"In writing fiction, the more fantastic the tale, the plainer the prose should be. Don't ask your readers to admire your words when you want them to believe your story." - Ben Bova [ more quotes ]

"AMERICAN SPLENDOR"

by

Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman

PRODUCTION DRAFT



FADE IN:

INT. HARVEY’S BEDROOM - NIGHT

A BEDROOM MIRROR.

The room is dark. A perfectly square mirror hangs crooked on
a wall.

Suddenly, out of the darkness, the reflection of a man's
face comes into focus. He stares straight ahead, perhaps
studying his own unrecognizable reflection. It's quite clear
this is a portrait of sickness; the man's pallor is gray,
his eyes are confused. There is something most definitely
wrong.

Tentatively, the figure steps away from the mirror, leaving
the frame empty and dark.

ANGLE ON BED

Like a ghost, the naked man (Harvey) stands over his bed
staring down at his sleeping wife (Joyce). In the eerie light,
he's almost translucent.

HARVEY
(faintly)
Joyce... Joyce?

Joyce springs up, alarmed.

JOYCE
What's wrong, Harvey? What are you
doing up?

Harvey just stands there for a moment saying nothing.

JOYCE
What is it?

HARVEY
(delirious, out of
breath)
Tell me the truth. Am I some guy who
writes about himself in a comic book?
Or am I just -- am I just a character
in that book?

Joyce rubs her eyes.

JOYCE
Harvey...

HARVEY
If I die, will 'dat character keep
goin'? Or will he just fade away...

Joyce just stares at him, unsure how to answer. Suddenly
Harvey collapses.

Joyce leaps from the bed, nervous, hysterical. She gets down
on the floor and shakes him.

JOYCE
Omigod, Harvey! Harvey, wake up!

CLOSE ON HARVEY'S FACE

His eyes remain closed, his expression far, far away.

FADE TO BLACK:

EXT. CLEVELAND ROW HOUSE - FALL - 1956 - DAY

FADE UP ON:

A surreal kaleidoscope of black, white and red. Similar to
the mirror scene above, the colors slowly come into focus,
revealing the chiseled features of a familiar face. But this
time we see that it is not a real face, but rather a plastic
mask of the D.C. Comic hero -- SUPERMAN.

INTERTITLE: CLEVELAND OHIO, 1956

CLOSE ON SUPERMAN MASK

It glows eerily in the light of a porch lamp. A child's pupils
glare through the eye holes...

The camera pans from SUPERMAN to the masked face of another
caped-crusader: BATMAN. Batman turns toward his loyal sidekick
ROBIN, who clutches a plastic, trick-or-treat pumpkin.

Next, we find THE GREEN LANTERN as he reaches up to ring the
doorbell. The camera finally rests on the last boy: an unkempt
KID wearing no costume at all. Looking irritated and removed
from the rest of the group, the KID shoves his hands in the
pockets of his shearling coat.

He spits and rolls his eyes as a lady answers the door.

The brick home is as working class as it gets. The lady at
the door is a 1950's HOUSEWIFE.

BOYS
(in unison)
Trick or treat!!

HOUSEWIFE
Well, look at this! All the
superheroes on the porch! Ain't that
cute.

The Lady drops a candy apple in each boy's container.

HOUSEWIFE
(still yelling)
We got Superman here, Batman, his
sidekick ROBIN, ohh, The Green Lantern
even...

She finally stops at the costumeless KID. He halfheartedly
holds up a ratty, stained pillowcase.

HOUSEWIFE
And what about you young man?

KID
What about what?

The other boys giggle. The kid flashes them a "kick yer ass"
look.

HOUSEWIFE
Who are you supposed to be?

The kid shrugs.

KID
I'm Harvey Pekar (pronounced "Pee
Car").

HOUSEWIFE
Harvey Pekar? That doesn't sound
like a super hero to me...

BOYS
(mumbling)
Pecker, Pecker...

KID
I ain't no super hero, lady. I'm
just a kid from the neighborhood,
alright?

The Housewife stares at him, confused.

KID
Ahh, forget this...

Frustrated, the kid throws his pillowcase down. He trudges
off as the others watch in confusion.

KID
Why is everybody so stoopid?

BEGIN NERVOUS JAZZ SCORE

WE FOLLOW the schlumpy kid (aka HARVEY PEKAR) as he sulks
down the street...

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. CLEVELAND ROW HOUSE - FALL - 1975 - DUSK

INTERTITLE: CLEVELAND OHIO, 1975

A grown-up version of HARVEY PEKAR (now mid-thirties) stomps
along the same Cleveland street. Unfortunately, 20 years
have made this rust belt neighborhood a bit rustier. The
"GROWN UP HARVEY" dons the same shearling coat, sports the
same disheveled hair, and wears the same curmudgeonly
expression.

CREDIT SEQUENCE - ANIMATED SEQUENCE INTERCUT HARVEY WALKING
WITH COMIC BOOK PANELS OF THE CARTOON HARVEY IN ACTION. This
is not your typical super-hero stuff.

Instead it features our man engaging in such daredevil feats
as:

INT. CITY BUS - FALL 1975 - DAY

--Riding the city bus.

INT. V.A. HOSPITAL - DAY

--Working as a file clerk at the Veteran's Hospital.

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT / KITCHEN - DAY

--Trying to wash dishes.

INT. SUPERMARKET - DAY

--Waiting on line at the supermarket.

EXT. GARAGE SALE - DAY

--Buying used records from a garage sale table.

INT. GREASY SPOON DINER - DAY

--Eating junk food at a greasy spoon.

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - DAY

Harvey fixes a rip in his coat with Elmer's Glue.

(Note: Each "Cartoon Harvey" looks similar but unique... A
variation on a theme. This is because his cartoons are drawn
by different comic artists.)

Intermittently, bold cartoon credits flash across the screen:

FROM OFF THE STREETS OF CLEVELAND COMES...

Followed by the explosive title:

AMERICAN SPLENDOR

The high-energy music and upbeat titles -- in direct contrast
to the sulking image of Harvey -- continue through the
remainder of the credits.

EXT. CLEVELAND STREET OVERLOOKING FACTORIES - DAY

We're now on HARVEY'S back as he continues his forlorn
journey. We move forward, past him, to peer over the hill at
the factories below.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Okay. We're throwing a lot at ya
here, so lemme step in an' help ya
catch up. This is the story about
comic books, an' a guy who made a
whole life outta them. You could
even say comics saved his life. This
guy here, he's our man, Harvey Pekar --
all grown up and goin' nowhere.
Although he's a pretty scholarly
cat, he never got much of a formal
education. For the most part, he's
lived in shit neighborhoods, held
shit jobs, and is now knee deep into
a second disastrous marriage. So if
yer lookin' for romance or escapism
or some fantasy figure to save the
day, guess what? Ya got the wrong
movie.

SUDDENLY EVERYTHING -- THE MUSIC, THE CREDITS, THE IMAGES --
COMES TO A HALT.

CUT TO:

INT. SOUND STAGE - PRESENT - DAY

HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE

The REAL HARVEY PEKAR (not the actor who trudged through the
credits) sits behind a microphone, supplying the "voice over"
above. He clutches a movie script in his hand.

The frame is spare, with a few well-chosen items to indicate
that he's in a recording session.

Although he is significantly older than the man who portrays
him, the "Real Harvey" is every bit as much of a sad sack...
maybe even more. He is large and slightly threatening with
knitted brows and wild eyes. Yet there is something kind and
vulnerable about him -- a teddy bear who could kick your
ass. Off Camera, WE HEAR the voices of the male and female
directors (us -- BOB and SHARI) coaching the "Real Harvey"
through his voice over. Harvey's irritable and contrary,
saying that the whole Halloween incident never even happened.

"But I don't care man. I'm just doing this for the dough."
We learn that Harvey is a reluctant participant in a film
being made about his life.

SUDDENLY, his third wife JOYCE BRABNER -- an intelligent
control freak obsessed with all things negative -- joins in
the conversation. Pushing back her huge glasses, she
reprimands Harvey like he is an infant: "Harvey you are
talking too loud, Harvey you are being difficult." Harvey
just rolls his eyes. Joyce gets offended. It is clear they
have had this argument a million times. As Joyce storms off...

Harvey explains that his wife is trying to take over the
movie. He laments that she is his third wife, and he has no
luck with women. "Man, chicks just don't dig me." That's why
he marries anyone who will have him. "And I marry them fast
before they get to know the real me..."

END HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE

CUT TO:

INT. EXAMINATION ROOM - WINTER - 1975 - DAY

INTERTITLE: 1975

HARVEY sits on a table in his T-shirt and underwear. A DOCTOR
unwraps a tongue depressor.

Harvey's voice is hoarse, raspy and barely audible. It sounds
like it hurts for him to talk. Yet, he can't stop ranting.

HARVEY
Doc, you gotta help me. My old lady's
dumping me 'cause I can't talk. She
says I'm a social embarrassment. Now
that she's got her PhD, she's some
hot shit academic star an' I'm nuthin'
but a file clerk with nothin' ta say
an' no voice ta say it. But me bein'
a file clerk was fine when I wrote
the damn check for her tuition --

DOCTOR #1
Harvey, stop talking please, and
open wide.

He points the tongue depressor at Harvey's mouth but he just
keeps on going.

HARVEY
I just don't get it... We were doin'
okay for a while. Then we took that
stupid belated honeymoon. I started
losin' my voice on the plane. Can
you believe that... On the plane,
doc?

DOCTOR #1
Bad timing, I guess. Now please say
"Ah," Mr. Pekar.

HARVEY
"Ahhh."
(without missing a
beat)
"Ahhh" ruined the trip. I got crazy,
started to worry my voice would never
come back. I mean, my wife didn't
know me so long before we got hitched.
What if she totally forgets what I'm
like? Man, it's torture --

DOCTOR #1
Shhh...

The Doctor shines a penlight into Harvey's mouth and looks
around.

DOCTOR #1
Uh-huh.

He raises an eyebrow. Harvey catches this. Hypochondria
overtakes him.

HARVEY
(the penlight in his
mouth)
What? Is it bad, doc?

The Doctor removes the penlight.

DOCTOR #1
It's not good.

Harvey jumps off the table.

HARVEY
It's cancer? First I got marital
problems and now yer tellin' me I
got throat cancer? Omigod...

DOCTOR #1
Harvey, calm down. It's not cancer.
You have a nodule on your vocal
chords. Probably from screaming and
yelling too much. And if you don't
stop talking and give it a rest,
you're gonna lose your voice
completely.

Relieved, Harvey calms down. He nods, agreeing to be good.

HARVEY
Whew... Okay, okay. But fer how long?

DOCTOR #1
A few months.

HARVEY
(loudly)
Months!!

Suddenly Harvey's voice cracks under his effort to raise it.

He sheepishly grabs his throat.

DOCTOR #1
See? More of that and you'll do
permanent damage. Now go home, keep
your mouth shut, and hopefully we
won't have to operate.

Operate? Harvey gets nervous again. The Doctor throws him
his clothing.

CUT TO:

EXT. CLEVELAND STREET - WINTER - 1975 - DAY

A silent sequence. A dejected HARVEY walks home alone along
an empty lot. Day-old dirty snow clings to the ground.

He wanders through a down-in-the-heels neighborhood, passing
run-down stores and ramshackle apartments.

EXT. BUS STOP - WINTER - 1975 - DAY

Harvey approaches TOBY -- a dumpy 20-something going on 60-
something in ridiculous, mismatched polyester clothing. He
is odd, awkward and talks with a monotone, robotic voice. In
short, he is a super dork.

TOBY
Hi Harvey. You weren't in work today.
Are you okay, Harvey?

Harvey barely looks up. He nods his head "yes" and keeps
walking.

TOBY
(yelling after him)
I'm heading downtown to the White
Castle. Wanna come, Harvey?

Harvey leaves Toby behind and turns the corner.

EXT. DELI - WINTER - 1975 - DAY

Two WOMEN argue loudly over a payphone.

SPANISH WOMAN #1
(in Spanish)
I already told you, I'm waiting for
a call!

SPANISH WOMAN #2
Oh yeah? Since when is this your
private office?!

SPANISH WOMAN #1
Since you can kiss my ass.

Harvey stops in his tracks and stares at them, jealous of
their ability to speak.

CLOSE UP: SPANISH WOMAN #1's MOUTH

HARVEY
(to himself)
Look at 'em yakkin'. How do they do
it?

Out of the corner of her eye, WOMAN #2 notices Harvey
eavesdropping.

WOMAN #2
(yelling at Harvey)
Ay, what are you looking at? Maricone!

Startled, Harvey moves on.

EXT. ACROSS FROM A PARK - WINTER - 1975 - DAY

He passes a group of KIDS playing in the snow. They scream,
yell and laugh with abandon.

HARVEY
(shaking his head)
They all make it seem so easy.

Then, BAM! Harvey is awakened from his reverie by a snowball.
The kids laugh loudly. He wipes away the snow and walks on.

A VOICE OVER interrupts the scene.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Here's our man walking home from the
doctor's. He's got the weight of the
world on him. And fer what, really?
'Cause his throat's a little screwy?
Man, people in India are starvin' to
death every day. His problems are
nothin'.

CUT TO:

EXT. BRIDGE OVER TRAIN TRACKS - DAY

Totally dejected, HARVEY crosses over train tracks on his
way home.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Still, he can't help feelin' paranoid,
like some supernatural force is
conspiring against him to rob him of
his voice.

EXT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - WINTER - 1975 - DAY

Harvey sulks up the steps of his brick low-rise apartment
building. He passes an ELDERLY NEIGHBOR coming down the walk
with her shopping cart. Harvey unlocks the door.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Maybe his old lady will go easy on
him today, when she sees how upset
he is.

INT. HARVEY'S LIVING ROOM - WINTER - 1975 - DAY

Harvey's second wife LANA -- a hippyish chic with long hair
and a bad attitude -- pulls books off a shelf and selectively
throws them onto the floor or packs them into a milk crate.

An overstuffed suitcase sits beside her. She's obviously
leaving him. HARVEY enters the room.

HARVEY
(whispering)
Ay... What is this?

Harvey's voice breaks up.

LANA
Exactly what it looks like.

HARVEY
(loud)
Whattya mean!! You mean yer dumpin'
me?! Fer what?
(his voice really
rips)
Ah, shit!

That last yell did it. Harvey grabs throat in pain, torn
between his throat discomfort and trying to stop his wife
from leaving.

