Monday, October 02, 2006

Character Depth - Paul Edgecomb

Thanks so much to Matt Spira (mspira on TriggerStreet and active participant of the revolution with his own great blog, the Happy Existentialist).

One of my favorite characters of all time is Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) from The Green Mile. The character does such a good job of capturing the essence of true leadership in all the small details. The contradiction comes from the contrast of him being such a decent man doing what is truly a brutal job. The choices he makes aren't simple, but at the same time reflect the clarity of having been fully thought through. He is as tough as nails in a polite package. He firmly asserts his authority over "Wild Bill" and Percy, is gentle with John Coffey and Eduard Delacroix , all while keeping in mind his overall responsibility.


Mystery Man said...

Great job, Matt! I loved the phrase, "He's tough as nails in a polite package."

Great characterization.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like our Matt. Good choice.

Anonymous said...

This is an important sequence of study. I've started to read scripts on TS again, but after spending the last several months with handpicked writers who have already demonstrated they know what they're doing... it's a bit of a contrast.

But even those handpicked writers I've been reading over the last several months have got to turn it up a notch. The standard for success is a minimum of "great" (or better), not just "good."


PS Apparently bloggers using the beta service can't directly comment on other blogs. It's supposed to be resolved at some near point in the future.

Carl S said...

Hanks totally sold this character to me in the scene where he has to pee and makes his way out to the backyard. I was in pain right along with him. Ouch.

I need to see this again. Your post has me interested again, Matt.

Mystery Man said...


I agree with you completely with everything you wrote, particularly the comment about the writers turning it up a notch. I feel that way about the PROS! Too many of them (the pros, and yes, us too) think like ants, and I honestly blame US for the bad films today. I really feel that screenwriters have been hindering great filmmakers from creating masterpieces that will stand the test of time. They don't think about subtext, they don't think about characters with depth, and it drives me crazy.

I care about the friends I've made on TS and I don't know why, but I just... I can see the greatness in them but today's gurus have limited their thinking. Everyone has to surpass today's pros. Period. The next generation needs to step onto the world stage with superior scripts of great craftsmansip unlike anything we've seen before. That's the key to success period. You don't think people are looking for great scripts? Do you know what I mean?

There's so much more one needs to study and incorporate into your writings than what has been said by the gurus in order to truly create great films. Sometimes I think that we understand the principle of character contradictions because we read about in McKee's book, but we never really spent the time to really think about it and actually incorporate it into our own writings. Hello? This is the key to depth!

I'm rambling again...


Shares Dream World said...

And that's where the whole idea of haivng a fear of sharing becomes ridiculous, because most screenwriters can see and understand the difference between bad writing and good writing, or good writing and great writing. However, there's a huge difference between UNDERSTANDING a principle and APPLYING it. We're all guilty of not always bridging that gap.

Mystery Man said...

I couldn't agree more, Ross! You sometimes just want to say, "guys, you understand how to create characters with depth, so... what are you doing?"

Carl S said...

Is it possible that the writer sees depth where there is none on the page?

After all, we have the characters in our heads. They are three dimensional, their background is fleshed out. We may see depth in our writing yet neglect to really deliver it to our audience because in our minds, the gaps are already filled in.

Our characters are like tubes of toothpaste, we need to squeeze them from the bottom up to get every last drop out.

Mystery Man said...

Well, I think one of the many approaches you have to take to a scene is to ask yourself, "how can I show a different side of this character so that the audience can see how fleshed-out it is?"

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