Patton (1970): Notes on the Making of Military Biopic–Screenplay

Francis Ford Coppola co-wrote the script for Patton in 1970 along with Edmund H. North. which earned him his first Oscar Award for Best Original Screenplay.

However, it was not easy for Coppola to convince Franklin J. Schaffner that the opening scene would work.

Coppola later revealed in an interview: I wrote the script of Patton. And the script was very controversial when I wrote it, because they thought it was so stylized. It was supposed to be like, sort of, you know, The Longest Day. And my script of Patton was—I was sort of interested in the reincarnation. And I had this very bizarre opening where he stands up in front of an American flag and gives this speech. Ultimately, I wasn’t fired, but I was fired, meaning that when the script was done, they said, “Okay, thank you very much,” and they went and hired another writer and that script was forgotten. And I remember very vividly this long, kind of being raked over the coals for this opening scene.

“When the title role was offered to George C. Scott, he remembered having read Coppola’s screenplay earlier. He stated flatly that he would accept the part only if they used Coppola’s script. ‘Scott is the one who resurrected my version,’ says Coppola.”

The movie opens with Scott’s rendering of Patton’s famous military “Pep Talk” to members of the Third Army, set against a huge American flag.

Coppola and North had to tone down Patton’s actual language to avoid an R rating. In the opening monolog, the word “fornicating” replaced “fucking” when criticizing The Saturday Evening Post. Over the years, this opening monolog has become an iconic scene and has spawned parodies in numerous films, political cartoons and TV shows.

 

 

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