I've written, or co-written,
forty-odd feature screenplays. Most were original scripts;
some - like MARS ATTACKS, DOCTOR STRANGE, and FEAR & LOATHING
IN LAS VEGAS - were adaptations.
From 1977 to 1995, all these scripts
were done on typewriters (various manual and electric
portables, and an IBM Selectric II). WALDO'S HAWAIIAN
HOLIDAY was written on a Sharp Wizard PDA. Thereafter they were written
on computers, using whatever word processing software
came in the box.
NO SO-CALLED "SCREENWRITING SOFTWARE" WAS
USED AT ANY TIME!
Much of the early stuff seems to
me over-written and irrelevant: I hope the later scripts
are written a bit leaner. My two rules of screenwriting
are 1) characters should be recognisably
different from each other; and 2) no scenes should
be longer than three pages. The ideal feature script,
I think, is 85-90 pages long. Many of these screenplays break this rule; this does not make good.
If you want to see the form of a screenplay, an excellent example is THE SECRET LIFE
OF DON LUIS BUÑUEL, a.k.a. BUGS ARE MY BUSINESS, by Tod Davies [here].
This is the project I tried to direct, and Tod to produce,
prior to our film THREE BUSINESSMEN [here].
Of all the scripts Tod and I wrote
together, KEITH MOON is probably the best; and our
script about Che Guevara, RESTLESS, ain't bad. Both
were based on copious research; both were darker portraits than the producers had
All of the following .pdfs are free to download. You're welcome to use them for personal or academic purposes: if you have a commercial purpose - you'd like to make one of them into a film, or a stage musical, or a video game, say - please get in touch.
If screenplays are listed but not available as downloads, there are at least four possible reasons: 1) the script is shamefully bad; 2) the script is lost or misplaced; 3) the script hasn't been scanned yet; 3) the script is still alive in projectlandia: these aren't archived.
FEATURE SCRIPTS BY THIS AUTHOR:
Also known as RAID
ON JOHNSON COUNTY. This was the first feature script I wrote -
a wordy Western about the Johnson County War, which
pitted innocent settlers against railroad magnates
and mercenaries. It was penned in a Screenwriting class
at UCLA. Michael Cimino's film, HEAVEN'S GATE, was
based on the same historical events - but didn't take
advantage of my script, for some reason!
in writin' 'em long in them thar days. This one is
147 pp, followed by 13 pp of Western storyboards, and
PDF (acPDF1 )
In 1978, I was living
in LA and feeling lonesome for Old Blighty. I'd just seen Trevor Griffiths' play COMEDIANS, when I wrote this 'last chance' tale of Liverpudlian
musicians who become robbers to fund their album. A script in dialect!
Nevertheless, Lindsay Anderson was interested in directing
it: he wanted it to star Malcolm McDowell, Malcolm
Price, and Georgie Fame.
The script won the Jack Nicholson Screenwriting Prize at
UCLA, which helped to fund EDGE CITY. It too is a massive
147 pp, which is far too many pages.
A script I've
lost, about a reporter who becomes politicised
while covering an industrial dispute in England.
It was based on a long-running strike at a
factory called Grunwick's. I don't remember what
a surrealist Western! An early HIGH PLAINS
DRIFTER full of dopey religious symbolism.
Had I just seen EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN?
Yes, I had.
Written to be shot in the town where we eventually made STRAIGHT
TO HELL, this odd piece is 110 pp, too embarrassing to be made available, despite the nice pictures.
for my student film, also known as EDGE CITY
and SLEEP IS FOR SISSIES. Young artist in society
Another lost script. A woman professional discovers there's no way to leave LA. People always cancel their vacations, the freeways don't
really go anywhere. Everyone is engaged in a constant process
of self-delusion and self-regulation; she and a couple
of cohorts manage to break through the physical and psychological
barriers that surround the prison-city, and escape.
