INTO THE WILD
Based on the book by
1 EXT. THE STAMPEDE TRAIL - DAY 1
Tuesday, April 28th 1992
WIDE-SHOT: A vast, snow-blanketed wilderness that sits
beneath the icy summits of the highest mountain range in
North America. This is BIG Alaska.
A beat up 4x4 pick-up enters very small into the upper
left corner of frame on an unkept, snow-packed road, and
comes to a stop. A figure exits the passenger side and
moves around the front of the truck. We can just make
out the rifle sticking out of his backpack. We HEAR a
very distant "Thank You" as the figure walks away from
the road and away from the truck, seemingly into nowhere.
The figure with backpack and rifle, henceforth BACKPACK,
stopping in his tracks, turns around in the direction of
BACKPACK walks back to the truck. As he approaches the
driver's door, we
CUT IN TO: TIGHT SHOT over the back-packed shoulder onto
(referring to items we see
sitting on dashboard)
You left your watch, your comb, your
We STAY on the DRIVER as BACKPACK speaks:
I don't want your money. And I already
have a watch.
If you don't take it, I'm gonna throw it
away. I don't want to know what time it
is, what day it is, or where I am.
I don't want to see anybody. None of
The driver reaches behind the seat of the truck, pulls
out an old pair of rubber work boots.
(handing him the boots)
There is a pause as Backpack considers accepting the
If you make it out alive, give me a call,
and I'll tell you how to get the boots
back to me.
We can feel over Backpack's shoulder that he has taken
the boots and is putting them on but we STAY on the
Hey, do me a favor, will ya? Take a
picture of me.
Backpack hands him an Instamatic camera and starts
walking backwards. We PULL BACK with him. And he
maintains his back to us. When he stops, we CONTINUE
until he is FULL-FRAME, head-to-toe from behind, posing.
CLICK. He snaps the shot.
Backpack re-enters frame in an OVER-SHOULDER. Driver
hands him the camera.
You gonna be alright?
I'll be better than that.
(I'll be who I am.)
As Backpack exits the frame, we SLOWLY ZOOM past the
concerned face of the driver onto the loose change, the
comb, and the watch on the dash.
Throughout the ZOOM, the SOUND of FOOTSTEPS CRUNCHING THE
SNOW, FADE into the distance.
We see the small form of the truck and the smaller form
of the Backpacker walking away from the truck until the
Backpacker has exited the frame. The truck takes a BEAT,
turns around in the snow, and accelerates back into the
direction from which it came. As the truck exits frame,
2 EXT. COMMENCEMENT GROUNDS, EMORY UNIVERSITY, ATLANTA - 2
The crowd of family and friends, and of course, students.
Assembled on fold-out chairs. The broad lawn.
INTERCUT: CHRIS MCCANDLESS. We don't see his face, just
feet pounding the pavement at an increasing pace.
One by one the names of graduates announced. Their
bright young faces, capped heads, and gowns, glide up to
the podium to accept their diplomas.
INTERCUT: Chris, on his run, sweatshirt hood over head.
Amongst assembled crowd and family we find: THE
MCCANDLESS': BILLIE, mid to late forties with dark
striking eyes; WALT, a taciturn man, early fifties; and
CARINE, eighteen, pretty with her mother's eyes and waist
length brown hair, a gold crucifix dangles from her neck.
They look around, looking for Chris, he's nowhere in
INTERCUT: Chris, in a shower (PHOTO-SONICS) He TURNS INTO
CAMERA, the water streaming down his face.
From the announcement podium comes the name of their son
and brother, CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON MCCANDLESS. The
McCandless family increasingly panicked over Chris'
absence, when almost magically, he appears in full cap
Disregarding the steps that lead up to the podium
platform, the small-framed but athletic CHRIS MCCANDLESS
leaps jubilantly onto the stage in a single bound,
frightening Billie, a little wince from Walt, and Carine
"That's our Chris." And just as quickly as Chris has
been handed his diploma, he civilly descends the platform
SLO-MO: A ballet of graduation caps float upward into a
frame of blue sky. We HEAR Chris' voice OVER this image
as we intermittently cut away from the caps against the
sky to focus on his parents.
(HIGH ANGLE: floating caps in FOREGROUND, Walt and Billie
delight upon the caps.) An outer glee in sharp contrast
to voice over:
I see them standing at the formal gates
of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head,
I see my mother with a few light books at
standing at the pillar made of tiny
bricks with the
wrought-iron gate still open behind her,
sword-tips black in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are
about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they
know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don't do it--she's the wrong woman,
he's the wrong man, you are going to do
you cannot imagine you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to
you are going to suffer in ways you never
you are going to want to die. I want to
up to them there in the late May sunlight
and say it,
her hungry pretty blank face turning to
CHRIS (V.O.) (CONT'D)
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome blind face turning
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don't do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips like chips of flint as if to
strike sparks from them, I say...
The last graduation cap falls out of the `blue sky'
frame, and into...
3 INT. ATLANTA RESTAURANT - LATER 3
(Graduation ceremony wardrobe)
Walt and Billie sit at a table. A Cadillac can be seen
through the window (ATLANTA LANDMARK), parked beside the
Here they are.
Walt looks out the window and sees Chris drive up in his
old yellow Datsun with Carine in the passenger seat
beside him, and pulls up to the space beside the
4 INT. DATSUN 4
Chris is holding a book from which he reads aloud the
LAST LINE OF THE POEM...
I say...Do what you are going to do,
and I will tell about it.
Who wrote that?
Well, it could've been either one of us,
He hands a book of Sharon Olds' poetry to her.
There's a lot of great poems in there.
Thanks, big brother.
They exit the car and frame.
5 INT. ATLANTA RESTAURANT - SAME 5
Chris and Carine join Walt and Billie at the table.
Billie gets up and gives Chris a big hug.
You scared the daylights out of me,
jumping on to that stage, oh my god.
Chris gives Carine a look. Walt extends his hand to
They all sit and pick up menus.
6 INT. ATLANTA RESTAURANT - LATER 6
The foods on the table. Chris is devouring a steak.
My grades are gonna be good enough, I
think, to get into Harvard Law.
That's a big deal. What do you have left
in your college fund?
It's an inheritance, dad. I've only been
spending it as a college fund...Exactly
twenty-four thousand five hundred dollars
and sixty-eight cents.
That's very specific.
I had to go to the bank this morning.
Well, we'll certainly contribute the
balance for Harvard.
Yeah. I've got to figure out what I'm
going to do. I got a lot of things to
pack and organize here first.
I'm so glad you're getting out of that
place you're living. It was so much
nicer when you lived on campus.
You'll come to Annandale before you
disappear on us, won't you?
Sure, I will.
Carine's not so sure.
Well, your father and I want to make a
present to you.
We want to get you out of that junker.
What's a junker?
Walt points outside to the Datsun.
Yes. We want to get you a new car.
A new car? Why the hell would I want a
new car? The Datsun runs great.
(Mocking the Cadillac)
Do you think I want some fancy boat? Or
are you worried about what the neighbors
We weren't going to get you a Cadillac,
Chris. Just a nice new car that's safe
to drive. You don't know when that
thing's just going to suddenly blow up.
Blow up? Blow up?! Are you guys crazy?
It's a great car. I don't need a new
car. I don't want a new car. I don't
want anything. Thing, thing, thing.
Under the table, Carine jabs Chris' leg. Chris returning
to polite -
But, thanks anyway.
Everything's gotta be difficult.
I said thank you. I just don't want
The group returns to some superficial calm.
I wouldn't say no to a new car.
(mumbling a rib)
Ivana Trump McCandless.
(laughing it off)
Shut up, Chris.
(to her parents, seriously)
Seriously, I'll pay you back.
7 INT. OFF-CAMPUS ROOMING HOUSE, SECOND-FLOOR, ATLANTA - 7
OVER Chris' shoulder, he frisbees his graduation cap from
the upstairs window to his parents parting Cadillac on
As they wave goodbye, Carine catches the cap from the
backseat window. And with a parting smile to her
brother, she poses with it on her own head. Chris smiles
and waves goodbye.
As the Cadillac drifts away, his smile disappears into
something other than sadness.
8 INT. OFF-CAMPUS ROOMING HOUSE - NIGHT 8
In a warm ambient light, we SEE a black and white poster
on a barren wall: Poncho-clad Clint Eastwood from "The
Good, The Bad, And The Ugly."
We TILT DOWN a stack of books sitting on the floor -
Tolstoy, Stegner, Thoreau, Jack London, and Pasternak.
Beside them, a camper's backpack.
Chris sits in introspection at his desk by candlelight.
The room is spare, supporting his monkish lifestyle. But
on the desk before him, he counts out $500.68 from a bank
envelope. He pockets those bills and change, then removes
a check for $24,000 made out to OXFAM America from the
same bank envelope. He scribbles a note: These are all
my savings. Feed someone with it. Signed, Chris
McCandless. He then slides the note and the check into a
pre-addressed Oxford Famine Relief Fund (in Boston)
He pulls his wallet from his back pocket. Pulls all the
cards and pictures from its sleeves. Considering each,
he flicks them into a trash bin, one by one. Finally
coming to his social security card, he holds it to the
candles flame. As the flame burns bright we -
9 EXT. ATLANTA HIGHWAY - SUNRISE' 9
MUSIC (Gordon Peterson's BIG HARD SUN or as radio source
Tom Petty's FREE FALLING) rises and PRESENTATION TITLES
A 1982 DATSUN B210 emerges from the rising sun as the car
heads west out of Atlanta. (HIGHWAY 20 TO 78 TO 40)
PRESENTATION TITLES and MUSIC carry OVER:
MONTAGE: We travel with Chris and his Datsun through the
towns and open highways, landscapes and landmarks, days
and nights, that lead to the Mojave desert in the West.
(In contrast to his introspection of the previous night,
Chris is buoyant throughout this sequence.)
10 EXT. DESERT, SOMEWHERE BETWEEN KINGMAN, ARIZONA AND LAS 10
VEGAS, NEVADA - SUNSET
(CRANE SHOT) We see Chris stop the Datsun in the middle
of the desert road. We (CRANE?) DOWN to a close-up
through the windshield. Chris looks left. Then, right.
Into the rearview mirror, and suddenly turns the wheel,
veering the Datsun off the paved highway into the vast
As we CRANE back UP, the Datsun moves into the horizon.
END PRESENTATION TITLES. FADE MUSIC
11 EXT. DETRITAL WASH - TWILIGHT 11
The Datsun sits in the magical pastel twilight just
before darkness slides over the desert. It is positioned
at the foot of a wash wall that edges the soup bowl.
The Datsun, a yellow speck in the frame. Coyotes yap at
the moon. Other than that, no sound on the desert floor.
In the distance, voluptuous cumulonimbus clouds boil
upward catching the last rosy glow of the west-setting
sun over the rim of the upper Detrital watershed.
We see strobe bursts of lightning followed by muffled
thunder illuminating the thunder clouds from within.
Short SERIES OF ANGLES as we MOVE IN on the distant
gullies and ravines, starting to run with copious amounts
12 INT. DATSUN - NIGHT 12
Chris McCandless, in the same clothes he had been in back
in the rooming house, sleeps in the back seat of the
Datsun. His head supported by his backpack. We begin to
HEAR a rumble. But this rumble is not thunder. It
rapidly builds into an alarming ROAR. The roar grows to
a deafening level. Chris awakens.
As he peeks up from the backseat looking forward through
the windshield, he just barely catches sight of the
leading edge of a flash flood. A four-foot high wall of
water, mud and debris makes impact with the Datsun,
momentarily enveloping it in water. Suddenly the car is
SLAMMED against the cliff. CRACK! Chris sits upright,
POV: As far as the eye can see in the desert moonlight,
water has taken over the desert with a flash flood.
However, there's no panic in Chris' face as we observe
him past a new crack in the wet windshield. The water,
while violent seems to have topped off just above the
wheels. Chris gets a slight smile on his face, as the
car settles into its new position below the cliff. He
returns to sleep.
13 EXT. DESERT - DAY 13
What remains of Chris' travelling money burns in a pile
beside the Datsun on the sun-lit but muddy desert floor.
We follow a very long set of footprints (CAMERA
TRACKING/TRUE VERTICAL) away from the burning cash
through the mud, finally tilting up to the footprint
maker, Chris. Slogging toward high ground.
WIDE-SHOT: We see the abandoned Datsun nearly a mile
behind Chris as he walks toward us wearing his backpack.
He comes very close to camera (only a day or two's
stubble on his face) and as we PAN him 180, we see as
much wilderness before us as we did behind.
REPRISE MUSIC OVER MAIN TITLE:
(INTO THE WILD)
Chris walks into the distance.
COMPLETE AND END MAIN TITLES.
14 INT. COLLEGE BUILDING 14
SHAKY HAND-HELD HOME VIDEO IMAGE (4 YEARS EARLIER):
Chris McCandless speaking to camera holds a microphone in
a shadowy room, doing his Geraldo Rivera. It's tongue-in-
cheek at best.
This is Emory University freshman Chris
McCandless reporting from the vault at
He indicates a hatchway in the floor leading to a
brightly lit corridor below.
We have just dynamited the hatchway and
are the first human beings to step foot
into this vault in over a hundred years.
Somewhere in here lies the secret of the
great beast within us all. A beast built
on lies, corruption, and greed.
We HEAR a GROWLING SOUND from behind Chris.
And there it is! The legendary beast
CAMERA quickly PANS to a blanket-wrapped, crawling FELLOW
STUDENT in a grotesque Halloween mask.
We MOVE INTO CU on the monster growling.
QUICK PAN back to Chris.
(in mock fright)
We've got to get out of here quick and re-
secure the hatch while we make a plan of
how to kill the beast.
CAMERA SHAKES all over like a bad horror film trying to
stay with Chris as he makes a quick escape down the
hatchway into the University dorm corridor.
CLUMSY VIDEO TIME CUT: Chris nailing the last nail in
the hatchway from below. He climbs down the steps where
he exchanges his hammer for his microphone from an off-
Well, it looks like we've succeeded -
We HEAR the monster's GROWL from above.
- at least for the moment, in sealing the
beast back into the vault. Your humble
reporter, Chris McCandless will now
struggle with the journalistic question
of ethics: Will he retain his reporter's
objectiveness or save the future of human
truth by slaying this awful beast?
He gives us a look of vaudevillian puzzlement - what will
We pick up with Chris in a corridor outside a door with a
cheap paper-and-tape label announcing the adjacent room
as the office of Ted Turner.
Once again, your humble reporter Chris
We HEAR OS students commenting on Chris and his video
What is this? Filmmaking 101?
OS STUDENT #2
Point the camera at me. I'm a star.
Chris speaking straight to camera, still tongue-in-cheek:
(with a Wizard of Oz tone)
Pay no attention to the voices behind the
15 INT. WOULD-BE TED TURNER OFFICE 15
A FELLOW STUDENT PLAYING TED TURNER with obvious fake
mustache is locked into an episode of Matlock on his
television set as our bold reporter, Chris, barges in.
Ted! We've got a monster in the vault.
It represents all the corruption, the
deceit, and greed within us all. I must
(worst acting we've ever
McCandless, how many times have I had to
tell you? I've had to tell you that you
are a journalist and you can't get
personally involved in your cases...or
Ted! I know how to kill it. And I'm the
only one who knows. You can't keep
sending me on stories and expecting me to
do nothing! I look like some kind of an
Do you know who you're talking to? I'm
Behind Chris in the corridor outside Ted's office, a
PANICKED STUDENT arrives at the door.
McCandless! You've got to hurry! The
monster is scratching at the hatchway.
He'll be out in no time.
It'll mean your job, Chris McCandless.
That's it, Ted. Fire me if you want but
this beast must be slayed.
Microphone in hand, Chris makes haste. The CAMERA RUNS
WITH HIM out the door, through the corridor, up a set of
steps to the hatchway. As he arrives, the monster
appears above him in the hatchway crawl space having
pulled off the board Chris had nailed.
This is the only thing that can kill the
monster. It's gonna be risky but without
great risk, there is no freedom. So we
will now hear from the famous singer -
A piano is PUSHED INTO FRAME beside Chris. A YOUNG BLACK
STUDENT pulls a stool in front of the piano and begins to
play. Chris begins to serenade the monster,
intermittently sharing the serenade directly into camera
as well. He bursts into an uninhibited solo of Tender Is
CAMERA TILTS UP to the monster looking out the hatchway,
slowly dying from the song being sung.
As the song continues to be sung and the monster
continues to die, the AUDIO RECEDES and VIDEO IMAGES GO
TO SLO MO.
When we were little, Chris was very to
himself. He wasn't anti-social, he
always had friends, and everybody liked
him - but he could go off and entertain
himself for hours, he didn't seem to need
toys or friends. He could be alone
without being lonely. The secrets our
parents kept, though unknown to Chris and
I, led to bouts of rage and even violence
between them that we had been forced to
witness since we were very young. It
seemed like they never fought without us.
I remember the first family meeting to
let Chris and me in on their plans for
getting a divorce. They wanted us to
choose which of them we'd live with. I
cried my eyes out. But the divorce never
happened, though the threats and meetings
never stopped. It wasn't long before
Chris and I shut off -- we would tell mom
and dad to go ahead and get the divorce.
Chris and I just wanted to get away from
their fights and mom kept promising to
get out and take us with her as soon as
their company made enough money. Dad had
been the young genius [that] NASA
enlisted to do [crucial] designs for the
American satellite radar systems that
would be our answer to the Russian
Sputnik. And mom and he later started up
a consulting firm combining her get-up-
and-go resourcefulness with his wealth of
knowledge. By the time the company
actually made its first million, the
careerism and money seemed to erase her
memory of the promise she'd made us.
CARINE (V.O.) (CONT'D)
I think this is when Chris began to see
"careers" as a diseased invention of the
twentieth century and to resent money and
the useless priority people made of it in
their lives. He'd begun planning to
"slay the beast"...to make himself free.
The beast dies.
CHAPTER 1: BIRTH - FADE
16 INT. TENT (IN THE SCRUB BRUSH BESIDE LAKE MEAD) - DAY 16
We see a pile of berries sitting atop a handkerchief.
Beside them, a survivalist's guide to edible growth.
POV: THE TOP OF THE TENT - SOFT FOCUS
The glare of the sun penetrating the canvas. A fly
buzzes and lands, hanging upside down. The image is
ECU: CHRIS' EYES
Delirious in the heat, we WIDEN OUT to see that he's
filthy (2 weeks of growth on his face and naked.) He
makes his way out of the tent, peers at the relentless
sun and scurries to his backpack where he removes a
canteen, barely a sip of water left in it. He downs it.
17 EXT. LAKE MEAD DAY 17
The following short vignettes are silent and focused
exclusively on Chris:
1. Recreational BOATERS on Lake Mead. GIRLS in bikinis.
BOYS on boats eating Kentucky Fried Chicken.
2. At lake-side, an unusual sight - the NEW Chris
McCandless, a sun and dirt-beaten bum with a backpack.
3. A family ski-boat has taken Chris on. They give him
water, dropping him at the north end of the lake at
TEMPLE BAR MARINA. (Director's Note: HIGH ANGLE, TIGHT,
sees Chris and the glimmering water treadmilling below)
4. Chris washes himself in the lake by the marina.
18 ESTABLISHING SHOT: CAFE, TEMPLE BAR MARINA 18
19 INT. MARINA CAFE, UNISEX RESTROOM 19
Chris brushes his teeth.
I need a name.
He takes a swallow of water. Rinses his mouth. Spits it
out. Then checks his bearded face in the mirror. He
likes what he sees.
