In True West, the characters obviously have a whole (though interrupted) history of being brothers, and in many moments we, in the audience, can tell that they are aware of their past–using it as a guide to how to operate in the present. Through the course of the play, but especially in the opening scenes, the audience has to catch up to what the characters already know. We have to piece together the information, but ultimately we are aimed in the same direction–to know/feel what it is to be–to act–in the present situation. The lives that these characters come from represent what Stanislavski calls the given circumstances. Use your deductive and evidence-seeking powers to put together some aspect of what has happened in the past lives of these characters and how that works on them in the present.
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True West 1
True West (1980) by Sam Shepard
AUSTIN: early thirties, light blue sports shirt, light tan cardigan sweater, clean blue jeans,
white tennis shoes
LEE: his older brother, early forties, filthy white t-shirt, tattered brown overcoat covered with
dust, dark blue baggy suit pants from the Salvation Army, pink suede belt, pointed black forties
dress shoes scuffed up, holes in the soles, no socks, no hat, long pronounced sideburns, “Gene
Vincent” hairdo, two days’ growth of beard, bad teeth
SAUL KIMMER: late forties, Hollywood producer, pink and white flower print sports shirt,
white sports coat with matching polyester stacks, black and white loafers
MOM: early sixties, mother of the brothers, small woman, conservative white skirt and matching
jacket, red shoulder bag, two pieces of matching red luggage
SCENE: All nine scenes take place on the same set; a kitchen and adjoining alcove of an older
home in a Southern California suburb, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. The kitchen takes up
most of the playing area to stage left. The kitchen consists of a sink, upstage center,
surrounded by counter space, a wall telephone, cupboards, and a small window just above it
bordered by neat yellow curtains. Stage left of sink is a stove. Stage right, a refrigerator. The
alcove adjoins the kitchen to stage right. There is no wall division or door to the alcove. It is
open and easily accessible from the kitchen and defined only by the objects in it: a small round
glass breakfast table mounted on white iron legs, two matching white iron chairs set across
from each other. The two exterior walls of the alcove which prescribe a corner in the upstage
right are composed of many small windows, beginning from a solid wall about three feet high
and extending to the ceiling. The windows look out to bushes and citrus trees. The alcove is
filled with all sorts of house plants in various pots, mostly Boston ferns hanging in planters at
different levels. The floor of the alcove is composed of green synthetic grass.
All entrances and exits are made stage left from the kitchen. There is no door. The actors
simply go off and come onto the playing area.
NOTE ON SET AND COSTUME: The set should be constructed realistically with no attempt to
distort its dimensions, shapes, objects, or colors. No objects should be introduced which might
draw special attention to themselves other than the props demanded by the script. If a stylistic
“concept” is grafted onto the set design it will only serve to confuse the evolution of the
characters’ situation, which is the most important focus of the play.
Likewise, the costumes should be exactly representative of who the characters are and not added
onto for the sake of making a point to the audience.
NOTE ON SOUND: The Coyote of Southern California has a distinct yapping, doglike bark,
similar to a Hyena. This yapping grows more intense and maniacal as the pack grows in
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numbers, which is usually the case when they lure and kill pets from suburban yards. The sense
of growing frenzy in the pack should be felt in the background, particularly in Scenes 7 and 8. In
any case, these Coyotes never make the long, mournful, solitary howl of the Hollywood
The sound of Crickets can speak for itself.
These sounds should also be treated realistically even though they sometimes grow in volume
Act 1, Scene I
Night. Sound of crickets in dark. Candlelight appears in alcove, illuminating AUSTIN, seated at
glass table hunched over a writing notebook, pen in hand, cigarette burning in ashtray, cup of
coffee, typewriter on table, stacks of paper, candle burning on table.
Soft moonlight fills kitchen illuminating LEE, beer in hand, six-pack on counter behind him. He’s
leaning against the sink, mildly drunk, takes a slug of beer.
LEE: So, Mom took off for Alaska, huh?
LEE: Sorta’ left you in charge.
AUSTIN: Well, she knew I was coming down here so she offered me the place.
LEE: You keepin’ the plants watered?
LEE: Keepin’ the sink clean? She don’t like even a single tea leaf in the sink ya’ know.
AUSTIN: (trying to concentrate on writing) Yeah, I know.
