Charlie Kaufman: There was this time in high school. I was watching you out the library window. You were talking to Sarah Marsh.
Donald Kaufman: Oh, God. I was so in love with her.
Charlie Kaufman: I know. And you were flirting with her. And she was being really sweet to you.
Donald Kaufman: I remember that.
Charlie Kaufman: Then, when you walked away, she started making fun of you with Kim Canetti. And it was like they were laughing at *me*. You didn't know at all. You seemed so happy.
Donald Kaufman: I knew. I heard them.
Charlie Kaufman: How come you looked so happy?
Donald Kaufman: I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn't have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.
Charlie Kaufman: But she thought you were pathetic.
Donald Kaufman: That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That's what I decided a long time ago.
Charlie Kaufman: [voiceover] Do I have an original thought in my head? My bald head. Maybe if I were happier, my hair wouldn't be falling out. Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I'm a walking cliché. I really need to go to the doctor and have my leg checked. There's something wrong. A bump. The dentist called again. I'm way overdue. If I stop putting things off, I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass. If my ass wasn't fat I would be happier. I wouldn't have to wear these shirts with the tails out all the time. Like that's fooling anyone. Fat ass. I should start jogging again. Five miles a day. Really do it this time. Maybe rock climbing. I need to turn my life around. What do I need to do? I need to fall in love. I need to have a girlfriend. I need to read more, improve myself. What if I learned Russian or something? Or took up an instrument? I could speak Chinese. I'd be the screenwriter who speaks Chinese and plays the oboe. That would be cool. I should get my hair cut short. Stop trying to fool myself and everyone else into thinking I have a full head of hair. How pathetic is that? Just be real. Confident. Isn't that what women are attracted to? Men don't have to be attractive. But that's not true. Especially these days. Almost as much pressure on men as there is on women these days. Why should I be made to feel I have to apologize for my existence? Maybe it's my brain chemistry. Maybe that's what's wrong with me. Bad chemistry. All my problems and anxiety can be reduced to a chemical imbalance or some kind of misfiring synapses. I need to get help for that. But I'll still be ugly though. Nothing's gonna change that.
[at a seminar, Charlie Kaufman has asked McKee for advice on his new screenplay in which 'nothing much happens']
Robert McKee: Nothing happens in the world? Are you out of your fucking mind? People are murdered every day. There's genocide, war, corruption. Every fucking day, somewhere in the world, somebody sacrifices his life to save someone else. Every fucking day, someone, somewhere takes a conscious decision to destroy someone else. People find love, people lose it. For Christ's sake, a child watches her mother beaten to death on the steps of a church. Someone goes hungry. Somebody else betrays his best friend for a woman. If you can't find that stuff in life, then you, my friend, don't know crap about life! And why the FUCK are you wasting my two precious hours with your movie? I don't have any use for it! I don't have any bloody use for it!
Charlie Kaufman: Okay, thanks.
John Laroche: Point is, what's so wonderful is that every one of these flowers has a specific relationship with the insect that pollinates it. There's a certain orchid look exactly like a certain insect so the insect is drawn to this flower, its double, its soul mate, and wants nothing more than to make love to it. And after the insect flies off, spots another soul-mate flower and makes love to it, thus pollinating it. And neither the flower nor the insect will ever understand the significance of their lovemaking. I mean, how could they know that because of their little dance the world lives? But it does. By simply doing what they're designed to do, something large and magnificent happens. In this sense they show us how to live - how the only barometer you have is your heart. How, when you spot your flower, you can't let anything get in your way.
Robert McKee: I'll tell you a secret. The last act makes a film. Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you've got a hit. Find an ending, but don't cheat, and don't you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them. Do that, and you'll be fine.
John Laroche: Then one morning, I woke up and said, "Fuck fish." I renounce fish, I will never set foot in that ocean again. That's how much "fuck fish." That was 17 years ago and I have never stuck so much as a toe in that ocean. And I love the ocean.
