Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Screenplay

There are few who love the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy more than I.  You can imagine, then, how disappointed I was at the terrible movie.

I have always hoped they'd do a better version, one that kept to the source material (preferably the original radio scripts) more closely.  Here's what I would do:

               FADE IN:

               EXT. THE MILKY WAY

               The entire galaxy turns slowly beneath us.

                                   THE GUIDE
                             (A calm, authoritative,
                              British voice)
                         Far out on the unfashionable end of
                         the western spiral arm of the
                         galaxy, lies an unremarkable,
                         yellow sun.

                                                                CUT TO:

               EXT. THE EARTH

               The world circles the distant sun.  It turns so we can see

               A line of programming code appears below it: OBJ

                                   THE GUIDE
                         Orbiting at a distance of roughly
                         90 million miles is a little blue
                         green planet called Earth whose ape
                         descended life forms are so
                         primitive they still think smart
                         phones are a pretty neat idea.

               EXT. SIDEWALK - DAY

               We ZOOM OUT to reveal a young woman, FENCHURCH, who has been
               sitting on the sidewalk, looking at the world on her phone.

                                   THE GUIDE
                         The Earth had a problem: nothing
                         that ever happened ever made the
                         slightest bit of sense.

               There is a loud SQUEAL and a CRASH.

               Fenchurch looks up.

                                                                CUT TO:

               EXT. STREET - CONTINUOUS

               A CAR has run over a fire hydrant and stopped directly on it. 
               The DRIVER and a CROWD stares as water squirts out through
               the tailpipes, grille, and sunroof.

               The CAR and DRIVER are labelled with code.

               The car says $HYDRO_Vehicle: int = H20++;

               The driver says TriD.TV (Descendant)--;

                                   THE GUIDE
                         And lots of people were mean, and
                         most of them were miserable, even
                         those with smart phones.


               FENCHURCH is still watching with fascination from the
               sidewalk.  She's father away, so we can see she's sitting
               under a window with a sign that says

                                        IPHONE 93

                                   NOW WITH 1 MILIMETRE

                                      BIGGER SCREEN

               She's been camping out, waiting for the newest thing.  On
               either side of her is a line of others doing the same.  One
               has chairs and another has a small tent.

               She realizes something.  A line of code appears over her

               While (6*9 == 42);

                                   THE GUIDE
                         Then, one day, a woman sitting in
                         line for the latest smart phone
                         suddenly realized what had been
                         going on all along.  She finally
                         knew the answer to the world's
                         problems. (a beat)  This is not her

               At her shocked indignation at not being the main character,

                                                                CUT TO:


               Intro music starts.

               ARTHUR DENT -- the born loser, wearing nothing but his
               pyjamas, bedroom slippers, and a nightrobe (he wears this
               through the entire movie) -- walks up to a large, impressive

               His code is: if (Dent_Arthur) return 0; 

               He glances down at a SIGN with equally impressive writing:
               PLANNING OFFICE.

               He walks in through the front doors.

                                                                CUT TO:

               INT. LOBBY - CONTINUOUS

               The title appears: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. 
               Music continues.

               ARTHUR DENT walks in and is horrified to find the room is
               filled with dozens of men and women waiting in line to talk
               to a single man behind a window.

                                                                CUT TO:

               INT. LOBBY - AN HOUR LATER

               ARTHUR is dreary with waiting, but he's finally at the front. 
               The woman behind him nudges him and points to the man behind
               the window.  Arthur jumps up and walks over.

               We can barely hear their conversation above the music.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Look, someone came by and told me
                         they're going to knock down my
                         house.  Well, first he cleaned some
                         windows and-

                             (interrupting, he's got
                              better things to do)
                         You want demolition.  Third floor.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Oh.  Uh.  Thank you.

               The man gives him a cheerless smile.  Arthur looks around. 
               The elevator is marked OUT OF ORDER.  He walks to the stairs.

                                                                CUT TO:


               ARTHUR is standing in another line in a nearly identical
               room.  His name is called and, again, someone nudges him
               before he realizes it.  He goes over to a woman behind a

               The music and titles are still playing.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Hi.  Look a man came over and said
                         they were going to knock down my
                         house to build a bypass-

                         You want the construction
                         department.  Fifth floor.

               Arthur bites back his anger and heads for the stairs.


