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The script is always better than the movie
November 13, 2009 8:50 AM   Subscribe

7 scripts you gotta read

Who is Mystery Man and where does he find this stuff? Early drafts, never-mades, and even a link to Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made (Hardcover) ... just in case you've got a spare $700 sitting around.

The text book features the complete original treatment, essays examining the screenplay in historical and dramatic contexts, an essay by Jean Tulard on Napoleon in cinema, and a transcript of interviews Kubrick conducted with Oxford professor Felix Markham. The culmination of years of research and preparation, this unique publication offers readers a chance to experience the creative process of one of cinema s greatest talents as well as a fascinating exploration of the enigmatic figure that was Napoleon Bonaparte.

Previously.
posted by philip-random (60 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also previously.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:01 AM on November 13, 2009


Related: ScriptShadow reviews and posts the best scripts that are currently floating around in Hollywood.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:03 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I immediately went to the Hampton Fancher draft of Blade Runner to see if the spider dream was in it...

-----------------------------------------------

DECKARD

You ever take a bath with a man before?

RACHAEL

There's a lot I haven't done with a man before.

He's got her hand in the water and has begun to soap her arm. Starting with her wrist and running the bar to her elbow, up and down, slow and slippery. She watches, not quite sure of the ritual.

He pulls her closer, and runs his hand up higher, moulding and pressing, working around her flesh, up and under her arm into the privacy of her dress.


RACHAEL

You're getting me wet.

Oh, yes. For a moment Deckard stares at her like some furry-legged satyr in a rut...

-----------------------------------------------

Words fail me.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:08 AM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wow, I never knew about Kubrick's Napoleon obsession. Great link.
posted by xmutex at 9:18 AM on November 13, 2009


Yes, The Dark Knight was all that.

No, it was not.
posted by Artw at 9:19 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Related: ScriptShadow reviews and posts the best scripts that are currently floating around in Hollywood.

Neat. They perform the exact opposite of my job, in which people pay me to read what seem to be the worst scripts possible, and to please shut up about them!
posted by rokusan at 9:19 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, The Dark Knight was all that.
No, it was not.


Screenplay was pretty well put together, structurally and shot-wise. Very well crafted.

But that's just a recipe. The chefs have a lot to do with the results.

(Also: Hey, you're sober already?)
posted by rokusan at 9:21 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


xmutex: Wow, I never knew about Kubrick's Napoleon obsession. Great link.

It's an even greater directorial obsession than Gilliam's thing for Quixote, IMO.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:39 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I never knew about Kubrick's Napoleon obsession. Great link.
It's an even greater directorial obsession than Gilliam's thing for Quixote, IMO.


And both so rich in delicious irony.
posted by rokusan at 9:48 AM on November 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


This is a thousand monkeys working at a thousand typewriters. Soon, they'll have written the greatest novel known to mankind. (reads one of the typewriters) "It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times"?! you stupid monkey! (monkey screeches) Oh, shut up.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:59 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


But... but... the Dark Knight's plot was just super-stupid!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:06 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey, you're sober already?

Had to take a cold shower and drink a couple of pints of water so I could wish someone well.
posted by Artw at 10:13 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Screenplay was pretty well put together, structurally and shot-wise.

It was? I haven't read the whole thing but I just went to pages 53-55, which contain the scenes I thought indicative of the problems that plagued this film. I was hoping the screenplay handled the situation better than the film. It doesn't. It's equally insulting to the audience even with the addition of one small scene.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:33 AM on November 13, 2009


Why do people insist that the Superman movies are anything but terrible? Is it pure nostalgia? I'm reading his in depth analysis about how an original Donner "vision" for Superman II was vastly superior because in addition to other things, you know, THAT was the script that was intended to have Superman fly around the earth so fast that time reverses.

Yes, if you're a writer of a film you should include scripts like this in your list of must-reads so you can discover the vital importance of NOT DOING ANYTHING REMOTELY LIKE THIS IN ANY MEDIA EVER.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:46 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why do people insist that the Superman movies are anything but terrible?

They're wonderful because Christopher Reeve was perfect for the part. Yes, there's a heavy suspension of disbelief involved; yes, there's a major-league deus ex machina involved, but when you have someone who so intensely believes in his character that he's the only thing you can look at when he's on the screen, you can pull that off.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:59 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is an awesome link to awesome scripts, thanks. Don't listen to the haters.

