Gray

Adapted to film by

David Ethan Kennerly

 

 

 

David Kennerly
San Francisco, CA
kennerly%20(AT)%20finegamedesign%20(DOT)%20com


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read into the symbol do so at their peril.

Oscar Wilde, Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ext. Malibu. Present day. Friday at sunset.

Dark magenta clouds reflect on a rising wave. It crashes into the base of a cliff. A tiny house at the top of the cliff grows until wide and luxurious. Red light from the inside of a party spills out onto the balcony. Electronic music rises.

A male figure stands in the shadow of its entrance.

The music softens at the flick of a lighter. An orange, flame underlights the wrinkles on this man’s face. The lighter extinguishes. Only a dull orange glow of the tip of a hand rolled cigarette remains. There is a faint crisp crush of burning tobacco. The figure steps forward.

Red light flows over the old face of Henry, "Edge" magazine editor-in-chief, 65. He smiles, looks down, over the balcony, and slowly exhales a wisp of smoke.

Ext. Henry’s pool, bird’s eye from balcony.

Steam forms a soft fog over the pool. Red lights from within the pool, shaped like a three-leafed clover, casts light on everything nearby. Professional models walk and play at the edges of the pool. Some wear exotic bathing suits while others are naked. Female models outnumber the male models, three to one.

The lone silhouette of a male model swims through the center of the pool toward the edge closest to the house.

Ext. Model’s POV.

Naked bodies flirt, chase, and play underneath the red water. A couple of men brush by.

As the model emerges for a gasp of air, the balcony and cocktail bar below it become visible as well as naked models and those dressed as if on a Paris runway.

Back under the water, a couple of naked women brush by.

Ext. Pool edge.

The silhouette approaches the edge. The head of an Adonis emerges. This is Dorian, male model, 18. He gasps for air. Water flows down his face. His beautiful face ascends; followed by pristine neck, shoulders, slim chest, sculpted abdominal, and nude waist. He is a delicate and exquisite specimen. A camera flash cuts to:

Victoria, Henry's wife and fashion designer, 42, watches from a poolside bar. She's in a slinky dress of her own design. She has had plastic surgery, but she is still a knockout. She sips her cocktail, smiles, and picks up a pearl towel.

Dorian, now standing at the edge of the pool, rubs his wet eyes. Flash. Victoria is within kissing range. Her towel covers his naked waist and she begins to dry him down there. She holds his attention.

The balcony is visible over her shoulder.

Victoria
The photographs don't do you justice.

Dorian
        (surprised)
Have we?

Victoria
Met? Not in the flesh.

Victoria
        (glancing down)
I've seen you. Henry has seventeen shots of you.

Dorian
Seventeen?

Victoria
Eighteen then.

She speaks into his ear.

Victoria
I take it you like Henry's parties.

Dorian
This is my first.

Victoria
Well, it won't be your last.

Ext. Pool, bird’s eye from balcony.

Sweet tobacco softly crackles. Victoria still stands within kissing distance of Dorian, down there, at the edge of the pool. The party's music plays from the house, behind.

Ext. Balcony.

Worn loafers and khakis step onto a cigarette butt at the entrance to the balcony balcony.

A jacket steps forward from the party, with a Jack and Coke in hand and a bulge in the jacket’s pocket. A dull blue light falls on his face as he steps forward. Basil, fashion photographer in a tweed jacket, 38, is by far the most conservative guest.

Basil
Is Dorian as beautiful as I said?

Henry
        (staring at Dorian)
More so. Give him to me.

Basil
He's not mine to give.

Henry
        (turning around)
Then I'll speak to your master, Dorian.

Henry
        (crossing into the party)
Shoot him tomorrow.

Int. Henry’s party.

Basil follows. From his jacket’s bulging pocket, he pulls out an old steel and black manual CAMERA. He holds it in front of his face and takes a series of photos of--

A drugged Dorian, with wet hair, struggles to focus. Flash.

A sexy model dances with most of her clothes gone. Flash.

A woman’s dirty black leather boots and dark denim jeans open the cream-colored front door. Beyond is the night. This woman is Sybil, a grunge band singer with black hair, 18. She looks back over her shoulder. Flash.

