Access to Power, Excerpt from the Screenplay
The following excerpt is unedited and includes the first ten pages of the screenplay.
INT. DARK BEDROOM - NIGHT (BEGIN MAIN TITLES)
A BLONDE (28) is sprawled out on the floor in lingerie, eyes open in a thousand yard stare as TWO MEN drag a trunk into the room. She's bruised, her neck turned as if snapped.
With faces hidden in the gloom, one man checks for a pulse, can't find it and shakes his head. The other nods, punching holes through the trunk with a drill. One after the other.
The drill hits the floor.
The two men grab the Woman, lift and drop her inside the trunk like a rag doll. The lid swings shut. As she's carried off, the Woman blinks ...
INT/EXT. SPORTS UTILITY VEHICLE -- NIGHT
The trunk slides into the back. She looks through the holes, appears dazed but sees a face. Briefly. GEORGE RAYMOND (45) has hollow gray eyes and gray hair spiked out in a long crew.
Car doors slam, the SUV moving now. City streets. Washington monuments. Light dancing on the window above.
EXT. THE POTOMAC RIVER -- NIGHT
The SUV stops but no one moves or says anything. WATER LAPS in the b.g. A tear falls down her battered cheek as she waits.
Then the doors fly open, the trunk lifted into the air. She peers through the holes, sees Raymond's teeth clenched as he carries his end of the load, running across the asphalt to the grass until finally, she's hurled through the air.
The trunk plunges into the river, bobbing to the surface. She sees the Capitol, water rushing through the holes.
She forces air between her lips managing a series of faint whistles. The water washes over her face. Then she screams. Shrieks. The sudden burst of sound lost in the river as the trunk pitches forward and sinks ...
END MAIN TITLES -- FADE TO BLACK
A POLITICAL SPOT FILLS THE SCREEN
with a MAP of the U. S., GRAPHICS & GAME SHOW SFX, cutting to shots of Virginia under a PHOTO of MEL MERDOCK (38). Trim and boyish, Merdock's smile makes him appear naive, goofy.
Question. Of these five places -- New York,
Washington, LA, Fort Worth, or the entire state of
Virginia -- where has Texas millionaire and son of an
oil tycoon now turned senatorial candidate
Mel Merdock NOT lived in the last ten years? If you
guessed Virginia -- you're right! Millionaire Mel
Merdock has never lived, voted, or paid taxes in
Virginia, and only moved here from Fort Worth to
run for office. Does it make sense for Virginia to
elect someone who hasn't lived here? Of course not.
We need a senator who will fight for us -- not
millionaire Mel Merdock. Virginia's Lou Kay. He's
a working guy. He's one of us!
INT. MILES, DARROW & ASSOCIATES' MEDIA ROOM -- DAY
FRANK MILES (40) hits the pause button, staring at the TV. He's slim, handsome -- a media consultant with an angular face and eyes that see through everything.
... We're dead.
Everyone in the office is here, waiting for his reaction:
WOODY DARROW (40), wire-rimmed glasses and stocky. Frank's partner since law school, standing in the doorway looking pissed off.
LINDA REYNOLDS (30), a new partner, holding back a smile with a pen between her lips. She's blonde, smart, refined. Even in a business suit, she's overwhelming.
Frank's assistant TRACY (25) smart and hefty. And two college interns, HARRY and TOM.
It's not like you weren't expecting it.
How many times did they use the word millionaire?
I counted three.
You're on the wrong side this time. Merdock's
everything they say he is only a hundred times
worse and you know it.
Stewart Brown is doing Lou Kay's campaign.
If I don't hit back, we'll lose.
(thinking, to Tracy)
I need someone to read a spot. Sammy or Rick.
Tell Vintage Video I want to be editing in an hour.
You want messengers?
(nods, to Harry & Tom)
I want you guys to call the stations. Tell them
Lou Kay's disclaimer violates the election
code. It's too small. Tell them if they air it again,
they'll be fined. And try to act like you know what
you're talking about.
It looks okay to me.
It is okay, but they'll have to pull the spot to
check. It won't be running.
Harry gets it, laughs. Tracy smiles, vintage Frank Miles.
