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]