Hollywood Movie Draft Pitch IV: A Crime Drama by Kenneth Branagh

The 2012 Hollywood Fantasy League is now upon us! This extremely fun and addictive blogathon is created by none other than my friend Castor (who sadly has now disappeared from the blogosphere). This is my fourth time I’m participating  in this blog-a-thon, you can find links to my previous three pitches in this post.

I have drafted my director and actors last December, so you can read the rules and rationale on this post. Just to reiterate, this time around there’s a bit of a twist beyond simply assembling our favorite set of thespians. Besides limiting the cast to 3 actors and 3 actresses, there is also a competitive component to the HFL game where each player’s score is measured by the events affecting the filmmakers/actors of their choice. So if an actor I pick is cast in a mega-blockbuster or end up getting thrown in jail for a DWI, I may gain or lose points based on those events. Anyway, without further ado, let’s just get on the pitch, shall we?

LOGLINE:

A crime drama about a former gangster turned crime novelist who’s dragged into his dark past by his former aide looking to avenge the death of his brother. This is not an action film but more cerebral and suspenseful in nature, set with moody music and beautiful cinematography. My inspiration is Road to Perdition.

BACKGROUND:

Story is set in Boston in the mid 60s. I’ve always liked a period film with all the retro set pieces, cars, clothes, etc. and the characters will be mostly Irish-Americans. The protagonist is Vincent Moran, a crime novelist under a pseudonym Connor McEarleane (combining the last names of his grandparents) who’s given up his criminal lifestyle for 15 years. What starts out as an innocuous way to alleviate his writer’s block ends up being much bigger than any of the players had originally anticipated.

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh

Originally I drafted Branagh as I wanted the story to be set in Ireland, but I think he’s still going to be a good fit for this film as the characters are mostly Irish-American and Branagh’s done a noir film before, Dead Again. I’m thinking he could work with someone like The Departed screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) to create a compelling noir drama that’s heavy in character development. Branagh would also go well with a lot of actors with theatrical background like Gabriel Byrne, Tom Hiddleston and Rebecca Hall.

The Irish thespian would also have a cameo as Moran’s editor in the film.

CAST OF CHARACTERS:

Gabriel Byrne is Vincent Moran, a 53-year-old chain-smoking, fedora-wearing Irish-American who’s left his life as a gangster 15 years ago. He’s penned several best-seller crime novels under a pseudonym Connor McEarleane (combining the last names of his grandparents), but is currently suffering from a massive writer’s block.
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Tom Hiddleston is Eddie Stokes, 37-year-old railroad engineer who was one of Vincent’s men. His brother Mike was Vincent’s former aide who’s killed by Vincent’s former rival, Liam Winter. Eddie’s been trying to get away from the crime business for years, but he just couldn’t let go of his brother’s death.
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Rebecca Hall is Evelyn Dillon, 34-year-old aspiring actress who works part time at Emerson College as an associate drama teacher. She’s Eddie’s girlfriend, but also caught in an affair with the charming and persistent Danny. Evelyn’s also a victim of the Mob as her dad was accidentally killed during a shootout at his factory.
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Richard Armitage is Daniel ‘Danny’ McGrath, 38-year-old childhood friend of Eddie who’s an undercover cop investigating a corruption involving the Irish-American Mob. As a youngster, he watched his family members rise and fall under them so this mission is a personal one.

Kristin Scott Thomas plays Vincent’s loyal wife Sylvia, who has chronic heart disease. When she almost died of heart failure 15 years ago, she pleaded with Vincent to leave the Mob and live peacefully for the sake of their family. She’s now serves at the board of a local Heart Foundation.

Saiorse Ronan is Claire Moran, Vincent’s only child who’s the apple of her dad’s eye. She’s 19 and is a drama major at Emerson College. She was rebellious in her early teen years, hanging out with the wrong crowd and had bouts of drug addiction. But ever since Evelyn befriends her, she’s much calmer and has become closer to her parents.

\;.;

Special thanks to my friend Stella K. @ Byrneholics.com for helping me with some of the plot points.

PROLOGUE:

Flashback of a disheveled and swollen-eyed Vincent at the hospital next to his ill wife Sylvia after an open heart surgery. Vincent tells her to keep his promise if she lives this time, that is he’d leave the Mob business, something Sylvia has pleaded with him repeatedly. The scene then changes to Vincent smoking profusely in his study, surrounded by crumpled paper all around him and cigarette butts piling up on his ashtray. He’s having a major writer’s block for months and he thinks being away from the crime underworld is making him dull.

THE SET UP:

ACT I

It’s a crisp late Autumn evening, suddenly Vincent receives a call from his former employer Eddie who demands to see him at once. Eddie has been trying to track him down for the past two years for he wants Vincent to help him bring down his former rival Liam Winter [I’m thinking someone like Terrence Stamp in this role] to avenge his brother’s death. Eddie’s brother Mike was Vincent’s former aide.

At first Vincent was reluctant to get back into the criminal underworld he’s left behind so long ago, but Mike was a loyal employer to him, plus this might help him get his creative juice back. But Vincent makes Eddie promise that he’d be patient with this plan as they have to be very careful to bring down someone like Liam.