What about script approval?
Forget it. I'm gonna kill these guys.
FRANK CUTS THROUGH THE WAR ROOM
passing cluttered desks and work tables. Campaign files, newspaper headlines, voice?over copy and videotapes. A board on the wall charts the firm's clients through election day. Out the windows, the Capitol is close enough to touch.
FRANK BOLTS INTO HIS GLASS-ENCLOSED OFFICE
sits before his computer beneath pictures of Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR and Jack Kennedy. On a side table, two PHOTOS from college: Frank playing soccer and baseball. Just as he starts writing, Woody enters.
The guy is a lie.
It's a lie. I like that ...
(speaking what he types)
... It's ... a ... lie ...
Tracy sticks her head in the door.
Sammy and Rick are both available. Who do
you want to read the spot?
Find out who's pissed off.
Sammy's wife just left him. She wants a divorce.
Frank stops typing. Their eyes meet.
Tell him we'll fax it over in ten minutes.
I'm busy, Woody. What do you want?
I want you to drop the Merdock account.
You're ridiculous. Get out.
Frank laughs, gets back to work. He loves this.
Merdock's trying to buy a seat in the Senate
with his father's money. He's a dick. An
(speaking what he types)
The victim ... of a negative campaign.
He's morally bankrupt. He's gonna spend
fifty million bucks.
What Virginia needs -- no -- what Virginia
really needs --
TRACY, HARRY & TOM REACT FROM THEIR DESKS
cringing as they trade smiles and keep score.
It's a fucking seat in the U.S. Senate. He
doesn't stand for anything.
I'm sure he stands for something. If you don't
want your share of the media buy, then
don't take it.
WOODY OPENS FRANK'S DESK DRAWER
takes a cigarette out, lights it and settles in a chair.
This isn't what we had in mind when we
got into this.
Frank finally stops typing, gives him a long look.
What we got into was the business of
getting people elected.
No matter what?
(smiles, typing again)
Children and puppies.
He's for children and puppies.
Woody stomps out. Frank laughs and prints the spot, stopping when he sees Linda in her office. He tries to look away but can't. She's by the window, on the phone, gorgeous.
Tracy enters, breaking the spell, and takes the script from the printer. Mel and JAKE MERDOCK (35) enter the war room.
The Merdocks, Frank.
He looks up, sees them. They're worried, heading for the conference room on Frank's nod.
Sammy's at the recording studio. You need
to get out of here.
He checks his watch.
We'll do the voice track by phone. Have them
set up a patch so I can listen. Let me know
when they're ready.
He walks out, then turns back. Tracy's already behind his desk, dialing the phone.
You know what?
You're the best, that's what.
She flashes an embarrassed smile, turns back to the phone.
FRANK WALKS INTO THE CONFERENCE ROOM
sees Woody brooding in his office as he closes the glass door.
Merdock appears as he did in the spot with a boyish face. His brother Jake is younger, darker, more shrewd looking.
Did you see it?!
Frank nods calmly, pouring a cup of coffee.
How do you think this affects Mel's
If we work quickly, the spot won't have any
effect at all.
Frank paces before the table. Merdock and then Jake sit down.
It's the first hit ... And Stewart Brown did
just what I said he would. He kept Lou Kay
off the air. They saved their money. Now they're
going to hit hard. Negative all the way to
How do we fight that?!
We hit back harder. And we do it more times.
Merdock pulls a copy of the POST from his briefcase.
A poll came out in this morning's paper.
We're losing. Maybe we should make a
change on some of our issues.
What issues? You don't have any.
Merdock and Jake look at each other.
What you say or do after you're elected
is none of my business. Until you're elected,
I write the copy.
... If I want to win.
People who read newspapers think the
issues are jobs and education. People
watching TV think crime's the real issue.
How's that possible when every study
shows crime going down?
Tracy waves from her desk. His recording session is ready. Frank notices his coffee, pushing it aside, untouched.
... Local TV news isn't local TV news anymore.
It's a crime report designed to scare the
shit out of people. So here's what we do.
When we're on TV, crime's the big issue.
In print, it's jobs, education and social security.
What about their spot? What are you
going to do?