Susan Orlean: But why?
John Laroche: Done with fish.
John Laroche: You know why I like plants?
Susan Orlean: Nuh uh.
John Laroche: Because they're so mutable. Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world.
Susan Orlean: [pause] Yeah but it's easier for plants. I mean they have no memory. They just move on to whatever's next. With a person though, adapting almost shameful. It's like running away.
Susan Orlean: It's over. Everything's over. I did everything wrong. I want my life back. I want it back before everything got fucked up. I want to be a baby again. I want to be new. I WANT TO BE NEW.
Susan Orlean: What I came to understand is that change is not a choice. Not for a species of plant, and not for me.
Susan Orlean: There are too many ideas and things and people. Too many directions to go. I was starting to believe the reason it matters to care passionately about something, is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size.
Susan Orlean: I suppose I do have one unembarrassed passion. I want to know what it feels like to care about something passionately.
Charlie Kaufman: To begin... To begin... How to start? I'm hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. Okay, so I need to establish the themes. Maybe a banana-nut. That's a good muffin.
Charlie Kaufman: [voice over] Why didn't I go in? I'm such a chicken. I'm such an idiot. I should have kissed her. I've blown it. I should just go and knock on her door and just kiss her. It would be romantic. It would be something we could someday tell our kids. I'm gonna do that right now.
Donald Kaufman: I'm putting in a chase sequence. So the killer flees on horseback with the girl, the cop's after them on a motorcycle and it's like a battle between motors and horses, like technology vs. horse.
Charlie Kaufman: And they're still all one person, right?
Charlie Kaufman: [voice-over] I am pathetic, I am a loser...
Robert McKee: So what is the substance of writing?
Charlie Kaufman: [voice-over] I have failed, I am panicked. I've sold out, I am worthless, I... What the fuck am I doing here? What the fuck am I doing here? Fuck. It is my weakness, my ultimate lack of conviction that brings me here. Easy answers used to shortcut yourself to success. And here I am because my jump into the abysmal well - isn't that just a risk one takes when attempting something new? I should leave here right now. I'll start over. I need to face this project head on and...
Robert McKee: ...and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That's flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.
Charlie Kaufman: You and I share the same DNA. Is there anything more lonely than that?
Susan Orlean: YOU FAT PIECE OF SHIT. He's dead.
Charlie Kaufman: Shut up.
Susan Orlean: YOU LOSER. You've ruined my life, YOU FAT FUCK.
Charlie Kaufman: FUCK YOU LADY. You're just a lonely, old, desperate, pathetic DRUG ADDICT.
Charlie Kaufman: You sound like your in a cult.
Donald Kaufman: No, it's just good writing technique. Oh, I made you a copy of Mckee's ten commandments, I posted it over both our work stations.
[Charlie tears the page from over his work area]
Donald Kaufman: [in threatening tone] You shouldn't have done that.
Donald Kaufman: 'Cause it's extremely helpful.
Susan Orlean: Do you ever get lonely sometimes, Johnny?
John Laroche: Well, I was a weird kid. Nobody liked me. But I had this idea. If I waited long enough, someone would come around and just, you know... understand me. Like my mom, except someone else. She'd look at me and quietly say: "Yes." Just like that. And I wouldn't be alone anymore.
Charlie Kaufman: How could you have somebody held prisoner in a basement and... and working at a police station at the same time?
Donald Kaufman: [pause] Trick photography.
Valerie Thomas: I guess we thought that maybe Susan Orlean and Leroche could fall in love, and...
Charlie Kaufman: Okay. But, I'm saying, it's like, I don't want to cram in sex or guns or car chases, you know... or characters, you know, learning profound life lessons or growing or coming to like each other or overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end, you know. I mean... The book isn't like that, and life isn't like that. You know, it just isn't. And... I feel very strongly about this.
Charlie Kaufman: There are no rules, Donald. And anyone who says there are is just, you know...
