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The Patriot Resource - The Patriot

THE PATRIOT
by
Robert Rodat
March 26, 1999


FADE IN:

EXT. THE SWAMPS OF SOUTH CAROLINA - NIGHT

Dark. Ominous. Kudzu hangs from the swamps maples. A dark and forbidding place. A bird CRIES EERILY in the darkness. Insects HUM ominously.

SUPERIMPOSITION:

FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR

A detachment of French soldiers with several wagons makes it's way along a muddy road cut through the swamp. The soldiers are wary, scanning the underbrush, weapons ready.

In the swamp, parallel to the road, SHADOWED FIGURES, hidden among the brush, silently track the French soldiers.

As the lead wagon rolls over a muddy puddle, straddling it, a MUD-COVERED FIGURE, reaches up, grabs the wagon's undercarriage, pulls itself up and clings, unseen to the underside of the wagon. The figure, obscured by the mud, barely looks human.

As the other wagons roll over other muddy depressions in the road, three more mud-covered figures reach up, grab and cling to the underside of other wagons.

FORT CHARLES

The gates are opened. The relieved French soldiers quicken their pace and hurry into the relative safety of the fort. In the fort yard the weary detachment disperses.

UNDER THE LEAD WAGON

The first dark, mud-covered figure silently drops to the ground and draws a distinctive TOMAHAWK from his belt as the other figures drop from the other wagons.

The figures crawl through the shadows toward the sentries who are closing the main gates. THEY SPRING... the lead figure dashes forward, raises his TOMAHAWK and HACKS DOWN at a TERRIFIED FRENCH SENTRY...

The other muddy figures join the attack... stifling the screams of the French soldiers with VICIOUS KNIFE SLASHES... gaining precious seconds...

A FRENCH SOLDIER CRIES OUT... sounding the alarm... other
FRENCH SOLDIERS come running out of the darkness...

The four muddy figures, make a stand at the gate, brutally killing the French soldiers as they come, holding the gates open as...

Dozens of other muddy figures race out of the surrounding swamp, tearing through the fort gates, joining the slaughter...

The lead figure, HACKS, again and again with his tomahawk...

Blood and flesh cover his arm as the vicious blade rises and falls amid the SCREAMS in the darkness...

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. SOUTH CAROLINA COUNTRYSIDE - DAY

Beautiful sunlight. AERIAL SHOT of a post rider galloping along a road through peaceful untamed woodlands. Soaring old-growth elms arch over riverside maples along the shores of the gently curving, deep-water Santee River.

SUPERIMPOSITION:

SOUTH CAROLINA
April, 1776

The post rider rides along a raised swamp road. On either side of the road, gorgeous shafts of sunlight pierce the canopy falling onto soft, swaying ferns that cover the high grounds. Hundreds of BIRDS SING. The water is clear, with fields of floating lily pads, each with a stark white flower rising from it.

EXT. FRESH WATER PLANTATION - DAY

The post rider approaches a plantation built between the banks of the river and the deep green of the swamps, passing acres of perfectly tended rice paddies. Two< sturdy brothers, NATHAN, 13 and SAMUEL, 12, work alongside three adult male African freedmen, JOSHUA, JONAH, MICA, planting rice. They look up from their work as the rider passes. Nathan and Samuel take off running after the post rider.

THE HOUSE

The post rider approaches the house, built of native brick, well-constructed and well-maintained. There's a barn, a workshop and a forge. It is a home of substance rather than wealth. On the front porch, MARGARET, 11, pumps a butter churn while her brother, WILLIAM, 6, watches. They see the post rider. Margaret excitedly runs off toward the workshop while William stares at the approaching rider who is trailed by Nathan and Samuel.

INT. WORKSHOP - DAY

A perfect colonial workshop, fastidiously arranged with every conceivable tool of the period. A foot-powered lathe. A drop-forge. A lifting saw. Racks of tools, planes, hammers, augers, drills, blocks, all hanging in their places. All very well-worn.