KOOL TO DIE (1980)
My first attempt
at SID & NANCY! Far more surreal than the
final film, it was the story of the Teen Bastards,
Britain's greatest punk band, and of Ringo
Shiv, their bassist, and his doomed American
118 pp, plus
the synopsis of an earlier, more political
My first collaboration
- with Martin Turner. A science fiction story
about two men transporting priceless art objects
(a suitcase full of bricks) across the post-apocalyptic
US, and a ship headed for the unknown. There
was a second draft, called INTERSTATE.
collaboration with Martin. It was his
idea to combine two scandalous books, Goldenballs
and The Monster Butler, into one screenplay
(for Lindsay Anderson to direct, at least at first):
a very funny script about murder in high places,
all too prescient about Thatcher.
THE OLD CROWD
This was Alan
Bennett's script for Lindsay Anderson's brilliant
hour-long TV drama. Lindsay wanted to turn
it into a feature, and I was one of various
writers who had a crack at the screenplay.
My version contained a nuclear power station
on the verge of meltdown, and the invasion of the family home by terrorists.
The feature of THE OLD CROWD was never made, but the original
TV production is a masterpiece - Anderson's finest
piece of work.
THE HOT CLUB
Based on a
short story, in screenplay form, by William
Burroughs in his book Exterminator: the tale
of a gang of killers who hijack a US Army consignment
of nerve gas, and try to hold the nation to ransom. My first WMD script!
REPO MAN was
much shorter. This script is 133
pp, with three pages of introduction.
screenplay I was paid to write! For United
Artists, the story of the British World War
One deserter, who lead a mutiny in the ranks
on the eve of Passchendale. UA decided not
to commission a second draft: they said the
script was "too English, too expensive,
and too anti-war."
I didn't know it was possible to be too anti-war! The Percy
Topliss story was later made into a TV film by the BBC, The
was the British director of a successful American
film, FOXES. He wanted his next film to be
about the burning
issue of the day: nuclear war, and the possibility
that Reagan and Thatcher might be about to
get us into one.
I went on a location scout of Seattle and Vancouver, and
wrote the script out longhand on Amtrak and Via Rail trains
- where it was stolen!
I rewrote it from memory. But it might have been better to discard the
whole thing and start afresh.
Adrian read it, and went off to direct FLASHDANCE,
I wrote this
script for Jonathan Wacks and Peter
McCarthy. There were fourteen different drafts.
It was originally about WMD/nuclear terrorism,
ending with a Neutron Bomb either 1) blowing
up in downtown LA or 2) being sold to rebels
in Latin America. Near the end of the shoot,
Wacks and Martin Turner, who was our stills photographer,
invented an alternative, upbeat, like, spiritual
Many of Harry Dean Stanton's dialogues came from the mouth
of a real repo man, Mark Lewis. The characters of Otto and
Duke, and the punk milieu, came from a script by Dick Rude
and Brandt Reiter, Rubber Leathernecks.
79 pp. The
.pdf version is accompanied by contemporary
materials including a four-page cartoon featuring
the characters of Otto, Bud, and the Rodriguez
Brothers, and a copy of Edge City Productions'
original REPO MAN investment portfolio - we
were trying to get ten Marina Del Rey dentists
to put up the budget, $70,000.
and I met the head of New Line pictures,
who told us exactly what he wanted in a picture:
teenage boys, teenage girls, action, music, travel, etc - there were
a number of specific requirements. Peter and
I put our heads together and wrote
this script about disaffected Downey youths,
on mopeds, bound for adventure in the southern
reaches of Baja California.
The script contained all the elements the New Line guy had
said he wanted, in the order he had specified. Of course,
they rejected it.
of Orion Pictures hired me to write and direct
this. It's EASY RIDER set in 1984, as an antagonistic
father-and-son-duo head south west out of Detroit,
on massive motorbikes, to rescue mom from a Mexican jail.
I wanted Sy Richardson to play the dad, and Dick Rude to
play the kid. Jon Davison was to produce it; Iggy Pop to
do the score.
LOVE KILLS / SID & NANCY (1985)
and I wrote this version of the Vicious/Spungen
story, based on a series of interviews with
their associates, in London and New York.
