EXT. SAWYER’S BACKYARD
Elegaic music murmurs as three—female and barefoot PAIRS OF LEGS in skirts break from tableau to gently engage in croquet. A blue mallet hits a blue ball through a wicket, a green mallet knocks a green ball, and a yellow mallet pushes forward a yellow ball, all in enticing syncopation.
Suddenly a red ball rockets through the dew covered grass and hits the green ball. The LEGS all stop moving as a FOURTH PAIR OF LEGS, this one in stylish shoes and stockings, marches to the red ball and steps on it. A red mallet it brought down hard on the red ball causing the adjacent green ball to thunder out of view. The Pair of Legs manoeuvring the green ball departs. This process of elimination is grimly repeated with the yellow ball and yet again with the blue ball.
However, when the BLUE MALLETTED PLAYER makes her sad exit, the viewer’s viewpoint glides along with this particular Pair of Legs. A red ball whizzes by. The Legs stop. Another red ball malevolently sails past the legs. Then yet another red ball. A fourth red ball makes brutal contact with the Legs causing the Player to fall to her knees and into the frame. The player is VERONICA SAWYER.
As should be clear from the above paragraphs, the shooting script for ‘Heathers’ (dated January 26th, 1988) is a different animal from the finished film in many ways, ranging from the subtle to the obvious. The challenge is to play the detective and try to work out why the changes were made, piecing together evidence from the script, and other sources as well. For example, if you’ve seen the trailer for the film, it included the line “It’s God versus my boyfriend, and God’s losing”, which never appeared in the finished film. The script reveals this was part of Veronica’s voice-over after killing Kurt & Ram – the original speech was as follows:
Veronica (V.O.): The most popular people in school are dead. Everybody’s sad, but it’s a good kind of sad. Suicide gave Heather depth, Kurt a soul, Ram a brain. I gave J.D. shit about the Ich Luge thing but what really frightens me is that I’m not frightened by what J.D.’ll do next. It’s God versus my boyfriend, and God’s losing.
Why this was axed, I can’t say, and there are other, even smaller (but obviously deliberate) tweaks to the dialogue where no obvious explanation can be found. “You stupid cunt” becomes “You stupid fuck” (scarcely going to get the film a PG rating) and, even more bizarrely, “Love your blouse” was modified to “Love your cardigan”. Odd.
Fortunately, some changes make more obvious sense. Product placement has become a thorn in moviegoers’ sides recently, with seemingly gratuitous plugs for products littering certain movies. ‘Heathers’ bucks the trend, and a couple of brand names mentioned in the script never made it onto celluloid. The scene between Veronica and JD in the ‘Snappy Snack Shack’ originally took place in a 7-11, but presumably New World’s lawyers nixed the idea, on the grounds that 7-11 would not want to be identified as the favourite convenience store of a teenage psychopath. Similarly, the “mineral” water planted near Kurt and Ram’s bodies to prove their homosexuality was originally Perrier!
It’s also interesting to note the way some of the characters changed, especially J.D. When preparing the “hangover cure” for Heather Chandler in the script, he doesn’t notice that Veronica picks up the wrong cup. In the film he realises the error, but conceals it, which clearly makes him more culpable, as does his suggestion that Veronica forges the suicide note in the earlier version, the idea comes from Veronica herself. On the other hand, the planned version of the final battle in the boiler-room has JD attempting to shoot Veronica in cold blood.
This heightened viciousness is apparent in other places. Though the script contains no trace of the widely-known “everyone gets blown up” ending, it’s true to say that the entire movie was originally blacker in tone. No-one is innocent: Peter, organiser of Westerburg’s Foodless Fund, is seen dipping into the kitty for a Big Mac and some fries: “Hey, even Bob Geldof’s got to eat”.
Speaking of things food-related brings me to the cheerful scene in the school toilets where Veronica is called into a cubicle to assist Heather Duke to vomit (a regular task – Lehmann carefully draws attention to Veronica’s index finger, specifically that the nail is cut short). Presumably on grounds of taste, we lost the following little exchanges:
Heather McNamara (O.S.): Did she have the pie or the ice cream for dessert? (like a game-show host) And the answer IS….
