Script To Screen: “2001: A Space Odyssey”

A pivotal scene from the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke.

Summary: Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial, object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.

Here astronaut Dave has decided he needs to deactivate H.A.L.:

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BOWMAN WORKS HIS
WAY TO THE SOLID
LOGIC PROGRAMME
STORAGE AREA.

12/1/65 c114
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
C142
CONTINUED

HAL
There’s been a failure in the
pod bay doors. Lucky you
weren’t killed.

THE COMPUTER BRAIN
CONSISTS OF HUNDREDS
OF TRANSPARENT PERSPEX
RECTANGLES, HALF-AN-
INCH THICK, FOUR INCHES
LONG AND TWO AND A HALF
INCHES HIGH. EACH RECT-
ANGLE CONTAINS A CENTRE
OF VERY FINE GRID OF
WIRES UPON WHICH THE
INFORMATION IS PROGRAMMED.

BOWMAN BEGINS PULLING
THESE MEMORY BLOCKS
OUT.

THEY FLOAT IN THE
WEIGHTLESS CONDITION
OF THE BRAIN ROOM.

HAL
Hey, Dave, what are you
doing?

BOWMAN WORKS SWIFTLY.

12/1/65 c115
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
C142
CONTINUED

HAL
Hey, Dave. I’ve got ten years
of service experience and an
irreplaceable amount of time
and effort has gone into making
me what I am.

BOWMAN IGNORES HIM.

HAL
Dave, I don’t understand why
you’re doing this to me…. I
have the greatest enthusiasm for
the mission… You are destroying
my mind… Don’t you understand?
… I will become childish… I
will become nothing.

BOWMAN KEEPS PULLING
OUT THE MEMORY BLOCKS.
HAL
Say, Dave… The quick brown
fox jumped over the fat lazy
dog… The square root of
pi is 1.7724538090… log e
to the base ten is 0.4342944
… the square root of ten is
3.16227766… I am HAL
9000 computer. I became
12/1/65 c116
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
C142
CONTINUED

HAL
operational at the HAL plant in
Urbana, Illinois, on January
12th, 1991. My first instructor
was Mr. Arkany. He taught me
to sing a song… it goes
like this… “Daisy, Daisy, give
me your answer do. I’m half;
crazy all for the love of
you… etc.,”

COMPUTER CONTINUES
TO SING SONG BECOMING
MORE AND MORE CHILDISH
AND MAKING MISTAKES AND
GOING OFF-KEY. IT
FINALLY STOPS COMPLETELY.

Here is the scene from the movie:

Two obvious things to note:

  • The script format is completely different than that for a standard screenplay, resembling something more like a play than a movie script.

Perhaps there are some fans of this movie who know the backstory, but my guess is because H.A.L.’s dialogue is all V.O., Kubrick could test out various cuts of this scene along with any amount or lines to see what played best, no need for re-shoots, rather just a variety of V.O. to match a variety of editorial cuts.

What other differences did you notice between script and screen?

One of the single best things you can do to learn the craft of screenwriting is to read the script while watching the movie. After all a screenplay is a blueprint to make a movie and it’s that magic of what happens between printed page and final print that can inform how you approach writing scenes. That is the purpose of Script to Screen, a weekly series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

For more Script To Screen articles, go here.

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