Cameron Crowe revisits "Say Anything"

The director releases new scenes from the '80s teen romance and countless John Cusack crushes are renewed

Published August 31, 2011 8:32PM (EDT)

John Cusack in "Say Anything"  (Twentieth Century Fox)
John Cusack in "Say Anything" (Twentieth Century Fox)

For Gen-Xers still under the spell of Lloyd Dobler, the boombox-hoisting, trench coat-wearing antihero played by John Cusack in Cameron Crowe’s 1989 teen romance "Say Anything," it’s been a pretty eventful summer.

While discussing his upcoming films "Pearl Jam Twenty" and "We Bought a Zoo" at the Television Critics Association press conference in July, Crowe said he'd consider a "Say Anything" sequel. But just as fans started getting excited about Dobler Part Deux, they suffered a collective buzz kill Monday when Crowe told IFC that while he thinks about what might have happened to the film's characters, a sequel remains a pipe dream.

As proof that "Say Anything" is on his mind, Crowe has been posting a number of extended and deleted scenes from the movie all week on his website, Granted, these aren’t actual filmed scenes -- they’re just portions of the script, words on a page. But if there’s anybody who knows a thing or two about words on a page, it’s Cameron Crowe. And to the legions of "Say Anything" devotees, the ones who dress up like Lloyd for Halloween, the release of these new scenes is exciting enough that we’re forced to remember Lloyd’s famous directive: “You must chill!”

The newly unearthed scenes include one in which Ione Skye’s character, Diane Court, is hit on by one of her teachers but gracefully thwarts his advances, and an extended version of the graduation scene -- Diane’s valedictorian speech originally included a rather '80s-centric musing on her future: “Will I live in the suburbs, and drive a BMW?”

There’s also an extended version of the dinner party scene in which Lloyd gives his famous “I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed” speech. Turns out the longer version of the scene included a line in which Lloyd actually talks about wanting to marry Diane one day (pretty heady stuff), and the scene also provided a more detailed glimpse into the financial wrongdoings of Diane’s father, Jim Court (played brilliantly by veteran actor John Mahoney). I was particularly intrigued by a stage direction for Lloyd that Crowe had included in the script at the end of the scene: "He wipes his hand, offers it to [Jim] Court."

Crowe had based the Lloyd character on a real-life man named Lowell Marchant, who was his neighbor in Santa Monica during the time he was working on this script. Marchant was an optimistic 19-year-old kickboxer from Alabama, who, as Crowe told me when I interviewed him for my book "You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried," "would knock on the doors of his neighbors to make friends. And you’d answer it, and he’d be like, 'Good afternoon, I’m Lowell Marchant. And I would like to meet you. I’m your neighbor, and I’m a kickboxer. Do you know about kickboxing?' And he would wipe off his palm on the side of his pant leg, and shake your hand. And it was just such a great thing." Crowe told me that Marchant’s simple, thoughtful gesture of wiping his palm before going for the handshake "was the first little spark for the bonfire that would become getting the character right."

But what struck me as perhaps the most interesting and most significant finding in all the newly released material was this: Originally, Lloyd had a line at the very beginning of the film in which he asks one of his friends, "Did [Diane] ever say anything about me?" The line was ultimately scrapped, which may seem insignificant if not for one thing: That was the only time that Cusack’s character ever uttered the phrase that was the title of the film. As it stands, that phrase, "say anything," is spoken many times -- but only by Diane and her father.

Whenever people wax nostalgic about "Say Anything" and the lessons it taught them, those lessons almost always have to do with romance, thanks to the startlingly honest and palpably powerful love shared between Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court. But there’s another essential thread to the film's narrative as well -- the complicated, strained but ultimately beautiful relationship between Diane and her dad, the morally challenged man who loves his daughter so blindly that he steals money from the residents of the nursing home he owns so that Diane never wants for anything. "He was willing to sacrifice anything and everybody to make sure that she got what she wanted," Mahoney told me. "A lot of teenage films turn the parents into cartoons -- this was a real flesh-and-blood person who turns out to be extremely flawed."

Jim is proud of the close bond he shares with his daughter, and is fond of telling her often that she can "say anything" to him. But the movie’s title has within it, suggests Mahoney, the contrast between the way Jim Court loves Diane, and the way Lloyd Dobler loves her. In terms of Lloyd, 'say anything,' Mahoney reasoned, "means, 'I will always understand you.'" As opposed to what it means to her father, who will listen to her, but still get her to do things his way.

The last time we hear the movie’s title used in the film’s dialogue, Diane Court is confronting her father after learning he’s been deceiving her for years: "I don’t want to leave something out, because I know I can say anything to you," she tells him. "You're a liar, and a thief." Happily (spoiler alert), by movie’s end, Diane learns to forgive her father, and begins a new life with Lloyd, the man who truly loves her best.

Mahoney told me that when people come up to him and talk about his movies, they almost always want to talk about "Say Anything," and how much it matters to them. "It hit a chord," he said, "and it resonates still."

According to Crowe's site, more extended scenes -- from the final shooting script dated Jan. 18, 1988 -- may still be posted in upcoming days.

By Susannah Gora

Susannah Gora is the author of "You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, And Their Impact on a Generation"

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