               Music and titles as before.

               ARTHUR is fuming now.  When his turn comes he jumps forward.

                             (not even giving him a
                              chance to speak)
                         This is the industrial construction
                         department.  You want residential
                         construction.  Eighth floor.

               STAIRS. AGAIN AND AGAIN.

               INT. TOP OFFICE - HOURS LATER

               Music and titles 

               ARTHUR is at the end of his rope.  He pushes past several
               people in line to shout at the woman managing it.  He screams
               at her, raving mad.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         I've been here all bloody day
                         trying to find out if the bypass is
                         going through my house!  Now tell
                         me how I find out!

               There is a horrible silence as everyone takes in the fact he
               dares to yell at this minor functionary in her lair.  The
               music and titles stop.

               Arthur realizes he made a terrible mistake, but the woman
               just smiles terrifyingly, and taps her long fingernails

               INT. SUB-SUB-BASEMENT - LATER

               It is COMPLETELY DARK.  After a beat, a smart phone
               flashlight shines painfully ahead.  There's a door with a
               sign that used to read MEN'S LAVATORY.  Someone taped a page
               over it, which reads BEWARE OF LEOPARD.

               ARTHUR (who is holding smart phone) enters.  Sitting
               awkwardly in a stall on top of a grimy toilet is a filing
               cabinet.  He pulls on a few drawers before finding the bottom
               one opens.

               He takes out a giant WHITE-PRINT ROLL.  He awkwardly unrolls
               it, revealing a map that shows a path of planned destruction
               through a town between two highways.

               At the top of the page is the date: THURSDAY, MAR 2nd - 1 PM

               He puzzles over the date.  Wait a minute...

               He looks at his SMART PHONE SCREEN.  He's installed TINDER,
               MATCHMAKER, AM I HOT OR NOT, and something called THE GUIDE. 
               He holds the phone up so he can see the dates together.  It's
               currently March 2nd at 12:55 PM.  He has five minutes.

               He rushes out.


               ARTHUR, still in his bathrobe, lies in the mud in front of a
               giant, yellow BULLDOZER.  He's managed to block an entire
               CONSTRUCTION CREW who are waiting with disgruntled

               Behind them is a path of destruction.  They've bashed through
               a number of homes like a tornado.  Through the debris between
               the remaining houses, we can see a freeway.

               PROSSER, a foreman who uses a simpering smile to cover a
               barely controlled desire to kill Arthur, is trying to reason
               with him.

                         Come on, Mr. Dent.  You can't win,
                         you know.  You can't just lie in
                         front of bulldozers forever.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Can't I?  Let's see who rusts

                         You can't stand in the way of
                         progress.  This bypass has to be

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Why has it got to be built?

                             (completely stunned by the
                         Well.  Uh.

               We pan up to see a man in the house next door open his window
               shade and blearily look out.

                                                                CUT TO:


               FORD, an odd man with wild hair, has just woken up.  He's the
               kind of guy who drinks heavy all night and sleeps through the
               day.  Every day.  He stares angrily out the window like a man
               with a hangover looks at a loud noise outside.

               He shakes his head.  He's not going to get any more sleep. He
               turns and goes into his bathroom.


               FORD looks in the mirror.  He pulls his eyes wide and sticks
               out his tongue.  There is a buzzing noise and Ford realizes
               it's coming from his 


               It's lit with a flashing icon of a flying saucer.  The gears
               click in his head.  This is important.  This is what he's
               been waiting for.

               He grabs the smart phone and taps it.  It displays the image
               of a yellow, slab-like, alien space ship.  It's labelled

               Ford is stunned, horrified.  The phone slips from his numb
               fingers and falls into the toilet with a plop.  He shakes
               himself out of his torpor and runs out.

               A beat passes.

               He runs back in, grabs a couple of towels and runs out again.


               ARTHUR is still arguing withe PROSSER from the muddy ground.

                             (finally coming up with an
                              answer from before)
                         It's a bypass.  You've got to build

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Then build it somewhere else.

                             (who has reached the end
                              of his rope)
                         Mr. Dent, do you have any idea how
                         much damage that bulldozer would
                         suffer if I just let it roll
                         straight over you?

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         How much?

                         None at all.

