TO DESIGN DOC
The Player finds a small, single shot derringer pistol. Clicking
on this will cause the camera to move inside the barrel of
the pistol and down a long dark tunnel...
INT. NATIONAL HOTEL. DAY.
The camera emerges from the tunnel and out the end of the
barrel of the gun to reveal:
JOHN WILKES BOOTH, dapper, handsome actor with a curling
mustache and jet black hair sitting at a table and cleaning
his derringer. He is humming "Glory Hallelujah."
He takes meticulous care to place the percussion cap and
load the ball. He then places the gun on the table and takes
out a long- bladed dagger. He sharpens this on a whetstone.
A copy of the play Our American Cousin sits on the table.
He puts down the knife and picks up the play, turning to a
marked page. He reads a line in the play and smiles, then
puts the play back down.
Booth puts on calf-length boots and all black clothes. He
gets a small box from the wardrobe and takes out two shiny
new spurs and attaches these to his boots. He slips the knife
into his left boot, and puts the derringer in his pocket.
He pours some whiskey in a glass and gargles it. Then reaches
into his pocket, whips out the derringer, and strides across
the room. An old fashioned, faceless mannequin head sits on
the bed. Booth puts the gun to it and mocks firing the pistol.
He then says: "Sic semper tyrannis!" He practices
this line several times.
Satisfied, he puts the pistol back in his pocket and leaves
INT. BAR. DAY.
The city of Washington, D.C. 1865.
JOHN WILKES BOOTH is getting drunk on whiskey in the back
of the bar. He is depressed and haggard looking.
DR. STAUF approaches the table, smiling.
DR. STAUF: If it isn't John Wilkes Booth! I declare! I saw
you in Julius Caesar seven-no! eight years ago. With your
father and brother playing Brutus and Caesar. Do you mind
if I sit?
BOOTH'S expression does not change, but he nods for STAUF
DR. STAUF: Your father and brother were remarkable in that
BOOTH raises his eyebrows, waiting for his compliment.
DR. STAUF: (shrugging) You must have been having an off night.
BOOTH: Oh really?
DR. STAUF: Let's face it, Booth. You'll never be the actor
that your father and brother are.
BOOTH squints and smiles menacingly at STAUF.
BOOTH: I prefer to drink alone, mister.
STAUF snatches the bottle from BOOTH and takes a swig. Before
BOOTH can react to this rude behavior, STAUF holds up a hand.
DR. STAUF: Now, now, Johnny boy. Don't get upset. I'm a friend.
A friend from way back. You don't recognize me. But I saved
your life once. You were spying on Federal forces near Manassas
when your horse went lame. You were almost captured by Federal
troops, but I gave you my horse and drew them away from your
BOOTH: (smiling) That was you! (he peers at STAUF) It was
you! I never forget a face.
DR. STAUF: So I guess I deserve a drink, don't I?
BOOTH: You deserve my undying friendship, sir. We are brethren
DR. STAUF: (chortling) Lee has surrendered, you know? The
war is over.
BOOTH: (coldly) It's not over.
DR. STAUF: Your plan to kidnap Lincoln is no good now.
BOOTH: (spluttering) How-how did you know about that?
DR. STAUF: I have met one of your conspirators. He's got
a loose mouth. But don't worry. Your secret is safe with me.
BOOTH: Lincoln is evil. He's the tool of Satan.
DR. STAUF: Those are harsh words, Booth. Mutinous words.
Weren't you arrested once for making anti-governmental remarks?
BOOTH leans forward. He is suddenly livid.
BOOTH: Lincoln gave a speech last month in which he called
for freed slaves to be given the right to vote! The right
to vote! If that isn't anti-governmental...(stops, splutters)
I swear I'll make that his last speech, the tyrant.
STAUF purses his lips.
DR. STAUF: (whistling) Assassination?
BOOTH: Believe me, sir. I have the gumption to do it.
DR. STAUF: Do you Johnny? Do you really? Because sometimes
I think you're a little soft.
BOOTH: When I was a lad I met a Gypsy girl who read my palm.
She told me that I would achieve ever-lasting fame.
DR. STAUF: I don't think you could kill a man, Johnny. Not
in cold blood. I don't think you could walk up behind the
president, stick a gun to the back of his head and pull the
BOOTH: You don't, do you?
DR. STAUF: You're an actor. You like to pretend and stew
In a flash, BOOTH pulls a derringer from his pocket and holds
it to Dr. STAUF'S forehead.
BOOTH: The ball in this gun is solid lead. It's real enough
to splatter your brains all over that wall.
DR. STAUF: I'm not your enemy Booth. Lincoln is the enemy.
Sic semper tyrannis. Do you know what that means?
BOOTH: Of course. Any schoolboy knows it. "Thus always
STAUF gently pushes the pistol away and leans forward conspiratorially.
DR. STAUF: Lincoln will be attending the play Our American
Cousin at Ford's theater next week. I've drilled a hole in
the door of his private box so you can observe him undetected.
At the end of Act II there's a huge laugh line-the audience
laughs for a solid minute. That's when you act. They'll never
even hear the report of the pistol.
BOOTH sits back in his chair and rubs his jaw.
BOOTH: (muttering) Sic semper tyrannis.
DR. STAUF: Are you a slayer of tyrants, Booth?
BOOTH stares at the lines on his palm. Then he fills his
whiskey glass and pushes it over to STAUF. BOOTH holds up
the whiskey bottle for cheers, and they clink glass to bottle.
BOOTH: (with a wild, murderous look in his eyes) Indeed I
Encounter 1: Booth is sitting at a table in the library
reading Our American Cousin. As the Player approaches Booth
looks up and says: "The biggest laugh comes at the end
of act II. The audience will never even hear the gunshot."
Encounter 2: Booth is acting out a scene from Julius
Caesar in which he plays Cassius:
"I know where I will wear this dagger then;
Cassius from bondage will deliver Cassius:
Therein, ye gods, you make the weak most strong;
Therein, ye gods, you tyrants do defeat:"
Encounter 3: The Player comes across a dying John
Wilkes Booth. He has a bullet wound in his chest. He is babbling:
"Never should have worn the damnable spurs. Caught them
on the bunting! Stupid spurs."
Booth's spurs. The Blue Angel appears and says: "After
Booth shot president Lincoln he leapt over the theater box
to the stage but caught his spurs on a flag that was hanging
on the wall. He lost his balance and landed hard on the stage,
breaking his leg. He was captured and shot to death in a barn
the next day."
The derringer pistol and knife.
A letter written to Booth's brother with the following passage
highlighted: "This country was formed for the white not
for the black man. And looking upon African slavery from the
same stand-point, as held by those noble framers of our Constitution,
I for one, have ever considered it, one of the greatest blessings
(both for themselves and us) that God ever bestowed upon a
A photograph of Booth, his brother and father playing Antony,
Brutus and Caesar.
A copy of "An American Cousin". Clicking on it
the chiding voice of Weil asks "Beside that Mrs. Lincoln,how
did you like the play?"
back to top
TO DESIGN DOC