Download PDF (acPDF16)
As a boy I collected bubble gum cards depicting
a particularly sadistic Martian invasion of
Earth. The cards were banned, by order of the
British parliament, but not before I had a set. In 1985 I proposed to Orion/Tristar
a science-fiction feature based on the cards. I wrote three drafts over
the next four years; then I was replaced by
another writer, Martin Amis, after which the project was shelved.
Draft 1 is
lost; Draft 2 has one page missing (pg 31 -
it wasn't a good one), and is 86 pp; Draft
3 is 96 pp, and the .pdf also contains eight
pages of notes from Orion's readers/excs, about
Draft 2 PDF (acPDF17)
Draft 3 PDF (acPDF18)
Dick Rude and I wrote this at the Kensington Hotel,
Santa Monica, CA, in four days. It was based on a Spaghetti Western we both
admired, DJANGO KILL (SE SEI VIVO, SPARA),
directed by Giulio Questi in 1967. All the
characters were written for specific actors or musicians; the film had no casting director.
Also known as THE LEGEND OF PADDY GARCIA.
by long letter from Joe Strummer (written
on one continuous piece of paper), detailing
his doubts about the film and his proposal for
re-shooting and restructuring it; the lyrics
for his song "Dogtown," penned by
Joe, and six snapshots of the film's protagonists
- Joe, Courtney, Jennifer, Elvis, Cait, Sara.
(1988, and later)
Rudy Wurlitzer and I collaborated on two screenplays,
ZT and BODY PARTS. The scripts always changed enormously
from draft to draft there were seven different
drafts of ZT, an epic story about the Contra
War, each with a different title.
The alt. versions of ZT, are as follows:
ACTION, SEARCH & DESTROY, OUT OF CONTROL,
EYE TO EYE, SAM GUNDY'S RANCH, and CONTRA BAND.
Rudy and me in 1988, this was the first Tucson
draft, with its hero Nick Cuzco, a cactus ranger,
some mystery as to what is going on (the
script assumes we know about the Nicaraguan
situation & the Contras, and that rancher
Sam Gundy is in the thick of it). Sam turns
into a psychic floating pyramid at the end.
This is a pretty
good script, though not a mainstream
OUT OF CONTROL
re-write, still starting in Tucson, which explains
the war and propaganda aspects better, but
has weaker relationships. Sam is killed, and
Nick and Sam's wife Camilla escape with the
big bucks on pg. 113.
re-write, now a TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE-style
tale about emerald miners, set in South America.
Sam Gundy, the Indian-murdering villain, makes
miners Nick and Duke his slaves. Big House
scenes with Mother Gundy are her best yet.
More of Camila/Nick love story than before.
Ends in the lost city of El Dorado on pg. 89.
More emerald minin'. Mother Gundy is much more prominent: "Murderin' and betrayal
ain't the only ways to run a ranch!" Sam,
in a red wig and sailor suit, eats chocs with
mom on her bed. Camila plots Bigelow's
murder with Sam, Sam's murder with Nick, and
betrays Nick with the mercenary Briggs. Nick
shoots Sam, is saved by Dolores and Duke, but
loses the money. Defeated and cuckolded, on
pg. 100, Duke finds "GOOOOLD!!!"
Around this time, Rudy and I hung a sign reading "Stay
Out Of The Bunkhouse" above the old Remington Portable
Typewriter. This was to warn us not to dwell on subsidiary
characters, like Thornton, Ma Gundy, and Ames - the "Bunkhouse
Brigade" as Rudy called them - and stick to the main
story, which was still, at this stage, Sam vs. Nick, re.
ZERO TOLERANCE (1988)
My favourite version! Camila Gundy
and Nick Cuzco are no more. It moves fast (Sam
rejects drug dealer Hector's overture on pg 8), and
the political situation
is clear. Sam, thoroughly deluded, reactionary
and a slave to his dick, is a much more active
and attractive hero than the colourless Nick
was. He is kind to, and loved by, the Indians,
while simultaneously wrecking their lives.
