Saturday, 11 April 2009

Highlander script

One of my favourite films - perhaps, if I am truthful, my favourite - is the original Highlander film, made in 1986 and starring Christopher Lambert as the immortal hero, Conor MacLeod. The film is a sword-and-magic urban fantasy about a bunch of immortals who have to kill each other until only one is left (believe me, it all makes sense in the film).

Whilst looking for some photos of the villain Kurgan (played brilliantly by Clancy Brown, see right), I came across not only the script of the film, but also an earlier version of that script.

The script of a film allows you to see the way the production process takes raw, textual words and crafts worlds around them. In this case, I had the opportunity to see a script much earlier on in that process. It is strange how different the early script was from the film; certain snippets of text and sentences are recognisable, but the plot follows a generally divergent route.

The female lead (Brenna in the early script, Brenda in the film) is a much stronger, capable character than her film incarnation. The early script also goes into much more detail about her search for the truth about Conor MacLeod. Another, perhaps more important, difference is that the Kurgan does not exist in the early script. Instead, you have a mysterious Knight searching for Conor. The Knight does not seem as malevolent as the Kurgan, and his character is not as richly developed.

There is the same chop-changing through history, between the Highlands and modern-day America, and again this is part of the charm of the story.

There are several parts of the early script that explain things in the film, for instance this quote from Romirez (Ramirez in the film), which explains why the older immortals are such a bloodthirsty lot:
You are young, inexperienced. You
do not know what time can do. How
it can sap all pity, all love.
The film never puts it quite as bluntly as this. There are other major alterations from the film; for one, Conor says that he has fathered 38 children - in the film MacLeod is infertile until he has killed all of the other immortals.

The two scripts are so different they are really two different stories. There are aspects of each that I like; the Kurgan in the film is a far better villain than the Knight, and Brenna in the early script is a much more rounded character than Brenda in the film.

Even if you have no intention of writing a script, it can still be instructive to read scripts that other people have written. They condense a familiar story down to the raw elements, removing all of the fripperies of acting and special effects. In many ways it is storytelling in the raw.

Try it with a film you love.

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