LANA
Look, your plebeian lifestyle isn't
working for me anymore. Cleveland's
not working for me anymore. I gotta
get out of here before I kill myself.

HARVEY
But --

She gathers her bags and heads for the door. Harvey trails
her, trying to reason.

He opens his mouth, but nothing comes out.

HARVEY
(mouthing, just a
wheeze)
Please! Wait, honey... Just listen
to what I got to say...

She turns and stares at him. Harvey tries to say something.

But now nothing at all comes out of his mouth. Only wheezes
air.

He tries again. No sound at all.

Finally LANA gives up, turns back towards the door and leaves.

SLAM!!

CUT TO:

INT. V.A. HOSPITAL - 1975 - DAY

At his cubicle in the file room, Harvey fills a cart with
files. He's physically at work, but mentally in a daze.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Here's our man -- yeah alright, here's
me -- or the guy playin' me, anyway,
though he don't look nothin' like
me, but whatever. So it's a few months
later an' I'm workin' my flunky,
file-clerk gig at the V.A. Hospital.
My voice still ain't back yet. Things
seem like they can't get any worse...

A nurse pops her head in. Harvey hands her a file.

NURSE
Thank you, Harvey dear.

He doesn't hear her, still stewing about LANA. He shoves the
last files in the cart and pushes it away.

HARVEY
(to himself)
Plebeian... where the hell did she
get that shit?

CUT TO:

INT. FILE ROOM -- A FEW MOMENTS LATER

We see rows and rows of endless files...

Still in a daze, Harvey removes the files from the cart and
puts them on the shelves.

MR. BOATS (O.S.)
Avoid the reeking herd! Shun the
polluted flock! Live like that stoic
bird, The eagle of the rock!

Harvey turns around. Mr. Boats -- a portly, African-American
maintenance worker wearing a bow-tie -- steps into Harvey's
row. He has a tool box.

HARVEY
Huh? Oh. Hiya, Mr. Boats.

Harvey resumes shelving.

BOATS
You know what that means, son?

HARVEY
Yeah. It's from an Elinor Hoyt Wylie
poem. It means stay away from the
crowds of common ordinary people an'
do yer own thing.

Mr. Boats laughs.

BOATS
Nope, it means don't compromise
yourself for women. Ain't gonna do
you no good! Get away from 'em as
soon as you can!

HARVEY
Well I ain't got no woman now. So
I'm living like the stoic bird, man.

MR. BOATS
The only way to live, son.

Somehow this doesn't make Harvey feel any better about his
life.

INT. HOSPITAL HALLWAY -- DAY

Harvey carries an armful of files. Mr. Boats still trails
him, lugging his tool box.

Suddenly, Mr. Boats points out a young African-American FILE
CLERK wearing a pair of big headphones on his afro. He moves
as if he's listening to music.

MR. BOATS
Look at that fool over there. What's
he wearing?

HARVEY
Huh? That's an A.M.-F.M. radio he's
listening to... They got 'em fixed
up now like a pair of earmuffs.

MR. BOATS
(inappropriately
angered)
MMPH! Isn't that somethin! People
have gone crazy. They'll buy any
kinda junk! Probably listening to
that loud rock stuff. Junk, junk,
it's all junk!

HARVEY
Well, I don't know. Rock music's got
some good qualities. I mean it ain't
jazz or nothin'.

Mr. Boats looks at him like he's crazy.

MR. BOATS
Say, when you gonna bring me in some
good records? Some Nat "King" Cole
with Strings...

HARVEY
I don't got any of that, Mr. Boats...

Mr. Boats stops and yells down the hall at Harvey.

MR. BOATS
Yeah, you got it... You're keepin'
it at home, though! You won't turn
loose the good stuff... You just
sell the junk!

Harvey shakes his head as Mr. Boats finishes his diatribe.

Mr. Boats turns into a room.

MR. BOATS
(singing)
Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa. Men have named
you.

CUT TO:

INT. SOUND STAGE - PRESENT - DAY

HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE

Harvey sits on outdoor furniture. A few props are featured
in the frame indicating a garage-sale-like setting (including
a record player). Directly in front of Harvey are boxes of
used records.

HARVEY shows us his prodigious record collection. Thousands
of LP's -- rare jazz, blues, fusion, klezmer, etc. -- are
piled in floor-to-ceiling bookcases.

He tells us about his love of jazz and how he started writing
jazz reviews and music articles. He finds the first record
that he reviewed and puts it on his turntable. As the music
plays...

Harvey talks about how he started buying and selling records.
This leads into how he first met ROBERT CRUMB.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. CLEVELAND GARAGE SALE - FALL - 1962 - DAY

INTERTITLE: 1962

HARVEY (a little more hair but the exact same style) and a
bunch of his BUDDIES sift through old records at a junk sale.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
In the early sixties I was with some
buddies at a junk sale looking for
some choice sides when I met this
shy, retiring cat from Philadelphia
named Bob Crumb. You know the guy;
Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural an' all --
they made a movie about him, too.

One of Harvey's pals -- MARTY -- pulls a record out of a
box.

MARTY
C'mon, Harv. You dig Jay McShann.
You gonna buy that or what?

Harvey jumps up from his search to check out the LP.

HARVEY
I don't know, Marty. It's got a
lamination crack in it...
(checking out the
price)
A quarter. Maybe I can get him down.

MARTY
You are one cheap bastard Harvey.

HARVEY
Yeah, I know I'm tight, man, but I
live on a government wage.

A skinny guy with a big nose, glasses and a ratty trench
coat taps Harvey on the shoulder. He is soft-spoken, a bit
shy and very odd -- a young ROBERT CRUMB.

CRUMB
You collect Jay McShann, man?

HARVEY
Yeah, man. How 'bout you?

CRUMB
Yeah but most of my records are back
in Philly.

A greaser-type guy in a leather jacket, PAHLS, joins them.

PAHLS
Harv, meet my buddy Bob Crumb. He
just moved to town. He's an artist
at American Greeting Card Company.

HARVEY
That's cool.

PAHLS
You should see his comics, Harv.
They are outta sight.

HARVEY
(interested)
Yeah? I'm into comics myself.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. HARVEY'S LIVING ROOM - FALL - 1962 - DAY

A disheveled mess that gives new meaning to the term bachelor
pad. Records and books are strewn everywhere.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
So Crumb showed me this comic book
novel he was working on -- THE BIG
YUM YUM BOOK. I'd never seen anything
like it.

HARVEY marches back and forth holding Crumb's illustrated
comic novel. CRUMB sits on the floor nursing a beer and
sorting through vintage comic books. Harvey's bursting with
so much enthusiasm, it's almost aggressive.

HARVEY
It's terrific, man! I really dig
your work.

Crumb ignores Harvey's praise.

CRUMB
(holding up a vintage
comic)
This PETER WHEAT book is by Walt
Kelly... It's pretty rare.

HARVEY
Yeah? Can I get good bread for it?

CRUMB
Nah! Not yet.

Harvey flops down in an overstuffed chair. Stuffing flies
out. He sips his beer.

HARVEY
Listen man, let's get back to your
book. What are you gonna do with it?

CRUMB
(looking up)
I hadn't thought about it. It's just
an exercise.

Harvey flips through the book.

HARVEY
It's more than an exercise. It's
breaking ground, man. There's some
wild shit in here.

Crumb is immune to Harvey's enthusiasm.

CRUMB
You're spitting on me, Harvey.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S LIVING ROOM - FALL - 1962 - LATER

CRUMB lies on the couch sketching while HARVEY reads more of
THE YUM YUM BOOK. A scratchy jazz record plays.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Crumb and I hung out a lot back then.
We had records and comics in common.

ANGLE ON CRUMB'S DRAWING

We see Crumb is actually sketching Harvey, slumped in a chair
reading a book. Crumb makes Harvey look like a smelly, sweaty
madman with ratty clothing.

Crumb holds the sketch of Harvey up to show him.

CRUMB
(laughing)
Check it out, man. Pretty scary.

Harvey glances up at his portrait, completely unselfconscious.

HARVEY
Yeah, ya don't know the half of it.

Harvey goes back to reading. Crumb back to sketching.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Eventually people got hip to Crumb's
art work and he started hangin' out
with a Bohemian crowd. After a while,
he got sick of greeting cards and
moved away to San Francisco where he
got the whole underground comic scene
off the ground.

Crumb slowly evaporates from the room, leaving Harvey totally
alone.

ANGLE ON 45 RECORD SPINNING AND SPINNING

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
He'd come back ta Cleveland every
few years, an' people'd treat him
like a celebrity.

The record spins and spins...

END FLASHBACK

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. BUS STOP - 1975 - DAY

ANOTHER R. CRUMB DRAWING OF HARVEY (Now circa 1975)

On a sketch pad we see a deranged, tormented Harvey sitting
alone on a park bench. He pulls at his hair, and looks as
though he may murder the next person who walks by.

INTERTITLE: BACK TO 1975

As the pencil adds shading to Harvey's face, WE HEAR:

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Once he came to visit when I was
really feelin' bad. It was right
around the time of my throat
operation, an' right after my second
wife left me. At first it was pretty
weird. I mean, here my life was
falling apart an' everything was
going great for him. I was on my
second divorce an' he was a big hit
with the chicks. I was a nothin'
file clerk and he was this famous
cartoonist.

HARVEY and R. CRUMB sit on a park bench together by a bus
stop. A distraught Harvey whines while Crumb just sketches.

Harvey's voice is still raspy.

HARVEY
I dunno, man. On the one hand most
women gettin' graduate degrees
wouldn't give a guy like me the time
a' day. An' she married me an'
everything, so I gotta give her some
kinda credit. But then she got so
mean to me in the end. An' it ain't
like I tried t'keep her captive or
anything like that, y'know?

Crumb may or may not be listening to Harvey. It's hard to
tell.

HARVEY
An' then on top of it I lost my voice
for three months. I still sound like
shit, but before I had nothin'. Man,
talk about hell. I started forgettin'
what I sound like, y'know? So I
started writin' stuff down -- stories
an' things, my points a' view, ideas.
I even published a couple jazz record
reviews. I guess that ended up bein'
a good thing.

CRUMB
Uh-huh.

HARVEY
But don't think I buy into this
"growth" crap. Everybody talks about
how bad experiences can cause ya
t'grow, an' all that clichéd stuff.
I've had enough bad experiences and
growth to last me plenty.
(a beat)
Right now, I'd be glad to trade some
growth for happiness.

For a moment, they both just sit there saying nothing to
each other, each man in his own private universe.

Finally Harvey looks over to Crumb.

HARVEY
So how long are ya stayin' in
Cleveland?

Crumb never looks up from his picture.

CRUMB
I dunno, man. I gotta go visit this
chick in New York. And I'm really
busy with the comic book stuff. It's
good bread and all man but I'm getting
fed up with the whole scene.

HARVEY
What are ya talkin' about? Yer makin'
a good living doin' yer art? Sheesh.
How many guys get that lucky in their
life, huh?

CRUMB
Yeah, I dunno.

HARVEY
Ya know man, people are startin' to
know the name "Crumb." When you croak
you're gonna leave something behind.

CRUMB
Yeah, my ashes and some crappy
doodles. It's not like I'm Blind
Lemon Jefferson or Big Mama Thornton.

HARVEY
C'mon, man. It sure beats workin' a
gig like mine -- being a nobody flunky
and sellin' records on the side for
a buck.

CRUMB
Yeah, well that's true...

Harvey nods in agreement, mulling this over. He's not at all
offended.

CUT TO:

INT. V.A. HOSPITAL - 1975 - DAY

CLOSE ON A FILE DRAWER MARKED: "RECENTLY DECEASED."

A hand reaches into the frame and opens the drawer.

By rote, HARVEY fumbles with a large stack of "expired
patient" files. He places each into the appropriate
alphabetical "deceased" drawer.

Attempting to grab another batch, Harvey accidentally knocks
the entire pile onto the floor.

HARVEY
Damn it!

He crouches down to survey the mess -- a collage of "expired
lives" laid out before his eyes.

We move past dozens of anonymous names -- William Anderson,
Louis Collins, Mark D'Amico, Tyrone Moore, Franklin Ray,
etc... Each file has a red "Deceased" stamp.

Depressed, HARVEY is transfixed by the files surrounding him
on the floor. Suddenly he stops and picks one up.

ANGLE ON FOLDER: It is marked, "CHARLIE MARSHALL."

He opens the folder and reads the stats...

Born: 1920 in Cleveland Died: 1920 in Cleveland Occupation:
Clerk

ANGLE ON HARVEY: He swallows hard as he reads about Charlie's
small, invisible and now vanished life... He tosses the folder
back onto the pile.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - 1975 - MORNING

CLOSE ON: TWO STICK FIGURES IN AN EMPTY FRAME

HARVEY sits at a table with a pen in hand and a blank sheet
of paper in front of him. Nothing seems to come to him.

He flips through a pile of comic books -- everything from
D.C. Comic Super Heroes to underground works such as Crumb's
Mr. Natural and Zap Comix. No inspiration. Harvey throws
them down in frustration.

HARVEY
I'm starvin'.

CUT TO:

INT. SUPERMARKET - 1975 - DAY

HARVEY pushes a cart through the cramped aisles of a crowded
supermarket. He pulls a few cans of Beef-A-Roni off the shelf
and heads off to pay. Reaching the check-out area, he
evaluates the situation.

ANGLE ON CHECK-OUT COUNTERS:

There are three lines to choose from. Two of the counters
have long waits. The third is much shorter but there is an
OLD JEWISH LADY next in line.

SUDDENLY, THE SCREEN SPLITS IN TWO:

The LEFT SIDE OF THE FRAME remains Harvey at the supermarket
deliberating over the check-out lines.

However, the RIGHT SIDE OF THE FRAME now contains a CRUMB
STYLE COMIC PANEL DEPICTING THE EXACT SAME SCENARIO. A BUBBLE
appears over CARTOON HARVEY'S head revealing his thoughts.
It reads: "Pickin' the right check-out line is an art...
There's a lot of things you gotta consider."

ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE FRAME... Harvey decides to get behind
the Old Lady.

MEANWHILE ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE FRAME... Cartoon
Harvey stands behind the Old Lady.

A new BUBBLE reads: "It may be the shortest line but I am
takin' a chance 'cause she's an Old Jewish Lady."

BACK TO THE LEFT SIDE OF THE FRAME... The CASHIER rings up
the Old Lady's purchases -- a few kitchen glasses.

OLD JEWISH LADY
(Yiddish Accent)
Listen, goily, dese glasses are six
for $2.00 because I couldn't carry
twelf... But I vanted twelf so today
I'm buying six more... But you should
only charge me $1.50 for dem... It's
ok, you can esk de meneger.

