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CASABLANCA CHARACTER NOTES

From: Carlo D.
Sent on: Sunday, September 23, 2012 10:53 AM

Just some food for thought on character development - things to expect at Script Keys on Sat 29th. Hope to see you all there.

Carlo

http://www.meetup.com/Phoenix-Screenwriters-Group/events/79691842/

 

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Basically, folks, I've given you two previous notes on Gordon Gekko and Captain Quint.  Really just some points to consider when thinking about creating your own characters.  I gave you a few things to think about.  If you aren't also considering these kinds of things when formulating the personalities and backgrounds of your own characters, then you aren't doing the work that writers do.
Here's one more, just for fun.
RICK BLAINE - played by Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca"
If you haven't seen "Casablanca" at least once, then you should stop writing and do so ASAP.  Yes, it's 70 years old.  But it's also universally recognized as one of the TOP THREE movies EVER made, and it appears on every single reputable list, whether voted on by critics, movie goers, writers, etc.  If you're a serious writer, you've seen it or will see it right away.
For the record, I've seen it at least 50 times.  Probably more.
What do we know about Rick Blaine?
(1)  He's an American living in North Africa.
(2)  He left America for a reason he never divulges.
(3)  He's single.
(4)  He owns the most popular club in Casablanca, called "Rick's Place."
(5)  He never sits down with any of his guests.
(6)  He's aloof, often being sarcastic, rude or just a smart ass to almost everyone.
(7)  He's devoid of emotion, not caring about the plights of those stuck in North Africa during World War Two.
(8)  He only has one friend.  Sam, the piano player.
(9)  He runs a casino in the back of his club, which is illegal.  The games are fixed in favor of the house.
(10)  He doesn't appear to have any allegiance to any of the sides fighting in the war.  He wants to stay out of it.
(11)  He fought for as an anti-Franco volunteer in the Spanish Civil War.  They lost.
To the outside observer or casual, first time viewer of "Casablanca," this seems to be all there is to Rick Blaine.  He's a cold, wise guy who makes money on the unfortunate people who can't escape the horrors of the war, and are trapped in North Africa.
If YOU were writing the screenplay for "Casablanca," and this is all YOU knew about Rick's life and emotions, YOU would be writing a terrible script.  Why?
Because there is so much more to Rick Blaine, and those personality traits, deep sentiments, and heartbreaks inform every single move he makes.  It comes alive in his dialogue.
FOR EXAMPLE?
Rick Blaine fell in love in 1940.  He met a girl named Ilsa in Paris.  They had a whirlwind romance.  He was happier than ever before.  He was all smiles and kisses and bright plans for his future with Ilsa.  This was a totally different guy than the one we meet in "Casablanca."
Why?  Because Ilsa left him, without an explanation.  Just a note.  He was destroyed by this.  Emotionally crippled.  Hurt to the bone.  The next time we see Rick, he's running his club in North Africa.  No smiles.  No spark.  Perhaps this explains why he no longer cares about others, and why he is able to turn a cold shoulder to those in need of his help.
Rick let his guard down once before, and look what happened.  Once burned, he pledged to never be fooled again.  He now hates Ilsa.  
But did he really?  Of course not.  Because when you find true love, it doesn't end.  When she walks back into his life, by accident, he is thrown back into terrible turmoil.  He thought he ran away to a place where he'd never bump into her again, but he did.  And when this happened, he started to collapse from the inside out.  He also sat down with Ilsa and her husband, which shocks everyone.  Why does he mingle with these guests?
When Ilsa explained her reason for leaving, Rick wasn't impressed.  Not at first, anyway.  But she did it for a noble reason, so he eventually began to understand.  But he stilled loved her, and she obviously still loved him too.  They just couldn't be together without causing other people a lot of pain.
It's for this reason that Rick Blaine becomes a hero.  It's also the reason that he becomes the best kind of guy you could ever want to be.  He puts the welfare of others before himself.  He proves to be the most unselfish person ever.  He is given the opportunity to be with Ilsa again, but he chooses to care more about her than himself.  What a guy!  He loses her again, but this time, it's for a known reason, and the best reason of all.
Everybody loves Rick Blaine by the end of the movie.  I liked him from the first minute, because guys like smart asses.  But was Rick really that tough at the start of the film?  NO.
Think back...
He helps a freedom fighter.  He listens to a sad story from a girl who needs a pass out of the country for her and her new husband, and to get it, she either needs to pay for it, but she is broke, or she has to have sex with the police captain.  All she asks Rick is for his opinion.  Is the police captain trustworthy?  Will he keep his word?
Rick feels a little responsible for this innocent girl, perhaps thinking of Ilsa.  He encourages her to have her husband bet on a certain number on the roulette wheel.  He does.  He wins.  Rick tells them to leave the money on the number, he signals his pit boss, and the number hits again.  The young newlywed couple now have enough money to buy the pass, so that the girl doesn't have to sleep with the cop.
Rick denies that he made it happen, but it's obvious that he did.  Wow, he really does have a heart!  And if you were wondering how deeply Rick feels, pay attention to the scene where he sits in the dark with Sam, talking about Ilsa.  This tough guy cries.  He's never gotten over her, or the heartbreak.
One last thing to consider about Rick Blaine.  Many fans of the movie theorize that Rick Blaine was actually a spy working for the Allied military.  Why else would he be in Paris just before the Nazis marched in, and why would he be in the hot bed of espionage in North Africa?  And why was he in Spain during the Franco era?  There's a very good chance that Rick is more than just a patriot, but an agent who is instrumental in helping the Allies to win the war.
Again, folks.  This is exactly the way you have to build your characters.  If you don't know at least this much about them, don't type FADE IN:  Keep working on character development.
If you attend my class in Phoenix on September 29th, we'll get very detailed about this stuff.  I hope to see you then.
Jeff Schimmel


http://www.meetup.com/Phoenix-Screenwriters-Group/events/79691842/

 

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