Dorian at the same door, also looking over his shoulder. A final flash fades to--

Int. Basil’s studio. Saturday morning.

A slightly hung over Dorian gazes into the distance. Wearing a pearl white shirt, he reclines on a gray leather chase lounge. He props his head on his arm.

The studio has black curtains, cameras on tripods, white lights on black stands, light-gray walls, and an occasional white object or black and white photograph. But no color except Henry, who wears a maroon silk shirt. He admires Dorian and takes a drag off his cigarette. Basil, wearing beige, is near Henry, and out of the studio light.

DORIAN
I don't want to pose.

BASIL
You spoiled it.

HENRY
You haven't spoiled my pleasure in meeting you, Dorian.

BASIL
Harry, I want to finish shooting today.

HENRY
Am I to go, Dorian?

DORIAN
Please don't. Basil's in a shitty mood. I can't stand it.

HENRY
You don't mind, Basil, do you?

BASIL
If Dorian says so. His words are law for everyone, except himself.

HENRY
But I should go.

DORIAN
If he goes, I go. You never say anything when you shoot me. It's boring.

BASIL
Stay, Harry, for Dorian.

HENRY
But I should--

BASIL
Sit down, Harry. Dorian, get up and don't move. And listen to Harry. He's a bad influence.

Dorian poses while Henry speaks. Basil's clicks and flashes punctuate Henry's speech.

DORIAN
Are you as bad as Basil says you are?

HENRY
All influence is bad.

DORIAN
Why?

HENRY
You lose your soul. You become an echo of someone else's music. That's the secret of government. People are afraid of themselves.

Dorian’s poses echo the emotion.

HENRY
THAT’S why they’re afraid of terrorism. But--

BASIL
A little more to the right, Dorian.

Dorian is motionless. His expression becomes strange.

HENRY
But every impulse we strangle returns to haunt us.

Dorian seems delicate and sad. Basil’s tempo accelerates, trying to catch each moment.

HENRY
Dorian, you have had passions that made you afraid,

Dorian appears confused but beautifully still, like a living mannequin. Flash.

HENRY
thoughts that filled you with TERROR--

Basil, oblivious, moves in for more dramatic shots.

The iris of the camera constricts.

Dorian’s iris constricts.

DORIAN
Stop!

A slow and loud flash fades.

DORIAN
Basil, I'm tired of this.

BASIL
Sorry. I was in the zone. You were perfectly still. I don't know what Harry said, but don't listen to any of it.

HENRY
Basil, how about a couple of drinks?

BASIL
Okay, but this is it. This is going to be my best work yet.

Dorian picks up a remote control and turns on a song. Slim pillar hi-fi speakers provides ambience to the conversation. Henry hands Dorian a cigarette.

HENRY
Nothing can cure the soul but the senses,

Henry lights Dorian's cigarette and then lights his own.

HENRY
just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.

Dorian stares at him. Henry smiles.

HENRY
Now, pose nice for Basil. You won't be young forever.

DORIAN
        (tossing the cigarette)
Even the Mona Lisa's falling apart.

HENRY
        (leaning close)
Youth is the only thing worth regretting.

Henry touches his hair. The music underscores his statement.

HENRY
You don’t know what you have. Some day, you'll become old and gray. Then you'll only have your photograph.

Int. Basil’s studio. Beside darkroom.

Beads of water shake off of the damp black and white portrait of Dorian. A droplet lands in the black photo pan below.

Dorian stares at the photo, which Basil is hanging to dry. Beads of condensation on the gin on the rocks shake slightly in Dorian’s unsteady hand. His heart beats.

Dorian
It can’t be me.

BASIL
        (angry)
Fine.

Basil grabs the corners of the photograph, but before he can rip it--

DORIAN
Don't!

BASIL
I am glad you finally appreciate it.

DORIAN
Appreciate it?  I am it.

BASIL
        (touching the photo)
Well, as soon as you're dry, you'll be framed. Then you can do what you like.

Henry puts his coat on.

HENRY
I don't like scenes, except on screen. You better let me have that. This boy doesn't want it.

DORIAN
Basil.

BASIL
        (defeated)
You know it's yours.