BENJAMIN MARTIN methodically works his lathe, turning a piece of hardwood, shaving off tiny curls of wood with a razor-sharp chisel. He's in his late-forties, strong and weathered. His hands, though big and callused, handle the chisel with a surgeon's precision. Self-educated and self-sufficient, he has built himself, as he built his farm, brick by brick, from the coarse clay of the earth.

A finely-made rocking chair, missing only the dowel on which Martin is working, sits on the work table. The chair is a work of art, thin and light, a spider-web of perfectly turned wood, no nails, no glue. Sitting on the woodpile, SUSAN, 4, a silent, stone-face wisp of a child, watches her father. Margaret races in.

MARGARET
Father! A post rider!

Martin pointedly continues his work without looking up.

MARTIN
Very well.

Margaret waits, then, seeing that her father isn't going to come, she turns and races out.

EXT. FRESH WATER PLANTATION - DAY

The post rider rides up to the house. ABIGALE AND ABNER, a middle-aged African couple, step out. Abigale calls out to Nathan and Samuel as they run up breathlessly.

ABIGALE
You go tell your father, there a
post rider.

They race toward the workshop, passing an excited Margaret.

INT. WORKSHOP - DAY

Martin calmly takes the piece of wood out of the lathe, carefully fits it into the chair, inserts a peg and taps it into place. Then he steps back and appraises his handiwork. He picks up the chair and hooks the top rail to a scale, countering with a three-pound weight. The chair floats. Martin blows softly on the weight which sinks. Susan nods, so far, so good. Nathan and Samuel burst into the room.

NATHAN
Father! Father!

SAMUEL
A post rider! Mail!

Martin nods, keeping his attention on the chair.

MARTIN
Very well.

The boys wait for more. Nothing. They race out.

EXT. FRESH WATER PLANTATION - DAY

GABRIEL, 18, strong and handsome, walks out of the woods with a musket in his hand and a dozen game-birds over his shoulder. At his side walks THOMAS, 14, also carrying a musket. They see the post rider giving the mail to Abigale with the other children excitedly watch. Thomas runs over. Gabriel restrains himself and strides toward the workshop.

INT. WORKSHOP - DAY

Martin takes the chair off the scale and puts it on the floor. He walks slowly around it, checking every angle. He takes a deep breath and starts to sit down but stops as Gabriel enters.

GABRIEL
Father, a post rider.

MARTIN
I know.

Gabriel waits for Martin to share his excitement. He doesn't.

GABRIEL
May I bring it to you?

Martin pointedly keeps his attention on the chair.

MARTIN
No.

GABRIEL
May I open it?

Martin turns with a surprised and authoritarian glare.

GABRIEL
Uh... I can wait.

Gabriel leaves. Martin exchanges a look with Susan, then turns back to the chair. He takes a deep breath and lowers himself onto the seat, gingerly adding an ounce at a time. Not a creak. He smiles and sits back with a sigh.

CRACK! THE CHAIR SPLINTERS under Martin's weight, DUMPING HIM on his ass on a pile of broken wood.

MARTIN
Damnation!

He picks up some of the wood, about to fling it across the room but stops as Susan shoots him a disapproving look. He calms himself.

MARTIN
Sorry.

Susan gets down from the woodpile and puts the remains of the chair in the fireplace. Martin steps over to his wood< rack and extracts a fresh dowel. As Susan climbs back up to her perch, Martin fits the dowel into the lathe and starts it up.

THE MAIL sits, unopened, on the hall table. Margaret, William, Nathan, Samuel, Thomas and Gabriel hover. Abigale bustles in and shoos them away.

ABIGALE
You get away from there, now.
That's not your mail. You wash up
for supper... you leave that
alone...

The children reluctantly follow her orders, leaving the unopened mail on the table.

EXT. HILLTOP - FRESH WATER FARM - SUNSET

The loveliest spot on the farm. A beautiful view of the house, barns, river, fields and hills beyond. A gravestone stands in the shade of a soaring oak tree covered with Spanish moss. It reads:

ELIZABETH PUTNAM MARTIN 1738-1773

Above her name is a carving of the night sky, at the center of which is the NORTH STAR, steady and guiding.