Harvey rolls his eyes and stamps his foot impatiently. He
knows he's in trouble now.

CASHIER
(yelling)
Frank! I need a price check.

SUDDENLY, THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE SCREEN BECOMES FULLY
ANIMATED... Instead of still comic panels with balloons, the
Cartoon Harvey now rants directly into the camera.

CARTOON HARVEY
Man, Old Jewish Ladies will argue
forever with a cashier about anything.
Get behind them in a line an' yer
gonna wait forever!

The Human Harvey seems oblivious to his cartoon replica. He
impatiently leans on his cart, waiting and seething.

CARTOON HARVEY
I mean, I'm a yid myself, an' the
women in my family are like that...
But I never got used to it... I may
be cheap, but I got limits!

ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE OF THE SCREEN... The MANAGER finally
arrives. The Old Lady haggles with him, too.

OLD JEWISH LADY
Please. Let me 'splain von more time.

MEANWHILE ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE... The Cartoon Harvey turns
to address the Human Harvey, who actually looks him in the
eyes. It now seems Human Harvey can actually hear his cartoon
alter ego.

CARTOON HARVEY
Wake up! You're whole life's gettin'
eaten away by this kinda crap! What
kind of existence is this? Is this
all a workin' stiff like you can
expect? Ya gonna suffer in silence
fer the rest a' yer life?! Or ya
gonna make a mark. Huh? Huh?

IN AN INSTANT, THE CARTOON HARVEY DISAPPEARS AND THE LIVE
ACTION SCENE TAKES OVER THE WHOLE FRAME.

Suddenly motivated by an odd notion, Harvey abandons his
grocery cart and runs out of the supermarket.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S KITCHEN -- NIGHT

Bursting with ideas, Harvey (wearing his undershirt and
boxers) starts story-boarding his first comic with stick
figures.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. HARVEY'S KITCHEN - 1975 - MORNING

A bleary-eyed HARVEY, still clad in an undershirt and boxers,
dozes off over a bowl of Corn Flakes. On the table next to
some spilled milk are a stack of papers covered with
scribbling. He clearly has been slaving over this work all
night.

ANGLE ON PAPERS:

At the top is a quickly scribbled title, "Standing Behind
Old Jewish Ladies In Supermarket Lines." These are ad hoc
versions of a comic book. The pages are divided like a tick-
tack-toe board. Each square is filled with crude stick figure
drawings and lots of writing.

An alarm clock goes off. Harvey's eyes fly open.

HARVEY
Shit. Work.

Harvey yawns, then notices the pile of papers. He peruses
them, proud of his work. He gets up and looks out the window.

I/E. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - HARVEY'S POV - 1975 - MORNING

It is yet another grey day in Cleveland. The neighborhood is
run-down. Garbage is strewn everywhere.

The following scene unfolds through the window:

Two UNSIGHTLY WORKERS lug an old, smelly mattress from a
garage towards the garbage cans on the curb. Their
conversation is distant, but entirely audible.

MATTRESS GUY #1
So how smart is she?

MATTRESS GUY #2
I dunno. I guess she's about average.

MATTRESS GUY #1
Average? Hey, man. Average is dumb!

They drop the mattress in place. With the window framing
these guys, the scene FREEZES, looking just like a comic
book panel.

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - DAY

Harvey turns around from the scene and ponders it. He moves
back towards his pile of stick-figure drawings.

CLOSE ON PAPER

Harvey scribbles the words "AMERICAN SPLENDOR" at the top of
the page.

CUT TO:

INT. CLEVELAND DINER - 1975 - DAY

The following scene is shot through the restaurant window.
We see reflections of people walking by.

A tense HARVEY starts at CRUMB as he eats a burger and reads
Harvey's mock-ups. Harvey doesn't touch his burger deluxe
and nervously talks in his laryngitis-afflicted voice.

HARVEY
See, ever since I read your stuff,
man I've been thinking I could write
comic book stories that were different
from anything being done.

CRUMB
(munching on a fry)
Uh-huh.

HARVEY
I'm thinkin', the guys who do animal
comics and super-hero stuff are really
limited 'cause they gotta try to
appeal to kids. And underground comics
like yours have been really subversive
or opened things up politically. But
there is still plenty more ta be
done with 'em, too, y'know?

CRUMB
Pass me the ketchup?

HARVEY
I mean with pictures and words, it
could be more of an art form. Like
those French movies are. Or De Sica
over in Italy, y'know?... So I tried
writin' some things about real life.
Stuff the everyman's gotta deal with.

Crumb finally looks up from Harvey's work.

CRUMB
These are about you.

HARVEY
Er, yeah...

CRUMB
You turned yourself into a comic
hero?

HARVEY
Sorta, yeah. But no idealized shit.
No phony bullshit. The real thing,
y'know? Ordinary life is pretty
complex stuff.

Crumb reads more. Harvey waits anxiously. Finally Crumb starts
to chuckle.

CRUMB
These are really good, Harv.

HARVEY
(insecure)
Really? Ya think so?

Crumb shuffles through more.

CRUMB
Yeah. This is great stuff, man. I
dig it. Can I take them home and
illustrate them?

Harvey is practically bursting.

HARVEY
Wow!!

Harvey's voice breaks like a kid in puberty. He clears his
throat. And something miraculous happens...

When Harvey opens his mouth to speak his LARYNGITIS IS GONE!

HARVEY
You'd do that for me, man? That'd be
great! I can't draw a straight line!

CRUMB
Hey, what's up with your voice, Harv?
All of a sudden it sounds fine.

HARVEY
(thrilled)
I don't know, man! I guess you cured
me!

INT. V.A. HOSPITAL - SNACK ROOM HALLWAY - DAY

HARVEY bounds towards the snack room where a group of hospital
workers and patients hang out. He bangs on the window to get
their attention. When they look up, Harvey waves a comic
book in the air.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. V.A. HOSPITAL - SNACK ROOM - DAY

A GLOSSY, FULL-COLOR COMIC BOOK FEATURING THE TWO MATTRESS
GUYS: Scrawled across the top in big red letters reads,
"AMERICAN SPLENDOR. Vol. #1" A man's finger points to the
words, "All Stories by Harvey Pekar. Art by R. Crumb." The
comic book sits atop a table in the dreary snack room.

A crowd of HOSPITAL WORKERS, PATIENTS, DOCTORS, MAINTENANCE
WORKERS, etc. (under ten total) gather around a proud HARVEY
who shows off his work. For the first time, he seems almost
happy.

HARVEY
(beaming)
See that? All stories by yours truly.

A WWII VET PATIENT with a portable IV cranes to get a glimpse.

WW II VET PATIENT
Hot off the presses, huh? We got a
regular Hemingway here.

HARVEY
No way, Jack, I don't go in for that
macho crap.

DOCTOR #3 chimes in.

DOCTOR #3
I didn't know you could draw, Pekar.

HARVEY
Nah! I don't draw. I just write the
stories. A buddy of mine and some of
his friends do the art work.

TOBY, the supernerd from the bus stop, grabs the comic book
off the table and peruses it.

TOBY
Harvey, am I in here? You promised I
would be in here.

HARVEY
Yeah! Yeah! You're in there, alright?
Jeez, Toby.

SUDDENLY, MR. BOATS -- Harvey's philosophical co-worker --
pushes his way thorough the crowd. He snatches the comic out
of Toby's hand.

MR. BOATS
Let me see this.

TOBY
Mr. Boats, it's not polite to grab
things. Next time --

MR. BOATS
Son, you done good. Ya know, I was
up in Toronto a few weeks back an' I
saw the Red Chinese Ballet...

As Mr. Boats talks, the crowd starts to disperse.

MR. BOATS
Now that was beautiful. The way those
people were dancing together. Those
Chinese work hard. I tell ya, they
work hard -- Where is everybody goin'?

Mr. Boats hands the comic book back to Harvey and turns on
his heels. Through the window he notices TWO VETS IN
WHEELCHAIRS moving down the hall.

MR. BOATS
Where these sickly men rushin' off
to? They ain't goin' nowhere for
now. Maybe not for a long time. But
damn if they ain't in a rush to get
there.

Harvey stands there, his moment of glory passed. But it's
okay. He flips through his comic and smiles.

CUT TO:

EXT. STREET CORNER - ASSOC. OF POLISH WOMEN - 1975 - DAY

A motley group of GUYS hang out on a street corner in front
of the Association of Polish Women. HARVEY heads towards
them.

MARTY
Hey look guys, here comes Captain
America.

Harvey rolls his eyes.

PAHLS
(yelling out)
You gonna hang with the boys now
that yer a comic book star?

Harvey turns red. He's embarrassed but part of him loves the
attention.

HARVEY
Cut it out. Man, I ain't nothin' yet
compared to Bob Crumb.

GUY #3
Ah, listen to him. One lousy comic
book and he wants to be Crumb.

The GUYS laugh.

ANGLE ON SILENT GUY

A SILENT GUY crouches by the wall, reading his CLEVELAND
BROWNS trading cards.

PAHLS
Hey Harvey, if ya wanna make comics
for adults, ya oughtta put some dirty
stuff in it.

GUY #3
Yeah, you can write about Marty's
sex life.

Harvey hangs with the guys but he doesn't engage. He seems
to be observing them more than interacting with them.

GUY #3
Right Marty? I heard ya went out
with Bonnie yesterday.

PAHLS
Yeah. Howdja do? Wudja git offa her?

MARTY
Ah, lousy. All's I got wuz armaround.

The guys all stare at him for a moment. Then they crack up.

CUT TO:

INT. SOUND STAGE - PRESENT - DAY

HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE

CLOSE UP:

A COPY OF AMERICAN SPLENDOR #2: A FULL-COLOR CARTOON VERSION
OF THE ABOVE SCENE GRACES THE COVER.

A MARTY LOOK-ALIKE is bombarded with questions about his
date with Bonnie. He complains that all he got was "arm-
around." The REAL HARVEY holds the above comic book in his
hand. The stage is set with a few items that indicate a comic
book store. HARVEY talks about a couple of "American Splendor"
issues and how they impacted his life -- recognition as a
writer, etc. He gives his philosophy about the comic book,
etc. A MONTAGE OF AMERICAN SPLENDOR COVERS (ISSUE #3, #4,
#5, #6, ETC.) THEY INDICATE A PASSAGE OF TIME...

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S CUBICLE - V.A. HOSPITAL - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY sits alone in his cubicle. He doodles stick figures
on a pad -- some ideas for a new comic. His posture's
miserable. He rubs his temples like he's in anguish.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Here's our man eight comics later, a
brand new decade, same old bullshit.
Yeah sure, he gets lots of recognition
for his writin' now. Sure his comics
are praised by all the important
media types tellin' people what to
think. But so what? It's not like
he makes a livin' at it like Bob
Crumb. He can't go an' quit his day
job or nothin'.

JUMP CUT SEQUENCE

Several shots of Harvey just thinking, scratching his face
with a pencil, tapping his foot nervously.

Each shot is separated by a second or two of black (an homage
to Harvey's wordless panels). Finally, he goes back to
writing.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Who am I kiddin'. Truth is I'd be
lost without my work routine.

FLASH CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S BEDROOM - 1980'S - NIGHT

Alone in bed, Harvey wakes up in a cold sweat from a
nightmare. He looks horrified, short of breath.

HARVEY
(calming himself down)
I got a job... I got a job...

BACK TO:

INT. HARVEY'S CUBICLE - V.A. HOSPITAL - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY scratches his head.

CLOSE UP ON HIS DOODLING

Harvey writes "I got a job" in a balloon over the stick
figure's head.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
So -- to stave off desperation and
feelings of uselessness -- I resigned
myself to a menial existence. But
hey, maybe the guy who's had a happy
life feels worse just before he dies
than th' guy who had a sad one. Or,
maybe not. I dunno. Maybe I just
needed a woman.

Toby comes in, decked out in plaid and stripes. He has an
empty messenger bag.

TOBY
Hi, Harvey. Do you want these gourmet
jelly beans? I gave up sweets for
lent.

Harvey turns around. He seems down, depressed.

HARVEY
Huh? Sure, I'll take 'em.

Toby watches Harvey eat a few.

HARVEY
Hey, watermelon. That's pretty good.

TOBY
I recommend the piña coladas. They
are excellent and very authentic
tasting.

Toby heads down a file row and proceeds to take a few off
the shelves, stuffing his bag. Harvey gets up and comes after
him.

HARVEY
Hey Toby, can you eat lentils during
lent?

TOBY
Sure. I don't see why not. You can't
eat meat on certain days, but lentils
should be acceptable anytime.

HARVEY
Ya think there's any connection
between lentils and lent?

TOBY
I don't think so but I'll ask Sister
Mary Fred at church on Sunday.

HARVEY
Sister Mary Fred, huh? Is she cute?
Sounds kinda mannish but who am I to
be picky.

TOBY
Harvey, you're funny. She's a nun.

HARVEY
So what? Maybe she became a nun
because she couldn't get a guy.

TOBY
Harvey, she became a nun because she
had a higher calling.

HARVEY
Higher calling. That is such a crock
of shit. I don't know why you waste
your time prayin' anyway.

TOBY
Well, Harvey, I like the ritual. And
I'm a very spiritual person. You
know, you should try believing in
something bigger than yourself. It
might cheer you up.

Toby turns on his heels and walks off.

HARVEY
(calling after him)
What? Do I seem depressed, Toby?

Toby doesn't respond.

Harvey shrugs and digs deep into the jelly bean bag. He pulls
out a fistful.

CLOSE ON HARVEY'S HAND

Jellybeans in every imaginable color. Harvey fingers a few
and then picks a blue one.

BOB THE DIRECTOR (V.O.)
Cut!

CUT TO:

INT. V.A. HOSPITAL "SET" - PRESENT - DAY

HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE

A few items from the previous scene are present on the sound
stage indicating that it's a set of AMERICAN SPLENDOR -- The
Movie.

THE ACTOR HARVEY stands alone, his hand filled with Jelly
beans.

BOB THE DIRECTOR
Okay, that was great. The bakery
scene is next...

ACTOR HARVEY steps out of the frame, revealing a craft service
table behind him. At the table, the REAL HARVEY and the REAL
TOBY load up on donuts. The two discuss the food on the set.

Ironically, the Real Toby is actually more extreme than the
Actor who plays him -- even more robotic, and completely
incapable of eye-contact.

