When it comes to action sequences we’ve looked at some rule breakers–Tarantino and Shane Black– in recent weeks. Today, we’ll compare a classic action scene from The Fugitive, how it looks on the page vs. what it looks like on the screen. The longest movie version I can find online is here, on Vimeo. The longest version on YouTube is here:
When we look at the script, it’s pretty straight-forward. There are no Tarantino flourishes with time-bending, flashes, CAPPING SOUNDS or hyper-activity of any sort. The scene is spectacular enough so that none of that is needed. There are plenty of differences though between page and screen. Here’s the script:
INT. DOWNSLOPE CONDUIT – DAY
Gerard begins the tricky descent. Slips once. Recovers. Slips again…
And tumbles out of control. GUN and RADIO CLATTER AWAY.
Scrabbling for purchase, he finally snags an overhead pipe. Gerard stabilizes. Sweeps his light to locate his Glock, lying down-tunnel. He eases toward it.
But another hand gets there first. It’s Kimble. Face dark and desperate. Dangerous. Hand flexing on the pistol. They lock eyes for a beat.
KIMBLE: I didn’t kill my wife.
GERARD: So, you didn’t kill your wife. Not my problem.
An adrenal beat. For a moment they hold a look. Then the silence is broken by Gerard’s radio.
BIGGS (V.O.): Gerard? You there?
Gerard looks for his radio, then back at Kimble — he’s gone. Instantly Gerard reaches for his ankle — and pulls a back-up piece.
INT. CONDUIT – DAY
As Renfro hears FOOTSTEPS POUNDING his way.
ANOTHER ANGLE – Gerard charges down the tunnel. From a side tunnel, Renfro appears, almost colliding. Biggs follows…
GERARD: Straight ahead!
INT. CONDUIT – DAY
Kimble sticks Gerard’s gun into his waist band to balance in the tunnel. He spills around a corner and stops. Ahead lies an orb of light. The tunnel ends. The NOISE is incredible. Kimble moves to the end of the tunnel and stops.
KIMBLE’S POV Water pours from the tunnel into the spillway of Barkley dam disappearing into a veil of mist below — a great cauldron of mists. No rocks. None visible at least.
He hears the MARSHALS behind him — COMING CLOSER.
ANGLE – MARSHALS Gerard and Renfro turn the corner. Renfro drops into a shooting stance.
GERARD: Turn around, hands over your head. And get down on the ground. For a moment Kimble eyes Gerard.
GERARD: Your choice, Kimble…
Kimble turns his back on the Marshals, stares again at the water. Slowly he puts his hands over his head. Gerard puts up his gun and pulls his handcuffs. He moves through the water toward Kimble.
GERARD: Get down on your knees.
Kimble bends slowly, stares down into the falls, hears the footsteps get closer, then does the unthinkable. He jumps.
EXT. BARKLEY DAM – DAY
Biggs moving to the top of the massive dam sees Kimble leap into the sheet of water spilling over dam and disappear into the mists below. He can’t believe his eyes.
INT. DRAINAGE CONDUIT – DAY
Renfro lowers his gun.
RENFRO: (amazed) Sonofabitch…
It’s the most amazing thing he’s ever seen…
“Guy did a Peter Pan right here off of this dam!”
Don’t see that classic line in the script, do you? Check the Vimeo full scene version–there are a whole lot of lines you don’t see. The movie dialogue is completely different. And that’s not all…
In the script there are three marshals witnessing the moment of truth, the jump. In the movie, just Tommy Lee. For me, a much better choice.
Which interpretation do you prefer?
Here’s how they actually pulled it off: