Script To Screen: “Air Force One”

The movie version of this pivotal scene is much different than the script.

The climactic scene from the 1994 movie Air Force One written by Andrew Marlowe.

IMDb plot summary: Hijackers seize the plane carrying the President of the United States and his family, but he — an ex-soldier — works from hiding to defeat them.

Here’s a scripted version of the scene:

INT. MAIN CABIN - NIGHT

Rose clips on to a Ranger's harness.

ROSE
Ready!

They clip on the wire, move to the lip, and rappel off the side of the plane.
INT. AFO UPPER DECK - NIGHT

As the first Ranger leads Marshall through the M.C.C.

WHEN A SHOT RINGS OUT...

The soldier at the flight yoke slumps over dead.

Marshall and the first Ranger swing around to see...

A bloody but smiling Gibbs, lying on the deck, clutching an MP5.
The Ranger draws his weapon...

But Gibbs swings his rifle around. Pulls the trigger. BAM. BAM. BAM. Hitting the Ranger.

The Ranger returns fire, shooting round after round at Gibbs before pitching over, dead.

Gibbs draws a bead on the President, smiles... but he doesn't
have any strength left to pull the trigger. He expires.

And the plane begins to dive. Marshall runs for the cockpit.

EXT. SKY - NIGHT

Rose and her Ranger are pulled aboard the transport.

INT. MAIN CABIN -

Shepherd and his Ranger clip onto the wire, but the KC-lO is
now higher than Air Force One.
INT. AFO COCKPIT -

With Marshall back at the yoke.

KC-LO PILOT
Air Force One, you're losing altitude.

MARSHALL
I can't hold it!

EXT. SN - NIGHT

The KC-lO transport dips lower and lower, trying to maintain
its position under the descending plane.

KC-LO PILOT
Tower, Romeo Tango Zulu. The First
Lady is on board. Air Force One,
status?

MARSHALL
We've lost two of your men. There's
no one to fly the plane.

KC-L0 PILOT (V.0.)
We can send another one over.

MARSHALL
No time. I only have one engine left.

INT. MAIN CABIN - NIGHT

ARMY RANGER
Come on!

SHEPHERD
What about the President?

ARMY RANGER
He's on his way.

With the KC-lO back in the Position, Shepherd and his Ranger
shove off the dying plane toward safety.

INT. AIR FORCE ONE COCKPIT - NIGHT

MARSHALL
I can't stabilize it.

KC-LO PILOT
Sir, we're going to pound pavement
in less than three minutes.

Marshall holds the yoke in one hand and unclips the snatch
harness from the dead ranger in the co-pilot's seat.

The last red light on the engine control panel starts to flash.

MARSHALL
I'M LOSING NUMBER FOUR!

Marshall, still fighting the yoke, stands. He takes a deep breath, drops the wheel and runs like a motherfucker for the stairs.

EXT. SICY, AIR FORCE ONE.

Drops into a banking twist.

The cable line runs taut.

The KC-lO tries to compensate.

INT. CABIN

Marshall dives down the stairs from the upper deck, comes up sprinting for the door.

INT. AIR FORCE ONE, COCKPIT -

Engine four fails.

INT. WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM -

KC-1O PILOT (V.0.)
She's out of control. I can't pace
her.

INT. MAIN CABIN -

The taut straining cable snaps one corner of the metal clasp.

The clasp starts to bend.

IN SLOW MOTION -

MARSHALL sprinting to the open door.

The clasp twisting. The cable hook ready to slip off it.

Marshall clips on, and dives out of the door. He slides forty
feet down, when....

The clasp gives. The cable line snaps away from the plane...
one end connected to the KC-l0, the other connected to...

Nothing.

EXT. SKY

Marshall slides down the cable, gripping at it, trying to
break his fall.

Here’s the movie version:

Lots of changes most notably in the movie, Marshall takes on a traitor in a brawling Final Struggle. They also save the reveal of that Bad Guy until this moment in the scene. Movie logic? Bring everything to a head and let the Protagonist take care of the enemy.

Any fans of Air Force One? Checked on Andrew Marlowe, the movie’s screenwriter. He went on to create the long-running TV series “Castle”. Done all right for himself.

One of the single best things you can do to learn the craft of screenwriting is to read the script while watching the movie. After all a screenplay is a blueprint to make a movie and it’s that magic of what happens between printed page and final print that can inform how you approach writing scenes. That is the purpose of Script to Screen, a weekly series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.