LEE: She gonna’ be up there a long time?
AUSTIN: I don’t know.
LEE: Kinda’ nice for you, huh? Whole place to yourself.
AUSTIN: Yeah, it’s great.
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LEE: Ya’ got crickets anyway. Tons a’ crickets out there. (looks around kitchen) Ya’ got
AUSTIN: (looking up from writing) What?
LEE: You got coffee?
LEE: At’s good. (short pause) Real coffee? From the bean?
AUSTIN: Yeah. You want some?
LEE: Naw. I brought some uh–(motions to beer)
AUSTIN: Help yourself to whatever’s–(motions to refrigerator)
LEE: I will. Don’t worry about me. I’m not the one to worry about. I mean I can uh–(pause) You
always work by candlelight?
AUSTIN: No–uh–Not always.
LEE: Just sometimes?
AUSTIN: (puts pen down, rubs his eyes) Yeah. Sometimes it’s soothing.
LEE: Isn’t that what the old guys did?
AUSTIN: What old guys?
LEE: The Forefathers. You know.
LEE: Isn’t that what they did? Candlelight burning into the night? Cabins in the wilderness.
AUSTIN: (rubs hand through his hair) I suppose.
LEE: I’m not botherin’ you am I? I mean I don’t wanna break into yer uh–concentration or
AUSTIN: No, it’s all right.
LEE: That’s good. I mean I realize that yer line a’ work demands a lota’ concentration.
AUSTIN: It’s okay.
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LEE: You probably think that I’m not fully able to comprehend somethin’ like that, huh?
AUSTIN: Like what?
LEE: That stuff yer doin’. That art. You know. Whatever you call it.
AUSTIN: It’s just a little research.
LEE: You may not know it but I did a little art myself once.
AUSTIN: You did?
LEE: Yeah! I did some a’ that. I fooled around with it. No future in it.
AUSTIN: What’d you do?
LEE: Never mind what I did! Just never mind about that. (pause) It was ahead of its time.
AUSTIN: So, you went out to see the old man, huh?
LEE: Yeah, I seen him.
AUSTIN: How’s he doing?
LEE: Same. He’s doin’ just about the same.
AUSTIN: I was down there too, you know.
LEE: What d’ya’ want, an award? You want some kinda’ medal? You were down there. He told
me all about you.
AUSTIN: What’d he say?
LEE: He told me. Don’t worry.
AUSTIN: Well-LEE: You don’t have to say nothin’.
AUSTIN: I wasn’t.
LEE: Yeah, you were gonna’ make somethin’ up. Somethin’ brilliant.
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AUSTIN: You going to be down here very long, Lee?
LEE: Might be. Depends on a few things.
AUSTIN: You got some friends down here?
LEE: (laughs) I know a few people. Yeah.
AUSTIN: Well, you can stay here as long as I’m here.
LEE: I don’t need your permission do I?
LEE: I mean she’s my mother too, right?
LEE: She might’ve just as easily asked me to take care of her place as you.
AUSTIN: That’s right.
LEE: I mean I know how to water plants.
AUSTIN: So you don’t know how long you’ll be staying then?
LEE: Depends mostly on houses, ya’ know.
LEE: Yeah. Houses. Electric devices. Stuff like that. I gotta’ make a little tour first.
AUSTIN: Lee, why don’t you just try another neighborhood, all right?
LEE: (laughs) What’sa’ matter with this neighborhood? This is a great neighborhood. Lush. Good
class a’ people. Not many dogs.
AUSTIN: Well, our uh–Our mother just happens to live here. That’s all.
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LEE: Nobody’s gonna’ know. All they know is somethin’s missing. That’s all. She’ll never even
hear about it. Nobody’s gonna’ know.
AUSTIN: You’re going to get picked up if you start walking around here at night.
LEE: Me? I’m gonna’ git picked up? What about you? You stick out like a sore thumb. Look at
you. You think yer regular lookin’?
AUSTIN: I’ve got too much to deal with here to be worrying about-LEE: Yer not gonna’ have to worry about me! I’ve been doin’ all right without you. I haven’t been
anywhere near you for five years! Now isn’t that true?
LEE: So you don’t have to worry about me. I’m a free agent.
AUSTIN: All right.
