Genius (2016) Script

Might want to read this one.

Please tell me it's double-spaced.

No such luck.

Where'd you get it?

A woman named aline Bernstein, the stage designer?

The author's her protege.

Every other publisher in town has already turned it down.

Is it any good?



But it's unique.

A quick look.

Thanks, Max. I'm in your debt.

602 to new canaan, last call!

Good evening, Pete. All aboard, Mr. Perkins.

A stone, a leaf, an unfound door of a stone, a leaf, a door.

And of all the forgotten faces.

Which of us has known his brother?

Which of us has looked into his father's heart?

Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent?

Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?

Remembering, speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost Lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door.

Where? When?

O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.

A destiny that leads the English to the Dutch is strange enough but one that leads from epsom into Pennsylvania and thence into the hills that shut in altamont over the proud coral cry of the cock and the soft stone smile of an angel is touched by that dark miracle of chance.

Hello, daddy!

Hello, ducks.

More rehearsal.

He didn't even notice us.

"Fear no more the heat o' the sun.

"Nor the furious winter's rages.

"Thou thy worldly task hast done.

"Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages.

"Golden lads and girls..."

Jimmy, I told you already. I don't like the movies.

I read books.

You're not listening to me.

Subtract us into nakedness and night again and you shall see begin in crete 4,000 years ago, the love that ended yesterday in Texas.

Hello, daddy. How do I look?

Just beautiful. It's the prom next week.

Already? You're so old and not married yet.

O death in life that turns our men to stone!

O change that levels down our gods!

Hello, Mr. Perkins?

Your father doesn't approve of my drama club.

Daddy, why don't you want mama to be an actress again?

Because limelight is not becoming to a woman of your mother's years.

Oh, you rat! Oh, boo!

Oh, yes, you save the whirlwind life of glamour for yourself.

Book signings and parties and the like, while we languish here in the wilderness.

Do we live in the wilderness? How thrilling!

We should get knives!

Yes, we should! Guess who will be the head pirate?

Cecil, did you ever pick up a girl before?

Did you? No.

Oh, goodness.

You're the funniest person I've ever seen.

Hold it. What's the matter, Cecil?

I don't know.

What's that, Cecil?

Don't wait up. Ten.

Eleven. Ten.


He had listened attentively to a sermon in chapel by a sophomore with false whiskers.

He had prepared studiously for an examination on the contents of the college catalog.


That's a very long paragraph.

It started four pages ago.

Poor Maxwell.

You're too young to be in love.

How old do you have to be?


Or, I should say, he was like a man who stands upon a hill above the town he has left, yet does not say "the town is near" but turns his eyes upon the distant soaring ranges.

The end.

Mighty books.

Mighty books.

May I help you? God damn.

Look at all these books.

Do you ever stop to consider the pure man-sweat that went into each and every line?

Little testaments of faith, screamed out in the dark night, in the cold, dark night when the wind's blowing alpine, in the vain hope that someone will read and hear and understand.

You must be Thomas wolfe.

Are all these your authors?

Not tolstoy.

Mr. Perkins.

Please, sit down.

I wasn't even gonna come.

Prefer to get my rejections in the mail.

There's something surgically antiseptic about those familiar words, "we regret to inform you..."

But I wanted to meet you.

The man who first read Mr. f. Scott Fitzgerald and said, "yes! The world needs poets.

"My god! Someone publish this bastard, "'cause the world needs poets.

"Or why even live?"

So I'm looking at that man now.

Well, congratulations.

On finding one genius. Two, if you count Hemingway.

As for this one, he'll persevere.

You can't kill the deep roots by cutting off a few top branches.

And the roots go deep, Mr. Perkins.

And they are unassailable.

Mr. wolfe, we intend to publish your book.

If that's acceptable to you.

Now, I'd like to do some work with you.

In its current state, o lost is simply too long for one volume.

I think you could afford to shape it a bit, cut off a few of the "top branches".

Mr. Perkins.

I know you're not fooling with me. You don't look the type.

But my god, this is too much for me.

You don't know. You don't know. You don't know.

Every son-of-a-bitch publisher in New York hates my book.

Mr. wolfe, if you could sit down.

Tom. Tom.

Tom, please.


I take it your book is autobiographical in nature.

No other way to write, is there?

Eugene gant is me!

And my mama is Eliza, and my papa is w.O. Gant.

We'll get into all that.

I know it's too long. I know it's too long.

My lord, you don't know how I struggled to cut the gorgon down.

You don't know how i fought with her.

But I'll cut anything you say.

You just give me the word.

Tom, the book belongs to you.

All I want to do is to bring your work to the public in its best possible form.

My job, my only job, is to put good books into the hands of readers.

Thank you, Mr. Perkins.

Now, scribner's has agreed to give you our standard advance against royalties.

If this is satisfactory, we can proceed at whatever pace is comfortable for you.


No one ever thought my writing was worth a dime.

Oh, lord!

Do you mind if we start tomorrow?

Of course.

I promise to work hard.


Oh, lord!

I can barely...

Oh, mighty. Oh, indeedy.

"Mr. wolfe, we intend to publish your book."



Oh, my angel, thank you. Thank you.

