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Second Earl of Rochester John Wilmot (Johnny Depp) was the most notorious playboy and poet in 17th century Restoration England. A passionate and scandalous romance with actress Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton) and his play that blisteringly and bawdily lampoons his patron King Charles II (John Malkovich) leads to his banishment and eventual downfall. Based on the play by Stephen Jeffreys, debut director Laurence Dunmore weaves the dark underbelly of London with the allure and glamour of the Royal court. Original music by Michael Nyman (The Piano).
 

 The Libertine

Mr. Malkovich. Sir.

John Malkovich, in a red tartan suit and tam-o’-shanter, sat sleeping on the seat opposite me, on a stationary train, just outside London. What a chance meeting. Strangers on a train.

Sir.

John stirred.

Uh huh.

Um John, Mr. Malkovich, Sir, I was wondering, if it’s OK with you, and well if you didn’t mind me asking, could you put a bit more ‘je ne sais quoi’ into this one?

A little smile, an annoyed little smile.

Sure.

Great, and John?

Uh huh.

I know you don’t say anything in this scene but I was wondering, if it’s OK with you, could you, do it in a Scottish accent, because I’m feeling a Celtic thing here.

Another smile.

Sure.

Oh and one last thing, if it helps, you know to get the right reaction, that look of shock and surprise when you open your eyes, imagine that you are naked. OK.

Sure.

I think I was making a lasting impression on John. I winked at him. He pretended to go back to sleep.

Great. OK everyone, first positions! Where’s my extra shot, extra dry, low fat, skinny, tall, short cappuccino?

I closed my eyes, shook my head.

Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich…ACTION.


I was making a commercial with John. A little story about a fantastical journey to his tailor’s. Earlier that morning, in the back of the car taking us to the set, I wriggled my way towards my goal.

So how was it working with Spike?

I love Spike, and Charlie.

Yeah. I love them too.

They are so creative.

Yeah. Wasn’t it his first film?

Talented.

Yeah. Someone really believed in him, I bet.

Really talented.

OK I get it. NOW.

I WANT TO MAKE A FILM.

There, at last it was out. The car was filled with a strange and discordant noise. I turned to John.

His eyes were shut, fingers in his ears and was singing really loudly.

Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich…POP.


The bubble burst, the shoot and dream were over. I said a sad farewell to John, shook hands, hugged, shook, and hugged again. There were almost tears.

John?

Yeah.

Um, I know you probably get people asking you this all the time…

John smiled, a kind, knowing smile.

I was wondering if…

Yeah.

Another smile.

I was wondering if you spilt any ink on Uma’s bottom when you wrote that letter?

The smile changed. Shit, I had blown it. Now I wanted to cry. Why am I such a dumb ass? Then, just before stepping into the waiting car, John changed my life forever.

Can I send you a couple of scripts?

I tried to play it cool, whilst fireworks exploded in every part of my body.

Sure.

I closed my eyes and clicked my heels.

Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich...FIZZLE.


Just how “Can I send you a couple of scripts?” got changed, through my own delusional Chinese whispers, to “We’re going to make a film together.” I had told everyone I knew, and a whole load I didn’t, about the impending production. A couple of days later I was feeling stupid and insecure. No scripts. No calls from producers or agents or other actors who had heard the rumor of our impending opus. The laughter, around me, had reached a deafening crescendo when the scripts dropped onto my lap. After about fifteen minutes of struggle with the impenetrable plastic envelope, two once-pristine scripts sat in front of me on my otherwise empty desk. Three hours later I closed the first script, looked back at the cover page: The Libertine, by Stephen Jeffreys, based on his play. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply and reached for the phone.

Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich…HELLO.


Mr. Malko…. Uh…John?

Yes.

I got the scripts, thank you. Um…I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but it’s a period costume drama. I’m a young British filmmaker; I thought the script was going to be some edgy gangster-type thing.

Did you like it?

Yes, I loved it.

I’ve been trying for five years to make it, Laurence. You know if you don’t do it, it probably won’t get made.

So, no pressure then.

No, no pressure. Will you do it?

Yes, please.

Who do you see in the roles?

Rochester. Johnny Depp. It’s like the role was written for him. His face was in my mind from page one.

Uh huh.

Barry. Samantha Morton. She is Elizabeth Barry, it’s her role, her story!

Uh huh.

And you.

What?

You. I want you to play Charles II. I need you to play Charles II. You are Charles II.

Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich…CLICK.


Later that year John invited me to come and stay with him in France. As I watched him tending his tomatoes in his garden I was struck by the image of the great man delicately handling the fruit, encouraging, nurturing and caring for them. The first of four years of smiles ran across my face.

John.

Yeah.

I don’t want to seem ungrateful but I’ve worked on a few things in the script with Stephen.

John fixed me with a stare, one I had seen before in Con Air. Then a smile.

Great.

Well…

It was nearly dark when I finished what I can only describe as one of the most compelling and passionate performances of The Libertine outside John’s very own Steppenwolf production. John smiled. And nodded. And let me talk, and talk, and talk. This was my vision, my dream. John smiled. I smiled. The smile stayed on my face as John pulled the blanket up to my chin and tucked me in the bed he’d made up for me. Mao smiled and waved at me from the wall. My lids grew heavy as John sang an old Balkan tune. I closed my eyes to dream a film. The Libertine, by Stephen Jeffreys, based on his play.

The first script I had read and the first film I would make.

Now where would I get Johnny’s number?

Libertine, Libertine, Libertine…CUT.