Screenplay by Andrew Bergman
Based on the novel by Gregory McDonald
Directed by Michael Ritchie
Running time: 105 minutes
BASIC STORY MAP
PROTAGONIST: Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher, 40s, investigative reporter
CHARACTERIZATION|MAIN MISBEHAVIOR: Headstrong, Disguise expert | Smart-ass
EXTERNAL GOAL: To investigate Stanwyk | To finish his drug trafficking exposé
INTERNAL GOAL: To stay cool under pressure
MAIN DRAMATIC CONFLICT: Stanwyk
THEMES: Greed | Power
CENTRAL DRAMATIC QUESTION: Will Fletch figure out Stanwyk’s motive and expose the drug trade on the beach?
ENDING: Fletch cracks the drug trafficking case, finishes his story.
ARC: Fletch goes from a smart-assed investigative reporter to a smart-assed investigative reporter.
Fletch, an investigative reporter researching drug trade on the beach, is approached by Alan Stanwyk with a proposition to kill him for fifty thousand dollars. Stanwyk claims he has cancer and the only way to have his insurance payout without suffering is to be killed. Later, Fletch learns that Stanwyk does not have cancer and that he spends time in Utah where he owns a ranch.
Fletch discovers Stanwyk’s three million dollar ranch in Utah, bought with his wife’s money, was purchased for just three thousand dollars. Fletch is then brought in to police headquarters where Chief Karlin threatens to kill him if doesn’t cease his investigation into the drug trade on the beach, claiming that undercover cops’ lives could be put in danger.
Fletch observes a secret meeting between Stanwyk and Karlin. He then learns that Stanwyk has booked a flight to Rio with a woman named Sally Ann Cavanaugh. In Utah, he meets with Stanwyk’s parents and learns Sally Ann Cavanaugh is Stanwyk’s wife.
Fletch talks Fat Sam and Gummy into naming Chief Karlin as the drug source on the beach. At Stanwyk’s home, Fletch turns the tables on Stanwyk with a letter detailing his improprieties. Gail then shows up and later, Karlin. Karlin and Stanwyk argue, reveal Stanwyk was running drugs and Karlin was distributing. Their argument intensifies and Karlin shoots Stanwyk dead. Fletch fights Karlin. Gail saves Fletch, knocks Karlin out with her tennis racket.
Fletch takes a vacation with Gail to Rio.
FULL STORY MAP
Sequence I: Working undercover on the beach, Fletch, a reporter researching an upcoming drug trade, is approached by Alan Stanwyk with a proposition to kill him for fifty thousand dollars. Stanwyk claims he has cancer and the only way to have his insurance payout without suffering is to be killed.
2-3 – OPENING IMAGES: FLETCH walks on the beach toward Fat Sam’s hamburger stand.
My name is Irwin Fletcher. I’m an investigative reporter for a Los Angeles paper. You probably read my stuff under the byline of Jane Doe or “hey, it’s better than Irwin.” The last three weeks I’ve been loitering around the beach, trying to pass for an amiable, minor league junkie. I don’t nod out or drool; it’s too obvious. Act like you don’t give a crap and you fit right in.
3-4 – Fletch chats with FAT SAM. Fat Sam’s waiting on a shipment of drugs.
4 – GUMMY’S ROLE SETUP 1: GUMMY appears, comments that cops beat him up.
4 – From a bridge, a MAN with binoculars spies on Fletch, Fat Sam and Gummy.
4-5 – Fletch chats with a junkie named CREASY over Fat Sam’s supply. Creasy comments that Fat Sam never leaves the beach, has no clue how he gets his stuff.
6 – The man with the binoculars approaches Fletch under the boardwalk. He asks Fletch to come to his house for a thousand dollars cash to simply hear a proposition. His name is ALAN STANWYK.
I want you to come to my house. Then we’ll talk.
I think you’ve got the wrong gal, fella.
I’ll give you a thousand dollars cash just to come to my house and listen to the proposition. If you reject the proposition, you keep the thousand, and your mouth shut.
Will this proposition entail my dressing up as Little Bo Peep?
(unsmiling, all business)
It is nothing of a sexual nature I assure you.
(Takes a thousand in cash from his pocket)
One thousand, just to listen. I don’t see how you could turn that down Mr...
Nugent. Ted Nugent.
(shakes his hand)
8 – INCITING INCIDENT: At Stanwyk’s mansion, Stanwyk asks Fletch to murder him.
Here’s my proposition, Mr. Nugent.
I’m all ears.
I want you to murder me.
Even garrulous Fletch is stopped in his tracks by this remak, uttered in the most business-like manner.
