This is a screenplay about the life of Sean Flynn. Sean was the son of the actor Errol Flynn. After becoming a promising actor himself, he became tired of living in his father’s large shadow, and gave up the profession to retrain as a photojournalist. He traveled to Vietnam to cover the war and became part of infamous “easy riders” of the press corp. In 1970 he was captured by Khmer Rouge guerillas and never seen again. This is my version of his story.
INT. AN APARTMENT IN TU DO STREET, SAIGON, LATE 1969. MORNING
The apartment is dimly lit; thick curtains block out the natural light, and a low burning oil lamp in the corner casts large, over-sized shadows across the floor.
Bags lie packed on the floor, and blankets are neatly folded at the foot of the low slung bed.
At the other end of the bed we see SEAN FLYNN sitting with his back against the wall, sweating profusely from the intense heat, his undone shirt revealing the beads around his neck.
Flynn’s eyes are shut tight as he wearily strokes his forehead, his breathing becoming audibly deeper and deeper.
When he finally stands up we see him from behind.
A subtle shift to the side lets us see his reflection in a full-length mirror. Flynn slowly opens his eyes.
Flynn is over six foot tall, has a deep tan, dark blond hair, and thick sideburns. Though extremely handsome, he has a slightly rugged, weather beaten look about his face. His clothing, though very similar to military fatigues, is not official US army attire.
As he stares deeply into the mirror, the image changes to that of his father, the actor ERROL FLYNN, at the height of his fame, smiling back towards him.
We then see Sean Flynn as his character in the film Son of Captain Blood.
This then fades into Sean as a child.
Flynn pulls away from the mirror, clearly dizzied, the palms of his hands furiously rubbing his eyes aware that what he has just seen was an illusion.
EXT. TU DO STREET, SAIGON, MORNING. CONTINUOUS.
DANA STONE sits astride a Honda motorcycle waiting impatiently for Flynn.
Stone is small and stocky, hat pulled down to the top of his thin-rimmed glasses, without which he is unable to see five yards in front of his face.
As he waits street kids plague him to buy cigarettes, to change money, and to watch ‘boom-boom’ movies.
Flynn, I’m dying out here! [To the children surrounding him] Mother almighty! I’ll buy a thousand Dinkydaos from you as soon we get back. You can wait a week right? [Exasperated, wiping away the sweat that is drenching his face]. Flynn, you owe me for this…
Flynn steps out from the apartment into the hazy sunshine. We see him shot from below to give an impression of his sheer size and physicality.
When the children see him they flood around him, deserting Stone in the process.
Stone laughs and shakes his head as the children pull at Flynn’s equipment bag and assorted survival paraphernalia.
Shouts of ‘Captain, Captain’, and ‘Mr.Sean’ echo round and round as Flynn brushes through the children and takes his place on the other motorcycle next to Stone.
To the brim…you still wanna do this?
Unless you got the money I paid for renting these fine machines we’re sitting on, I guess we’re going.
Fine Machines? AP stop your checks this month?
They stopped six months ago. You think the rice with rice diet I’ve been surviving on was through choice?
Stone fires up his engine.
Remember your promise – that’s all I ask.
How can I forget?
Well alright then.
As Flynn starts his engine a third American, T.D. DAVIDS, comes into view. David’s clothes and the labels on the bags he is carrying inform us that he is leaving Vietnam.
Whoa, whoa! Will you two fucko’s hold on – you’re not going anywhere ‘til I get a shot for posterity.
Ours or yours?
Both Flynn and Stone laugh.
I can’t believe you’re doing this. You’re playing on after the whistle’s blown…haven’t you had enough of this fucking place?
Nope. We’re waiting ‘til this place had enough of us [more laughter]…
Keep it up fellas, keep it up. Talk like that might just get you killed.
