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THE GREEN MILE

Screenplay by Frank Darabont from the novel by Stephen King

First Draft (11/4/97)

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A SONG BEGINS, distant as a faded memory on an old Victrola:

Once I built a railroad, made it run... Made it race against
time...Once I built a railroad, now it's done...Brother, can
you spare a dime...

Opening credit sequence

plays against footage of the Great Depression, images
haunting and sepia-toned, defining an era. The bread
lines...the soup kitchens...the dust bowl refugees heading
west with their possessions on their backs and no hope in
their eyes...the strutting gangster royalty flaunting their
bootleg riches...an entire generation of lost youth riding
the rials...the U.S. army troops raining truncheon blows on
the half-starved and forgotten veterans of World War One as
"Hooverville" is set afire in the very shadow of the nation's
capitol...

All these faces, all these lives, in a world not really so
very long ago...

EXT. FIELD - DAY(SLOW MOTION)

...where cattails sway in the sepia-toned heat. A small scrap
of fabric is snagged in the nettles, fluttering languidly...

COLOR BLEEDS SLOWLY IN as mosquitoes swarm and dragonflies
skitter, showing the fabric scrap to be pale yellow...

Suddenly, a MAN WITH A SHOTGUN comes crashing through the
cattails, wiping through frame and exiting...

...then ANOTHER MAN...and ANOTHER...armed with rifles,
plowing through the brush, exiting frame...

...and now comes KLAUS DETTERICK, a farmer one step above
shirt-tail poor, a double-barrel shotgun in the crook of his
arm. He pauses, horrified, seeing the scrap of cloth. He
pulls it loose, turns back, screaming something in anguish...

...and still more men come crashing into view, flooding by us
with dreamlike, slow-motion grace. ONE MAN is leading a team
of DOGS, trying to untangle the leads. DEPUTY ROB McGEE is
shouting for everybody to stay together...

...and under it all, we hear a sibilant, frightening whisper:

WHISPERING VOICE (V.O.)
You love your sister? You make any
noise, know what happens?
And off that horrible voice, we

CUT TO:

INT. GEORGIA PINES NURSING HOME - MORNING(PRESENT DAY)

A CLOCK RADIO spews the morning weather report, abruptly
pulling us into the present with a prediction of rain. PAUL
EDGECOMB, late 70's/early 80's, wakes to another day...

INT. PAUL'S ROOM - MORNING

Paul stands at his bathroom mirror, meticulously buttoning
his shirt. He picks up a hairbrush, starts tidying his hair...

INT. CORRIDOR - MORNING

THE OLD AND INFIRM haunt these corridors like ghosts. A WOMAN
inches along on a walker. A MAN shuffles by with a rolling
I.V. stand. The floor is a limey, institutional green.

Paul comes into view, spry for his age, murmurs an occasional
greeting.

INT. BREAKFAST ROOM - MORNING

DOZENS OF RETIREES are having breakfast, sipping weak coffee
or tea. Some chat and gossip, other are content to keep their
own company, some just stare slackly into space.

Paul enters, sees ELAINE CONNELLY sitting with a few other
ladies, sipping tea. She's 80, refined and elegant, his best
friend here. She gives him a good-morning smile. He gives her
a rakish wink in return, which makes her smiles all the more.

Paul reaches past the people at the counter and sneaks two
pieces of cold leftover toast off a serving plate. He tosses
Elaine another look--catch ya later--and exits.

INT. HALLWAY PAST KITCHEN - MORNING

Paul slips to the back door unnoticed. Identical red plastic
rain ponchos line the wall on pegs. He helps himself to one
and eases outside, making good his escape.

EXT. NURSING HOME - ESTABLISHING - MORNING

Nestled in a valley of wooded hills, a drizzly mist rolling
over the treetops.

Paul appears f.g., coming up the ridge in his borrowed
poncho. He looks back at the valley below, inhales deeply--
this is a man who loves his walks.
He pulls a piece of toast from his pocket and starts to
nibble as he presses up on the ridge...

Low angle: nursing home and ridge beyond

...and we see Paul from a distance, just a speck trudging up
toward the treeline. A PICKUP TRUCK rumbles into frame and
parks, a bumper sticker looming large: "I Have Seen God and
His Name Is Newt Gingrich".

BRAD DOLAN gets out, an orderly in his late 20's/early 30's,
arriving for work in jeans and cheesy plaid shirt. He gazes
up toward the ridge, scowling and muttering softly:

BRAD
Old fuck.

He slams the door and heads for the nursing home...

EXT. WOODS - MORNING

...as CAMERA BOOMS DOWN through the trees to find Paul
wandering a wooded path, munching a tidbit of toast, looking
for all the world like Red Riding Hood in his plastic poncho.

It's silent here, like a church. The only sounds we hear are
the twittering of the birds and the hammering of the
woodpecker.

A RUSTLING SOUND makes Paul freeze. He turns, becomes
transfixed. Softly:

PAUL
Oh, my...

Reverse angle

reveals a magnificent BUCK, not twenty feet away, misty
breath punching the cold morning air. They watch each other
for an endless moment, both standing stock still...