LEE: Now all I wanna’ do is borrow yer car.
LEE: Just fer a day. One day.
LEE: I won’t take it outside a twenty mile radius. I promise ya’. You can check the speedometer.
AUSTIN: You’re not borrowing my car! That’s all there is to it.
LEE: Then I’ll just take the damn thing.
AUSTIN: Lee, look–I don’t want any trouble, all right?
LEE: That’s a dumb line. That is a dumb fuckin’ line. You git paid fer dreamin’ up a line like
AUSTIN: Look, I can give you some money if you need money.
(LEE suddenly lunges at AUSTIN, grabs him violently by the shirt and shakes him with
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LEE: Don’t you say that to me! Don’t you ever say that to me! (just as suddenly he turns him
loose, pushes him away and backs off) You may be able to git away with that with the Old Man.
Git him tanked up for a week! Buy him off with yer Hollywood blood money, but not me! I can
git my own money my own way. Big money!
AUSTIN: I was just making an offer.
LEE: Yeah, well keep it to yourself!
Those are the most monotonous fuckin’ crickets I ever heard in my life.
AUSTIN: I kinda’ like the sound.
LEE: Yeah. Supposed to be able to tell the temperature by the number a’ pulses. You believe
AUSTIN: The temperature?
LEE: Yeah. The air. How hot it is.
AUSTIN: How do you do that?
LEE: I don’t know. Some woman told me that. She was a Botanist. So I believed her.
AUSTIN: Where’d you meet her?
AUSTIN: The woman Botanist?
LEE: I met her on the desert. I been spendin’ a lota’ time on the desert.
AUSTIN: What were you doing out there?
LEE: (pause, stares in space) I forgit. Had me a Pit Bull them for a while but I lost him.
AUSTIN: Pit Bull?
LEE: Fightin’ dog. Damn I made some good money off that little dog. Real good money.
AUSTIN: You could come up north with me, you know.
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LEE: What’s up there?
AUSTIN: My family.
LEE: Oh, that’s right, you got the wife and kiddies now don’t ya’. The house, the car, the whole
slam. That’s right.
AUSTIN: You could spend a couple days. See how you like it. I’ve got an extra room.
LEE: Too cold up there.
AUSTIN: You want to sleep for a while?
LEE: (pause, stares at AUSTIN) I don’t sleep.
(lights to black)
Morning. AUSTIN is watering plants with a vaporizer, LEE sits at glass table in alcove drinking
LEE: I never realized the old lady was so security-minded.
AUSTIN: How do you mean?
LEE: Made a little tour this morning. She’s got locks on everything. Locks and double-locks and
chain locks and–What’s she got that’s so valuable?
AUSTIN: Antiques I guess. I don’t know.
LEE: Antiques? Brought everything with her from the old place, huh. Just the same crap we
always had around. Plates and spoons.
AUSTIN: I guess they have personal value to her.
LEE: Personal value. Yeah. Just a lota’ junk. Most of it’s phony anyway. Idaho decals. Now who
in the hell wants to eat offa’ plate with the State of Idaho starin’ ya’ in the face. Every time ya’
take a bite ya’ get to see a little bit more.
AUSTIN: Well it must mean something to her or she wouldn’t save it.
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LEE: Yeah, well personally I don’t wann’ be invaded by Idaho when I’m eatin’. When I’m eatin’
I’m home. Ya’ know what I’m sayin’? I’m not driftin’, I’m home. I don’t need my thoughts swept
off to Idaho. I don’t need that!
AUSTIN: Did you go out last night?
AUSTIN: I thought I heard you go out.
LEE: Yeah, I went out. What about it?
AUSTIN: Just wondered.
LEE: Damn coyotes kept me awake.
AUSTIN: Oh yeah, I heard them. They must’ve killed somebody’s dog or something.
LEE: Yappin’ their fool heads off. They don’t yap like that on the desert. They howl. These are
city coyotes here.
AUSTIN: Well, you don’t sleep anyway do you?
(pause, LEE stares at him)
LEE: You’re pretty smart aren’t ya?
AUSTIN: How do you mean?
LEE: I mean you never had any more on the ball than I did. But here you are gettin’ invited into
prominent people’s houses. Sittin’ around talkin’ like you know somethin’.