Meanwhile, Danny’s mission to infiltrate Liam’s fast-growing empire is made even trickier as Eddie constantly pesters him for information. Danny insists that he’d help Eddie bring Liam to justice but his mission is to bring the Mob boss alive so the force could use him to arrest the others, but of course Eddie just wants Liam dead. Eddie’s always got a complicated relationship with Danny as there’s always a trace of rivalry between them, and to make things worse, they both fall for the same woman when both of them met Evelyn as she’s waiting tables at a local bar.

ACT II

The Eddie + Vincent’s collaboration is far from smooth. They’re always at each other’s throats whenever they meet to go over their plans of attack. Before long, Vincent realizes that Eddie’s so consumed with his vengeance that he’s become reckless and impulsive that his behavior puts both of them in danger. This plan also puts a strain on Eddie’s relationship with Evelyn as he’s become volatile. One minute he’s sweet as can be, taking her on the town and showering her with love, but the next he’s irritable and insolent. A few times Evelyn runs into Danny when Eddie’s suddenly gone missing for days and she vents to him. Danny made a promise to Eddie never to reveal any of his plans involving the Mob to Evelyn as they both know that is the one thing Evelyn would never tolerate. Danny tries his best not to be overcome by his jealousy towards Eddie but at the same time he can’t suppress his feelings for Evelyn.

Weeks go by and Vincent’s getting restless that his dark past is creeping up on him and he suspects that Eddie has something to do with it. Vincent’s editor Gus Foshay (possibly Branagh doing a cameo in this role) has been pestering him about Vincent missing the deadline for his next novel and he comments about a rumor that Vincent was involved in some shady stuff in the past, and whether the publishing company need to be worried about that. Vincent assures Gus it’s all just hearsay, but he realizes that in this business, one can never be too trusting or too careful, which means that everyone who knew about his past ought to be silenced. Talking to Sylvia that night, not only does she concur that idea, but that she urges her husband to do whatever it takes to ensure their family’s well-being.

ACT III

Claire comes home for Christmas and brings along her drama teacher Evelyn who’ve become good friends ever since Claire takes her classes. Evelyn’s supposed to spend Christmas with Eddie but he cancels at the last minute, saying he gets call off to work. As Evelyn has no clue who Vincent is nor his scheme with Eddie, she casually mentions about how spending time with the Morans helps her get over her disappointment of not spending Christmas with her boyfriend. Vincent eventually figures out that her boyfriend is Eddie and this makes him even more convinced that getting rid of Eddie would also mean protecting Evelyn from such a reckless personality who might also endanger Claire’s life if Evelyn ends up marrying him.

Before returning home that evening, Evelyn drops by Eddie’s house to grab something she had left there but finds Eddie lying on the floor with blood all over. It turns out that he’s got a tip that Liam was going to be at some Christmas dinner and decides he’s going to take him out on his own instead of waiting for Vincent. But he ends up in a shootout with some of Liam’s men and got shot in the upper arm.

Evelyn confronts him and so he has no choice but to tell her everything. Evelyn’s furious that Eddie’s been lying to her and so after treating his wounds, she leaves the house. Danny’s heard about the shootout and is on his way to Eddie’s when he runs into Evelyn. Danny takes the distraught Evelyn home and she tells him she’s breaking up with Eddie. Danny tells her he’s been in love with her for years and they end up sleeping together.

Early in the morning Liam and three of his men find out where Eddie lives and enter the house to kill him but Eddie’s already on the way to Vincent’s. They ransack the house and found an address written taped on a piece of paper. That address turns out to be Vincent’s home.

ACT IV

Eddie tells Vincent what happens so before Liam gets to his house, Vincent promptly takes Sylvia, Claire and Eddie into his 1963 Cadillac DeVille to his safe house in the country. Once he drops his wife and daughter there, he and Eddie heads back to the city that same night. Unbeknownst to Eddie, Vincent has made a call to Liam and told him that it’s Eddie who wants him dead. He made up a story that Vincent has no choice but to help Eddie because he threatens to kill his daughter. Vincent offered to personally deliver Eddie himself if Liam promises to leave him and his family alone. Liam sees no reason not to believe Vincent as he has been away for so long.

Back in the city – When Evelyn wakes up in the morning, she tells Danny she’s worried about Eddie. So the two heads over to Eddie’s and find the house torn to pieces. They immediately presume that Eddie’s been kidnapped by Liam. Danny calls for backup to Liam’s compound and then takes Evelyn to one of his trusted colleagues.

By the time Danny and the police get there, Liam and two of his men had been shot point blank in the head. They also find Eddie’s dead body in the same room with a gunshot to his head and a .22 cal pistol in his hand.

EPILOGUE:

Vincent drives back to his safe-house to be with his family. A brief flashback to Vincent and Eddie taking out Liam and his men, which ends with Vincent taking Liam’s pistol and aiming it at Eddie, saying “I’m sorry Eddie, but you did get your vengeance. Liam won’t ever kill again,” and pulls the trigger.

Soul jazz music blares from his stereo as the scene of Vincent driving fades into a montage of him typing away at his typewriter, inter-cut with scenes at a rainy funeral of Eddie, and ends with a close up of teary-eyed Evelyn in Danny’s arms.


Well, what do you think? Would you be interested to see a movie with this kind of story and cast? I welcome your feedback.