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Movie Monologues

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Watching Down with Love again this weekend, I was once again stunned by the uncut speech that Rene Zellweger makes near the end of the film. It's so very rare that we see an actor deliver a long piece of dialogue onscreen. There are great speeches, like Donald Sutherland's five-minute bit of covert information in JFK, but he's offscreen, so we have no proof that he actually delivered that speech without cuts.

I'm trying to figure out if Zellweger's may in fact be one of the longest onscreen monlogues by a woman.

Can you think of others? Or of impressive uncut monlogues in general?

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Brian Cox's to Edward Norton at the end of 25th Hour is pretty spectacular in length, and a beautiful sequence to boot.

Phil.

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Renee Zelwegger's instantly sprang to mind - so delightful and so overwhelming. She is pitch-perfect throughout and Ewan McGregor's face at the end just...ahh. Down With Love is a glory.

Another one: Ingrid Thulin in Winter Light. I'm not sure whether she or Renee Zelwegger wins in terms of length but both are brilliant.

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"Well, I reckon what you're a-wantin' to know is what I'm doin' in here. I reckon the reason I'm in here is I killed somebody......Some folks calls it a sling blade, I calls it a kaiser blade..."

Obvious choice perhaps, but one of my favorites. Karl is both monstrous and beautiful here.

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How about Peter O'toole in Man of La Mancha?

Miguel de Cervantes: I've been a soldier and a slave. I've seen my comrades fall in battle or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. I've held them in my arms at the final moment. These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing. No glory, no brave last words, only their eyes, filled with confusion, questioning "Why?" When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Too much sanity may be madness. To surrender dreams---this may be madness; to seek treasure where there is only trash. And maddest of all---to see life as it is and not as it should be.

Or Scoffield in A Man for All Seasons?

Or Burt Lancaster in Judgement at Nuremberg?

Ernst Janning: There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. There was, above all, fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, fear of ourselves. Only when you understand that can you understand what Hitler meant to us. Because he said to us: 'Lift up your heads! Be proud to be German! There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once the devils will be destroyed, your miseries will be destroyed.' It was the old, old story of the sacrifical lamb. What about us, who knew better? We who knew the words were lies and worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we participate? Because we loved our country! What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through. It will be discarded sooner or later. 'The country is in danger.' We will 'march out of the shadows.' 'We will go forward.' And history tells you how well we succeeded! We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. The very elements of hate and power about Hitler that mesmerized Germany, mesmerized the world! We found ourselves with sudden powerful allies. Things that had been denied us as a democracy were open to us now. The world said go ahead, take it! Take Sudetenland, take the Rhineland - remilitarize it - take all of Austria, take it! We marched forward, the danger passed. And then one day, we looked around and found we were in even more terrible danger. The rites began in this courtroom, swept over our land like a raging, roaring disease! What was going to be a passing phase became a way of life.

Or Pacino's Funeral scene in City Hall?

Mayor John Pappas: I was warned not to come here. I was warned. They warned me, "Don't stand behind that coffin." But why should I heed such a warning, when a heartbeat is silent and a child lies dead? "Don't stand behind" this coffin. That boy was as pure and as innocent as the driven snow. But I must stand here, because I have not given you what you should have. Until we can walk abroad and recreate ourselves; until we can stroll along the streets like boulevards; congregate in parks free from fear, our families mingling, our children laughing, our hearts joined - until that day we have no city. You can label me a failure until that day. The first and perhaps only great mayor was Greek. He was Pericles of Athens, and he lived some 2500 years ago, and he said, "All things good on this Earth flow into the City, because of the City's greatness." Well, we were great once. Can we not be great again? Now, I put that question to James Bone, and there's only silence. Yet could not something pass from this sweet youth to me? Could he not empower me to find in myself the strength to have the knowledge to summon up the courage to accomplish this seemingly insurmountable task of making a city livable? Just livable. There was a palace that was a city. It was a PALACE! It was a PALACE and it CAN BE A PALACE AGAIN! A PALACE, in which there is no king or queen, or dukes or earls or princes, but subjects all: subjects beholden to each other, to make a better place to live. Is that too much to ask?

Audience: No!

Mayor John Pappas: Are we asking too much for this?

Audience: No!

Mayor John Pappas: Is it beyond our reach?

Some Audience Members: No!