               FORD, now dressed and carrying an ungainly satchel, hurries

                                   FORD PREFECT
                             (not registering what's
                              going on)
                         Hello, Arthur. Are you busy?

               ARTHUR, PROSSER, and the entire CREW stare at him.  Arthur is
               the first to react.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         No, I've just got this bulldozer to
                         lie in front of.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Good good.  Nice day for it.  Look,
                         we need to talk. Let's go down to
                         the pub and have a drink.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Ford!  This man is going to knock
                         down my house!

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Can't he do it without you?

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         I don't want him to!

               Ford finally gets it.  He turns to Prosser, who is standing
               to one side, talking grumpily to a worker.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Er, excuse me.  Mr... Uh.

                         Prosser.  Has he come to his

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Let's assume he hasn't.

               Prosser turns back.

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         I have to tell him the most
                         important thing he'll hear in his
                         entire life, and I have to tell him
                         right now and I have to tell him in
                         that pub down there.

                         Why there?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         He's going to need a stiff drink.

               Prosser decides Ford is a loony and turns away again.

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         Look, you're going to be standing
                         here all day.

                         Because he'll be lying there all

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         But it doesn't actually matter if
                         it's him, does it?  As long as
                         someone is lying there...  So,
                         could you...  You know... Lie there
                         for him?

               Prosser stares at him, blankly.

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         Of course, it goes without saying,
                         you wouldn't knock his house down
                         while we're away.

                             (gets it)
                         Of course not. The mere thought
                         hadn't even begun to speculate
                         about the merest possibility of
                         crossing my mind.

               We cut to PROSSER LYING IN FRONT OF BULLDOZER.  Ford and
               Arthur (still covered in mud) are heading away.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                             (looking over his
                              shoulder, nervous)
                         Can we trust him?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         I'd trust him to the end of the

                                                                CUT TO:

               INT. LOCAL PUB - CONTINUOUS

               FORD and ARTHUR walk into a small, homey pub with a long
               counter, a few taps, and friends chatting at tables.  The TV
               ON THE WALL shows a pre-game a football (soccer!) program. 
               The BARMAN -- a cheerful, portly man -- waves to them. 
               They're regulars.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Six pints of bitter.  And quickly,
                         please, the world's about to end.

                             (in his own world)
                         Nice day for it.  Here to watch the

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         No.  No point.

                         You figure Arsenal doesn't have a
                         chance?  They'll get creamed?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         No.  It's just that the world's
                         about to end.

                         Yeah.  Good thing for Arsenal.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Not really.

               The Barman finishes pouring.

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         And six packets of peanuts

               The Barman lays them out on the bar.  Ford scoops them into a
               pocket and dumps all the money in his wallet in front of him. 

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         Keep the change.

               The Barman stares at the money, then stares at Ford.  He
               finally gets it.

                         Are you serious?  Is the world
                         about to end?

               Ford checks his watch and gathers up the overflowing mugs.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         In about five minutes.

               He turns to go, but the barman grabs his sleeve.

                         Is there something we can do?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         No.  Nothing.

                         I thought we were supposed to lie
                         down or put a paper bag over our

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         If you'd like.  Excuse me.

               He pulls free and rushes off to where Arthur is sitting.  The
               Barman, seeking comfort, goes back to the only thing he

                         Last orders, please!


               Arthur is sitting near a window, looking out to make sure the
               bulldozer isn't moving.

               Ford puts the mugs down and starts drinking with abandon. 
               Arthur sips one.  Ford makes an impatient gesture at Arthur's
               three pints.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Drink up.  The world's about to

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Three pints?  At lunchtime?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Muscle relaxant.  You'll need it.

               Arthur drinks, trying to catch up to Ford.  He has no chance.

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         How long have we known each other?

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                             (panting between gulps)
                         Five years.  Most of it made some
                         kind of sense at the time.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         What would you say if I told you I
                         wasn't from London after all?  What
                         if I told you I was actually from a
                         planet in the vicinity of

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         Why?  Is it something you're likely
                         to tell me?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Drink up!  The world's about to

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                             (big gulp)
                         This must be Thursday.  I never
                         could get the hang of Thursdays.

               LOUD CRASH.  Arthur jumps and looks out the window.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Don't worry, they haven't started

               Arthur relaxes.

                                   FORD PREFECT (CONT'D)
                         They're just knocking down your

               Arthur does a spit take and rushes off.