Heather Duke holds up her copy of The Catcher in the Rye and makes a bizarrely defiant smile.
Heather Duke: Yeah, you know Holden Caulfield in the Catcher in the Rye wouldn’t put up with their bogus nonsense.
Veronica: Well, you better move Holden out of the way or he’s going to get spewed.
Heather Duke puts down her book and opens her mouth. Veronica sticks her finger in…
Bleah. Interestingly, the book Heather Duke carries everywhere is “The Catcher in the Rye”. Between the shooting script and the film, this became ‘Moby Dick’ – ‘Catcher’ may have been thought too cliched. Anyway, another tasteful passage happens when Veronica and JD are talking after their game of strip-croquet:
J.D.: See the condoms in the grass over there. We killed tonight, Veronica, we murdered our baby.
Veronica: Hey, it was good for me too, Sparky.
J.D.: Just saying it’s not hard to end a life.
Veronica: There’s a big difference between the most popular girl in the school and dead sperm.
And while we’re on the topic of sex… David, Heather Chandler’s boyfriend, was eventually only seen in the party at Remington University, getting a blow-job from his girl (in a room described as decorated with “a series of obnoxious Ferrari posters”, though you couldn’t tell in the movie!). As the following phone-conversation shows, the script has him reappearing later, as Heather Duke’s boyfriend, after she moves up to replace Heather Chandler as queen bitch:
Veronica: I’m delirious for the both of you. Can you put Heather on? David proudly looks down off-screen at his lap.
David: She can’t really talk right now…
A pity this scene was lost, as it reinforced the idea that nothing had changed. despite the multiple deaths. This would have fitted in with other excised sections emphasising how Heather Duke has become Heather Chandler II. The fact that it would have added another dimension to dubious fantasies about Shannon Doherty, is, of course, irrelevant…
And finally, you may remember TC9’s shower scene extravaganza, which included the wonderful scene from ‘Heathers’ where Winona takes a shower with her clothes on. Well, there was more to it than that…
Heather Chandler: Veronica needs something to write on. Heather, bend over.
Both Heather McNamara and Heather Duke bend over. Heather Chandler violently laughs:
Heather Chandler: How nice. Two assholes; no waiting.
[In answer to the question, “What would you do with $5 million, and two days to live.]
Rodney: I’d change my life. New clothes. New haircut. New house. New home.
Heather Chandler: How sad! Blowing all your cash on two days of trying to be hip.
Heather Chandler: Look at me. I look great. I’m the girl in the commercials and the videos. I’m the blonde in the bikini on the horse holding a Pepsi can. I’m the princess being spanked on the throne by Billy Idol’s guitarist’s guitar. What do I get out of being friends with losers. I give them a piece of a winner and they stain me with loserness.
Veronica: Seventeen is the last year Mom buys the Twinkies. When you make the jump from working weekends at Pizza Hut to thirty years at IBM, you lose something. Not innocence – power.
Ram: Listen up, dude. In those woods is some of the finest pussy in the school and we don’t even have to buy it a hamburger and a Diet Coke.
MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH
A loner arrives at a school, run thro h terror by a,powerful clique of stud He falls in love with a girl fringe of the leaders, but fall foul of the clique itself. Then its members start to die in suspicious ways… However, this doesn’t solve the problem as other pupils move right up to continue the status quo. So the loner decides to solve the problem by blowing up the entire school, but the plot is discovered by the girl he loves, so he commits suicide by blowing himself up in front of the school.
Sound familiar? No, it’s not ‘Heathers’, but ‘Massacre at Central High’, a film dating back to 1976. No-one paid much attention to it at the time – probably because it’s not really all that good – but the similarities to the much later ‘Heathers’ are striking, even if the synopsis above is slightly selective (the ruling clique in ‘Massacre’ is male rather than female, and they drop a car on the loner’s legs, which understandably leaves him a bit upset). Watching it is a bit like seeing Bava’s ‘Bay of Blood’ after ‘Friday the 13th’; there’s an eerie sense of deja-vu, made surreal by the obviously dated fashions. And, hell, even the loner looks very much like Christian Slater…