It happened when I saw Jeffrey Wright in the play Topdog/Underdog. That night, in my head, I cast Wright as Crispus Attucks in the script I decided to start writing. My story became a “people’s history” of the inciting event in the American Revolution: “The Boston Massacre.” Great title.
When British troops opened fire on a crowd of Bostonians in 1770, a former slave-turned-whaler-turned political activist, was the first man killed. His name: Crispus Attucks. Total badass. Our hero was part of the same terrorist caucus as Paul Revere. The two were buds in the North End. One was an outsider because his father was French (the universal enemy in the late 1700s) the other was an outsider because he was part African American and part Native American.
They bond, they break down barriers, they betray. The script’s structure was based on The Battle of Algiers. I got some good notes from an old buddy. I wrote a few key sequences, but then I shelved the project.
Why? Because the more dysfunctional the U.S. gets, the more people long for a man on a white horse to “restore” its greatness. And at this point, I just don’t think Americans will accept any story portraying the Framers of the Constitution as anything less than superhero geniuses from heaven who built THE best country on the planet with actual guidance from Jesus. Which is to say, our country is a mess. A total mess. Now so much that we’re not willing to look back honestly.
And in reality, men from the underclass like Crispus Attucks didn’t want to merely replace the British aristocracy with an American aristocracy. Before the Boston Massacre, there were major conflicts and debates along this “1% vs. 99%” divide. Even some peasant uprisings. Including a nasty riot in Worcester. Before the Constitution was signed, those riots escalated into Shay’s Rebellion. Ultimately… well, look at the very existence of the U.S. Senate to see who won out: obviously the 1%.
I tried to keep the story about one dude and his best friend who, in the end, fucks him over. Of course, it has some fun sequences where Attucks throws harpoons into whales, or escapes from slavers, or escapes from Royal Navy conscription, and of course there is the epic night of the title. But I wanted these two guys, Paul Revere and Crispus Attucks, for differing reasons, to be okay with getting sucked into this political avant-garde clique of friends. They think that by contributing to the movement, that they might be able to make life better for their own kids. The jury is out about who really succeeded and who failed, but however you slice it, “The Boston Massacre” wouldn’t be the kind of movie screened at the RNC. So I put the script aside.
Recently though, I realized that, hello! — the French didn’t make The Battle of Algiers. Nope, Italian producers did. Of course. Which leads me to ask the internet, are there any Chinese or Arab production companies out there that want to make a movie where… oh, never mind. I’ll just wait for the agitprop garbage about the Battle of Bunker Hill or the Midnight Ride.