A tale told by an idiot.


A tale told by an idiot.

ANONYMOUS

The Abridged Script

FADE IN:

INT. THEATER

Derek Jacobi shows up to a play he's acting in. It's pointed out several times that he's LATE, even though this is NOT RELEVANT TO ANYTHING.

DEREK JACOBI

Join us as we explore one of the great unanswered riddles: what the hell is the point of this framing device? Is it just meant to shoehorn in some exposition the screenwriter couldn't fit into the main narrative? Is it a desperate attempt to be "meta", even though Laurence Olivier already did the "movie within a play within a movie" idea sixty-five years ago? Whatever this crap is supposed to be, it's already over. Flashback time!

EXT. FLASHBACK

SEBASTIAN ARMESTO is being chased by guards.

GUARDS

Hand over those plays! We must destroy them, even though at this time they're internationally famous and hundreds of copies exist!

SEBASTIAN ARMESTO

Never! I will risk my life to protect them, despite exactly what you just said!

He hides them in a theater, which the guards then BURN TO THE GROUND.

SEBASTIAN ARMESTO

This is a period drama, and buildings are being destroyed in the first five minutes. Roland Emmerich, you've got a problem.

DIRECTOR ROLAND EMMERICH

Argh, I know! But I'm getting better. Watch, I can do non-linear narrative now! FLASHBACK!

EXT. FLASHBACK WITHIN A FLASHBACK

RHYS IFANS

So I've spent my whole life writing brilliant plays, but as a noble I can't have them produced or I'll tarnish my name. Well, screw that! I've hatched a scheme to have them all produced, including my shitty ones like Titus Andronicus! Who wants money?

SEBASTIAN ARMESTO

No thanks.

RAFE SPALL

Dur, pick me. Me like money.

(headbutts prostitute)

RHYS IFANS

I guess you'll have to do.

(pause)

Er, that's it. That's the story of how Shakespeare's plays were written by somebody else. We're done.

SEBASTIAN ARMESTO

We've still got two hours to fill.

RHYS IFANS

Uh oh! Um, it's okay, we can just throw in some unrelated political intrigue stuff that was left out of The Tudors for being too trashy. Prepare to FLASHBACK!

INT. FLASHBACK WITHIN A FLASHBACK WITHIN A FLASHBACK HOLY SHIT

JOELY RICHARDSON

Oh young Rhys Ifans, I am so turned on by your ability to use words! Don't be creeped out by the thought that I was already shown gushing over your writing when you were like ten.

JAMIE CAMPBELL BOWER

Wait, I grow up to be Rhys Ifans? Does my face get hit by a train? Am I the subject of an experimental head transplant?

JOELY RICHARDSON

Enough talk, sex me now! And don't be creeped out by the fact that I'm doing these sex scenes while playing the younger version of my own mother! ...Man, this is a creepy subplot on so many levels.

JAMIE CAMPBELL BOWER

One day it'd be nice to see a screen version of The Virgin Queen who isn't basically a walking libido.

INT. THE MAIN TIMELINE I THINK

XAVIER SAMUEL

Rhys, we have to make sure a guy from that family we like gets to be the next king. Otherwise a guy from some OTHER family will be king!

RHYS IFANS

I see. For the audience's sake, how do we make this into a moral imperative and not just political squabbling?

XAVIER SAMUEL

By being the Good Guys. If it helps, both our main opponents are royal advisors with goatees.

RHYS IFANS

Fair enough. I will help you by winning the heart of the common man through my plays.

XAVIER SAMUEL

So the dirt-poor peasants will be on our side in this absolute monarchy. What the hell will that accomplish?

RHYS IFANS

Hopefully it'll make all this political bullshit seem at least vaguely connected to the Shakespeare plotline this movie is supposedly about.

WRINKLY DAVID THEWLIS

I can't let them make Sam Reid the next king! Hey Queen, the Irish situation is getting out of hand. You should send that awesome and trustworthy guy Sam Reid to take care of it.