Martin approaches. He gives himself a moment to look at the grave. A soft wind blows some dry leaves along the ground. Martin turns his head, as if listening to spoken words. PUSH IN on the North Star on the gravestone.

MARGARET (V.O.)
That's her, the North Star...

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. GIRLS' BEDROOM - NIGHT

Martin stands in the doorway, unobserved, while Margaret and Susan look out the window at the night sky.

MARGARET
... you start from the front two
stars of the Big Dipper and count up
five fingers lengths... that's
right... there.

Susan gazes up at the North Star. The girls notice Martin and climb into bed. He puts a chair against Susan's bed and kisses her. He pulls a blanket up around Margaret, who whispers:

MARGARET
It helps her to know Mother's there.

Martin nods with a thin smile, kisses Margaret, picks up his candle and walks out.

INT. BOYS' BEDROOM - NIGHT

Martin enters, finding William asleep on the floor and Nathan and Samuel both asleep in their beds. He lifts William into bed, takes a slingshot from Nathan's hand. Samuel looks up, three-quarters asleep, murmuring:

SAMUEL
Mail, papa...

MARTIN
I know.

He tucks in Samuel and walks out.

INT. FOYER - MARTIN'S HOUSE - NIGHT

Gabriel hovers near the still unopened mail. Thomas lies on the floor, deploying squadrons of lead soldiers. Martin walks in and pours a drink.

MARTIN
Very well. Open it.

Thomas and Gabriel leap for the mail, battling, tearing into it. Martin steps to the window with his drink, looking out into the night. Gabriel scans, Thomas reads more slowly.

GABRIEL
The New York and Rhode Island
assemblies have been dissolved...

MARTIN
The middle colonies?

GABRIEL
Rioting both sides of the bay, in
Chestertown they burned the Customs
House and tar-and-feathered the
Customs Agent. He died of burns.
In Wilmington they killed a Royal
Magistrate and two Redcoats.

MARTIN
Foolish men.

GABRIEL
Who, the rioters or the magistrates?

MARTIN
Anything about the convention in
Philadelphia?

GABRIEL
Poor Richard says they'll make a
Declaration of Independence by July.

Martin extracts a delicate pair of reading glasses from a wooden pocket-box and motions for Gabriel to hand him some of the newspapers and pamphlets. Gabriel does so. Martin sits down and begins reading.

GABRIEL
Scott Higgins joined the militia.

Martin doesn't respond. Thomas looks up from his lead soldiers.

GABRIEL
He's seventeen. A year younger than
I.

Gabriel and Thomas wait for a reaction. None. Gabriel sighs and sits down to open more mail. Martin's eyes drift from the page to Gabriel. Suddenly Gabriel starts:

GABRIEL
Father! The assembly's been
convened! You're called to
Charleston!

Martin nods, not pleased, not surprised.

MARTIN
We'll leave in the morning.

EXT. SWAMP ROAD - DAY

The Martins drive on a beautiful swamp road. The arching maples and willows form a tunnel of green. The children excitedly CHATTER AND SING. Martin, driving one of the wagons, is troubled. Gabriel, driving the other, is as excited as his siblings, but he restrains himself.

EXT. BENNINGTON OVERLOOK - DAY

The two carriages pass a view of their entire valley. Scattered farms with a patchwork of cultivated fields and rice paddies surround the town of Bennington.

EXT. SANTEE ROAD - DAY

Passing through rolling farmland, the Martins head toward the coast. They pass a large contingent of South Carolina Militia, drilling in a field. The children, particularly Gabriel, watch avidly.

EXT. CHARLESTON - DAY

Bustling. Martin and Gabriel negotiate the carriages through the busy streets. The children watch, wide-eyed, seeing taverns, a public gallows, drunkards, street entertainers, well-dressed ladies attended by their maids, food venders. They pull up in front of a grand house -- Charlotte's.