His wedding scene - which turns into a negotiation
with Ollie North/Steelhammer - is tremendous;
his predicament - trying to balance cattle
ranching and family with participation in the
drug trade and the Contra war - is great.
In this draft - almost all Rudy's work! - Sam Gundy becomes a Real American Hero: without
self-knowledge, defining himself through endless motion,
committed to winning, hopelessly optimistic, triumphant in
the end. Naturally, we offered the part to Dennis Hopper.
This is the
second-longest draft, at 106 pp. It's followed
with 12 pages of press material about US "ranchers" involved
in the Contra War, including the sensational
Hayes Affidavit (see ZT6, below).
ZERO TOLERANCE (1989)
After figuring out, in the previous draft,
that Sam was the hero, Rudy and I suddenly
lurch into a dual-protagonist narrative (we
were trying to snag Richard Gere, who had read
an earlier draft and thought the part of Bigelow
was small). This version opens in West Berlin,
before the Wall came down, with Bigelow foiling
a terrorist kidnapping attempt. It's a not-buddy-movie:
Sam and Bigelow rarely meet, dislike each other,
and Sam kills Bigelow at the end. Gere decided not to do the film.
Sam goes to Washington, sees the White House in the midst
of poverty, and repels an attack on his ranch. The new ending was inspired by the Christic Institute Affidavit
of CIA and Mossad agent Robert M Hayes (12 May 1988). Hayes
claimed that John Hull - one of our models for Sam Gundy
- participated "in an aborted plot to bomb the US embassy
in San Juan, Costa Rica, and to blame the bombing on agents
of the Sandinista government" and - in the guise of "John
Joseph Michaels" - asked Haynes to blow up the US consulate
in Sao Paolo in 1976, so as to blame the Cubans.
is 89pp, the last page consisting of the four words, "heading
for the border." It's followed by 12 pages
of additional material, including the Hayes
ZERO TOLERANCE (1993)
Fifteen pages of changes to the previous draft.
The death of Worth Bigelow's father-in-law,
the Admiral, sees him reassigned to Central
America, with his wife, Connie. It's Bigelow, struggling to regain
his desk job in Washington, DC, versus Sam Gundy
in Costa Rica. This version calls the Sandinistas
Sandinistas, and Nicaragua Nicaragua, for the
first time; Rudy and I were after Danny
Glover to play Sam, and some identikit movie
star for Bigelow.
It too ends on pg 89, "heading for the border."
with Tod Davies, based on various other scripts
and a series of meetings with Dennis Hopper,
the writers' favourite director! Dennis made
some changes to the the script in production,
including the addition of a scene where his
character, a Mafia hit man, meets the ghost
of D.H. Lawrence at a Hopi ceremony in Santa
Fe, New Mexico.
Lawrence's ghost is played by the co-author, Cox. Co-author
Davies, who denies all responsibility for the scene, appears in the finished picture, as a Mafia hit woman. The
film was re-cut and re-released as CATCHFIRE
(minus the D.H. Lawrence episode!). Dennis' original version
is still available, under the original title BACKTRACK.
has any relevance to the script.
with Rudy. Tucson-based thriller
about the town's last honest cop, Ditko, and
his battle to bring down the powerful Col.
Ames, whose celebrity-clean-up clinic hides
a horrible secret: the trade in infant body
parts for transplant purposes (the title gives
This went into pre-production a couple of times, in offices
based at the old Americana Motel. Lorenzo O'Brien was the
producer, Rip Torn was to play Ditko; we were after Charlton
Heston or Gregory Peck for Ames. But our American "partners" proved shakey , and after a couple of years the English cash
went south as well.
draft is 106 pp, plus 12 pp of additional material,
including the citations of some real Tucson
DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) cops who were
given a cash reward for importing 841 lbs of
cocaine into the USA. Gary
with Stan Lee, based on his Marvel Comics character.
Doctor Strange was my favourite superhero,
and his adversary Dormamu my preferred villain.