Thank you, my lover, my love.

I'm so...

I'm so happy for you. Oh!

How much you figure we have to cut?

I'm guessing around 300 pages.

It's not the page count that's important, it's telling the story.

There it is. Four years of my life.

My heart bleeds to see any of it go.

But I guess it's die dog or eat the hatchet.

You took the words right out of my mouth.

The last few weeks working on the book have been the most thunderingly thrilling of my entire woebegone life.

Glad I could amuse you.

You spend your lifetime in the pages of books, as we do, and those characters emerge that speak to you deep, to the marrow.

They are your mirrors.

In my time, I aspired to Sydney carton.

Or Pierre from the tolstoy.

But I know that's not who I am, much as I would have it so.

We are not those characters we want to be.

We're those characters we are.

I'm caliban.

That island creature,

monstrous and deformed. Caliban.

So ugly.

So alien.

Hurt and shunned into poetry.

What is Manhattan but an isle full of noises?

"Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not?"

"Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

"will hum about mine ears, "and sometimes voices

"that, if I then had waked after long sleep

"will make me sleep again."

I have a thought about the book, o lost.

I think we should discuss the title.

I don't know that it truly captures the meat of your book.

Here, imagine you're a reader.

You're wandering through a bookstore and lots of books and you see a book titled trimalchio in west egg and you see one titled the great gatsby.

Which are you going to pick up?


That's why Scott changed his original title.

He knew it needed a bit more meat.

It's your book, just give it a think.

Here we are.

My god, Max!

It's a mansion.

It is so nice to finally meet you, Mr. wolfe.

Max has told us so much.

Tom! It's tom. Please.

And nice to meet you. Every man Jack of you.

Or "girl Jack," i should say.

Max has been circumspect about all these beautiful daughters.

A bounteous sea of loveliness.

Max tells us you're working on a new book.

I'm nothing if not a big old octopus.

An octopus.

One arm still wrapped around o lost, while another one sneaks over here through the briny deep to write the new book.

I guess you could say I'm... I'm tentacular.

What's the new one about?

It's about America.

All of it. I'm trying to capture everything.

Every city and village and stone and leaf and man and child.

And every farm and flower, every river.

It's about the one acetylene torch, white, bright truth that burns in the heart of every man in this country.

And that is the search for a true father.

I don't mean biological father.

I'm not talking about sperm.

I mean, I search for the need of a father of our spirit.

It's about every single thing that makes this country great.

It's mammoth!

Max says the only ideas worth writing about are the big ideas.

Big ideas, fewer words.

You see, I'm lost without him.

Aren't we all? You know I'm a writer, too?

That so?

Max didn't tell you? Mmm.

I've been working on a play for quite some time now.

It's about pauline, Napoleon's sister.

Historical pageant, is it?

Well, it's attempting to be more modern.

I wrote a play once. It was not a happy experience, i can tell you that.

I found it an anemic form, lacking the multi-colored cloak of prose.

So I dumped the form and returned to my novels.

Do you have a title for your new book?

Your daddy and i have considered a bunch.

Right now we're thinking about of time and the river.

"The river" 'cause that word just reminds me of my father.

The river running away from his door and right back again.

That sounds like quite a long book.

Don't say that, aline.

I'll see you tomorrow.

Keep yourself ready for me.

Goodnight. Goodnight.

This should do you nicely.

I'll see you in the morning.


Thank you for tonight.

I hope I didn't offend anyone.

I so want your family to like me.

Don't worry. Of course not.

I'm not a circus animal.

See, I know I seem like a freak.

Too loud, too grandiose, not quite real.

That's who I am.

That's how I got out of asheville, by making noise.

I thrashed my way out.

But I feel things like a real person.


...from caliban's heart, i say this.

In all my life, well, till I met you, i never had a friend.

If we nail down Ben's death today, then, hell, we're within hollering distance of the end.



Let me introduce you. This is Mrs. Bernstein.

How do you do?

Mr. Perkins.

Tom has told me so much about you.

She's the first person who told me my writing was worth anything.

Hell, she's the whole reason for our book.

I thank you for that.

We were expected last night.

Oh, I told you...

It was embarrassing for me.

You know I hate those theatrical affairs.

And you know i didn't want to go alone.

If you'll excuse me.

All those actors make me feel awkward. You know that!

I told you i wasn't gonna come.

We will continue this alone.

I'll come by around 2:00.

2:00. Perfect. Thanks.

Come on.

Good day, Mr. Perkins.

You are so mad at me.

No, I'm not. I'm not mad at you.

There it is. Hmm.

This is our last chance before we go to the printer.

So I'll ask you again.

Have you thought about another title?

You'll hate it.

Try me.

Now, I'm a scribner's bestseller, I figured I deserve a little of the high life.

Say it again, Max.

Fifteen thousand copies this month. Oh.

Aline, you hear that? Mmm-hmm.

Not even the economy of the entire country crumbling around our ankles is hurting my book.

Have you read tom's book, Mrs. Bernstein?

Yes, Mrs. Perkins, it's dedicated to me.

I wouldn't have been able to do it without my sweet jewess.

She bought the paper and the pencils.

And paid for the typist. That's enough.