INT. CHARLOTTE'S HOUSE - CHARLESTON - DAY

CHARLOTTE SELTON, mid-thirties, beautiful, with a deep sadness that she keeps hidden as best she can, runs down the grand staircase of her mansion. She stops in front of a mirror and quickly primps, then hurries out the front door.

EXT. CHARLOTTE'S HOUSE - CHARLESTON - DAY

The children leap from the carriages and swarm around Charlotte, embracing her, smothering her with kisses.

THE CHILDREN
Aunt Charlotte! Aunt Charlotte!

CHARLOTTE
Welcome! Welcome! Margaret,
William, look at you...!
(to Martin)
They're huge. What have you been
feeding them?

MARTIN
They're from good stock on their
mother's side.

CHARLOTTE
Thank you. Come, come, inside, wait
until you see what I have...

THE CHILDREN
(simultaneous; all
except Susan)
Presents! For me? What do you
have?

CHARLOTTE
Inside, inside...

The children race through the door, forcing Martin and Charlotte together. They stand awkwardly, their bodies close, as the children pass. After the children go, Martin and Charlotte stand for an extra instant, then turn and see Susan standing, staring.

CHARLOTTE
You, too, Susan. There's something for you...

Martin and Charlotte watch Susan walk inside.

CHARLOTTE
She still hasn't started talking?

Martin shakes his head. They sigh and head inside together.

EXT. CHARLESTON SQUARE - NIGHT

CHAOS. A yelling crowd of Sons of Liberty is massed around a Liberty Tree from which hang dozens of glowing lanterns. GABRIEL walks through the crowd drinking it all in, turning his head this way and that, seeing:

Drunk men. Vendors selling rum, ale, food and banners emblazoned with a coiled snake and the legend, "Don't Tread On Me." Scores of on-lookers, including respectable people, as well as street urchins, whores and drunkards, watch the proceedings.

Gabriel moves through the crowd, excited by the madness of the scene, listening in to BITS OF CONVERSATION as he goes.

Gabriel stops, noticing PETER HOWARD, a one-legged, middle-aged man about Martin's age, standing with his family on the edge of the crowd. Howard's daughter, ANNE, very attractive, around fifteen, stands a bit apart from her parents.

Gabriel makes his way over and stands next to Anne. They exchange a look. She turns back to watch the crowd. Gabriel clears his throat and speaks with earnest, adult politeness.

GABRIEL
Miss Howard, isn't it?

She speaks without looking at him.

ANNE
You know who I am, Gabriel Martin.
The last time you saw me I was nine
and you put ink in my tea.

Gabriel straightens up and speaks officiously, trying to appear a man above such childish pranks.

GABRIEL
I believe that was one of my younger
brothers... perhaps Samuel or
Nathan.

ANNE
It was you and it turned my teeth
black for a month.

GABRIEL
I... uh...

The CROWD CHEERS AS several Sons of Liberty string up effigies of King George III and Governor Wilmington. As they light the effigies on fire, Anne's father, notices Anne talking to Gabriel. He motions for her to join him at his side. Anne nods to Gabriel, taking her leave.

Gabriel watches her go. With extreme effort, she keeps herself from glancing back at him. Gabriel turns his attention back to the crowd. Seeing a small knot of affluent men gathered in conversation, Gabriel walks over and stands just outside their circle, listening avidly.

EXT. CHARLOTTE'S BALCONY - NIGHT

Martin, his children and Charlotte watch the mob in the square below, The children are transfixed. Martin is troubled. Charlotte looks closely at Martin, gauging his expression.

THOMAS
Look! There's Gabriel!

They see Gabriel making his way through the crowd. He sees them and waves, then enters the house. A moment later Gabriel breathlessly steps onto the balcony.

GABRIEL
It's coming...

THOMAS
War? War?

GABRIEL
Harry Lee is here from Virginia
recruiting for a Continental Army.
He seeks a levy of troops and money.
The Governor has vowed that if the
Assembly votes a single shilling to
Lee, he'll dissolve the body.

CHARLOTTE
Which would force our delegates in
Philadelphia to vote for
independence.

MARTIN
And send us to war alongside
Massachusetts.

Gabriel nods enthusiastically. Martin shoots him a idelong glance, troubled by the prospect. Charlotte notices.

IN THE SQUARE, a pair of drunk Sons of Liberty, pull down one of the smoldering effigies, cut off its head, and start hacking at it's groin with a sword.

Martin sees his younger children's expressions as they watch.

MARTIN
Inside, all of you, right now.

They start to protest but a look at their father's face convinces them otherwise. They file into the house. Gabriel assumes the order doesn't apply to him but a stern look from Martin sends him reluctantly inside, leaving Charlotte and Martin alone on the balcony.

CHARLOTTE
Lee will be counting on your vote.
He'll expect you to be the first to
enlist.

Martin looks down at the mob without responding. The flames of the burning effigies light his face.

EXT. ASSEMBLY HALL - CHARLESTON - DAY

The capital building of South Carolina. A large crowd of lower-class men and women is massed in front of the Assembly Hall. As well-dressed Assemblymen walk into the building, the CROWD YELLS words of encouragement to some and berates others.

In the square in front of the Assembly Hall a squadron of blue-uniformed AMERICAN CONTINENTAL SOLDIERS drills. A recruiting table is being set up by a Continental Captain and several military clerks.

INT. ASSEMBLY HALL - DAY

Two dozen ANGRY, YELLING, MEN OF PROPERTY. Among them are ROBINSON, HAMILL and JOHNSON, who are Patriots. Opposed to them are SIMMS, WITHINGTON and BALDRIDGE who are Loyalists. As Martin makes his way to his seat, the SPEAKER OF THE ASSEMBLY POUNDS HIS GAVEL.

SPEAKER
ORDER! ORDER!

Slowly, the room quiets down.

SPEAKER
Our first order of business...

SIMMS
And our last if we vote a levy...

The ROOM ERUPTS.

SPEAKER
ORDER! ORDER! Mr. Simms, you do
not have the floor.

The ROOM SETTLES DOWN.

SPEAKER
Our first order of business is an
address by Colonel Harry Lee of the
Continental Army.

An imposing figure makes his way to the front of the assembly, COLONEL HARRY LEE, about Martin's age and cut from the same cloth -- strong, weathered, with a powerful bearing. Lee sees Martin and offers a familiar nod, which Martin returns, stone-faced. At the dais Lee pauses, then speaks simply.

LEE
You all know why I am here. I am
not an orator and I will not try to
convince you of the worthiness of
our cause. I am a soldier and we
are at war and with the declaration
of independence we all expect from
Philadelphia, it will soon be a
formal state of war. In preparation
for that, eight of the thirteen
colonies have levied money in
support of a Continental Army. I
ask South Carolina to be the ninth.

In the balcony, Gabriel nods in agreement. Simms rises.

SIMMS
Colonel Lee, Massachusetts may be at
war, along with New Hampshire and
Rhode Island and Virginia, but South
Carolina is not at war.

LEE
Massachusetts and New Hampshire are
not as far from South Carolina as
you might think and the war they're
fighting is not for independence of
one or two colonies. It's for the
independence of one nation.

WITHINGTON
And what nation is that?

Robinson, one of the Patriots, stands up.

ROBINSON
An American nation. Colonel Lee,
with your permission?

Lee nods.

ROBINSON
Those of us who call ourselves
Patriots are not seeking to give
birth to an American nation, but to
protect one that already exists. It
was born a hundred-and-seventy years
ago at Jamestown and has grown
stronger and more mature with every
generation reared and with every
crop sown and harvested. We are one
nation and our rights as citizens of
that nation are threatened by a
tyrant three thousand miles away.

LEE
Were I an orator, those are the
exact words I would have spoken.

Laughter. Martin rises.

MARTIN
Mister Robinson, tell me, why should
I trade one tyrant, three thousand
miles away, for three thousand
tyrants, one mile away?

Laughter from the Loyalists. Surprise from Lee and the Patriots. In the gallery, Gabriel winces.

