May 022012

People often erroneously think that a film has a single script or screenplay. In theory every film has a script, but in practice almost every film has many versions of the script. Films are often re-written and revised during shooting, and so there may be a dozen or more slightly different versions of the script (though there should only be one at any given time). To help keep the actors and crew on the same page (literally), directors often use different colored pages for different versions of the script; a version dated April 4 may be light green, for example, and a version dated April 12 might be yellow or blue.

I own two scripts of Falling Down, representing at least seven drafts between February 18, and May 11, 1992. Reading the different drafts gives insight into how the screenwriter originally envisioned the film, subplots that were added or dropped, etc.

Falling Down scripts (two versions)

I present here some notes about scenes and dialogue that differs from the final film version. The scene numbers are taken from the early scripts and may not reflect the final filmed scene sequence.


Scene 15/16: The Coke that D-FENS buys in the Korean grocery store was originally a quarter, not eighty-five cents. The early drafts had much more dialogue between Prendergast and his wife, making her a more nagging, superstitious character (for example she warns him about having an unlucky day because of his horoscope).

Scene 21: The dialogue between Brian (the Japanese police officer) and Mr. Lee about not smoking in the police station isn’t in the early drafts. The exchange was probably included to add some humor: Brian makes a point to Prendergast that he’s Japanese not Korean (“in case you never bothered to notice”), yet he tells Mr. Lee not to smoke—in Korean.

Scene 48: In the early scripts, Beth earns extra money answering fan mail for a heavy metal band called “X-Or-Cyst.”

Scene 49: When D-FENS is in the park and asked by The Seedy Guy how he’s doing (as he’s about to be hit up for money), he replies, “I’m feeling rather chipper today. How about you?” instead of “I’m doing all right.”

Scene 50: In the early scripts there’s no Spanish spoken during the police interrogation of Angie; in the film at least three characters speak Spanish at some point: Angie, Det. Torrez, and Angie’s mother.

Scene 54: Prendergast’s wife calls him at work about their missing cat. In the film “Mr. Peepers” scratched her, but in the script she tells him she’s planning to get the cat’s “balls fixed” (presumably this is also symbolic of Prendergast’s own emasculation by his wife).

Scene 56: In the early scripts, Whammyburger manager Rick flirts with his employee Sheila. Also, D-FENS doesn’t have the line describing the ideal hamburger as “It’s big, it’s juicy, it’s three inches thick….”

Scene 67: In the early script we learn that Prendergast’s deceased daughter was named Annabel.

Scene 70: In the early script when Nick has D-FENS pinned against a table in the back of the Army surplus store and asks why D-FENS can’t give him his hand, the line is not “I’ll fall down” but instead “I’ll fall over.” Since the title had already been chosen for the film, the word was probably changed as an easy reference back to the title.

Scene 76: In the early script that audience sees Nick’s body, while in the film it’s only referred to in the dialogue: “Between the Vietnam jungle boots we see that the dead body of the Owner has been stuffed into the display case. He leaves money for his boots and leaves.” This scene, which is structured to echo back to D-FENS’s original encounter with Korean shopkeeper Mr. Lee, was probably written out in later drafts because it was too violent and would alienate audiences.

Scene 90: On the golf course when golfer Frank is having a heart attack, he tells D-FENS “Don’t let me die,” to which he responds, “You’ve lived too long.” As with the previous scene, the line was probably cut for being too harsh or cruel.

Scene 97A: In the early script when D-FENS meets the family by the plastic surgeon’s pool, the father says “I don’t know what’s the matter, but maybe it’s not as bad as you think.” D-FENS replies, “It really is as bad as I think.” (In my interview with Ebbe Roe Smith, the screenwriter describes a very different original version to that scene: instead of a picnicking groundskeeper and his family, D-FENS finds the plastic surgeon, his wife, and their children. The surgeon’s wife has had extensive plastic surgery, and D-FENS forces the woman to strip down and show the world her surgically enhanced breasts, symbolizing excesses of the rich. Like much of the film it was intended as dark satire but the scene was considered too alienating for the audience.)

Scenes 107-108: In the early script the scene with Susi the Stripper has much more dialogue; it was probably cut for time, and because it didn’t really advance the plot.

Scene 123: In the early script when D-FENS is running onto the Venice Pier after Adele and Beth, he encounters a TV company shooting a car commercial at the pier.

Scene 126: In the early script during his encounter with D-FENS on the pier, Prendergast picks up D-FENS’s daughter Adele, almost using her as a shield in case D-FENS shoots at him. This was probably left out of the final film because it made him look cowardly. Also the early script featured a fist fight between D-FENS and Prendergast (“D-FENS beats Prendergast down to his knees”), while in the film the two never touch each other at any point in the film.

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