As he wipes the corners of his mouth with a tissue and
throws it into the bin below the sink, he notices a
discarded tube of lipstick. He picks it up. It's down
to its end. Yet with what lipstick remains, he writes on
ALEXANDER SUPERTRAMP WAS HERE JULY 1990
20 EXT. MARINA CAFE (BLDG REAR) - SUNDOWN 20
Chris is behind the cafe beside a pair of dumpsters. He
removes the Datsun's license plates from his backpack and
discards them deeply into the garbage.
21 EXT. MARINA CAFE (BLDG FRONT) - SUNDOWN 21
Chris appears from behind the cafe lugging his backpack
up the rise from the cafe to the highway and starts
thumbing for a ride.
22 INT. MCCANDLESS HOME, ANNANDALE 22
VARIOUS shots to accompany V.O.
Toward the end of June, Chris had mailed
our parents his final grade report.
Walt and Billie open the envelope.
CARINE (V.O.) (CONT'D)
Almost all A's. "A" in Apartheid in
South African Society and History of
Anthropological Thought; A- in
Contemporary African Politics and the
Food Crisis in Africa; and on it went.
Clever boy, my brother.
We observe Carine in a delicate afternoon light. She is
sitting up on her bed with an unread book, looking out
the window toward us.
CARINE (V.O.) (CONT'D)
But by the end of July we hadn't heard
anything from him and my parents were
getting very worried.
Carine's POV: Walt with his arm around Billie in the
CARINE (V.O.) (CONT'D)
Chris had never had a phone, so they
decided to drive down to Atlanta and
22A EXT. ROAD TO TAHOE 22A
Chris, backpack on, walking away from camera.
23 EXT. HIGHWAY - ATLANTA - DAY (END JULY 1990) 23
We see Walt and Billie's car pass under an Atlanta
When they arrived at the apartment, there
was a "For Rent" sign in his window, and
the manager told my parents that Chris
had moved out at the end of June.
24 EXT. OFF-CAMPUS ROOMING HOUSE, ATLANTA - DAY 24
We observe Walt and Billie chatting with Chris' apartment
When they got home, I had to hand them
all the letters they had sent Chris that
summer which had been returned in a
25 INT. MCCANDLESS HOME, ANNANDALE 25
The bundle of letters are splayed out on the kitchen
table - "Return to Sender" stamps visible.
Chris had instructed the post office to
hold them until August 1st so that mom
and dad wouldn't know that anything was
up. Some part of me understood what he
had done. That he had spent the previous
four years fulfilling an absurd and
onerous duty in graduating from college.
We return to the image of Carine sitting on her bed as
she plops on Chris' old graduation cap. We slowly ZOOM IN
on her throughout the remaining V.O.
CARINE (V.O.) (CONT'D)
And now, at last he was unincumbered.
Emancipated from the stifling world of
parents and peers. Abstraction,
security, and material excess. Those
things that cut Chris off from the raw
truth of his existence. I only hoped he
was safe...and I missed him.
26 EXT. SIERRA NEVADA MOUNTAINS (LAKE TAHOE AREA) - DAY 26
HELICOPTER SHOT: (MUSIC OVER: PHILIP GLASS) WE FIND
CHRIS MAKING HIS STRIDES THROUGH PINES AND PEAKS, IN AWE
OF THE SCALE AND POWER OF THIS LANDSCAPE.
TRACKING SHOT (GROUND LEVEL): CLOSE ON Chris, surrounded
by a summit grove embraced in its nature.
ANGLE: A DEER drinking from a creek, pops its head up
between trees and scrub, watching the alien human pass.
An EAGLE soars above (perhaps it was this POV represented
in our helicopter shot)
WATER babbling in a mountain creek.
VARIOUS WILDLIFE SHOTS
ANGLE: Chris - In his eyes we see the landscape inject
27 EXT. CAMPSITE, PACIFIC CREST TRAIL - SUNSET 27
SEQUENCE: Chris makes camp beside a stream pulling a sack
of rice from his backpack and cooking it.
28 EXT. CAMPSITE, PACIFIC CREST TRAIL - NIGHT 28
Wrapped in his own "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly"
poncho, Chris eats rice while crouched beside a campfire
reading from Jack London's White Fang.
29 EXT. PACIFIC CREST TRAIL - FURTHER NORTH - DAY 29
Chris is on the move north through the gorgeous landscape
of the Sierras, humming as he walks, when he comes upon a
sign on the trail: PERMIT CAMPING IN DESIGNATED
Chris bows to the sign as one would to speak to a small
Sign, sign. Everywhere a sign. Fuckin'
up the scenery, breakin' my mind.
Do this. Don't do that. Can't you read
And then, very impulsively, he karate kicks the sign off
its post into a log collapsing into ---
30 OMITTED 30
31 EXT. CAMPSITE II, PACIFIC CREST TRAIL - NIGHT 31
A burning log collapses in Chris' campfire, reduced to
32 INT. TENT 32
Chris is awakened by the SOUND of TWIGS SNAPPING in a
nearby thicket. He quickly grabs a knife from his
backpack, unzips six inches of the tent door open. We
see his eyes peering out. The CRACKLING moves closer.
His grip on the knife tightens.
Suddenly a hot white light hits his face. And a VOICE
comes from behind the light.
U.S. Forestry. Could you step out of the
Now we see the FOREST RANGER appear from the thicket.
Chris exits the tent, catching himself holding the knife.
(as he drops the knife to the
Sorry. I thought you were a bear.
I don't blame you. You're less than a
hundred yards from the nearest den.
That's why I came over here to talk to
you. Do you have some identification?
No. I'm sorry. My name's Alex. I've
been travelling a lot and I got robbed
and my identification was taken.
You mind if I take a look in your tent?
The Forest Ranger bends over. Pops his flashlight
through the tent door and peers around a bit before re-
You're not the character who knocked down
our sign, are ya?
Because there was a sign indicating that
camping was allowed by permit only.
Well, I don't have a permit.
No, I'm sure you don't. Listen, it looks
like you've got your food secured pretty
good, so I'm not gonna make you move on
tonight. But, these bears out here are
nursing young and you know how that goes.
Next time, stop at the Rangers station
and get yourself a permit.
Alright. I appreciate it. I'm gonna be
headed towards the coast tomorrow.
They shake hands and the Forest Ranger disappears into
33 EXT. THE NORTHERN CREST - DAY 33
Chris descends the mountains where they meet the
Redwoods. Every perilous step creates a mini landslide
down the hill; dirt and gravel.
Chris stops briefly to observe an over-flying commercial
Is that a man mommy?
That's no mere man, sweetheart. That's
Alexander SuperTramp! King of the wild
Chris briefly waves to the airplane above and continues
34 OMITTED 34
35 EXT. HIGHWAY NEAR WILLOW CREEK (AUGUST 10, 1990) 35
A car slows to a stop.
36 INT./EXT. CAR-HIGHWAY 36
This is where I turn off.
Alright man. Thanks a lot.
Chris is dropped off. The driver veers off the highway
and into the distance. Chris is left behind to hitch
36A EXT. HIGHWAY 36A
CAMERA is across the road from Chris as one by one cars
pass him by. He turns to move north by foot and we track
with him, his back to oncoming traffic, he continues to
hitchhike with an extended thumb. Something catches his
eye in the treeline beside the road.
REVERSE: Chris, moving to the mysterious object. As he
lifts it, we see that it is a goofy looking straw hat.
He dusts it off, and snugs it onto his head, when a
police car comes into frame and stops beside Chris.
With a quick blast of the siren, Chris turns to regard
the police car. The POLICEMAN gets out of the car and
moves to Chris.
How're you doin' this evening?
I'm alright. What's the matter?
You wanna put your backpack down on the
hood of my car.
Chris does not oblige.
Because I asked you to, sir.
But I haven't done anything wrong. These
are my personal items.
Do you know that it's unlawful to
hitchhike on this stretch of highway.
Do you see a safe area for a vehicle to
stop? We got a tree-lined highway
without a substantial shoulder here. And
we've had a lot of accidents on this road
from people stopping in the traffic lane
Alright, but...I mean, you stopped your
car. You're in the traffic lane. And
you can see, there's hardly any cars out
here. Plus, it's a straight road; you
can see for a long ways.
There's really been accidents along here?
May I see some identification?
Now Chris is worried.
I don't have any.
You don't have any identification?
Chris shakes his head "No."
(pulling out a ticket)
Well, I'm gonna site you for unlawful
hitchhiking. You don't have to appear.
You can send a check directly to the
Humboldt County Clerks Office for
restitution. If you don't pay it within
30 days, you're subject to fine and
warrant. I'm gonna trust that you're
gonna give me accurate information.
What's your name?
Chris can't bring himself to lie.
McCandless. Christopher Johnson
37 INT. MCCANDLESS HOME, ANNANDALE (MID-AUGUST 1990) 37
Walt, Billie, and Carine sit around the kitchen table in
August. A copy of Chris' ticket has been sent to the
Annandale address and sits before them. Billie and
Carine sit silently. Walt's on the phone.
If Chris were trying to disappear, it
would have been a pretty uncharacteristic
lapse for him to give the police his real
place of residence. Though my parents
had already contacted the Annandale
police with their initial concerns, this
ticket arriving from California made them
CARINE (V.O.) (CONT'D)
My father called one of his old
government friends who put him in touch
with a private investigator, someone
who'd done work with the DIA and the CIA.
Using the Willow Creek ticket as a
starting point, the investigator began
chasing down leads. Most of them led far
afield -- to Europe and South Africa.
Ultimately turning up nothing. What my
dad couldn't believe was that he'd given
up his car. He seemed to love that
Datsun so much. It sounded just like
Chris to me, though. He was very much of
the school that you should own nothing
except what you could carry on your back
at a dead run.
38 EXT. NORTHERN CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY, NEAR ORICK, 60 MILES 38
SOUTH OF THE OREGON LINE - DAY (MID-AUGUST 1990)
With his backpack lunging and a free hand holding his
goofy new hat onto his head, we find Chris at a "dead
run" to catch a ride that had overshot him. (Director's
note: Don't leave this image too soon.) An old van idles
waiting for him. As he gets to the passenger side, the
woman passenger gets out. This is JAN BURRES, early
40's, looks to be still on the long road home from
Woodstock. A little heavyset, dark wavy hair with a lot
of premature grey in it.
Jan moving to the side door.
Hi. We just barely saw you there, under
that crazy hat of yours. We couldn't
back up - the van's reverse is broken.
(as Jan fiddles with side
Oh. That's okay. Thanks for stopping.
This door's a little tricky, I'll get it.
And with a little pulling, it opens. Indicating the pony-
tailed and bearded driver (RAINEY), early 50's,
Hop in, that's Rainey.
Hey, I'm Rainey.
And I'm Jan.
Hey, Rainey. Hi Jan. I'm Alex.
Alex of the hat.
(closing the side door)
Jan jumps back in passenger seat and the van rolls on.
39 INT. RAINEY & JAN VAN 39
3-SHOT - CHRIS BETWEEN THEM IN THE BACKSEAT.
Were you out there a long time hitching?
Couple of days. But sometimes I forget to
put my thumb out.
Probably, the rest of the time, that hat
scares `em away.
Chris checks himself in the rearview mirror and gets a
kick out of what he sees (That hat's staying on.) Jan is
looking at the rearview mirror too, observing Chris with
When's the last time you ate something?
Chris pulls out a bag of berries and edible plants he's
See that? I've got this book and it
shows you all the plants and berries that
are edible. You can find things wherever
Jan steals a glance to Rainey. He's hip.
We were just in town getting some beads
and stuff. Jan does handicrafts, so
we're usually going from one swap meet to
another. She's so good at what she does,
we sold everything. So, we set up camp
at Orick Beach. You're welcome to camp
there with us.
And eat there with us.
Chris is beaming at the thought of real food.
40 EXT. CAMPSITE, ORICK BEACH - NIGHT 40
Chris, Jan, and Rainey are beside a campfire, sitting on
blankets. Their tents loom behind them.
Jan is weaving some sort of craft art. Chris is chomping
on chicken and beans like they're going out of style.
(between large swallows)
So, I just left the car. It was a great
car too. I'd driven it cross country the
first time when I got out of high school.
I had some really great adventures with
it. That thing would just go and go. I
mean, it was an `82 but if I'd kept it,
it would've lasted me forever.
So, you're a leather now.
I'm a leather?
Rainey nods, smiling.
(looking to Jan)
What's a leather?
You're a leather tramp. That's what they
call the ones that hoof it on foot. So,
we're technically rubber tramps.
As we have a vee-hi-cle.
Rainey makes a move to put his arm around Jan. She goes
a little stiff and fends it off. Chris notices.
Alex could have a vehicle. If he didn't
burn his money. Why would you want to do
I don't need money. It makes people
(a little irritated)
Well, you have to be a little cautious
Alex. That book of yours is all well and
fine but you can't depend entirely on
leaves and berries.
I don't know if you'd want to depend on
much more than that.
Where's your mom and dad?
Makin' their money somewhere.
Come on Chris. You look like a loved *
kid. Be fair. *
You know what I mean.
I'll paraphrase Thoreau -- "Rather than *
love, than money, than fairness, give me *
You look like shit. There's the truth. *
They all laugh. *
CUT TO: *
41 INT. CHRIS' TENT, ORICK BEACH - LATER 41
Chris sits up reading, his tent entry flap ajar to let
the small candle lantern ventilate.
OS we HEAR a ZIPPING SOUND. It's Rainey. We see him
from Chris' POV coming out of his tent deep in thought.
As he moves to the glowing embers of what remains of the
campfire, Rainey's face goes out of frame and all Chris
can see are his booted feet, tapping bits of glowing wood
into the center of the fire. The tapping is slow and
thoughtful. Micro-embers float upward into the night.
Chris' tent flap closes by his own hand.
ANGLE: Chris' dog-ears his book and puts out the lantern.
42 EXT. ORICK BEACH - DAY 42
We see Chris foraging for firewood in the bluffs above
the beach. He's got it tied to his back and his front.
If we didn't know better, we'd think he was camouflaging
Chris' POV: The rocks beside the water's edge. We see
Rainey sitting beside the water, staring out to sea. We
follow Chris' gaze to Jan, some fifty yards down the
beach, walking melancholically in the opposite direction
ANGLE: Rainey at the water's edge. Chris appears beside
(regarding Chris wrapped up
Geez. If I struck a match to you, I'd
have warmth and dinner at the same time.
But Rainey's humor does not hide an inner turmoil.
Where's Jan going?
Well, my friend, all is not well on the
Chris pulls out his pocketknife, cuts the twine that
binds the firewood to his body, and takes a seat beside
You're an industrious little fucker,
aren't ya... Yeah, it's funny how things
happen at particular times. I've loved
that woman for a lot of years. But you
know, she's got a...story. We've been
going through this thing real quietly
cause, well...So, after running into you
last night, this thing we were going
through quietly, she started talking
about. You know what I mean?
I think so.
You think what?
Chris is looking off at Jan walking in the distance.
I think she's probably quietly
disconnecting. It doesn't feel right to
her to be close to you if there's a hole
of some kind somewhere else.
That's a helluva insight. Jesus!...
You're not Jesus, are you? You gonna
walk on that water and get her back for
Actually, I'm a little afraid of water.
Rainey gives him a sideways glance.
It's true. But it's something I've got
to get over sometime.
So, I'll swim in it if you'll carry the
firewood back to the campsite.
I'll carry. Shit-yes I'll carry.
And with that, Chris runs down the beach toward Jan.
Rainey watches Chris and Jan chat briefly. Then they
strip down to their underwear and jump into the ocean,
splashing and laughing.
ANGLE: Rainey. A warmth comes over him, watching his old
lady having some fun. He grabs two armfuls of wood and
heads to the campsite.
ANGLE: Chris and Jan swimming in the chilly water, having
Jan increasingly indulges herself a motherly closeness
and joy with Chris. And Chris allows it. She pushes the
stringy hairs from his eyes, worries when he descends
below the surface for too many seconds, and smiles and
laughs in tender relief when from below surface one of
her toes is pulled on by the big fish Chris. As he re-
surfaces, she gives him a splash right in the face.
43 EXT. CAMPSITE, ORICK BEACH - LATER 43
Through a burning campfire in the late afternoon, we see
the chilly bodies of Chris and Jan carrying their clothes
run shivering toward us.
Rainey sits beside the campfire.
I thought you guys might need a little
Jan smiles appreciatively.
(moving to Rainey)
That's not hot enough. Put your arms
As they embrace, Chris throws a coat on from his tent,
puts on his funny straw hat, and grabs a book.
Rainey has wrapped a blanket around Jan and they sit
beside the fire.
I'm going to go down the beach a ways and
read a little bit. I'll bring the rest
of that wood back before nightfall.
Alright. We might take a run into town
to grab some food for tonight.
He heads off down the beach.
44 EXT. ORICK BEACH MONTAGE 44
1. The ocean moving toward sunset.
2. Seagulls, gliding inches over the water.
3. The breeze on the sea grass.
4. Chris in his big hat reading at water's edge.
5. Jan and Rainey deeply engaged in conversation beside
6. Chris closing his book, remaining meditative at
7. Jan and Rainey in town, buying groceries and being
playful with each other.
8. OVER Chris' shoulder, the sun sets and day becomes
45 EXT. CAMPSITE, ORICK BEACH - NIGHT 45
Jan and Rainey on a blanket sharing a joint. Chris lying
beside the campfire in his sleeping bag. Jan takes a
toke, passes the joint to Rainey.
You know what Alex ought to do, Rainey?
He ought to come out to the Slabs this
Rainey takes a toke on the joint.
You'd like that if you're still on the
road. Lot of fellow travelers.
Rainey offers the joint to Chris. Chris passes it up
with a hand gesture.
What is that? The Slabs?
It's down in Niland, California. You
know where the Salton Sea is?
Near San Diego, yeah?
Well about 200 miles Northeast of there,
but yeah. Niland's off the east shore of
Salton. Wild place. The navy bulldozed
and abandoned a base there. All that's
left is a grid of concrete foundations.
They're scattered over about a square
mile or so.
When the weather turns cold across the
rest of the country, people show up there
by the thousands: snow birds...
RAINEY / JAN
Livin' on the cheap under the sun.
You sell your handcrafts there?
Oh yeah. And a lot of second-hand goods.
There's a swap meet. The people are
cool. There's even some kids running
around sometimes. Most everyone there,
if they're not avoiding the cold, are at
least dodging the IRS.
Or the FBI. CIA! DDT!!!
The three of them laugh.
It's good. You should check it out. If
you come, I'll make a proper hat for you.
(standing, shaking out her
Well, Alex. I'm gonna clean up and the
old man and I are gonna get some rest.
(indicating the sleeping bag)
Looks like you got yourself a good bag
Yeah...my mother made it from a kit.
Jan sees an almost imperceptible mother pang in Chris,
but he pushes it away quickly.
I'm gonna sleep out here by the fire. I
want to read a little bit.
Jan moves to Chris, hugs him, kisses him on the cheek.
You're wonderful. Don't make me worry
46 EXT. CAMPSITE, ORICK BEACH - LATER 46
The fire is burning low. Chris reads from Thoreau's
WALDEN from the chapter on "Higher Laws" as we move
slowly in toward him, we begin to HEAR quiet sounds of
what may be love-making coming from Rainey and Jan's
tent. A gentle smile comes over Chris' face and in its
irony, he looks to the page before him.
Chris' sliding fingertip underlines the following
Chastity is the flowering of a man; and what are called
genius, heroism, holiness, and the like, are but various
fruits which succeed it.
