The Grifters script
The Grifters (1990)
Synopsis: Hard-as-nails Lily Dillon (Anjelica Huston) works as a swindler for dangerous bookie Bobo (Pat Hingle), probably the only man she fears. Arriving in Los Angeles on "business," Lily looks up her son, Roy (John Cusack), a small-time con artist content with paltry sleight-of-hand cheats. Roy's girlfriend, Myra (Annette Bening), looks like an All-American type but is a grifter looking to pull off another big-time con. The convergence of the three hustlers inevitably means trouble for all of them.

FADE IN:

EXT. RUIDOSO DOWNS - DAY

AN ANGLE establishing the race track, Ruidoso Downs

(pronounced Ree-oh-do-so), set among the beautiful mountains

of New Mexico's Lincoln National Forest, as a white Chrysler

turns in with a stream of cars moving toward the parking

area.

AN ANGLE through the open driver-side window of the Chrysler

at LILLY DILLON, 39 but looking younger, beautiful but cold

and watchful.

WIDE SHOT, track in b.g. as Lilly parks the Chrysler, gets

out, locks the car. As she walks toward the track, WIPE

RIGHT, as SCENE TWO WIPES IN from the left. SCENE ONE CAMERA

FOLLOWS Lilly as she walks across the large parking area.

SPLIT SCREEN.

SCENE TWO:

EXT. SIDE STREET - DAY

Downtown Los Angeles, near the courts and the business

section. ROY DILLON, 25, handsome and charming but self

indulgent, parks his orange Honda convertible, gets out,

picks up a large ledger book from the back seat, goes around

to open the trunk.

AN ANGLE on the trunk, establishing the tools of the

salesman's trade: catalogs, samples, ledgers full of manuals

and product sheets. Roy adds the ledger from the back seat,

shuts the trunk, walks away.

EXT. 6TH STREET - DAY

Roy walks around the corner near a bar/restaurant. As he

approaches it, WIPE LEFT, the two half-width scenes

contracting to one-third each as SCENE THREE WIPES IN from

the right.

SCENE ONE:
Lilly approaches the track's entrance doors.

SCENE TWO:
Roy approaches the bar.

SCENE THREE:

EXT. SANTA MONICA BOULEVARD - DAY

A baby blue Cadillac parks in front of a jeweler.

AN ANGLE on the driver's door as MYRA LANGTRY, 36, beautiful

in an impersonal calculating way, gets out, carrying a small

jewelry care, and locks the car. At first glance, Myra looks

rather like Lilly. (Myra always wears large dangly earrings,

and usually wears big-lensed dark sunglasses.)

SIMULTANEOUSLY:

SCENE ONE:
Lilly enters the track.

SCENE TWO:
Roy enters the bar.

SCENE THREE:
Myra enters the jeweler's.

WIPE RIGHT AND LEFT, as SCENE TWO takes FULL SCREEN.

INT. BAR - DAY

AN ANGLE on a hurried bartender in a full bar, crowded with a

NOISY lunchtime crowd. In b.g., Roy slithers his way to the

bar, waving a bill in the air to attract the bartender's

attention.

AN ANGLE on Roy as the bartender comes to him. Roy puts the

bill on the bar, holding it down with one finger, as he

SHOUTS his order. The bartender looks down.

BARTENDER'S POV: Roy's finger holds down a twenty dollar

bill.

AN ANGLE steep over Roy's shoulder, the twenty visible, as

the bartender hurries away to get the drink. Roy's hand makes

a fist, swallowing the twenty, opens, pushing a ten out onto

the bar, holding it there with one finger.

AN ANGLE on the bartender returning with a draft beer,

nodding to other ORDERS shouted to him along the way, putting

the beer down, grabbing the bill without looking at it,

hurrying away.

AN ANGLE on Roy, content, smiling, sipping his beer.

AN ANGLE on the bartender, hurrying by, slapping Roy's change

down, moving on, Roy nodding acknowledgement, reaching out.

CU, the change, a ten dollar bill on top. Roy's hand closes

over it.

EXT. TOTE BOARD - DAY

WIDE SHOT, the tote board at the track, showing the shifting

odds on the horses for the next race, the amounts bet.

CLOSE SHOT, number 3. Not much bet, odds 70-1.

EXT. RUIDOSO DOWNS - DAY

AN ANGLE on Lilly, frowning at the tote board. She carries a

large heavy shoulder-bag, which she opens, looking in it as

though it were a file drawer.

AN ANGLE on Lilly studying the contents of her bag, the track

beyond her, the mountains visible out beyond the track wall.

Lilly moves.

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Donald E. Westlake

Donald Edwin Westlake (July 12, 1933 – December 31, 2008) was an American writer, with over a hundred novels and non-fiction books to his credit. He specialized in crime fiction, especially comic capers, with an occasional foray into science fiction and other genres. He was a three-time Edgar Award winner, one of only three writers (the others are Joe Gores and William L. DeAndrea) to win Edgars in three different categories (1968, Best Novel, God Save the Mark; 1990, Best Short Story, "Too Many Crooks"; 1991, Best Motion Picture Screenplay, The Grifters). In 1993, the Mystery Writers of America named Westlake a Grand Master, the highest honor bestowed by the society. more…

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