That's enough. She put a roof over my head and food in my prodigious belly.

Hell, y'all know how much I love to eat.

You must be very proud of the book, to see all your faith rewarded.

Our faith.

It's our faith now, isn't it, Mr. Perkins?

Tom couldn't have done it without you.

That's not true.

You needn't play at humble pie with me.

Tom speaks of your contribution with such passion.

He really can't seem to stop talking about you.

"Max says this. Max says that."

Easy, girl. Easy, girl. "Max, Max, Max."

No, we should give Mr. Perkins all of the credit.

I mean, after all, he is the genius who made all of your dreams come true.

He's the one who shaped that massive collection of words into a...

Into a marketable bestseller, putting it into the eager hands of readers everywhere.

I mean, that is quite a triumph for Mr. Perkins, hmm?

The work is tom's. He deserves to enjoy it.

Really? Is that what tom deserves?

Leave Max alone.

I'm not speaking to you, I'm speaking to your elder.

You should learn to trust your elders. They know what's best.

They should also behave in a manner appropriate to their years.

You're Thomas wolfe?

I'm reading your book. It's a masterpiece.

Is it, now?

Very much.

Look, um, I have some friends who are dying to meet you.

You don't mind if I steal him for a tick or two?

Of course you don't. Oh, not at all.

After you. Okay. I'm Willow.

Nice to meet you. What a pleasure.

Good evening.

This is Thomas wolfe. No, it's my pleasure.

Good evening. Nice to meet you.

You don't know what they're like, the state asylums.


I don't have the words. There...

There are no words in my lexicon.

One word, no flourishes. Grotesque.

The screaming is constant and so...


They don't have enough toilets.

I can't let Zelda stay in such a place.

I know.

But private asylums are expensive

and I know gatsby didn't make any money.

But I'm up against it, Max.

Scribner's can't give you any more advances.

The post won't even take any more of my stories.

I guess I could go back to Hollywood and give that another try.

I hope you don't do that.

Why? You're a novelist.

Not anymore.

I should have died when I was 24.

Right after this side of paradise.

Did you get that book I sent you?


General Grant's memoirs.

Do you know how he came to write them?

This is interesting.

He was dying of throat cancer

and he wanted to leave something behind for his family, so he started writing his autobiography.

He worked every day for hours and hours.

He was in great pain, anguish, but he just kept on writing.

And in the end, he produced the most astounding book.

So very beautiful.

Just a little velvet to see you through.

I'll write you a great book.

I know.

Mrs. Perkins.

Mrs. Bernstein.


You're designing this production?


Me and all the lost boys.

We know a few of them, don't we?

You didn't know him when he was young. He was fresh out of Harvard and he was all ready to carve up the world.

He was unlike anyone I'd ever met.

I understand.

I don't think that you do.

You see, my husband is a very kind man, but he's a man without color.

He's a man of wall street and numbers.

I don't understand numbers.

You have children, Mrs. Bernstein?


A daughter and a son.

They're grown.

I did a foolish thing when I fell in love with tom, but I can't help how I feel.

My heart was touched.

At the very time in my life when everything beautiful was falling away and no one needed me, i met tom.

And tom made me feel beautiful again.

But I know now I've lost him to your husband.

Mrs. Bernstein.

My husband always wanted a son more than anything in the world.

We reached a point when we realized that wasn't going to happen.

And then he met tom.

I can't let him go.

Aline, go home to your family.

They need you. Tom doesn't.

Family, husband, dignity.

I gave that all up for him.


Come in.


I have it.

You have it?

The new book.

With you?


Well, let's have it.

Bring it in, guys.

Put it down there.

This is of time and the river?

Here you go. Thank you, sir.

Well done.

Now, go home and get some sleep.

I need you... Let me read it.

Read it kindly. Please?

If we work every day in the evening, when we won't be disturbed, we can do it.

How long? Nine months.

If you work hard and if you resist the temptation to add much more.

I have to be able to add more.

Tom, the book is 5,000 pages long.

Point taken.

Now, to begin, on page one.

Oh, lord. Page one?

Now, look here, you've given 80 pages to Eugene on the platform before the train arrives.

That is, perhaps, gilding the Lily a bit as to suspense?

I mean, I'll only wait so long for a train.

Those three sections to me... Here you are, Mr. Perkins.

When he meets the girl, you've written this.

"As Eugene's eyes became accustomed to the haze

"of the cigarettes and cigars swirling miasma-like, "he saw a woman, in serge

"and gloves that crept like living tendrils

"up her normally ivory arms, "but now sun-kissed as a blush

"as the incarnadine discovery inside a conch shell

"seen for the first time by a bewildered zoologist

"as he is undone by its rosy, promising pinkness.

"Those were her arms.

"But it was her eyes that stopped his breath

"and made his heart leap up.

"Blue they were.

"Even through the swirling vapors of pompous chesterfields

"and arrogant lucky strikes, "he saw her eyes were a blue beyond blue, like the ocean.

"Blue beyond blue.

"A blue he could swim into forever

"and never miss a fire-engine red or a cornstalk yellow.

"Across the chasm of that room, "that blue, those eyes

"devoured him and looked past him and never saw him

"and never would, of that he was sure.

