[This is a specially selected scene from the movie version of 'Nicole Kidman stars in: The Astronaut Dropped'.]
INTERIOR - HOTEL BAR - EVENING
The scene is a bar in a hotel within the town that neighbours Mordan House. There is a warm log fire blazing and the decor is old fashioned, full of tartan, sumptous red and green velvet upholstery, candles and ornate lampstands and shades. There are only a few people in the bar. In front of the fire are two sofas separated by a low wooden table. Mr McKay sits on one sofa with a small leather pouch beside him; Stephanie Fey is on the other. Mr McKay is a thin man in his fifties. He is balding and his hair is slicked back from his long, thin face. He keeps looking at an unlit cigar, starts to put it to his lips, then gets annoyed and puts it down. He wears very casual, bland clothes: grey trousers, a beige V-neck jumper with a white shirt underneath that's open at the collar. He is clean-shaven. Stephanie Fey, a redhead of profound and striking beauty, is also in casual clothes: jeans, long and baggy jumper, training shoes. Her hair is tied back. She holds a glass of brandy with both hands. She looks exhausted, somewhat defeated. Her eyes keep darting to the corners of the room as if looking for a camera. At one point, she looks directly into the film camera's lens, but doesn't appear to notice that it's a camera she's looking at.
Mr McKayStilly Stephanie - why do they call you that?
Mr McKayPeople in this town. Did'nt you know?
(Shrugs and looks at her brandy)Long story.
Mr McKayShorten it then.
Stephanie looks directly at him, trying to size him up. Then she again glances nervously into one of the corners of the room before contemplating her glass again.
StephanieIt's no big deal. Just my mum. My interfering mum, I should add. She started to call me that years ago. As a way of being condescending. And I have the wonderful luxury of being protected by her from afar. She regularly calls random people in this town to ask about me and, it would appear, to talk about me - and to pass on old nicknames that damage my reputation in the eyes of people I barely know and complete strangers that I haven't even met yet.
Mr McKaySounds like you don't need much help damaging your reputation, from what I've heard.
Stephanie glances at him, but clearly doesn't want to hold his gaze.
StephanieI'm not sure there's a short answer to that.
Mr McKayIt's just an empty house, you know. You shouldn't let your imagination run away with you.
StephanieDon't underestimate emptiness.
Mr McKayHa! That I won't argue with. That's why I'm offering you a proposition, Stephanie. It's kind of a way for you to take control again. Fancy it?
Mr McKay puts his cigar up to his mouth, stops himself from lighting it and throws it down on the table angrily.
Mr McKayOkay. Shortened version. Seems of late I've become the friend of toffs. Fallen in with a lucrative crowd, haven't I. Well, one lady in particular. Due to her, I meet more ladies and I meet their gentlemen friends too. Before you know it, I have associates in high places. They're all pretty young, really. Young lifestyles and more money than sense. No funny business - not at my age - all above board, you understand.
StephanieI can't see how I fit into this. I can't see how Mordan House fits into this! Does she want to buy the place?
Mr McKayBuy it? Over my dead body!
(He looks around to make sure no-one is listening, leans forward and whispers)No, no, no. That place is coming down, for sure. The land's what's valuable there.
Mr McKayNo, what they want is quite simple. Very simple, in fact. A party.
Mr McKayI know, it sounds odd. But it's not. They want to hold a big party. A kind of theme party. You see, they're into this weird music. Clicks and cuts, they call it. I don't understand it. It's like music made out of mistakes. Scratches, glitches on a CD, radio noise. Pure, unadulterated rubbish, if you ask me!
(Stephanie frowns at him and turns up her nose.)Look, the kind of noise that floats their boats is neither here nor there. The fact is they want a huge kind of 'rave thing' where they're all dressed up, where their DJ can play their weird music and where they can go a bit mad in the house and in the grounds. They wanted a place with atmosphere. Somewhere miles from anywhere. That's part of the appeal: having to travel to the middle of nowhere to get there. They seem to think the event'll be written up in magazines! Huh. Magazines!
StephanieThese people must be really young.
Mr McKayWell, this hoity-toity woman that I've fallen in with, she thinks she's young, but she's at the age where she should be thinking about settling down and cutting out the wild stuff, if you ask me.
(Shrugs)Well, that's easier said than done sometimes. But I still don't see what this has to do with me?
Mr McKayI need the place cleaned up. And I need someone to have the place the way they want it when they turn up. Parties next month. All you have to do is get the place into shape - empty out some of the garbage that's in it. Be there to see they have what they need. And be there when they turn up. I've written out all the instructions. You just have to follow them. After the parties done ...
(He looks around again for eavesdroppers)... the bulldozers move in. And you move out! No more Mordan House, for sure.
StephanieI still don't see how this benefits me.
Mr McKayCome on, Stephanie! You're skint. Penniless. You've probably got a little bit more cash for grub and that's about it. I'll make it worth your while. I'll pay you a wage for the last month. When you move out, move back to civilisation, or wherever you go, then you'll have a little nest-egg to get you going. Look, these people are worth a fortune to me. A fortune! If I keep them sweet, all my property deals are going to pay off big time!
StephanieSure, the money would be good, but it's the house ...
Mr McKayWhat? You gonna let a daft old ruin get the better of you? How will you ever move on if you can't face up to something as daft as this? In one more month, you can walk away with your head held high!
(Knowingly)Isn't it time, Stephanie, that you started to hold your head high again? Stop being so ... stilly, Stephanie? Here.
(Mr McKay takes two envelopes from the small leather pouch beside him and places them on the table.)The instructions are in this envelope. Money for you in this one. Oh, almost forgot ...
(He takes out another envelope and puts it beside the other two.)Invitations. You can go to the party too, if you like. Might be a nice way to end your time in Mordan House. My lady friend said it would be no problem, so long as you dress up and get into the spirit of things. Oof, rather you than me!
(Looking at the envelopes)I need a moment to think.
(She drinks the last of her brandy)
Mr McKayHave a moment. Have a few! I need a cigar. Trying to give up, but one won't kill me, will it? Oh, and they're allowed to smoke in the house, by the way! No blasted ban or anything! They love a good puff, that lot. As do I!
Mr McKay gets up and walks out with his unlit cigar in his mouth.
Stephanie looks at the envelopes, then looks up and around her, again appearing to look for cameras. Her gaze turns again to the three envelopes and she picks up the one with the invitations in it. She takes out an invitation. The card is bright, shining silver. On the front, in large lettters and in a highly futuristic font, are the words: Astronauts and Actresses.
(Whispered to herself)That's the theme of the party? It can't be!
Mr McKay suddenly appears at the table again and throws the unlit cigar down on the table. Stephanie gets a fright.
Mr McKayCan't believe you didn't try and stop me. I can't quit on my own, you know! Smokers need support to give up!
(He sits down on the sofa again)So! Stephanie. What's it gonna be?
Stephanie breathes deeply and looks again at the words on the invitation, before suddenly looking up at a corner of the room behind her with a look of concern on her face. There's a TV there. The volume is turned down. The screen shows a news channel that's highlighting a space rocket on a launch pad. The wording beneath the moving image states: Launch of European space rocket New Prelude. Stephanie squint as if she's not sure that she's reading it correctly.
Next instalment: 62. One Car in the Driveway: Mine