THE EMPIRE CLASSIC SCENE
MILLER’S CROSSING CHOSEN BY STEVE PEMBERTON
STEVE pemberton: “One of my absolute favourites is the Danny boy sequence in Miller’s Crossing. I remember seeing that in the cinema at notting Hill Gate and being open-mouthed at the beauty of it, the audacity of it, the use of music. That’s been a big influence on me. I love allowing a piece of music to score something. That sequence, which is wordless, is perfect. It fits the song from start to finish. It puts a smile on my face, just thinking about it.”
INT. LEO’S HOUSE — NIGHT
Through billowing curtains, we track across a room as two things play out on the soundtrack: ‘Danny Boy’, by Frank Patterson, and the sounds of a violent struggle. We come to rest on the body of Leo’s bodyguard, freshly murdered, as an assassin walks out of the room. A cigarette in the bodyguard’s hand touches a newspaper, and sets it alight.
The assassin crosses to the front door, and opens it to reveal a second assassin, holding two Tommy guns. He hands one to the first assassin.
We next see the source of ‘Danny Boy’. A record on Leo’s gramophone. Leo (Albert Finney) is sprawled on his bed, in pyjamas, a paper across his lap. The hitmen walk up the stairs, Tommy guns lowered.
Leo puffs on a cigar, content. Then he notices something amiss. A smell. He takes off his glasses and looks at the floor. Smoke is slowly rising through the floorboards.
The hitmen continue to climb the stairs.
Leo, thinking, looks at his bedside table. A gun rests on it. He looks at his bedroom door.
The hitmen are now on the landing.
Leo, cigar in mouth and eyes fixed on the door, sits up and places his feet into his slippers. He stubs out the cigar in an ashtray.
The door bursts open. Leo grabs his gun and rolls under the bed. The hitmen start firing their guns into the floor, towards Leo, who fires his revolver once, into the leg of the first assassin. He drops to the floor, where Leo puts a second bullet into his head.
The other assassin turns and runs. Leo scrambles out from under the bed, picks up the Tommy gun from the fallen hitman, and sprints out of the bedroom, across the corridor, dodging a burst of gunfire. He races to the window, and throws the Tommy gun out onto the ground below. We see flames billowing from the downstairs window. Leo climbs out of the window, onto the roof. We see that the entire ground floor is ablaze. Leo swings down off the roof, and drops onto the ground. He picks up the Tommy gun, and walks backwards until he can see the second assassin framed in the upstairs window, cluelessly looking for his prey.
Leo fires up, bullets thudding into the back of the second assassin, who fires his Tommy gun as a reflex. Leo continues to fire. So does the assassin, bullets slamming into the floor, into a painting on the wall, into a chandelier. Leo continues to fire, his Tommy gun blazing. Finally the assassin, body riddled with lead, collapses.
Leo hears the squeal of tires. He turns to see a car carrying two more goons, trying to make a quick getaway. From the back seat, one goon fires a Tommy gun at Leo. Leo returns fire in staccato bursts. He follows the car down the driveway, firing all the while. The goon’s bullets miraculously whizz around Leo, but nothing hits.
But his do. We hear the breaking of glass, and then the car swerves on the driveway, and into a tree. Flames immediately leap up inside the vehicle. Then it explodes.
Leo stands in the road, smoke rising from his gun. He takes another cigar out of his dressing room pocket and chews on it.