April 8th, 2004
Script Comment: COLLATERAL DAMAGEBy Harry Caul
Hey gang, Chris here. Harry checks in with some thoughts on the upcoming COLLATERAL DAMAGE film to be released in October, and may indeed be pushed back even further. There was a review of an older draft up on the web, but it's gone. We've done some checking and have this report for you.Hey Chris, your pal Harry here. I've got a saying, a proverb, a maxim, for you: The greater the number of screenwriters involved with the film, the greater the odds it will suck.
Due to be released in October (maybe) is Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest attempt at regaining his blockbuster form, COLLATERAL DAMAGE. THE 6TH DAY and END OF DAYS nearly resulting in about the sixth time Arnold has faced the end of his days as a major Hollywood movie star, or at least one who is considered capable of carrying a film by himself. His last legit hit was TRUE LIES way back in 1994.
COLLATERAL DAMAGE is a script originally penned by Ronald Roose, revised by Nicholad Meyer (STAR TREK 6), then by the Griffiths (David and Peter), and again by Mike Werb and Michael Colleary, the writers behind John Woo's FACE/OFF. And if that's not enough for you, Terry George (THE DEVIL'S OWN) and Channing Gibson (RED PLANET) also got stabs at the script as did Frank Darabont (THE GREEN MILE). I was unable to discover final screenwriting credits as the WGA will most likely have to decide. I believe only three screenwriters can receive credit, there might be an exception if a screenwriting team is involved where by four screenwriters would be credited. I'm sure someone will correct me if I am wrong. (Pop quiz: what is the highest total for screenwriters working on a single project?)
I've read two old drafts, and both are absolutely worthless in terms of a review as the vision Ronald Roose had for this story has long since been destroyed. Now, I'm not saying that Roose's original script was a masterpiece. The original story dealt with a guy whose wife and child are blow up buy a terrorist's bomb, and then he seeks revenge. By the time the script was on its fourth draft (after revisions by David and Peter Griffiths draft) the story dealt with a high school basketball coach (and ex-player at U. of North Carolina) who's son and wife are killed when a terrorist blows up Mason Tower in Manhattan.
At this point in 1998 Arnold could not have been involved as no one in their right mind would have him playing a basketball coach -- especially since that draft shows his character doing basketball drills. Could have made for some humor actually.
Another knock against the story at that point, the Oklahoma city bombing. No one wanted to make a movie about a terrorist who blows up a building where hundreds are killed and injured. Who can blame them.
Eventually Mike Werb and Michael Colleary (FACE/OFF) are brought in (sometime in January of 2000) and do an almost complete overhaul of the story as far as I can tell. Not long after their work Arnold Schwarzenegger was quoted as saying (commenting on the story to Empire Magazine) "Colombian guerrillas attack a motorcade in Los Angeles that has the Colombian ambassador inside. They blow up the motorcade and at the same time my family gets killed, which is called collateral damage, its a military term. I go to Colombia to try and find who was responsible and it becomes find myself in a big mess with death squads, the right-wing military, guerrillas, terrorists and drug-lords."
The story moves from Arab terrorists to drug lords in Colombia, which fits right in today's latest go-around in clich�ridden films. Right now the fashionable thing to do is make your bad guys drug dealers. So if you're finishing up that spec script and your bad guys are Arab terrorists, change it to Mexican or Colombian bad guys ;)
I believe there was some more "tweaking" done to the script until we have this description some months ago on the movie's official web site: "Collateral Damage tells the story of family man and firefighter Gordon Brewer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is plunged into the complex and dangerous world of international terrorism after he loses his wife and child in a bombing credited to Claudio "The Wolf" Perrini (Curtis). Frustrated with the official investigation and haunted by the thought that the man responsible for murdering his family might never be brought to justice, Brewer takes matters into his own hands and tracks his quarry ultimately to Colombia."
The fourth draft to the script, October 23, 1998, could be described the exact same way (funny ain't it?), the only major changes are the main character going from basketball coach to fireman (better suited for someone the size of Arnold), and it's now set in Colombia not the Middle East. The script is sometimes engaging, but most of the time surprisingly bad.
Gordy Pitt, now Gordon Brewer (to be played by Arnold S.), plays a basketball coach in the old draft, one who takes matters into his own hands and somehow gets to Libya and hunts down a man, called "The Wolf." A known terrorist and the guy who is credited with the attack that killed his family. This story requires that you suspend your disbelief to an almost unacceptable limit.
By moving the story south of the border you the audience member will have an easier time believing a fireman could actually find a terrorist down there. At least this way he's not going half-way around the world. But still, there will undoubtedly be some serious suspension of disbelief in order for this story to work.
The early drafts have a nice twist in them, and since I suspect it could still hold true for the final script that was shot, I will withhold it.
Overall, I don't think we can expect much from this film. Countless rewrites, polishes and tweaks have most likely created a convoluted, compromising and inventless script. We already know Arnold likes things to be written a certain way in his movies. This will be no exception.
The film wrapped months ago and is awaiting release. It is directed by Andrew Davis (THE FUGITIVE, A PERFECT MURDER, UNDER SIEGE) and also stars John Leguizamo (Felix Ramirez), Francesca Neri (Selena Perrini), Elias Koteas (CIA Agent Peter Brandt), John Turturro (Sean Armstrong), Cliff Curtis (Claudio "The Wolf" Perrini), Lindsay Frost, Jsu Garcia, and Tyler Posey.-- Harry Caul