47 EXT. CAMPSITE, ORICK BEACH - MORNING 47
Gulls pierce into the grey morning ocean, snapping from
schools of fish. And the subtle crackling of a
campfire's death. There on the beach, Jan and Rainey's
van, their tent, and the fireless coals of last night.
But no sign of Chris, his bag or his tent.
Jan appears from her tent, rubbing her eyes. She wears a
sarong which she re-secures at the breast, then notices
that Chris has left. But where his tent had been, the
THANK YOU JAN AND RAINEY
are spelled out in the sand with bits of driftwood.
CU: Jan - We see her sadness. Rainey appears at her
shoulder. He understands what is inside his woman.
He reminded me...
Go to WIDE SHOT: Jan and Rainey remaining as they were.
FOREGROUND: Seagulls GLIDE THROUGH FRAME.
CHAPTER 2: ADOLESCENCE
48 EXT. CASCADE RANGE - DAY 48
MUSIC OVER: Joe Henry's King's Highway
A SERIES OF SHOTS:
1. Chris hitchhiking through the Sage Brush Uplands
2. Chris squatting over a water bucket, shaving.
3. Camping in the lava beds of the Columbia River Basin.
4. Walking across the Idaho Panhandle.
5. Cooking the last of his rice on the Montana border.
6. Hitchhiking in the Montana sunset.
49 EXT. CUT BANK, MONTANA - SUNSET (SEPTEMBER 10 1990) 49
We see Chris hitching down a lonely two-lane road
surrounded by fields and distant mountains.
In early September, mom and dad got a
call from the Annandale police notifying
them that Chris' abandoned car had been
identified by the Arizona Highway Patrol
after a group of rare flower hunters
stumbled upon it in the desert. There
were no signs that Chris had intended to
return to it. But there wasn't any
evidence of struggle. The police said
they thought Chris had chosen to leave it
behind and not that it had been taken
from him. Nonetheless, the initial
comfort that gave mom and dad, quickly
turned to their realization that Chris
was actually trying not to be found.
50 EXT. ANNANDALE STREET - DUSK 50
We see Walt. He walks out the door of his house into the
street. He keeps walking. And we go with him in his
silent but internal Armageddon. We PULL him in CU
throughout all that follows...(Refer to SCENE 171: "Dad
calls it `suspended animation.'" This may affect our
The year Chris graduated high school he
bought the Datsun, used. He wanted to
drive it cross-country and visit our old
neighborhood in California. The day
before he left was my dad's birthday.
Chris made a speech...
51 INT. MCCANDLESS HOME, ANNANDALE (PAST) 51
Chris stands beside the family piano, speaking to a party
of his parent's friends, Walt and Billie among them.
Beside him, a large gift-wrapped present. Carine sits at
the foot of the stairs at the back of the room watching
her brother with a hint of concern.
(a little drunk, a little
Dad, you and I have had our differences
over the years...but on your birthday I
want to tell you how grateful I am for
all the things you've given me. And that
you did it starting from nothing to
working your way through college and
busting your ass to support us kids. So,
in return, I've been busting my ass a
bit...at Domino's Pizza -
Chris moves to the gift.
and I've gotten you this token, this
damned expensive token, as a token of
Chris holds the large gift toward Walt. Walt moves
through his friends to Chris and strips the paper,
exposing a beautiful Questar Telescope.
(patting his son the back)
Would you look at that.
Walt holds the telescope up for all to see. And the
party responds with applause.
Chris walks through the cheering family friends to take
his place beside Carine at the bottom of the steps.
Jesus, you must've had a lot to drink.
Too much and not enough. I used to
believe all that stuff. That whole
story. I thought maybe if I said it
again, I'd believe it. But I don't.
Tears have come to Chris' eyes. He puts his head in his
hands. Carine puts an arm around him.
52 EXT ANNANDALE STREET - DUSK 52
PRESENT: Walt expressionless, walking into camera.
The day after the party, Chris left on
his trip and ended up staying away most
of the summer. It was nearly three months
before he walked back into our house in
Annandale. He had a scruffy beard, his
hair was long and tangled, and he was
rail thin. As soon as I heard he was
home, I ran into his room to talk to him.
In California, he'd looked up some old
family friends who still lived there.
He'd found out that long after he had
been born, our dad had continued a
relationship with his first wife Marcia
53 EXT CUT BANK, MONTANA - SUNSET 53
BRIEF CUTAWAY to Chris hitching on the Montana highway.
And that one lie had led to another.
That two years after Chris was born, dad
had had another son with Marcia. Worse
yet was that it was Marcia to whom he was
still legally married at the time. And
it was Chris and I who were the bastard
54 EXT ANNANDALE STREET - DUSK 54
Dad's arrogance made him conveniently
oblivious to the pain he caused. And
mom, in the shame and embarrassment of a
young mistress, became his accomplice.
She and my dad had decided to bend the
truth about this other child saying that
dad wasn't the father and they maintained
that their fraudulent marriage was real.
Chris was quiet when he told me this. He
said it made his "entire childhood seem
like a fiction"; that "the truth had been
dying everyday." If something bothered
Chris, he'd usually keep it to himself.
And he made me promise to do the same.
He never did tell mom and dad that he
knew. But Chris measured himself and
those around him by an impossibly
rigorous moral code. He loathed what he
considered mom and dad's hypocrisy and
resented what they considered guidance.
Chris submitted to dad's authority
through college but I knew he raged
inwardly the whole time. It was
inevitable that Chris would rebel. And
when he did, he did it with
Walt suddenly collapses to his knees weeping, heartbroken
and ashamed on a quiet Annandale street in the shadowless
light of dusk.
CARINE (V.O.) (CONT'D)
My father is a brilliant man. But he had
made some terrible mistakes. And to some
extent, it seemed Chris was making him
pay an awful price.
The image of Walt DISSOLVES INTO...
55 EXT. CUT BANK, MONTANA (SEPTEMBER 10, 1990) 55
A pick-up truck pulls over for Chris. As Chris jumps in,
we see on the passenger side door, the name WAYNE
WESTERBERG boldly painted across it. Chris hops in
beside a hyper kinetic man with thick shoulders and a
(rolling a cigarette without
moving forward with the
truck, his knees rattling up
How're you doing? Wayne Westerberg.
Hi Wayne. Alex McCandless.
Seems like every time I come on this
road, there's somebody hitching out here
who looks as skinny and unfed as you.
Chris nods with a laugh. Wayne continuing...
Look, I gotta stop in Ethridge to drop
something off (know what I mean?)
Chris is not sure about the "drop something off" part.
How `bout you and I grab something to eat
Oh, I wouldn't want to burden you.
How long has it been since you've had
anything to eat?
Couple of days. I kinda ran out of
Well, there's no choice about it. I'm
gonna get you some dinner.
Wayne lights his cigarette, puts the truck in gear and
they head down the road.
As the sun dips behind the horizon we TILT UP off the
departing truck to the sky. Ominously mounting clouds
stunningly reflect the red rays of the hidden sun:
56 EXT. SUNBURST - NIGHT 56
Wayne's truck cuts through a track in a wheat field
moving toward a compound of three trailers, one a double-
wide, the other two on wheels, smaller. Beside them, a
Wyeth-esque farmhouse. He eases the engine and comes to
a stop in front of the double-wide.
As he and Chris dismount the truck, Wayne gives him a
hushing finger across the lips. They tip-toe up to the
door, where Wayne shuffles a bunch of keys.
A little thunder kicking in the distant sky.
56A INT. DOUBLE-WIDE - NIGHT 56A
As Wayne and Chris enter, they tip-toe over empty booze
bottles and passed out work crew; Wayne's harvesting
They make their way to a small table in the kitchenette.
Remains of the evening's dinner are on the stove. Wayne
turns on the stovetop coils to heat it up.
So where is it you're headed?
I was thinking about doubling back
through the Canadian side of Glacier
Yeah, I used to have a girlfriend who'd
go there, camp on the Black Feet Res.
She was into all that American Indian
I can bring you to the border at Sweet
Grass once you've had some food.
Well, that'd be great. What do you do
Well, I do a lot of things. Computer
programming. Video game repair. I'm a
licensed pilot, own a grain elevator in
Carthage and another one a few miles out
of town. But in the summertime I run a
combine crew, follow the harvest from
Texas way the hell north to the Canadian
border. We just got done cutting barley
for Coors and Anheuser Busch. But then I
got this little black box deal on the
side (You know what I mean?)
You mean those free satellite TV deals?
(as though he hadn't brought
You said it, not me.
Chris is dazzled by this renaissance man of the plains.
Wayne stands to dish out a couple of plates of heated
food. As Chris starts digging in, a major gust of wind
rocks the trailer.
(smiling, responding to wind)
Chris doesn't respond, digs into the food. Points to the
unconscious tribe splayed out. SIX GERMANIC-LOOKING
Who are these guys?
Wayne gets a little giggle.
Those are my Hudderites. Agriculture's a
pretty transient business. These guys
come off the Hudderite colony looking for
work. I always got work for people.
Then that guy -
(pointing at guy making most
of his snore)
That's Kevin. He's with me most of the
time. He's not a Hudderite. He's from
Just then, the rain kicks in full gear outside, pounding
the trailer shell. A couple hits of lightning follow.
Listen, you don't want to go out there on
the road tonight. Why don't you just
roll your sleeping bag out and play like
a Hudderite until morning.
Chris looks about. There's not much room but it beats
the pelting outside.
Thanks Wayne. I will.
Chris, with a grin on his face, lays in his sleeping bag
between a Hudderite and the sleeping KEVIN. Wayne comes
from the back bedroom, tip-toes through the sleeping
bodies to hand Chris a pillow.
Get a good sleep. See you in the
Chris waves a thanks, puts the pillow beneath his head
and closes his eyes.
57 OMITTED 57
58 OMITTED 58
59 EXT. SUNBURST - DAY 59
We are TIGHT on Chris' hand atop the shifter of one of
Wayne's lumbering harvesters.
Okay. Now take hold of the joystick, get
the feel of header, idle it down with the
As Chris makes the attempt, we immediately hear the
grinding of gears, the instrument alarms in chaos.
WIDE SHOT: Chris and Wayne sit atop a combine. In the
background we see Wayne's trailer and two other combines
piloted by Wayne's crew members on the ocean of ripe
Chris tries his hand at the shifter once more. This time
the thing starts to move.
That's it. That's it. Now take it on
out and make yourself some money.
Wayne jumps off the combine and Chris begins to cut his
pattern, intermittently struggling with the shifter.
Wayne laughs his ass off.
60 EXT SUNBURST - DAY 60
SERIES OF SHOTS indicating a SERIES OF DAYS passing as
Chris gets a hang of the machines a little more at a
61 INT. DOUBLE-WIDE, SUNBURST - NIGHT 61
Six men including Wayne and Chris, two among them -
Hudderites, crowd in to the small dinner area of the
trailer. Talking politics and bullshit, and eating a
I'm gonna break out some whiskey. Alex,
you want anything other than that beer?
I'd take a White Russian if you've got
The group of men laugh at the youngster's order of a
What are you Alex, a Commie?
No, I just like White Russians.
I haven't got anything like that here.
But I tell ya what. And I know I speak
for everybody. You wanna come work with
us in Carthage, we'll hook you up on the
grain elevator and get you a White
Russian down at the Cabaret.
Dawn tomorrow, engines roaring.
(to the others like a mock
"Pot o Gold. Oh that pot o gold."
They all join in to the chant/song:
"Pot o Gold. Gotta get that pot o gold!"
(raising his beer)
WAYNE AND HIS MEN
62 OMITTED 62
62A EXT. HIGHWAY BETWEEN SUNBURST AND CARTHAGE 62A
MAGIC HOUR. TELEPHOTO LENS. The harvesting convoy rolls
toward us like a herd of mammoths.
63 EXT. CARTHAGE - NIGHT (LATE SEPTEMBER 1990) 63
A series of silent, quaint establishing tableaus.
(Director's Note: Condor above street)
It's a sleepy little town. Population: 274. Cluster of
clapboard houses, tiny yards, and weathered brick
storefronts rising humbly from the immensity of the
northern plains. Stately rows of cottonwoods shade a
grid of streets, seldom disturbed by moving vehicles.
From UNDER CAMERA, the series of tableaus is interrupted
as the convoy roars into our frame from BENEATH CAMERA.
63A INT. WAYNE'S TRUCK 63A
In the passenger seat, Chris is glowing at his new
surroundings. Wayne picks up the CB radio.
Okay Kevin, get all the machines back to
the elevator. I'm gonna show Chris to
I've got dibs on that shower, that
shower's all me.
First come, first serve buddy.
Wayne signs off and veers off the road.
64 OMITTED 64
65 OMITTED 65
66 EXT. WESTERBERG'S CARTHAGE HOME - NIGHT 66
A two-story Victorian in the Queen Anne style. Wayne
veers his truck into the front yard, parking under the
big cottonwood that towers above.
SHORT TIME CUT:
67 INT. WESTERBERG'S CARTHAGE HOME - SAME 67
Chris follows Wayne up the narrow stairwell.
(carrying Chris' pack for
Come on up in here. This'll be your room
for as long as you hang about.
Wayne opens the door at the top of the stairs.
68 INT. CHRIS' ROOM, WESTERBERG'S CARTHAGE HOME - SAME 68
Wayne plops Chris' pack beside a single bed in the tiny
but comfortable room. Chris enters, very happy with his
Shower's down the hall. If you hurry you
can beat the rest of the boys to it. But
you do want to grab a shower cause we're
all heading over to the Cabaret in
exactly thirty-six minutes. So, get your
dancing shoes on. There's foo-foo in the
medicine cabinet. I think it's Brut.
(slaps his own face as if
he's putting on cologne)
Then you want to put your charm in
overdrive cause we like to PAH-TAY!
Wayne gives Chris a wink and exits, shutting the door
Chris takes in his new surroundings. He's on a work crew
and he likes it. Chris makes the move for the shower but
by the time he opens his door to the hall, all the other
crew members are barreling up the stairs in front of
them, clamoring for dibs (Chris' POV)
I got first!
(in a kid voice)
You had first last night!
(entering the bathroom)
Well, if you wanna wash my back,
You go ahead, fairy. Just don't use all
ANGLE: Chris. He gets a kick out of these guys. He
closes the door.
69 INT. CABARET BAR, CARTHAGE - NIGHT 69
The Jack Daniels is flowing. Wayne's crew drinks,
smokes, and strikes out with every fat woman in the
place. GAIL BORAH, an on-again, off-again girlfriend of
Wayne's tends bar. A petite sad-eyed woman, slight as a
heron, delicate features and long blond hair. Wayne and
Chris sit at the end of the bar.
Alex, this is Gail . This is the one to
go to for that White Russian you've been
wanting. Of course the quid pro quo can
Shut up, Wayne.
You want a White Russian, sweetie?
Yes please, ma'am.
Yes please, ma'am?
Wayne slaps Chris on the back.
Ain't he great?
Don't pay any attention to him.
With that Wayne reaches over the bar, grabs Gail and
gets her in a lip-lock, to which she ultimately gives in.
70 INT. CABARET BAR, CARTHAGE - LATER 70
Wayne and Chris are both drunk.
Anything to do with hunting, preserving
the meat, smoking it or whatever, you
talk to Kevin over there. That's your
ANGLE: KEVIN. He looks every bit the Grizzly Adams part.
Outdoors-man. What's the interest in all
I'm thinking about going to Alaska.
Alaska, Alaska? Or city Alaska? The
city Alaska does have markets.
(with a drunken, excited
No, Alaska, Alaska. I want to be all the
way out there. On my own. No map. No
watch. No axe. Just out there. Big
mountains, rivers, sky. Game. Just be
out there in it. In the wild.
In the wild.
Yeah. Maybe write a book about my
travels. About getting out of this sick
Because you know what I don't understand?
I don't understand why, why people are so
bad to each other, so often. It just
doesn't make any sense to me. Judgement.
Control. All that.
Who "people" we talking about?
You know, parents and hypocrites.
Politicians and pricks.
Chris is clearly troubled by his own words. Wayne leans
(tapping a long finger
against Chris' forehead)
This is a mistake. It's a mistake to get
too deep into that kind of stuff. Alex,
you're a helluva young guy, but I promise
you this: You're a young guy. Blood and
fire! You're juggling blood and fire!
Who are you to be giving advice to
Blood and fire...What? Mr. Happy.
That's who I am. Gimme a kiss.
Gail pushes him off with mock disgust.
(mock opening his zipper, in
a high-pitched voice)
Come on, give Mr. Happy a kiss!
On the television above the bar appears Reverend Jesse
Jackson. We can't hear him but we can see him. Chris
points at the television and yells out to the entire bar
of cowboys and ranch hands -
Now, that's who could be President!
Wayne buries his face in his hands.
71 INT. CHRIS' ROOM, WESTERBERG'S CARTHAGE HOME - DAWN 71
Chris is sacked out from his night of drinking when -
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
The door knocks blast into Chris' head. He awakens to
Wayne opening his bedroom door. Wayne, despite his own
drinking the night before, is wide awake and fresh as a
72 EXT. GRAIN ELEVATOR - SUNRISE' 72
All the boys are hard at it, including Chris and Wayne.
Wayne moves to Chris' side.
So, what do you think about all this?
(The working life)
I like all this.
73 EXT. GRAIN ELEVATOR - DAY - LUNCH BREAK 73
While Wayne and most of the crew get a little rest in the
shade of the grain elevator and eat their lunches, Chris
and Kevin are deep in a bald patch in the field.
Kevin is taking Chris through the paces of smoking and
curing meat in the wilds. Chris listens and takes notes.
(Director's note: Cast a "Kevin" who knows this shit and
shoot it as a dialogue scene as well as a silent
74 INT. CABARET BAR, CARTHAGE - NIGHT 74
The place is packed and Chris is taking over the piano,
surprising everyone with a tremendous talent. Segueing
from honky-tonk country to ragtime, he's become the life
of the party.
The MUSIC continues OVER:
75 EXT. GRAIN ELEVATOR - DAY 75
All the men of Wayne's crew (who by now we've come to
know) and Chris are working their asses off.
POST LAP MUSIC FADES OUT as we:
INTERCUT the crew at work with a SERIES OF MYSTERY
ANGLES: Tires kicking up dust on dirt roads, through
town, and into the field behind the grain elevator. Back
to the work, back to the tires. Back to the work, back
to these several cars hauling ass through the field.
Back to Wayne, up high in the grain elevator -
(to Chris, as he lowers
himself down the man-lift)
I gotta take a piss.
Chris' POV: from high in the grain elevator. He watches
Wayne below, as Wayne saunters out to the field to take a
piss. With his back to us, Wayne whips it out and starts
pissing about 25 yards from the grain elevator.
CU Wayne. He looks up from his urination, the grain
elevator behind him. We see a slight mischievous smile
come to his face. He puts his hands up into the air when
Six unmarked FBI vehicles surround him.
(Director's note: Triangulate three long lenses on Wayne
as the mysterious cars enter each frame, as they skid to
a dusty stop on all sides of him.)
Chris and the men of his crew look on.
I warned him about those little black
As Wayne is handcuffed and led away, he nods up to his
(to arresting agent)
You wanna get that zipper for me?
(and then calling out to his
Sorry boys. Gonna have to shut down for
a while. Alex! You come back and work
for me anytime.
(to Chris and the men)
Gail's got all your checks, guys. I
shouldn't be away too long.
With that, the FBI agents have hustled the good-natured
Wayne into the back of one of the cars.
As they take off into the distance, we move in on Chris,
Where are you gonna go?
76 INT. CABARET BAR, CARTHAGE - LATE AFTERNOON 76
Chris sits at the end of the bar with Gail Borah.