The REAL TOBY discusses the finer points of nerdom and
evaluates the Actor's nerd quotient. The Real Harvey explains
to Actor Toby that nothing -- not even gourmet jelly beans --
would have cheered him up at that point in his life.

He was too lonely and depressed.

END HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S BEDROOM - 1980'S - MORNING

Light pours through the curtained window.

Naked and disheveled, HARVEY tosses and turns in bed.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
My loneliness was unbearable, man.
Weekends were the worst. Sometimes
in my sleep, I'd feel a body next to
me like an amputee feels a phantom
limb.

EXT. PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE -- DAY

Extreme wide shot: a city-street overpass spans across the
entire frame. The lone figure of Harvey sulks there in the
middle, watching traffic pass below.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Sure my comics were bringin' me
notoriety, but my personal life was
in shambles. I thought a little
attention would make me feel better.
It only made me feel worse.

CUT TO:

EXT. BAKERY SIDE STREET - SPRING - 1980'S - MORNING

It is a beautiful, sunny day. The trees are in bloom.

There's the first scent of spring in the air. Kids play in
the street. Music pours out of passing cars. Everyone seems
to have a smile on his or her face except HARVEY. He walks
on the shadowy side of the street.

EXT. BAKERY STREET - SPRING

Establishing shot of HARVEY trudging into the bakery.

INT. BAKERY - SPRING - 1980'S - MORNING

A couple of WOMEN order bread and cookies from TWO COUNTER
GIRLS.

HARVEY surveys the donuts.

COUNTER GIRL #1
(yelling to Harvey)
Next!

HARVEY
(to the Counter Girl)
Yeah! I'll have two crullers, a jelly
donut with powdered sugar... And you
got any "day old bread"?

A woman with attractive Irish looks brushes past Harvey on
her way to the door. This is ALICE QUINN, roughly Harvey's
age but there is a tired, weary look in her eyes.

ALICE
Hey, you're Harvey Pekar.

Half in a daze, Harvey stares at the chick.

HARVEY
Yeah...

ALICE
Alice Quinn. From school.

Harvey studies her face. Suddenly, it clicks.

HARVEY
Oh yeah. College. We had a couple
lit classes together.

Harvey pays and receives his items. They step back towards
the door.

ALICE
What happened to you? You just
disappeared after one semester.

Harvey scratches his armpit.

HARVEY
I know, man. I got good grades and
all but there was this required math
class. I can't do math, an' that
required class hangin' over my head
made me crazy. Eventually the pressure
got to be too much.

ALICE
Well, you're doing okay anyway. I
heard all about your jazz reviews
and your comics.

This perks Harvey up.

HARVEY
Ya did?

ALICE
Sure, you're famous. Meanwhile I got
my degree but I'm just a plain old
wife and mother.

Harvey stares at her wedding ring. His face drops.

HARVEY
Yeah. I'm not doing as great as ya
think. My second wife divorced me
and I work at a dead end job as a
file clerk. Sometimes I hang out
with the guys on the corner but most
of the time I just stay home by myself
and read.

Alice laughs.

ALICE
You're luckier than you think. My
husband and kids make it impossible
for me to cuddle up with a good book.

CUT TO:

EXT. BAKERY - SPRING - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY and ALICE continue their conversation as they stroll
towards her car.

HARVEY
I'm reading this book by Dreiser now --
JENNIE GERHARDT.

ALICE
That's one of my favorites.

HARVEY
I hope it don't end like so many a'
those naturalist novels... With
someone getting crushed ta earth by
forces he can't control.

Alice smiles.

ALICE
I think you'll be pleasantly
surprised. It's certainly not a
Hollywood happy ending, but it's
pretty truthful. Which is rare these
days...

This hits home with Harvey. He can't believe he's made such
a connection with this woman.

Alice stops in front of a beat-up station wagon.

ALICE
This is me.

HARVEY
Nice car. I don't have one yet.

ALICE
Can I give ya a lift somewhere?

HARVEY
Nah. It's a nice day. I'll just walk.

Harvey looks down, a little sad.

ALICE
Well, we should have you over sometime
for dinner.

HARVEY
Sure, I'd be glad t'come. But if you
really wanna do me a favor, introduce
me to some a' your single girlfriends.
I bet they're all smart like you.
I'm no catch, though, so I'll take
anything you can get me.

Alice pecks Harvey on the cheek.

ALICE
I'll work on it.

She gets into the car.

ALICE
Nice seeing ya Harvey.

Harvey watches as she drives off.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
When I got home, I finished reading
JENNIE GERHARDT. It was real good,
way better than I expected. That
Alice wuz right.

INT. HARVEY'S LIVING ROOM - SPRING - 1980'S - NIGHT

The room is moody, dark and lonely. The shadowy figure of
Harvey sits on the floor devouring JENNIE GERHARDT.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Sure Lester -- the main character --
croaks in the end, but at least he's
old and dies a natural dignified
death.

THE CAMERA TRAVELS AROUND THE ROOM TO FIND: Harvey again,
now silhouetted in the door frame, still clutching the book
and obsessed by his thoughts.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
I was more alone that weekend than
any. All I did was think about JENNIE
GERHARDT an' Alice Quinn an' all the
decades of people I have known.

THE CAMERA TRAVELS AGAIN TO FIND Harvey sitting on a chair
in the corner of his room. His head is bowed. His shoulders
slump over, as if he's struggling with something weighty.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
The more I thought, the more I felt
like cryin'; Life seemed so sweet
an' so sad an' so hard t'let go of
in the end.

THE CAMERA TRAVELS A FINAL TIME TO FIND: Harvey sprawled
across his couch. But he's not asleep; he's still obsessing.
The book lies on his chest like a lover.

CLOSE UP of Harvey's troubled face. Beneath the pain, we see
hope and determination.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
But hey, man. Every day's a brand
new deal, right? Just keep on workin'
and sump'n's bound ta turn up.

CUT TO:

EXT. COSMIC COMICS STORE - DELAWARE - 1980'S - DAY

An urban comic book shop on a dicey but bohemian street. A
title over picture reads, "MEANWHILE, IN DELAWARE."

INT. COSMIC COMICS STORE - 1980'S - DAY

JOYCE BRABNER, a depressive nudge with a perpetually peptic
expression frantically searches the store for something. Her
partner, a granola type named RAND, finishes unloading a
stack on the shelf.

JOYCE
What happened to the new American
Splendor?

RAND
We sold 'em, babe.

JOYCE
All of them?

RAND
Yep.

JOYCE
(accusatory)
Damn it! I put one aside for myself,
next to the register. I didn't even
get a chance to read it.

RAND
Whoa, sorry, Joyce. I didn't know
you were such a Splendor fan. Next
time take it home.

Joyce leans against the counter. She pushes up her glasses
and looks really upset.

JOYCE
Maybe I'll call the publisher. But
they take so damn long. Shit! Why
does everything in my life have to
be such a complicated disaster...

Joyce starts slamming things around the store. Finally Rand
grabs his stuff.

RAND
Okay, I'm gonna hustle before the
vibe in here gets any worse.

Rand leaves. Joyce barely notices, still brewing.

CUT TO:

INT. JOYCE'S BEDROOM - 1980'S - NIGHT

The mess in this room rivals Harvey's. A few cats add to the
clutter. Joyce lies on her disheveled bed and writes a letter.

JOYCE (V.O.)
Greetings from the second smallest
state in the union, an endless
plastics and nylon plantation
controlled by giant chemical
corporations.

CUT TO:

EXT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - VESTIBULE - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY takes his mail out of the box. He finds an oddly
decorated envelope.

JOYCE (V.O.)
To make matters more dismal, there
are no decent comic book stores in
my town, which is why my partner and
I opened one ourselves.

INT. HARVEY'S BATHROOM - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY finishes reading the letter sitting on the toilet. A
cat runs around him.

JOYCE (V.O.)
Despite our steadily faltering
business, my partner managed to sell
the last copy of American Splendor
#8 out from under me. I'm a big fan
and I hate to wait for a new order.
Is there any way I can get it from
you direct? Sincerely, Joyce Brabner.

Harvey scratches his head. He mutters to himself.

HARVEY
...man, she's got good lookin'
handwritin'...

INT. HARVEY'S BEDROOM - 1980'S - NIGHT

BEGIN MONTAGE -- HARVEY AND JOYCE COMMUNICATING

We see Harvey in his bed writing.

HARVEY
Dear Joyce, Thanks for the letter.
Whattya do besides sellin' comics?

THE SCREEN SPLITS TO ACCOMMODATE:

INT. DELAWARE PRISON CLASSROOM - 1980'S - DAY

We see Joyce standing in front of a GROUP OF PRISONERS.

JOYCE (V.O.)
I'm a sometime activist and I teach
writing to prisoners. I try to help
them build an interior life and make
art out of their monotonous,
suffocating routine.

THE SCREEN GIVES WAY TO ANOTHER FRAME

INT. BUS - 1980'S - DAY

Harvey scribbles a letter while riding on the bus.

HARVEY (V.O.)
Sounds familiar. So you married or
what?

INT. JOYCE'S APARTMENT - 1980'S - DAY

Joyce empties her can of cat food in a plate and slides it
towards her kitty.

JOYCE (V.O.)
I'm divorced, thank god.

INT. HARVEY'S BEDROOM - 1980'S - EVENING

Now we see Harvey (full screen) in bed in his underwear
talking on the PHONE. He's clipping his toe nails.

HARVEY
Look, I think you an' I got a lot in
common. How am I gonna get you to
come visit me in Cleveland?

JOYCE (V.O.)
Cleveland? You think that's a good
idea?

HARVEY
It's a great idea. You should meet
me, 'cause I'm a great guy. Despite
the way my comics read, I got a lot
of redeeming characteristics.

CLIP! He clips off a big one.

THE SCREEN SPLITS TO REVEAL

INT. JOYCE'S APARTMENT - 1980'S - NIGHT

Joyce sits on her equally disheveled bed dunking a tea bag.

Her hair is wet from a shower.

JOYCE
I don't know. Where would I stay?

HARVEY (V.O.)
With me. Don't worry, I'm not gonna
put no moves on you or anything.

JOYCE
I'm not worried about that...
(fumbling with a tea
cup)
Hold on, I just spilled chamomile
tea all over my bathrobe.

HARVEY (V.O.)
So what are ya worried about then?

Joyce sighs and lies down. A variety of AMERICAN SPLENDORS
are across her bed. Different interpretations of Harvey stare
up at her.

JOYCE
(sipping)
Well, the way all those different
artists draw you, I don't quite know
what to expect. I mean sometimes you
look like a younger Brando, but then
the way Crumb draws you -- like a
hairy ape with all those stinky,
wavy lines radiating off your body --
it's kind of scary.

HARVEY (V.O.)
Those are motion lines. I'm an active
guy. Anyway, just come out here an'
I'll try to be anyone you want me ta
be.

Joyce smiles for the first time.

JOYCE
That's a dangerous offer. I'm a
notorious reformer...

CUT TO:

INT. AIRPORT - ARRIVALS GATE - 1980'S - DAY

A nervous JOYCE walks off the plane into the arrivals area.

She scans the crowd of friends, family, lovers and limo
drivers waiting to meet the disembarking passengers. Where
is Harvey? What will he look like?

As Joyce surveys the unfamiliar faces, she imagines different
versions of an animated, illustrated Harvey among the people.

She double-takes as sees the R. CRUMB HARVEY -- hairy, scary,
smelly and picking his nose. Joyce rubs her eyes.

Next she sees the BRANDO HARVEY (Gary Dumm), but unfortunately
he disappears fast.

Disappointed, Joyce notices the realistic DREW FRIEDMAN HARVEY
walking towards her. She smiles as he dissolves into:

HARVEY (O.S.)
Hey. Are you Joyce?

Joyce turns around. The flesh and blood HARVEY PEKAR stands
before her -- not quite as bad as the Crumb version, not
quite as good as the Dumm version, but still acceptable. She
sighs with relief.

JOYCE
Hi, Harvey. We finally meet in person.

She politely offers her hand. Harvey shakes it, but he looks
overwhelmed, worried and pessimistic.

HARVEY
Hiya. Look, before we get started
with any of this, ya might as well
know right off the bat. I had a
vasectomy.

Joyce lets go of his hand. She stares at him in disbelief.

CUT TO:

INT. TGIF STYLE RESTAURANT - 1980'S - NIGHT

The most awkward date in history. Seated in an ultra-yuppie
restaurant filled with business lunchers, Harvey and Joyce
hide behind their menus. While everyone else looks slick and
successful, these two compete for the world's worst posture.

HARVEY
What's wrong?

JOYCE
Nothing.

HARVEY
Somethin's wrong. Yer lookin' around
everywhere.

JOYCE
I guess I never imagined you eating
in a place like this.

HARVEY
Me? I never been here. I thought
you'd like it. But obviously ya don't,
do ya?

JOYCE
It's fine. What difference does it
make?

Harvey shakes his head, feeling more pessimistic.

HARVEY
I dunno. None, I guess.
(beat)
They sure got a lot of meat on this
menu.

JOYCE
You're a vegetarian?

HARVEY
Kinda. I mean ever since I got a pet
cat, I couldn't eat animals anymore.

Joyce grabs a bread stick.

JOYCE
Hmm. I support and identify with
groups like PETA, but unfortunately
I'm a self-diagnosed anemic. Also, I
have all these food allergies to
vegetables that give me serious
intestinal distress. I guess I have
a lot of borderline health disorders
that limit me politically when it
comes to eating.

Harvey just stares at her.

HARVEY
Wow. Yer a sick woman, huh?

JOYCE
Not yet. But I expect to be. Everyone
in my family's got some kind of
degenerative illness.

A cheery waitress bounces over.

WAITRESS
(sing song)
Good afternoon! I'm your server Cindy!
What can I bring you two today?

They slowly look up at her.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - 1980'S - NIGHT

JOYCE and HARVEY enter the apartment. The place is a mess,
as usual.

HARVEY
Look, I was gonna clean up, but why
should I give you any false notions?
The truth is I got a serious problem
with cleanliness. I could wash a
dish ten times and it'd still dirty.
They even kicked me outta the Army
'cause I couldn't learn ta make a
bed.

Joyce puts down her bag.

JOYCE
I've seen worse.

She slumps down on the sofa as if she's been here a million
times. She rubs her head. Harvey sits next to her.

JOYCE
Harvey, go get me water and a few
aspirin.

Harvey just bounces back up and obeys.

HARVEY
What, ya got a headache?

JOYCE
No, but I want to avoid one.

