Sunday, March 19, 2006

Capricorn One soliloquy

You don't often see soliloquies in movies, and everyone says you shouldn't have them in books, either. But I like them -- Antony's funeral oration from Julius Caesar is one of my favorite bits of theater. Well, here's a nice long soliloquy from an SF film: 621 words spoken uninterrupted by Hal Holbrook as the Director of NASA in one of my favorite films from the 1970s, Capricorn One. It's all one long speech:

Okay, here it is. I have to start by saying that if there was any other way, if there was even a slight chance of another alternative, I would give anything not to be here with you now. Anything. Bru, how long have we known each other? Sixteen years. That's how long. Sixteen years. You should have seen yourself then. You looked like you just walked out of a Wheaties box. And me, all sweaty palm and deadly serious. I told everybody about this dream I had of conquering the new frontier, and they all looked at me like I was nuts. You looked at me and said, "yes."

I remember when you told me Kay was pregnant. We went out and got crocked. I remember when Charles was born. We went out and got crocked again. The two of us. Captain Terrific and the Mad Doctor, talking about reaching the stars, and the bartender telling us maybe we'd had enough. Sixteen years. And then Armstrong stepped out on the Moon, and we cried. We were so proud. Willis, you and Walker, you came in about then. Both bright and talented wise-asses, looked at me in my wash-and-wear shirt carrying on this hot love affair with my slide-rule, and even you were caught up in what we'd done.

I remember when Glenn made his first orbit in Mercury, they put up television sets in Grand Central Station, and tens of thousands of people missed their trains to watch. You know, when Apollo 17 landed on the Moon, people were calling up the networks and bitching because reruns of I Love Lucy were canceled. Reruns, for Christ's sake! I could understand if it was the new Lucy show. After all, what's a walk on the Moon? But reruns! Oh, geez!

And then suddenly everybody started talking about how much everything cost. Was it really worth twenty billion to go to another planet? What about cancer? What about the slums? How much does it cost? How much does any dream cost, for Christ's sake? Since when is there an accountant for ideas? You know who was at the launch today? Not the President. The Vice-President, that's who. The Vice-President and his plump wife. The President was busy. He's not busy. He's just a little bit scared. He sat there two months ago and put his feet up on Woodrow Wilson's desk, and he said, "Jim. Make it good. Congress is on my back. They're looking for a reason to cancel the program. We can't afford another screw-up. Make it good. You have my every good wish." His every good wish! I got his sanctimonious Vice President! That's what I got!

So, there we are. After all those hopes and all that dreaming, he sits there, with those flags behind his chair, and tells me we can't afford a screw-up. And guess what! We had a screw-up! A first-class, bona-fide, made-in-America screw-up! The good people from Con-Amalgamate delivered a life-support system cheap enough so they could make a profit on the deal. Works out fine for everybody. Con-Amalgamate makes money. We have our life-support system. Everything's peachy. Except they made a little bit too much profit. We found out two months ago it won't work. You guys would all be dead in three weeks. It's as simple as that. So, all I have to do is report that and scrub the mission. Congress has its excuse, the President still has his desk, and we have no more program. What's sixteen years? Your actual drop in the bucket! All right. That's the end of the speech. Now, we're getting to what they call the moment of truth. Come with me. I want to show you something.


At March 20, 2006 12:29 AM , Blogger Scott said...

I love soliloquies in film. Sure, they're not realistic or likely to happen in 'our' world, but cinematically, they pack a punch.

When I was in high school, Kevin Costner's soliloquy (okay, closing argument) in J.F.K. moved me to tears, as did some of Denzel Washington's speeches in MALCOLM X. Oh, and who can forget Al Pacino's great locker-room speech in ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, the greatest sports speech ever given?

And what about Kirk's blunt, precise, enormously eloquent eulogy for Spock in STAR TREK II?

At March 20, 2006 1:45 PM , Blogger Horia Nicola Ursu said...

Capricorn One! hah! This was one of the few science fiction films allowed to be showed in theaters in Romania, during the communist age (before 1989). A few weeks ago I got it on DVD, from a friend, and it was nice to see it again.

At March 20, 2006 7:50 PM , Blogger Robin said...

I had to memorize Antony's speech when I was in high school. I've revisted it countless times since then. Amazing how that works.

The sililoquy you posted is both human and brilliant.




At April 16, 2006 11:43 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Sawyer,
Last night I watched Capricorn One with a friend and I was struck by what a great monologue this is. This morning I went to Google to set about finding it. I'm an actor and I think this would be great to use for an audition. I didn't think I'd be able to locate but here it is. Thank you.

At April 16, 2006 1:41 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Glad to be of help! It IS a great soliloquy, isn't it? Best of luck with your auditions. :)


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