However:

I don’t know what Darabont’s doing dicking around with this zombie TV show for AMC.

Now wait just one goddamn second.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:00 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


They're wonderful because Christopher Reeve was perfect for the part
posted by Halloween Jack


I thought he was pretty great as Clark Kent and pretty shrug as Superman. However the finished product of Superman one includes plenty of non-Reeve material. And those Lois voiceovers. I try not to hate on everyone's parade and all, but this one is baffling to me. I do appreciate you explaining the appeal to you.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:03 AM on November 13, 2009


Haters, step off. There is much to be learned from reading screenplays, even ones you don't think are awesome. If you ever wonder where the writer ends and the director and cinematographer begin, here it is.

The screenplay is an invisible genre of writing. It has so many audiences that it has to satisfy: it has to communicate to the director what's supposed to be happening, as well as to the actors, but it also has to convince producers and other moneyed folk that the film is worth making and more importantly spending money to make. The film's audience almost never sees it, but it has to take them into account as well, building the skeleton of another text that will engage them and speak to them.
posted by Tesseractive at 11:16 AM on November 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ok, also, speaking of Superman: I can't stand Margot Kidder. She makes these movies really grating for me. But, she's not in the screenplay--Lois is. Poof, problem solved.

Also also, I want Kevin Smith's never-produced screenplay for Superman Lives to be on this list. It is a great read! Trust me.
posted by Tesseractive at 11:18 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is an awesome link to awesome scripts, thanks. Don't listen to the haters.

Actually, I have no problem weighing in with the haters on some of this stuff (eg: Superman; maybe you just have to be American to properly relate to a hero who's essentially INVULNERABLE ... except for that pesky kryptonite, of course).

As for the arguable quality of some of the scripts, I think this part of the intro speaks well to that:

2) Reading early drafts of the films you admire reveals great lessons behind all of the revisions that were made. This is the heart of screenwriting. How well you put together a first draft means little in terms of your abilities. It’s how well you handle revisions and shape a story into greatness that proves your worth. The art of effective rewrites is what separates the amateurs from the pros.

Kubrick's Napoleon is already on its way to my printer.
posted by philip-random at 11:19 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also also, I want Kevin Smith's never-produced screenplay for Superman Lives to be on this list. It is a great read! Trust me.

Really? A guy who writes everybody's dialogues exactly the same way and doesn't know how to lens action wrote a great Superman script?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:24 AM on November 13, 2009


Really? A guy who writes everybody's dialogues exactly the same way and doesn't know how to lens action wrote a great Superman script?

Honestly, those don't seem like huge impediments to a Superman script to me.
posted by Naberius at 11:33 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Fair enough, phillip. I don't know why I love Supes so much -- he has that silly conflict-free WE ARE AS GODS thing going on that's so endemic to DC heroes. But that Superman II script is a good way around that.

I want Kevin Smith's never-produced screenplay for Superman Lives to be on this list. It is a great read! Trust me.

Dude, I was totally with you up until this point. I read the script and hated it. I understand he was working under some real limitations, but man. Stinker. But to each his own.
posted by hifiparasol at 11:52 AM on November 13, 2009


(I think the Batman eulogy is where it lost me -- it just seemed like fanboy wanking to me.)
posted by hifiparasol at 11:56 AM on November 13, 2009


Kubrick's Napoleon is already on its way to my printer.

There are so many great stories about that project.

" Kubrick hired several historians to begin collecting data and forming a concrete timeline of Napoleon's life for Kubrick to follow. In addition he had costume design work ongoing and was attempting to collect enough extras to properly stage the massive battles. In fact Kubrick had contacted several foreign govenments in an effor to rent out a massive number of troops for shooting. The costuming of 10,000+ troops in genuine French Revolution garb was going to burden the effort, so Kubrick was looking into heavy paper uniforms, which he believed would be convincing in his long shots. " (via)
posted by The Whelk at 11:57 AM on November 13, 2009


There is much to be learned from reading screenplays, even ones you don't think are awesome.

Yeah, but the first step is recognizing they're "not awesome" which is hard to do when people keep praising them.