Harvey empties the aspirin bottle in his palm. For some
reason, he's feeling more comfortable.

HARVEY
Well lemme tell ya Joyce, it sure is
nice ta have company. I mean, despite
all your problems, you seem like a
great person. An' hey, sorry if my
dating skills are kinda rusty, but
I've just been through hell and back
with women. I mean that last one
turned out to be a real nasty bitch.

Harvey arrives back with the aspirin. He hands it to Joyce.

JOYCE
I had a nice time with you, too.

Joyce swallows the pill. Harvey sits down next to her.

HARVEY
Yeah? You had a nice time?

JOYCE
Don't make people repeat themselves.
It's annoying.

HARVEY
Oh, sorry.

They're inches away from each other.

JOYCE
C'mere...

She pulls him close. Harvey plants a kiss on her.

They slowly separate. Joyce's eyes are closed. She likes
him. He kisses her again. They start making out, moaning a
bit.

But before it gets heavy --

JOYCE
Harvey?

HARVEY
Yeah?

Joyce opens her eyes. She looks uneasy.

JOYCE
Which door's the bathroom?

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - BATHROOM DOOR - 1980'S - DAY

Harvey stands by the bathroom door, despondent. From inside
we hear the sounds of moaning and flushing.

HARVEY
Hey, Joyce! What's wrong? What is
it?

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S BATHROOM - DAY

FLUSH! Joyce is doubled over on the toilet. She's looking
green.

JOYCE
Ugh! I don't know. I think that yuppie
food did me in.

BACK TO:

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - BATHROOM DOOR - DAY

OUTSIDE THE DOOR

HARVEY
I feel terrible. Lemme at least do
something for you.

BACK TO:

INT. HARVEY'S BATHROOM - DAY

Joyce gets to her feet and puts her glasses back on. She
picks up a can and sprays air freshener around the room.

Then she looks at the can and realizes it's WD-40.

HARVEY
Can I make ya something? How about
some chamomile tea?

Joyce puts the can down.

JOYCE
Chamomile tea? What the hell's a guy
like you doing with that? I thought
you drink soda pop for breakfast.

HARVEY (O.S.)
I dunno. I noticed you drank a lot
of it when we started talkin' on the
phone. So I stocked up on herbal
teas for your visit.

Joyce turns her head to the door. She's truly surprised by
what Harvey's just said. And very moved. She smiles to
herself.

BACK TO:

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - BATHROOM DOOR - DAY

Harvey stands there waiting.

HARVEY
The girl at the Food Co-op picked me
out all kinds of herbal stuff. One
of 'ems good for stomachaches. Grandma
Bear's Tummy Mint, I think. Are you
still there?

Joyce slowly opens the door. She leans against the door frame
like she's just been through a war.

She takes off her glasses and cleans them off with her shirt.

JOYCE
Harvey, we better skip this whole
courtship thing and just get married.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S BEDROOM - 1980'S - DAY

Harvey and Joyce are in bed, lying in each other's arms.

They look quite contented.

HARVEY
Man, am I glad I talked you into
comin' up here. Any more time alone
and I mighta lost it fer good.

JOYCE
Me too.

HARVEY
So you don't have any problems with
movin' to Cleveland?

JOYCE
Not really. I find most American
cities depressing in the same way.

HARVEY
An' yer okay with the vasectomy thing?

She shrugs.

EXT. PARKING LOT - V.A. HOSPITAL - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY approaches the building. Instead of dragging his feet
like usual, he seems to be floating on a cloud. We haven't
seen Harvey this happy since... well, since never.

He stops by a junker car and peeks in the window, finding
TOBY eating lunch alone. He has an entire White Castle
smorgasbord spread across the front seat.

Harvey knocks on the window. Toby rolls it down.

HARVEY
Ay Toby.

TOBY
(mouth full)
No you can't have any of my White
Castle hamburgers so please don't
even ask.

HARVEY
Can I have a fry?

Harvey reaches for a handful of Toby's fries.

TOBY
Okay, but just a couple, Harvey. I'm
not going to eat dinner until very
late and this has got to hold me
over.

Harvey leans in, always amused by Toby. He steals another
fry.

HARVEY
(munching)
Whattya got, a church function?

TOBY
No, I'm driving to Toledo to see a
movie. Would you like to come?

HARVEY
Nah. I gotta fly to Delaware tonight.
I'm gettin' married.

TOBY
Oh. Why Delaware?

HARVEY
The chick I'm marryin' is from
Wilmington. Plus, I gotta help her
move her stuff here.
(a beat)
Why you drivin' ta Toledo to see a
movie?

TOBY
It's not playing at the Mapletown.
(a beat)
I didn't know you had a girlfriend,
Harvey.

HARVEY
Yeah. We met last week.

Harvey opens the car door and slides in with Toby.

HARVEY
Toby, what movie could possibly be
worth drivin' 260 miles round trip
for?

TOBY
It's a new film called "Revenge of
the Nerds." It's about a group of
nerd college students who are being
picked on all the time by the jocks,
so they decide to take revenge. I
already saw it once.

HARVEY
Wow, ya really dig this movie.

TOBY
I like it a lot, Harvey.

HARVEY
What are these nerds like? How would
you describe them?

TOBY
Hmm... Nerds are smart but they look
and act differently than other people.
Like nerds might wear polyester button-
down shirts and flood pants where
their ankles and their socks are
showing.

Toby spills some catsup on his polyester button-down shirt.

He stands up to get a napkin, revealing his flood pants.

HARVEY
So what yer sayin' is you identify
with those nerds?

TOBY
(rubbing out the catsup)
Yes, I consider myself a nerd. And
this movie has uplifted me. There's
this one scene where a nerd grabs
the microphone during a pep rally
and announces that he is a nerd and
that he is proud of it and stands up
for the rights of other nerds. Then,
he asks the kids at the pep rally
who think they are nerds to come
forward... So nearly everyone in the
place does. That's the way the movie
ends.

HARVEY
So the nerds won, huh?

TOBY
(smiling)
Yes.

Harvey grabs the rest of Toby's fries and opens the door to
leave.

HARVEY
Wow. You got this movie an' I'm
gettin' hitched. We both had a good
month, huh?

TOBY
(finishing his last
burger)
Right. Harvey, how long are you going
to be in Delaware because I'd really
like to see this movie with you?

HARVEY
I'm only goin' for a week but then
I'll have a wife, so I'll have to
take her along. Is it a girl flick?

TOBY
Depends on the girl. What kind of
girl is your new bride? Is she a
nerd?

HARVEY
I don't know, man. Maybe. She's into
herbal teas.

Toby watches Harvey saunter off. He returns to his last
hamburger.

CUT TO:

EXT. MOVIE THEATER - 1980'S - NIGHT

A brightly lit marquee reads, "REVENGE OF THE NERDS." The
doors to the theater open and a crowd pours onto the street.

HARVEY, JOYCE and TOBY are among them. Toby proudly wears a
"Genuine Nerd" button on his striped shirt.

JOYCE
I agree with Toby. I think it's a
story of hope and tolerance.

TOBY
Yes. It's about time that the people
who get picked on get to be the
heroes.

Harvey scrunches his face in disbelief.

HARVEY
It's an entertaining flick an' I can
see why you like it Toby, but those
people on the screen ain't even
supposed to be you! They're college
students whose parents live in big
houses in the suburbs. They're gonna
get degrees, get good jobs and stop
being nerds.

Joyce hits Harvey.

JOYCE
Harvey, what did I say about loud
talking? Use your inside voice.

HARVEY
(whispering loudly)
Look Toby, the guys in that movie
are not 28-year-old file clerks who
live with their grandmothers in an
ethnic ghetto.

JOYCE
That's enough, Harvey.

HARVEY
They didn't get their computers like
you did -- by trading in a bunch of
box tops and $49.50 at the
supermarket.

Joyce folds her arms in disapproval. Toby starts to laugh.

TOBY
You're funny Harvey.

Harvey looks at him, disappointed. He shakes his head.

HARVEY
Sure, Toby. Go to the movies and
daydream, but "Revenge of the Nerds"
ain't reality. It's just Hollywood
bullshit.

CUT TO:

EXT. TOBY'S CAR -- A FEW MOMENTS LATER

ANGLE ON TOBY'S CAR (THROUGH WINDSHIELD)

Toby and Joyce continue to analyze the movie in the front
seat as Toby starts the ignition.

CUT TO:

INT. TOBY'S CAR

ANGLE ON HARVEY IN BACK SEAT

Slouched, grumpy and alone on the back seat, Harvey's still
annoyed by the movie.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Okay, maybe I was bein' so harsh on
Toby onna count a' my own problems.

REAL HARVEY
Y'see, I wasn't even married a month
and my old lady was already showin'
signs a' trouble. Granted, I tend ta
get married fast 'cause I'll take
any woman that'll have me, but this
time I really met my match...

CUT TO:

INT. REHEARSAL STUDIO - PRESENT - DAY

HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE

A few items indicating film production are in the frame.

At a table in the foreground, BOB THE DIRECTOR discusses the
character of Joyce with the ACTRESS playing her. The actress
just nods as the director goes on.

We can see THE REAL JOYCE sitting with THE REAL HARVEY in
the distance.

DIRECTOR
Okay, I think the thing with Joyce
is that as manic as Harvey can be,
she matches him with depression. In
that way they complete each other. I
mean, she's obviously a very smart
woman, but she has a lot of trouble
functioning in a world she can't
control. And she's totally obsessed
with all things negative; y'know,
diseases, dysfuctions, etc.

THE REAL JOYCE and REAL HARVEY listen curiously -- sometimes
pleased, sometimes displeased -- as their personalities are
dissected and boiled down to a few phrases.

CLOSER SHOT OF REAL JOYCE AND HARVEY

The REAL JOYCE puts in her two cents about the actress playing
her. She rants about what it's like to be portrayed in a
movie, and having a character arc imposed on her life.

She moves into talking about her relationship with Harvey,
and the first years of their marriage -- how impossible it
was to live with him.

The REAL HARVEY just rolls his eyes.

END HIGH DEFINITION VIDEO DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S LIVING ROOM - 1980'S - DAY

JOYCE is on a cleaning rampage. She rummages through piles
upon piles of records while HARVEY paces nervously.

JOYCE
What about these 78's, Harvey? Can't
you sell them to one of those
collectors?

HARVEY
Are ya kidding? No way, man. I ain't
getting rid of my 78's.

Joyce throws down the records in frustration. Harvey runs
over to check if they're scratched.

JOYCE
(angry)
Forget it then. I give up! How can I
make more storage space, if you won't
get rid of anything?

HARVEY
I'll get rid of stuff. Just not my
good stuff.

JOYCE
Everything's your good stuff. How am
I supposed to live here, if there's
no room for me?

HARVEY
Aw come on, baby. I'll make room for
ya. You just have to give me time.
I'm not so good at these kind of
things.

JOYCE
That's because you're obsessive
compulsive Harvey.

A DOOR BUZZER rings. Harvey slams it to unlock the front.

HARVEY
C'mon. I don't wanna hear that
psychobabble crap!

JOYCE
I don't care if you wanna hear it or
not. You're the poster child for the
DSM III. I'll have you know that I
come from a very dysfunctional family.
I can spot personality disorders a
mile away...

A KNOCK ON THE DOOR interrupts their argument. Joyce storms
away to answer it.

ANGLE ON THE DOOR:

Joyce opens it to face a smiling TOBY -- dressed as usual in
a loud polyester fashion don't. He talks in his strange
robotic voice and avoids all eye contact.

TOBY
Hello Joyce. Is Harvey home?

Joyce turns to Harvey and points to Toby.

JOYCE
Borderline autistic!

This scene shrinks into a square up in the corner. The next
few scenes (NEUROSIS MONTAGE) further divide up the full
screen like a comic book.

INT. CLEVELAND COMIC BOOK STORE - 1980'S - DAY

R. CRUMB leaps from behind an autograph table (where he's
signing comics) to hop on the back of ZAFTIG BABE, who offers
him a piggy-back ride.

Joyce turns to Harvey.

JOYCE
Polymorphously Perverse.

CUT TO:

EXT. PARKING LOT - V.A. HOSPITAL - 1980'S - DAY

JOYCE picks up Harvey from work. HARVEY enters the car, waving
goodbye to the ranting MR. BOATS.

She points to Mr. Boats.

JOYCE
Paranoid Personality Disorder.

INT. HARVEY'S LIVING ROOM - 1980'S - DAY

THE TELEPHONE RINGS. A disheveled, tired-looking JOYCE flips
through a novel and lets the machine pick up.

ANSWERING MACHINE
Please leave a message.
(Beep)


HARVEY
(into phone)
Hey Joyce, it's me. You're not gonna
believe this but some LA producer
called an' he wants to do a play
about my life. Call me!
(Click)

Joyce flips the page.

JOYCE
(to herself)
Delusions of grandeur.

END NEUROSIS MONTAGE (return to full screen)

CUT TO:

INT. THEATER - 1980'S - EVENING

HARVEY and JOYCE sit in a packed theater watching a play.

Joyce looks exhausted.

ANGLE ON STAGE

A STAGE ACTOR HARVEY and a STAGE ACTOR JOYCE share a couch
on the sparse stage.

STAGE ACTOR HARVEY
See, I think comics can be an art
form. With pictures an' words, a guy
can do pretty much anything!

STAGE ACTOR JOYCE
That's true, Harvey. But I didn't
come all the way from Delaware to
talk about comics ...

The "Stage Actor Joyce" lunges over and plants a kiss on
him.

ANGLE ON HARVEY AND JOYCE IN AUDIENCE

Harvey digs it but Joyce looks disgusted.

BACK TO STAGE

We now see STAGE ACTOR HARVEY clutching a tea cup, as STAGE
ACTOR JOYCE kneels before a toilet bowl. Off to the side of
the stage, A SPOT LIGHT illuminates a GUITAR PLAYER, who
adds music to the scene.

CUT TO:

INT. AIRPORT - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY and JOYCE walk through the terminal. Harvey brims
with energy but Joyce looks exhausted.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
If ya think readin' comics about yer
life seems strange, try watchin' a
play about it. God only knows how
I'll feel when I see this movie. But
truth be told, the play wasn't half
bad, and we got a free trip outta
it. Things were goin' pretty good
for a change. Variety called me "The
Blue Collar Mark Twain," and Doubleday
was interested in publishing an
anthology of "American Splendor."

CUT TO:

INT. AIRPORT - BAGGAGE CLAIM - 1980'S - DAY

Harvey nervously taps his foot as he waits for the bags.