AUSTIN: They’re not so prominent.
LEE: They’re a helluva’ lot more prominent than the houses I get invited into.
AUSTIN: Well you invite yourself.
LEE: That’s right. I do. In fact I probably got a wider range a’ choices than you do, come to think
AUSTIN: I wouldn’t doubt it.
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LEE: In fact I been inside some pretty classy places in my time. And I never even went to an Ivy
League school either.
AUSTIN: You want some breakfast or something?
AUSTIN: Yeah. Don’t you eat breakfast?
LEE: Look, don’t worry about me pal. I can take care a’ myself. You just go ahead as though I
wasn’t even here, all right?
(AUSTIN goes into kitchen, makes coffee)
AUSTIN: Where’d you walk to last night?
LEE: I went up in the foothills there. Up in the San Gabriels. Heat was drivin’ me crazy.
AUSTIN: Well, wasn’t it hot out on the desert?
LEE: Different kinda’ heat. Out there it’s clean. Cools off at night. There’s a nice little breeze.
AUSTIN: Where were you, the Mojave?
LEE: Yeah. The Mojave. That’s right.
AUSTIN: I haven’t been out there in years.
LEE: Out past Needles there.
AUSTIN: Oh yeah.
LEE: Up here it’s different. This country’s real different.
AUSTIN: Well, it’s been built up.
LEE: Built up? Wiped out is more like it. I don’t even hardly recognize it.
AUSTIN: Yeah. Foothills are the same though, aren’t they?
LEE: Pretty much. It’s funny goin’ up in there. The smells and everything. Used to catch snakes
up there, remember?
AUSTIN: You caught snakes.
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LEE: Yeah. And you’d pretend you were Geronimo or some damn thing. You used to go right
out to lunch.
AUSTIN: I enjoyed my imagination.
LEE: That what you call it? Looks like yer still enjoyin’ it.
AUSTIN: So you just wandered around up there, huh?
LEE: Yeah. With a purpose.
AUSTIN: See any houses?
LEE: Couple. Couple a’ real nice ones. One of ’em didn’t even have a dog. Walked right up and
stuck my head in the window. Not a peep. Just a sweet kinda’ suburban silence.
AUSTIN: What kind of a place was it?
LEE: Like a paradise. Kinda’ place that sorta’ kills ya’ inside. Warm yellow lights. Mexican tile
all around. Copper pots hangin’ over the stove. Ya’ know like they got in the magazines. Blonde
people movin’ in and outa’ the rooms, talkin’ to each other. (pause) Kinda’ place you wish you
sorta’ grew up in, ya’ know.
AUSTIN: That’s the kind of place you wish you’d grown up in?
LEE: Yeah, why not?
AUSTIN: I thought you hated that kind of stuff.
LEE: Yeah, well you never knew too much about me did ya’?
AUSTIN: Why’d you go out to the desert in the first place?
LEE: I was on my way to see the old man.
AUSTIN: You mean you just passed through there?
LEE: Yeah. That’s right. Three months of passin’ through.
AUSTIN: Three months?
LEE: Somethin’ like that. Maybe more. Why?
True West 12
AUSTIN: You lived on the Mojave for three months?
LEE: Yeah. What’sa’ matter with that?
AUSTIN: By yourself?
LEE: Mostly. Had a couple a’ visitors. Had that dog for a while.
AUSTIN: Didn’t you miss people?
LEE: (laughs) People?
AUSTIN: Yeah. I mean I go crazy if I have to spend three nights in a motel by myself.
LEE: Yer not in a motel now.
AUSTIN: No, I know. But sometimes I have to stay in motels.
LEE: Well, they got people in motels don’t they?
LEE: Yer friendly aren’t ya’? Aren’t you the friendly type?
AUSTIN: I’m going to have somebody coming by here later, Lee.
LEE: Ah! Lady friend?
AUSTIN: No, a producer.
LEE: Aha! What’s he produce?
AUSTIN: Film. Movies. You know.
LEE: Oh, movies. Motion Pictures! A Big Wig huh?
LEE: What’s he comin’ by here for?
AUSTIN: We have to talk about a project.
LEE: Whadya’ mean, “a project”? What’s “a project”?
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AUSTIN: A script.
LEE: Oh. That’s what yer doin’ with all these papers?