And who are the "haters"? People who don't like films you like?

This is a terrific FPP. I downloaded all the scripts and favorited the FPP. Dark Knight still isn't "well put together, structurally".
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 12:10 PM on November 13, 2009


Yeah I frickin' love reading stories about Kubrick's process almost as much as I love his films-- that's why all the good Kubrick books are the ones by his collaborators from various projects (Raphael's Eyes Wide Open, Herr's Kubrick, etc).
posted by shakespeherian at 12:21 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, I have no problem weighing in with the haters on some of this stuff (eg: Superman; maybe you just have to be American to properly relate to a hero who's essentially INVULNERABLE ... except for that pesky kryptonite, of course).

I'm fully American. We don't all properly relate. Giving your protagonist godlike powers and essentially one weakness isn't a good narrative decision. Also hairgel and lack of glasses are not a disguise.

I guess I just have to admit that the only Superman film I could find truly satisfying would be storyboarded entirely around this cover.

I've never read Kevin Smith's Superman, but hearing him talk about the trevails of working on the film in "An Evening With..." (especially the part about the producer and the giant spider) is hilarious.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:31 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay, YSSTOG, now you're making me download it and read it again, dammit. I curse you for contributing to my reliteracy.

A year ago, I found it very strong and was impressed by how it didn't turn into the train-wreck that I worried was coming. I accept the possibility that ice-skating heroes and scenery-devouring guest stars have lowered the bar I use for Batman flicks.
posted by rokusan at 12:55 PM on November 13, 2009


I'm pretty sure we'd get this one, haveanicesummer.
posted by rokusan at 12:57 PM on November 13, 2009


rokusan, I guess it depends on what you mean by structurally sound. To me, the film suffers because it's only concerned with the next thing and not the current thing--this is backwards. A good script, imo, is only concerned with the current thing but does so in such a way that the reader wants to know what's next.

Dark Knight attempts to move at a pace that doesn't allow the audience to think. However, it doesn't really pull it off.

SPOILERS FOR DARK KNIGHT

The page numbers I referenced are the scene where the Joker shows up at the party looking for Dent. That is the action of that scene--it's his goal to get Dent. It's Batman's goal to prevent him from getting Dent. Therefore, the Joker's obstacle is Batman. That's great so far.

However, in the film and script, Batman wins (the Joker doesn't get Dent) even though the Joker "defeats" Batman by eliminating him as an obstacle when he throws whatsherface out the window and Batman goes after her.

Now, with the only obstacle in his path eliminated, what does the Joker do? He leaves.

I mean, wtf? Do the filmmakers really think the audience is that stupid?

And yeah, I guess we are as it made a bazillion dollars.

The film is rife with this kind of nonsense.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 1:06 PM on November 13, 2009


Haven't seen it since the theater, but I thought Dent had escaped by that point and thus the conflict becomes Creepy Sociopath At Soiree.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:21 PM on November 13, 2009


xmutex: Wow, I never knew about Kubrick's Napoleon obsession. Great link.
It's an even greater directorial obsession than Gilliam's thing for Quixote, IMO.


Why not combine the two into a mega-jinxed five hour epic? The first 120 minutes of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote Was Napoleon Bonaparte follow Napoleon from Corsica to Elba, where a mystic portal sends him three hundred years into the past. After learning about life, love, and the importance of imagination at Don Quixote's side, he returns to his own time, emboldened to make one last - dare I say, quixotic? - attempt to subjugate Europe.

Estimated budget: 3.8 billion dollars.
posted by Iridic at 1:35 PM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


The amount of Jinx generated by such a project would have enough power to SHUT OFF THE SUN.
posted by The Whelk at 1:39 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Haven't seen it since the theater, but I thought Dent had escaped by that point and thus the conflict becomes Creepy Sociopath At Soiree.

Nope, not the case. He's been stuck in a closet with a broomstick across the door. Yeah, I lol'd at that while watching, too. (Joker: "Hmm... I wonder where the guy I'm searching for is? And why that closet has a broomstick keeping it closed.")
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 1:43 PM on November 13, 2009


Here's a copy of the Darabont script.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 1:44 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


YSSTOG, your critiques are perfectly sound to my just-this-side-of-feeble brain, particularly this one:

Dark Knight attempts to move at a pace that doesn't allow the audience to think. However, it doesn't really pull it off.

