER
                  It was growing in him the whole
                  time and he didn't even know it.

                                 ASH
                  It used him for an incubator.

                                 RIPLEY
                  That means we've got another
                  one.

                                 DALLAS
                  Yeah.  And it's loose on the
                  ship.

        Slowly they gather around Kane's gutted corpse.
        Then they all look at one another.
        Then at Kane.
        Dead on the table.

We’ve noted the writing style of Walter Hill here, here, and here. Although the movie’s official writing credits are “screenplay by Dan O’Bannon, story by Dan O’Bannon and Ron Shusett,” David Giler and Walter Hill contributed to the script and they both received a producer credit. Hill’s writing style is unmistakable and it’s in evidence here.

Just to be clear, while the above version of the scene’s writing style (scene description) may reflect something of Walter Hill’s influence, the scene’s concept and content originate from Dan O’Bannon’s initial draft of the script. That is made abundantly clear when you compare to O’Bannon’s version here:

INTERIOR - MULTI-PURPOSE ROOM

The entire crew is seated around the table, eating huge portions
greedily. The cat eats from a dish on the table.

HUNTER
Boy do I feel a lot better. It's a
straight shot back to the Colonies,
and then we can start taking bids on
the paydirt. Any bets on the top
bid?

FAUST
(chewing)
Well, we should at least be able to
each buy our own planet.

They all CHUCKLE.

MELKONIS
I'm going to write a book about this
expedition. I'm going to call it
"The Snark Log."

STANDARD
(stiffly)
The commander normally has first
publication rights.

MELKONIS
Maybe we could write it together.

ROBY
First thing I'm going to do when we
get back is eat some biological
food.

MELKONIS
What's the matter, you don't like
this stuff?

ROBY
Tastes like something you'd feed a
chicken to make it lay more eggs.

STANDARD
Oh it's okay. I've had better cag
than this, but I've had worse too,
if you know what I mean.

FAUST
I kind of like it.

ROBY
You like this shit?

FAUST
It grows on you.

ROBY
You know what they make this stuff
out of?

FAUST
(annoyed)
Yes, I know what they make it out
of, so what? It's food now. You're
eating it.

ROBY
I didn't say it was bad for you,
it's just kind of sickening, that's
all.

HUNTER
Do we have to talk about this kind
of crap at the dinner table?

Suddenly, unexpectedly, BROUSSARD GRIMACES AND GROANS.

STANDARD
What's wrong?

BROUSSARD
(his voice straining)
I don't know... I'm getting these
CRAMPS!

The others stare at him in alarm. Another GROAN is torn from his lips.
He clutches the edge of the table with his hands, his knuckles
whitening.

STANDARD
Breathe deeply.

BROUSSARD
(screaming)
OH GOD IT HURTS SO BAD!

ROBY
What Dell -- what?

Broussard's face is screwed up into a mask of agony, and he is
trembling violently from head to foot.

BROUSSARD
(incoherent shriek)
OhmygooaaAAAHHHHH!!!

A RED SMEAR OF BLOOD BLOSSOMS ON THE CHEST OF BROUSSARD'S TUNIC.

THEIR EYES ARE ALL RIVETTED TO BROUSSARD'S CHEST AS THE FABRIC OF HIS
TUNIC IS RIPPED OPEN, AND A HORRIBLE NASTY LITTLE HEAD THE SIZE OF A
MAN'S FIST PUSHES OUT.

Everybody SCREAMS and leaps back from the table. The cat spits and
bolts.

The disgusting little head lunges, comes spurting out of Broussard's
chest trailing a thick, wormlike tail -- splattering fluids and blood
-- lands in the middle of the dishes and food on the table -- and
scurries away while the men are stampeding for safe ground.

When they finally regain control of themselves, it has escaped.
Broussard lies slumped in his chair, a huge hole in his chest,
spouting blood. The dishes are scattered and the food is covered with
blood and slime.

HUNTER
Oh, no. Oh, no.

FAUST
What was that? What the Christ was
that?

MELKONIS
It was growing in him the whole time
and he didn't even know it!

Slowly, they gather around Broussard's gutted corpse.

ROBY
That thing used him for an
incubator!

Here is the movie version of the scene:

Do you remember the first time you saw Alien? Did this scene freak you out?