Here. On Thursday. I’d like you to shoot me dead.
8-12 – Stanwyk tells Fletch that he has bone cancer and the only way to have his life insurance policy pay off is to have himself murdered. Stanwyk lays out the plan, guarantees Fletch he won’t get caught. Fletch agrees.
All you provide are the gloves, the passport, and the aim. I’ll take care of everything else.
The gun, the money, the tickets, and the dying.
You sure go the hard part.
What do you say, Mr. Nugent? You’ll be doing me and my family a great service.
Thinking it over.
Will you kill me?
Sequence II: Fletch visits Stanwyk’s doctor and learns Stanwyk is a member of the California Racquet Club. Later, he sneaks his way into the records room of the hospital and discovers Stanwyk does not have cancer.
13-14 – Back at the news office, FRANK WALKER, Fletch’s boss, demands Fletch finish his story on the beach drug trade by the following day. Fletch blows him off.
15 – The young news researcher, LARRY, shows Fletch news clippings of Stanwyk: Stanwyk married the daughter of Boyd Avaition; Stanwyk’s parents were unable to attend wedding; Cancer Society Benefit picture of Stanwyk, Gail, and Dr. Joseph Dolen.
16 – Trying to dig up dirt on Stanwyk, Fletch, complaining of kidney pain, has DR. DOLEN examine him.
INT. DOCTOR’S EXAMINING ROOM – DAY
Fletch, stripped to the waist. is being examined by Dr. Joseph Dolen, a rather imperious physician.
So where do you know Alan from?
We play tennis at the club.
Really. The California Racquet Club?
That’s my club too. I haven’t see you there.
Well, I haven’t played in a while because of these kidney pains.
Right, and how long have you had these pains, Mr. Barber?
But not right next to each other. I thought that’s what you meant.
Arnold Babar. Isn’t there a children’s book about an elephant named Babar?
I don’t know. I don’t have any.
No elephant books.
18 – After a prostate exam, Fletch comes up empty: Dolan won’t discuss his patients. However, he did learn Stanwyk is a member of the California Racquet Club.
20 – Impersonating a doctor, Fletch attempts to access the records room of the hospital, but is called in to assist a PATHOLOGIST during an autopsy and passes out.
21-23 – STRONG MOVEMENT FORWARD: Fletch wakes up in the records room and after distracting a nurse, digs up Stanwyk’s file. According to hospital records, Stanwyk does not have cancer.
Sequence III: Fletch meets Stanwyk’s wife Gail and learns Stanwyk is in Utah. While impersonating a SEC auditor at Boyd Aviation, he learns that Gail paid for their Utah ranch with her personal money and that Stanwyk does not own any stock in the company.
23 – MR. UNDERHILL SETUP 1: At the California Racquet Club, Fletch overhears MR. UNDERHILL being rude to a waiter.
24-25 – Fletch spots Alan’s wife GAIL STANWYK playing tennis badly. He approaches, introduces himself as a friend of Alan’s.
25 – MR. UNDERHILL SETUP 2: Fletch orders a Bloody Mary, steak sandwich, and a steak sandwich on the Underhill’s tab.
26-27 – GAIL TENNIS SETUP: Fletch gives Gail some tennis tips for info on Stanwyk. He learns that she hasn’t seen much of him lately. She reveals Alan is in Utah when Fletch claims to have seen him that morning. She takes it as him trying to hit on her. He lets her believe it.
28-29 – END OF ACT ONE TURN & PROVO RANCH SETUP: Impersonating a SEC auditor, Fletch meets with JOHN BOYD, Gail’s father, regarding info on Stanwyk’s interests in Utah. John tells him that the three million dollar ranch in Utah was paid for by Gail and that Stanwyk doesn’t own any stock in Boyd Aviation.
29 – DECISION: Fletch snags the number for Stanwyk’s realtor from Boyd’s secretary.
Sequence I: After witnessing Gummy, one of the beach junkies, roughed up and hauled away by two cops, Fletch believes cops may be involved in the drug trade.
29 – Fletch approaches his apartment, spots his wife’s attorney’s car.
I knew my junkie pals were awaiting my good cheer on the beach, but I needed a second wind, a beer, and a wardrobe change. As I pulled up to my palatial, imitation apartment building, I observed the familiar red Oldsmo-Buick of Mr. Arnold T. Pants, Esq., attorney for the former Mrs. Irwin Fletcher. Time to use the service entrance.
30 – Fletch climbs up the fire escape and finds his wife’s attorney MARVIN GILLETT waiting for him on the fire escape. Fletch invites him inside.