HENRY
And you know you like being reminded you're young. Basil, tonight?

BASIL
Not another party.

HENRY
Sin is the only color today.

BASIL
Not in front of ...

HENRY
The photo?

DORIAN
        (standing)
I'll be there.

HENRY
I'll be waiting.

BASIL
I can't go. Too much work.

Basil touches the photograph.

DORIAN
Am I really like that?

BASIL
You were, just now.

Dorian slips his leather jacket on.

BASIL
Don't go.

DORIAN
Made a promise.

BASIL
        (dejected)
Henry doesn’t keep promises.

The gray front door closes to black out.

Int. Henry’s house. Sunday morning.

The cream front door opens. High-heels enter.

Dorian looks at the photograph of Sybil in the latest issue of Edge magazine. The sound of footsteps approach.

Dorian
You're late.

Victoria enters the room. She is dressed on the eccentric side of luxurious. Her make up matches her dress and eccentricity. She holds a freshly cut yellow rose that complements her dress.

Victoria
Am I? Were you waiting long?

Dorian
I thought you--

Victoria
Were my husband?

She twirls the rose.

Victoria
I saw you talking with that (pause) singer last night.

Dorian
At Avalon?

Victoria
Yes. Good music.

Dorian
Very. But we weren't talking. I only talk during bad music.

Victoria
Harry said that. I always hear Harry from his friends.

Victoria sets the rose down on the coffee table on top of open music magazines. Victoria approaches Dorian as she speaks, her voice becoming as intimate as her fragrance.

Victoria
But don't get the wrong idea. I love good music. I fell in love with a musician. Two at the same time.

The sound of footsteps approach. She breaks her intimacy and spins around.

Henry is there, with an eyebrow half-cocked and a whiskey in his hand.

Victoria
         (approaching)
Harry! There you are. I found Dorian here. We were just talking about music.

Henry
         (smiling)
Sorry I'm late. I had to bargain with our distributor. Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.

Henry smiles at Victoria for a moment.

Victoria
Oh, I have to be going. We're opening a new line-up. Pleased to meet you. Bye, Harry. See you later?

Victoria kisses Henry on the cheek. Henry runs a finger down her chin. She lightly licks the tip of his finger. Then--

Victoria’s legs walk out of the room. Her footsteps recede.

Henry
        (sitting)
Never marry, Dorian. Men marry because they’re tired; women, because they’re curious.

Dorian
        (picking up the rose)
I can't marry anyway. I'm in love.

Henry
With who?

Dorian
With a singer.

Henry shrugs.

Dorian
If you only heard her.

Henry
Who is she?

Dorian
Sybil Vane.

Henry
Never heard of her.

Dorian
You will. She's a genius.

Henry
There's only two kinds of women. Plain and colorful. As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her daughter, she's satisfied.

Dorian
        (dropping the rose)
You're terrible.

Henry
Never mind that. When did you meet her?

Dorian
After your party.

Henry
Where?

Dorian
I'll tell you, but shut up. I wouldn't 've done it if I hadn't met you. You made me want to be alive.

Dorian looks off—-

Int. Henry’s party. Friday night. Flashback.

Dorian looks back over his shoulder at the open front door. He exits into the night.

Dorian (V.O.)
You said L.A. has splendid sins.

Ext. Club Avalon. Friday night. Flashback.

A dive in a shitty neighborhood.

Dorian (V.O.)
After the party I went to the east side and saw a show.

Int. Club Avalon. Friday night. Flashback.

Dive bar. Not glitzy. Band prepares on a small stage.

Dorian hands a few bills to an old Jewish club owner, Isaac, with a huge cigar, greasy fingers, and garish jacket and shirt. He points to the stage.

In the spotlight, Sybil, in the same dirty white t-shirt and dark denim jeans, approaches the microphone.

Dorian (V.O.)
I still don't know why I did it. But if I didn't I would have never met the woman I love.

Henry (off-screen) laughs--

Int. Henry’s house.

Dorian stares at Henry.

Henry
I'm not laughing ... at you. But this is only the first woman. You will always be loved. This is just the beginning.

Dorian
        (on his feet)
I'm not that shallow!

Henry
No! You're deep.