Come on Davids, relax. You’re shipping out, and in a few days so will we. I’ve got to remind my poor wife that she’s got a husband, and Flynn here’s off to Bali for some permanent R & R. One more sortie after all this times not going to do us any harm…
Well make sure you do, as I sure as hell don’t need the entire L.A. press core hounding my arse for bullshit quotes on what great journalists you were before your untimely demise…
Flynn and Stone start their engines, as Davids scrambles to take a picture.
We see Flynn and Stone through Davids’ camera, which they both look soberly into as he takes a shot, before pulling off into the street.
We move between images of Davids, a look of incomprehensible sadness on his face, and Flynn and Stone from behind, slowly working their way down the street, through the traffic and the people.
As they approach the roads end Davids reaches for his camera again. Once more we see Flynn and Stone through the camera, and as the shutter clicks down we see the
The credits are seen in stark black and white, interspersed with stills and posters of both Errol Flynn, and Sean Flynn in their film roles, and moving shots of Flynn and Stone on the road, heading towards the Cambodian border, deep in very beautiful open countryside.
INT. A PLANE ON THE RUNWAY, SAIGON. EARLY 1966.
As the plane taxis round we see the passengers unbuckling themselves. All except Flynn whose seat doesn’t seem to have a seatbelt.
An orange glow lights his face as he stares at the Vietnamese sunset through the window.
His appearance is every bit the fledgling film star; a clean shaven face, well groomed short hair, tailored slacks, and a formal short-sleeved shirt, in direct contrast to his later appearance.
As people start to file from the plane towards the front, an older JOURNALIST engages Flynn.
To late to turn back now, wouldn’t you say?
[looking at the build up of military personnel outside] I’d make you about right on that Sir.
Well, this is shaping up into a nice little adventure. Though knowing my luck, it’ll all be over before it’s begun…the way this skirmish is being talked up our boys will have it sown up in no time.
[smiling] The NVA might well disagree with you on that matter…I’m hoping to get the chance to ask them…
The journalist begins to laugh, but quickly realises Flynn isn’t joking, his expression and mood changing rapidly.
That would certainly be a novel approach to take…your father was somewhat the hero wasn’t he…
Flynn for the first time gazes intently into the journalist’s eyes.
After a strained silence he responds.
Only on the screen Sir, only on the screen.
The journalist nods goodbye and moves towards the exit.
EXT. SAIGON AIRPORT RUNWAY.
Flynn begins to walk across towards the arrivals gate. He sees a collection of fellow journalists being ushered through by an army press officer.
A welcoming committee, including MAJOR P.T. JOHNSON, awaits Flynn, his celebrity having preceded his arrival.
Flynn moves warily towards them.
Mr.Flynn, welcome to Vietnam. I’m Major P.T. Johnson.
Please, call me Sean Sir…pleased to make your acquaintance.
Fine, fine. So son, you’ve come to add your words to the mountain of material written on the little operation we have underway here.
No Sir. I’ve come to take pictures. I’ve come to add my two cents to the photo mountain.
Now that’s very interesting. [Signals to a soldier to bring around the waiting jeep] The son of Errol Flynn a photojournalist. Your father reported on the Spanish Civil War didn’t he? So what paper are your pictures destined for? A New York magazine no doubt.
Actually I’m contracted to Paris-Match
Yes Sir, it’s a French magazine
[looking Flynn up and down]
I’m aware of that son. I suppose the French do have a great deal of vested interests in the entire region.
[attempting to lighten the mood]
Paris-Match was the only magazine who took me seriously. It’s kind of hard to convince the average American editor that you want to give up your chosen, well-paid livelihood to walk freely into a war zone.
Son, you’ve got a point.
Johnson signals to the press officer who passes him a copy of an American newspaper carrying the headline ‘Son of Robin Hood in Vietnam’.
These arrived before you did.
Flynn looks mortified, unsure of where to put his face, as the realisation has dawned upon him that his presence in Vietnam is immediately compromised.
Sir, I learnt my field skills in Black-Foxe military school, Los Angeles, not Sherwood Forest.
