by Colin Costello
If you are not taking in a playoff game or heading to the movies this Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, it might be a good time to reflect on his legacy, dreams and what he stood for. As writers, one of the best ways we can do that, is to read other scripts. Look, we should be reading other scripts anyway.
But during this divisive time, it’s more important than ever to look to our past and possibly learn something from the other writers and their screenplays in order to bring people back together.
Here are five exceptional scripts I would pick up.
“Selma” (2014) – British screenwriter Paul Webb is credited as writer on what became the “Cinderella” contender during awards season. The re-written script drew from director Ava DuVernay’s father’s experiences as a young boy growing up near Selma at the time of the famous march there in 1965. DuVernay re-focused the script, drawing criticism from Webb, giving us less time on President Lyndon B. Johnson and spending more on humanizing Martin Luther King, Jr. This works because he has often been played as fairly one-dimensional. It was a winning move as the film is now considered the definitive Martin Luther King, Jr. film. Unfortunately, only a transcript of the film is available for reading at https://goo.gl/zov9Le
“Malcolm X” (1992) – One can’t talk about Dr. King and not have Malcolm X enter the conversation at some point. Director Spike Lee and screenwriter Arnold Perl crafted one of the greatest biographical films ever, exploring the alternate side of the struggle for equality by showing the transformation of one of the most controversial and important leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. The writers take us on a mesmerizing journey from when “Red” (Malcolm X’s nickname) hit bottom during his imprisonment in the ’50s to his journey of becoming a Black Muslim and then onto transforming into a leader in the Nation of Islam. The fourth draft is available at https://goo.gl/vxQKai.
“Gandhi” (1982) – It’s said that Dr. King was inspired by the nonviolent protests and civil disobedience led by Mahatma Gandhi. Writer John Briley gave director Richard Attenborough a gift as he explored the life of the beloved Indian leader who stood against British rule over his country. The film went on to win eight Academy Awards. It’s available at https://goo.gl/KwZkvg
“Loving” (2016) – Dr. King affected many lives by bringing people of different races together. Nowhere can that be seen more than in this fantastic drama about the Lovings – an interracial Virginia couple who simply fell in love and were married in 1958. Writer/Director Jeff Nichols weaves a moving tale as the couple is banished from Virginia (because their marriage was deemed illegal) to Washington DC and then how they try to make their way back to their home. You can download the script at https://goo.gl/h4V9Kf
“X-Men” (2000) – Yes, Bryan Singer’s superhero epic that can be credited (or in some cases condemned) as starting the current superhero craze, is really at its heart about Dr. King and Malcolm X embodied by Professor X and Magneto, respectively. Don’t believe me? Ask Stan Lee, who said he based the characters on both of the Civil Rights Movement leaders. The script by David Hayter (Ed Soloman and Chris McQuarrie also contributed), based on Singer and Tom DeSanto’s story, explores how groups react when their rights are taken away, in this case in the form of mutants. The script is available for download at https://goo.gl/ay7jBZ
There are other scripts to read, but these are the ones that come to mind that show us various ways to help spread the message of equality and tolerance. Happy MLK Day.