LEE: Well, what’s the project about?
AUSTIN: We’re uh–it’s a period piece.
LEE: What’s “a period piece”?
AUSTIN: Look, it doesn’t matter. The main thing is we need to discuss this alone. I mean-LEE: Oh, I get it. You want me outa’ the picture.
AUSTIN: Not exactly. I just need to be alone with him for a couple of hours. So we can talk.
LEE: Yer afraid I’ll embarrass ya’ huh?
AUSTIN: I’m not afraid you’ll embarrass me!
LEE: Well, I tell ya’ what–Why don’t you just gimme the keys to yer car and I’ll be back here
around six o’clock or so. That give ya’ enough time?
AUSTIN: I’m not loaning you my car, Lee.
LEE: You want me to just git lost huh? Take a hike? Is that it? Pound the pavement for a few
hours while you bullshit yer way into a million bucks.
AUSTIN: Look, it’s going to be hard enough for me to face this character on my own without-LEE: You don’t know this guy?
AUSTIN: No I don’t know–He’s a producer. I mean I’ve been meeting with him for months but
you never get to know a producer.
LEE: Yer tryin’ to hustle him? Is that it?
AUSTIN: I’m not trying to hustle him! I’m trying to work out a deal! It’s not easy.
LEE: What kinda’ deal?
AUSTIN: Convince him it’s a worthwhile story.
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LEE: He’s not convinced? How come he’s comin’ over here if he’s not convinced? I’ll convince
him for ya’.
AUSTIN: You don’t understand the way things work down here.
LEE: How do things work down here?
AUSTIN: Look, if I loan you my car will you have it back here by six?
LEE: On the button. With a full tank a’ gas.
AUSTIN: (digging in his pocket for keys) Forget about the gas.
LEE: Hey, these days gas is gold, old buddy.
(AUSTIN hands the keys to LEE)
You remember that car I used to loan you?
LEE: Forty Ford. Flathead.
LEE: Sucker hauled ass didn’t it?
AUSTIN: Lee, it’s not that I don’t want to loan you my car-LEE: You are loanin’ me yer car.
(LEE gives AUSTIN a pat on the shoulder, pause)
AUSTIN: I know. I just wish-LEE: What? You wish what?
AUSTIN: I don’t know. I wish I wasn’t–I wish I didn’t have to be doing business down here. I’d
like to just spend some time with you.
LEE: I thought it was “Art” you were doin’.
(LEE moves across kitchen toward exit, tosses keys in his hand)
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AUSTIN: Try to get it back here by six, okay?
LEE: No sweat. Hey, ya’ know, if that uh–story of yours doesn’t go over with the guy–tell him I
got a couple a’ “projects” he might be interested in. Real commercial. Full a’ suspense. True-tolife stuff.
(LEE exits, AUSTIN stares after LEE then turns, goes to papers at table, leafs through pages,
lights fade to black)
Afternoon. Alcove, SAUL KIMMER and AUSTIN seated across from each other at table.
SAUL: Well, to tell you the truth Austin, I have never felt so confident about a project in quite a
AUSTIN: Well, that’s good to hear, Saul.
SAUL: I am absolutely convinced we can get this thing off the ground. I mean we’ll have to
make a sale to television and that means getting a major star. Somebody bankable. But I think we
can do it. I really do.
AUSTIN: Don’t you think we need a first draft before we approach a star?
SAUL: No, no, not at all. I don’t think it’s necessary. Maybe a brief synopsis. I don’t want you to
touch the typewriter until we have some seed money.
AUSTIN: That’s fine with me.
SAUL: I mean it’s a great story. Just the story alone. You’ve really managed to capture
something this time.
AUSTIN: I’m glad you like it, Saul.
(LEE enters abruptly into kitchen carrying a stolen television set, short pause)
LEE: Aw shit, I’m sorry about that. I am really sorry Austin.
AUSTIN: (standing) That’s all right.
LEE: (moving toward them) I mean I thought it was way past six already. You said to have it
back here by six.
AUSTIN: We were just finishing up. (to Saul) This is my, uh–brother, Lee.
SAUL: (standing) Oh, I’m very happy to meet you.
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(LEE sets T.V. on sink counter, shakes hands with SAUL)
LEE: I can’t tell ya’ how happy I am to meet you sir.