[Johnson casts a withering look at the press officer.] Military school you say? That I did not know. Sergeant Murphy here will take you to Saigon HQ and introduce you around. Be sure to let him know if you need anything Mr. Flynn.
The two men exchange a frosty handshake. Flynn throws his backpack and equipment into the jeep, and jumps into the passenger seat.
EXT. IN THE JEEP.
As the jeep speeds off through the airport they pass a plane, a flying mortuary being loaded with what seem to be steel coffins destined for the US.
Behind the plane a beautiful sunset looms.
INT. PRESS TENT, FIRST INFANTRY HEADQUARTERS, BIEN HOA.
Flynn hovers impatiently around the edge of the press briefing. He slowly shakes his head, clearly not listening to a word that is being said.
Next to him, for the first time chronologically, we see Dana Stone. A huge camera dangles from his neck, through which he focuses on Flynn from across the room.
Stone gradually edges towards him. When almost next to him Flynn looks up, and Stone nods politely to him.
[whispering] I’ve been here for two weeks now and the only place I’ve been taken or been allowed to go so far looks like some Ivy Leaguers just swept through. Seriously, it looks like there’s been camp fires instead of fire fights. All neat villages and smiling locals…it’s kind of disconcerting.
I’ve seen you somewhere before right?
Probably in a bad fitting pirates uniform.
Shit…there it is… you looked great with that sword – the wife really enjoyed that. Son of something or other?
Captain Blood. Terrible wasn’t it?
Well, I have to be honest it wasn’t exactly Mutiny On The Bounty. Least it explains why you’ve got the hand held tour so far. Guess they figure they’ve semi-precious cargo in their care and don’t want to get it dirty. I fortunately do not have that predicament. They don’t seem to care so much about what an ex-logger from Vermont points his lens at.
That’s a mistake I hope you’ve been taking advantage of.
Amen to that. Look, if you truly want to escape the constant nurse maiding, and the pre-packed villages you’ve got to go off radar a few times. Really find some heat, and they’ll give you a wider berth.
If they took the kid gloves off, and started talking to me instead of my father for a few seconds, that would be a real start.
I’m Stone by the way. Dana Stone…pleased to speak to you Sean.
Flynn gently laughs to himself, confusing Stone.
Sorry. It’s just nice to hear someone actually say my first name. At least half a dozen times somebody’s gone to call me Errol. Either that or they won’t stop talking about him. Never mind he’s been dead for six years. They stand there spouting some crap from Wicked, Wicked Ways at me, like I’m not aware of the reputation. Two days ago I was standing out back there and this young Colonel walks over and introduces himself as George Patton Jnr.
Get out of here!
No joke, I swear. For the next half an hour it’s ‘My father knew your father’ non-stop. How do you tell somebody like that that you couldn’t give a damn?
That sure is some horse crap. Just hold on to this thought as consolation; things are really starting to warm up around here my friend – those black pyjama boys are not about to lie down…I know some people who’ll be willing to get you off the scope…I’ve been here two months and been through about four cameras, so I’m sure we can get you dirty as hell.
As Flynn and Stone make their way out of the tent we hear the press officers incessant dialogue.
Overlapping tracks of clipped military speak play almost simultaneously; phrase like hostile forces, ground taken, hot sectors, planned assaults flood from his mouth.
INT. A BAR, SAIGON.
Flynn and Stone are working their way through hordes of marines in an attempt to get towards the back of a bar.
As Flynn passes marines recognise him. They shake his hand, and pass him drinks and cigarettes, Flynn passing half of them immediately on to Stone.
Upon reaching the back of the bar they find a man, GARVEY, laid out unconscious across several chairs.
Damn it! Garvey you sonofabitch! Wake up.
Stone rigorously tries to rouse Garvey to no avail.
Did you check his pulse while you were down there Dana?
Another soldier, MARSH, walks over to Flynn and Stone. His hair is longer than the average soldier, his moustache drooping at the sides of his mouth. Round his neck he sports a set of beads.