Joyce leans against the carousel staring at a YOUNG MOTHER
with a BABY in a Bjorn.

HARVEY
I hate checkin' bags, man. It always
takes forever.

He checks his watch. Joyce remains quiet and distant.

HARVEY
Jesus, look at the time. The bus is
gonna leave soon and there won't be
another one for an hour. That means
I gotta shell out an extra thirty
bucks for a cab.

Harvey spots a bag that he thinks is his.

HARVEY
Hey wait, there's our --
(a well-dressed man
grabs it)
Figures. That lucky Yuppie's gonna
get on the bus in time.

Suddenly, Joyce mumbles something to Harvey.

JOYCE
Y'know Harvey, vasectomies are
reversible.

HARVEY
(ignoring her)
Damn Yuppies get everything.

JOYCE
(raising her voice)
Are you listening to me? I said
vasectomies are reversible.

Heads turn.

HARVEY
What? Whattya talkin' about? I don't
want kids. An' I came clean about my
vasectomy the first time I set eyes
on ya', right here in this airport.

More heads turn.

JOYCE
I know but things have changed. I
think we can be a family.

HARVEY
Family?! What kinda family could we
possibly be? I ain't no good with
kids. I can barely take care of
myself.

JOYCE
I'll take care of the kid and you.

HARVEY
(dead serious)
No way Joyce. Forget it. I can't do
it; I can't have no kids.

Joyce folds her arms... dejected, defeated. The audience of
eavesdroppers looks disappointed as well.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S LIVING ROOM - 1980'S - DAY

If the place was a disaster before, believe it or not, it's
gotten worse. JOYCE seems to have given up on her
organizing... and everything else for that matter.

HARVEY hysterically searches through the mess for a record
album. Joyce just lies listlessly on an open futon on the
middle of the room; it looks as if she hasn't been up in
days.

HARVEY
Where the hell is that Ornette Coleman
album, Joyce? I got a review due
tomorrow.

Joyce rolls over.

JOYCE
I didn't touch it, Harvey. Would you
let me sleep?

HARVEY
But it's one o'clock! How late can a
person sleep?

Joyce sits up. This time she means business.

JOYCE
It happens to be Saturday you selfish
sonofabitch! And don't you go telling
me what to do. I'm the one who moved
into your city, into your home, into
your vasectomy and into your screwed-
up life. The least you could do is
allow me to live here my way.

She rolls over and covers her head with the pillow. Harvey
just stands there staring at her.

CUT TO:

INT. SUPERMARKET - 1980'S - DAY

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
I tried everything but nothin' could
get this woman outta bed.

HARVEY peruses the aisles. He pulls box upon box of herbal
tea off the shelves.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
I mean she wouldn't get a job,
wouldn't go out, wouldn't make
friends, nothin'.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S LIVING ROOM - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY throws boxes of herbal teas at JOYCE as she sprawls
listlessly on the futon. She just yawns and turns over on
her side.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Joyce diagnosed herself as "clinically
depressed." I don't know what the
hell she was goin' through but it
was sure takin' it's toll on me.

A frustrated Harvey tries once more to cheer her up.

HARVEY
(upbeat)
We can go out for dinner tonight.
How 'bout catching a bite at Tommy's?

JOYCE
(mumbling)
I'm not hungry.

Harvey throws his hands in the air and walks off.

HARVEY
I give up.

As he passes the answering machine, he notices it's blinking.

HARVEY
Hey Joyce, we got a message here.
Why didn't you pick up.

Joyce doesn't respond.

HARVEY
Useless.

He presses the play button.

ANGLE ON ANSWERING MACHINE: A loud "beep," then ...

MALE VOICE
Hi, this is a message for Harvey
Pekar. My name is Jonathan Greene
and I'm a producer for LATE NIGHT
WITH DAVID LETTERMAN. We'd like to
talk to you about coming on the show
to plug your comics. Please give me
a call at 212-555-3333.

HARVEY (O.S.)
What the hell?

Joyce sits up. Harvey's finger hits the "Replay" button.

MALE VOICE
Hi, this is a message for Harvey --

CUT TO:

EXT. MANHATTAN SKYLINE - 1980'S - DAY

ESTABLISHING SHOT

The impressive skyline glistens in the spring sun.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Joyce finally got off the futon...

CUT TO:

EXT. WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK - NEW YORK - 1980'S - DAY

Armed with shopping bags from Bleecker Bob's Record Shop,
the Strand Book Store and Forbidden Planet Comic Book
Emporium, HARVEY and JOYCE eat lunch on a park bench. Harvey
chomps on a knish and watches oddball New Yorkers stroll by
as Joyce nibbles on her hot dog.

CUT TO:

INT. HOTEL HALLWAY -- DAY

CLOSE UP ON AN ICE BUCKET

Cut back to reveal Harvey, schlepping an ice bucket down a
hall in his underwear. A FEMALE BUSINESS TRAVELER passes and
stares at him. He enters a room with a "DO NOT DISTURB" sign.

INT. NEW YORK HOTEL ROOM - 1980'S - DAY

The PEKARS have already wreaked havoc on their luxury hotel
room. It looks like a tornado touched down on the New York
Hilton.

HARVEY tries on outfits for the big show. He pulls a wrinkled
T-shirt over his head and models it for JOYCE who is spread
out on the bed surrounded by piles of clothing, scissors and
sewing supplies. She glances up at Harvey's getup and shakes
her head no.

HARVEY
Aw, c'mon. Who the hell cares?

Harvey tosses his shirt over to Joyce, who snatches it and
starts cutting it with a scissor.

HARVEY
Hey, whattya doin?

JOYCE
Merchandising.

She resumes her mysterious sewing project; she seems to be
making some kind of doll.

CUT TO:

INT. GREEN ROOM - NBC STUDIOS - 1980'S - DAY

Backstage, JOYCE watches LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN on
a monitor as HARVEY awaits his turn to go on camera. He has
changed out of his wrinkled T-shirt into a slightly more
formal look -- a denim shirt and a ratty seersucker striped
jacket.

LETTERMAN SHOW - STOCK FOOTAGE

ANGLE ON MONITOR (NOTE: THIS IS ACTUAL STOCK FOOTAGE OF THE
SHOW)

A 1980's DAVID LETTERMAN wisecracks.

INT. GREEN ROOM - NBC STUDIOS - 1980'S - DAY

Neither Joyce nor Harvey look particularly impressed with
the whole deal.

JOYCE
People like this show?

Harvey paces.

HARVEY
I'm gettin' hungry back here. They
oughtta leave ya donuts or somethin'.

A nervous STAGE MANAGER wearing a headset peeks his head in.

STAGE MANAGER
Dave's ready for you now, Mr. Pekar.

HARVEY
Hey, you got anything ta eat? My
stomach's growling.

STAGE MANAGER
(checking his watch)
There's no time to eat now.

Harvey glances at the monitor just as Letterman announces
his next guest.

LETTERMAN SHOW - STOCK FOOTAGE

LETTERMAN
Okay. Our next guest works as a file
clerk in a Cleveland hospital.

INT. GREEN ROOM - NBC STUDIOS - 1980'S - DAY

The stage manager grabs Harvey by the arm. Joyce stops them.

JOYCE
Wait a minute. Where's the doll?

HARVEY
He's got it at the desk. Will you
relax about that already?

STAGE MANAGER
Guys, guys, we're in a hurry here.

The Stage Manager physically pushes Harvey out of the Green
Room. Joyce turns back to face the monitor.

LETTERMAN SHOW - STOCK FOOTAGE

ANGLE ON MONITOR

Letterman holds up a copy of a full-size glossy AMERICAN
SPLENDOR ANTHOLOGY.

LETTERMAN
...He also writes comic books which
detail his day-to-day pains and
pleasures, and this is an anthology
of nine of those comics. It's entitled
AMERICAN SPLENDOR... From off the
streets of Cleveland, please say
hello to Harvey Pekar.

THE HARVEY PEKAR WHO WALKS ONTO THE SET IS NOT THE ACTOR
PORTRAYING HIM BUT RATHER THE REAL HARVEY PEKAR (only about
15 years younger). THIS IS ACTUAL STOCK FOOTAGE FROM HARVEY'S
FIRST LETTERMAN APPEARANCE.

INT. GREEN ROOM - NBC STUDIOS - DAY

Joyce watches as Harvey shakes Letterman's hand and takes a
seat.

LETTERMAN SHOW - STOCK FOOTAGE

He smiles as the audience warmly greets him. It seems Harvey's
grooving on this attention. But as soon as the audience quiets
down, Harvey turns to his host and starts his offensive:

HARVEY
I'm ready for those Cleveland jokes.
Go ahead...

Taken off guard, Letterman laughs.

LETTERMAN
Alright settle down Harvey. Settle
down.
(the Audience laughs)
Now let's explain to folks who may
not be familiar with your work what
it is you do here, exactly. You have
comic books about you in your daily
life in Cleveland.

HARVEY
That's right.

LETTERMAN
And are they embellished at all or
is it pretty much factual?

HARVEY
(patronizing)
No. It's all true, David. All true.

LETTERMAN
And you also have a regular job in
Cleveland working at a hospital.

HARVEY
That's right. Aiding the sick, yes.

LETTERMAN
Aiding the sick. Well that's certainly
noble work.

HARVEY
Thank you. Thank you.

INT. GREEN ROOM - NBC STUDIOS - 1980'S - DAY

ANGLE ON JOYCE WATCHING

JOYCE
(unimpressed)
Such brilliant repartee...

BACK TO:

LETTERMAN SHOW - STOCK FOOTAGE

LETTERMAN
Now it seems to me Harvey that you
have a very successful career here.
This is being published by a major
publishing company, Doubleday. Why
do you maintain the day job?

HARVEY
(defensive)
To make a living!
(big laughs)
I don't make a living as a writer.
I've been writing for many years,
David. Maybe more years than you've
been alive.

Now, Letterman cracks up.

BACK TO:

INT. GREEN ROOM - NBC STUDIOS - 1980'S - DAY

A LETTERMAN REGULAR (Tony Randall?) comes in with some food.

He stops by the monitor to watch a moment with Joyce.

HARVEY
Yeah, I know that my youthful
appearance belies, you know, my actual
age. But, I've been around for a
long time --

LETTERMAN REGULAR
(to JOYCE)
You know this guy?

JOYCE
I'm beginning to wonder.

The Letterman Regular takes a seat as he watches the monitor.

He seems more intrigued than Joyce.

LETTERMAN SHOW - STOCK FOOTAGE

LETTERMAN
But I have a feeling though, if you
wanted to, you could probably get by
on what you make selling your work.
Because I know people are after you
to write other things. You're
publishing this anthology...

This hits a sore spot. Harvey goes from politely condescending
to cantankerous in one second flat!

HARVEY
Who? What people? What people? What
are you talking about? Where the
hell do you get that stuff?

Letterman cracks up. The Audience laughs even harder.

HARVEY
I'm no show biz phoney. I'm telling
the truth. Come on, man.

The Audience can't believe this guy's holding his own with
Letterman.

INT. GREEN ROOM - NBC STUDIOS - 1980'S - DAY

ANGLE ON LETTERMAN REGULAR

LETTERMAN REGULAR
(to Joyce)
At least he's keeping up with
Letterman.

JOYCE
Pandering is more like it.

Suddenly, Joyce walks over to the monitor and looks for the
channel. She hits a button, but it only changes the frame of
the show.

JOYCE
Damnit.

LETTERMAN REGULAR
Excuse me, but what are you doing?

JOYCE
I'm trying to get some news. You
know there's a big story about to
break about the US selling arms to
Iran and the Contras.

LETTERMAN REGULAR
That's a monitor.

JOYCE
Ugh. Just forget it.

Joyce gives up. She sinks back into her seat and pulls a
book from her bag. The Letterman Regular stares at her like
she's from Mars.

LETTERMAN SHOW - STOCK FOOTAGE

ANGLE ON THE MONITOR

LETTERMAN
Harvey, I know you've got a job.
I've got a job. We're both very lucky.
We both have jobs.

HARVEY
Then what's the matter?

Once again laughs and a big round of applause. Letterman
pulls out Joyce's mysterious doll and props it up on the
table.

LETTERMAN
We've gotta go. Harvey I like you.
I'm on your side. I enjoy the comic
books. And here, quickly tell us
about the little doll here.

HARVEY
My wife made it.

INT. GREEN ROOM - NBC STUDIOS - 1980'S - DAY

BACK TO JOYCE.

She suddenly perks up.

JOYCE
Finally something good.
(to Letterman Regular)
Watch this.

LETTERMAN SHOW - STOCK FOOTAGE CLOSE-UP OF THE DOLL

It is an absolutely horrific but oddly evocative "Harvey Rag
Doll." His face is inspired by Crumb's drawings of Harvey
but even more extreme. His little T-shirt reads, "American
Splendor." The Audience is in stitches.

LETTERMAN
They're made out of your old clothing.

HARVEY
That's right.

LETTERMAN
And what do these go for?

HARVEY
Thirty-four bucks.

LETTERMAN
(shocked)
Thirty-four dollars? Thirty-four
dollars for this?

HARVEY
What are ya cheap. You cheaper than
me?

LETTERMAN
Would you pay thirty-four dollars
for that?

HARVEY
No but I'm not asking it. My wife
is.

BACK TO:

INT. GREEN ROOM - NBC STUDIOS - 1980'S - DAY

JOYCE stares at the monitor, expressionless. The STAGE MANAGER
sticks his head in.

STAGE MANAGER
He's a natural.

LETTERMAN REGULAR
He is. Good stuff.

The Stage Manager grabs the Regular.

STAGE MANAGER
C'mon. Your turn.

A smiling HARVEY (the actor now) waltzes in straight from
his command performance.

HARVEY
Whad'ya think?

Joyce taps her finger on Letterman's image on the monitor.

JOYCE
Megalomaniac.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. NEW YORK HOTEL ROOM - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY tries on a ripped T-shirt for Joyce who lies on the
bed.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
It became clear pretty fast that I
was invited on the show just for
laughs. But what the hell did I care?
Letterman was an okay guy. Let him
take pot shots at me, s'long as I
got paid an' got to plug my comics.

CUT TO:

LETTERMAN SHOW - STOCK FOOTAGE

MONTAGE: A series of actual HARVEY appearances on LATE NIGHT
WITH LETTERMAN.