I've been thinking a lot about Alaska.
Alaska? What kind of nut-nut are you?
Alex, it's October for Christ's sake.
You go to Alaska, you go in the Spring.
This time of year you wanna head south.
Personally, I like Las Vegas. One-armed
bandit. That's what I like.
Yeah, maybe I ought to put off going to
Alaska, at least so I can get settled up
there in decent weather.
South. You want to go south. You want
me to take you out to the highway?
(putting on his cowboy)
Little lady, I walked in, I can walk out.
He puts a few bills down on the bar, saddles up his
backpack, and gives Gail a hug.
You take care of yourself now, Alex. You
got a whole family here depending on it.
I will. Thanks Gail . And tell Wayne,
I'll drop him a line.
He gives her a kiss on the cheek and he's off.
77 EXT. CARTHAGE STREETS 77
Empty Carthage streets but for Christopher Johnson
McCandless walking off as we CRANE UP.
78 EXT. HIGHWAY BETWEEN CARTHAGE, SD AND THE GRAND CANYON - 78
NIGHT (OCTOBER 28 1990)
Chris has hitched a ride with a long-haul trucker.
SERIES OF ANGLES: MUSIC OVER: Traveling shots.
79 EXT. COLORADO RIVER, STRETCH OF THE GRAND CANYON - DAY 79
Chris disembarks the long-haulers truck, waves a goodbye,
and the truck moves on.
SERIES OF ANGLES: Chris walking south through the desert
following the river bank. He covers twelve miles before
he arrives in an Arizona town, a dusty weigh-in station.
80 EXT. ARIZONA TOWN - NIGHT 80
The town is quiet but along the storefront lane where
Chris walks, he comes upon a sporting goods store. In
the window, a fiberglass river kayak. Chris stares at
81 EXT. INTERSTATE UNDERPASS - NIGHT 81
We HEAR passing cars humming above. Chris has set up
camp and he's digging in the dirt. He buries many of his
belongings. He makes sure he's got his check from
working with Wayne in his pocket. He packs only the
essential items, burying all else. He gets into his
sleeping bag and goes to sleep.
81A EXT. LEE'S FERRY ROAD - DAY 81A
Chris backpacks past the mushroom rock forms at the
entrance of Lee's Ferry.
82 INT. RANGER'S STATION - LEE'S FERRY - DAY 82
Chris approaches the GREEN-SUITED FUNCTIONARY at the
Can I help you?
Yeah. If I wanted to paddle down the
river, where's the best place to launch
"To launch out of?" What's your
Any? Do you have a permit?
A permit for what?
You can't paddle down the river without a
permit. If you like, you can apply for
one here, get yourself some experience,
and I'll put you on the wait-list.
Wait-list? To paddle down a river?
Well, how long do you have to wait?
I've got an opening May 2003.
Well, you could always join a commercial
raft trip and go with a licensed guide.
They usually have a few last minute
cancellations. I think it's about two-
Chris busts a gut.
Thanks for your help.
The Green Suit eyes Chris' departure with suspicion.
83 EXT. COLORADO RIVER - DAY 83
Chris stands beside a dramatic section of rapids. The
As we SLOWLY ZOOM INTO Chris' face, terrified and
absorbed by the torrent, a bead of sweat drops across his
forehead, TILTS OUR CAMERA to his trembling hands and
legs, when Peter Gabriel's I Have The Touch begins to
ZOOM INTO Chris' face...a decision:
Fear becomes determination
We SMASH CUT ON CUE with Peter Gabriel's vocals. SLO MO,
SUPER DRAMATIC - Chris blasting out of a shoot in the
rapids in the kayak we saw the night before. It's
outrageous. Hair-raising. Just like Peter Gabriel sings
it, he has the touch.
This kid's never kayaked before, certainly never on
rapids. But it's that immortal stage of life, no care,
no helmet, no life-jacket, pure adrenaline. He can
hardly believe he's surviving it as he goes but there's
no looking back now. And with every thump of the music,
we share his rush. His pure unadulterated exhilaration.
With the culmination of the music, Chris has successfully
shot the rapid. He paddles through quiet waters.
We move in on him as he maneuvers the kayak to face
upstream. There before him, the impossible rapid he had
I'm Superman. SuperTramp.
He feels immortal. He makes his about-face and is about
to head down stream when he sees at the river's edge, a
group of RIVER TOURISTS and their GUIDE lunching beside a
pontoon raft. The tourists look like a bunch of
bewildered tubby-troopers in their misfitted orange life-
vests and cereal bowl helmets. The RIVER GUIDE yells out
at Chris as Chris moves PAST CAMERA and away. The guide
gets on his satellite phone to alert the Rangers. We
ZOOM SLOWLY away from them toward the rapid.
84 EXT. ANOTHER QUIET SECTION OF RIVER - LATER 84
Phillip Glass' Cloudscape plays OVER: Chris paddles on.
LOW ANGLE: It is a narrow gorge of solid rock, looking up
from hundreds of feet below the canyon crest.
85 EXT. FURTHER ALONG THE RIVER - LATER 85
The canyon has widened to beach-like banks. Music FADES.
Along the banks he sees a YOUNG BLONDE COUPLE. This is
MADS and SONJA, in their 20's, Danish. They play at the
river's edge beside their campsite, hotdogs cooking on a
Hibachi. Chris averts his eyes when Sonja rises from the
(yelling out to Chris)
You can join us!
Chris doesn't know quite what to do. But Mads seems
quite comfortable inviting a stranger into the presence
of his topless girlfriend.
We have hotdogs!
Chris - can't turn that down! He paddles to within feet
of the water's edge.
I am Mads.
I am Sonja.
Chris gives Sonja a little wave. She bypasses it, wading
up to the Kayak, giving him a big hug.
This couple is extremely energetic. Can't wait to
please. And a bona fide American adventurer in their
midst. It's everything they could've wanted.
We are from Copenhagen. And you are from
Crazy man. You're a crazy man! Sonja,
he is a crazy man.
I'll make you a hotdog.
Mads grabs a hotdog from the Hibachi.
Just one minute. One minute...
Sonja has moved to the tent to put on a dry T-shirt. But
as she moves back to the water's edge, those nipples keep
Chris, meanwhile, simply cannot wipe the smile off his
face in the presence of these warm, open people.
I love this. Don't you love this? This
is nature. We see it in the American
movies. How come you're crazy?
Because that's crazy! You come down the
rapids. What do you want on your hotdog?
Mustard and relish?
You have ketchup?
No, I have mustard and relish.
Mustard and relish it is then.
Sonja, you want a hotdog?
Of course I want a hotdog. Why are you
Mads plops two more hotdogs onto the grill.
She asked me why I'm stupid. And I say,
well...like I ask you why you're crazy
and you say "well." Where are you going?
I haven't decided.
We like it here very much. We went to
Los Angeles. And then, we went to Las
Las Vegas is very nice. The universe is
And then, we come here. Maybe you go to
You can take kayak around Lake Mead and
then take the river down to Mexico.
Chris likes the idea.
How far are we from Lake Mead?
Sonja, how far is Hoover Dam?
Sonja grabs a map from the tent, opens and scrutinizes
it. We follow her finger tracing the river.
Maybe three hundred thirty
kilometers...like two hundred miles.
Sonja walks the map over to Chris at water's edge and
hands it to him. He studies it.
Man, I wonder if I could go all the way
down into the Gulf of California.
Chris traces his finger along the impossibly long route
leading to El Golfo de Santa Clara.
(entering the water with
I go with you. We leave Sonja here. You
and me in kayak - we go to Mexico.
You're embarrassing. Idiot.
Mads with a burst of re-exhilaration, grabs Chris' hand,
shaking it violently.
I like the meeting you.
Thank you. I'm very happy to meet both
of you too.
Sonja heads back for her hotdog taking her T-shirt off on
the move. Chris is about to bust a gut. Sonja returns
to her sunbathing. These two are a hoot.
Just then, something catches Chris' attention upriver.
We can just barely make out the SOUNDS of a jet boat
motor. His eyes narrow a bit, then -
Well, guys I really appreciate the
hospitality but I wanna make camp down-
river a ways so I better take off before
86 EXT. COLORADO RIVER - MOMENTS LATER 86
Chris, back in the kayak is paddling down river. Mads
and Sonja on the bank, wave a boisterous goodbye. And
they just keep waving. And Chris keeps waving until he
has drifted out of sight, when around the upriver bend
arrive the RIVER PATROL.
At river's edge, Mads, thinking quickly, waves for their
attention. Pointing the river patrol back upriver, he
He went thattaway! The crazy man - he
And miraculously, the river patrol makes an about face
and heads in the opposite direction of Chris. Suddenly
Sonja thinks Mads is the most clever man on earth. As
she jumps his bones right there on the river's edge -
Just like in the movies.
87 EXT. DESERT ROAD, NEAR HOOVER DAM - DAY 87
Chris and the kayak are in the back of a pick-up truck
heading down river by road. We pass the Hoover Dam.
It would be Christmas in a couple of
months. And the last news we'd had was
about his car being found. I woke up a
couple of days ago, and for the first
time, I was surprised to realize that it
wasn't only my parents who hadn't heard
from Chris. I wondered why he hadn't
tried to call in case I might answer. He
could've hung up if it wasn't me.
88 EXT. COLORADO RIVER, TOPOCK, ARIZONA - DAY 88
Chris is re-stocked on some food items which he packs in
his bag and shoves into the bow of the kayak. This lower
stretch of the river has little in common with the
unbridled torrent that explodes through the Grand Canyon.
Emasculated by dams and diversion canals, the lower
Colorado burbles indolently from reservoir to reservoir,
through some of the hottest, starkest, most austere
country on the continent.
But why he didn't send a letter, maybe
through a friend. I got mad. But I told
myself it was good. It made me remember
that there was something more than
rebellion, more than anger that was
driving him. Chris had always been
driven, had always been an adventurer.
When he was four years old...
89 EXT. DARK NEIGHBORHOOD STREET - NIGHT 89
Chris at age four.
...he once wandered six blocks away from
home at three o'clock in the morning.
90 INT. NEIGHBOR'S KITCHEN - NIGHT 90
Four-year old Chris opening a kitchen drawer.
He was found in a neighbor's kitchen, up
on a chair, digging into their candy
91 EXT. COLORADO RIVER, TOPOCK ARIZONA - DAY 91
As Chris paddles downstream with Mexico in his sights, he
is stirred by the saline beauty and the clean slant of
(Director's Note: ANGLE over Chris ONTO water reflecting
the landscape and diamond flashes of sunlight.)
Whatever drawer he was opening now must
have something sweet in it.
91A EXT. COLORADO RIVER, TOPOCK ARIZONA - DAY 91A
Chris floats in SLO-MO through the air, his hair wisping
As he pierces feet first, a clear blue surface of the
river's water, CAMERA goes UNDERWATER with him and
follows him in CU as he surfaces, jubilant in the beauty
of the Topock gorge. He shakes the water out of his
92 EXT. COLORADO RIVER, TOPOCK ARIZONA - DAY 92
Chris continuing down river through the Imperial National
Wildlife Refuge, drifting past saguaros and alkali flats.
92A EXT. IMPERIAL NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE - DAY 92A
Chris, on a day hike, the river behind him, he (TELEFOTO
LENS played in beautific BACK LIGHT) tracks a herd of
ANGLE: Chris: The herd moves in an S-pattern. Chris runs
beside them and in our LONG LENS PERSPECTIVE, he seems to
be among them.
93 EXT. RIVER CAMPSITE - NIGHT 93
Chris sits outside his tent, beside a campfire scrawling
a letter. His "bought-food" bounty in evidence.
The words APPEAR ON SCREEN in his handwriting OVER THE
WAYNE, SOMETIMES I WISH I HADN'T MET YOU. TRAMPING IS
TOO EASY WITH ALL THIS MONEY. MY DAYS WERE MORE EXCITING
WHEN I WAS PENNILESS AND HAD TO FORAGE AROUND FOR MY NEXT
MEAL. I COULDN'T MAKE IT NOW WITHOUT MONEY HOWEVER...
94 EXT. YUMA POST OFFICE - DAY 94
CONTINUE letter OVER:
...AS THERE IS LITTLE FRUITING AGRICULTURE DOWN HERE AT
Chris moves up the steps of the post office with an
enveloped letter in hand.
CONTINUE letter OVER:
I'VE DECIDED THAT I'M GOING TO LIVE THIS LIFE FOR SOME
TIME TO COME. THE FREEDOM AND SIMPLE BEAUTY OF IT IS
JUST TOO GOOD TO PASS UP...
95 INT YUMA POST OFFICE - DAY 95
Chris is in the elegant, 1930's-style post office buying
CONTINUE letter OVER:
ONE DAY I'LL BE ABLE TO REPAY SOME OF YOUR KINDNESS. A
CASE OF JACK DANIELS, MAYBE? TILL THEN, I'LL ALWAYS
THINK OF YOU AS A FRIEND...
Chris licks the stamp.
Continue letter on screen:
GOD BLESS YOU, ALEXANDER.
The stamp comes down onto an envelope addressed:
C/O GLORY HOUSE
SIOUX FALLS WORK RELEASE FACILITY
SIOUX FALLS, SD 57104
95A EXT. THE SAND DUNES ON THE AMERICAN SIDE OF MEXICAN 95A
BORDER - DAY
Chris ports his kayak over the dunes, snaking a scar
through the sand in his wake. Mexico in his sights.
POV: Morelos Dam at the Mexican border.
96 EXT. MORELOS DAM AT THE MEXICAN BORDER - DAY (DECEMBER 96
Careful not to be seen, Chris shoves off, just upriver
from the dam/border.
The floodgates are open just enough to allow Chris to lay
back in the kayak and drift prone under the gate. He
sits back up and paddles through having passed the
border, either unnoticed or ignored by patrols.
97 INT. IMMIGRATION OFFICE - NIGHT 97
A television set with George Bush plays. SOUNDS of
IMMIGRATION OFFICER (V.O.)
Why'd you go to Mexico?
I thought I'd run the whole river into
the Sea of Cortez. The stupid dams dried
98 EXT. 50 MILES SOUTH OF THE MEXICAN BORDER 98
Chris is kayaking. He dead ends in a reeded tributary.
99 OMITTED 99
100 INT. IMMIGRATION OFFICE (CONTINUED) 100
IMMIGRATION OFFICER (V.O.)
How long were you on your own down there?
IMMIGRATION OFFICER (V.O.)
How'd you know?
Fingers and toes.
We see Chris' fingers and toes. (DOWN ANGLE into
CHRIS (V.O.) (CONT'D)
After the river dried up, I ported the
kayak and got a lift to Golfo.
101 EXT. FISHING VILLAGE, EL GOLFO DE SANTA CLARA - DAY 101
We see Chris jump down off the back of the duck hunter's
truck. He slides the kayak off the truck bed onto the
street. Chris goes into his pocket, pulls out a sealed
sandwich bag of cash. He tries to pay the hunters for
their time but they refuse the money. Nonetheless, Chris
is insistent and they relent.
Chris pulls his backpack from inside the bow and saddles
it up on his shoulders. The hunters pull away.
102 EXT. EL GOLFO DE SANTA CLARA 102
(1000mm lens) LOW ANGLE: SAND AND HEAT WAVES IN
FOREGROUND AND BACKGROUND: Chris, paddling his kayak
toward us, seemingly in the sand dunes. As we BOOM UP
SLIGHTLY, we see that there is a bend in the water's edge
and that he is in fact, paddling in the crystalline blue
of the Gulf.
I paddled south about 20 miles.
103 EXT. EL GOLFO DE SANTA CLARA 103
UNDER-WATER SHOT: We are directly UNDER the passing kayak
as it slices the water's surface above us. We BACKFLIP
the CAMERA as it passes.
That's when I saw the cave and everything
went upside down.
104 EXT. EL GOLFO DE SANTA CLARA 104
See the ocean and sand, wind whipping them. CAMERA PULLS
BACK to reveal Chris in a cave where he has made camp;
A sandstorm hit and I was pretty much
stuck. My kayak blew away, so I left it
and walked up the beach, hitched back
north, and here I am.
105 OMITTED 105
106 OMITTED 106
107 OMITTED 107
108 OMITTED 108
109 OMITTED 109
110 OMITTED 110
111 OMITTED 111
112 OMITTED 112
113 OMITTED 113
114 OMITTED 114
115 INT. IMMIGRATION OFFICE - NIGHT 115
Chris sits with the IMMIGRATION OFFICER.
36 days, wow. I guess they're gonna have
to watch that spillway a little better.
What they ought to do is open up the dams
and let the rivers flow.
I can't disagree with you on that. Okay,
Alexander SuperTramp. I think we're
gonna let you out of here shortly but
you've got two working weeks to get an ID
card in the United States. You can't be
crossing these borders without
identification, are we understood?
Yes, sir. I've eaten enough sand to send
me back to the city anyway.
116 EXT. TRAIN YARD, SOMEWHERE NEAR ALGODONES - NIGHT 116
A freight train cranks up its great engines and starts
its move west.
Chris POV: We see a BULL (hobo slang for a railway
security guard) making his rounds. As the bull
disappears around the caboose, and the trains motion
picks up, Chris appears from behind a fuel pump. He
makes his move in the shadows to the passing freight
cars, not quite sure how to board them. He begins to
slowly jog beside the train. There is a vertical steel
rod on each passing car. He times the train by putting
his hand out and letting the vertical rods slap it.
And with that he accelerates to a run, throws his pack
into the moving freight car before him, simultaneously
leaping up to grab the rail and throw himself into the
But his left foot misses and he's suddenly dangling from
the moving train. He grabs hand over hand on the rail.
ANGLE: Dangling feet and razor sharp wheels.
ANGLE: Chris. He puts everything into pulling himself
up, growling the strength into his muscles finally...
117 INT. FREIGHT CAR - NIGHT 117
As Chris rolls forward into the car -- he made it!
As Alexander Supertramp returns to
I'm a for real hobo.
He's very happy about this (despite the near surrender of
it.) Chris uses his pack as a pillow, lays back on it and
begins to sing Roger Miller's King of the Road.
118 EXT. FREIGHT TRAIN - NIGHT 118
We TRACK with train by HELICOPTER as we SEGUE from Chris'
rendition of King of the Road to Roger Miller's. We let
the train get away from us and disappear.
119 EXT. TRAIN YARD, LOS ANGELES - DAY (FEBRUARY 3, 1991) 119
Chris' train pulls into the yard. Bulls and loaders
greet the train. Chris jumps off and breaks for the
120 OMITTED 120
121 EXT. DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - EARLY EVENING (STILL LIGHT) 121
The streets are crowded with business people on their way
to homes and happy hours, buses and parking garages,
showers and comforts. Among the throngs, we find Chris
walking up Grand Street, backpack on his shoulders. We
find he is not such an unusual sight, there are homeless
to the left and homeless to the right.
122 EXT. MIDNIGHT MISSION, LOS ANGELES - NIGHT 122
Chris walks in.
123 INT. REGISTRATION DESK, MIDNIGHT MISSION - SAME 123
(Reminder: Condition of Mission is circa 1991)
Chris stands at the registration desk talking with a a
HEAVY-SET BLACK FEMALE SOCIAL WORKER.
Can you tell me how to get an ID card?
Did you lose your identification sir?
No birth certificate? Nothing?
Chris shakes his head apologetically.
SOCIAL WORKER (CONT'D)
Ouch. Alright. Well you're gonna have
to work that out with the DMV. You can
catch them in the morning.
The social worker begins to write an address on a piece
SOCIAL WORKER (CONT'D)
The closest one is Montebello and we can
help you with a bus voucher.
She hands the Montebello address to Chris.
