The Saint (1997)

Read the script
Extract from The Saint (PDF).

Directed by Phillip Noyce and with at least three writing credits, this is an updated version of the vintage Leslie Char­teris char­acter, given a 007 style makeover with high-tech trap­pings in a story with a post-cold-war setting. But whereas James Bond has been played by a Scot, an Irishman, and even an Australian, this is the first time The Saint, a quint­es­sen­tially English char­acter, was played by an Amer­ican (and it may well be the last!)

In this extract, The Saint (Val Kilmer) is on the run in Moscow with an Amer­ican scientist (Eliza­beth Shue), being pursued by the Russian Mafia. Using the sewer system to escape them, they come up near the Amer­ican Embassy. If the scientist can reach the embassy she will be safe but the bad guys are already there.

Writing an action script

The pace of the action is para­mount in a scene of this kind. Typic­ally the action itself is written in short – some­times frag­mented sentences – with lots of white space on the page to make it more read­able and suggest fast-paced editing.

Emphasis is given to certain lines by the use of under­lining. (Conven­tion bans the use of bold and italics in film scripts so capitals and under­lining are used instead.) Styl­ist­ic­ally the language is breath­less and intimate, containing ‘asides’ to the reader like a sports commentator.

Double hyphens some­times break up the lines to main­tain the tension and build to a climax:

He’s got her. No, he’s got the back of her coat –  –

– – which she shrugs off: she’s lighter now and faster.

Switches of perspective are indic­ated by single lines in capitals (at one point BEHIND THE EMBASSY GATE is followed by BACK TO SCENE, a return to the main area of action). Rather than break off the action with scene head­ings, this main­tains the momentum.

Appro­pri­ately the language and style used here is identical to the sort of prose you’d expect to find in a novel of the same genre; terse and involving, trying to sweep the reader along and keep him turning the page. The focus is put upon the phys­ical events unfolding on the screen. The vocab­u­lary tries to convey the emotional charge of the scene and the desired response from the audience.

David Clough  August 2011

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