INT. GREEN ROOM - NBC STUDIOS - 1980'S - DAY

JOYCE, whose different outfits reflect time passage, watches
each time from the GREEN ROOM. LETTERMAN SHOW - STOCK FOOTAGE
HARVEY, in a ratty T-shirt, spars with LETTERMAN.

LETTERMAN
Harvey, you are the embodiment of
the American dream...

The Audience laughs.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Funny thing is, somethin' about me
and Letterman clicked for the viewers.
He kept wantin' me back.

LETTERMAN SHOW - STOCK FOOTAGE - ANOTHER SHOW

LETTERMAN introduces his favorite guest.

LETTERMAN
It is my pleasure to welcome back
our next guest, the lovable Harvey
Pekar!

HARVEY walks out with a box of donuts. He starts giving
Letterman an earful right off the bat.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Here was this slick, ambitious guy
with millions, winnin' over the
country by makin' light of everything.
And then there was me... A messy
loser with no dough who takes
everything too seriously.

LETTERMAN
Tell me Harvey, what do you do to
get away from the pressure of being --
well, a file clerk?
(laughter)

HARVEY
Go ahead and laugh, folks. But he
has more contempt for you than I do!

CUT TO:

INT. WHITE CASTLE - 1980'S - DAY

The burger joint has been transformed into a film set with
lights, cameras and lots of trendy MTV types.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
An it wasn't just me gettin' all the
attention. As a result of my
appearances on Letterman, my buddy
Toby Radloff landed a gig on MTV
extolling the virtues of White Castle
burgers...

OFF TO THE SIDE:

Two HOT BABES slave over TOBY as he gets his hair and make-
up done.

HARVEY wanders onto the set. He finally spots Toby in the
corner. As he heads over to say hello, Harvey bumps into the
MTV DIRECTOR -- a new wave fashion victim who looks like a
lost member of A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS.

MTV DIRECTOR
Christ! Watch where you're going!

HARVEY
(muttering)
Fuckin' yuppie or whatever kinda
freak you are.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
That day on the set with those MTV
jerks, I had an epiphany. It seemed
that real, salt of the earth people
like Toby an' me were bein' coopted
by these huge corporations. We were
gettin' held up and ridiculed as
losers in the system. What can I
say, it was the 80's man.

CUT TO:

MTV PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

TOBY, dressed in dark sunglasses and a turtleneck, stands in
front of a White Castle. He delivers his lines in his
trademark robotic style. There's an MTV logo on the bottom
of the screen.

TOBY
Hamburgers are a safer addiction
than drugs. Say no to drugs. Say yes
to White Castle!

CUT TO:

INT. CLEVELAND DINER - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY and JOYCE eat breakfast together. Harvey reads a
Katherine Mansfield book as JOYCE reads a newspaper.

JOYCE
(looking up from the
paper)
Harvey, I've been reading about these
kids who grew up in war zones...
Palestinians, Israelis, El
Salvadorians, Cambodians... These
kids are amazing and they're --

A YUPPIE in a jogging suit walks up to Harvey, interrupting
Joyce in mid-sentence.

YUPPIE
Hey, you're that guy from the
Letterman show, right?

HARVEY
(smiling)
Yeah, that's me.

YUPPIE
That's so excellent. You and Stupid
Pet Tricks are a riot.

Harvey's not smiling anymore. This guy's a jerk.

HARVEY
Yeah? Then why dontcha buy one of my
comics, man. That's the only reason
I go on that dumb show anyway.

YUPPIE
Right, sure. Later, Harvey Pekar!

The Yuppie rushes out.

HARVEY
Asshole.

JOYCE
Anyway, I want to do a political
comic book about these kids. There's
a conference in Jerusalem in a few
weeks, and I can start by doing
interviews there.

HARVEY
Whoa whoa, wait a second. Jerusalem?
I can barely drag you off the futon
to go to the Letterman show.

JOYCE
Y'know why? 'Cause I don't give a
damn about the Letterman show. I
want to work on something important
to me. Something that matters.

Joyce hits a nerve.

HARVEY
(furious)
Hey! You know I only go on the show
for the extra bread!

People start to look over.

JOYCE
Harvey... you're yelling...

HARVEY
Maybe if you got yer lazy ass up and
got a job, I could work on something
that matters, too, huh?!

Joyce doesn't dignify Harvey with an answer. She stares at
him, her eyes well with hurt.

He sighs, calming down. He looks around sheepishly.

HARVEY
I'm sorry, baby. I -- I'm sorry...

He grabs her hand.

CUT TO:

EXT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - 1980'S - DAY

Harvey and Joyce stroll across the lawn holding hands. They
move towards a waiting cab. Harvey carries his wife's bags.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
I guess it was good ta finally see
Joyce excited about somethin' of her
own. Sure I was happy for her. But I
was still upset for me.

They stop by the cab.

HARVEY
This is crazy. Can't ya just do
somethin' here in Cleveland?

JOYCE
Harvey, you'll survive a few weeks
alone.

HARVEY
Alright... Be careful. I love you,
baby.

They kiss. Harvey grudgingly puts her bags in the car. He
watches as the cab pulls away.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
It was later that night when I first
found the lump.

INT. HARVEY'S BEDROOM - 1980'S - NIGHT

Wearing only his shorts, Harvey lies alone in the communal
futon, flipping through a book. He reaches into his underwear
to scratch his nuts.

Suddenly he stops. He feels something odd...

For a moment he just freezes. His eyes register panic.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
I was determined to put it outta my
mind until Joyce got back. Easier
said than done.

CUT TO:

INT. V.A. HOSPITAL - 1980'S - DAY

An enraged HARVEY fights with his co-worker MIGUEL.

HARVEY
What do I care! Just gimme the chart
already!

MIGUEL
What is your problem today?!

HARVEY
Look, Miguel! I just don't wanna
keep comin' back here for it, okay?!

MIGUEL
Harvey, that patient's due t'be
admitted a week from now! Why do you
always have to be picking fights
with everybody?

HARVEY
(yelling)
How many times do we gotta go through
the same bullshit. Just gimme the
fuckin' chart!

Offended, Miguel storms off.

MIGUEL
We'll see what the doctor says about
this.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S LIVING ROOM - 1980'S - NIGHT

Alone and slumped over his table, HARVEY draws comic ideas
with stick figures. Nothing's coming to him. He looks like
he's in anguish.

Frustrated, Harvey crumbles the idea and throws it on the
floor. He knocks over a chair.

INT. HARVEY'S BEDROOM - 1980'S - DAY

He tosses and turns in bed. No way he's sleeping.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S LIVING ROOM - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY is yelling into the telephone. It is a bad connection.

HARVEY
(loudly into phone)
Whadya mean? Another two weeks? Ya
gotta come home some time! Hello?
DAMNIT!

CUT TO:

INT. BACK STAGE - NBC STUDIOS - 1980'S - DAY

Without Joyce, a surly Harvey waits in the wings for his
introduction. He sneaks a peek as Letterman finishes up the
"stupid pet tricks" segment. We hear dogs barking and audience
laughter.

LETTERMAN REGULAR (O.S.)
And there you have it, folks! Another
enlightening episode of Stupid Pet
Tricks!

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
I was startin' ta lose it. Between
the lump, the loneliness -- I felt
like everything wuz closin' in on
me. And with Joyce over there savin'
the world, I never felt more like a
sell-out hack in my life.

LETTERMAN REGULAR (O.S.)
Y'know ladies and gentlemen, when
Thoreau wrote that most men lead
lives of quiet depression, he
obviously had not met our first guest,
who happens to lead a life of whining
desperation...

Harvey clenches his fists.

HARVEY
(threatening)
Okay, asshole. You'll pay for that
one...

Harvey takes off his shirt. He pulls another t-shirt out of
the bag and changes ...

LETTERMAN REGULAR (O.S.)
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome
back, Harvey Pekar.

Harvey's new t-shirt reads "ON STRIKE AGAINST NBC." He takes
off for the stage, fists clenched, a soldier marching off to
war.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. GREEN ROOM - NBC STUDIOS - 1980'S - DAY

We're positioned behind the monitor, so we can only hear the
show. THE STAGE MANAGER AND TWO PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS
straighten up in the room.

HARVEY (O.S.)
Hey, Dave! You wanna know what my
politics are? I'm a strident leftist,
Dave.

LETTERMAN (O.S.)
I could have guessed half of that.

HARVEY (O.S.)
You coulda guessed all of it, man!
So why don't we talk about your parent
company, G.E., huh? Let's talk about
anti-trust violations and nuclear
reactors!

STAGE MANAGER
Joe, put more sodas in the fridge,
there. And let's clean up the
counters. That Pekar guy's a pig.

As the P.A.'s walk back and forth in front of the monitor,
we hear the Letterman / Pekar banter grow louder.

Suddenly PRODUCTION ASSISTANT #2 stops and checks out the
monitor.

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT #2
Whoa... you guys. Check this out.

INT. TOBY'S LIVING ROOM - 1980'S - DAY

TOBY and his GRANDMOTHER watch HARVEY raise hell on Letterman.
Again, we can't see the screen.

HARVEY (O.S.)
You're a cop-out, Letterman. You're
nothin' but a shill for G.E.

Toby's grandmother passes him a plate of cookies.

LETTERMAN (O.S.)
First of all, Harvey, what you are
saying is not true. Second of all,
this is not the place to say it. If
you want to talk about this, go
somewhere else, because you're not
talking about it here!!

CUT TO:

INT. MR. BOAT'S KITCHEN - 1980'S - DAY

Dressed in a bathrobe, Mr. Boats eats a lonely, late-night
snack (cake and milk) at his kitchen table. A 12" TV on the
table has Harvey and Dave on.

HARVEY (O.S.)
Don't worry, Dave. I won't come back
unless you beg me.

LETTERMAN (O.S.)
You're not coming back at all.

HARVEY (O.S.)
What do I care --

LETTERMAN (O.S.)
Because we've given you many, many
chances to talk about things that
would be of general interest to people --

HARVEY (O.S.)
So what?!

Mr. Boats shakes his head.

INT. TOWN CAR - 1980'S - DAY

We see Harvey alone, slumped in the back seat of a Town Car,
heading back towards his hotel. City lights pass over his
troubled face. We still hear the show, as if it's now in his
head.

LETTERMAN (V.O.)
-- And also to promote your little
Mickey Mouse magazine. Your little
weekly reader! But you've blown every
chance you've got. You're a dork,
Harvey!

HARVEY (V.O.)
Dave, you're fulla shit! You're fulla
shit!!

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - BEDROOM - 1980'S - NIGHT

CLOSE ON AN AMERICAN SPLENDOR COMIC

The cover depicts a snarling LETTERMAN yelling, "YOU FUCKED
UP A GREAT THING!" at a smirking, self-satisfied HARVEY.

JOYCE lies in bed reading the comic, chuckling. HARVEY cuddles
up against her.

JOYCE
I guess you did it this time.

HARVEY
Who cares. He wasn't helpin' my sales
anyway.
(moving closer)
Baby, don't go away anymore. I just
can't take bein' alone.

Joyce puts the magazine down.

JOYCE
If you met those kids over there and
saw what they go through, you wouldn't
ask that of me.

HARVEY
But if you go again I'm really gonna
lose it.

JOYCE
It's not open for discussion, Harvey.
I need this in my life right now.

She cuddles up close to him.

JOYCE
But I do appreciate the fact that
you missed me so much. C'mere...

She starts to kiss him. He kisses her back. Her hands wander
down. Suddenly she feels something strange.

JOYCE
Harvey, what is that?

Harvey looks at her and gulps.

CUT TO:

INT. HOSPITAL ROOM - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY and JOYCE sit in the office holding hands, like two
terrified high school kids. A DOCTOR stands before them.

They just got bad news...

JOYCE
I don't understand, does "tumor"
mean the same thing as "cancer"?

The doctor gently nods.

Joyce covers her mouth. Harvey holds onto his head. He looks
positively dizzy. The doctor starts to talk, yet the words
don't seem to match his mouth. He looks dubbed. Strange
phrases just weave together, echo and bounce off the wall,
making no sense at all.

...we know the growth is malignant. What we don't know is
how far it may have spread. Once we have the results of the
biopsy, we can make more informed decisions about treatment...
blah, blah, blah...

The whole office seems to spin.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - 1980'S - LATER

Joyce and Harvey sit on the stoop of their apartment house,
in a daze. The words keep echoing around them. Harvey holds
his head.

DOCTOR #2
...cat scan... diagnosis... MRI...
cancer... cancer... cancer...

HARVEY
How can I have cancer? I don't feel
sick at all.

JOYCE
That's a positive thing.

HARVEY
My cousin Norman died of lymphoma.
He was twenty-nine. He was a brilliant
oncologist.

JOYCE
Stop it! You're not going to die,
Harvey. You're not.

Harvey turns to Joyce.

HARVEY
What's going to happen to you, baby?
Who's gonna take care of you if I'm
not around?

Joyce stands up, determined.

JOYCE
Harvey, look at me and focus. We are
going to get through this. I
understand illness. I know how to
handle these things.

HARVEY
But that's you. I'm not strong enough.
I don't know how ta be positive. I
can't do it. I can't.

JOYCE
Yes, you can. And I'll tell you how.
You'll make a comic book out of the
whole thing. You'll document every
little detail. And that way you'll
remove yourself from the experience
until it's over.

Despite Joyce's passionate pitch, Harvey shakes his head.

HARVEY
I can't do that. I'm just not strong
enough... I just wanna die.

Joyce folds her arm.

JOYCE
Fine. I'll do it without you.

INT. HARVEY'S BEDROOM - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY and JOYCE lay there quietly, both exhausted. Joyce
turns over so her back faces Harvey. He puts his arm around
her.

ANGLE ON JOYCE'S FACE

A tear drips down her cheek.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - 1980'S - DAY

Joyce is straightening up the apartment. The place actually
looks halfway decent.

THE DOORBELL RINGS

Joyce opens the door. A guy in his 30's named FRED -- Hells
Angels tough guy meets sensitive artist -- stands at the
door. He's accompanied by a seven-year-old girl, DANIELLE.

FRED
Hey, I'm Fred. You called me about
the comic book?

JOYCE
Right -- the artist. Come on in.

FRED
This is my daughter, Danielle. I had
to bring her along. I hope you don't
mind.

Joyce leans down and addresses the girl, who holds a toy
horse.

JOYCE
Hi, Danielle. What's that you're
holding?

DANIELLE
A pony.

It's immediately obvious that Joyce is great with kids.

JOYCE
A pony? What's his name?

DANIELLE
She's a girl. Clarissa.