"From that moment, "Eugene understood what the poets had been writing about these many years.

"All the lost, wandering, lonely souls who were now his brothers.

"He knew a love that would never be his.

"So quickly did he fall for her

"that no one in the room even heard the sound.

"The whoosh as he fell, "the clatter of his broken heart.

"It was a sure silence

"but his life was shattered."

End of chapter.

You don't like it?

You know I do.

That's not the point.

So he sees a girl and he falls in love for the first time, yes?

Does his mind go to deep-sea marine life?

At that moment, yes.

I don't believe it.

I think you fell in love with the images, not the girl.

So we cut the zoology and the cigar brands.

I'll do it. And the ruminations on pink?

No. No!

The adjectives are true. He's a man who thinks that way.

Pink is never just pink.

It's a thousand other things, all profoundly important to him.

All variations on his psychological state.

Every image and the sound of every word matters.

No, it doesn't. Nonsense. They're vital!

You're losing the plot. Vital!

He's falling in love.

What was it like the first time you fell in love, tom?

Was it cornstalk yellow and pompous chesterfields?

It was a lightning bolt.

And that's what it should be. A lightning bolt.

Save all the thunder.

I got you.

I got you.

Cut that.

Cut that.

All right. We cut the textile.

"He saw a woman..."

Cut. Cut. Cut.

"But it was her eyes that stopped his breath in his throat, "that made his heart leap up."

No, cut the wordsworth.

"It stopped his breath."

"Blue they were..." Cut the marine life.

"A blue beyond blue, like the ocean." Cliche.

"A blue beyond blue like..."

Like nothing but blue.

"A blue he could swim into forever and never miss..."

Mmm, cut this.

Then pick up with...

Had there ever been such blue? Had there ever been such eyes?

Don't need the rhetorical.


It's not a lightning bolt, it's a digression.

"A blue beyond..." No!

Her eyes were blue.


And cut.

He was worthless, she was everything.

She was a girl across a room. That's enough.

And so, cut "the lost, wandering souls..."


"So quickly did he fall for her

"that no one in the room even heard the sound, "the whoosh as he fell, the clatter..."

The whoosh, the clatter. Is that the point?

Well, what did you hear when you fell in love?

What did you hear? Clattering?

The point is it was all happening inside him.

His life changed, no one else in the room noticed anything.

Then make that the point.

I hate to see the words go!

Maybe the larger question is this.

In a book crowded with great rolling mountains of prose, how is this moment profoundly different?

Because it's simple. Unadorned.

Like lightning.

Standing out in the black sky by its starkness.


God damn!

All aboard!

Track 12, southwest trunk line now departing from track 12.

"Eugene saw a woman.

"Her eyes were blue.

"So quickly did he fall for her

"that no one in the room even heard the sound."

Period. End of chapter four.

Only 98 more to go!

I love you, Max Perkins!

...with Francis and Eugene in Paris.

Exactly! As if you're skipping across the Atlantic.

"Matching Eugene's disorientation."

He didn't know that she would never see him, that her love would never be his.

How could he know that?

Hold on, he did. How?

"The subtle grapy bloom of dusk."

Tom, we discussed a transition line. One line to bridge the cut.

You've given me 50 new pages on the doctor.

You've given me his whole life story and his father's whole life story.

I like the doctor. Well, so do I.

I adore the doctor. But by god, 50 pages?

Some books are supposed to be long, you know?

Thank Christ tolstoy never met you.

We'd have that great novel war and nothing.

To be a novelist, you have to select.

You have to shape and sculpt.


Because we've been working for two years and the book's only 100 pages shorter.

Five goddamn seconds of peace is all I ask!

Can't you give me five goddamn seconds?

God damn!

It's the tip of the iceberg, tom. You're giving me the full iceberg.

So you're saying this is trash, this is trash...

You knew this was gonna happen.

Why are you playing all dewy-eyed ingenue?

Because I did not imagine, even taking you at your absolute worst, you could be so selfish.

I can't turn my back on the work.


It's what I do. It's my job.

And this is my job.

When will you ever learn how much an opening night means to me?

Is this all right?

Yes, you look lovely.

Could you please put the scarf on your downstage shoulder when you enter?

Thank you.

It's an important night for me. I need you here.

I have to work tonight.

You've been working every single night for the past two years.

Do you have any idea what it's like coming home to an empty apartment every night?

Look, I'm not saying your work's not important.

Of course you are!

I ask for one night.

One night of your precious time to be at my side and support me.

You don't understand. You don't understand.

We are at a moment of radical crisis with my book!

Stop it. Stop it!

I've never known you not to be at a point of radical crisis about something. You really ought to be on the stage.

Max says if we push through...

There we go. "Max says! Max suggests! Max instructs!"

He can have you every other day of the week but I need you tonight.

So, please, would you get off my set, go home and put on your blue suit and I will pick you up at 7:00.

I won't be there.

Make your choice, tom.

Right now.

There's no call for this, honey.

Right now.

Look what you have done to me.

He's under a lot of pressure.

If we don't keep going now, I don't know what'll happen to him.

You want the big hamper?

And the thermoses.


You have to think what it's like for him.