[Originally posted September 12, 2008]

Great Scene: “Amadeus”

September 25th, 2015 by

This is one of my favorite all-time scenes, a brilliant inspiration for the viewer to hear what Mozart is ‘hearing’ in his own mind, but Solieri not to hear, both to give Solieri an actual taste of creative genius at work in the moment, and also to underscore to us how damn frustrating it was for him to live in the shadow of Mozart’s genius. It is, in effect, the story’s Final Struggle — for Mozart to attempt to complete this piece before he dies and for Solieri to be a part of a profoundly creative act.

NT. MOZART’S APARTMENT – BEDROOM – NIGHT – 1790′S

Mozart is sitting up in bed, propped against pillows. The
coins lie on the coverlet; many candles burn in the necks of
bottles. Salieri, without coat or wig, is seated at an
improvised worktable. On it are blank sheets of music paper,
quills, and ink. Also the score of the Requiem Mass as so
far composed. Mozart is bright-eyed with a kind of fever.
Salieri is also possessed with an obviously feverish desire
to put down the notes as quickly as Mozart can dictate them.

MOZART
Where did I stop?

SALIERI
(consulting the
manuscript)
The end of the Recordare – Statuens
in parte dextra.

MOZART
So now the Confutatis. Confutatis
Maledictis. When the wicked are
confounded. Flammis acribus addictis.
How would you translate that?

SALIERI
Consigned to flames of woe.

MOZART
Do you believe in it?

SALIERI
What?

MOZART
A fire which never dies. Burning one
forever?

SALIERI
Oh, yes.

MOZART
Strange!

SALIERI
Come. Let’s begin.

He takes his pen.

SALIERI
Confutatis Maledictis.

MOZART
We ended in F Major?

SALIERI
Yes.

MOZART
So now – A minor. Suddenly.

Salieri writes the key signature.

MOZART
The Fire.

SALIERI
What time?

MOZART
Common time.

Salieri writes this, and continues now to write as swiftly
and urgently as he can, at Mozart’s dictation. He is obviously
highly expert at doing this and hardly hesitates. His speed,
however, can never be too fast for Mozart’s impatient mind.

MOZART
Start with the voices. Basses first.
Second beat of the first measure -
A.
(singing the note)
Con-fu-ta-tis.
(speaking)
Second measure, second beat.
(singing)
Ma-le-dic-tis.
(speaking)
G-sharp, of course.

SALIERI
Yes.

MOZART
Third measure, second beat starting
on E.
(singing)
Flam-mis a-cri-bus ad-dic-tis.
(speaking)
And fourth measure, fourth beat – D.
(singing)
Ma-le-dic-tis, flam-mis a-cri-bus ad-
dic-tis.
(speaking)
Do you have that?

SALIERI
I think so.

MOZART
Sing it back.

Salieri sings back the first six measures of the bass line.
After the first two measures a chorus of basses fades in on
the soundtrack and engulfs his voice. They stop.

MOZART
Good. Now the tenors. Fourth beat of
the first measure – C.
(singing)
Con-fu-ta-tis.
(speaking)
Second measure, fourth beat on D.
(singing)
Ma-le-dic-tis.
(speaking)
All right?

SALIERI
Yes.

MOZART
Fourth measure, second beat – F.
(singing)
Flam-mis a-cri-bus ad-dic-tis, flam-
mis a-cri-bus ad-dic-tis.

His voice is lost on the last words, as tenors engulf it and
take over the soundtrack, singing their whole line from the
beginning, right to the end of the sixth measure where the
basses stopped, but he goes on mouthing the sounds with them.
Salieri writes feverishly. We see his pen jotting down the
notes as quickly as possible: the ink flicks onto the page.
The music stops again.

MOZART
Now the orchestra. Second bassoon
and bass trombone with the basses.
Identical notes and rhythm.
(He hurriedly hums
the opening notes of
the bass vocal line)
The first bassoon and tenor trombone -

SALIERI
(labouring to keep up)
Please! Just one moment.

Mozart glares at him, irritated. His hands move impatiently.
Salieri scribbles frantically.

MOZART
It couldn’t be simpler.

SALIERI
(finishing)
First bassoon and tenor trombone -
what?

MOZART
With the tenors.

SALIERI
Also identical?

MOZART
Exactly. The instruments to go with
the voices. Trumpets and timpani,
tonic and dominant.