Donald Kaufman: Not rules, principles. McKee writes that a rule says you *must* do it this way. A principle says, this *works* and has through all remembered time.
Charlie Kaufman: The script I'm starting, it's about flowers. Nobody's ever done a movie about flowers before. So, so there are no guidelines...
Donald Kaufman: What about "Flowers for Algernon"?
Charlie Kaufman: Well, that's not about flowers. And it's not a movie.
Donald Kaufman: Ok, I'm sorry, I never saw it.
Charlie Kaufman: We open on Charlie Kaufman. Fat, old, bald, repulsive, sitting in a Hollywood restaurant, across from Valerie Thomas, a lovely, statuesque film executive. Kaufman, trying to get a writing assignment, wanting to impress her, sweats profusely. Fat, bald Kaufman paces furiously in his bedroom. He speaks into his hand held tape recorder, and he says: "Charlie Kaufman. Fat, bald, repulsive, old, sits at a Hollywood restaurant with Valerie Thomas".
Donald Kaufman: [delighted] I can't believe I got shot. Isn't that fucked up?
John Laroche: Who's gonna play me?
Susan Orlean: Well, I've gotta write the book first, John. Then, you know, they get somebody to write the screenplay.
John Laroche: Hey, I think I should play me.
Charlie Kaufman: I have to go right home. I know how to finish the script now. It ends with Kaufman driving home after his lunch with Amelia, thinking he knows how to finish the script. Shit, that's voice-over. McKee would not approve. How else can I show his thoughts? I don't know. Oh, who cares what McKee says? It feels right. Conclusive. I wonder who's gonna play me. Someone not too fat. I liked that Gerard Depardieu, but can he not do the accent? Anyway, it's done. And that's something. So: "Kaufman drives off from his encounter with Amelia, filled for the first time with hope." I like this. This is good.
Donald Kaufman: Anyway, listen, I meant to ask you, I need a cool way to kill people. Don't worry, for my script.
Charlie Kaufman: I don't write that kind of stuff.
Donald Kaufman: Oh, come on, man, please? You're the genius.
Charlie Kaufman: Here you go. The killer's a literature professor. He cuts off little chunks from his victims' bodies until they die. He calls himself "the deconstructionist".
Donald Kaufman: Okay, well here's the twist. We find out that, that the killer really suffers from multiple personality disorder, right? See, he's actually really the cop and the girl. All of them are him. Isn't that fucked up?
Charlie Kaufman: Mr. McKee?
Robert McKee: Yes.
Charlie Kaufman: I'm the guy you yelled at this morning.
Robert McKee: I need more.
Donald Kaufman: [about McKee] But he says that we have to realize that we all write in a genre, and we must find our originality within that genre. See it turns out, there hasn't been a new genre since Fellini invented the mockumentary...? My genre's thriller, what's yours?
John Laroche: Look, I'll tell you a story, all right? I once feel deeply, you know, profoundly in love with tropical fish. Had 60 goddamn fish tanks in my house. I skin dived to find just the right ones. Anisotremus virginicus, Holdacanthus ciliaris, Chaetodon capistratus. You name it. Then one day I say, "fuck fish". I renounce fish. I vow never to set foot in that ocean again. That's how much "fuck fish".
Charlie Kaufman: My leg hurts, I wonder if it's cancer? There's a bump. I'm starting to sweat. Stop sweating. I've got to stop sweating. Can she see it dripping down my forehead? She looked at my hair line. She thinks I'm bald. She...
Valerie Thomas: We think you're great.
Charlie Kaufman: Oh, wow, thanks. Well, that's nice to hear.
Donald Kaufman: [spying on Susan with binoculars] She's crying. She's at her computer.
Charlie Kaufman: This is morally reprehensible.
Donald Kaufman: United... to Miami. Eleven... fifty five am tomorrow. I thought she was down with Laroche.
Charlie Kaufman: Her parents live in Florida, Donald.