Dorian searches Henry’s face.

Henry
People who love once are shallow.

Henry chuckles and picks up the flower.

Henry
It's why we hold onto things. There're many things we'd throw away if we weren’t afraid someone else would pick them up. But go on.

Dorian hesitates. And then--

Int. Club Avalon.

Dorian decides and walks through a crowd of a few unglamorous grunge and punks hanging out.

A man, James, eyes him as he sips rum. James, 24, has short, cropped hair. He’s unshaven and looks like he just got off a construction job. He has grimy hands. He is wearing a torn and patched gray-green bomber jacket. He’s alone at the bar.

Dorian (V.O.)
It was a dive. Still I was curious. I waited for the music to begin. The band was terrible.

The band plays, rough, but not bad.

The singer, Sybil, begins to sing. She has a flower-like face, curly dark-brown hair, deep tender eyes, and lips like rose-petals.

Dorian (V.O.)
But the singer!

Dorian stares at the singer.

Her voice rises up, low and mellow at first. She sings the lyrics of the song, “#1 Crush” by Garbage:

Sybil
        (sings)
I will pray for you
I will pray for you
I will sell my soul
for something pure and true
Someone like you

Dorian's eyes close. The lyrics trail off.

Dorian (V.O.)
I'll never forget her. She's special.

Int. Henry’s house.

Dorian’s eyes open.

Dorian
Most women--no mystery. But a singer! 

Henry smiles mischievously.

Dorian
I shouldn't ‘ve told you about Sybil.

Henry
You can't help it. You tell me everything.

Dorian
You’re right. If I ever did something wrong, even if I killed someone, I'd tell you. You'd understand me.

Henry
People like you don't do anything wrong. Now, hand me the lighter.

Henry takes the silver lighter and lights his cigarette.

Henry
And tell me, have you fucked her?

Dorian
Harry!

Henry
It's only the sacred things that are worth touching, Dorian. What's the matter?  She'll be yours someday.

Henry shrugs.

Henry
You met her, right?

Dorian
Of course.

Int. Club Avalon.

The club owner, barely shown out of shadow, leads Dorian through a backstage hall. The hall is wall-to-wall graffiti, trash, and alcohol, interspersed by junkies and musicians.

Dorian (V.O.)
The owner took me backstage.

Owner
You work for a music magazine? 

Dorian (V.O.)
I don't even read them.

The owner shakes his head, still shrouded mostly in shadow. He then looks at the door.

It opens. A more modest Sybil steps out.

Dorian (V.O.)
Sybil was shy. She was like a child.

Dorian and Sybil discuss the show. She seems awe struck by what Dorian said about the show.

The owner grins and speaks.

Dorian (V.O.)
The owner called me an agent.

Sybil
You look more like a prince. Prince Charming.

Henry (V.O.)
She knows how to compliment.

Dorian
You don't understand her. She acted like I was a child in a play.

Sybil takes Dorian’s hand.

Ext. Sybil’s apartment. Friday night. Flashback.

They’re hands embrace.

Light and shadow fall on the faces of Dorian and Sybil. Dark shadows fall onto their faces through patios from above.

Dorian presses Sybil to the wall in an alley between two cramped apartment buildings. Passion consumes them.

In front of the apartment building, Sybil and Dorian’s hands release. She smiles as she steps into the shadow of its entrance.

James’ face emerges from the shadows around the corner.

Dorian (V.O.)
She lives with her mother.

Int. Sybil’s apartment.

Trash, beer cans, old issues of Edge magazine, and a broken photograph of a man from the eighties, torn photos from music magazines decorate the floor of the living room.

A dirty spoon lies beside a chewed-up couch on the right.

Dorian (V.O.)
A worn-out old woman.

Her mother, Mrs Vane, an ex-actress and now a junkie, 40, lies on the couch. Tract marks dimple her inner elbow.

Sybil picks up a spoon in disgust. She slings her mother’s arm over her shoulder. They stumble across the trash.

The grimy hand of James touches the doorknob to the apartment and turns it.

Int. Henry’s house.

Henry fiddles with the flower and looks far off.

Henry
There is always something mean about other people's tragedies.

Dorian
I only care about her. I don't care about her past.