               EXT. SPACE - CONTINUOUS

               Earth, a blue ball in dark space.

                                   THE GUIDE
                         On this particular Thursday, things
                         were moving miles overhead.

               Something impossibly large and yellow and ugly comes into

                                   THE GUIDE (CONT'D)
                         Huge, yellow, slab-like things. 
                         Large as office buildings.  Silent
                         as birds.  They hung in the air
                         exactly the way that bricks don't.

                                                                CUT TO:

               EXT. ARTHUR'S HOUSE - DAY

               They've already knocked a hole all the way through Arthur's
               house and are on the other side, smiling the way you do when
               you get to break something on purpose.

               ARTHUR is screaming in impotent fury.  As he screams, his
               anger increases and he jumps up and down, frothing at the

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         You pin-striped barbarians!  I'll
                         sue you for every penny you've got. 
                         I'll have you hung, and drawn and
                         quartered, and whipped, and boiled,
                         and chopped up into little bits! 
                         And then...

               He falters.  Even that isn't enough.  What else could he do?

               A loud rumbling noise starts to build as does the wind.

                                   ARTHUR DENT (CONT'D)
                         And then I'll take all the little
                         bits and I'll jump on them!  And
                         I'll keep jumping on them until... 
                         Until you've had enough.  And then
                         I'll keep on jumping on them until
                         I get blisters or-

               The noise and wind are too much.  He looks up to vent his
               anger at the enormous yellow ship roaring slowly by.

                                   ARTHUR DENT (CONT'D)
                         What the hell's that?

               Ford runs up, rummaging through his satchel, not even looking
               at the sky.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                             (yelling a little over the
                         It's a Vogon constructor fleet.

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                         A what?

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         It's a fleet of flying saucers. 
                         I've been trying to tell you.

               Arthur's phone rings, as does the phone of everyone on the
               construction crew.  They all take their phones down and look
               at them.

               Arthur's phone says: CALL FROM VOGON CAPTAIN.  He answers and
               the face of a horrid, squishy, green alien with tiny eyes

                                   VOGON CAPTAIN
                         People of Earth, your attention

               Ford finds what he's looking for and takes it out.  It's a
               black metal rod.  He flips it and it unrolls into the air
               like a segmented party horn that stretches far longer than it
               should for its size.  A light blinks at the end.

               Ford shakes Arthur.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         Arthur. Arthur!

                                   ARTHUR DENT
                             (hysterically calm)
                         Ford, I'm going to go lie down.

                                   FORD PREFECT
                         There's no time.  Grab a hold of

               He does as he's told and they both vanish.

                                                                CUT TO:

               EXT. PARK - DAY

               Dozens of people are standing around, watching their phones.

                                   VOGON CAPTAIN
                             (v. o.)
                         This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of
                         the Hyperspace Planning Council.  

                                                                CUT TO:

               INT. SUBWAY - CONTINUOUS

               The crowd is looking at their phones, oblivious to the fact
               their train is waiting.

                                   VOGON CAPTAIN
                         As you are aware, the plans for the
                         development of the hyperspace lanes
                         in your area of the galaxy require
                         building a bypass through your star


               The green captain, sitting on something that looks
               disturbingly like a squashed deer, continues his speech. 
               He's talking at a screen showing the planet moving under

                                   VOGON CAPTAIN
                         Sadly, your planet has been
                         scheduled for demolition.

               INT.PUB - CONTINUOUS

               The patrons are staring at their phones.  The BARMAN,
               watching and holding his with one hand lowers a paper bag
               over his head with the other.

                                   VOGON CAPTAIN
                         The process will take two of your
                         Earth minutes.

               EXT. STREET - CONTINUOUS

               Dozens of people staring at their phones.  FENCHURCH, the
               woman from earlier, runs through the crowd, the only person
               not looking at a phone.

                             (furious she can't get
                              their attention)
                         I figured it out!  I figured it all
                         out!  The whole planet is just one
                         big com...

               She stares up at the sky where the ships are aiming giant
               weapons, crackling with energy, down at them.

               A line of code appears over her head:

               return ($Answer_To_Ultimate_Question);

                                   FENCHURCH (CONT'D)
                         Oh, shit.

               EXT. SPACE - CONTINUOUS

               The Earth explodes.


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