He’s been like that for a good three hours. Nobody knows what the hell he dropped, but it’s unlikely he’s going to wake up anytime soon.
I was supposed to be organising a little sojourn for my man Flynn here. He’s having a little trouble slipping through the net if you get what I mean.
Garvey there’s going nowhere tomorrow. When he does come round he’s going to think his head has imploded.
Guess I’ll have to wait.
I’m sure I can get you out on a patrol with my crew. It’s not exactly special ops, but it’ll give a taste, which is what you want. You’re a journalist right?
Photojournalist. Trying to be anyway.
Well if all Photojournalists get bought as many free drinks and cigarettes as you have since you walked in this place I’m going to hang around with photojournalists a lot more often. Lets discuss the details.
Marsh puts his arm around Flynn’s shoulders and the three men make their way towards the bar.
Beneath the noise of the bar, the sound of a helicopter and machine gun fire is heard.
INT. The HELICOPTER.
The metallic ring of bullets hitting the sides of the helicopter grows ever louder.
Fists gripping his seat for dear life, Flynn sits with his back against the helicopters partition.
The helicopter begins to tilt dramatically, causing loose equipment to be thrown around.
Panic is gradually spreading amongst the MARINES on board.
[To Pilot] For Christ’s sake – will you get this thing down!
We going down one way or another – the
engines shot through.
MARINE 2 (DUPONT)
Routine patrols man. Fuck them! The only thing routine about them is we get shot at every time.
Yeah, and you whine like the dumb ass cracker you are every time too.
You see what I have to put up with?
The Huey lurches side ways exposing Marsh who falls towards the open door.
As the ground rapidly approaches, Marsh is shot straight through the small of his back as a hail of enemy fire careers through the helicopter forcing everyone to the floor.
Dupont! Get a hold of that piece [the mounted gun]
Shit! Shit! Not today man, not today!
Dupont edges towards the gun. Once he grasps it, he fires indiscriminately into the trees until the helicopter touches down.
The four marines and Flynn sprint for a group of trees 50 yards away.
Once their panic begins to subside it dawns upon them that they have left crucial equipment behind.
Damn it! We forgot the fucking radio.
We’re good as dead if we go back out there.
Out there! I aint moving nowhere except that way [points into the forest]
Whilst the troops carry on arguing amongst themselves over who should get the radio, between a lull in the ongoing shooting, Flynn sprints back towards the helicopter.
He almost reaches it before the marines notice what’s happening.
What the…lay down some fire for crying out loud! Didi mau! Didi mau! [Go quickly]
The marines spray bullets around Flynn as he grabs the radio backpack.
He momentarily pauses and stares at the body of Marsh slumped beside the helicopter, the beads around Marsh’s neck glinting in the fierce sunshine, his hair spread out against the ground.
Flynn then starts to run, half-stumbling back towards the trees.
As he reaches cover he keeps running into the dense undergrowth, quickly followed by the four marines.
When they seem assured they are temporarily safe Flynn gently hands over the radio to the marines, who all have their hands on their knees and are breathing heavily in the thick jungle heat.
Flynn holds out a small camera bag.
I forgot this.
Flynn walks slowly away from the stunned marines, who stare open mouthed at him.
Look at him. Not a drop of sweat on his body
He moved like Jim Brown!
A crazy Jim Brown you mean.
EXT. BATTLE MONTAGE
A montage sequence shows Flynn, sometimes with Stone, taking pictures on various dangerous patrols. We witness Flynn relish being under attack in all manner of treacherous weather conditions. In the midst of battle marines and small children attempt to obtain Flynn’s autograph. He warmly greets each request. Fades into.
EXT. QUI NHON. LATE 1966.
Flynn and members of the First Cavalry Division are edging their way through thick forest.
Flynn, as has become his custom, walks with the advanced patrol.
He walks with his camera constantly poised for action alongside the PLATOON SERGEANT.
The PLATOON SERGEANT begins to makes signals to the men to look for tunnel openings, but is distracted by Flynn pointing his lens towards him.