Mayor John Pappas: Because if it is, then we are nothing but sheep being herded to the final SLAUGHTERHOUSE! I will not go down, THAT WAY!

[The audience begins shouting approval]

Mayor John Pappas: I choose to FIGHT BACK! I choose to RISE, not fall! I choose to LIVE, not die! And I know, I know that what's within me is also WITHIN YOU.

Audience Member: Amen!

Mayor John Pappas: That's why I ask you now to join me. Join me, RISE UP with me, RISE UP on the wings of this slain angel.

[Audience members begin shouting "Yes" at every pause]

Mayor John Pappas: We'll rebuild on the soul of this little warrior. We will pick up his standard and RAISE it high! Carry it forward until THIS CITY - YOUR CITY - OUR CITY - HIS CITY - IS A PALACE AGAIN! IS A PALACE AGAIN! I am with you, little James. I am you. [He kisses the coffin]

And of course the little boy in Yi yi

And the last one for now

Danny DeVito in The Big Kahuna

Phil Cooper: I'm saying you've already done plenty of things to regret, you just don't know what they are. It's when you discover them, when you see the folly in something you've done, and you wish that you had it do over, but you know you can't, because it's too late. So you pick that thing up, and carry it with you to remind you that life goes on, the world will spin without you, you really don't matter in the end. Then you will gain character, because honesty will reach out from inside and tattoo itself across your face.

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Several of my favorite movie monologues all come from one film... Dr. Strangelove. I present for your enjoyment:

[The President calls the Soviet Premier]

President Merkin Muffley: [to Kissoff] Hello?... Ah... I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?... Oh-ho, that's much better... yeah... huh... yes... Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri... Clear and plain and coming through fine... I'm coming through fine, too, eh?... Good, then... well, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine... Good... Well, it's good that you're fine and... and I'm fine... I agree with you, it's great to be fine... a-ha-ha-ha-ha... Now then, Dmitri, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb... The *Bomb*, Dmitri... The *hydrogen* bomb!... Well now, what happened is... ah... one of our base commanders, he had a sort of... well, he went a little funny in the head... you know... just a little... funny. And, ah... he went and did a silly thing... Well, I'll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes... to attack your country... Ah... Well, let me finish, Dmitri... Let me finish, Dmitri... Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?... Can you *imagine* how I feel about it, Dmitri?... Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello?... *Of course* I like to speak to you!... *Of course* I like to say hello!... Not now, but anytime, Dmitri. I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened... It's a *friendly* call. Of course it's a friendly call... Listen, if it wasn't friendly... you probably wouldn't have even got it... They will *not* reach their targets for at least another hour... I am... I am positive, Dmitri... Listen, I've been all over this with your ambassador. It is not a trick... Well, I'll tell you. We'd like to give your air staff a complete run-down on the targets, the flight plans, and the defensive systems of the planes... Yes! I mean i-i-i-if we're unable to recall the planes, then... I'd say that, ah... well, ah... we're just gonna have to help you destroy them, Dmitri... I know they're our boys... All right, well listen now. Who should we call?... *Who* should we call, Dmitri? The... wha-whe, the People... you, sorry, you faded away there... The People's Central Air Defense Headquarters... Where is that, Dmitri?... In Omsk... Right... Yes... Oh, you'll call them first, will you?... Uh-huh... Listen, do you happen to have the phone number on you, Dmitri?... Whe-ah, what? I see, just ask for Omsk information... Ah-ah-eh-uhm-hm... I'm sorry, too, Dmitri... I'm very sorry... *All right*, you're sorrier than I am, but I am as sorry as well... I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri! Don't say that you're more sorry than I am, because I'm capable of being just as sorry as you are... So we're both sorry, all right?... All right.

And...

Major T. J. "King" Kong: Well, boys, I reckon this is it - nuclear combat toe to toe with the Roosskies. Now look, boys, I ain't much of a hand at makin' speeches, but I got a pretty fair idea that something doggone important is goin' on back there. And I got a fair idea the kinda personal emotions that some of you fellas may be thinkin'. Heck, I reckon you wouldn't even be human bein's if you didn't have some pretty strong personal feelin's about nuclear combat. I want you to remember one thing, the folks back home is a-countin' on you and by golly, we ain't about to let 'em down. I tell you something else, if this thing turns out to be half as important as I figure it just might be, I'd say that you're all in line for some important promotions and personal citations when this thing's over with. That goes for ever' last one of you regardless of your race, color or your creed. Now let's get this thing on the hump - we got some flyin' to do.