ROBINSON
Sir?

MARTIN
An elected legislature can trample a
man's rights just as easily as a
King can.

LEE
Captain Martin, I understood you to
be a Patriot.

MARTIN
If you mean by a Patriot, am I angry
at the Townsend Acts and the Stamp
Act? Then I'm a Patriot. And what
of the Navigation Act? Should I be
permitted to sell my rice to the
French traders on Martinique? Yes,
and it's an intrusion into my
affairs that I can't... legally.

Laughter.

MARTIN
And what of the greedy, self-serving
bastards who sit as Magistrates on
the Admiralty Court and have fined
nearly every man in this room.
Should they be boxed about the ears
and thrown onto the first ship back
to England? I'll do it myself.
(beat)
And do I believe that the American
colonies should stand as a separate,
independent nation, free from the
reins of King and Parliament? I do,
and if that makes a Patriot, then
I'm a Patriot.

Martin grows more serious.

MARTIN
But if you're asking whether I'm
willing to go to war with England,
the answer is, no. I've been to war
and I have no desire to do so again.

The room is quiet, the Assemblymen having been thrown off- balance. Gabriel is disappointed by his father's speech.

ROBINSON
This from the same Captain Benjamin
Martin whose anger was so famous
during the Wilderness Campaign?

Martin glares at Robinson, then smiles.

MARTIN
I was intemperate in my youth. My
departed wife, God bless her soul,
dampened that intemperance with the
mantle of responsibility.

Robinson looks derisively at Martin.

ROBINSON
Temperance can be a convenient
disguise for fear.

Martin bristles but before he can answer, Lee steps in.

LEE
Mister Robinson, I fought with
Captain Martin in the French and
Indian War, including the Wilderness
Campaign. We served as scouts under
Washington. There's not a man in
this room, or anywhere, for that
matter, to whom I would more
willingly trust my life.

ROBINSON
I stand corrected.

LEE
But, damn it, Benjamin! You live in
a cave if you think we'll get
independence without war...

MARTIN
Wasn't it a Union Jack we fought
under?

LEE
A long time ago...

MARTIN
Thirteen years...

LEE
That's a damn long time...

The Speaker POUNDS HIS GAVEL again.

SPEAKER
Gentlemen! Please! This is not a
tavern!

Martin and Lee ignore the speaker.

MARTIN
You were an Englishman then...

LEE
I was an American, I just didn't
know it yet...

The Assemblymen and even the Speaker turn their heads in simultaneous anticipation of each rejoinder.

MARTIN
We don't have to go to war to gain
independence...

LEE
Balderdash!

MARTIN
There are a thousand avenues, other
than war, at our disposal...

Martin speaks slowly and firmly.

MARTIN
We do not have to go to war to gain
independence.

Lee says nothing for a moment, then he speaks more seriously, quietly, grimly.

LEE
Benjamin, I was at Bunker Hill. It
was as bad as anything you and I saw
on the frontier. Worse than the
slaughter at the Ashuelot River.
The British advanced three times and
we killed over seven hundred of them
at point blank range. If your
principles dictate independence,
then war is the only way. It has
come to that.

Martin is silent for a long moment. He softens and grows unsteady, speaking far more honestly than he ever wanted to.

MARTIN
I have seven children. My wife is
dead. Who's to care for them if I
go to war?

Lee is stunned by Martin's honesty and his show of weakness. At first Lee has no answer, then:

LEE
Wars are not fought only by
childless men. A man must weigh his
personal responsibilities against
his principles.

MARTIN
That's what I'm doing. I will not
fight and because I won't, I will
not cast a vote that will send
others to fight in my stead.

LEE
And your principles?

MARTIN
I'm a parent, I don't have the
luxury of principles.

The other Assemblymen, both Patriots and Loyalists, stare at him, appalled. Martin, feeling weak, sits down. Lee looks at his friend with more sympathy than disappointment. In the gallery Gabriel turns and walks out.

Film Scripts: 3/26/99 Draft Page 2





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