Stan is a great writing partner. Starts in New York, goes to the Fourth Dimension,
and ends on Easter Island, where Stan had always
wanted a showdown.
It was almost made by an LA company called
Regency. But they distributed via Warner Bros,
who were in a dispute with Marvel Comics over
merchandising, and Warners nixed it. Probably
too pagan to be made today.
THE ASSHOLE (1990)
with Dick Rude. Sometimes
known as MR NICE GUY. Faustian story of a malevolent
pool hustler and his miserable world, which
is transformed by his acquisition of a Magical
Pool Cue. Dick in pre-pre-production, to direct.
two hit men, hired to kill a human rights activist,
in Almeria, Spain. I was about to send this
out to actors, but Karl Braun read it and
said, "Forget it; this one is shit." I
respected his opinion.
comedy about waste disposal operatives in outer
space, in the 25th century. How the hell
was I going to get a superexpensive science
fiction movie about rubbish made?
This went into the
same drawer as PAID IN FULL.
A Civil War
drama, co-written with Dick Rude, because we were infuriated by a simple-minded,
heroism-istic film called GLORY, released that year. We wanted to make an accurate story, set during
the American Civil War, about "bounty jumpers" -
criminals who enlisted in the Union Army and then deserted.
Some people did this hundreds of times: it became such a
problem that New Yorkers who enlisted were immediately
put in chains, and marched to prison trains.
Paul Lewis was the producer, and our preferred cast was Sy
Richardson as Ismael Goulding, Dick Rude as Wool, Ed Harris
as Barger, and Willem Dafoe as Col. Belknap. But - as with
OUT OF ORDER PERCY - there didn't seem to be a big market
for anti-war films, especially in
the style of Ambrose Bierce.
The script was re-written with a happier ending!
Draft 3 .pdf
version is a writer's copy: scribbled with notes,
with several maps of Civil War battles in the
West, the route of the Overland Stage, etc.
The script is 95 pp, and is accompanied by
34 pages of additional notes,
Draft 5 .pdf
is a clean copy of the final version, and with
the happy ending. 107 pp, followed by two Western
location snaps - one from Almeria, Spain, the
other from La Joya, John Wayne's movie ranch
in Durango, Mexico.
Download DRAFT 3 PDF (acPDF31)
Download DRAFT 5 PDF (acPDF32)
DEATH & THE
Based on the
story by Borges. This script is a patch-together
of two versions: the 55-minute one, which I
shot for the BBC in 1991, and extra elements
for the feature film, shot in 1992.
65 pp, plus
15 pp of notes, maps, memos, sketches and schedules.
Download PDF (acPDF33)
In 1992 Paul
Mavrides was commissioned to illustrate a six-issue
comic series depicting two competing sets of
Alien Invaders, their involvement in the JFK
assassination, and their battle for world dominance
Mavrides, Dick Rude and I wrote the script for the comic
books (approx. 300 pages of text), and the feature script
is based on them.
The protagonists are David Ferrie, the mysterious pilot,
and a Japanese punkrocker, Yuki.
(the 300 page version still exists, but the 90 page executive summary is missing)
THE ALEPH (1992)
The producers didn't have the rights, but,
enthused, I wrote this feature version anyway. One of my better attempts! Perhaps one day my doppelganger will make it.
version of the Frankenstein story, set in Chile,
in Patagonia, and in the Antarctic. The Monster
is the hero, wins the affections of Mrs Frankenstein,
and kills the doctor.
with Tod Davies. Bio-pic of Che Guevara,
starting with the motorcycle ride though South
America, and ending with the aftermath of his
death. Intensely researched,
but the French producers weren't happy. They wanted to see "the
laughing Che". But all
our research and interviews gave us this dour character.
Very like Richard Fleischer's film in its treatment of Castro!
Download PDF (acPDF37)
fiction script, co-written with Tod Davies
for some very nice German producers. Not an inspired script. On the basis
of GARBAGE and this, I would advise you not
to hire me or Tod to write comic science fiction set
in deep space. Unless you would like an adaptation of Harry Harrison's BILL THE GALACTIC HERO. That, I think we can manage.