JOYCE
Oh, I see. Well, I'm Joyce. Nice to
meet both you and Clarissa.

They all walk towards the table which is covered with papers.

FRED
I'm really sorry to hear about Harvey.
Is he here?

JOYCE
He's going to work until next week,
when he starts the chemo. That's why
I wanna get this project started
now. Once he's stuck here, I know
he'll take over.

CUT TO:

EXT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - 1980'S - LATER

Miserable and in a daze, HARVEY walks up to his front door.

He looks like a man whose days are numbered. When he reaches
the door, he searches his pockets for keys.

ANGLE ON POCKET

Harvey's hand comes up empty.

HARVEY
Shit!

Harvey tries the doorknob, but it's locked.

He steps back on the lawn and looks around. Could he have
dropped them? He retraces a few steps.

HARVEY
Damnit!

Harvey yells up at the window.

HARVEY
Joyce, open the door! I lost my keys
again! Joyce!!

ANGLE ON FRONT DOOR

HARVEY'S ELDERLY NEIGHBOR struggles with her shopping cart
through the door.

Harvey pushes past her to get in.

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT VESTIBULE

Harvey knocks again. Nothing. Now he punches the door.

HARVEY
Joyce!! Open the fucking door!!

Suddenly the door opens. Loud music pours out. But it's not
Joyce, it's FRED, the artist.

FRED
Hey, Harvey.

HARVEY
Fred?

Harvey just stares at him. Fred opens the door to reveal:

JOYCE and DANIELLE dancing together with the stereo blasting.
They're having a ball.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - 1980'S - DAY

At the kitchen table, HARVEY looks over FRED'S sketches.

JOYCE and DANIELLE are now building a house of cards on the
living room floor.

FRED
Here are some ideas we batted around.

HARVEY
Sheesh. Joyce doesn't know what she's
doing. There's too many words in
these frames. When are ya comin'
back?

FRED
Uh, she said something about next
Tuesday, which is fine with me. Only
thing is, I might have the kid again.
My ex-wife's supposed to take her,
but I don't have much faith in her
showing up. She is in worse shape
than me these days.

Harvey looks away at Joyce and Danielle playing. They're
oblivious to the world.

HARVEY
Next week my treatment begins. Do me
a favor. Bring the kid with you.

CUT TO:

CLOSE UP: A PENCIL SKETCHING

FRED'S PENCIL completes a sketch of Joyce pushing Harvey in
a wheelchair. The word "cancer" appears everywhere, floating
all around the image.

COMIC ART / REAL LIFE MONTAGE

The following montage chronicles Harvey's illness by cutting
between comic art depicting key events and shots of HARVEY,
JOYCE and FRED creating the book.

The montage is set to the simultaneously dulcet and discordant
tone of Miles Davis' "Blue in Green" (or something similar).

CUT TO:

INT. HOSPITAL HALLWAY - 1980'S - DAY

Close on Harvey's face as he's getting pushed down the hall
in a wheelchair.

CUT TO:

M.R.I. COMIC PANEL

A panel of Harvey entering the M.R.I. machine.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - 1980'S - DAY

We see Harvey, Joyce and Fred sitting around a table. Joyce
fights to keep Harvey focused on the project.

BACK TO MORE COMIC PANELS:

1) An enraged Harvey throws things around the house.

2) Joyce on the bed crying, a cat licking her back.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S SHOWER - 1980'S - DAY

A balding Harvey depressed in the shower. He holds a clump
of hair in his hand.

CUT TO:

COMIC PANEL OF THE ABOVE SCENE

Harvey in the shower. The balloon above his head reveals his
inner turmoil over losing his hair and his face swelling.

MORE COMIC PANELS FOLLOW

Harvey in agony. Various positions of him in bed, on all
fours, covered with a case of shingles. "I feel like I'm on
fire" appears over his head.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S KITCHEN - 1980'S - DAY

Joyce and Fred go over some more comic art. Joyce carries
the idea over to Harvey (wearing a baseball cap), who can't
get out of the couch. He looks it over and nods. Danielle
brings Harvey a glass of water.

CUT TO:

MORE COMIC PANELS:

Harvey crawling up the steps. "I'm so weak I can't make it,"
he thinks...

Harvey and Joyce in a hospital waiting room. He's slumped
over, she has her hand on him.

A delirious Harvey surrounded by nurses and Joyce. "She's
torturing me, she won't let me die, I wanna die..."

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S BATHROOM - 1980'S - DAY

A balding Harvey lies on his bathroom floor. His cat walks
all over him.

HARVEY
I wanna die... just let me die...

CUT TO:

MORE COMIC PANELS:

Joyce attempts to wake Harvey up. She curses at him. She
slaps him. "Why are you doing this to me!"

A drawing of Joyce, doubled over, crying. "I can't take this
anymore..."

THE MONTAGE ENDS WITH A SCENE IN HARVEY'S BEDROOM

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S BEDROOM - 1980'S - NIGHT

A repeat of the opening scene... Like a ghost, a naked HARVEY
stands over his bed staring down at a sleeping JOYCE.

In the eerie light, he's almost translucent.

HARVEY
(faintly)
Joyce... Joyce?

Joyce springs up, alarmed.

JOYCE
What's wrong, Harvey? What are you
doing up?

Harvey just stands there for a moment saying nothing.

JOYCE
What is it?

HARVEY
(delirious, out of
breath)
Tell me the truth. Am I some guy who
writes about himself in a comic book?
Or am I just -- just a character in
that book?

JOYCE
Harvey...

HARVEY
When I die, will 'dat character keep
goin'? Or will he just fade away.

Joyce just stares at him, unsure how to answer. Finally Harvey
collapses.

Joyce leaps from the bed, nervous, hysterical. She gets down
on the floor and shakes him.

JOYCE
Omigod, Harvey! Harvey, wake up!

CLOSE ON HARVEY'S FACE

His eyes remain closed, his expression far, far away. The
sound of Joyce's voice fades until it seems like a distant
echo.

Then PANELS from Harvey's comics begin to float over his
head, his life literally passing before his eyes in comic
book form.

Slowly, the comic images and the unconscious Harvey evaporate,
giving way to:

GREEN SCREEN

A SURREAL DREAM SEQUENCE

We are now in a large, empty room similar to a blank comic
book panel.

A healthy, fully dressed Harvey appears in the corner of the
frame. He is very far away, barely recognizable. We slowly
dolly towards him as he delivers a formal soliloquy to the
camera:

HARVEY
My name is Harvey Pekar. It's an
unusual name -- Harvey Pekar...

As Harvey speaks, one-dimensional comic book images from his
life pass over the screen once again. This time in front of
him, behind him, everywhere. We dolly in towards him.

HARVEY
1960 was the year I got my first
apartment and my first telephone
book. Imagine my surprise when I
looked up my name and saw that, in
addition to me, another Harvey Pekar
was listed!

Images of Harvey's childhood float by, followed by his young
adult years.

HARVEY
I was listed as Harvey L. Pekar...
My middle name is Lawrence... He was
listed as Harvey Pekar -- no middle
initial... Therefore, his was a purer
listing.

We see Harvey age in the images: he's hanging on the street
corner with friends, collecting records, hanging with Crumb.

HARVEY
Then, in the seventies, I noticed
that a third Harvey Pekar was listed
in the phone book! This filled me
with curiosity.

HARVEY
How could there be three people with
such an unusual name in the world,
let alone in one city?!

Now, numerous images of Harvey's many years at the V.A.
Hospital float by: Harvey filing, Harvey arguing with his
boss, Harvey and Toby, etc.

HARVEY
Then one day, a person I worked with
expressed her sympathy to me
concerning what she thought was the
death of my father. She pointed out
an obituary notice in the newspaper
for a man named Harvey Pekar. One of
his sons was named Harvey. These
were the other Harvey Pekars.

The comic images fade out. Harvey is once again alone in the
empty room.

HARVEY
Six months later, Harvey Pekar Jr.
died. Although I'd met neither man,
I was filled with sadness. "What
were they like," I thought. It seemed
that our lives had been linked in
some indefinable way.

We slowly move in on his face. Extremely close. As close as
the camera can get.

HARVEY
But the story does not end there.
For two years later another Harvey
Pekar appeared in the directory.
What kind of people are these? Where
do they come from, what do they do?
What's in a name?

END DREAM SEQUENCE

INT. HARVEY'S BEDROOM - 1980'S - DAY

BACK TO BEDROOM:

We are close on HARVEY'S face as he lays passed out and
delirious on the floor. Over this WE HEAR...

HARVEY
Who is Harvey Pekar?

His face slowly fades to black.

A MOMENT OF BLACK, AND THEN...

INT. TOWER BOOKS - 1980'S - DAY

FADE IN:

CLOSE UP: A GLOSSY, FULL-COLOR, NOVEL-SIZED COMIC COVER.

Scrawled across the top in yellow and red it read, "Our Cancer
Year." The drawing depicts Harvey doubled over on the front
lawn, groceries in the snow, with Joyce attempting to help
him up. A hand flips the book open and signs the inside leaf.

JOYCE and a healthy-looking HARVEY sit at a table signing
copies of their opus. About fifteen or so people mill about
with copies.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Here's our man a year later. Somehow
I made it through the treatments,
an' the doctors are optimistic. I
guess Joyce was right about doin'
the big comic book. We published the
thing as a graphic novel -- our first
collaboration -- and ended up with
rave reviews. We even won the American
Book Award. Go figure...

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S LIVING ROOM - 1980'S - DAY

The place is still a mess but somehow it has a better vibe
than it had before. This might be due to the presence of
DANIELLE. She sits crossed legged on the floor making jewelry
out of beads. JOYCE guides her.

HARVEY shuffles into the room. He watches for a moment as
Joyce and Danielle play.

ANGLE ON JOYCE: There is an awkward expression almost
resembling a smile on her face. He interrupts them.

HARVEY
Hey Joyce.

Joyce looks up. Harvey looks like he's trying to hide
something.

JOYCE
What is it Harvey?

HARVEY
That was the doctor.

Joyce stops what she's doing and gulps. She hangs on Harvey's
every word.

HARVEY
He said I'm all clear.

Tears well in Harvey's eyes. Joyce breathes a sigh of relief
and Danielle jumps up and runs over to Harvey. She hugs him.

CUT TO:

INT. CLEVELAND ICE RINK - 1980 - DAY

HARVEY sits in the bleachers, watching JOYCE teach DANIELLE
to ice skate.

Harvey's got a box of pizza next to him. He picks up a slice
and chomps on it. The cheese drips out of his mouth onto his
shirt.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
The weirdest thing that came outta
my illness was Danielle. With her
real mother runnin' around who knows
where, an' seein' how well her and
Joyce got on, Fred decided she'd
have a better life with us. I was
scared at first but then I thought,
what the hell. She's a good kid. So
we ended up takin' her an' raising
her as our own.

CUT TO:

INT. HARVEY'S APARTMENT - 1980'S - DAY

HARVEY and DANIELLE lie on the futon together. Harvey's comics
are strewn around the room everywhere. Danielle flips through
one.

HARVEY
Ya keep readin' 'em backward.

DANIELLE
I like reading them backward.
(holding up a comic)
Is that you?

HARVEY
I keep tellin' ya, all of 'ems me,
man.

DANIELLE
You look like a monster.

HARVEY
Yeah, well wait'll ya see what you're
gonna look like.

DANIELLE
Me??

HARVEY
Sure. Yer part of the story too,
now.

DANIELLE
What story?

HARVEY
The story of my life.

Danielle makes a face.

HARVEY
Yeah, I know I'm not as interesting
as The Little Mermaid and all that
magical crap...

DANIELLE
Maybe I want to write my own comic.

HARVEY
Oh yeah? What about?

DANIELLE
I don't know yet. But not about you.
You have enough already.

CUT TO:

EXT. SCHOOL BUS STOP - FALL - PRESENT - DAY

HARVEY walks towards the bus stop to send DANIELLE to school.

He holds her hand.

HARVEY
Ya know, you should write about things
in your own life. Like school and...
ponies... I don't know, girl stuff...

DANIELLE
(to Harvey)
Do you have to hold my hand?

HARVEY
(wounded)
What, are you embarrassed a' me? I
know, I'm embarrassing. I felt the
same way about my father.

Danielle looks up at Harvey like he's crazy.

DANIELLE
No Harvey. You're just squeezing it
too hard.
(shaking her head)
Joyce is right. You are obsessive
compulsive.

Danielle drops his hand and rushes onto the bus with other
kids.

Harvey waves and watches as it pulls away.

He turns and walks by himself down the busy Cleveland street --

-- a familiar image from the opening. He's still hunched
over. He's still Harvey.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
Yeah, so I guess comics brought me a
lot. But don't think this is some
sunny, happy ending. Every day is
still a major struggle. Joyce an' I
fight like crazy, an' she barely
works. The kid's got A.D.D. and is a
real handful. My expenses have gone
up so much that I'm writin' freelance
'round the clock, just to make my
bills. My life is total chaos.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. BUS STOP - FALL - PRESENT - DAY

DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE -- SHOT ON FILM

NOW THE REAL HARVEY walks down the same busy Cleveland street
towards his job.

REAL HARVEY (V.O.)
With a little luck, I'll get a window
of good health between retirin' an
dyin'. The golden years, right? Who
knows. Between my pension and the
chunk of change I got for this movie,
I should be able to swing somethin'.
Sure I'll lose the war eventually,
but the goal is to win a few
skirmishes along the way. Right?

CUT TO:

INT. V.A. HOSPITAL - PRESENT - DAY

DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE -- SHOT ON FILM

THE REAL HARVEY slumps at the desk now, flipping through a
comic book.

ANGLE ON DOOR

THE REAL TOBY comes into the file room, carrying a cake with
sparklers. He's followed by a group of Harvey's REAL COWORKERS
and JOYCE and REAL DANIELLE.

Harvey moves the comic off his desk so Toby can put the cake
down.

ANGLE ON CAKE

The festive cake reads "HAPPY RETIREMENT HARVEY." REAL JOYCE
cuts the cake and passes slices to the group.

ANOTHER WORKER pops a bottle of champagne.

CLOSE on a glass of champagne getting filled. The glass sits
next to the comic Harvey was reading.

CLOSE UP ON COMIC BOOK COVER

HARVEY'S new edition of AMERICAN SPLENDOR is subtitled, "OUR
MOVIE YEAR." It features an illustration of HARVEY, JOYCE
and DANIELLE surrounded by cameras, lights and crew.

FADE OUT:

THE END

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