Script To Screen: “Barton Fink” (and my own reference to The Big Lebowski)

Area of Emphasis - ScreenwritingAnother article today following up on yesterday.  This one regarding The Coen Brothers and one of their masterpieces, Barton Fink.  THE writer’s movie.

Sure, other films have the writer as the protagonist but this one not only delved into the world of the screenwriter.  It delved into the mind of a writer.  How we deal with the blank page, our imagination, our writer’s block, distractions and more.  And it touches on all types of writers.  Turturro’s Fink is basically playwright Clifford Odets and Mahoney’s Mayhew is a thinly veiled impersonation of legendary novelist, William Faulkner.  Both lured to the luster of Hollywood.

This particular article is worth reading to gauge the variances directors take from a script when putting it on screen.  And in this particular example, the very directors are the writers!  No script, even one’s own, is totally seen the same way on film.

I wish the sample of script was a better gauge of The Coen Brothers voices but in this scene it’s more about the creation of the voice of the writer within the film being set here with the highfalutin dialogue as opposed to the dialogue the Coens are memorable for.  I’d suggest you pick up one of their scripts for the read because all the little ticks, huhs, ums, etc…. are in the script!  Yes, they hire great actors.  But if you read any interview with those actors they will lay all the credit on the Coens because it’s all in the script.  What you think is improvisation by the actors is all from the mind of the Coens.

Here’s a great example.  Notice how they use ellipses’, repeated letters, commas, broken words, dashes and more to direct the actors and give their characters true voices like in real life conversation (language edited for mass audiences):

                                     DUDE
                         Walter, the Chinaman who peed on my rug, I 
                         can't go give him a bill, so what the 
                         f#@* are you talking about?

                                     WALTER
                         What the f#@* are you talking about?!  
                         The Chinaman is not the issue here dude!
                         I'm talking about drawing a line in the 
                         sand, Dude.  Across this line you do 
                         not,-- also, Dude, Chinaman is 
                         not the preferred nomenclature, uh,
                         Asian-American,  Please.

                                     DUDE
                         Walter, this isn't a guy who built 
                         the rail- roads, here, this is a guy --

                                     WALTER
                         What the f#@* are you talk--

                                     DUDE
                         Walter, he peed on my rug.

                                     DONNY
                         He peed on the Dude's rug.

                                     WALTER
                         DONNIE YOU'RE OUT OF YOUR ELEMENT!  Dude 
                         the Chinaman is not the issue here.

                                     DUDE
                         So who, who--

                                     WALTER
                         Jeff Lebowski.  The other 
                         Jeffrey Lebowski.  The millionaire. 

                                     DUDE
                         That's f#@*ing interesting man,
                         that's f#@*ing interesting...

                                     WALTER
                         Plus, he has the wealth, obviously, 
                         and the resources, uh, so that there is no 
                         reason, there's no F#@*ING reason, why  
                         his wife should go out and owe money all 
                         over town, and then they come and they
                         pee on your f#@*ing rug!  Am I wrong?

                                     DUDE
                         No...

                                     WALTER
                         Am I wrong!

                                     DUDE
                         Yeah, but--

                                     WALTER
                         Okay then.  uh,

               He elaborately clears his throat.

                                     WALTER               
                         That rug really tied the room
                         together, did it not?

                                     DUDE
                         F#@*in' A.

                                     DONNY
                         And this guy peed on it.

                                     WALTER
                         Donny,  Please.

                                     DUDE
                         You know, this is the f#@*in' guy...
                         I could find this Lebowski guy.

                                     DONNY
                         His name is Lebowski?  That's your 
                         name, Dude!

                                     DUDE
                         This is the guy, who should 
                         compensate me for the f#@*ing rug.  
                         His wife goes out and owes money
                         all over town, and they pee on my rug?

                                     WALTER
                         They pee on your f#@*ing Rug?

                                     DUDE
                         They peed on my f#@*ing rug.

                                     WALTER
                         Thaaat's right Dude; they peed on 
                         your f#@*ing Rug.
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