It did strike me that there were similarities between one of the current “presumptive nominees” and president Shepherd’s political opponent, Bob Rumson, based on attitude expressed, rhetorical style, and a certain willingness to (apparently) make things up as he goes along, relying on questionable sources, etc., but I didn’t think more about this until I heard someone on one of the political talk shows allude to the same idea.
This got me interested, so I found a copy of the screenplay on the Internet in order to read it. (I like having “hard copy” when I want to really look at something closely.) While studying the script, I made an interesting discovery. There was a scene in the screenplay between Andy and his daughter, Lucy, which didn’t make it through the final edit, but which changes (in my opinion for the better) the entire thrust of “the speech,” which is certainly one of the major high points of the entire film.
If you don’t know this movie, take a look at it. I think it’s worth a couple of hours just because it’s a good movie, but take a look at the part of the screenplay I’ve quoted below and consider how much leaving out this scene changes it. I may be making too much of this edit. I think it was an incorrect choice, but I confess to wondering what others might think.
Anyway, enjoy the movie, the chemistry is (I think) great, the casting excellent, the script wonderful and, overall, it’s just a “good” movie. If it makes you think about current politics a bit, I won’t be surprised, but I think you’ll enjoy it in any event.
This begins with the last bit of the final “pool playing" scene between Shepherd and A.J., his Chief of Staff and oldest friend.
SHEPHERD gets to the doorway...stops...turns around...
If Mary hadn't died...would we have
won three years ago?
Would we have won?
If we'd had to go through a character
debate three years ago, would we have
I don't know. But I would've liked
that campaign. If my friend Andy
Shepherd had shown up, I would have
liked that campaign.
SHEPHERD looks away...nods absently...
SHEPHERD exits, leaving A.J. alone as we
INT. WHITE HOUSE CORRIDOR - NIGHT
A series of shots showing SHEPHERD walking down the corridor
to the dish room, then walking down a long corridor which
contains a series of paintings of various presidents. Then
sitting alone in the Oval Office, lost in thought...
INT. RESIDENCE DINING ROOM - EARLY MORNING
SHEPHERD and LUCY are eating breakfast in silence, neither of
them very happy, each with their own problems. A nearby T.V.
MONITOR glows with the live coverage of ROBIN's morning press
You're not hungry?
This is oatmeal.
We never have oatmeal.
It's good for you.
I'm from Wisconsin. I need food.
You're not from Wisconsin. I'm from
Wisconsin. You've lived in
Washington your whole life.
He glances toward the T.V. screen. ROBIN's standing up there
doing what she's been told: "No comment...No, this President
is not participating in character debates..." He mutes the
How are you doing in your
We ratified it last week.
Oh...well...that's good. Why didn't
you tell me?
It's not a big deal, Dad.
Okay, I give up. I don't care why
you're not happy in social studies.
I care about why you're not talking
to me about why you're not happy in
Dad, I'm perfectly--
You're not perfectly happy. You
don't think I know when something's
Talk to me.
LUCY winds herself up. It would appear she's about to burst.
She's about to say the hardest thing she's ever had to say in
--sometimes when you talk, you say
things I disagree with.
SHEPHERD is stunned and totally confused...
Almost every time I talk, I say
things you disagree with.
I mean politically.
What do you mean?
It just starts spilling out in a stream--
Yes. Okay. Yes. Sometimes, I mean,
I'm not sure. You know a lot more
than I do -- but still, I have these
feelings, and I don't think they're
wrong. Like, okay, for instance, I'm
not so sure it's all right to burn a
flag. I mean, it really bothers a lot
of people, and I don't know why you
think it's okay. I hear Senator
Rumson talk, and some of the things
he says sounds right to me, and I
think, "God, am I like Bob Rumson?!
I mean, Dad thinks he's a jerk. Dad
hates this guy!
Why am I agreeing with him" And then
I think, "Well, maybe I'm not really
like Bob Rumson, but maybe I'm not
like Dad either." But the point is
I'm the President's kid, and people
pay attention to what I say, and if
I say something different from what
you say, it'll be embarrassing for
you. So I can't just get up in social
studies class and say whatever I want.
SHEPHERD is silent...totally blown away...he had absolutely
He stands up slowly and moves toward her...LUCY doesn't know
Stand up please.
LUCY gets up slowly...
She's never seen her father like this...
I want you to pay very close
attention to what happens now.
SHEPHERD knees down, cups her daughter's face in his hands,
and gently kisses her forehead. He pulls her to him and
holds her in a tight embrace...
In your lifetime, you will never
embarrass me. It could never happen.
You're not the President's daughter,
Lucy, you're mine.
And no one's gonna vote me out of
that job. You're my daughter, and
everything else is a distant second.
School is for you, Lucy. You say
what you want. The only thing you
have to do to make me happy is
come home at the end of the day.
LUCY squeezes her dad tight...they hold the embrace for a
One more thing. I don't dislike
Senator Rumson because of his
political views. And even if you
voted for everything he would vote
for, that wouldn't make you like him.
There's a fundamental difference
between you and the Bob Rumsons of
The difference is that he says he
loves America. Saying you love
America is easy. What takes
character -- and this is what you
SHEPHERD trails off, realizing he's about to quote Sydney...
What takes character is loving
And now it's as if SHEPHERD is waking himself up from the
longest trip of his life...
...he looks over at the T.V. monitor..."No comment"...
"No, I don't know how many other ways I can say it. The
White House isn't getting involved in..."
Luce, I gotta go.
Dad, is everything all right?
Everything's fine. I'm just a little
late for work.
He heads for the door, shouting out as he goes--
Somebody get my daughter some food!
The girl's from Wisconsin, for cryin'
And he's gone as we...
INT. THE PRESS BRIEFING ROOM - EARLY MORNING
ROBIN is on her last drops of energy and patience.
Robin, will the President ever
respond to Senator Rumson's
question about being a member of
the American Civil Liberties Union?
But instead of hands going up, the PRESS CORPS suddenly
stands. ROBIN turns to see SHEPHERD stride in and step up to
I think it’s important to note that in the script I copied from IMSDb (which I have quoted here) there is what I believe to be a minor, but important, change in the speech as used in the movie. In the released movie, Shepherd says “…you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a few hours ago.” As originally written, if the script I have is correct, the original line was “…you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a couple of minutes ago.” (emphasis added).
I think this is important because it makes the change more about the (left out) scene with his daughter and less about just getting Sydney back, without, in my opinion, weakening the overall speech, which I think is very powerful and sums up a good deal of the point Sorkin was trying to make in the script. I think it also goes a long way towards explaining the reference to “…celebrate that in your classrooms,…” which I’ve never fully understood as a part of the discussion of free speech in this scene.
On the other hand, the scene which was cut does include a clear reference to an earlier scene, at Camp David, during which Sydney says “How do you have patience for people who claim they love America but clearly can't stand Americans?” in reference to something Bob Rumson has said, so it is made clear, I think, that while Sydney may have had some influence on Andy’s thinking, but it’s his daughter who truly precipitates “the speech” with her confusion about what’s been going on in her life. I think that’s important and changes how we should think about “the speech” a bit.
If you don’t know this speech, I’d encourage you to look it up online, or, better, watch the whole movie. I think it discusses ideas of MUCH greater importance than the specific discussion of Shepherd’s “crime bill,” environmental proposals, or romantic life.
While I think I can understand that Rob Reiner (the director) may have felt he had good reason for leaving this scene with Lucy out of the movie, I think that, in the long run, it would have been a better movie with it left in.
What do you think?