Script To Screen: “The Fisher King”

A notable scene from the 1991 movie The Fisher King, written by Richard LaGravenese.

Plot Summary: A former radio DJ, suicidally despondent because of a terrible mistake he made, finds redemption in helping a deranged homeless man who was an unwitting victim of that mistake.

Scene: Parry (Robin Williams), the “deranged homeless man”, is trying to get his life together and has just had a wonderful evening with a woman (Lydia), seemingly on his way to recovery. But then something from his tormented past rises up into his consciousness.

EXT. LYDIA'S BUILDING - NIGHT
PARRY is standing frozen... We don't know whether he's looking ahead of him or in his mind's eye... He appears anxious and frightened as he steps back, away from Lydia's building... He senses someone is watching him. Parry smiles.
But suddenly it is as if everything has gone into SLOW MOTION.  His eyes focus on her skirt as it swirls around as she turns... His expression grows dark:
O.S. we hear a horses HOOVES moving in slowly as CAMERA moves to CLOSEUP.  He slowly turns his head and looks down the block to the corner to see:
The Red Knight.  He sits upon his horse as if waiting for Parry.  The street lamps cast a glow around his imposing figure.  The night air lifts his cape up around his massive shoulders.
Parry, vulnerable, in love, whispers plainly:
PARRY
Let me have this.
CUT TO:
THE RED KNIGHT
silent, unforgiving, unrelenting.
Parry begins to move away, taking a step back and then another and another... until he is running down toward the opposite corner.
The Red Knight shifts his horse into Parry's direction and begins to charge.  Parry runs through deserted city streets -- running for his life; the sounds of the Red Knight GALLOPINGS grows closer.  The Red Knight, looks like a surreal figure hunting his prey.
As Parry runs, IMAGES/MEMORIES begin to flood his mind uncontrollably;
EXT. HOSPITAL - NIGHT
An ambulance arriving at a hospital... his wounded wife being moved on a stretcher.
CUT BACK TO:
EXT. LYDIA'S STREET - NIGHT
Parry running away from the Knight.
CUT TO:
INT. BABBITT'S - NIGHT
Parry and his wife at the side bar.  He is making her laugh uncontrollably.  He sees Edwin in the doorway, making nothing of it.
CUT TO:
EXT. STREET - NIGHT
Parry still running.
PARRY
Sstttoppp!!!
Passers-by on the street witness the familiar sight of a bum screaming at thin air then turn away.  We hear the GALLOPING getting louder.
Parry runs, mumbling incoherently.  People on the street
get out of his way or snicker behind his back. The Red Knight gallops toward PARRY, as he runs; his face wet with tears -- yet contorting with angry, incomprehensible reprisals. People on the street pay no attention.
CUT TO:
EXT. BABBITT'S - NIGHT
A bar with broken glass surrounded by police and spectators.
EXT. CENTRAL PARK - DAY
Parry and his wife waltzing.  CLOSEUP on their clasped hands as Parry maneuvers a ring on her finger.
INT. BABBITT'S - NIGHT
His wife's lifeless hand lifted onto the stretcher.
EXT. CENTRAL PARK - DAY
Surprised, Parry's wife stops dancing to look at the ring.  Parry smiles.  It is his proposal...
EXT. BABBITT'S - NIGHT
Ambulance driving away with Parry holding his wife's hand in the back...
EXT. CENTRAL PARK - DAY
Dancing, his wife embraces him as she accepts.
INT. TV NEWS STATION - NIGHT
Jack's face on a TV news broadcast with a reporter commenting.
CUT TO:
EXT. EAST RIVER PROMENADE - NIGHT
Parry has run all the way to the promenade along the river.
PARRY
Come on!... Where are you!!! Where
are you!!
(softer, dropping to his
knees)
Where are you...
CUT TO:
EXT. THE END OF THE PROMENADE - NIGHT
The two juvenile delinquents, Leather and Windbreaker, come strutting down the promenade, in SLOW MOTION.  Parry looks toward them, as if surrendering.
Through PARRY'S POV we see the two youths are being lead by the Red Knight on his horse.
Parry, tear-stained face, rises to meet them.  The Youths reach Parry and surround him.  Leather flicks open a switchblade.
LEATHER
... We're tired of looking at you
people...
Parry stands before them, surrendering to his fate.
Through his POV, the Red Knight is pointing a sword at him in front of Leather and his switchblade.  He slashes at Parry's chest as we...
CUT TO:
WIDE ANGLE OF PROMENADE
as Parry sinks to his knees... The youths close in around him.

Here is the scene in the movie:

Beat for beat, the movie follows closely the script, however the imagery as executed by director Terry Gilliam elevates the words into a compelling set of visuals.

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.

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