There are some words that are so overworked that they have lost their gravity and grandeur. Think of awesome as in “Man, your shoes are awesome”. Awe is “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.” Now really, are shoes (save Dorothy’s in The Wizard of Oz) ever really awesome?
Or think of the word literally. Someone told me, “My headache was so bad that my brain was literally exploding.” I couldn’t help wishing I’d seen that.
Fuck is similarly overworked. These days it is primarily used to emphasize, often with a tinge of anger. And common speech is so sprinkled with it that it has lost much of its cachet of obscenity.
Although I am far from being a prude, I decided early in drafting Revenge In Kind that I didn’t want lazy dialog littered with the word fuck. But could I have dialog that would be realistic without expletives? Answering that took me more time than you’d imagine. First I analyzed the characters to decide if their personalities and mode of speech would be more realistic and true if they said fuck a lot. I decided that indeed there was one character who would be more authentic if he did: a character named Brown.
In particular, there is a scene in a bar in which Brown gets really angry. I absolutely know that if he were to verbalize, he would not only say fuck, he would call someone an asshole, etc. I thought about this a while and decided that I could actually make his anger even more powerful than his voice and those words would convey; I could have him smash a beer bottle and threaten with it.
Writing the screenplay with interesting, realistic dialog—but without the use of obscenities—became a fun challenge. But I promised myself that if I ever felt that authenticity would be enhanced with such usage, I would insert it.
But the screenplay is, of course, not the final determinant of what the dialog is in the film. Although our Director, Roger, had agreed to the locked script and didn’t change the dialog, that did not obviate fucks creeping into the actors’ ad libbing. Although they were fairly good about not doing that, there were two instances that indeed appear in the film, and one which was edited out.
The one I omitted successfully was spoken by a woman being interviewed by the police. In a couple of the takes, the actress had added the word fucking into the sentence, “I wasn’t going to have a fucking conversation with him.” But she was just as convincing in the takes without it. Since her character is a young, well-educated professional who’s supposed to elicit sympathy from the audience, I felt we could do without the expletive.
But there are two that stayed in the film. Actually, the first ad lib of fuck is not totally complete. An actor who plays a villain is set upon by a vigilante. He looks in surprise and says, “What the f….!” Even though he never enunciated the “..uck”, I thought about whether it could be edited out. There simply was no way because his reaction to the vigilante was essential and his mouth was clearly saying what he said. I comforted myself with the fact that the word really wasn’t finished so it didn’t count. However, the English closed captions as well as the subtitles in foreign languages went ahead and finished the word. I had to get back to the titles company and have them change it to just “f…”.
The second ad lib of fuck got by me because of my poor hearing. An actor is departing a room angrily and says “Don’t say another fucking word.” He is off-scene and the sound could easily have been edited the sound to omit it had I known it was there. It is faint and many will not notice it unless they are watching closed captions or subtitles. Still, when I found out about it, I was pretty fucking disappointed.