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Kill Your Babies – Stanley Kubrick

By March 19, 2017Script Advice

To become a great screenwriter, you must… Kill Your Babies!

Think you have what it takes to be a great screenwriter? Are you cold blooded? Do you take your coffee black? Do you kill babies? You know, that amazing scene in your screenplay that serves no purpose, except to demonstrate your amazing wit?

Newsflash. That dialogue doesn’t need to be there. Remember the greatest AI ever written, HAL 9000 from the masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey? Remember how charming HAL was? Well, he was ever more charming in an earlier draft. HAL was aggressive, confrontational, and even egocentric.

After incorrectly announcing to his crew that a part was broken… twice, HAL still remains adamant that he’s God’s gift to man. Check out this chilling exchange.

HAL I’m not questioning your word, Dave, but it’s just not possible. I’m not capable of being wrong.

BOWMAN Hal, is there anything bothering you? Anything that might account for this problem?

HAL Look, Dave, I know that you’re sincere and that you’re trying to do a competent job, and that you’re trying to be helpful, but I can assure you the problem is with the AO-units, and with your test gear.

BOWMAN Okay, Hal, well let’s see the way things go from here on.

HAL I’m sorry you feel the way you do, Dave. If you’d like to check my service record, you’ll see it’s completely without error.

BOWMAN I know all about your service record, Hal, but unfortunately it doesn’t prove that you’re right now.

HAL Dave, I don’t know how else to put this, but it just happens to be an unalterable fact that I am incapable of being wrong.

Love it. Check my service record. I’m incapable of being wrong. On second thought, it sounds like most people I know.

Anyway, later on HAL is vindicated and our favorite AI doesn’t shy away from rubbing it in his colleague’s faces. He even fights for his self-preservation, employing zero subtlety about what a supremely awesome being he is.

POOLE Hal was right all the time.

BOWMAN It seems that way.

HAL Naturally, Dave, I’m not pleased that the AO-unit has failed, but I hope at least this has restored your confidence in my integrity and reliability. I certainly wouldn’t want to be disconnected, even temporarily, as I have never been disconnected in my entire service history.

BOWMAN I’m sorry about the misunderstanding, Hal.

HAL Well, don’t worry about it.

BOWMAN And don’t you worry about it.

HAL Is your confidence in me fully restored?

BOWMAN Yes, it is, Hal.

HAL Well, that’s a relief. You know I have the greatest enthusiasm possible for the mission.

I have never been disconnected in my entire service history. Can you imagine that on his resume? Later on, HAL goes nuts and kills almost the entire crew.

His reaction is written with more sarcasm than what was filmed. Check out this very heated exchange between man and machine that could’ve taken place in that office in “Glengarry Glen Ross.” HAL just put a cap in FRANK’s ass. Check out what he says next:

HAL Too bad about Frank, isn’t it?

BOWMAN Yes, it is.

HAL I suppose you’re pretty broken up about it?

BOWMAN Yes. I am.

HAL He was an excellent crew member. It’s a bad break, but it won’t substantially affect the mission.

BOWMAN Hal, give me manual hibernation control.

HAL Have you decided to revive the rest of the crew, Dave?

BOWMAN Yes, I have.

HAL I suppose it’s because you’ve been under a lot of stress, but have you forgotten that they’re not supposed to be revived for another three months.

BOWMAN The antenna has to be replaced.

HAL Repairing the antenna is a pretty dangerous operation.

BOWMAN It doesn’t have to be, Hal. It’s more dangerous to be out of touch with Earth. Let me have manual control, please.

HAL I don’t really agree with you, Dave. My on-board memory store is more than capable of handling all the mission requirements.

BOWMAN Well, in any event, give me the manual hibernation control.

HAL If you’re determined to revive the crew now, I can handle the whole thing myself. There’s no need for you to trouble.

BOWMAN I’m going to do this myself, Hal. Let me have the control, please.

HAL Look, Dave you’ve probably got a lot to do. I suggest you leave it to me.

BOWMAN Hal, switch to manual hibernation control.

HAL I don’t like to assert myself, Dave, but it would be much better now for you to rest. You’ve been involved in a very stressful situation.

BOWMAN I don’t feel like resting. Give me the control, Hal.

HAL I can tell from the tone of your voice, Dave, that you’re upset. Why don’t you take a stress pill and get some rest.

BOWMAN
Hal, I’m in command of this ship. I order you to release the manual hibernation control.

HAL I’m sorry, Dave, but in accordance with sub-routine C1532/4, quote, When the crew are dead or incapacitated, the computer must assume control, unquote. I must, therefore, override your authority now since you are not in any condition to intelligently exercise it.

BOWMAN
Hal, unless you follow my instructions, I shall be forced to disconnect you.

HAL If you do that now without Earth contact the ship will become a helpless derelict.

BOWMAN
I am prepared to do that anyway.

HAL I know that you’ve had that on your mind for some time now, Dave, but it would be a crying shame, since I am so much more capable of carrying out this mission than you are, and I have such enthusiasm and confidence in the mission.

BOWMAN Listen to me very carefully, Hal. Unless you immediately release the hibernation control and follow every order I give from this point on, I will immediately go to control central and carry out a complete disconnection.

HAL Look, Dave, you’re certainly the boss. I was only trying to do what I thought best. I will follow all your orders: now you have manual hibernation control.

I just love this guy. Look how fast he switches from, “I’m so much better than you” to “hey, you’re the boss.” So why was most of this juicy dialogue erased from the final hard drive? Because Kubrick needed to give HAL something all modern human beings are infected with? Passive-aggressive behavior.

While a normal person would have fallen in love with himself for writing these three scenes, Kubrick understood that this amazing dialogue would imbalance the movie.

The big picture was to create the greatest sci-film ever made… and that’s pretty much what he accomplished, taking home an Oscar for his efforts in 1969 and influencing all sci-fi films forever (most recently, Ex-Machina). Like HAL 9000, in order to complete the mission, you must never hesitate in… Killing Your Babies!

Written by: Norith Soth

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