...and then the animal bounds away, vanishing into the
foliage. Paul lets out a breath, shakes his head in wonder.
He takes another bite of toast, moves on...

...and WE PAN WITH HIM to reveal a pair of old wooden storage
shacks along the path up ahead.
INT. SHACK - MORNING

Dark in here, cobwebby and decrepit. We see Paul approaching
outside the grimy window. He steps up to the glass and shades
his eyes, peering curiously in as we

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. NURSING HOME - DAY

Paul approaches the back door, returning from his walk. He
reaches for the knob...and a figure in white lunges from
behind the dumpster to grab his wrist. He whirls, gasping in
fright--it's Brad Dolan, wearing his orderly's uniform.

BRAD
Out for a little stroll, Paulie?

PAUL
Let go...

Paul tries to pull away, but Dolan's got him tight.

BRAD
What's with this poncho you got
on, huh? This isn't yours.

PAUL
I got it off the wall there.
There's a whole row of them.

BRAD
But not for you, Paulie, that's
the thing. Those are for the staff.

PAUL
I just borrowed it. Don't see what
harm it does.

BRAD
It's not about harm, it's about
rules. You probably don't think an
old fart like you has to mind
rules anymore, but that's just not
true.

Brad's eyes keep shifting--he obviously doesn't mind abusing
the elderly as long as he doesn't get caught doing it.

PAUL
I'm sorry if I broke the rules.
BRAD
You got no business up in those
woods anyway, especially in the
rain. What if you fall and bust a
hip, huh? Who you think's gonna
have to hoss your sorry old bacon
back down here? Me, that's who.

PAUL
You're hurting me!

BRAD
What do you do up there, anyway?
You're too old to go jerk off, so
what do you do?

PAUL
Nothing. I just walk, that's all,
I like to walk!

Brad lashes out and grabs Paul's other hand, which he's been
holding tightly clenched shut.

BRAD
Come on. Open up. Let Poppa see.

Paul uncurls his fingers, revealing the crushed remnants of
a bit of toast, his palm slick with a greasy oleo smear.

ELAINE (O.S.)
Paul?

They turn. Elaine stands just inside the screen door with a
cup of tea. Brad's eyes become calculated, wondering how much
she's seen. Elaine keeps her tone level, betraying nothing:

ELAINE
I saw you coming back, thought
you'd like some tea.
(beat)
Are you coming in?

PAUL
Mr. Dolan and I were...chatting.
About the weather. I think we're
through now.

Brad lets Paul loose, leans close:

BRAD
Paulie? You tell anyone I squeezed
your po' ol' hand, I'll tell 'em
you're having senile delusions.
Who you think they'll believe?
Brad walks off. Paul turns, watches him go. The screen door
opens and Elaine steps out, her face pale. Paul gives her a
strained, though grateful, smile as we

CUT TO:

INT. TV ROOM - DAY

Jerry Springer's on the tube, whipping his studio audience
into a frenzy. PAN OFF TO REVEAL DOZENS OF OLD FOLKS watching
on couches and folding chairs. An old black fellow named PETE
is grousing to a GROUP OF ELDERLY LADIES...

PETE
Why we always watch this crap?

ELDERLY LADY #1
It's interesting.

PETE
Interesting? Bunch'a inbred
trailer trash, all they ever talk
about is fucking...

...and WE CONTINUE PANNING to Paul and Elaine sitting near
the back, talking quietly as Paul rubs his bruised hand:

ELAINE
We should report him.

PAUL
That might just provoke him all
the more, make things worse for
everybody.

ELAINE
It's not everybody he has it in
for, Paul. It's you.
(off his look)
What did you do to provoke him in
the first place? Nothing. He's
just an abusive bully, and should
be made to stop.

PAUL
Ellie, please...

Pete

is at the TV, switching channels while:
ELDERLY LADIES
...no, the Movie Classic channel
is further down...past the Home
Shopping...keep going...

He finds the Movie Classic channel, which is playing an old
black and white musical--"Top Hat," with Fred Astaire and
Ginger Rogers. A delighted reaction:

ELDERLY LADY #2
Oh! This is wonderful...

Paul

idly shifts his gaze to the TV...and his expression goes
slack with recognition and dismay. Elaine sees the look in
his eyes.

He glances away...even briefly considers walking out...but in
the end, he can't help himself. The past just caught up with
him with a freight-train wallop, and, for one, he decides to
ride the rails...

He looks back at the TV. On screen, Fred and Ginger have
begun their famous "Cheek to Cheek" number, with Astaire
singing in that sublime, easy-go-lucky way of his:

FRED ASTAIRE
Heaven, I'm in heaven...and my
heart beat so that I can hardly
speak...

SLOW PUSH IN on Paul, watching. He'd like to take his eyes
off the screen, but the movie has him in a grip tighter than
Brad Dolan's. Elaine is watching him with puzzled concern:

ELAINE
Paul? What is it?

No response. All he can hear is that music, all he can see
are those dancers. The figures on TV are gliding with
ghostlike grace in their silvery, phosphor-dot world of long
ago...

Paul abruptly bursts into tears.

The room goes quiet, everything comes to a standstill. All
eyes turn, some concerned, others merely curious. Paul just
sits sobbing into his hands, shoulders heaving.

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