SOCIAL WORKER (CONT'D)
So, just come to this desk when you need
And, if I want to apply for a job
somewhere, can you help me with that?
If you know how to cook, we might have a
space for you in our mobile kitchen. But
I'll have to talk to my supervisor about
it in the morning.
Alright then. Thank you. Oh, one last
thing. Do you have a bed for me?
(handing him a form)
Sure. Just fill this in and I'll get you
all set up.
Chris begins filling in the form.
124 INT. MIDNIGHT MISSION DORM, LOS ANGELES 124
Throughout the next two scenes, there is steady HONKING
of CAR HORNS, WAILING of POLICE SIRENS, AMBIENT HOSTILE
BANTER, GRINDING ENGINES OF BUSES, puffs of diesel
exhaust choke us.
300 HOMELESS occupy nearly as many beds in the dorm.
Chris searches the locker wall for his assigned locker.
When he comes upon it, he double checks the number with
that on the key, opens it, and puts his backpack inside.
CU: The lock, as Chris closes and secures his locker.
125 EXT. LOS ANGELES STREETS - 6TH AND WALL - NIGHT 125
Chris walking among the hordes of homeless at 6th and
Wall streets. Open fires burn in front of cardboard
shacks. There are blacks, whites, Mexicans, even
families with children, junkies, winos, hustlers, and
126 EXT. LOS ANGELES STREETS - BROADWAY - NIGHT 126
NEW ANGLE: Chris walking down Broadway. This is clearly
just blocks away from where we last saw him, yet the
atmosphere is as if of a different world. One of those
downtown LA hip yuppie blocks. He comes upon a bar.
Through the window Chris sees young men and women roughly
his own age - working people, suits, gold-chainers.
Metallica blares on the sound system.
127 INT. MIDNIGHT MISSION DORM, LOS ANGELES 127
Same CU on locker as before, but this time it's being
128 INT. REGISTRATION DESK, MIDNIGHT MISSION 128
We don't even see Chris but the camera is his POV as he
passes the social worker (same as before) The social
worker catches a thrown key.
You leaving us so soon? I know them DMV
lines are long...
129 EXT. MIDNIGHT MISSION, LOS ANGELES - NIGHT 129
(Director's Note: Traffic and pedestrians move in an
accelerated speed while Chris moves nearly in slo-
Chris exits the building into CU. He looks left, then
right, then directly into camera.
CHAPTER 3: MANHOOD
130 OMITTED 130
131 EXT. TRAIN TRACKS OUTSIDE LOS ANGELES - NIGHT 131
Chris' train barrels along.
132 INT. TRAIN CAR - NIGHT 132
Chris goes into his pack, grabs his canteen and drinks
some water. Mid-sip, the train begins to make a
surprising stop. Screeching wheels on track. Chris is
alarmed. As he moves to peer out the door, even before
he has a chance to see what's coming -- WHAM! He's
smashed in the head with a baton. A BULL jumps into the
car with him.
Lay down on your stomach, spread eagle!
Chris turns to reason with the man. And that's all it
takes -- six straight blows to the ribs, legs, and arms.
We hear it more than we see it. Chris is in agony.
BULL #2 (CONT'D)
Let me see your face.
The bull shines a flashlight into Chris' eyes.
BULL #2 (CONT'D)
I never, ever, ever forget a face. If I
see yours again, I won't arrest you.
I'll kill you. This is the god-damned
railroad. And we will do whatever we
have to, to keep you freeloaders from
violating our liability.
Chris is trying to understand what the man is saying.
BULL #2 (CONT'D)
If one of you people gets hurt on our
train, we are liable. Do you understand
(despite the violent irony)
I'm sorry, sir.
You have I.D.?
Of course you don't.
133 EXT. TRAIN - NIGHT 133
Chris is pushed off the train, his pack thrown out after
him. The bull jumps down beside the track as well and
walks down track away from Chris, signalling an "all
clear" with his flashlight to some unseen engineer.
(to Chris over his shoulder)
Last time, my friend.
Chris stumbles to his feet. The pain of the beating is
real. He bleeds from the back of his ear. But he can
walk. And he does.
134 EXT. DESERT HIGHWAY - DAY 134
Chris sits on his pack on the roadside, hitchhiking and
eating from a can of beans he opened with his
pocketknife. The odd car passes but doesn't stop.
135 EXT. ARIZONA INTERSTATE OVERPASS - NIGHT 135
Chris hops out of a Camaro that gave him a ride. The
lighting is anonymous and so is the driver.
Thanks very much.
He closes the door and the car drives off. We follow
Chris as he goes to the overpass edge. He drops his pack
over the side. Chris climbs down the edge of the
overpass, grabs his pack, and scurries into the UNDERPASS
below. (We suddenly recognize this as his pre-river run
He digs up his buried belongings, returning them to his
pack. Last to come out of the ground, Chris' copy of
Jack London's Call of the Wild. He pulls off a temp
wrapping and dusts it off.
Chris lights his candle lantern and begins to read.
O.S. VOICES from the PAST:
I'm not talking about this anymore!
Feet stomping off.
Don't walk away from me WOMAN!
Fuck you! I hate you!
Sounds of scuffle.
BILLIE (O.S.) (CONT'D)
KIDS! LOOK WHAT YOUR FATHER'S DOING TO
136 INT. MCCANDLESS HOME, ANNANDALE (PAST) 136
ELEVEN-YEAR OLD CARINE sits in the stairwell leading to
her parent's room where an argument ensues. Carine's
head in her hands, a delicate tear moistens the webs
between her small fingers.
FIFTEEN-YEAR OLD CHRIS enters from O.S. He leans against
the stairwell and looks up the stairs. Our focus remains
on Carine. In the B.G. SOFT FOCUS, Walt is pinning
Billie down onto the bed. She flails at him but he holds
down her shoulders.
LOOK WHAT YOUR MOTHER IS MAKING ME DO!
Billie slips his grasp. Walt reaches out with a hit/push
of her back. She is thrust out of the bedroom onto the
landing above the staircase followed by Walt who
positions himself in the doorway like a hostile
I'll just cancel Christmas then!
Billie returns to him, punching on his chest:
Who do you think you are? God?
Yes. I'm God!
Chris puts his hand out to Carine. She looks up to him.
He gives her a smile and a wink. She takes his hand and
they exit frame as the argument continues.
WALT (O.S.) (CONT'D)
Where do you kids think you're going?
(not in desperation so much
as a demand for their
Kids, get back here!
We HEAR a DOOR SLAM OC.
137 EXT. ANNANDALE STREET - DAY (PAST) 137
The young Chris and Carine. She sits atop the handlebars
of his bicycle beaming as Chris peddles her down the
middle of the street. We PULL THEM as they ride.
I'll cancel Christmas!
(humored out of her sadness)
Who do you think you are? God?
Yes. I'm God.
138 EXT. ARIZONA INTERSTATE UNDERPASS - NIGHT 138
As they both laugh we DISSOLVE BACK to Chris (PRESENT)
reading beside his candle lantern.
In the nine months since Chris'
disappearance, my parents went through
enormous changes. Guilt was giving way
to pain. And pain seemed to bring them
closer. My father had humbled
dramatically. And what had always been a
sort of curt arrogance, the kind of man
who actually thought he could cancel
Christmas, had given way to the
vulnerability of a father's heart. Even
their faces had changed. It made me sad
that I couldn't share with Chris the new
closeness I felt toward our parents.
The image of Chris reading begins a SLOW DISSOLVE INTO...
139 INT. FREIGHT TRAIN CAR - NIGHT 139
I close my eyes at night sometimes and
imagine where Chris might be.
Suspicious, ghostly faces briefly appear in the strobing
lights that hit the train car from outside. They're
toothless and tattooed. Aged and young. Punks and
piercings. They're train tramps.
We see Chris observing them. Warmly he speaks but we DO
NOT HEAR, "I'm Alex."
140 EXT. TRAMP CAMP, LAS VEGAS - DAY 140
Was there beauty around him? Was he
hurt? Was he alone?
We see Chris sharing camp with the train tramps in the
outskirts of Las Vegas. DISSOLVE...
141 INT. LAS VEGAS RESTAURANT - NIGHT 141
Was he having the great adventure that he
We see Chris working as a waiter in a Las Vegas
142 EXT. MOUNTAIN PASS - DAY 142
Could he feel the changes here at home?
By some kind of supernatural osmosis?
Chris once wrote to me from college
saying he wanted to talk to me about all
the problems he had with mom and dad.
We see what may be Chris' POV from a train car snaking
through a mountain pass.
143 EXT. LAS VEGAS DESERT - NIGHT 143
He said I was the only person in the
world who could've possibly understood
what he had to say.
We see Chris in the Las Vegas desert by a campfire at
144 EXT. SEATTLE - DAY 144
HIGH ANGLE CU: We see Chris walking the streets of
Seattle. As we WIDEN OUT, he becomes a dot in the
In those silent moments, with my eyes
closed trying to picture where Chris
might be at that very moment, probably
climbing some scary mountain, I want to
reach into that picture and bring him
back to see what mom and dad, what our
family might become.
LONG LENS: Chris disappears over the rise into the
Seattle marketplace overlooking Puget Sound (per location
145 EXT. ANNANDALE SUPERMARKET - DAY 145
But instead when I open my eyes, what I
see is my mother, sitting at the dining
room table, sifting through photo albums
and pictures of Chris. It's all she can
do to examine the snapshots. And, though
she breaks down from time to time, she
studies them with a sort of hungry
intensity - like looking at food you
can't eat, or into a window at a family
around a table that you were once a part
of and can be no more.
We see Billie driving out of the Annandale supermarket
onto the boulevard. She sees a hitchhiker roadside. She
cranes her head - is it Chris? It's not.
CARINE (V.O.) (CONT'D)
She convinces herself it's Chris; that
it's her son, whenever she passes a
stray. And I fear for the mother in
146 EXT. BARREN DESERT - DAY 146
We see Chris hitchhiking in a barren desert.
Instincts that seem to sense the threat
of a loss so huge and irreparable that
the mind balks at taking its measure - I
begin to wonder if I do understand what
Chris is saying any longer. But I catch
myself in doubt and remember that these
are not the parents he grew up with.
That in the forced reflection that comes
with loss, indeed everything Chris is
saying, has to be said. And I trust for
him that everything he is doing has to be
done. This is our life.
147 EXT. BULLHEAD CITY, ARIZONA - DAY (OCTOBER 1991) 147
Chris is in the passenger seat of a Mac truck cab. Both
Chris and the TRUCKER look outward as though to find an
address or landmark.
I don't know where to drop you.
Bullhead's kinda haphazard - there's no
"center." You sure you don't want to be
in Laughlin? It's casinos versus
Yeah, no. This is good. Right here.
Alright then. Chiropractors it is.
He pulls over. Chris grabs his pack and exits the truck
in front of a laundromat. As the truck pulls away, Chris
sees a "Help Wanted" sign for Burger King on the
148 INT. BURGER KING, BULLHEAD CITY - DAY 148
The place is packed with a line out the door. LORI, the
second assistant manager, hurries back into the kitchen,
where we find Chris in paper cap, bunning whoppers at a
Chris, you gotta go faster. We've got a
line out the door.
(a bit oblivious)
But then just continues on at his leisurely daydreaming
pace. Lori is about to say something but by now she
knows there's no getting through to him. She looks down
to the floor where we see that Chris wears no socks.
Chris, I don't mean to be on you about
everything. You're doing a great job.
I want to keep you on. And we all want
to help you get to Alaska, but you've got
to start wearing socks.
Right, right. I forgot.
And please. Hurry. We're ten deep.
But the pace remains.
149 INT. BANK, BULLHEAD CITY - DAY 149
Chris stands at the counter making a deposit with a YOUNG
How much do I have in the account now?
It looks like...let me see. Including
this latest deposit...One thousand, two
hundred and fifty two dollars
What's the interest on twenty-two cents?
The young teller giggles.
150 EXT. BANK, BULLHEAD CITY - DAY 150
We're TIGHT ON Chris' sock-less feet, pedalling away from
the bank on a bicycle. The growing independence of his
financial situation felt in the MUSIC OVER:
SERIES OF ANGLES as Chris rides out of town, into the
desert, from a late afternoon sun into a sunset as he
arrives at his -
151 EXT. CAMPSITE, OUTSIDE BULLHEAD CITY - SUNSET 151
The casino lights of Laughlin, Nevada distantly in B.G.
Chris pedals up a dirt path to find many of his
belongings strewn about. And in particular, some food
supplies have been torn into. A coyote yips in the
distance as Chris finds his old straw hat torn to shreds.
Across the desert, scurrying away beyond the tumbleweed,
three young coyotes head for the hills. Chris picks up
his tattered hat and smiles.
152 INT. BURGER KING, BULLHEAD CITY - DAY 152
We are TIGHT on the PUNCHCLOCK as Chris' timecard comes
into frame and is punched out.
WIDEN OUT to see Chris taking off his paper hat and
Burger King overshirt.
He walks his timecard over to Lori. The place is all but
Lori, I'm punching out.
Okay. Just put it in the drop.
No, I mean I'm punching out for good.
(happy for him)
We've made our quota, have we?
Yeah. Also, I've got to do some things
before I head north.
Alright Chris. Well, we've enjoyed
knowing you. I won't be able to get that
last check to you right away though.
That's okay. I'll let you know where to
Alright then Chris. Bye-bye now.
153 EXT. BULLHEAD CITY - DAY 153
City crews string Christmas lights and ornaments along
the main drag. We CRANE DOWN to find Chris' bike leaning
on a lamppost. A cardboard sign attached to it reads -
FREE BIKE. MERRY CHRISTMAS. - ALEXANDER SUPERTRAMP
154 EXT. DESERT, HIGHWAY 95 - DAY 154
Chris is hitching south on the 95 into the Big Maria
Mountains. Beyond him we see a sign for Niland 206
155 EXT. TRUCK STOP ON INTERSTATE 10, BLYTHE, CA - NIGHT 155
CONTINUE MUSIC OVER:
156 INT. MEN'S ROOM, TRUCK STOP - NIGHT 156
CONTINUE MUSIC OVER:
Chris gets a clean shave and a whore's bath.
CHAPTER 4: FAMILY
157 EXT. THE SLABS, NILAND, CA - DAY 157
This is the vista of former barracks foundations Rainey
and Jan Burres had told Chris about. Hundreds of people
in tents and trailers, a quarter inch to the right of a
Rainbow Gathering as hillbillies and renegades mix with
the hippies. There are canvas-covered booths set up for
swap and trade. Even a few makeshift food stands.
We SEE that many of the inhabitants have set up CHRISTMAS
TREES outside their trailers and tents. Kids play naked
in a mud pool.
158 EXT. THE BOOTH OF JAN & RAINEY, THE SLABS - SAME 158
We see Rainey selling their wares. Beside the booth,
their van with its backseat door open. A little dog,
Sunni, jumps out the van door, sniffing something out.
Jan exits the van after the dog.
Sunni! Come here boy.
But Sunni has sniffed out Chris' large backpack leaning
against the rear of the van. Jan is just beginning to
recognize it, when from behind the van appears Chris,
looking like a million bucks.
As she goes to hug him -
ANGLE: Rainey hearing his name, jumps up from his stool
to join them.
Big embraces all around.
159 EXT. THE SLABS - NIGHT 159
An impromptu campfire celebration with live music from a
makeshift stage. Jan, Rainey, and Chris sit on chairs
outside the circle of inhabitants, taking in the music.
You have to tell us everything.
(Note: This scene should largely be improvised. They all
know their characters, their history. Jan and Rainey are
doing great. And while Chris is intermittently aware
that the eyes of a pretty 16-year old girl are upon him,
Chris lays out his travels and his PLAN FOR ALASKA.
Jan remarks, "I guess if you can figure out how to paddle
a canoe down to Mexico, hop freight trains, and score
beds at inner-city missions, you can figure out Alaska
At this point, the PRETTY 16-YEAR OLD GIRL who had had
her eyes on Chris, takes the stage with an acoustic
guitar, introduces herself as TRACY, then SINGS an *
innocent love song of her own composition, stealing
seductive glances at Chris throughout the performance.
I think you've made yourself a friend.
She's only a teenager.
The girl finishes her song.
160 EXT. THE BOOTH OF JAN & RAINEY - DAY 160
Chris and Rainey man the second-hand goods booth while
Jan bathes Sunni in a steel bucket by the van. Among the
goods, a USED ORGAN. Chris is thrilled to have access to
all the second-hand books that are part of Rainey and
Jan's inventory. As he skims through Jack London's
Odyssey of the North, Rainey notices Tracy sitting on the *
steps of her vagabond parents' rig across from the booth.
She picks silently at her guitar with her bright eyes
fixed on Chris.
How long can you stay with us?
Well, I'm waiting on a check from my last
job to come into Salton City the day
after Christmas. I've got to start
thinking about getting ready for Alaska.
When the sun gets a little lower tonight,
I'm going to start a calisthenics
routine. I think after the check comes
in, I'll try to find some mountains I can
climb everyday till spring comes. I
gotta see how far the money's gonna go.
I'm going to have to pick up a lot of
supplies before spring. So, I might take
another job or I might be okay.
Well, you know, we'll give you a little
something for every day you work the
I'm not taking any money from you,
Rainey. It's been a real great twist
meeting you two. You look like you're
We are, and you were a big part of that,
coming along when you did. Yep, things
(gives a little giggle)
Man, I used to think Tantric sex was just
a bunch of reading. Speaking of which,
don't you think you ought to introduce
yourself to Joni Mitchell over there?
Chris looks up from his book to the wide open 16-year old
smile of Tracy. Rainey laughs aloud. Chris smiles back, *
and against his better instincts, gives her a little wave-
over with the paperback. Tracy jumps off her step, *
putting her guitar inside the rig, and trots like a
little wood nymph to Chris.
You selling books?
I am. We are.
I read a lot.
That's good. I heard you play your song
Rainey amused by all of this.
You are not terrible.
No. You sing sweet.
Thank you. I was going to go watch the
kids play in the mud. Do you want to go?
Go on. I'll watch the store.
I'm sorry. This is Rainey. And I'm
Whoops, a slip on the name, but...
Hi. Rainey. And this is Alex. ("Don't
lie to her.")
I'm Tracy. *
Chris realizes his slip but before Rainey can question
anything, Chris stands and goes off with Tracy. *
Rainey and Jan share a conspiratorial smile.
161 EXT. THE MUD PIT, THE SLABS - SAME 161
(Salvation Mountain?) (Leonard?)
LONG LENS: We watch Chris and Tracy sit pit-side with a *
foreground of frolicking naked children splashing about
in the mud. We don't hear their conversation. We just
watch its gentleness.
162 EXT. RAINEY & JAN'S VAN, THE SLABS - NIGHT 162
Tracy helps Rainey cook dinner on the barbecue, meaning *
to demonstrate to Chris what a wonderful wife she would
be. Jan and Chris sipping on beers sit beside each other
on folding chairs, out of Rainey and Tracy's earshot. *
I wasn't much older than Tracy when I got *
pregnant. And I thought my husband and I
were going to invent peace on earth and
stay together forever. But it didn't
work out that way. He left. History.
Now ancient history. And that was the
end of that. So, I raised Reno by myself
- that's my son. Then I met Rainey. And
that was really good for a while. But
Reno was already a teenager and was
becoming a man in his own way. And then,
I don't know. He kinda followed in his
father's footsteps - out the door and
gone. And I really don't know where he
is. I haven't heard from him in two
I hope I get to meet him sometime.
Jan looks into Chris' eyes and smiles with pure love.
She leans over and gently kisses Chris on the cheek.
