BIG FISH SCREENPLAY - the beginning


Title: _Big Fish_
Credit: written by
Author: John August
Source: based on the novel by Daniel Wallace
Notes:
FINAL PRODUCTION DRAFT
Includes post-production dialogue
And omitted scenes
Copyright: (c) 2003 Columbia Pictures




**FADE IN:**


A RIVER.

We're underwater, watching a fat catfish swim along.

This is The Beast.

EDWARD (V.O.)
There are some fish that cannot be caught. It's not that they're faster or stronger than other fish. They're just touched by something extra. Call it luck. Call it grace. One such fish was The Beast.

The Beast's journey takes it past a dangling fish hook, baited with worms. Past the tempting lure, sparkling in the sun. Past the swiping bear claw. The Beast isn't worried.

EDWARD (V.O.)(CONT'D)
By the time I was born, he was already a legend. He'd taken more hundred-dollar lures than any fish in Alabama. Some said that fish was the ghost of Henry Walls, a thief who'd drowned in that river 60 years before.Others claimed he was a lesser dinosaur, left over from the Cretaceous period

INT. WILL'S BEDROOM - NIGHT (1973)

WILL BLOOM, AGE 3, listens wide-eyed as his father EDWARD BLOOM, 40's and handsome, tells the story. In every gesture, Edward is bigger than life, describing each detail with absolute conviction.

EDWARD
I didn't put any stock into such speculation or superstition. All I knew was I'd been trying to catch that fish since I was a boy no bigger than you. (closer) And on the day you were born, that was the day I finally caught him.

EXT. CAMPFIRE - NIGHT (1977)

A few years later, and Will sits with the other INDIAN GUIDES as Edward continues telling the story to the tribe.

EDWARD
Now, I'd tried everything on it: worms, lures, peanut butter, peanut butter-and-cheese. But on that day I had a revelation: if that fish was the ghost of a thief, the usual bait wasn't going to work. I would have to use something he truly desired.

Edward points to his wedding band, glinting in the firelight.

LITTLE BRAVE
(confused)
Your finger?

Edward slips his ring off.

EDWARD
Gold.

While the other boys are rapt with attention, Will looks bored. He's heard this story before.

EDWARD
I tied my ring to the strongest line they made -- strong enough to hold up a bridge, they said, if just for a few minutes -- and I cast upriver.

INT. BLOOM FRONT HALL - NIGHT (1987)

Edward is chatting up Will's pretty DATE to the homecoming dance. She is enjoying the story, but also the force of Edward's charisma. He's hypnotizing.

EDWARD (CONT'D)
The Beast jumped up and grabbed it before the ring even hit the water. And just as fast, he snapped clean through that line.

WILL, now 17 with braces, is fuming and ready to leave. His mother SANDRA -- from whom he gets his good looks and practicality -- stands with him at the door.

EDWARD
You can see my predicament. My wedding ring, the symbol of fidelity to my wife, soon to be the mother of my child, was now lost in the gut of an uncatchable fish.

ON WILL AND SANDRA

WILL
(low but insistent)
Make him stop.

His mother pats him sympathetically, then adjusts his tie.

WILL'S DATE
What did you do?

EDWARD
I followed that fish up-river and down-river for three days and three nights, until I finally had him boxed in.

Will regards his father with exasperated contempt.

EDWARD
With these two hands, I reached in and snatched that fish out of the river. I looked him straight in the eye. And I made a remarkable discovery.

INT. TINY PARIS RESTAURANT (LA RUE 14°) - NIGHT (1998)

WILL, now 28, sits with his gorgeous bride JOSEPHINE. This is their wedding reception, crowded with their friends and family. They should be joyful, but Will is furious.

Edward has the floor, ostensibly for a toast. The room is cozy and drunk.

EDWARD
This fish, the Beast. The whole time we were calling it a him, when in fact it was a her. It was fat with eggs, and was going to lay them any day.

Over near the doorway, we spot Sandra, just returned from the restrooms. She looks gorgeous. She couldn't be any happier if this were her own wedding.

EDWARD
Now, I was in a situation. I could gut that fish and get my ring back, but doing so I would be killing the smartest catfish in the Ashton River, soon to be mother of a hundred others.

Will can't take any more. Josephine tries to hold him back, but he gets up and leaves. Edward doesn't even notice.

EDWARD (CONT'D)
Did I want to deprive my soon-to-be-born son the chance to catch a fish like this of his own? This lady fish and I, well, we had the same destiny.

As he leaves, Will mutters in perfect unison with his father--

EDWARD AND WILL
We were part of the same equation.

Will reaches the door, where his mother intercepts him.

SANDRA
Honey, it's still your night.

Will can't articulate his anger. He just leaves.

EDWARD
Now, you may well ask, since this lady fish wasn't the ghost of a thief, why did it strike so quick on gold when nothing else would attract it? (closer; he holds up his ring) That was the lesson I learned that day, the day my son was born.

He focuses his words on Sandra. This story is -- and has always been -- about her more than anyone.

EDWARD
Sometimes, the only way to catch an uncatchable woman is to offer her a wedding ring.