He again hums the bass vocal line from the beginning,
conducting. On the soundtrack, we hear the second bassoon
and bass trombone play it with him and the first bassoon and
tenor trombone come in on top, playing the tenor vocal line.
We also hear the trumpets and timpani. The sound is bare and
grim. It stops at the end of the sixth measure. Salieri stops
writing.

SALIERI
And that’s all?

MOZART
Oh no. Now for the Fire.
(he smiles)
Strings in unison – ostinato on all -
like this.

He sings the urgent first measure of the ostinato.

MOZART
(speaking)
Second measure on B.

He sings the second measure of the ostinato.

MOZART
(speaking)
Do you have me?

SALIERI
I think so.

MOZART
Show me.

Salieri sings the first two measures of the string ostinato.

MOZART
(excitedly)
Good, good – yes! Put it down. And
the next measures exactly the same,
rising and rising – C to D to E, up
to the dominant chord. Do you see?

As Salieri writes, Mozart sings the ostinato from the
beginning, but the unaccompanied strings overwhelm his voice
on the soundtrack, playing the first six bars of their
agitated accompaniment. They stop.

SALIERI
That’s wonderful!

MOZART
Yes, yes – go on. The Voca Me.
Suddenly sotto voce. Write that down:
sotto voce, pianissimo. Voca me cum
benedictis. Call me among the blessed.

He is now sitting bolt upright, hushed and inspired.

MOZART
C Major. Sopranos and altos in thirds.
Altos on C. Sopranos above.
(singing the alto
part)
Vo-ca, vo-ca me, vo-ca me cum be-ne-
dic-tis.

SALIERI
Sopranos up to F on the second ‘Voca’?

MOZART
Yes, and on ‘dictis’.

SALIERI
Yes!

He writes feverishly.

MOZART
And underneath, just violins -
arpeggio.

He sings the violin figure under the Voca Me (Bars 7,8,9).

MOZART
(speaking)
The descending scale in eighth notes,
and then back suddenly to the fire
again.

He sings the ostinato phrase twice.

MOZART
(speaking)
And that’s it. Do you have it?

SALIERI
You go fast!

MOZART
(urgently)
Do you have it?

SALIERI
Yes.

MOZART
Then let me hear it. All of it. The
whole thing from the beginning -
now!

The entire Confutatis bursts over the room, as Mozart snatches
the manuscript pages from Salieri and reads from it, singing.
Salieri sits looking on in wondering astonishment.

Here is the scene in the movie:

Such a brilliant scene.

How about you? What’s one of your favorite movie scenes? Happy to feature it on the blog.

[Originally posted January 23, 2009]

Great Scene: “There Will Be Blood”

September 9th, 2015 by

The last scene of There Will Be Blood (2007) is one of the most gut-wrenching, memorable finales in recent film history. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the scene features just two characters: Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Eil Sunday (Paul Dano). We pick up the action about midway through the scene:

ELI
I would like a one hundred thousand dollar
signing bonus plus the five that is owed
with interest.

DANIEL
That's only fair.

ELI
...I am a false prophet and God is a
superstition. If that's what you
believe, then I will say it.

DANIEL
Say it like you mean it.

ELI
Daniel...

DANIEL
Say it like it's your sermon.

ELI
This is foolish.

DANIEL
...

ELI
"I AM A FALSE PROPHET. GOD IS A SUPERSTITION."
Is that fine?

DANIEL
Those areas have been drilled.

ELI
...what?

DANIEL
Those Areas Have Been Drilled.

ELI
No, they haven't.

DANIEL
It's called drainage. I own everything around
it.......so I get everything underneath it.

ELI 
But there are no derricks there. This is
the Bandy tract. Do you understand?

DANIEL
Do you? I drink your water, Eli.
I drink it up. Everyday. I drink
the blood of lamb from Bandy's tract.

ELI
ahuh.

Eli take another drink...and then begins to break down and CRY
and CRY and sob like a baby...

ELI
Oh, Daniel...please...
I'm in desperate times...I need a
friend...I feel the walls closing in...
I'VE SINNED...I NEED HELP...I'm a SINNER...
I've let the Devil grab hold of me in
ways that I never imagined! I'm so full of sin.

DANIEL
The Lord sometimes challenges us, doesnt' he?