Do your folks know where you are?
Chris aims to deflect the question as Tracy enters the *
Soup's on. Oh, I'm sorry. Are you guys
No, sweetheart. Just hungry. You've
been doing a fantastic job over there.
Shall we eat?
Tracy grabs Chris' hand and proudly leads him to supper. *
As they exit frame, we remain for a moment with Jan and
163 INT./EXT. SLABS MONTAGE - DAY 163
1. Chris reading and selling books.
2. Chris and Tracy taking walks with Sunni. *
3. Rainey and Jan stealing some afternoon delight in the
van. (It's the days of wine and roses)
4. Chris' new daily regimen of calisthenics.
5. Tracy's new daily regimen of watching Chris do *
calisthenics. His lean body tighter and stronger
164 EXT. RAINEY & JAN'S VAN, THE SLABS - (CHRISTMAS) DAY 164
Rainey stands over Chris as Chris does sit-ups. Rainey's
gut hanging a little heavy over his belt.
OS VOICES exchange Christmas greetings.
I really ought to get myself doing that.
You should Rainey. Makes that Tantric
stuff go even better.
How the hell would you know? That poor
girl over there is about ready to vault
onto a fence post. And here you are, the
monk of Jack LaLane.
They share a laugh. Chris comes to the end of his sit-
ups. Wipes his brow with a towel. Rainey squats down
next to him.
I guess Jan filled you in. About Reno
and everything. Children can be harsh
judges when it comes to their parents.
They don't grant clemency easily. I
think Reno tended to see things in black
and white. I just hope he lives long
enough to forgive her.
The connection is not lost on Chris.
But painful as it is, you turned a light
on in her and I'm grateful.
Chris doesn't answer. A kid rides by on a bright new Big
Wheel. Must be from the rich side of the commune.
Do your folks know where you are?
Don't you think they ought to?
They should. But I can't. Not yet,
anyway. I got a sister though, Carine.
She's the most beautiful girl in the
world. But, it's all got to stay behind
me until I get where I'm going.
Yeah, Rainey. Alaska.
Rainey won't intrude any further. He just nods. Chris
notices Tracy in the door of her parent's rig, stealthily *
waving him over. Chris gives Rainey the "Uh-oh" look,
pulls on his T-shirt, and walks over to the rig. Tracy *
has disappeared inside.
165 INT. TRACY'S PARENTS RIG - SAME 165 *
Chris pops his head in.
Hello? Merry Christmas?
TRACY (O.C.) *
Come in here.
As Chris mounts the steps, he finds Tracy laying on the *
bed inside, wearing a skimpy white girl's tank top and
TRACY (CONT'D) *
(deer in headlights)
My parents went into town.
Yes, they did. They went to call my
grandma for Christmas.
No, I mean, no, we can't do that.
Chris moves to sit on the edge of her bed. Tracy sits up *
How old are you?
Chris throws her a look of doubt.
TRACY (CONT'D) *
What year were you born?
As soon as she has to think about it, the jig is up.
You want to do something together?
Shyly, she shakes her head "yes."
166 EXT. THE SLABS - NIGHT 166
We SEE the used Christmas trees of the residents being
thrown onto an existing campfire, building into the
enormous, celebratory bonfire that lights the scene.
As we did with the footsteps in the mud and the kayak
slashing the sand, we TRACK VERTICALLY along an extension
cord from one of the trailer generators to the stage
until we find -
Tracy with her guitar and Chris with the second-hand *
organ from Rainey and Jan's booth on the stage. They
enter into a duet of John Prine's Angel from Montgomery
for the crowd of the Slabs' fire-lit inhabitants.
In the crowd, we find Rainey and Jan clapping and dancing
along to Chris and Tracy's song. Merry Christmas. *
167 EXT. THE SLABS - DAY 167
Jan is pulling the van out from their plot. Rainey is
guiding the single-directional vehicle.
Chris and Tracy stand beside the car path. Chris writes *
down Wayne Westerberg's Carthage address.
You can always get in touch with me by
sending mail here. I don't know when
I'll get it, but I'll get it.
You're pretty magic.
He hugs her. And kisses her. (cheek, lips? I don't
Jan pulls up in the van. Rainey walks over to Chris and
gives him a paternal hug.
You take care of yourself, kiddo.
You too, Rainey. Thanks for everything.
Chris gives Rainey's gut a full-hand pinch.
New Year's resolution?
Rainey gives him a wink and puts his arm around Tracy as *
Chris jumps into the car. Then he and Jan hit the road.
168 EXT. MARKET POST OFFICE, SALTON CITY - DAY 168
This market/liquor store/post office serves as the
cultural nexus for the greater Salton Sea area.
As Jan's van pulls up opposite the post office and makes
a U-turn to curbside, Chris gets out of the van. Now
Jan's eyes really well up.
Just get your pack out of the back and
get out of here. I can't take a hug.
Chris says nothing. He just looks at Jan. They
understand each other. Chris closes the door. He
fiddles with the broken handle of the back door, gets it
open, gets his pack out. On top of his pack, A WRAPPED
XMAS GIFT and when he closes the back door, Jan heads
straight off back to the Slabs. Chris opens the
giftwrap; it's the new hat Jan had promised. Chris is
169 EXT. TWO-LANED ROAD, ANNANDALE, VA (PAST) - DAY 169
TELEPHOTO LENS: A long two-laned road before us rises and
falls in a series of saddles and peaks. The narrow
shoulders are densely wooded. SLOWLY APPEARING over the
near most peak, a TEAM OF EIGHT SHIRTLESS HIGH SCHOOL
RUNNERS. Leading the group - 17 YEAR-OLD CHRISTOPHER
MCCANDLESS. Lean, softly handsome, and graceful.
In high school, Chris became captain of
the cross-country track team. They
called themselves the Road Warriors.
REVERSE ANGLE: The group of young runners, led by Chris
suddenly veer off the paved road into the adjoining
170 EXT. TRAILS, ANNANDALE (PAST) - DAY 170
SERIES OF ANGLES: The runners, led by Chris, pace
unchartered trails, grassy hillsides, and shallow
He'd take them on what he loved to refer
to as "epic" runs. The whole point was
to run until they were completely lost
and so exhausted that they were on the
verge of puking. Then they'd slow down a
little, somehow he'd find their bearings,
and lead them home again at full speed.
This was my brothers idea of fun.
We FAVOR Chris as he jogs in place at the exhilarating
point of being lost. When he has identified a most
likely return route, he quickens his pace, leading the
group in the direction of return.
171 INT. MARKET/POST OFFICE, SALTON CITY 171
Chris heads out with his last Burger King check in hand,
proudly wearing his new hat and in search of mountains to
A year and a half into Chris'
disappearance, each day that goes by now
feels like two. Dad calls it "suspended
animation." I kept telling myself that
he had to get lost to prove his
independence to himself. But this was no
day run for the Road Warriors and after
so much time, I could no longer keep out
the haunting thoughts.
172 EXT. MARKET/POST OFFICE, SALTON CITY - DAY 172
Chris, with pack and new hat walks away from camera
toward the interstate and the brittle mountains beyond.
In many ways, my life and even my parents
had begun to move in new directions. I'd
fallen in love. And mom and dad had even
ventured out on a brief vacation. But,
when a search of tax records uncovered
Chris' contribution to OXFAM, the weight
of his disappearance just seemed to lie
down on us full length.
CHAPTER 5: GETTING OF
WISDOM DISSOLVE TO:
173 EXT. BADLANDS OF ANZA-BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK - DAY 173
WIDE SHOT: We see the Oh My God Hot Springs. Steaming
pools lined with rocks and shaded by palm trees. A small
group of campers and Charlie Manson wannabes in
We ZOOM past them to the sheer rock faces and landforms
of the badlands, several miles beyond.
174 EXT. STONE WALL, ANZA-BORREGO DESERT - DAY 174
SLO MO: We are looking down a radically steep rock face.
A shirtless Chris is in training running towards us under
the hot desert sun.
We HEAR only breath and footsteps.
175 EXT. CHRIS' CAMP BESIDE THE STONE WALL - DAY 175
Chris rests on the sand under a tarp, hung from a
Creosote branch. A plate of beans and rice eaten nearly
clean and an empty water jug beside him. Flies buzz and
176 EXT. OH-MY-GOD HOT SPRINGS - DAY 176
Chris on a morning jog, wearing a shoulder bag and
carrying an empty water jug. A quick wave to one of his
distant "neighbors" at the spring's camp as he runs by.
177 EXT. PAVED TWO-LANE ROAD INTO SALTON CITY - DAY 177
Chris continues his jog, cars whisk by and dust kicks
into the air. But Chris is undeterred, keeps running.
178 EXT. MARKET/POST OFFICE, SALTON CITY - SAME 178
Chris approaches, slowing his jog to a walk. Chris sets
down his water jug and stretches his calves. In the
distance we see the peaks of the badlands landforms from
where he ran.
Chris shakes off the jog, picks up the jug, and we go
with him around the side of the building. There's a
water faucet dripping slowly into the desert mud. Chris
pops his jug under it and fills it up.
179 INT. MARKET/POST OFFICE - SAME 179
Chris walks the aisles, sipping from his jug, as he comes
across bags of rice on the market shelves. A HEAVY SET
GIRL passes him in the aisle with her well-mannered dog
(no high-pitched pet voice)
Hey boy. You are a handsome fellow.
(over shoulder to the girl)
As the girl continues on, the dog wants to stay with
Go on, boy. Go on.
And the dog obeys him.
As he sorts through the various rice selections, brown,
white, wild, we notice a MAN peering over the opposite
shelf at Chris. This is RON FRANZ, between 70 and 80
years old, six-feet, thick arms, barrel chest, and large
ears. He wears old jeans, an immaculate white T-shirt, a
decorative tooled leather belt, white socks, and scuffed
black loafers. His deeply pitted nose demonstrates a
purple filigree of veins which unfold like an finely
wrought tattoo. And on either side of it, the wary blue
eyes of a soldier. He is the archetypical American man.
Chris has caught his sympathetic eye. Chris moves to the
counter to pay for rice.
180 EXT. MARKET/POST OFFICE - SAME 180
In WIDE SHOT, we watch Chris from behind, walking out
across the two-lane road. He puts out his thumb to hitch
When a truck comes from BEHIND INTO FRAME heading
straight for Chris, the truck makes a relaxed L-turn,
pulling up beside Chris.
181 INT. RON'S TRUCK 181
Where's your camp?
Out past Oh-My-God Hot Springs.
I've lived in and around here six years
now and I've never heard of any place
that goes by that name.
Ron leans across the bench seat of the truck, opening up
the passenger door.
Show me how to get there.
Chris hops in beside Ron, who extends his hand -
Alex. Where are you from Alex?
Okay, Alex from West Virginia. I like a
fellow who doesn't raise the pitch of his
voice when he talks to animals...shows he
Chris remembers now the dog in the store and why Ron
must've thought to give him a ride.
And they head off.
182 EXT. FEW MILES UP ROAD 182
Ron truck drives up the road.
183 INT. RON'S TRUCK 183
As we come upon a 4x4 track twisting down a narrow wash -
You go left here.
Ron turns the truck down the 4x4 track.
184 EXT. 4X4 TRACK, ANZA-BORREGO DESERT - SAME 184
We watch the truck bump and grind on the mangled dirt
road about a mile in.
Out the window, Ron's eye has been caught by something.
Ron's POV: Oh-My-God Hot Springs -
We see a couple of day-glo vans and rusted out
Studebakers that hadn't been turned over since Eisenhower
was in the White House. Several of those living there
mill about buck naked. And at the center of the camp,
the steaming pools lined with rocks under the palm trees.
You live here?
No, we keep going. I'm further up.
Another half-mile or so, out on the
185 EXT. CHRIS' CAMP BESIDE THE STONE WALL - SAME 185
Ron and Chris drive up in the truck. Ron shuts off the
ignition and gets out of the truck to stretch his legs.
Chris follows, puts his full water jug under the tarp at
his campsite, hooking it onto a branch. He throws his
shoulder bag with the rice in it into his backpack.
Well, this is somethin' out here. Don't
you worry about those dope smokers and
nudists down below there?
No, they keep to themselves pretty much
and so do I.
Hmmm. You strike me as a bright young
man. Am I wrong about that?
I think I got my head on my shoulders
That's what I mean. How long have you
been out here?
Couple of weeks.
And before that?
A lot of places. I've been moving
How old are you?
Twenty-three years old! Son, don't you
think you should be getting an education?
And a job? And making something of this
Look Mr. Franz. I think careers are a
twentieth century invention and I don't
want one. You don't need to worry about
me. I have a college education. I'm not
destitute. I'm living like this by
In the dirt?
Yeah, in the dirt.
I just don't know. Where's your family?
Don't have one anymore.
That's a shame.
Chris can see some deep sadness in this man.
Hey, Mr. Franz. I want to show you
Ron follows Chris to the rockface we'd seen Chris running
earlier. They begin to walk up it. It's tough on the
old-timer, walking this steep hill. But he's a tough old-
timer, at least for the moment...
ANGLE: The two men nearly half way to the summit. It's
getting steeper and higher. Ron stops.
This is getting a little steep. And a
little high for me kid.
Alright. But look out there. Even from
half way out, it's quite a sight isn't
Their POV: Enormous beautiful vista all the way across
From the top you can see all the way to
the Salton Sea too.
Ron looks up the precarious rock wall. He ain't gonna be
seeing the Salton Sea today.
You can see the Salton Sea from up there?
(starting his way down the
You don't want to go up?
Nope. I don't do these kind of things.
Chris smiles and follows Ron. As they approach the
bottom of the hill -
How about you and me take a drive? About
fifty miles or so up highway, I know a
place that's got a view, great food, and
requires no climbing. How's that sound?
Chris thinks about it. Then -
Yeah, sure. It'll take me a couple of
minutes to clean up.
186 EXT. DESERT HIGHWAY - AFTERNOON 186
Ron's truck drives through frame.
187 EXT. INDIAN AVENUE SOUTHBOUND, PALM SPRINGS - DAY 187
We see Ron and Chris driving parallel on the windmilled
road (Our frame will only hold the lower fraction of the
spinning windmills in the background)
188 EXT. SAN JACINTO TRAMWAY - LATE AFTERNOON 188
VERTICAL POV: We are thousands of feet in the air over
the rigid rocky canyon as we ascend toward San Jacinto
summit. It's high. Scary HIGH.
189 INT. TRAM 189
MUSIC OVER: As Chris and Ron ride the tram to the peak,
we watch Chris watching Ron, his kind, moist old eyes,
slowly blinking at the wonder of the nature around him.
Other passengers on the tram seem nervous, but Ron is
meditative, almost hypnotized.
And with each roll-through of the tram through the cable
towers, the tram car rocks and sways, but Ron's peace
goes unbroken. And Chris continues to admire the gentle
blinking of his eyes.
190 INT. ELEVATION RESTAURANT (SAN JACINTO SUMMIT) - TWILIGHT90
The two of them sit in a quiet, corner booth of the
tramway eatery that sits on the summit of San Jacinto
overlooking the lights of Palm Springs and the desert
clear back to Salton Sea. Chris is on a roll.
How old are you, Mr. Franz?
Seventy-nine years old.
Seventy-nine...see, all due respect, but
the real difference between people is the
quality of their soul and not on how long
they've trudged around like a dip-shit.
But it's true.
It is. No question about that.
Ron continues to let Chris vent.
The government's the same as my parents.
They don't respect anybody. Regulation.
Regulation. Regulation. WE can't do
this. But THEY can do that. I mean, the
hypocrisy of the whole...culture. Makes
me crazy. My father was having children *
with two women at the same time, and then *
has the gall to think that he can be of
some guidance to me? Make judgments on
me? My mother, of course, goes along
with all of it. Keeps the secret, which
of course, makes my whole life a fiction.
Everything I thought was, wasn't.
They're such fools! Fucking idiots!
Alex, please don't lump me in amongst
your judges. And your tyrants. But I'd
prefer to not hear that kind of language.
(realizing his slip)
Sorry. I don't usually use that kind of
language either. I just get so angry
thinking about it.
Ron reaches across the table. Puts his sturdy hand on
You got a lot of passion, young man.
Chris smiles at Ron.
191 EXT. CHRIS' CAMP BESIDE THE STONE WALL - NIGHT 191
As Ron and Chris pull up in the pick-up truck, we see
SPORADIC FIREWORKS WHISTLING AND CRACKLING into the air
above the hot-springs, and HEAR the distant HOOTING of
its inhabitants. Chris hops out and walks around to
Ron's side of the truck.
Awww, that was a great time Mr. Franz.
Look here. If Charles Manson and his
buddies don't kill me on my way out of
here, I'd like to cook you up a home
cooked meal tomorrow night. If I come
out here about, say, four o'clock
tomorrow, how would that be?
That would be swell.
Ron is thrilled.
Good, good. I'm no gourmet but I know
where the spices are. Good night, kid.
Good night Mr. Franz.
And with that, Ron hits the road.
192 EXT. STONE WALL - SUNSET 192
Chris hikes up it with his backpack on, one laborious
step at a time.
193 EXT. STONE WALL SUMMIT - SAME 193
Chris summiting the rock formation. He looks down over
the desert and there before him, The Salton Sea.
194 EXT. RON'S HOUSE, SALTON SEA - SUNSET 194
The house is a single-level, beige structure, sitting
between the Salton Sea and a small inlet where he keeps a
fishing boat. Underneath a canopy in the backyard, there
is a small workshop of some kind.
HIGH ANGLE: Chris, looking at his own reflection in the
water below Ron's dock. In the reflection, we see his
hands full of dirty laundry.
195 INT. KITCHEN, RON'S HOUSE - SAME 195
Ron broils a couple of steaks. Chris enters and moves
past Ron carrying his laundry into another room.
196 INT. LAUNDRY ROOM, RON'S HOUSE - SAME 196
Chris pours detergent over his long-in-need clothes.
Starts the cycle.
197 INT. KITCHEN, RON'S HOUSE - NIGHT 197
As Chris enters, Ron is pulling the steaks from the
Above the kitchen sink, Chris sees a row of approximately
ten photographs, each in vertical 4x6 frames, some black
and white, some color: all of Japanese boys and girls in
formal American and Japanese attire.
Did you find everything you need?
(breaking his gaze from the
Yeah. I hope I don't wreck your machine.
There's a lot of grime in that stuff.
Well, that's what it's for. How do these
Ron pops the steaks on the kitchen table.
Well, sit down.
Ron grabs some silverware from a drawer, plops it down on
the kitchen table with some paper napkins.
What do you drink?
You got a White Russian?
Nope. Don't have any alcohol. I had to
quit all that. How about a guava juice?
I'll take a guava juice, that sounds
As Ron gets the drinks -
Yeah, I had a little spell with the
bottle, you could say.
Ron pops the drinks down on the table, then sits with
Chris. They lift their glasses toward one another, then -
I spent most of my life in the army. On
New Year's Eve 1957, I was stationed over
in Okinawa. My wife and son were here in
the States, just driving down the road
when a fellow who'd had too much to drink
plowed right into them. Killed them
both. Anyway, you might think that the
last thing in the world I'd do, is go to
the whiskey, but at the time, it felt
like the only thing I could do. And I
did it hard. But pretty soon, I figured
I wasn't doing my wife and son any good,
mourning them with a bottle. So, I
pulled myself together and quit drinking,
cold turkey. And then...
Ron, spinning his body around, points to the photographs
over the sink.
You see all these kids over here?
Yeah, I was gonna ask you.
(pointing at each with his
Fuki, Kenjiro, Yoshiko, Keiko, Masaro,
Junichi, Kimpei, Nayoko...
