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(Credit: Jester-being)

Film

The 'Dirty Harry' script that was written by Terrence Malick

Terrence Malick has been long regarded as one of the most original filmmakers ever since his debut feature Badlands, a movie that became one of the crowning achievements of the American New Wave. Malick provided further reinforcement to his artistic claims through other modern masterpieces such as The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life.

Before he embarked on his journey as a pioneering director, however, Malick tried to network during his time at the American Film Institute Conservatory where he met people like Jack Nicholson and Jack Fisk. He also ventured into the world of cinema by working on script revisions for various projects in order to get a better understanding of the industry.

While Malick did receive writing credits for films like Pocket Money as well as The Gravy Train (under the pseudonym of David Whitney), there were times when he did not get credit for his revisions of early drafts of screenplays. One of the finest examples of this is his contributions to the 1971 neo-noir Dirty Harry.

Partially based on the curious case of the Zodiac Killer, Dirty Harry starred Clint Eastwood as a hard-boiled police inspector who is tasked with the responsibility of bringing down a psychopathic madman. The film is now regarded as one of the most influential mainstream exposures of the genre and even helped Eastwood define the latter half of his own career.

Although Eastwood ended up immortalising the role, there were many people attached to the project at the beginning, including John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and Frank Sinatra among many other stars. When Sinatra was being touted as the lead, John Milius was ready to write the script but the credits eventually went to other writers like Harry Julian Fink.

However, Milius maintained that his contributions to Dirty Harry remain visible because he wanted to fashion the film after Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece Stray Dog. Milius also noted that the one person who definitely should have gotten credits was Malick. He had come in after Milius and written a draft where the “madman” was actually a vigilante hunting down wealthy criminals.

In an interview, Milius recalled details about the entire debacle while revealing how he missed out on the credits: “Clint [Eastwood] always asked me, ‘Do you want to take your name off?’ That’s what he always thought. You know who else did a draft after me and probably should have gotten credit? Terry Malick.”

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