SAUL: Saul Kimmer.
LEE: Mr. Kipper.
AUSTIN: Lee’s been living out on the desert and he just uh-SAUL: Oh, that’s terrific! (to LEE) Palm Springs?
LEE: Yeah. Yeah, right. Right around in that area. Near uh– Bob Hope Drive there.
SAUL: Oh I love it out there. I just love it. The air is wonderful.
LEE: Yeah. Sure is. Healthy.
SAUL: And the golf. I don’t know if you play golf, but the golf is just about the best.
LEE: I play a lota’ golf.
SAUL: Is that right?
LEE: Yeah. In fact I was hoping I’d run into somebody out here who played a little golf. I’ve
been lookin’ for a partner.
SAUL: Well, I uh-AUSTIN: Lee’s just down for a visit while our mother’s in Alaska.
SAUL: Oh, your mother’s in Alaska?
AUSTIN: Yes. She went up there on a little vacation. This is her place.
SAUL: I see. Well isn’t that something. Alaska.
LEE: What kinda’ handicap do ya’ have, Mr. Kimmer?
SAUL: Oh I’m just a Sunday duffer really. You know.
LEE: That’s good ’cause I haven’t swung a club in months.
SAUL: Well we ought to get together sometime and have a little game. Austin, do you play?
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(SAUL mimes a Johnny Carson golf swing for AUSTIN)
AUSTIN: No. I don’t uh–I’ve watched it on T.V.
LEE: (to SAUL) How ’bout tomorrow morning? Bright and early. We could get out there and put
in eighteen holes before breakfast.
SAUL: Well, I’ve got uh–I have several appointments-LEE: No, I mean real early. Crack a’dawn. While the dew’s still thick on the fairway.
SAUL: Sounds really great.
LEE: Austin could be our caddie.
SAUL: Now that’s an idea. (laughs)
AUSTIN: I don’t know the first thing about golf.
LEE: There’s nothin’ to it. Isn’t that right, Saul? He’d pick it up in fifteen minutes.
SAUL: Sure. Doesn’t take long. ‘Course you have to play for years to find your true form.
LEE: (to AUSTIN) We’ll give ya’ a quick run-down on the club faces. The irons, the woods.
Show ya’ a couple pointers on the basic swing. Might even let ya’ hit the ball a couple times.
Whadya’ think, Saul?
SAUL: Why not. I think it’d be great. I haven’t had any exercise in weeks.
LEE: ‘At’s the spirit! We’ll have a little orange juice right afterwards.
SAUL: Orange juice?
LEE: Yeah! Vitamin C! Nothin’ like a shot a’ orange juice after a round a’ golf. Hot shower.
Snappin’ towels at each others’ privates. Real sense a’ fraternity.
SAUL: (smiles at AUSTIN) Well, you make it sound very inviting, I must say. It really does
LEE: Then it’s a date.
SAUL: Well, I’ll call the country club and see if I can arrange something.
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LEE: Great! Boy, I sure am sorry that I busted in on ya’ all in the middle of yer meeting.
SAUL: Oh that’s quite all right. We were just about finished anyway.
LEE: I can wait out in the other room if you want.
SAUL: No really-LEE: Just got Austin’s color T.V. back from the shop. I can watch a little amateur boxing now.
(LEE and AUSTIN exchange looks)
LEE: You don’t fool around in Television, do you Saul?
SAUL: Uh–I have in the past. Produced some T.V. Specials. Network stuff. But it’s mainly
LEE: That’s where the big money is, huh?
SAUL: Yes. That’s right.
AUSTIN: Why don’t I call you tomorrow, Saul and we’ll get together. We can have lunch or
SAUL: That’d be terrific.
LEE: Right after the golf.
LEE: You can have lunch right after the golf.
SAUL: Oh, right.
LEE: Austin was tellin’ me that yer interested in stories.
SAUL: Well, we develop certain projects that we feel have commercial potential.
LEE: What kinda’ stuff do ya’ go in for?
SAUL: Oh, the usual. You know. Good love interest. Lots of action. (chuckles at AUSTIN)
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AUSTIN: I’ll give you a ring, Saul.
(AUSTIN tries to move SAUL across the kitchen but LEE blocks their way)
LEE: I got a Western that’d knock yer lights out.