His first book comes out, everyone calls him a genius.

Expectations on the second book are mighty big.

He's scared. That's why he won't stop writing.

Why don't you explain that to your daughters?

Louise. They want their father back.

It's my job, it's what I do.

Every minute of every day?

And if it takes years, it takes years.

You're never going to get this time back.

It's one damn vacation, for Christ's sake!

Louise, a writer like tom, i get one in a lifetime.

You get your daughters for the same lifetime.

I'm sorry.

Wave to the girls.

All right, ladies!

Are you ready for our great adventure?

Close your door, darling.

You gotta stop worrying about Louise so much, they'll be back before you know it.

Tom, where are we going?

Ah, you'll see.

We're supposed to be working.

This is work.

I decided you can never appreciate the music of my book, the tonality and Cadence, without experiencing the dark rhythms that inspire me.

Bourbon! In a big ol' tumbler. You?

Martini, please. Very dry.

He'll have a bourbon.

You got it.

You hear it, Max?

I don't care much for music.

There's a savage indictment of your grim, puritan soul.

Come on!

There must be one song you like.

Flow gently, sweet afton.

I'm partial to flow gently, sweet afton.

You got it, sir.

Two bourbons, gentlemen.

The whole thing about jazz is that these fellas are artists.

They interpret the song, letting the music pour on out, riff upon riff, just like I do with words.

To hell with standard forms.

To hell with flaubert and Henry James.

Be original. Hmm?

Blaze new trails.

That's the whole ugly gorilla.

Ugly gorilla. Of course.


That's Henry James for you.

It's comfortable and familiar, isn't it?


What's that?

Sounds like an ugly gorilla coming our way, don't it?

That's tom wolfe!

Feel it, Max!

I see your feet moving.

I see your knees moving.

Come on, Max! Feel it!


You see those two fine ladies over there?

Subtle. Max, be subtle.

At the bar? Mmm-hmm.

Let's go over there, say hello.

Come on! Let's have some fun. I can't. I can't.

They're working girls, Max. It doesn't count.

Yes, tom, it does.

Well, you don't mind if I... No.

Hell, I never know when to stop, do I?

Three bourbons! You got it.

One, two, three.

And you, too.

I saw you looking at me.

Don't worry, i ain't gonna leave you out.

I'm gonna want the both of you. All right?

Let's have a drink.

I'll tell you one thing, my friend.

You wouldn't do this to Hemingway.

You wouldn't do this to Fitzgerald, not to your two goddamn sacred cows!

Every word they write is golden genius!

Stop it!

I bring you stuff wrenched right from my guts and you tell me it doesn't fit.

That's enough. Go home.


Go home. Go to sleep.

No. No, no.

I'm sorry.

Please, don't make me go home. Let me come home with you.

We... we can still make the 9:02.

No, I'm exhausted and you're drunk.

We'll pick up tomorrow. No.

You heard him, tom.

Come home.

I'll pay for the taxi.

What the hell are you doing here?

I can make you dinner. I'll pay for that, too.

Get out of here. I'm working.

Mr. Perkins has informed you you're not working anymore tonight so come on, come with me.

Mrs. Bernstein...

Don't touch me! For heaven's sake.

You stay there. Jesus, aline!

Come. Aline.

You don't want to see me?



You will never have to see me again.


Hmm? What are you doing?

What the hell are you doing?

Aline! No!

Stop it. No!

Spit 'em! No!

Spit 'em!

No. You spit 'em out. Spit 'em out.

Spit 'em out! You spit it out.

Stop now, aline. My love.

My love, my angel. Stop now.

All right. All right. All right.

Show me your strength, darling.

Look at me. Look at me!

Show me your strength.

Hmm? Come on. Come on.

All right. Come on. Come on. That's it.

All right. All right.

Mr. Perkins...

I know things such as this don't happen here on the fifth floor. I apologize.

That's not necessary. If you'll excuse me.

Wait up, wait up. I'll be right there.

No, tom, really!

Just give me a second.

I'll see you at home. All right.

All right.

You were right, about the cut.

Sorry about being such a bear.

Don't you think you should go with Mrs. Bernstein?

Hell, she was just being theatrical.

All right, so we forget about the cut.

Let's go on to Eugene in London.

"He thought of the huge smoky web of London with the same joy, "of the suave potent ale he could get in one place there, "of its squares and ancient courts..."



Hurry up.

Hi, daddy. Hello, duck.


Daddy, I caught a rainbow trout. Nine inches!

You go help your sisters.

You would not believe the amount...

Maxwell, please.



It's done.


Stop writing.

Gather all your papers and bring them in tomorrow.

Can you do that?

Can you do that?


We finish editing this month. We go to press in April.

We publish in October.

Look at me and say yes.


Hmm. Shoot. Mmm-hmm.

I think I'll go rambling.

Maybe Europe.

Don't want to be around when the reviews come out.


There's one paragraph i have to add to the book.

By god! I have to add it.

If you start adding paragraphs, we're sunk.

One paragraph will lead to two and then we'll be here for another year.

Shall I read it to you?

It goes at the very front.

"This book is dedicated to Maxwell evarts Perkins.

