If you haven’t seen Cameron Crowe’s feature directorial debut “Say Anything” in a while, you’ve likely forgotten just how early in the romantic dramedy John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler delivers a now-iconic speech which basically lays out his entire worldview. In the 1989 classic, Cusack was memorably cast as the chronically underachieving Lloyd, a kickboxer with a heart of gold who unexpectedly spends his post-high school graduation summer romancing the beautiful, but somewhat aloof valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye).
On just their second date (third, if you’re counting a brief interaction at a local mall, which Lloyd does), Lloyd is dispatched to a dinner at Diane’s house, where her imposing father Jim (John Mahoney) lightly grills him (in front of, weirdly enough, Jim’s accountant and two of his employees) about his career plans.
The result is a charming, if somewhat stilted monologue about Lloyd’s desires — he doesn’t “want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career,” or any other permutation of those tasks — but as Crowe himself tells it, the speech could have been significantly longer, and a bit weirder to boot.
At a special 30th anniversary reunion screening and panel mounted by the Tribeca Film Festival on Tuesday night, Crowe, Skye, Cusack (via videochat), and producer James L. Brooks were all on hand to discuss the film and their (many) fond memories around its creation. When it came to discussing the “career plans” speech, Crowe pointed to it as a prime example of how editing can shape key scenes in films.
Crowe said that editor Richard Marks, who passed away just last year, was compelled to make sure that “every little beat click[ed]” and “taking it a little further down the line to feeling like you were getting in deeper and deeper and deeper emotionally with these characters.” While the original version of the speech — which Crowe completed writing just hours before they shot the scene, a “final version” of the screenplay doesn’t even include it — pushed into eight pages, he credited Marks for honing it down to its best possible version.
“For example, the ‘bought, sold, or processed’ scene, there was a kind of straight up version of that, where John is giving you our distillation of this eight pages he had come in with that day,” Crowe said. “It was a cool thing, he mentioned Daniel Ellsburg and [Ronald] Reagan, and it was really striking that Lloyd had this thing. You see it in a glimpse when he says, ‘I don’t want to join that corporation’ about the Army.”
While Cusack had a wealth of material to work with, Crowe said that Marks encouraged not only cutting the scene down, but using some of the imperfections in delivery that make it feel so indelibly Lloyd.
“Richie and I were in the editing room, and John is still kind of working his way through this speech, which is like brand new on the day, and Richie started to guide towards using some of the mistakes and the flubs,” Crowe said. “Those moments built a scene where Lloyd’s passion and nervousness just broke your heart. That’s [what’s] in the movie.”
Check out the final version of the “career plans” speech below. He’s just gonna hang with your daughter.