“Paris, Texas,” scanned gems:
The following is from the first page of Sam Shepard’s script for “Paris, Texas.”
DESERT LANDSCAPE — EXTERIOR, DAY
A fissured, empty, almost lunar landscape—seen from a bird’s-eye view. The camera hovers over it. In the distance, a lone man appears; he is crossing this desert.
A hawk lands on a boulder.
The man stops, looks at the bird.
Then he drinks the last drops of water from a large plastic bottle. He is wearing a cheap Mexican suit, a red baseball cap, and sandals with bandages wrapped around them. His clothes are covered with dust and soaked with sweat. He has been walking for a long time.
This is Travis.
Travis throws away the empty plastic bottle, and continues on his way across the bleak, hot plains that lie before him.
In high school, David Lynch was student council treasurer.
A Montana native, born in Missoula, Lynch was an Eagle Scout at the Kennedy inaugural in 1961, and he still exudes a disarming heartland earnestness. He has yet to outgrow his upbeat boyish lingo (“you betcha,” “neat,” “cool.”) He dresses like an overgrown schoolboy, in khakis, cap and long-sleeved shirts buttoned to the neck — a look that almost never varies, even though by 9 A.M. it’s nearly 100 degrees in the San Fernando Valley. (“I have an eerie kind of feeling about my collarbone,” he once said, explaining the buttoned-up look. “Just a breeze on it is sometimes too much for me.” —People, September 3, 1990
Buried deep among the hundreds of old scripts in RKO Pictures’ archives was a 1941 melodramatic gem about an amnesia-stricken man who wakes up in the middle of a revolution in Mexico. Never produced, the screenplay for “The Way to Santiago” is credited to Orson Welles. A quick look at the text leaves no doubt it was the work of the “Citizen Kane” filmmaker when he was at the peak of his arrogant brilliance. The script begins: “My face fills the frame.”
Abandoned by RKO after Welles’ epic fall from grace, “The Way to Santiago” has finally gotten the green light nearly six decades later and is being produced by a rejuvenated RKO. “This script caught everything about Welles,” said RKO Chairman and CEO Ted Hartley, citing the screenplay’s action, suspense and jungle romance. “It reflected his greatness in storytelling.” The Welles script was known to film historians for years, but it wasn’t easy to find. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
“Santiago” tells the story of a man who wakes up in Mexico with no idea of who he is or how he got there. The twist is that he has an uncanny resemblance to a notorious figure. The story follows the man’s search for his own identity while evil forces try to kill him. Welles intended to direct and star in the film, as he had done in “Kane,” so the name of the main character is simply “Me” in the script. In a letter on file in RKO’s archives, Welles writes from New York to studio production head George Schaeffer on Feb. 2, 1941 that he’s eager to get started, assuring Schaeffer “we are going to successfully avoid a lot of the things that cost us time and money in the making of ‘Kane.’” “The only way to achieve the results we all urgently want is for those in responsibility to understand, finally, that even if they don’t like my way of doing things, they must do it my way just the same… (and most important) without making an effort to prove in the process that my way is wrong,” Welles wrote. The “Kane” problems were obviously weighing on Welles. “I am sorry not to be in Hollywood only because I know that apologists for our difficulties in ‘Kane’ will get your ear with a plausibility they never could manage were I not away,” he said.
The studio appeared very interested in “The Way to Santiago.” In a 1941 memo, a studio executive described the “Mexican Melodrama” script as “enormously interesting” and “exciting” with a good start, lots of suspense, though it “lets down a bit in the middle portion.” “With Welles’ flair for casting, his fast-moving direction and his amazing, if recently acquired, knowledge of what can be done with a camera, I should be tempted to let him work out his own problems on this one,” the memo said. The studio did express some concern about relations with the Mexican government over the subject matter of the film. This was at a time when RKO was co-owned by Nelson Rockefeller, who had oil holdings in Latin America. But “The Way to Santiago” never got made because of a corporate shakeup that cost Welles his main supporter, Rockefeller; problems with Welles’ second film, “The Magnificent Ambersons”; and Welles’ own self-destructive behavior. The script was filed away until the new RKO found it and gave it a second look. And while Hartley hails the script, he says it isn’t without flaws. The search is on for a script doctor unafraid to take on a Welles screenplay. “It needs some work,” Hartley said. “Among other things, it kind of drifted off near the end.” —Meet a hot new Hollywood writer: Orson Welles
One of my favorite screenplays, arguably the greatest anti-war film ever made. “He’s a screen poet, there was no other way to describe it.” Read, learn, and absorb: Terrence Malick’s screenplay for “The Thin Red Line” [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only.) Photo courtesy of Mark Bristol.
I began thinking about using the Akela crane, which has an extremely long, 72′ arm that would allow us to get the camera into places where we couldn’t walk or lay dolly track. The only problem was that I wanted to install the crane on the sides of hills, which involved building some fairly substantial platforms, because the Akela weighs about 6,000 pounds. It worked out fabulously, though. The Akela’s arm does have a slight arc, but it’s a much more minimal arc than any conventional crane arm. Because of that, we could make shots that had the appearance of a dolly shot. That was the whole reason for bringing in the Akela, and we constantly had it at very low angles; I don’t think we used it more than once or twice for a high-angled shot. Our expert technicians, Michael Gough and Mark Willard, kept wanting to show off how high it would go, but I kept hammering them with my mantra: ‘It’s a dolly, not a crane.’ We basically turned our crane technicians into dolly grips, but they did a fantastic job. —John Toll, ASC
Recommended reading, viewing, and listening:
“Thin Red Line” was the hardest. Terrence Malick wanted me to write the music first. Usually you compose to a rough cut. I threw all my previous knowledge out the window and started again. I needed to provide a structure for him to build the film on. The one thing Terry gave me was the ability to be a better composer. I wrote for nine months without a day off. It was incredible pressure in the cutting room. —Hans Zimmer
The good old times before CGI: Puppeteers for Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.,” 1981. [thanks to Harvo]
“Melissa delivered this 107-page first draft to me and I read it in about an hour. I was just knocked out. It was a script I was willing to shoot the next day. It was so honest, and Melissa’s voice made a direct connection with my heart.” —Steven Spielberg
“I went to film school. I did screenwriting school. The best thing for me was reading scripts.” —Stuart Beattie
2013 Script Downloads:
As always, please use these screenplays for your educational purposes only.
Superstar scribes Clooney, Grant Heslov, Julie Delpy, Nicole Holofcener, John Ridley, Danny Strong and Jonas Cuaron reveal to THR the secrets of how they work, the public figures they really want to write about and how Janet Jackson’s breast impacted their work: The Hollywood Reporter Screenwriter Roundtable 2013.