RKO 281 script
RKO 281 (1999)
Synopsis: RKO 281 is a 1999 American historical drama film directed by Benjamin Ross and starring Liev Schreiber, James Cromwell, Melanie Griffith, John Malkovich, Roy Scheider and Liam Cunningham. The film depicts the troubled production behind the 1941 film Citizen Kane. The film's title is a reference to the original production number of Citizen Kane.

Q:
"During the shooting of CITIZEN KANE, did you have the sensation of

making such an important film?"

A:
"I never doubted it for a single instant."

Interview with Orson Welles. 1966.

Pleasure is worth what you can afford to pay for it

William Randolph Hearst. 1924

INT. LARGE, DARK ROOM_NIGHT

In the ebony shadows of a large room we can make out corners and edges,

moldings and cornices; the phantoms of decaying Victorian wealth

floating like disembodied ghosts in the darkness.

It is May 6, 1924 The harsh flare of a match being struck

A shadowy male figure lights a series of nine candles on a birthday

cake. Beyond the cake we can see a bed.

On the bed lies a woman in her early forties. She is ashen and sickly.

Dying.

The shadowy male figure finishes lighting the candles, blows out the

match and disappears as the woman peers into the darkness.

WOMAN:

Come into the light.. Come into the light

A nine-year-old boy steps into the light.

She pulls him close and whispers:

WOMAN:

Never stand in the shadows --

BOY:

Mother...

WOMAN:

You are made for the light, Orson Now you must blow

out your candles. But you must always remember, the

cake itself is nothing. The flame, the lights, that

is where your future lies. You must have a dream. A

great dream worthy of you.

The boy immediately spins to the cake and blows out the candles. A

moment of darkness. He turns back to the bed. The woman and the bed are

gone, faded into darkness.

The solemn young lad stares and stares into the darkness

And then, magically, the faint glimmer of twinkling stars fill his huge

dark eyes.

NEWSREEL The flickering images of an old newsreel, circa 1940

Under the MGM logo we see the title: BOY WONDER WOWS HOLLYWOOD!

The first image after the title is the imposing figure of ORSON WELLES,

climbing down from an airplane and surveying the world at his feet.

Welles is 24 years old and somewhat handsome. Welles seems rather

uncomfortable in his own body, as if it could not possibly contain his

vast passions and appetites.

Orson Welles is man who tears his way through life with incendiary

energy. He is at once inspiring and ferocious; visionary and coldly

ambitious. He is part artist, part fraud and all showman.

A sonorous voice accompanies the newsreel. The voice is always grand,

occasionally sardonic.

NEWSREEL VOICE:

He came to the town of magic and dreams a flashing

star blazing through the firmament of illusion. And

he promised to devour the world in a single gulp. He

was 24 years old and his name was George Orson

Welles. Sound the trumpets! Unfurl the banners,

Hollywood! The Boy Wonder has arrived!

Images of Welles as a baby and his early life fill the screen: Welles

in a crib; as a pampered schoolboy; at dance class; drama club; dressed

up for a magic show. As we hear:

NEWSREEL VOICE:

He made his debut on the world stage in Kenosha,

Wisconsin, on the 6th of May, 1915. And on the 7th

of May he spoke his first words, and unlike other

children who say commonplace things like "momma" and

"poppa", he proclaimed "I am a genius!"

At three the genius was reciting Shakespeare and at eight he had taken

up cigars and highballs and was learning magic from the knee of the

great Houdini.

Images of Welles' early theatrical career: the young man playing

impossibly old parts; vaudeville magic shows; various regional

theaters; endless tawdry rehearsal rooms

Then images of Welles and JOHN HOUSEMAN in New York: the great,

bustling city; Welles at work with John Houseman on a script; Welles

directing a play. As we hear:

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John Logan

John David Logan (born September 24, 1961) is an American playwright, screenwriter, film producer, and television producer. more…

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