Flynn? How the hell can you see where you’re going with that thing stuck to your face? You’re going to fall into the damn tunnel network and not know a thing about it.
You get a better perspective this way…it’s just another way of seeing.
Seeing us right?
Worried about how you’ll look?
Right now all I’m worried about is what my tunnel rat’s going to see when we find this damn warren and send him down. All he’s going to have is a .45 pistol, a flashlight and barely enough room to breathe and move, so you just click away at whatever you want.
EXT. MEKONG RIVER.
Cut to Stone, waist deep in water, on an operation with a Long Range Patrol.
They are circumnavigating the river to round up what they think are NVA troops cut off from their brigade.
[Quietly to himself]
Come out NVA, wherever you are. Dana’s getting cold and tired and his camera’s full of water. He wants to go home – he needs some tape and weed. And whiskey. Lots of whiskey. Come out or they’ll blow your house down.
From the opposite bank a soldier has signalled that he sees movement.
To flush them from the brush along the riverbank the troops fire a smoke bomb into the area.
Poised and waiting for the imminent confrontation, Stone is first to realise that the people in the brushes are not NVA, but mainly elderly villagers.
He frantically tells the troops not to fire as the villagers start wading into the water.
Stone walks in front of their raised machine guns, hands in the air.
As the troops move past him he takes pictures of the villagers being rounded up, focusing on the fear on their faces, and their ripped, muddied and water sodden clothes.
EXT. FLYNN WITH FIRST CAVALRY DIVISION
Cut to the Platoon Sergeant, frustrated that they have not found the tunnel network, bad temperedly signalling to his scout ahead, who then sheepishly signals back that he sees nothing.
Damn It! It’s got to be around here somewhere. Half a day of nothing but undergrowth and insects. May as well be back home.
As the Platoon Sergeant begins to reply, fire breaks out from the surrounding trees.
Blood rushing from a bullet wound in his stomach the Sergeant falls on his back. Flynn runs to his assistance amid the panic.
The Sergeant is mouthing something to Flynn, but he cannot understand him.
Medic! Medic! (Flynn leans closer). I’m sorry, I don’t understand.
Whilst Flynn grasps his hand, the Sergeant, blood filing from his mouth, dies.
Flynn stares angrily at the pistol in the Sergeant’s holster.
He hesitates before starting to un-strap the pistol from its holster.
However, Flynn cannot bring himself to use it; as he begins to pull the gun from its strap he abruptly stops, and turns away from the body.
EXT. APPROACHING FRANKIE’S HOUSE, SAIGON, EARLY 1967.
Pushing through the overcrowded streets of Saigon, Flynn, looking tired and confused, is looking for Stone who he has arranged to meet at Frankie’s House, the favoured stop over of the hardcore US press pack.
His appearance has begun to alter, affected by the counter culture that is growing in the US, and the culture of the war itself; his hair is noticeably longer, and his face is covered by a few days growth. His clothing is moving nearer to military fatigues.
He draws stares from passing marines, and locals who instantly recognise him from his movies.
Upon finding the entrance we follow Flynn up the stairs, past a Vietnamese teenager who bows, and into a long room filled with low-lying settees and beds.
Though each bed is taken nobody stirs.
INT. FRANKIE’S HOUSE, SAIGON. DAY.
Stone enters and taps Flynn on his shoulder.
One piece huh?
[Turning around and spreading his arms out wide]
Flynn and Stone embrace.
They walk past sleeping bodies, still steaming opium pipes, bags stuffed full of marijuana, and sit either side of a man, TIM PAGE, who is lying on the floor.
Stone gently prods Page.
This fine gentleman here is Time Page. He over did it a little last night. His snaps are genius, you just have to see them…I think it’s his English eyes; he notices what’s invisible to the rest of us. Only problem being is that he seems determined to get himself killed. I mean, god, I’ve taken to scouting for some of the patrol’s I’ve been out on, but Page here has a whole other level of recklessness. There could be an entire District Mobile Company firing at him and he’d act like he’s picking fruit in the countryside. Scares the life out of me.