VANESSA REDGRAVE

All right, if you say-

WRINKLY DAVID THEWLIS

On a related note, that Sam Reid is an evil traitor. You can't trust him!

VANESSA REDGRAVE

You might want to stick to one scheme at a time, there.

WRINKLY DAVID THEWLIS

Sorry, what was that? I was busy sending an assassin to murder Sam Reid.

INT. WHOOPS BACK WE GO AGAIN

David suddenly looks like a HUMAN BEING, so we must be in another FLASHBACK.

DAVID THEWLIS

Jamie-Rhys, this is a Puritan household, so plays and poetry are forbidden. We also disapprove of puppies and sunshine. Smiles are permitted on alternate Thursdays, but it must be in righteous satisfaction at the suffering of the wicked.

JAMIE CAMPBELL BOWER

You're such an unreasonable killjoy, David. I bet you even have something to say about this guy I just stabbed dead.

DAVID THEWLIS

HOLY FUCK WHAT DID YOU DO!!

JAMIE CAMPBELL BOWER

Look, the guy was snooping in my closet, what was I supposed to do?

DAVID THEWLIS

I don't know, call for help? Chase him off? NOT STAB HIM TO DEATH, YOU FUCKING PSYCHOPATH?!

JAMIE CAMPBELL BOWER

Ugh, I knew you'd overreact.

DAVID THEWLIS

All right, I'll cover up this act of unpredictable, rage-fueled violence for you. But you have to marry my daughter!

JAMIE CAMPBELL BOWER

Jesus. You're a terrible father.

DAVID THEWLIS

I'm a terrible everything! Haven't you been paying attention?

EXT. TIMELINE ALPHA

Meanwhile all of Shakespeare's best plays come out, pretty much all at once and in no particular order.

SEBASTIAN ARMESTO

Argh, don't you people see, Rafe's a fraud! Just look at him!

RAFE SPALL

Dur, no. Me am write plays good.

(falls down)

EVERYONE

Eh, we're convinced. Go away, Sebastian.

TRYSTAN GRAVELLE

But I see through you as well, Rafe! And having resented your success from day one, I take much glee in exposing - oh, wait, apparently I want money instead now? So, um, I'm blackmailing you? I guess?

RAFE SPALL

NOOOO! SHAKESPEARE SMASH!

(kills Trystan)

SEBASTIAN ARMESTO

Hey, I've been trying to expose you for ages, and you never killed me! What am I, chopped liver? Ugh, let's check back in with that other plotline.

INT. IRELAND

A man brings drinks into Sam Reid's tent AS SUSPICIOUSLY AS POSSIBLE.

ASSASSIN

Ha ha, now that I am in Sam's tent pouring him a drink in a suspicious manner, it is the perfect opportunity to discreetly PULL OUT A GUN AND SHOOT HIM!

He tries that, but is SHOT DEAD IMMEDIATELY.

ASSASSIN

Ack! Perhaps it wasn't the best idea to try this in the same room as all his top armed soldiers. Don't know how I expected to get out of here alive, really. Oh well!

(dies)

SAM REID

WHAT?! ASSASSIN?! I AM SO ENRAGED I'M FAIRLY SURE I'LL BE ABLE TO MAINTAIN THIS LEVEL OF ANGER ALL THE WAY TO ENGLAND!!

INT. LONDON, SEVERAL DAYS LATER

SAM REID

YEP, STILL IRRATIONAL!! NOW TO ANGRILY BLUSTER MY WAY RIGHT INTO THE QUEEN'S DRESSING ROOM LIKE AN UNSTOPPABLE MORON!

All he winds up doing is SEEING VANESSA REDGRAVE HALF-NAKED, which about serves him right.

RHYS IFANS

You idiot, Sam! Now the queen is more convinced than ever that you're secretly plotting against her!