One more by Kong...

Major T. J. "King" Kong: Survival kit contents check. In them you'll find: one forty-five caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days' concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible; one hundred dollars in rubles; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings. Shoot, a fella' could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas** with all that stuff.

Finally...

[General Turgenson's phone rings in the war room]

General "Buck" Turgidson: Hello... (whispering)look, I told you never to call me here, don't you know where I am?... Well look, baby, I c-, I *can't* talk to you now... my president needs me!... Of *course* Bucky'd rather be there with you!... Of *course* it isn't only physical!... I deeply respect you as a human being... Some day I'm gonna make you *Mrs* Buck Turgidson!... Ah, listen uh, you just go back to sleep hon, and Bucky'll be back there just as soon as he can... Alright... listen, sug, don't forget to say your prayers!

**This line has been dubbed over. Kong actually says "Dallas", but the release of this movie was only 2 months after the assasination of JFK, so they dubbed in "Vegas."

The original ending had a pie fight break out in the war room. This was cut for several reasons, including being too farcical. But another reason was that President Muffley takes a pie in the face and falls down, to which Gen. Turgidson cried out, "Gentlemen! Our gallant young president has just been struck down in his prime!" This too probably would have been cut because of the JFK assasination.

One more piece of trivia. Peter Sellers was to have also played Major Kong, but broke his leg before filming of those scenes had begun. Kubrick had worked briefly with Slim Pickens on One-Eyed Jacks, before Marlon Brando replaced him as director, and chose him to fill in as Kong... apparently Kubrick never told Pickens that the film was a black comedy, and had Pickens play the character as though this were a straight drama.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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Annie's "Church of Baseball" monologue at the beginning of Bull Durham and Crash's "kisses that last three days" one a bir further on.

Also seems like Cosner has a nice one in Field of Dreams.

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Another one: Ingrid Thulin in Winter Light. I'm not sure whether she or Renee Zelwegger wins in terms of length but both are brilliant.

Whew, just saw this a couple of weeks ago, and this monologue was amazing. Her vocal delivery was impressive, but it's those eyes that continue to haunt me. And all of it without any fancy camerawork or music. Incredible.

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Um ... I think Jeff asked about "uncut" monologues, and specifically disqualified a Donald Sutherland scene in JFK because the actor was off-screen. This would seem to rule out mere voice-overs like the one that begins Bull Durham. Plus, I believe the Brian Cox bit at the end of 25th Hour is more of a voice-over over a montage than anything else, so it, too, would certainly not count as an "uncut" monologue. I don't know how many of the other speeches listed here would be similarly disqualified due to the presence of cuts or because they were voice-overs, etc.

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Jason Patric's character has a 5-7 minute monologue in Your Friends and Neighbours... although common decency prevents me from posting that on here.

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John:

Another one: Ingrid Thulin in Winter Light. I'm not sure whether she or Renee Zelwegger wins in terms of length but both are brilliant.

Whew, just saw this a couple of weeks ago, and this monologue was amazing. Her vocal delivery was impressive, but it's those eyes that continue to haunt me. And all of it without any fancy camerawork or music. Incredible.

I too just saw this one a few days ago. I agree with everything you've said about it. Are there any other movies where a character delivers such a monologue directly to the audience like this? I'm sure there are, but was this the first?

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Thank you, Peter, for recognizing the question I was asking.

I'm interested in seeing actors ACT, and putting them in front of the camera with something that challenges their memorization skills as much as their expressiveness always gives me a thrill. But it's a rare occasion. And I think several of the above examples do involve cuts. You're right about the Cox speech... it's a voice-over during a montage.

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Alright, admittedly the Dr. Strangelove monologues involve cutting away from the speech maker. And even though the camera is locked down on the character in one position and they most likely delivered the lines straight through in a single take, Kubrick's propensity for doing endless takes makes one wonder if the entire monologue is culled from various takes.

But, one that I think may qualify is Solveig Dommartin's monologue from Wings of Desire, when Bruno Ganz finally meets up with her. I'm not sure if the camera ever cuts away from her, and it is fairly lengthy.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: Thank you, Peter, for recognizing the question I was asking.