Henry
So that's what happened to you. But how about tonight?

Dorian
She's singing.

Henry
When is she Sybil?

Dorian
Never.

Henry
Congratulations.

Dorian looks at Henry with contempt. He rises to his feet.

Dorian
She is a genius. And I must make her love me. You know how. Tell me. Tell me how to make Sybil love me.

A smile creeps over Henry.

Henry
Well?

Dorian
Come with me. Basil, too. You'll see. Then we have to break her contract. It's a three-year deal. I'll pay him. I'll make her a star. She'll make the world mad, like she made me.

Henry
Impossible.

Dorian
She will. She's got personality. You told me personality and not principle moves people.

Henry
When?

Dorian
Tomorrow.

Henry
Will you see Basil?

Dorian
Oh. He sent me my portrait in a frame he made himself. I'm jealous. The picture is a month younger than me. But I don't want to see him alone. It makes me uncomfortable.

Henry
Basil puts his personality into his work. So he has nothing left but his common sense. The only artists with personality are bad artists.

Dorian
        (standing)
Listen, I have to go. She's on tonight. Don't forget. Tomorrow.

Henry looks down at the fashion magazines scattered about. It is a litter of black and white images of pop stars, models, and musicians. Beside the flower is a photo of Sybil singing. A bead of water is by it from the flower. It becomes close and personal until grainy.

Int. Sybil’s apartment. Sunday, noon.

A bouquet of yellow roses and a fresh issue of Edge magazine contrast the trash.

Sybil smiles and buries her face in her mother's bosom.

Mrs Vane is shocked.

Sybil
Mom! I'm happy! Be happy for me!

Mrs Vane
Happy? Stick to your job. You owe Isaac.

Sybil grasps the bouquet of yellow roses and kisses Mrs Vane.

Sybil
Money?

Mrs Vane
          (whispers)
Isaac fronted us five thousand dollars. James needs that.

A grimy hand turns a doorknob. James, who is Sybil's brother, enters. He looks as rough as he did Friday night.

James
Save a kiss for me.

Sybil
        (crossing to hug James)
You hate kisses, you big bear.

James
This might be the last time I see you in L.A. If I'm lucky.

Mrs Vane
James!

Sybil
Oh! I want to show you something.

Sybil goes through a doorway. James approaches Mrs Vane.

James
Mom, keep an eye on Sybil.

Mrs Vane
Of course. I do.

James
I heard some guy came around to see her last night. What about that?

Mrs Vane
        (touching the bouquet)
You don't understand. She's a singer. She has a fan. I used to have fans. Besides he's money.

James
You don't know his name.

Mrs Vane
No.

James
Watch her.

Mrs Vane goes into the kitchen as Sybil returns holding a large photograph of herself from Henry’s party.

James
You have a new friend. He's no good.

Sybil
Stop, Jim! Don't say that. I love him.

James
What’s his name? You don't even know his name. Who is he?

Sybil
He's called Prince Charming. Don't you like it? You should never forget it.

James
He's from Hollywood.

Sybil
He’s a prince.

James
Sybil, you're mad.

Sybil
        (looking out the window)
You talk like you were a hundred years old. Someday you'll be in love. Then you'll know. Life has been hard on us. But it's going to be different. You're getting out and I am, too.

Dorian drives past in the street below in a convertible BMW.

Sybil
There!

James
        (approaching the window)
Who?

Sybil
Prince Charming.

James
Which one?

The car gets lost behind others in traffic.

Sybil
He's gone. I wish you saw him.

James
Me, too. Because if he hurts you, I'll kill him.

Int. Fusion restaurant. Sunday 1:30 p.m.

A fork stabs a cherry tomato.

It enters the red lips of Henry’s aunt Agatha, 65, in a rich, gaudy dress. Signs of a facelift and manicure, perfect hair and other cosmetic miracles decorate her. She pecks at a colorful salad. Dorian eats salmon beside her.

Agatha
Late as usual, Harry.

Henry sits across from Dorian.

Agatha
Can you convince Dorian to leave the East Side and pose for “Edge”?

Henry
I want him to pose for ME.

Agatha
The East Side. It's a ghetto. It's too bad.