ELI
ohhhh yes he duz.  yes he duzzzzzaaa!
aaaaawhoa.  HE'S COMPLETELY FAILED
TO ALERT ME TO THE RECENT PANIC IN OUR
ECONOMY AND THIS.  I MUST HAVE THIS.
...I must have this...I've invested...my investments
have...oh, Daniel, I won't bore you, but I -
IF I COULD GRAB THE LORDS HAND FOR HELP
I WOULD, BUT HE DOES THESE THINGS ALL THE TIME,
THESE MYSTERIES THAT HE PRESENTS AND
WHILE WE WAIT...WHILE WE WAIT...wait for his word...

DANIEL is HOLDING A LOOK ON ELI;

DANIEL
You're not the chosen brother, Eli.
It was Paul who was chosen.  He found
me and he told me about your land.
You're a fraud.

ELI
Why are you talking about Paul?
don't say this...don't say this to me, Daniel.

DANIEL
I did what your brother couldn't.
I broke you and I beat you.
It was Paul who told me about you.
He's the prophet.  He's the smart one.
He knew what was there and he found
me to take it out of the ground.

He SMACKS Eli across the face.

DANIEL
STOP CRYING YOU SNIVELING ASS.
STOP YOUR NONSENSE.

You're just the younger brother,
and you'll always be the younger
brother, Eli...and that land has
been had...YOU HAVE NOTHING.
YOU LOSE. YOU IDIOT, YOU LOSE.

ELI
If you take this lease on the Bandy lot,
the Church would -

DANIEL
DRAINAGE!  DRAINAGE, ELI!  DRAINED DRY, YOU BOY.

If you have a milkshake and I have a milkshake
and I have a straw and my straw reaches
ACCCRROSSSSSSSS the room starts to drink your
milkshake:

I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!  I DRINK IT UP.

ELI
Don't bully me Daniel, please.  HELP ME.
PLEASE.  MY FAITH HAS BEEN LOST AND I NEED
A NEW WAY.  I ASK FOR YOUR HELP --

IN A FLASH: DANIEL is UP AND HAS GRABBED ELI AND THROWN HIM
HALFWAY ACROSS THE ROOM.  Eli flails about as Daniel closes in,
hysterical/crazy/kicking/pushing,etc...

DANIEL
I TOOK WHAT I WANTED WHEN YOU WEREN'T LOOKING
AND THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB IS IN MY POCKET.
DO YOU THINK GOD IS GOING TO BALANCE
YOUR INVESTMENTS?  GOD DOESN'T SAVE IDIOTS, ELI.
YOU ARE BROKE AND YOU ARE LAME AND
YOU ARE DONE FOR.

ELI
No I'm not.

DANIEL
DID YOU THINK THAT YOUR SONG AND DANCE
AND YOUR SUPERSTITION WOULD SAVE YOU?
I AM THE THIRD REVELATION!  I AM
WHO THE LORD HAS CHOSEN.  BECAUSE I'M
SMARTER THAN YOU.  I AM OLDER AND WISER
AND I AM NOT A FALSE PROPHET, YOU
SNIVELING BOY.  YOU'RE DONE FOR.

ELI
Not done for, no.

DANIEL
Yes.

ANGLE, DANIEL.
along the way, he picks up a HEAVY SILVER TUMBLER...

DANIEL
I AM THE THIRD REVELATION!  I AM THE
THIRD REVELATION!  I TOLD YOU I WOULD EAT
YOU UP, I TOLD YOU I WOULD EAT YOU.
HOW DARE YOU COME TO ME?   HOW DARE YOU?

WHAT DID I TELL YOU?

ANGLE, ELI.
inching back on the bowling alley floor...back from Daniel...

DANIEL
WHAT DID I TELL YOU?

ANGLE, DANIEL.
advancing on Eli...

DANIEL
I TOLD YOU I'D EAT YOU UP.

ANGLE, ELI
crawling and looking for somewhere to go...

DANIEL
How dare you come to my home?

DANIEL is over HIM, AND SITS DOWN ON HIS CHEST, PINNING DOWN HIS
ARMS... AND DRIVES THE TUMBLER STRAIGHT DOWN INTO ELI'S FACE.

CAMERA looks STRAIGHT DOWN on the GORGEOUS WOOD FLOOR...

...very slowly, BLOOD COMES OOZING INTO FRAME.  It spreads and
moves like a slow land slide...covering the floor...CAMERA moves
back a bit to reveal;

...blood pouring from Eli's skull and this head wound...he's curled
in a fetal position and not moving...