For the last picture frame, Ron stands and takes it off
the shelf -
(pridefully shows Chris the
And this is Akira. Just finished medical
Chris takes the picture and studies Akira's face. Ron
sits back down.
Yeah, I unofficially adopted all of them.
It did my heart some good but I guess
really it was just writing a few letters
and sending some money. Anyway, it was
important to me. I get a letter from
each of them from time to time. You
know. So, since all that, this is pretty
(indicating his small
Do you ever travel, Mr. Franz?
No. I can't seem to get too far from my
leather. I'll show you after you finish
eating. I do a lot of leather engraving.
I got a little workshop in the garage.
Between that and my pension, I do pretty
well. But every time I think I might
take a trip somewhere, I get too far
behind on orders and such to consider it.
(having wolfed down the
Well, I'm finished eating. I'd love to
see your workshop.
Ron picks up the picture of Akira and replaces it on the
shelf above the sink.
198 INT. RON'S GARAGE/WORKSHOP - NIGHT 198
As we begin, Ron is instructing Chris in the skills of
199 EXT. CHRIS' CAMP BESIDE THE STONE WALL - MORNING 199
Chris, a clear plastic bag of clean laundry beside him,
sits alone, cross-legged. He begins to carve into a
200 EXT. STONE WALL - LATER 200
We follow Chris in a LOW ANGLE up his mountain run
framing from mid-back to just above his head, sweating
201 EXT. 4X4 TRACK, ANZA-BORREGO DESERT - DAY 201
Ron's truck cuts along the 4x4 track.
202 EXT. STONE WALL, ANZA-BORREGO DESERT - SAME 202
Chris reaching the summit. He bends over to catch his
breath, hands on knees.
How about some fishing?
Chris turns to the voice. And down at the bottom of the
rock wall beside the campsite, is Ron holding up two
(referring to the Sea)
That thing's twice as salty as the ocean.
Did you know that?
Chris has barely the breath to speak.
Anything alive in it?
Ron shrugs his shoulders in a "who cares?" fashion.
Chris laughs but nods in the affirmative and gives Ron
the thumbs up.
203 EXT. ANZA-BARREGO DESERT - DAY + NIGHT 203
BEGIN MUSIC OVER: MONTAGE:
1. Chris and Ron fishing in the Salton Sea. (no catch)
2. At Ron's workshop/garage, Ron guides Chris in his
leather belt project.
3. At Chris' campsite, Chris does push-ups while Ron sits
on the tailgate of his truck spying on the "Manson
family" through binoculars, shaking his head.
4. Chris at his campsite working on the belt by campfire
light. We MOVE IN on the belt, he's beginning to form
the letter N in the leather.
5. Chris jogging in the morning beside Oh-My-God Hot
6. Chris and Ron at the leather bench in Ron's
In a EXTREME CLOSE-UP, MUSIC FADES OUT as we PAN across
Chris' leather belt and the story being told on it
through the engravings:
204 EXT. RON'S WORKSHOP - DAY 204
ALEX is inscribed at the belt's left end; then the
initials C.J.M. (for Christopher Johnson McCandless)
frame a skull and crossbones. Across the strip of
cowhide one sees a rendering of two-lane blacktop, a No U-
turn sign, a thunderstorm producing a flash flood that
engulfs a car, a hitchhiker's thumb, an eagle, the Sierra
Nevada, salmon cavorting in the Pacific Ocean, the
Pacific Coast Highway from Oregon to Washington, the
Rocky Mountains, Montana wheat fields, a South Dakota
rattlesnake, Westerberg's house in Carthage, the Colorado
River rapids, a canoe beached beside a tent, Las Vegas,
and at the buckle end, finally, the letter N.
What's the N stand for?
205 EXT. CHRIS' CAMP BESIDE THE STONE WALL - DAY 205
AN ISOLATED CLOUD ECLIPSES THE SUN AGAINST A BLUE DESERT
Ron is sitting on his tailgate, watching Chris, backpack
on, climb the stone wall.
Son, what the hell you running from?
(yells down from above)
I could ask you the same question.
Except I already know the answer.
You do, do you?
I do, Mr. Franz. You've got to get back
out in the world. Get out of that lonely
house of yours, that little workshop,
and go live on the road.
Ron waves him off.
Really. You're going to live a long
time, Ron. You should make a radical
change in your lifestyle. The core of
man's spirit comes with new experiences.
And there you are, stubborn old man,
sitting on your butt.
Sittin' on my butt, huh?
Ron gets up off the tailgate.
I'll show you sittin' on my butt.
And Ron starts making the old man hustle. Shifty
shoulders and all, up the stone wall.
"Stubborn old man."
Chris is laughing and clapping.
Come on, old man! Come on!
Ya little pinhead.
Chris is jumping up and down, thrilled for Ron's efforts.
Now the old man's shuffle has turned into an old man's
walk. But he ain't stopping. And bit by bit he shows
he's got it in him after all.
As Ron is just about to mount the summit, Chris extends a
hand. Ron swats it away.
Ya little pinhead.
Ron drops down onto his back to catch his breath and let
his thumping heart slow down.
Ron, after taking one more deep breath, sits up and Chris
sits next to him. He's actually pretty happy with
himself. He looks out and sees the distant Salton Sea.
I'm going to miss you when you go.
I'll miss you too, Ron. But you're wrong
if you think the joy of life comes
principally from human relationships.
God's placed it all around us. It's in
everything. In anything we can
experience. People just have to change
the way they think about those things.
You ought to put a little camper on the
back of your pick-up and go take a look
at some of the great work god's done out
here in the American west.
Alex...You're probably right. And I'm
going to take stock of that.
Chris offers a skeptical glance.
No, I am.
A second skeptical glance. Which Ron squashes with
(almost to himself)
Chris buys it this time and feels he's accomplished
something with Ron.
But I'll tell you something. The bits
and pieces I've put together, you know,
what you've told me about your family.
Your mother and dad. And I know you got
your problems with the church too, but
there's some kind of bigger thing that we
can all appreciate. And it sounds like
you don't mind calling it God. But when
you forgive, you love. And when you
love...God's light shines on you.
Miraculously, it is just at that moment that the cloud
clears from the sun and the light shines in Ron's eyes.
Chris points at Ron's face at the light shining on him -
I told you about that language.
The two men, their eyes welling up, fall back laughing.
EXTREME WIDE SHOT FROM BELOW: The two men on the summit
with the echoing of laughter and Ron's screams -
I told you so! I told you so!
206 INT. LAUNDRY ROOM, RON'S HOUSE - NIGHT (MARCH 11, 1992) 206
Chris pulls his laundry out of the dryer. He's got his
pack sitting in the doorway to the kitchen. He folds his
things and tucks them into his pack.
Ron appears in the doorway dressed for travel.
What are you doing up? It's three-thirty
in the morning.
Heard you get up off the couch half an
hour ago, and had a funny feeling you
might not be here for our breakfast.
Chris says nothing.
I'm going to drive you a hundred miles to
somewhere where you can pick up a train,
a plane, or hitch a ride without getting
stuck on this desert. I'd take you all
the way to Alaska if I didn't have to get
to an eight o'clock mass.
Ron, you don't have to do that.
I want to do it. Get you started on this
thing of yours.
On my Great -
I know. On your "Great Alaskan
From just out of Chris' eye-line, Ron leans out of frame,
picking up a zippered duffel bag. He opens it,
displaying the contents to Chris.
There's a machete, an arctic parka,
collapsible fishing pole, and a few odds
and ends I threw in there for you.
Oh, just take it.
Chris does, nodding his thanks.
I'll wait for you in the truck.
207 EXT. HIGHWAY 10, OUTSIDE SALTON CITY - DAWN 207
We follow the two men (on this nondescript locale)
driving along the highway east from dawn through sunrise.
They ride in silence through Coachchella Desert Center
208 EXT. HIGHWAY 10 208
The truck exits at a North/South junction 95.
209 INT. RON'S TRUCK 209
As Ron begins to pull over.
Well my friend.
Both of them are uncomfortable. Chris goes for the door
handle. Ron's gnarled hand reaches out to take Chris'
After a long beat, Ron speaks without looking at Chris.
I had an idea. You know my mother was an
only child. So was my father. And I was
their only child. Now, with my own boy
gone, I'm the end of the line. When I'm
gone, my family will be finished. What
do you say, you let me adopt you. I
could be, say, your grandfather.
This takes Chris by surprise. He knew it would be hard
but not this hard.
How about we talk about this when I get
back from Alaska, Ron. Would that be
Silence. Ron nods. Releases Chris' elbow.
Alright, Ron. We'll talk about it then.
(trying to mask. The
blinking, moist eyes again)
Yep. We can do that, yep.
Ron nods. Chris gets out of the truck. Ron watches as
Chris saddles up his bag including the duffel that Ron
Chris crosses the exit junction to where he can pick up a
ride north on the far side of the road.
We ZOOM SLOWLY through the windshield into Ron's face as
he watches Chris hitching away.
We HEAR the first bars of Neil Young's My My, Hey Hey.
This will carry throughout the following MONTAGE.
210 INT./EXT. VARIOUS - MONTAGE 210
1. We ZOOM into Walt McCandless' face as he looks through
the Questar telescope that Chris had given him. ANGLE:
The stars through the telescope. The same stars his son
walks under...somewhere. We PAN ACROSS SPACE.
(Note: This montage will intercut Chris' traveling POV
with objective shots. However, we never SEE Chris.)
2. We PULL BACK from the starry night sky to see it
framed from within a moving train.
3. Carine in her shower, water cascades over her face.
4. Billie in her kitchen, making dinner.
5. Through the windshield of a semi-truck, the sun rises
on Glacier National Park.
6. A HANDHELD ZOOM-OUT from Canadian border crossing,
CAMERA TURNS to the woods beyond and MOVES INTO THEM.
7. SERIES OF TRAVELING SHOTS: (Through Skookumchuk and
Radium Junction, Lake Louise to Prince George and Dawson
Creek) STATIC NATURE SHOTS: HELICOPTER SHOTS
8. On the bed in their van, Jan sits on Rainey's bare
feet while he does sit-ups.
9. Ron holding a garage sale, while hooking a trailer to
10. Wayne being released from jail.
11. Mads and Sonja, side by side, one-armed bandit-ing in
a Vegas casino.
12. Tracy at a high school dance, slow-dancing with her *
13. Looking through the windshield of another semi. A
bear lopes across the two-lane road before us. We PAN
and ZOOM with it into the tundra beside the road.
HANDHELD, WALKING, we pass Mile 0 of the Alaska highway:
The sign: Fairbanks 1523 miles.
14. A waterfall.
15. Intercut hand and thumb hitching - a sense that rides
are few and far between.
16. A misting mountain peak.
17. Beavers in streams.
18. Melting blue ice-walls.
19. A lynx skittering across a snowy mound.
20. Walt and his telescope.
21. The hitchhiker's VIEW on a two-lane road, walking
past a highway sign for the Yukon Territory. (Through
Johnson's Crossing, Whitehorse, and Beaver Creek.)
22. From a passenger car window, a series of road signs
reading: Closed for winter.
MUSIC FADE OUT
211 INT. MCCANDLESS HOME, ANNANDALE - DAY 211
About a month short of the second
anniversary of Chris' disappearance, I
had gotten engaged to my boyfriend Jerry
Ray and was moving in with him...
Carine, packing her belongings into boxes, stumbles upon
the Sharon Olds book Chris had given her on his
CARINE (V.O.) (CONT'D)
...when I stumbled upon the book Chris
had given me on his graduation day. For
some reason, it was the last line of the
poem he read that really stuck out.
FLASH BACK: (From page 2-3)
212 INT. DATSUN 212
Chris is holding a book from which he reads aloud the
LAST LINE OF THE POEM...
...and I will tell about it.
I asked Chris who had written the poem.
What we SEE of Carine plays with the VOICE OVER TRACK and
SILENT with the production track; in essence lip synching
Chris' dialogue comes directly from the flashback image.
CARINE (V.O.) (CONT'D)
Who wrote that?
Well, it could've been either one of us.
We see pictures of Chris on the night-stand of Walt and
What would he tell about now? What did
his voice sound like now?
CARINE (V.O.) (CONT'D)
I realized that the words to my thoughts
were of less and less meaning. Chris was
writing his story and it had to be Chris
who would tell it.
The pictures in the scene BLUR as -
(in a far away, tunnel-like
Mom, help me.
213 INT. BEDROOM, MCCANDLESS HOME, ANNANDALE - NIGHT 213
Billie sitting bolt upright in the middle of the night,
tears rolling down her cheeks.
Walt awakens beside her.
What is it?
I wasn't dreaming! I didn't imagine it!
I heard his voice, Walt. I heard Chris.
Walt takes her in his arms, trying to squeeze life into
both of them.
CHAPTER 6: DELIVERANCE
FADE TO BLACK.
214 FAIRBANKS ALASKA, SERIES OF STATIC IMAGES: 214
Berms of cleared snow line the streets
1. A GAS STATION (Gold Hill Gas and Liquor)
We see Chris' writing appear on screen:
APRIL 27, 1992
2. OLD ALASKA PROSPECTOR'S STORE
GREETINGS FROM FAIRBANKS! THIS IS THE LAST TIME YOU
SHALL HEAR FROM ME. ARRIVED HERE TWO DAYS AGO.
3. A SALOON
4. A LIBRARY
IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT TO CATCH RIDES IN THE YUKON
5. TRAIN STATION
6. BARBER SHOP
BUT I FINALLY GOT HERE. PICKED UP A NEW BOOK ON THE
LOCAL FLORA AND FAUNA (TANAINA PLANTLORE / DENA'INA
K'ET'UNA: AN ETHNOBOTANY OF THE DENA'INA INDIANS OF
SOUTHCENTRAL ALASKA BY PRISCILLA RUSSELL KARI)
MIGHT BE A VERY LONG TIME BEFORE I RETURN SOUTH. BUT I'M
PREPARED AND HAVE STOCKED ALL NECESSARY COMFORTS TO LIVE
OFF THE LAND FOR A FEW MONTHS.
8. A GUN AND SPORTING GOOD STORE
INCLUDING A NYLON 66 MODEL SEMIAUTOMATIC .22 REMINGTON.
JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, YOU'RE A GREAT MAN. I NOW
WALK (PAUSE WRITING ON SCREEN) INTO THE WILD.
9. A SIGN AGAINST A RADIO TOWER "RADIO FAIRBANKS"(Perhaps
we hear a weather report)
215 EXT. ALASKAN RANGE (STAMPEDE TRAIL) - DAY 215
We return to the area of Scene #1.
MUSIC OVER: Of religious scope. Perhaps choral.
HELICOPTER SHOT: We travel a long ways across snowy
peaks and valleys (clearly far from anywhere) passing
between two escarpments of outer range bordering
bottomlands five miles wide until we barely see a tiny
form within it trudging through the snow. We overfly it.
216 EXT. STAMPEDE TRAIL - DAY 216
Chris, crunching through two to three feet (not more) of
snow, in arctic parka, big boots, his warm hat, rifle
slung over his shoulder, and pack.
He moves TOWARD CAMERA. We PAN AROUND with him as he
walks past, where beyond Chris on the snow plain, rises a
217 EXT. TEKLANIKA RIVER - DAY 217
Its banks lined with a jagged shelf of frozen overflow.
At its center, a channel of gently flowing water, opaque
with glacial till. Beyond the far ice shelf, Chris
appears from the riverside treeline. He eases across the
ice, then wades through the latte-colored channel and on
to the other side.
REVERSE ANGLE: Chris moving toward the opposite tree
line, he turns back to the gentle river behind. Chris'
POV scanning the terrain.
From the river to a distant mountain peak and then to a
second mountain peak, triangulating his location. He
makes a drawing on a pad of paper and piles some medium-
sized rocks to mark the spot before moving on into the
218 EXT. VAST ALASKAN SNOWSCAPE - DAY 218
Total silence across the beatific white vista of snow,
mountain, and colorless trees UNTIL a DISTANT ECHOING
219 EXT. CAMPSITE, BESIDE SUSHANA RIVER - NIGHT 219
Chris has skinned and is cooking a squirrel.
220 EXT. CAMPSITE, BESIDE SUSHANA RIVER - MORNING 220
Chris packs the last of his camp and begins his march
221 EXT. UPRIVER - DAY 221
As Chris walks upon a clearing in the tree line, he
catches his first glimpse of Denali's (Mt. McKinley's)
high-blinding white bulwarks. Chris stands in awe. We
remain in his WIDE-SHOT POV as it -
SAME SHOT - NIGHT
But now Chris' tent sits in its foreground with the
moonlit Denali still visible.
222 EXT. WOODS BESIDE RIVER - DAY 222
CAMERA ANGLED SKYWARD into the broken rays of grey light.
We TILT DOWN to find (and TRACK through the trees with)
Chris moving along the river, when he sees something just
Chris' POV: Through the trees and fireweed, he sees
something metallic and rusty. Chris moves up through the
underbrush and the snow into the narrow tree line and on
into the clearing, where before him:
A DERELICT SCHOOL BUS. It is a vintage International
Harvester from the 1940's.
Chris approaches the bus, lifts the hood a little bit
seeing that the engine is gone. As he moves around the
vehicle, we see several windows are cracked or missing
altogether. The green and white paint is badly oxidized.
Weathered lettering: Fairbanks City Transit System Bus
223 INT. BUS 223
Broken whiskey bottles litter the floor. Chris may well
have found his new home. The bus is outfitted with a
bunk and a barrel stove. Previous visitors had left it
stocked with matches, bug dope, and other essentials.
224 EXT. BUS 224
We follow Chris back out of the bus, surveying the area
of the clearing. He loves what he sees.
CELEBRATORY MUSIC OVER:
He runs up a berm to look down into the river.
He runs from corner to corner of this "Magic Bus" area
like a new bride surveying her honeymoon suite with glee.
He climbs a tree, swings from its branch, doing a flip in
the air, landing on his feet, but then slipping on the
snow and onto his butt and then onto his back. He grabs
a handful of snow, shoves it in his mouth, melts it into
water, and swallows it.
CRANE SHOT: We PULL UP from Chris to high above the
MUSIC FADES OUT
225 INT./EXT. BUS 225
He re-enters the bus and pulls his pen from his pocket,
scribbling on the wall of the bus:
TWO YEARS HE WALKS THE EARTH. NO PHONE,
NO POOL, NO PETS, NO CIGARETTES, ULTIMATE
FREEDOM. AN EXTREMIST. AND AESTHETIC
VOYAGER WHOSE HOME IS...
ANGLE: Chris: He continues to write as he SPEAKS the
...the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou
shalt not return `cause the "west is the
best." And now after two rambling years,
comes the final and greatest adventure.
Chris is cleaning up the bus.
The climactic battle to kill the false
being within and victoriously conclude
the spiritual revolution.
Chris shoveling snow away from the bus entrance with a
Ten days and nights of freight trains and
hitchhiking, bringing him to the great
Back to Chris, REAL TIME as he continues to write as he
No longer to be poisoned by civilization,
he flees, and walks alone upon the land
to become lost in the wild.
Chris signs his doctrine -
ALEXANDER SUPERTRAMP MAY 1992
JUMP CUT TO:
226 INT. BUS 226
Chris posts a found piece of paper on the inner wall of
the bus alongside his doctrine.
CU: Chris' hand, he writes and circles the number:
1 - MAGIC BUS DAY.
227 EXT. BUS - DAY 227
Chris comes out, rifle in hand. We TRACK with him as he
moves into the woods on the hunt.
SERIES OF ANGLES:
Chris searching for game. He moves through the woods
along the river and at the base of a nearby mountain.
