I have an old friend who is a scriptwriter, and he’s currently in the process of breaking into Hollywood. I don’t know much about the Hollywood scene, but my friend has been working on this script – a fish-out-of-water comedy – for over a year. He is immersed. He is also being mentored by the guy who wrote the screenplay for Cocoon. Cocoon! Anyway, we met up for lunch yesterday and quite quickly reached the point where there was still lots more to say, because we hadn’t talked properly for a couple of years, but the food and the coffee was finished and the waiter had come and cleared everything off the table. I don’t know many people I can talk to for long enough that the things are cleared off the table. So the event of table-clearing is always quietly momentous, for me.
I asked my friend if he wanted a pot of tea or something, in order to re-occupy the table.
“I’m thinking of getting another coffee, actually.”
“OK, what sort of coffee do you want?”
“Well,” he said. “You can’t always give the protagonist what he wants. You have to give him what he needs. If you give him what he wants all the time, then … you have to punish him.”
We didn’t really talk about this any further because I had to go off to the bathroom, which is the one thing that never happens in films when the characters reach an interesting bit of a conversation, but now I keep thinking about it. And: when I came back from the bathroom, my friend had another coffee. I don’t know what it means.