She studies the colorful salad on her fork.

Henry
I can sympathize with everything, except suffering. It's morbid. Sympathize with the color and beauty of life.

Dorian
Still, the East Side is an important problem.

Henry
It's a problem of slavery. And we try to solve it by entertaining the slaves? 

Dorian
So what do we do?  

Henry
        (chuckling)
Nothing. The Twentieth Century went bankrupt on sympathy. Science will put us straight. It's not emotional.

Agatha
But we're responsible.

Henry
Humanity takes itself too seriously. That's the original sin. If the caveman had a sense of humor, history would be different.

Agatha
That’s fine when you’re young. For an old woman, it's a cynical. Harry, if only I could become young again.

Henry
Can you remember any mistakes you made when you were young?

Agatha
Too many.

Henry
Then do them again. To become young again, repeat your mistakes.

Agatha
A delightful theory.

Dorian
A dangerous theory.

Henry
It's the secret of life. Most people die from a case of common sense. Only when it's too late they discover the only thing you never regret is your mistakes.

A laugh runs around the table.

Enchanted, Dorian gazes at Henry and considers his words in slow motion thought. Agatha's cell phone rings, which breaks Dorian’s trance.

Agatha
        (checking her phone)
I have to go. My husband wants to go to a silly party where he'll become chair.

She touches her mass of hair to perfect it.

Agatha
Harry, perfect as usual--perfectly evil. Free Tuesday?

Henry
For you I'll tell off even my best friend.

Agatha
        (putting on sunglasses)

You're so sweet. And wrong. So be there.

Agatha’s, legs and butt, firmly held by her tight skirt, walk away.

Dorian
You talk so well, why don't you write?

Henry
There's no market for wisdom. Now for beauty.

Henry admires Dorian's face in the light.

Henry
I forgot what I said, was it bad?

Dorian
Dangerous. If your aunt does anything wrong, you're responsible.

Henry
        (getting up)

I'm going, too.

Dorian
        (touching his arm)
Let me come with you.

Henry
        (smiling)

But you promised Basil.

Dorian looks at Henry. They walk to the door together, leaving behind a fork beside the remains of a salad and salmon.

Int. Sybil’s apartment. Sunday 6 p.m.

A fork pokes the last meatball on the plate.

James eats it and wipes his mouth with his hand. Sybil, Mrs Vane, and James pick at the last of dinner. Sybil leaves the table. Mrs Vane looks at a black and white portrait. It is a photograph of a handsome young man from the late Eighties.

James
Mom, tell me the truth. Were you married?

Mrs Vane
No.

James clutches his dinner knife.

Mrs Vane
We loved each other. Don't say anything. He was your father. And he was money.

James
It's not me. It's Sybil. This guy's money, too.

Mrs Vane
        (upset)
Sybil has me. I had no one.

James
        (holding her)
I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. I'm going now. Don't forget to look after her. If he hurts my sister, I'll track him down and kill him. I swear.

A petal falls from the bouquet. A door slam punctuates its final resting place.


Table of Scenes

Ext. Malibu. Present day. Friday at sunset. 1

Ext. Henry’s pool, bird’s eye from balcony. 1

Ext. Model’s POV. 1

Ext. Pool edge. 2

Ext. Pool, bird’s eye from balcony. 3

Ext. Balcony. 3

Int. Henry’s party. 3

Int. Basil’s studio. Saturday morning. 4

Int. Basil’s studio. Beside darkroom. 7

Int. Henry’s house. Sunday morning. 9

Int. Henry’s party. Friday night. Flashback. 12

Ext. Club Avalon. Friday night. Flashback. 12

Int. Club Avalon. Friday night. Flashback. 12

Int. Henry’s house. 13

Int. Club Avalon. 13

Int. Henry’s house. 14

Int. Club Avalon. 15

Ext. Sybil’s apartment. Friday night. Flashback. 16

Int. Sybil’s apartment. 17

Int. Henry’s house. 17

Int. Sybil’s apartment. Sunday, noon. 19

Int. Fusion restaurant. Sunday 1:30 p.m. 21

Int. Sybil’s apartment. Sunday 6 p.m. 25

Table of Scenes.. 26