Donald Kaufman: That was no parent phone call, my friend.
Charlie Kaufman: Don't say "my friend".
Donald Kaufman: A guy entering. Handsome.
Charlie Kaufman: Must be her husband.
Donald Kaufman: She's acting weird with him, though, right? Don't you think? What's she hiding from him? Maybe she's a lesbian and doesn't know how to tell him. What do you think?
John Laroche: Sometimes bad things happen and darkness descends.
Charlie Kaufman: Today is the first day of the rest of my life
John Laroche: Darling, I don't know what's come over you.
Susan Orlean: You came all over me last time I was here, as I recall.
John Laroche: My goodness.
Charlie Kaufman: The only idea more overused than serial killers is multiple personality. On top of that, you explore the notion that cop and criminal are really two aspects of the same person. See every cop movie ever made for other examples of this.
Donald Kaufman: Mom called it "psychologically taut".
Charlie Kaufman: ...But a little fantastic and fleeting and out of reach.
Robert McKee: Then what happens?
Charlie Kaufman: That's the end of the book. I wanted to present it simply without big character arcs or sensationalizing the story. I wanted to show flowers as God's miracles. I wanted to show that Orlean never saw the blooming ghost orchid. It was about disappointment.
John Laroche: [viewing an orchid at a flower show] Angraecum sesquipedale! A beauty! God! Darwin wrote about this one. Charles Darwin? Evolution guy? Hello? You see that nectary all the way down there? Darwin hypothesized a moth with a nose twelve inches long to pollinate it. Everyone thought he was a loon! Then, sure enough, they found this moth with a twelve-inch proboscis. Proboscis means "nose," by the way.
Susan Orlean: I know what "proboscis" means.
John Laroche: Yeah, let's not get off the subject. This isn't a pissing contest!
Susan Orlean: Aww, I wish I were an ant. Awww, they're so shiny.
John Laroche: You're shinier than any ant darlin'
Susan Orlean: That's the sweetest thing anybody has EVER said to me.
John Laroche: Welp, I like ya', that's why.
Susan Orlean: John Leroche is a tall guy, skinny as a stick, pale eyes, slouch-shouldered, sharply handsome, despite the fact he's missing all his front teeth.
Charlie Kaufman: [voice over] Okay, we open with Laroche. He's funny. Okay. He says, "I love to mutate plants". He says "Mutation is fun". Okay, we show flowers and... okay. We have to have the court case. Okay, we show Laroche. Okay, he says "I was mutated as a baby. That's why I'm so smart". That's funny. Okay, we open at the beginning of time. No! Okay, we open with Laroche. He's driving into a swamp.
John Laroche: Crazy white man!
Matthew Osceola: I can see your sadness. It's lovely.
Susan Orlean: I'm just tired, that's all. That's my problem. So, maybe we could chat a little bit, and, you know, get some background for...
Matthew Osceola: I'm not going to talk to you much. It's not personal. It's the Indian way.
Donald Kaufman: Charles, you'll be glad. I have a plan to get me out of your house, pronto.
Charlie Kaufman: A job is a plan. Is your plan a job?
Donald Kaufman: Drum roll, please. I'm gonna be a screenwriter. Like you.
Donald Kaufman: [handing Charlie his finished script] So, would you show your agent? It's called "The Three".
Donald Kaufman: [to Charles] But I think you actually need to speak to this woman. To know her.
Charlie Kaufman: But, so anyway, I was also wondering, I'm going up to Santa Barbara this Saturday, for an orchid show, and I, and I...
Alice the Waitress: Oh.
Charlie Kaufman: I'm sorry.
Alice the Waitress: Well...
Charlie Kaufman: I apologise. I'm sorry.
Alice the Waitress: I'll just be right back with your pie then.
Valerie Thomas: Susan, we would really like to option this.
Susan Orlean: You wanna make it into a movie?
Valerie Thomas: Into a movie
Susan Orlean: Oh, God!