"A brave and honest man

"who stuck to the writer of this book

"through times of bitter hopelessness.

"The author hopes

"this book will prove worthy of him."

I wish you wouldn't. Oh.

Why? Editors should be anonymous.

More than that, there's always the fear that I deformed your book.

Who's to say it wasn't the way it was meant to be when you first brought it in?

War and peace.

Not just war.


That's what we editors lose sleep over, you know?

Are we really making books better?

Or just making them different?

Morning, Mr. Perkins.

Miss wyckoff, where would we find Mr. wolfe at the moment?

He's in Paris, sir.

"Magnificent reviews. Full of praise.

"Congratulations, you've done it again. Max."

"I can face blunt fact better than damnable incertitude.

"Give me the damn straight plain truth right now, damn you!


"Talked of everywhere as a truly important book.

"All comparisons with greatest writers.

"Even James Joyce."

"Hell, Joyce wishes he was so good."

"Had to rush out five editions of the book.

"Thirty thousand copies.

"Never seen a book so talked about.

"They're calling you a genius again, god help you.

"Come home soon. Max."

Mrs. Bernstein.

Mr. Perkins.

What can I do for you?

It's rather what can I do for you, Mr. Perkins.

I couldn't help noticing tom dedicated his new book to you.

He dedicated his first book to me, you will recall.

It was a lovely sentiment but what he was actually saying was, "thank you and goodbye."

I had served my purpose.

And now, you have served yours.

"Thank you and goodbye, Mr. Perkins."

With respect, Mrs. Bernstein, you haven't the slightest notion of my relationship with tom.

And in view of that... He makes you do things you never thought you'd do. He liberates you.

And just when you have come to depend upon that, he will leave you.

And you will never feel so alive again.

I'm sorry, Mrs. Bernstein. I know this has been hard on you.

Whatever pain he's caused you, I can only hope he didn't mean it.

Can you give me his address in Europe?

He asked me not to.

Can you tell me when he's coming home?

I don't think so.

So, I don't exist anymore.

I've been edited.

I haven't quite decided who I'm going to shoot yet.

Tom, myself

or you.

Have you a suggestion?

Suicide seems a bit extreme.

And killing tom won't help much.

So I suppose that leaves me.

I suppose it does.

You're overwriting the scene, Mrs. Bernstein.

We shall see, Mr. Perkins.

I am very sorry for what's going to happen to you.

Truly, I am.

Enjoy the time with tom while you have it because after him...

...there is a great hush.

Hey, good to see you.




Wonderful to see you, tom.

But we need to talk. I have a taxi waiting.

Heck, no! Taxi can take my luggage.

No taxis or trains or buses or automation.

I have to ambulate.

I have to feel my country again.

You go ahead. Thank you, sir.

You don't know how much I missed you.

Oh, I missed you too, tom, but this is important.

Aline came to the office and she has a gun.

An actual gun.

Hell with her.

I've been away so long, we have to celebrate my return to the greatest of nations with all things American.

I have to eat some wieners and, and walk the city and drink us some serious liquor.

I mean, can one man do it?

Write his whole life story fairly?

Honestly? Like proust, without all the upholstery.

Well, sure.

Now, of time and the river stopped when I met aline.

I'll have to write about that next.

She won't like it. She'll love it!

It'll make her immortal.

Oh, Max, look at this.

What's happening to our country, Max?

It's so frivolous. What?

What I do. Writing books.

These folks will never read.

Telling my life story like it's important to them.

These people are starving.

Hey, come with me.

Come on.

You have got to be kidding me.

It'll be worth it, i promise.

Have I ever lied to you?

This would fall under the general category of breaking and entering.

Let's have an adventure.


I don't believe it.

I don't believe it.

Why on earth are we here?

This is where I first lived when I came to New York.

This is where I wrote look homeward, angel.

I would come here every twilight

and look at the city and dream of what my life might be, till the stars came out.

The stars in the sky.

The lights in the buildings.

All those lights.

All the power of life.

You're not frivolous, tom.

I think back in the caveman days, our ancestors would huddle around the fire at night

and wolves would be howling in the dark, just beyond the light.

And one person would start talking.

And he would tell a story,

so we wouldn't be so scared in the dark.

I guess I'll have to look at the proofs when I get back.

Is that all right?

How long?

Well, if I don't get shot, a couple of months.

I'm telling you, Spain is where the action's going to be.

You've already done a bullfighting book.

Nah, it's not bullfighting this time.

World's gone beyond that, I'm afraid.

It's war that's coming.

And you need to be there?

Well, I need to be somewhere.

I need to feel the old lucha por la vida, you know?

The struggle for life. What else is there?

Hoist her up, boys. We want to take a photograph.

All right, you heard him.


how's the muse from greater asheville doing?

He's writing a new book, god help me.

Did you read of time and the river?


The boy has serious delusions of importance.

And he's been mouthing off to the press too much.

Tell him to shut the hell up and stick to his pencil.

Well, you know tom, he's exuberant.

Bullshit. He's starting to believe what they say about him.

Same thing that happened to Fitzgerald.

Gets to hear he's the great man of letters so many times, he starts to believe it.

Then he's got to live up to it and then he stops writing.