HAWAIIAN HOLIDAY 1995
semi-sequal to REPO MAN, about a no-longer-young
man who believes he has spent the last ten
years on Mars.
The producers were Wacks and McCarthy, the
cast included (briefly) Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez,
Rebecca DeMornay, and Willem Dafoe. But, as is so often the
case, the money was elusive.
To budget the film, I had to make a series of illustrations
for the special effects department. These pictures - little
paintings in acrylics - acccompany the script.
108 pp, followed
by 12 pages of contemporary materials, and
Download PDF (acPDF39)
FEAR & LOATHING
IN LAS VEGAS (1996)
I was hired
to write and direct this, by producers who
were about to lose the rights to the book if
they didn't immediately go into production.
Tod Davies wrote 98% of the adaptation while I was in Mexico
City and Las Vegas - acting in PERDITA DURANGO. I was fired,
and replaced by Terry Gilliam, who used our script. It took
endless adjudications by the Writers Guild and interventions
by the Directors Guild to get us credited and paid. Two submissions
to the WGA, listing similarities between the shooting script
and our adaptation, follow the screenplay, for those who
enjoy a trip down masochism's memory lane.
THE BAD WHEN THEY OUTNUMBER THE GOOD (1997)
I wrote too many drafts of this - what was meant to
be an action thriller about a tragic academic cast
adrift in the Drug War in Northern Mexico,
on the fringes of the Colosio assassination.
I wrote a version with a Japanese hero, for Masatoshe Nagase; and one for a English guy, to be played by Chris Eccleston. But it was too
abstruse for either market and I called it a day with draft number seven.
producers hired me to tranlsate Alejandro Lubeski's
very funny script into English; then to write
a new draft of it, also in English. It's the
story of an anxious Spaniard, trying to avoid
the draft and to sell a new, patented invention
- the portable guillotine - to both sides,
in the heat of the Mexican Revolution.
My adaptation of
Alejandro's script matched the original at 130 pages, suggesting I am a better translator than I am an editor.
set in the Pearl of the North, co-written by
me and Tod Davies. We were trying to create
a different picture of the city - a brighter,
more colourful image, in the style of DO THE
Of course, there's the inevitable nuclear terrorism, kids
forced to be chimney sweeps, and a rousing
musical finale on the Mersey Ferry. But it would have been nice to see such a film get made, in a provincial city.
WAS HERE (2001)
by me and Tod for American and London-based
producers. The life of Keith Moon, whose antagonist
we decided should be Peter Sellers. Sellers
first appears as a giant spider, then as himself,
then as the gafe Harry Nillssen, in whose London
apartment rock stars invariably die.
Supporting cast includes the other members of The Who, The
Beatles, and Steve McQueen.
Of all the scripts the two of us
wrote together, this is the best.
Download PDF (acPDF45)
A man has until sundown to save a baby from satanists. And he's hungry.
CALLE X (2002)
Hay solo 90 minutos para salvar la vida de un bebe en manos satanicos. Y el heroe tiene mucho hambre...
Download PDF (acPDF31A)
TO GAKI (2003)
A retired superhero is forced to abandon his monastic life to save
the kidnapped parents of a group of orphans.
His ally is a studious kid, the Gaki. His adversary
is the demonic Tuxton.
To star Tomorowo
Taguchi (IRON MAN/TETSUO). The first part of the Tuxton Trilogy.
Noir tale of Dean T, an alternative stand-up comedian and ventriloquist, who falls in love with a gangster's moll. Under sentence of death, he has to play three cabaret acts and collect his wages, before he can escape.
Second part of the Tuxton Trilogy.
THE WHITE DEVIL (2005)
Adapted from John Webster's play, for the Jacobeans project.
Two out-of work actors, accompanied by a capable young woman, drive from Venice, CA, to Monument Valley, AZ, on an improbable quest for revenge.