Finding animals for food seems more difficult than
228 EXT. A MOUNTAIN SADDLE - DAY 228
Chris stumbles upon a caribou as it steps out from the
woods. He lines up his rifle on the animal, about to
pull the trigger, when its calf appears beside it.
He lowers his rifle, unwilling to take a shot that would
separate mother and child.
229 EXT. WOODS - DAY 229
A spruce grouse is spied on a foreground branch.
The branch splinters and the bird makes haste.
ANGLE: Chris, rifle in hand.
230 INT. BUS - NIGHT 230
Chris, cooking rice. We see his single bag of rice. Its
amount tells us the hunting had better improve soon.
We explore a PASSAGE OF TIME throughout which CHRIS GETS
INCREASINGLY THIN AND PALE: hunting, sleeping, cooking,
rice dwindling, line-ups of scrawny shot birds. He adds
holes to his belt leather to accommodate his shrinking
231 EXT. SNOWY PLAIN - DAY 231
Chris bags a squirrel on a snowy plain.
232 INT. BUS - LATER 232
Chris eats his measly catch but looks to his bag of rice
with concern, perhaps only a day or so left of his
rations. We come to the diary/log posted on the wall.
We see that he has been there for a week's worth of
entries as the squirrel is mentioned on day seven.
232A OMITTED 232A
232B OMITTED 232B
233 INT. BUS - MORNING 233
Chris is awakened by a new May sun, streaming light
through the windows of the bus.
POV: the sun, circling high in the heavens. Snowmelt
dripping quickly across the windowpane.
233A EXT. BUS - DAY 233A
Chris dances atop the bus, naked in the new spring.
233B INT. BUS - DAY 233B
(Note: We are in a time of year in this part of the world
where the sun dips behind the horizon only four hours a
234 INT./EXT. BUS - DAY 234
INTERCUT: SERIES OF ANGLES throughout which Chris remains
thin but his pallor improves:
1. The diary/log representing a small improvement on the
2. Undergrowth exposing itself through snowmelt.
3. Establish a small waterfall near the bus.
235 EXT. WOODS - DAY 235
The snow has now all but vanished except on north-facing
slopes and shadowy ravines, exposing a range carpeted in
an amalgam of muskeg, alder thickets, and veins of
Chris traipses along the seasons rose hips and
lingonberries, which he gathers in great quantity and
snacks on as he walks.
236 EXT. WOODS - DAY 236
Chris shoots a porcupine.
237 INT. BUS - DAY 237
The diary/log: DAY 30 - PORCUPINE
238 EXT. PEAK, NEARBY BUTTE - DAY 238
Chris stands triumphant at the peak of a 3000 foot butte
overlooking the bus. CIRCLE CAMERA around him 360
degrees recording the broad vista.
ANGLE: CU - He's beaming with satisfaction.
We begin a SLOW ZOOM OUT and then accelerate the ZOOM
encompassing the entire grandeur of the mountain with
Chris at its peak.
239 INT. BUS - LATER 239
The diary/log: DAY 31 - CLIMBED MOUNTAIN
240 EXT. BUS ENVIRONS - COLLAGE - DAY 240
COLLAGE TIME IN A SERIES OF DISSOLVES:
1. The diary/log: MAP AREA.
Chris surveying and taking notes of area.
2. The diary/log: IMPROVISE A BATHTUB AND SMUDGE POT
Chris building a bathtub out in the front.
3. The diary/log: COLLECT SKINS AND FEATHERS TO SEW INTO
Chris hunting and skinning.
4. The diary/log: CONSTRUCT BRIDGE ACROSS NEARBY NARROW
Chris knee-deep in slow-moving water constructing a make-
shift bridge across narrow creek.
5. The diary/log: BLAZE NETWORK OF HUNTING TRAILS.
Chris making a trail with his machete when -
A MOOSE appears from a nearby thicket. Chris drops the
machete and pulls his rifle from his shoulder. The moose
looks ready to charge Chris. There's no choice.
Chris aims carefully and fires six straight shots into
the moose's head, dropping it. Chris can hardly believe
his own success. He puts the rifle back on his shoulder,
just staring at the dead moose. He begins back-pedalling
away from it. Bit by bit, his steps turn into a jog and
then he turns and runs back toward the bus.
241 INT. BUS 241
(Director's Note: Handheld)
Chris scrambles through his pack and finds the piece of
paper where he had written notes of how to cure beef by
smoking it, taught to him by Kevin, Wayne's hunter friend
back in South Dakota.
242 EXT. WOODS - SAME 242
Back at the kill, the slow process of butchering begins.
(This ain't going to be pretty.)
INTERCUT REPRESENTATIVE IMAGES WITH FOLLOWING DIARY/LOG
1. The diary/log: BUTCHERING EXTREMELY DIFFICULT.
2. The diary/log: FLY AND MOSQUITO HORDES.
3. The diary/log: REMOVE INTESTINES, LIVER, KIDNEY, ONE
4. The diary/log: GOT HIND QUARTERS AND LEGS TO STREAM.
5. The diary/log: REMOVE HEART.
6. The diary/log: DIGS SMOKER HOLE INTO EXISTING CAVE.
7. The diary/log: HAUL NEAR CAVE.
8. The diary/log: TRY TO PROTECT WITH SMOKER.
9. The diary/log: CAN ONLY WORK NIGHTS. KEEP SMOKERS
10. The diary/log: MAGGOTS ALREADY. SMOKING APPEARS
INEFFECTIVE. LOOKS LIKE DISASTER. WISH I'D NEVER SHOT
MOOSE. GREAT TRAGEDY.
11. The diary/log: ABANDON CARCASS TO WOLVES.
We see Chris hidden behind a rise, watching a WOLF PACK
tug at the rancid meat from the carcass.
243 EXT./INT. BUS - DAY + NIGHT 243
SERIES OF ANGLES:
In and out of the bus. Day and night, portraying Chris
mourning his killing of the moose. He even plants a
cross by its skeletal remains.
244 EXT. BUS ENVIRONS 244
SERIES OF SHOTS:
Sunrise and nature awakens. Bird songs and flower
blooms. A waterfall cascades.
245 INT. BUS - DAY 245
Chris reading Tolstoy's Family Happiness. His POV: The
page: what Chris reads:
I have lived through much and now I think I have found
what is needed for happiness.
A quiet, secluded life in the country with the
possibility of being useful to people...
246 EXT. BUS - DAY 246
Chris sits amongst the pink bunches of fireweed choking
the vehicles wheel wells, growing higher than the axles,
his back leaning against the bus, finishing the reading
of Family Happiness.
ANGLE: Chris, reading with great interest. His POV: The
page: what Chris reads:
And then, on top of all that, you for a mate, and
children, perhaps - what more can the heart of a man
ANGLE: Chris: He looks up from his book. A gentle breeze
tickles morning flowers. The sunlight dances in a
coppice of aspen and leaves of trees above. The sound of
buzzing flies mutes. He is taking one last look at his
246A EXT. SMALL WATERFALL NEAR BUS - DAY 246A
Chris showers (PHOTO-SONIC)
MUSIC, LYNYRD SKYNYRD'S Simple Man (lyrics in cursive)
begins to play OVER:
247 INT. BUS 247
My momma told me / when I was young
Chris packs his gear.
Come sit beside me / my only son
A last look about the bus.
248 EXT. SUSHANA RIVER - DAY 248
Listen closely / what I say
Full pack and rifle mounted in WIDE SHOT beside the
If you do this it will help you / some sunny day
249 EXT. ALASKA TRAIL - DAY 249
MUSIC CONTINUES OVER:
A SERIES OF ANGLES:
Just take your time / don't live too fast
We pass the familiar landmark of the Mt. McKinley
clearing where Chris had camped.
Troubles w ill come / and they will pass
Chris walking and camping his way back to the Teklanika
River and the road home.
Find a woman / you'll find love
and don't forget son / there's someone up above...
MUSIC FADES OUT
250 EXT. TEKLANIKA RIVER - DAY 250
In the trees beside the river, we find Chris. The river
is not yet in sight but Chris starts to HEAR it: A
As Chris exits the treeline, there she is: The Teklanika
at full flood. Seventy-five foot wide banks, replacing
the narrow ice canal of four months earlier. Snowmelt
from glaciers high in the Alaska range, its opaque
glacial sediment the color of wet concrete. And what had
been a distant rumble in the woods, now had the volume
and power of a freight train, a seventy-five foot wide
Chris grabs a hold of a riverside branch and takes one
slow, careful step into the river. Without mercy, WHAM!
the river kicks his feet out from under him! The branch
he holds SNAPS! By some miracle, his hands move like
lightening and he grabs a lower, sturdier branch below,
saving himself from a certain death.
We SEE the broken branch catapulted down river and into a
rocky shoot below. He pulls himself back onto the bank,
drops his pack at riverside, and eases to a sitting
position beside it.
251 INT. BUS - NIGHT 251
It's pouring rain outside. The rain pelts the top of the
Chris' pack is thrown onto the bunk. His hand appears at
the diary/log on the wall. He writes:
DAY 82 - DISASTER. RAINED IN. RIVER CROSSING
IMPOSSIBLE. LONELY, SCARED.
252 EXT. BUS, THE EDGE OF ITS SURROUNDING CLEARING - DAY 252
EXTREME CU: Beaded and shimmering from the past night's
rain, a bright red berry moves in the breeze like a tiny
vibrating bell. RACK FOCUS to Chris' eyes spying it. He
plucks it from its stem.
253 EXT. BUS - DAY 253
Chris adds another hole to tighten his belt.
254 INT. BUS - DAY 254
Chris looking very thin. Too thin. He is noshing on a
bag of collected berries while reading from Boris
Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago.
ANGLE: The book
Here she stopped and, closing her eyes,
took a deep breath of the flower-scented
air of the broad expanse around her. It
was dearer to her than her kin, better
than a lover, wiser than a book.
ANGLE: Chris pulls more berries from the bag and chews on
them as he reads.
ANGLE: The book
For a moment, she re-discovered the
purpose of her life. She was here in
earth to grasp the meaning of its wild
enchantment and call each thing by its
By its right name. By its right name.
He puts down the book and brings one of the ripe berries
in front of his face (as close as shot of when he picked
Chris then grabs Tanaina Plantlore, the flora and fauna
book he had gotten from the library in Fairbanks. And it
takes him out of the bus like a divining rod. His nose
in the book, he follows it.
255 EXT. BUS - DAY 255
Plant to plant. Bush to bush.
SPEAKING ALOUD the names of everything he sees as he
identifies them with the book.
Beautiful blueberries - Vaccinium
uliginosum. Eskimo potato - Hedysarum
We follow Chris over a number of days as he eats from
these identified species of plant, each being logged, one
by one by name on the bus diary/log.
256 EXT. SUSHANA RIVER - DAY 256
With Tanaina Plantlore by his side, Chris digs into the
soft earth on the berm of the river bank and digs up a
wild potato root.
257 INT. BUS - NIGHT 257
Chris pulls the seeds from the root, noshing on them as
he reads from Doctor Zhivago.
We drift from him reading to the diary/log on the wall.
The day representing: July 24th
The diary/log: WILD POTATO ROOT
We drift back to Chris. Fatigue shows in his eyes as he
puts the book down and lays down to sleep.
258 EXT. BUS - MORNING (JULY 30 1992) 258
WIDE SHOT of the bus. It's a beautiful July morning.
Birds chirp in the trees. A soft breeze sweeping down
from the mountains massages the valley below.
We SLOWLY ZOOM into the bus.
259 INT./EXT. BUS - SAME 259
The open bag of seeds beside Chris' sleeping body. We
drift over to Chris' face, his lips de-hydrated, and skin
parched. He breathes heavily. He awakens. He tries to
sit up. It's a terrible struggle. Barely makes it to
Chris stumbles to the door of the bus, looking up at the
hot sun. He has to sit back down on the small bus steps.
From his position on the step, he leans back into the bus
and is able to grab his water jug. He pours it into his
mouth but nothing seems to satiate or hydrate him. He
drinks it all. It spills over his face and chest.
We observe Chris for a moment as the wheels turn inside
his haunted eyes. And a curiosity seems to overtake him.
He crawls back to his copy of Tanaina Plantlore, flipping
the pages one by one until he arrives at the photograph
identifying the wild potato root and the word "edible"
beside it. He reads the page to its conclusion and as
almost an afterthought, turns the page to see if there
might be more.
The word -
jumps off the page at him.
The book describes the tiny green seeds of the potato
root and warns that those with:
lateral veins, such as those invisible on the leaflets of
wild sweet peas are poisonous.
The words -
...leading to partial motor paralysis...
...inhibition of digestion...
CRASH ZOOM into Chris' face, realizing his desperate
260 EXT. BUS 260
Chris kneels, holding one of the potato seeds to the
sunlight and there we see them -
the lateral veins that indicate poisonous seeds.
261 INT. BUS 261
ANGLE: The diary/log: EXTREMELY WEAK. FAULT OF POTATO
262 EXT. BUS - DAY 262
Chris, barely able to walk, moves, at the pace of an
elderly man, with his rifle, through the underbrush. He
needs food now.
263 EXT. WOODS - DAY 263
He shoots a squirrel. But as he moves toward what he
thinks is his kill, the squirrel makes off with a
bleeding tail. Chris fires several desperate shots at
the squirrel but misses with each one.
264 INT. BUS - NIGHT 264
Chris, having a fitful sleep. Short breaths and
265 EXT. CLEARING AROUND BUS - NIGHT 265
A big moon shines above and we find on a tree branch, the
squirrel Chris had clipped in the tail earlier in the
day. On the last legs of bleeding to death, it falls
from the tree.
The moon becomes the sun and we pass a couple of days
through visions of the nature about in varying light.
266 EXT. SUSHANA RIVER - DAY 266
Chris labors up the riverbank with his water jug full.
He is shirtless and absolutely emaciated. Frightening.
He pauses at the river's edge to take air into his lungs.
It's all he can do just to breath.
WIDE ANGLE TABLEAU (CONTINUOUS): Chris standing at the
river's edge catching his breath framed against the
background of the 3000 foot butte that he'd so recently
climbed with ease.
Now, maintaining this tableau, something moves from near
CAMERA RIGHT into frame. Bit by bit we'll realize it's a
LARGE BEAR ENTERING FRAME and moving away from camera
toward Chris. It lumbers to within feet of him.
CU OVER BEAR onto Chris: Chris, passive to the bear's
ANGLE: The bear, just as passive towards Chris, as though
he didn't represent enough of anything to eat.
BACK TO TABLEAU as the bear, passing Chris, disappears
over the rise toward the river. Chris, a motionless and
266A INT. BUS - NIGHT 266A
Chris lays on the floor. CU Chris: Orange light twinkles
in his eyes. Chris' POV: through the bus window, we see
the orange glow of smoke rising into the air. CU: Chris
writes in his diary log.
Set small signal fire today - watched it
Back to POV as the ambient orange light fades into the
blackness of smoke.
267 INT. BUS - DAY 267
The diary/log: DAY 100 - MADE IT. BUT IN WEAKEST
CONDITION OF LIFE. TOO WEAK TO WALK OUT. HAVE LITERALLY
BECOME TRAPPED IN THE WILD - NO GAME IN SIGHT.
A SUBTLE DRUM (HEART)BEAT BEGINS OVER:
Chris plops himself down into the middle of the bus. He
shakes his head as if trying to say something, and then
considers his rifle and abundant ammunition. But taking
his own life to avoid the agony of starvation is not an
option for him. "No, no, no, don't do this to me." The
frustration builds enough adrenaline in him to scream
He does, but with a low, gurgled animal sound. He shakes
it off and looks to his copy of Doctor Zhivago for
distraction. Thumbing through the pages he focuses his
eyes on the page -
ANGLE: The page: what he reads:
And that an unshared happiness is not
Chris steals his pencil from within the pages of the
book, scribbling across the page:
HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.
He flips backwards a couple of pages to where he had
written the quote:
CALL EVERYTHING BY ITS RIGHT NAME.
He tears the back cover off the book and scratching the
pencil across its blank side, writing these words
quickly, as if in panic:
I HAVE HAD A HAPPY LIFE AND THANK THE LORD. GOODBYE AND
MAY GOD BLESS ALL!
And now, these words arrive slowly as we HEAR Chris
CHRIS (O.C.) (CONT'D)
(with a weak voice)
Call everything by its right name.
The drumbeat increases as he signs the note:
CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON MCCANDLESS.
We move from the page back up to Chris. We see that he
has put on his eyeglasses to strengthen the vision of his
weakening sight. He removes them, folds them, and lays
them by his side. His body begins to tremble. His eyes
The drumming intensifies.
Chris takes one last look out the window. The sun is
covered by a well-defined and puffy cloud.
His arm nearing spasm reaches up to the bunk, grasping at
the blue sleeping bag made by his mother.
With great suffering and shattering trembles, he forces
his body to defy its agony and pushes it into the
SKYWARD, the cloud obscuring the sun.
Drumbeats ESCALATE - BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
We TIGHTEN on Chris' anguished face.
(Director's note: These CU's on Chris' face, combine
both static and hand-held CUs, upside down and right-side
up moving, zooms, and push-ins. Straight, side, and
dutch angles. Perhaps some intermittent distortion.)
268 INT./EXT. BUS 268
We INTERCUT between Chris and the sky in a dance
transitioning to the next world. It is hopeful,
anguished, sad, and elated.
269 INT./EXT. ANNANDALE HOUSE - DAY 269
Chris, approaching the Annandale house. His backpack on
and body healthy.
Billie parts the curtains, ecstatic to see Chris
approach, alive and healthy.
We SEE but do not hear her call to Walt.
A smiling Chris steps up the curb, approaching home.
Walt and Billie - we PUSH INTO them as they gleefully run
out the front door to their returning son.
PUSH INTO Chris - he dispatches his backpack to the
ground and runs toward his parents' embrace.
What if you saw me running into your
Chris, Walt, and Billie on the cusp of a jubilant and
CHRIS (V.O.) (CONT'D)
Would you see then...
The DRUMMING resumes with a BLAST OF BASS and before an
embrace is possible...
CHRIS (V.O.) (CONT'D)
...what I see now?
A SUDDEN CUT TO:
270 INT. BUS 270
Chris looking at the sky, a cathartic tear falls from his
left eye. Another from his right as the obscuring cloud
clears the sun.
Chris: The LAST, AIRY EXPULSION OF HIS BREATH.
His open face as the clearing light of the sun shines in
his eyes. It is a face of peace, love, a face of true,
The eyes joyously open and the corners of his mouth ease
into the subtle smile of euphoric wisdom.
That's the way he settles to stillness, looking directly
into our camera.
And he died alive.
He made it. He lived. He loved.
Cat Stevens' Miles from Nowhere plays OVER:
As we PULL AWAY from Chris' face through the bus window
and up into the sky -
We drift further and further away, above the stunted
trees and the shimmering roof of the bus like a tiny
white gleam in a wild green sea grows smaller and
REPRISE IMAGE of truck driver taking picture of Chris in
Then it's him:
The smiling STILL IMAGE we saw taken in the first scene
from behind, but now we are seeing it from the front and
it is the image of the real Christopher McCandless on the
edge of the Stampede Trail. As it takes over the screen,
we ZOOM SLOWLY into his smiling face. And then, these
words appear superimposed over it:
Dedicated to the memory of Christopher Johnson McCandless
February 12, 1968 - August 18th, 1992
As those words dissolve, these words appear:
On September 19, 1992, Carine McCandless flew with her
brother's ashes from Alaska home to the eastern seaboard.
She carried them with her on the plane...in her backpack.