SAUL: Oh really?
LEE: Yeah. Contemporary Western. Based on a true story. ‘Course I’m not a writer like my
brother here. I’m not a man of the pen.
SAUL: Well-LEE: I mean I can tell ya’ a story off the tongue but I can’t put it down on paper. That don’t make
any difference though does it?
SAUL: No, not really.
LEE: I mean plenty a’ guys have stories don’t they? True-life stories. Musta’ been a lota’ movies
made from real life.
SAUL: Yes. I suppose so.
LEE: I haven’t seen a good Western since Lonely Are the Brave. You remember that movie?
SAUL: No, I’m afraid I-LEE: Kirk Douglas. Helluva movie. You remember that movie, Austin?
LEE: (to SAUL) The man dies for the love of a horse.
SAUL: Is that right.
LEE: Yeah. Ya’ hear the horse screamin’ at the end of it. Rain’s comin’ down. Horse is screamin’.
Then there’s a shot. BLAM! Just a single shot like that. Then nothin’ but the sound of rain. And
Kirk Douglas is ridin’ in the ambulance. Ridin’ away from the scene of the accident. And when
he hears that shot he knows that his horse has died. He knows. And you see his eyes. And his
eyes die. Right inside his face. And then his eyes close. And you know that he’s died too. You
know that Kirk Douglas has died from the death of his horse.
True West 20
SAUL: (eyes AUSTIN nervously) Well, it sounds like a great movie. I’m sorry I missed it.
LEE: Yeah, you shouldn’t a’ missed that one.
SAUL: I’ll have to try to catch it some time. Arrange a screening or something. Well, Austin, I’ll
have to hit the freeway before rush hour.
AUSTIN: (ushers him toward exit) It’s good seeing you, Saul.
(AUSTIN and SAUL shake hands)
LEE: So ya’ think there’s room for a real Western these days? A true-to-life Western?
SAUL: Well, I don’t see why not. Why don’t you uh–tell the story to Austin and have him write
a little outline.
LEE: You’d take a look at it then?
SAUL: Yes. Sure. I’ll give it a read-through. Always eager for new material. (smiles at AUSTIN)
LEE: That’s great! You’d really read it then huh?
SAUL: It would just be my opinion of course.
LEE: That’s all I want. Just an opinion. I happen to think it has a lota’ possibilities.
SAUL: Well, it was great meeting you and I’ll-(SAUL and LEE shake)
LEE: I’ll call you tomorrow about the golf.
SAUL: Oh. Yes, right.
LEE: Austin’s got your number, right?
LEE: So long Saul. (gives SAUL a pat on the back)
(SAUL exits, AUSTIN turns to LEE, looks at T.V. then back to LEE)
AUSTIN: Give me the keys.
(AUSTIN extends his hand toward LEE, doesn’t move, just stares at AUSTIN, smiles, lights to
True West 21
Night. Coyotes in distance, fade, sound of typewriter in dark, crickets, candlelight in alcove, dim
light in kitchen, lights reveal AUSTIN at glass table typing, LEE sits across from him, foot on
table, drinking beer and whiskey, the T.V. is still on sink counter, AUSTIN types for a while,
LEE: All right, now read it back to me.
AUSTIN: I’m not reading it back to you, Lee. You can read it when we’re finished. I can’t spend
all night on this.
LEE: You got better things to do?
AUSTIN: Let’s just go ahead. Now what happens when he leaves Texas?
LEE: Is he ready to leave Texas yet? I didn’t know we were that far along. He’s not ready to
AUSTIN: He’s right at the border.
LEE: (sitting up) No, see this is one a’ the crucial parts. Right here. (taps paper with beer can)
We can’t rush through this. He’s not right at the border. He’s a good fifty miles from the border.
A lot can happen in fifty miles.
AUSTIN: It’s only an outline. We’re not writing an entire script now.
LEE: Well ya’ can’t leave things out even if it is an outline. It’s one a’ the most important parts.
Ya’ can’t go leavin’ it out.
AUSTIN: Okay, okay. Let’s just–get it done.
LEE: All right. Now. He’s in the truck and he’s got his horse trailer and his horse.
AUSTIN: We’ve already established that.