Part of the problem with that movie -- which I liked overall -- was the incredibly hurried pacing, which, now that I'm reading the script, I think is more a part of the direction, owing largely to Hans Zimmer's score, the notation of which I present here in its entirety:

bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM BUM

That runs constantly through the entire first act of the movie.

With my "haters" comment, I was merely trying to say what Tesseractive said so much better.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:54 PM on November 13, 2009


I've never read Kevin Smith's Superman, but hearing him talk about the trevails of working on the film in "An Evening With..." (especially the part about the producer and the giant spider) is hilarious.

I wish Kevin Smith could make a movie half as well as he could tell that story.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:58 PM on November 13, 2009


maybe you just have to be American to properly relate to a hero who's essentially INVULNERABLE ... except for that pesky kryptonite, of course

The best Superman of recent years has all been by a Scottish guy. Apart from Red Son, which is by a different Scottish guy.
posted by Artw at 2:00 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Blade Runner script is really interesting, thanks. I didn't realize what a interesting character the writer, Hampton Fancher, was (ex-flamenco dancer, etc.)

The screenplay anticipates Demolition Man in its "San Angeles" setting. And it's interesting to see which classic Blade Runner scenes are already present ("nothing the god of biomechanics won't let you in heaven for..."), which are missing (the Baty rooftop speech), and which ideas from the Phil Dick book were still in there and didn't make it later.
posted by Kirklander at 2:11 PM on November 13, 2009


Baty rooftop speech was all Rutger Hauer. Also his opinion is that Deckard was too crap to be a replicant, one that I will thoroughly get behind as it's a better story that way.
posted by Artw at 2:16 PM on November 13, 2009


(Also the name of the Rutger Hauer autobiography is All These Moments, which is flat out awesome. And if you are wondering if he lives in a cargo container which he drives between sets on his personal truck, with a motorcycle on board that he can drive out the back to go on side trips, then well yes, he does.)
posted by Artw at 2:19 PM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Rutger Hauer is amazing. I had heard he came up with the speech, but I was surprised to see that in the original script, he never tries to help Deckard or experiences any incept date issues, but just dies generically.
posted by Kirklander at 2:29 PM on November 13, 2009


I'm pretty sure we'd get this one, haveanicesummer.
posted by rokusan


Man, I haven't seen that one in awhile and I just died of lols.

"Prevent it from becoming a hit!" No one could write a comic as funny as those if they tried.
posted by haveanicesummer at 2:44 PM on November 13, 2009


You Should See the Other Guy,

While I agree with you about problems with pacing in the Dark Knight, I think your analysis of that particular scene is flawed, for this reason:

Now, with the only obstacle in his path eliminated, what does the Joker do? He leaves.

The problem is that the Joker's obstacle has not been eliminated, only temporarily removed. Throwing the girl out the window does not completely eliminate Batman, it distracts him temporarily. The Joker knows it will only be a few minutes at most before Batman returns. He can either spend those few minutes searching until the violent, now-pissed vigilante returns and beats him and his men, or he can leave. Staying and finishing his search would have been the stupid move given the situation.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:46 PM on November 13, 2009


I love the fact for his meeting with Ridley Scott, Rutger Hauer turned up, I think for a bit of laugh from what I remember from his interviews, as well, 'fabulous' as possible:

Producer Michael Deeley has a new memoir called Blade Runners, Deer Hunters, And Blowing The Bloody Doors Off--My Life in Cult Movies, among whose juicy Blade Runner anecdotes include Rutger Hauer's introduction to Ridley Scott. Hauer's wardrobe included "pink silk pants and a Kenzo sweater with a fox fur draped over his shoulder. He had bleached his hair and was wearing Elton John-style glasses. Ridley was seriously upset, convinced that we had foisted on him a gay activist to play the most aggressively masculine part in the picture."