Tom has to write, it's in his blood.

Well, they said the same thing about Scott five years ago.

Most elegant writer i ever knew.

Now the poor son of a bitch can't string five words together to save his own life.

You know tom will leave you soon.

I don't think so.

You don't think those bastards at Harper's and MacMillan aren't pouring poison in his ear already?

Tom won't listen.

You saw the dedication in time and the river.

Yeah, I did.

A bit like something on a tombstone.

Come on, let's take a photo with your catch.

I'll get him mounted and send him to you.

Our daughter's going gangbusters at vassar, she, uh...

She seems to have developed an affection for drama.

She might even be an actress.

She wants to talk to you about it, Louise.

Oh, I would love to.

That must be tom. I'll get it.

It's tom, honey. He's come to see you.

Come on, Maxwell! Let me in, now.

Tom, easy. Where is Scott?

You might have waited to start drinking.

I... I have to see Scott.


Scott. Scott! Tom! Look at me.

Zelda's just out of the hospital and she's not well, so for god's sake, don't start in.

Listen to you. I'm not some rude mechanical.

Scott! You old bastard. Tom!

I tried to tell that to Max. I mean...

Tell me, Scott. Does...

Does he... Does he make you take a lot out?

He doesn't make me do anything.

Well, does he "advise" you to take a lot out?

We're different writers, tom.

How's that?

I don't write such long books.

Don't or can't? Tom!

Just say it, Scotty.

There's no shame in writing short, though I think you've taken it a bit too far.

I mean, come on.

Are you gonna write another novel? Hmm?

Max, I hear you finally went fishing with Ernest.

Yes, in the wilds of darkest key west.

Don't ignore me. That's enough.

Don't pretend I'm not here. Jesus Christ!

I know goddamn well you ain't written a word in years.

Don't blame me for that.

Come on, get up! What? What? Why?

You're leaving. Where are we going?

Get out. Why?

It's all right, my sweetheart, it's all right.

Stay calm. It's all right.

You should tell him to put her away somewhere and get back to work.

He... he's probably past it now.

Couldn't make a whole book, but he's still got some talent around the edges.

Faded grandeur, i suppose you'd call it.

Or he'd call it. But that...

Would you shut up?

It amazes me, still, after all these years, how cruel you can be.

I... I'm only being honest.

Did you ever once try to imagine how it is for Scott?

Why... Why would I?

How many words did you write today?

What? How many words did you write today?

Maybe 5,000.

Scott wrote maybe 100.

If today was a good day. If today was a great day.

And he needs to write as much as you do.

He fights over every word.

Then, he should fight more.

His wife is going mad!

Nobody cares about what he writes or even remembers him anymore.

Can you imagine what that's like?

Don't blame me for his weakness.

It hurts me to see you so cruel.

So I've disappointed you, yet again.

Yes, very much.

Well, I'm sorry I'm not decent enough for your fine dinner parties and your fine friends.

But before you drag me out to the woodshed, I think you ought to look at who's giving the lesson.

Am I supposed to grow up like you?

No, tom, but you're supposed to grow up.

How dare you?

You, of all people. You, of all goddamn people!

You're nothing but a coward!

Stuck in that sterile little office.

Every beautiful thing in you stunted.

You don't have the first idea what it is to be alive!

You don't know what it is to wake up and grab hold of life every day and fight with it.

You're just so goddamn scared to live.

There are other ways to live!

There's loving your children and seeing them grow up right.

There's providing for your family.

There's doing work that's important and giving to other people.

That's enough. No, I've taken your abuse

'cause I told myself you were worth it. That the work was worth it.

But god help anyone who loves you, tom.

Because for all your talk and all your millions of beautiful words, you haven't the slightest idea of what it means to be alive.

To look into another person's eyes and ache for him.

I hope someday you will.

And then maybe all your words will be worth five of Scott's.

Max thinks he created me. You know that?

Like pygmalion.

He thinks... he thinks he found this ugly lump of Carolina Clay and molded it into me.

They say i don't even write my own books.

They say I can't write my own books.

It's all because of Max and his brilliant editing.

I hear it everywhere I go.

Wouldn't I be lost without Max?

What would I do without the great Maxwell Perkins?

So he finally stood up to you.

Good for him.

You wouldn't believe how much the folks at Harper's offered me for my new book.

There it is.

I told them no.

You told them maybe.

You tell everyone maybe.

And now you're going to tell them yes.

Hey, I'm thinking of taking a trip.

A vacation, like. Buying an old car and just driving off.

Maybe see California.

All those sun-kissed locales.

Why don't you come?

I mean it.

Let's hit the road and have some fun again.

You and me.

Like it used to be.

No one else in the world even exists.

Mmm... we're in our own private cathedral.

Doesn't that sound like a momentous journey?

You need to spend time alone.

I'm a writer.

All I do is spend time alone.

No, you spend time with your characters. You've never been alone.

First you had your family, then you had me, then you had Max.

You need to spend time alone.

You need to look at how you move through your life.

You hurt me.

You're going to hurt Max. You shouldn't hurt anyone else.

Human beings aren't fiction.

You have no idea what I had to go through to get to where i am now.