Sounds like an interesting guy. Maybe if he wakes up in the next week or so I’ll get to know him. Maybe I’ll get to know myself again.
It’s taking it out of me too man. I was out on a Long Range Patrol before I came here. We came across a small village that had obviously once been used by the Vietcong. And I mean once. It was nothing but pigs, chickens and the villager’s there. Next thing I know, the calls made to wipe up the entire area.
That’s what I asked. I walk to the lieutenant, a man I consider a friend, and ask why the fuck this needs to be done and he looks at me and says ‘It’s a beautiful day for an air-strike’ …several gallons of Foo-gas later it looked like a moon crater.
What do you say to something like that?
That’s exactly it. What’s still bothering me is the fact that my only response was to laugh right back.
Stone reaches for a nearby pipe, loads it with marijuana, fires it up, and both he and Flynn draw intensely from it.
I know where you’re coming from. There’s been times since I’ve been here when I’ve been a little afraid of the reflection staring back at me. You tell yourself you want the pictures you take to convey the truth…but perhaps it’s just my truth they show. I was out in the DMZ with some Rangers and I stepped on what I thought was a damp bed of leaves. When I looked down I saw it was the decaying chest cavity of an NVA soldier who’d been napalmed. I couldn’t bring myself to shoot it. There was the reality of the boonies right under my boot and I froze like I never have before. The problem is that truth’s selective my friend. Because we are.
Tim Page, the English photographer, rises up between them. Though a relatively young man, Page’s hair is already greying at the temples, his face prematurely aged.
Couldn’t agree more – Now if you would be so kind as to pass me that pipe over here.
INT. A BAR,SAIGON. NIGHT.
Stone, Flynn, Page, and MICHAEL HERR are discussing their next assignments. Prostitutes swarm around them as the drinks flow freely.
Flynn is clearly restless, his hands constantly playing with the rim of his glass, crushing up a cigarette packet, and wiping the face of his watch.
Pages’ attempts to talk to Flynn are thwarted by the women around him, so he begins to make offensive gestures to them in an attempt to temporarily drive them away.
DU MA! DU MA!
The woman walks away.
I think she just told me to ‘fuck mother’. Mother would not be pleased.
Somehow I don’t think your Old Man would be too happy with that either.
[laughing] What father would?
As Flynn stares intently at the bar, the others shoot concerned looks at each other.
So Flynn, where you gonna head to next?
I was thinking of…I’m going to the Ia Drang.
He who controls the mountains…. I’m not sure if it’s the Montagnards, the mists, or what’s gone on up there, but just talking about that place spooks me out.
Page is spooked?
Damn right I am. I was talking to this NCO who was on the X-ray landing. He said it was a ‘complete and utter FUBAR’.
Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition. 450 members of the 7th Cav got dropped into a small clearing – no real roads in or out, elephant grass everywhere, 100 degree heat, 2300 feet of the Chu Pong Massif arching over them, and 2000 hot-for-it PAVN in wait. It was a fucking massacre. By the time dear Charles retreated three days later there were hundreds and hundreds of bodies littering the landscape. Any soldier that came out of that place is seen as a talisman, a walking good luck charm.
[breaking the downbeat mood]
Jesus Page, could you make it any more attractive to me?
Page looks lustfully at the women across the other side of the bar.
Now I must go and question this girl about knowing my mother, see if I can’t get to the bottom of things.
Dana, what’s say we help ol’ Page here interrogate these ladies.
That’s a fine idea.
The three men move to the other side of the bar, the girls instantly draping themselves upon them.
Flynn drowsily watches them.
As they cavort with the girls Page’s face morphs into Sean’s father Errol, who then proceeds to wink at Sean, and gestures for him to come over.
Flynn shuts his eyes tightly, before getting off his stool, and exiting the bar, and never looking back once.