But in the end I think some of the mix-messages the character gives out (I think Hauer also had the idea of him wearing just a jock-strap and tennis shoes in the final... I think, this is from my rusty memories of some of the mega-DVD extras... one day, I'll watch them all, one day)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:04 PM on November 13, 2009


Sangermaine, his goal is not to kill Batman in that scene. It's to get Dent. He doesn't even know Batman is at the party. Once Batman's out the window, the Joker isn't thinking, "I better go, he's coming back for me!" because as he has already demonstrated, he doesn't fear Batman. If he did, the movie would be over as he'd not continue in his life of crime. The only reason the story works on any level at all is that both view themselves as more powerful than the other. (This is the same for all protagonist-antagonist relationships.)

Further, Batman doesn't land and then think, "The Joker's still up there. I have to protect Dent!" any more than he thinks, "Oh well, I guess the Joker's using this downtime to make his escape. Bah, Dent'll be fine in that closet." This is a plot hole no matter how you look at it. Batman's overriding goal for the film is to catch the Joker and the one time he knows exactly where the Joker is he's just gonna assume the Joker left?

You're rationalizing away the plot hole. You're not the Joker or Batman. They have their own goals and neither one of them continues on with their goals. Why? Because the action moves so fast that the writers don't have to allow them to. The audience quickly shifts their focus from "Dent's in danger" to "Ohmigod, Batman's gotta save the girl!" and then when the girl is saved, the audience is placated. However, neither Batman or the Joker are placated and it's their story. The way it's told, we're played for suckers by accepting a poor substitute for conflict that has nothing to do with the situation at hand.

The success of the film makes me think its audience would starve to death if someone moved their plate.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 3:15 PM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


It had a fucking awesome lead performance , but it really dragged for me when the Joker wasn't on screen.
posted by Artw at 3:29 PM on November 13, 2009


No Beetlejuice 2?
posted by CarlRossi at 4:09 PM on November 13, 2009


From the Napoleon script, page 11 of PDF:

"Napoleon rides up to the cart, carefully aims his revolver"

His...what?
posted by adamdschneider at 4:18 PM on November 13, 2009


Also for Blade Runner fans, I highly recommend the Dangerous Days documentary, which has interviews which pretty much every cast and crew member and covers the process of making the film all the way from the original script to the last-minute changes that were put in based on poor test screening results.
posted by burnmp3s at 4:19 PM on November 13, 2009


The amazing thing to me, tracking the Dark Knight discussion in this thread, is how little of this movie I remember. The Joker was great, of course. The scene where he blew up the hospital (all pretty much one shot as I recall) is one for the ages ... but the plot? Batman himself? That voice?

A friend of mine maintains that the greatest movie mashup ever (that he will someday get around to creating) will be The Dark Knight meets American Psycho, replacing Bruce Wayne with Patrick Bateman.

Sounds like a hit.
posted by philip-random at 4:26 PM on November 13, 2009


Iron Man was kind of meh as well, if you remove the core performance. I guess sometimes stars do add something that justifies their ridiculous paychecks.
posted by Artw at 4:29 PM on November 13, 2009


philip-random - so, wait, you'd have Batman wandering around blinding hobos?
posted by Artw at 4:30 PM on November 13, 2009


The Joker was great, of course. The scene where he blew up the hospital (all pretty much one shot as I recall) is one for the ages ... but the plot? Batman himself? That voice?

Yeah, coming out of the theater we all agreed the movie was The Joker + some other crap. The audience was just stock still every time he was on screen.
posted by The Whelk at 4:30 PM on November 13, 2009


And if you are wondering if he lives in a cargo container which he drives between sets on his personal truck, with a motorcycle on board that he can drive out the back to go on side trips, then well yes, he does.

Woah... seriously? That's fucking Knight-Rider-bad-ass.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:25 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's all in the book! I tell you, that's one of the best actor bios ever.
posted by Artw at 5:46 PM on November 13, 2009


I understand all the criticisms of Dark Night's plot, but I can't really relate to them. The movie was pure emotion and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
posted by afu at 8:50 PM on November 13, 2009


Moderately related are the WGA's 101 Best Screenplays with links to the scripts.
posted by simplyscripts at 2:20 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Joker admits later on in the film that he had thought that [i]Harvey Dent[/i] was Batman. He goes to some fancy party and he can't find Dent, but then who turns up out of nowhere? Batman. And when he hold's Harvey Dent's "main squeeze" Batman goes straight to save her without even hesitating. Why would Joker keep looking for Dent when he thinks he's found him?
posted by Green With You at 3:19 PM on November 14, 2009


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