SAM REID

Because bursting in on her angrily then scuttling off mumbling apologies is what a schemer would do?

RHYS IFANS

A really stupid one, possibly! Damage control. You need to get an audience with her and make with the diplomacy.

SAM REID

Diplomacy, yes! I'll storm her castle with all my soldiers and then diplomacy her face off!

RHYS IFANS

Um...maybe a siege isn't the best show of good faith. Tell you what, I'll write a play to make the commoners mad at secondary bad guy Edward Hogg, then they'll all show up to the castle to show their support.

SAM REID

All right, but I'm bringing my soldiers as backup. So if the unruly mob can't overrun the castle, my brute squad will! THEN the queen will see I mean no harm!

RHYS IFANS

You know, it occurs to me that making you king might not be the best thing after all.

INT. THEATER

An actor gets up on stage dressed EXACTLY LIKE EDWARD HOGG, in case the audience are morons.

ACTOR

Now is the winter of our dis-

PEASANTS

Hey, he's portraying Edward Hogg! And he's talking about how evil he is! This makes us so ANGRY! We must ATTACK THE CASTLE AT ONCE! CHAAAAAARGE!

They all pile out of the theater and stampede towards the castle.

RHYS IFANS

Wow, that was absurdly easy.

But the bad guys have been WARNED, so the castle is being defended by a BATTERY OF GUNS.

PEASANTS

Curses, foiled! If only they hadn't known we were coming, the royal castle would surely not have been able to keep out a disorganised gaggle of unarmed peasants!

SAM REID

So they're prepared for us, and they're willing to kill. It's a better time than ever to go in screaming with a horde of soldiers!

He does this, and is captured and executed, OBVIOUSLY.

RHYS IFANS

Fuck. Looks like the less-crappy schemers have won by default.

EDWARD HOGG

That's right, and to bring you even lower, allow me to tell you that the queen is YOUR MOTHER!

RHYS IFANS

Ewwww! Real classy, movie.

EDWARD HOGG

That's right, you had sex with your own mother while she was playing the younger version of HER own mother! I think that makes your son his own grandfather or something. But here's the kicker: because you were the queen's son, David and I had originally planned to make YOU king! Nobody cares about legitimacy in this day and age, right?

RHYS IFANS

So your plan was to cut me off from my passions, force me into a loveless marriage, generally abuse and alienate me, and then...make me your ruler?

(pause)

You have NO FUCKING IDEA how embarrassing it is to have lost to you guys.

INT. A VAGUE AMOUNT OF TIME LATER

RHYS IFANS

Sebastian, judging from how I look, it is about fifteen years later. Or, judging from how you look, it's later that week. It's unclear. The point is, I'm dying, and I want you to take care of my plays. I know you'll never betray my secret.

SEBASTIAN ARMESTO

I tried to betray your secret like a billion times! How is nobody getting this? Am I doing it wrong?

RHYS IFANS

Either way, it's important that nobody knows. Imagine what it would mean if, say, my worst enemies knew. Or some of the other playwrights. Or my wife. Or the queen herself. Or random people like those guards who are about to be chasing you.

(pause)

On second thoughts, it's not much of a secret at all, is it?

(dies)

We travel on up the layers until we get back to MODERN DAY.

INT. THEATER

DEREK JACOBI

Hey, it's me. Remember me? So, any questions?

THEATER AUDIENCE

Yeah, a few. How can you claim that Marlowe was secretly killed by Shakespeare when he was stabbed in an inn in front of witnesses? Or that Oxford never had plays or poems written under his own name? Also, you ignore the fact that modern analysis of Shakespeare's work shows a distinct stylistic difference between-

DEREK JACOBI

What, and Richard the Third really was a psychopath who drowned people in butts of wine? Macbeth really was a regicidal maniac who dabbled in the occult? It's about time Shakespeare learned: it might take several centuries, but sooner or later, what goes around fucking comes around.

END.

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