A LAUGH from the crowd.

Edward motions for Sandra to get up here with him. As she crosses, we can see that thirty years of marriage has not lessened their affection for each other.

As they kiss, Edward tweaks her chin a special little way. The crowd APPLAUDS.

Edward toasts the happy couple. Josephine covers well for her absent husband, a smile as warm as summer.

Edward downs his champagne in a gulp.

EXT. OUTSIDE LA RUE 14° - NIGHT

We come into the middle of an argument on the sidewalk. Occasional PASSERSBY take notice, especially as it gets more heated. Both men are a little drunk.

EDWARD
What, a father's not allowed to talk about his son?

WILL
(disbelieving)
I am a footnote in that story. I am the context for your great adventure. Which never happened! Incidentally! You were selling novelty products in Wichita the day I was born.

EDWARD
(shaking his head)
Jesus Christ.

WILL
Friend of yours? Did you help him out of a bind?

EDWARD
Come on, Will. Everyone likes that story.

WILL
No Dad, they don't. _I_ do not like the story. Not anymore, not after a _thousand_ _times_. I know all the punchlines, Dad. I can tell them as well as you can. (closer) For one night, one night in your entire life, the universe does not revolve around Edward Bloom. It revolves around me and my wife. How can you not understand that?

A long beat, then...

EDWARD
(low)
Sorry to embarrass you.

Will won't let him get the last word.

WILL
You're embarrassing yourself, Dad. You just don't see it.

ANGLE ON Edward. Fine. A hand to wave, enough of you.

He walks away.

ANGLE ON Will, still fuming with righteous anger. It's then we FREEZE FRAME.

WILL (V.O.)(CONT'D)
After that night, I didn't speak to my father again for three years.

INT. A.P. NEWSROOM (PARIS) - DAY

A typically busy day. On hold with the phone cradled under an ear, Will sorts through a bundle of mail dropped on his desk.

WILL (ON PHONE)
(without pauses)
William Bloom with the Associated Press if I could just...

He's put back on hold. Returning to the mail, he finds a hand-addressed envelope. Rips it open.

WILL (V.O.)(CONT'D)
We communicated indirectly I guess. In her letters and Christmas cards, my mother would write for both of them.

INT. BLOOM HOUSE KITCHEN - DAY

At the table, Sandra talks on the phone while Edward fixes a sandwich.

WILL (V.O.)
When I'd call, Mom would say that Dad was out driving. Or swimming in the pool.

Edward takes a seat, starting to eat his sandwich.

WILL (V.O.) (CONT'D)
True to form, we never talked about our not talking.

INT. BLOOM HOUSE MASTER BEDROOM - NIGHT

Sandra stands by the window, watching as...

EXT. BLOOM BACK YARD - NIGHT [CONTINUOUS]

Edward swims laps in the family pool. He's born to the water.

WILL (V.O.)
The truth is, I didn't see anything of myself in my father, and I don't think he saw anything of himself in me. We were like strangers who knew each other very well.

EXT. RIVER - DAY

Edward stares intently into the water, a lion in wait.

WILL (V.O.)
In telling the story of my father's life, it's impossible to separate the fact from the fiction, the man from the myth. The best I can do is to tell it the way he told me.

We LOOK DOWN at the river, where Edward's reflection is caught in the dark water. As the water ripples past, something changes.

Sure enough, as we LOOK UP again, it's a younger EDWARD BLOOM, 20's, staring into the water. He's not just handsome, not just charming. It's as if all the forces of the natural world had conspired to create him.

WILL (V.O.) (CONT'D)
It doesn't always make sense, and most of it never happened.

Suddenly, this Edward thrusts both hands into the water, grabbing hold of

THE BEAST.

He brings the catfish up to his face. Looks it right in the eye. A beat, then the Beast spits out Edward's gold ring.

WILL (V.O.) (CONT'D)
But that's what kind of story this is.

Smiling, Edward takes the ring, then throws the Beast back into the water with a splash.

TITLE OVER:

> _BIG FISH_ <

INT. HOSPITAL ROOM - DAY

Young Dr. Bennett stands between the Wife's legs. She's flustered and sweating, but the doctor has a comforting bedside manner...

YOUNG DR. BENNETT
Now, Mrs. Bloom, I'll need you to give me one good push. On three. One...

Suddenly, we hear a POP as a slimy mass of human being rockets into the doctor's unprepared hands. Bennett tries to hold tight, but the infant is slippery like a fish. It shoots up into air.

The NURSES and the Husband try to grab the baby, but no one can hold it. As the newborn sails upward TOWARDS CAMERA, we can see a GIGGLING SMILE on its face.

As it falls, the newborn knocks over a tray, which provides it a ramp to slide right out of the room. Everyone races after it.

INT. HOSPITAL HALLWAY - DAY

Bursting through the doors --

YOUNG DR. BENNETT
Grab that baby!

A NURSE finally scoops up the slippery baby. Everyone lets out a collective sigh of relief.

WILL (V.O.)
My father's birth would set the pace for his unlikely life. No longer than most men's, but larger. And as strange as his stories got, the endings were always the most surprising of all.