Turn it around. Make them wish they never
made it. I've gotta go.
And Frank's out, like a hurricane.
INT/EXT. RAYMOND'S ACCORD AT FRANK'S OFFICE -- LATE AFTERNOON
It's a hundred year old house behind ivy-covered walls. There's a sign: MILES, DARROW & ASSOCIATES. Frank hurries out with a garment bag and videotapes, jumps into a white Lexus and rumbles off.
Raymond's parked across the street, watching. He opens a file, glances at an article from the POST'S ARCHIVES off the internet -- TEENAGERS ARRESTED IN BURGLARY. He returns it to the file thoughtfully, gives the building a last look and drives off ...
INT. EDIT 1 AT VINTAGE VIDEO -- NIGHT
KIP (28) types LOU KAY TAKES MONEY FROM SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS as Frank adjusts a blank piece of torn paper beneath the title camera and gets into his tuxedo pants. On the monitor, the two images look like a headline ripped out of a newspaper.
That's it. Bring it in and hold it.
Linda enters with files and videotapes, sitting at the table beside Frank's chair and open garment bag.
We're almost done.
We're doing another spot?
Just a fix. Colorado.
She watches Frank tuck his shirt in and picks up his script.
Let's take a look.
Kip lowers the lights and hits his keyboard.
LOU KAY'S SPOT FILLS THE SCREEN AGAIN
smashed with the words IT'S A LIE. Then slow motion video of LOU KAY (54) speaking with fake headlines fading in and out. If Lou Kay were removed from the ad, he would look bright, forceful. Instead, he looks like a hack.
It's a lie. What Lou Kay is saying in TV ads like
these are absolute lies. The truth is that Lou
Kay is running a negative campaign. Why?
Because Lou Kay and his big Washington
consultants are hiding something. What Lou
Kay doesn't want you to know is that he's taken
big money from lobbyists, even special interest
groups. What Virginia really needs is a
senator who isn't in the pocket of the big shots.
Mel Merdock hasn't taken one dime from
lobbyists or special interest groups. On election
day, you can make the difference. Say NO
to Washington big shots. Say NO to Lou Kay.
The spot is devastating. Everyone laughs.
You know you could say that about anyone.
Is this a great country or what?
INT. THE BAR AT THE MAYFLOWER HOTEL -- LATER THAT NIGHT
A WAITER crosses from the bar with a tray of cocktails.
SENATOR PRYOR (O.S.)
I'm worried about you, Frank.
The Waiter reaches their table. Frank sits with SENATOR HELEN PRYOR (55), a handsome woman with a face lined by a life of hard work. Both are dressed for a black-tie event.
The whisky's the senator's. Thanks.
The Waiter vanishes. They CLICK glasses and sip their drinks.
One negative campaign after the next.
What I did to Ozzie Olson got you elected
two years ago. It got ugly, Helen. I admit
that. But you don't need to feel guilty about it.
Yes you do. I can see you do.
Their smiles fade as they look up. STEWART BROWN (45) is passing them with an awkward smile and nod. He's heavy with slicked back hair, his tuxedo too small, beady eyes darting.
Stewart Brown reaches the bar in the b.g., ordering a drink.
He's doing Lou Kay's campaign, isn't he?
Stewart Brown is a bottom feeder. The king
... What about Merdock?
What's wrong with him?
He's spending his own money.
He's got a lot of it. So what?
By the time most of us can raise real money,
we're pretty well tested.
But a candidate who can bankroll his own
campaign turns it all upside down. Think
about it. He won't owe anybody anything.
She thinks it over, still concerned ...
INT/EXT. RAYMOND'S ACCORD AT FRANK'S OFFICE -- NIGHT (RAINING)
Raymond pulls into the lot. SONNY STOCKWELL (18) and black, sits in the back. He's dead, wrapped in plastic, staring at Raymond in the mirror.
A second floor window is lighted. Raymond sips coffee from a travel mug, then slips into his gloves as he eyes Stockwell.
Raymond exits the car. Crossing to the entrance, he picks the lock until it CLICKS. Then he opens the door and enters.
A C C E S S T O P O W E R, T H E S C R E E N P L A Y