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Unbelievably this is Sorkin‘s first screenplay, based on his Broadway play. But he can’t take all the credit – writing legend William Goldman (a pal of the director) did such a great uncredited polish that Sorkin re-wrote and re-published the play to incorporate the changes. And one of the most memorable movie lines of all time – “You can’t handle the truth” – was allegedly written by none other than Steven Spielberg.
The script can be downloaded from here.
There are the sum total of two female speaking roles in this film – one played by Demi Moore and the other played by the director’s sister-in-law, but for the purposes of learning lines anyone can attempt the following roles:
LUTHER – the news stand guy – script pages 37 and 98. This role might not seem important but both of his scenes are with Tom Cruise, so for the actor that got the part it would have been a thrilling day, and a of course a great addition to his showreel.
CAPTAIN WHITAKER – pages 10 to 12, played in the film by Xander Berkeley – a wonderful jobbing actor.
SPRADLING – a young naval officer – pages 7, 8 and 9.
COMMANDER STONE – a Navy Doctor in his 40s – the courtroom scene from page 84 to 90. Quite challenging this one with lots of doctor-speak.
ORDERLY – okay, now this one we really love. This guy appears in one scene – on page 21 – he says three words, and two of them are the same. Yes, he gets to say them to Jack Nicholson, but that’s not what kills us. What we really love about this role is that it is played by a young actor called Joshua Malina. It’s his first film or television role. Those three words. But actually he is the only actor who appeared in the Broadway play that inspired the film to appear in it. In the play, he started as an understudy but ended up with a good role. So when they cast him in the film with just those three words to say they were throwing him a bone. A lot of actors might have thrown it back, thinking the part was too small. But not Joshua – he said his three words and got his first on-screen credit. And then the same director and writer gave him a bigger part in THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, and then Sorkin gave him a recurring role in the tv series SPORTS NIGHT, and then an even better role in 80 episodes of THE WEST WING. And he hasn’t stopped working since.
It’s a great lesson in someone taking an opportunity and making the most of it. Some roles might seem tiny and insignificant but do a good job and you never know where it might lead.