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 Deleted Scenes

The development process for the film Everyday People included an improvisation workshop with a group of about fifty actors which was used to explore issues of race and to experiment with different scenarios involving the characters. The workshop, which took place in the winter of 2001, yielded tons of material, most of which never even became a part of the final script. Like a beloved scene that has to hit the edit room floor for the greater good of the film, these exchanges were often painful to lose. Instead of putting a deleted scene on the DVD, I thought I’d share a scene that never even got shot, but was one of my favorites from the workshop.

The following is just a small part of a lengthy improvisation that we did between Sol (48, Jewish), a dishwasher at the restaurant played by actor Steven Axelrod and Rocky (44, black), a biker who Sol has just met on the street played by actor Dante Nero.

The scene between these two characters that is now in the film is a total of only about twelve words long—“the essence,” as they say. But in the improv, the actors went to places that were jaw-dropping at times. A lot of the material we were working on confronted assumptions that people make that are based on race. When our biker character, who stereotypically would have been jingoistic, started spewing "anti-patriotic" conspiracies about the WTC attacks, I knew we were swimming in some very interesting waters. Even when this dialogue never found its way into the final film, it served as wonderful material for the actors to have inside themselves and it helped me, as the director, to know their worlds even better and, hopefully, make a more resonant film. And on a whole other level, it’s just a fun scene to read, as two strangers find themselves in a conversation that goes far beyond talk about the weather.

Some back story to this excerpt: Their initial conversation reveals that they are both “Friends of Bill W” (in AA) and they’ve both done time in prison. The dialogue that follows picks up from there.

SOL
This thing affect you at all, what went on at the World Trade Center?
ROCKY
Yeah man, workin’, twelve hours a day, seven days a week, you know? I work for the phone company and all the cables got destroyed, we lost a building down there, you know. It’s pretty cool, I mean, not what happened, but I was able to make a little extra money, you know? One man’s misfortune is another man’s fortune, you know?
SOL (taken aback)
Wha?
ROCKY
I don’t know, I wouldn’t be surprised if they ah, if they let that happen.
SOL
Who let that happen?
ROCKY
Government. You figure, I don’t know….
SOL
What are you saying? You think this was like a CIA conspiracy thing, is that what you’re saying?
ROCKY
You look at four thousand people dead right, what’s that, in terms of perspective of the whole population, way less than one percent? And because of that, less than one percent, nobody is thinking about the fact that George W. hijacked the election. It’s not, we’re not even talking about that no more. That’s not even an issue.
SOL
Wait a minute, wait a minute, what does him hijacking the election have to do with the World Trade Center, man?
ROCKY
Let me put it to you like this. Prior to 9/11, George Bush was not getting elected. Right or wrong, would you agree with that?
SOL
He was already president. He was president idiot, but….
ROCKY
He was president idiot, right. Do you think he would have gotten another term, honestly?
SOL
I tell you what, I can’t go there, I mean that’s like, too, that’s too far out, you better go to a meeting man.
ROCKY
Let me say this….
SOL
No, you gotta go to a meeting, cause you know why, you got that committee going on in there, I got a feeling you’re living in your head. It’s a good thing we’re talking here.
ROCKY
Okay, in the scope of how we look at this emotionally, four thousand people is a tragedy. In the scope of what is going on, you know, globally, four thousand people is a drop in the bucket. So if they could sacrifice four thousand people, now you got the military budget off the hook, George W. and all the Republicans have a green light to spend all the money they want on the military….
SOL
So wait a minute, you’re saying like, you’re saying that this was all planned out?
ROCKY
What about, do you know anything about the whole pipeline that goes through Afghanistan?
SOL
No, I don’t know anything about the pipeline.
ROCKY
There’s an oil pipeline that goes through Afghanistan and prior to 9/11 America could not go in and have anything to do with any oil in Afghanistan.
SOL
Right, right….
ROCKY
So now American troops have the right to just do whatever they want to do in Afghanistan. The pipeline, money, anything that they want to do. George W. Bush gets a second term automatically cause he’s the hero, right? Right before this shit, people were half seriously talking about defunding the CIA cause they haven’t done shit in years, and now all of a sudden they’re making TV shows about them….
SOL
Listen to me man, listen to me, seriously, let’s talk square business, alright? I don’t know you and I like talking to you, but you know, this is a lot of crap, man. You were in the program. I don’t know quite what you’re talking about here, I don’t know you, it ain’t my business, but I think you got to get yourself to meeting. Sit down in the front, take the cotton out of your ears and sit on your hands and listen.
ROCKY
Look….
SOL
No, really, am I right or wrong? We’re talking about your life here, man. It sounds like you’re setting yourself up. You’re setting up for a fall. You haven’t touched anything?
ROCKY
Hey Sol, not for nothing, but I’m the one with the job and the new life, you know what I mean? You’re the one washing dishes, you know, so….
SOL
Nice. Yeah, you’re right. You’re right.

 

Written and directed by Jim McKay, Everyday People explores the subtleties of daily interactions among people of different colors, ethnicities, generations and classes during a single day at a struggling Brooklyn diner. What starts as just another day at work evolves into a series of small but critical moments in the lives of a diverse and complex cast of characters.

 

Everyday People premieres
June 26, 2004 on HBO