CU. DANIEL
his eyes wet and out of breath from the struggle, looking at
what he's done.  HOLD.  He gets up --

Daniel drags Eli's dead body down the lane of the bowling alley,
leaving a streak of BLOOD...

HE THROWS HIM INTO THE BOWLING PINS AND DOWN OVER THE LIP INTO
A CELLAR.

FROM BELOW, LOOKING UP.

BOWLING PINS AND ELI'S BODY COME CRASHING THROUGH INTO THIS
CELLAR.

ABOVE, IN THE BOWLING LANE.

Daniel slumps down onto the floor...breathing heavy and covered in
blood... HOLD WITH HIM ON HIS FACE.

ANGLE, AT THE STEPS LEADING TO THE BOWLING ALLEY.

CAMERA pulls back with AL ROSE coming down the
steps...slowly...slowly...revealing to him the horrific scene:

...and sees the BLOOD spilled across the floor...and sees Daniel...

HOLD on Al's face and the reality of this mess...

Daniel turns around...satisfied:

DANIEL
I'm finished.

The movie version is even more violent.


A bowling alley. Drainage. Milk shake. The mind boggles at how Anderson combined those disparate elements into such a powerful scene.

[Originally posted September 10, 2010]

Great Scene: “The Elephant Man”

August 26th, 2015 by

It’s one of the most poignant, sad, and beautiful movie moments I can remember: The ending of The Elephant Man (1980). Directed by David Lynch from a screenplay he co-wrote with Christopher De Vore & Eric Bergren, the movie tells the story of John Merrick (John Hurt), known in Victorian England as “The Elephant Man” because of his grotesque physical features. After a life of cruelty, Merrick is befriended by Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) who discovers that underneath the exterior of the ‘beast’ lies something truly remarkable as Merrick is possessed of keen intelligence and an appreciation for beauty.

In the final scene, he fulfills another wish: Simply to sleep lying down, as opposed to being propped up, how he’s had to sleep his entire life to keep from choking to death on his own saliva which pools in his lungs when his body his horizontal. In other words, Merrick’s final wish is to sleep like a ‘normal’ human being, even if it means his own demise:

The cathedral is a masterwork of detail and shading, as if it 
were St. Philips itself shrunk to a miniature.  He goes to the 
table, dips the brush into the paint and carefully signs his 
name at the base of the main spire.

				MERRICK
		John...  Merrick!

He sighs deeply, lays the brush down on the table and pushes 
the model towards the window.  The movement causes him pain.  
He puts his left hand up and feels the back of his head.  
Merrick turns out the lamp and goes to his bed.  He looks at the 
cathedral again, then around at his room.  We see in the dim 
light his books, his gallery of smiling women, his dressing 
bag, his cloak and hood, and finally his mother's picture on 
the table.  A slight breeze billows the curtains.  We move in 
very close to them.

DISSOLVE TO:

High altitude... roiling clouds with lightning flashes and
low thunder.  The sky is in turmoil.

				MERRICK (V.0.)
		When will the stream be aweary of
		flowing under my eye?

Lightning flash... thunder roll.  The clouds are mingling and
scattering.

				MERRICK (V.O.)
		When will the wind be aweary of
		blowing over the sky?

The clouds erupt, pushed onward and onward... they slowly begin 
to calm as... they turn slowly into... elephants linked 
trunk to tail moving slowly away from us...

				MERRICK (V.0.) 
		When will the clouds be aweary 
		of fleeting?

The elephants are calmer than the skies we saw...  they keep
moving onward and onward ...

				MERRICK (V.O.)
		When will the heart be aweary of
		beating....

A lacy curtain has taken the place of the sky.  The elephants
seem to be moving on it...  into the distance.

				MERRICK (V.0.)
		... and nature die?

Knock, knock sound - the curtain moves to one side wiping the 
elephants away with it.  There is no terrified audience behind 
the curtain. There is only light and Merrick's Mother smiling 
a calm and benign smile.

				JOHN'S MUM
		Never, oh!  Never, nothing will 
		die; the stream flows, 
		the wind blows, the cloud fleets, the 
		heart beats...

The light grows brighter and brighter until we cannot see John's
Mother anymore. it almost blinds us.

				JOHN'S MUM
		Nothing will die.

WHITE OUT

CUT TO BLACK

			THE END

Here is the film version of the scene:

Did you know that Mel Brooks produced The Elephant Man?

[Originally posted March 5, 2010]