LEE: And he sees this other guy comin’ up behind him in another truck. And that truck is pullin’
AUSTIN: What’s a gooseneck?
LEE: Cattle trailer. You know the kind with a gooseneck, goes right down in the bed a’ the pickup.
AUSTIN: Oh. All right. (types)
True West 22
LEE: It’s important
AUSTIN: Okay. I got it.
LEE: All these details are important.
(AUSTIN types as they talk)
AUSTIN: I’ve got it.
LEE: And this other guy’s got his horse all saddled up in the back a’ the gooseneck.
LEE: So both these guys have got their horses right along with ’em, see.
AUSTIN: I understand.
LEE: Then this first guy suddenly realizes two things.
AUSTIN: The guy in front?
LEE: Right. The guy in front realizes two things almost at the same time. Simultaneous.
AUSTIN: What were the two things?
LEE: Number one, he realizes that the guy behind him is the husband of the woman he’s been-(LEE makes gesture of screwing by pumping his arm)
AUSTIN: (sees LEE’S gesture) Oh. Yeah.
LEE: And number two, he realizes he’s in the middle of Tornado Country
AUSTIN: What’s “Tornado Country”?
LEE: Sweetwater. Around in that area. Nothin’. Nowhere. And number three-AUSTIN: I thought there was only two.
LEE: There’s three. There’s a third unforeseen realization.
True West 23
AUSTIN: And what’s that?
LEE: That he’s runnin’ outa’ gas.
AUSTIN: (stops typing) Come on, Lee.
(AUSTIN gets up, moves to kitchen, gets a glass of water)
LEE: Whadya’ mean, “come on”? That’s what it is. Write it down! He’s runnin’ outa’ gas.
AUSTIN: It’s too-LEE: What? It’s too what? It’s too real! That’s what ya’ mean isn’t it? It’s too much like real life!
AUSTIN: It’s not like real life! It’s not enough like real life. Things don’t happen like that.
LEE: What! Men don’t fuck other men’s women?
AUSTIN: Yes. But they don’t end up chasing each other across the Panhandle. Through
LEE: They do in this movie!
AUSTIN: And they don’t have horses conveniently along with them when they run out of gas!
And they don’t run out of gas either!
LEE: These guys run outa’ gas! This is my story and one a’ these guys runs outa’ gas!
AUSTIN: It’s just a dumb excuse to get them into a chase scene. It’s contrived.
LEE: It is a chase scene! It’s already a chase scene. They been chasin’ each other fer days.
AUSTIN: So now they’re supposed to abandon their trucks, climb on their horses and chase each
other into the mountains?
LEE: (standing suddenly) There aren’t any mountains in the Panhandle! It’s flat!
(LEE turns violently toward windows in alcove and throws beer can at them)
LEE: Goddamn these crickets! (yells at crickets) Shut up out there! (pause, turns back toward
table) This place is like a fuckin’ rest home here. How’re you supposed to think!
AUSTIN: You wanna’ take a break?
LEE: No, I don’t wanna’ take a break! I wanna’ get this done! This is my last chance to get this
True West 24
AUSTIN: (moves back into alcove) All right. Take it easy.
LEE: I’m gonna’ be leavin’ this area. I don’t have time to mess around here.
AUSTIN: Where are you going?
LEE: Never mind where I’m goin’! That’s got nothin’ to do with you. I just gotta’ get this done.
I’m not like you. Hangin’ around bein’ a parasite offa’ other fools. I gotta’ do this thing and get
AUSTIN: A parasite? Me?
LEE: Yeah, you!
AUSTIN: After you break into people’s houses and take their televisions?
LEE: They don’t need their televisions! I’m doin’ them a service.
AUSTIN: Give me back my keys, Lee.
LEE: Not until you write this thing! You’re gonna’ write this outline thing for me or that car’s
gonna’ wind up in Arizona with a different paint job.
AUSTIN: You think you can force me to write this? I was doing you a favor.
LEE: Git off yer high horse will ya’! Favor! Big favor. Handin’ down favors from the mountain
AUSTIN: Let’s just write it, okay? Let’s sit down and not get upset and see if we can just get
(AUSTIN sits at typewriter)
LEE: Yer not gonna’ even show it to him, are ya’?
LEE: This outline. You got no intention of showin’ i
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