Thursday, May 16, 2013


The hero and his gal sit together in a late-night cafe.  Shit has happened, and a lot more shit is bearing down on them.  But this is a quiet moment laced with more introspection than you expect in an action movie.  The hero is lost and knows it, but he has retained enough sense to appreciate the wicked weirdness of his predicament.  He doesn't know his name or origin.  He doesn't know why he's so damned pretty. But he has every exit spotted and remembers the license number to each car in the parking lot, and there could be a gun in the glove box of that one truck, and there's a fellow at the counter who looks like he could handle himself in a fight.  And now, he asks, who in the world thinks this way?

I haven't watched the scene for a couple, three years.  Details are probably wrong.  But I've enjoyed THE BOURNE IDENTITY maybe four times through, caught random pieces on cable television, and I've replayed that single scene many more times.  It is a linchpin--everything you need to know contained in dialogue and coffee and anxious silence.  Tony Gilroy is credited as the screenwriter, and I've seen exactly one interview with Mr. Gilroy.  In it, he admits that he didn't know how to write the Bourne character...right up until that scene came out of him.  Which makes it a pivotal moment for two writers:  The screenwriter who got a paycheck, and the mid-list science fiction author who can feel smug about his own instincts.

This is a blog where an author does what is natural, which is rewriting everything that he sees.

I had great hopes for THE BOURNE LEGACY.  My ten year-old daughter had similar hopes.  She liked the noise and chases and such, and I was all right with the package until I found a quiet place with coffee.  There's no linchpin scene to the effort.  I like Jeremy Renner well enough.  But I keep thinking that Gilroy and the money behind the story felt that the only way to make the movie work was to introduce the one agent who could take Jason Bourne in a fair fight.

Every author makes that same wrong turn, particularly when dealing with sequels and series.  I am as guilty as the next.  The instinct is for the new character to be faster and bigger, or at least let him sport a bigger gun.  In my rewrite, which is nothing but a between-the-ears sketch, Mr. Legacy is the opposite of Jason B.  He's one of those dudes who didn't excel at his training, probably because of some instructive flaw.  You know, like maybe the guy looked at the situation and said, "Jesus, shit, I don't want to kill fucking strangers for a living."  So he washed out, or maybe Mr. Legacy is part of the Reserves, living in obscurity in Canton, Ohio.  Whatever his story, we have a half-Jason struggling against the same long odds when the overlords come to kill him, and saving himself requires a different set of talents, and I haven't gotten any farther than that.

Maybe I need a poignant scene set in the airport Applebee's.

He's a waiter and has two cats at home.

Well, that probably needs to be changed.  Not the cats, which are winners, but Mr. Legacy's job.

He's managing the Applebee's, and corporate absolutely loves his bearing and intensity.  As the movie opens, our hero sits in the booth with one of the corporate suits--a good looking woman in her still-fertile thirties--and he's talking about keeping his weight down when he eats nothing but fried this and fried that...and that's when the assassins pull up to the door.

Anyway, this what I do.  Day after night, everything that I see gets rewritten.