Browsing through my storage room in an attempt to avoid working on my current project, I stumbled across this printout of an unfinished screenplay I’d started, then abandoned, back in 2002.
Entitled “Red Serpent,” and set in 1904 Paris, ten years before the events of The Last Express, it would have been an early adventure of Robert Cath (still in medical school) and his best/worst friend Tyler Whitney (upgraded in this version to Cath’s half-brother — a change I don’t think I’d make today).
The plot bears a more-than-slight resemblance to The Da Vinci Code, which would be published the following year. No plagiarism was involved. I’d guess that Dan Brown and I had been reading the same pseudo-historical “research,” including Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent and Leigh (who did, in fact, sue Brown for plagiarism, and lost). Whereas Brown treated their theory seriously, my approach was more tongue-in-cheek.
I’ve posted it here in case it interests anyone — as a glimpse into the early, rough-first-draft stages of the creative process. Mostly, the stories we read are ones that survive all the way to completion. This one, for many reasons, didn’t.
Rereading the screenplay fragment today, I can see why I abandoned it. There are things in it that I like, but it’s not really of a piece with The Last Express. It’s more fluffy and lightweight. It can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a movie in the Indiana Jones/Da Vinci Code spirit, or a spoof of that kind of movie. And, while I enjoyed the two main characters, I can’t quite see them growing up to be Cath and Tyler as Tomi Pierce and I originally conceived them.
Also, in 2002, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (the game) was gearing up production at Ubisoft Montreal, and my excitement for that project was growing while my sense of conviction on this one was dwindling. Ultimately, I dropped “Red Serpent” to give me more time for POP. It was the right decision.