So I can look at you and feel nothing.

You know the way out.

The last time i saw my father,

I was standing at a train window, when I went north to college.

He just got smaller and smaller

as we pulled away,

until I couldn't see him anymore.

That train carried me to my life.

Beyond the hills and over the rivers.

And always, the rivers run.

Sometimes they flow away from my father and sometimes they flow back to his door.

I have to prove i can do it by myself.

Then prove it.


I know it was a while ago but I'm sorry.

I was a damn brute.

I wouldn't blame you if you slammed the door in my face.

You don't know how sorry i am for talking to you and Zelda like that.

Please, say you forgive me.

Believe it or not, I've been drunk myself once or twice.

Thank you.

I'm still a bit of a washout as a screenwriter.

I just can't make the grade as a hack.

Even that requires a certain practiced excellence.

I'm mighty glad to see you, Scott.

I've been rambling around for months now.

Haven't had anybody to talk to about work.

Ah. Work.

I mean, who better to talk to?

The man who created something immortal.

More and more, i trouble myself with that.

"The legacy."

Will anyone care about Thomas wolfe in 100 years? Ten years?

When I was young, i asked myself that question every day.

Now, I ask myself, "can I write one good sentence?"

How can you say that? Don't you want to be remembered?

This side of paradise was just put out of print, for the first time in 18 years.

Gatsby will go next. That'll never happen.

You know how much i made in royalties on gatsby last year?

Two dollars and 13 cents.

But I don't mind. I'm working now.

My next-door neighbor is a radio actress.

She periodically rehearses her screams and laughter.

That's a little disquieting.

Oh, the laughing's worse. Trust me.

You spoken to Max lately? Oh, don't talk about Max.

Why not, tom?

I know he's your friend, but you have no idea.

He crippled me.

He deformed my work.

He as much admitted it.

And then he tried to take all the credit for my success.

He did no such thing. Do you know how much you hurt him?

We hurt each other.

Don't be glib with me, tom.

You don't know what he did to me.

What he did to you? Uh-huh.

What did he do? He made all your dreams come true.

He gave you a career. A life!

There. The scribner party line. I expected more from you.

That decent man believed in you when nobody else would.

He poured all his hopes and dreams into you.

All the things he would never do, all the books he would never write.

And now you repay him with ugly accusations and brutality.

You ought to be ashamed of yourself!

That man has a genius for friendship and you've squandered it.

There will come a day when you're not the success you are now.

It's a long road then, believe me.

Why hurt the one man who will walk on that road with you?


Hello, puppet.

Why doesn't tom come around anymore?

Oh, Nancy.

Tom needs some time for himself.

Is he coming back?

I don't think so.

See, tom's the kind of fellow who needs to make his own way through life.

Is he mad at us? No, honey.

No, sometimes people just go away.

They have to grow up, leave home.

It'll happen to you, too.

Poor daddy. I miss him, too.

Tell you what, get me his book.

"A destiny that leads the English to the Dutch is strange enough

"but one that leads from epsom into Pennsylvania

"and thence into the hills that shut in altamont

"over the proud coral cry of the cock

"and the soft stone smile of an angel

"is touched by that dark miracle of chance

"which makes new magic in a dusty world.

"Each moment is the fruit of 40,000 years.

"The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death

"and every moment is a window on all time.

"And like a man who is perishing in the polar night, "he thought of the rich meadows of his youth, "the corn, "the plum tree...

"...and ripe grain.

"Why here?

"O lost!"

Mr. Perkins, you have a call.

From tom's mother.

Mrs. wolfe?

Who even heard of such a thing?

Tuberculosis of the brain.

Doesn't even seem real.

To be brought low by such a strange and sudden thing?

They're doing everything they can.

Who would credit it?

Who would credit it, now?

What's that?

That he should end up here, of all places.

When tom collapsed out west, they brought him back here for the surgery.

Best place for it, they said. Right here in Baltimore.

His father died in this very hospital, just along the hall.

It's like tom's whole life is leading him, like a river, back to his father.

The surgeon said his brain was filled with tumors.

A myriad of tumors.

That's the word he used, "myriad."

I think tom would like that.

There's nothing they can do, you see.

The doctor said it was a matter of weeks.

Might regain consciousness, most likely not.

No, you stay with Nancy.

You should, you know, prepare her.

She always loved tom the most.

The plural of "myriad" is "myriads", by the way.

Mr. wolfe?


Oh, no, Mr. wolfe, I'm sorry, you just lie still.

I'll get the doctor.


Afternoon, Mr. Perkins.

Afternoon, James.

Dear Max, I've got a hunch.

And I wanted to write these words to you.

I've made a long voyage and been to a strange country and I've seen the dark man very close.

And I don't think I was too much afraid of him.

But I want most desperately to live.

I want to see you again.

For there is such impossible anguish and regret for all I can never say to you, for all the work I have to do.

I feel as if a great window has been opened on life.

And if I come through this, I hope to god I am a better man and can live up to you.

But most of all, I wanted to tell you, no matter what happens, I shall always feel about you the way I did that November day when you met me at the boat and we went on top of the building and all the strangeness and the glory and the power of life were below.

Yours always, tom.