Yer welcome, and my apologies for not coming up with any examples of what you're looking for, myself -- my favorite uninterrupted performances tend to be interactive scenes, like the fabulous diner scene and the equally fabulous backyard barbecue scene in Secrets & Lies: both scenes are filled with fantastic performances and all done in one take, but they involve multiple characters interacting, and do not require one actor to hog the spotlight and prove his or her stuff solo.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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I'm a fan of Robert Lindsay's work as Edmund in the 1984 BBC version of King Lear, as well as Derek Jacobi's opening Chorus speech in Henry V. I imagine everybody's got a favorite Shakespeare film. I haven't seen the ones Olivier made.

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For the record, as far as Winter Light goes, which was mentioned above, it definitely fits into this category, with about a 5-6 minute close up on Ingrid Thulin that never cuts away.

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I agree with Mr. Mando on the Shakespearean picks. We all are big film fans, obviously, and not to belittle the talents of film actors, but really the memorization of one monologue for the screen is nothing compared with the skills of actors who work on stage, memorizing huge chunks of dialogue and action without cuts or takes. I've been working at the Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan festival this summer, and I have been most impressed. I'm specifically impressed with Shakespearean work since for many actors, it is an unfamiliar style of speech.

It's always interesting to see actors in film adaptations of Shakespeare tackle the big monologues. I don't remember clearly if it fits the criteria that Jeffrey was thinking of, but Hamlet's "To be or not to be" monologue, or the "O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I" speech in Brannagh's film stands out in my memory.

[ ermm.gif as he prepares for the inevitable backlash at bringing up said film]

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Weren't those some of the more understated moments in said film? I don't remember ... too successful at trying to block out some of the other moments, like the monologue where Branagh ROARS AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS while the whole Norwegian army is comin' 'cross the ice. (Well, I guess I failed at blocking out THAT moment.)

While Branagh was way over the top (New Yorker review: "There's nothing sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought about this Hamlet"), I loved Nicholas Farrell's work as Horatio in that film. He also did quite well with bit parts in the recent Othello and Twelfth Night films.

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Weren't those some of the more understated moments in said film?

Judging from prior criticisms of said film, wouldn't you say that's a good thing? Never mind, I don't want to derail this thread. I may have to re-rent the film, and then resurrect the Hamlet thread.

He also did quite well with bit parts in the recent Othello and Twelfth Night films.

Not to turn this into another Shakespeare thread, but you're right. Brannagh's Iago was the strongest part of the Parker film.

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Don't remember how much cutting's involved, but beloved Brooke Smith's monologue at the end of VANYA ON 42nd STREET is a great favourite. Another monologue which comes to mind is Jack Nicholson's "You can't handle the truth" - though again I can't comment on the editing.

I love the thread topic - I'm imagining a "Greatest Hits" DVD of My Favourite Screen Monologues - but as far as an unedited monologue being a test of an actor's skill at line memorization, I'd suggest this aspect of the subject belongs in the No Big Deal file. The performance of the monologue is the great thing, not the treatment thereof in the editing room after the fact. Count on it: with very rare exceptions, when there are cuts, it's not because the actor flubbed his line.

While I know some film actors allow themselves to freely paraphrase their parts, or do a lousy job of memory work, that's not the norm. Fact is, actors learn their lines - whether it's a scene or a monologue, whether the monologue gets spliced or not. It's just part of the job. No reason to be more amazed when they memorize a monologue than when the memorize anything else. It's the least of what they do.

When there's a Q&A after a show, almost inevitably an audience member will ask "How do you memorize all those lines?" The cast members will be polite, but the fact is, it's a standard backstage joke: "How do you memorize all those lines?" We actors may be unduly impressed with ourselves, but we're not too impressed with that particular party trick. The worst actors in the world also memorize lines - as well as put on their shoes and try not to bump into the furniture. There are other things that are more praiseworthy.

That noted, it's still a groovy list to compile....

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To bring up an old hotbutton, there's always Red (Morgan Freeman)'s speech to the parole board in Shawshank.

Red: Rehabilitated? Well, now, let me see. You know, I don't have any idea what that means ...

Apparently there were cuts made but I recall the majority of the monologue consisting of one take.

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I guess it's as good a time as any to mention Rope. The whole film is a single take.

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