32 – Fletch pays off the alimony with the money Stanwyk gave him.
33 – Fletch dreams of playing basketball for the Lakers.
There’s Fletch, his hair in an Afro, dressed in Laker gold. He’s on the receiving end of a Jabbar pass, making an easy layup.
Gosh, he make it look so easy!
34-35 – GUMMY’S ROLE SETUP 2: Two cops rough up Gummy and throw him in their patrol car. Fletch shatters the rear window of their patrol car with a rock, but they don’t stop.
Why didn’t the cops haul Fletch in, too? Are they involved in the drug trade?
36 – Fletch asks Frank for more time on the story. When Fletch comments that cops may be involved, Frank gets Fletch a ticket to Utah to investigate the source. Fletch just wants info on Stanwyk.
Sequence II: After breaking into Stanwyk’s realtor’s office, Fletch discovers that the supposed three million dollar ranch in Utah was purchased for just three thousand dollars.
37 – On the plane to Provo, Fletch records a memo into a cassette player, asking himself why Gail would convert three million in stock for the ranch and pay in cash.
Question: Why does a man ask me to kill him and lie about dying when he isn’t dying. Question: Gail Stanwyk converts three million of her stocks to buy the ranch house. Why pay in cash?
38 – From his motel in Provo, Fletch calls Stanwyk’s realtor, JIM SWARTHOUT, for info on the ranch house. Swarthout tells him the deal wasn’t for three million.
40-42 – FIRST TRIAL & PROVO RANCH PAYOFF: Fletch breaks in to Swarthout’s office, finds the deed for Stanwyk’s ranch: The property sold for only three thousand dollars. Swarthout’s doberman chases Fletch and he barely makes it to his car without being mauled.
Sequence III: Fletch is brought to police headquarters. Police Chief Karlin threatens to kill him if doesn’t cease his investigation into the drug trade on the beach, claiming that undercover cops’ lives could be put in danger.
43 – Fletch arrives back at his apartment. TWO COPS appear and throw him against a wall. While patting him down, they throw a bag of heroin on the ground and frame him for possession.
You fellas wanna read me my rights?
You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to be kicked in the face by me.
You have the right to have your balls stomped by him.
I’ll waive my rights.
44-46 – The cops drop Fletch off with CHIEF KARLIN. Karlin asks Fletch to not run the story because undercover cops are on the beach and their lives could be put in danger with the publicity. Fletch smarts off, angers Karlin.
47 – MIDPOINT: Karlin places Fletch in a cell, threatens his life if he doesn’t back off the story.
The Chief takes a knife out of his pocket, holding it with a handkerchief.
After I shoot you, I stick the knife in my arm, then place it in your dead hand. Self-defense. We don’t do this very much anymore... but we have. Got rid of a lot of minorities that way.
Can I ask anybody now?
Karlin looks down the corridor. Deserted.
Can I call my Mom? I’d like to tell her how much I’ve always loved her.
(cocks the gun)
What’ll it be Fletch?
Fletch looks in Karlin’s eyes. They are steely and cold. He is quite serious.
I hate the beach. Wouldn’t go there if you paid me. Besides, I’m way overdue on my story about off-track betting in the Himalayas. You don’t think it’s the mafia, do you?
(opening the cell)
Its been very nice meeting you. I enjoy your column.
Sequence I: Fletch learns that Stanwyk flies to Utah every weekend in his personal jet and that the jet has the fuel capacity to fly back and forth to South America. Later, he reveals his identity and investigation to Gail, asks her for twenty fours to figure everything out.
48 – Fletch berates Frank for calling Karlin. He tells Frank that Karlin threatened to kill him, but Frank doesn’t believe him: Frank demands an article. Fletch flips him off.
50-53 – Impersonating a mechanic, Fletch shows up at Boyd Aviation and learns that Stanwyk flies his jet to Utah every weekend. He also learns that the jet has the fuel capability to fly to South America and back.
54 – Back at the California Racquet Club, Fletch searches for Gail and charges more to the Underhill’s tab.
EXT. RACQUET CLUB
Fletch again appears in his tennis whites and walks familiarly toward the patio. Rich people are having lunch. Fletch stops the waiter.
Hi, where’s Mrs. Stanwyk?
In her cabana, sir.
Oh, that’s right. She told me to meet her there. That’s cabana six?
Would you be caring for something to eat or drink, sir?
I would, actually.
Charged to the Underhills, sir?
Right. Do you have any caviar?
Yes, sir. Beluga. But it is eighty dollars the portion.
I’d better only get two. How about the lobster thermidor?
I recommend it.
Fine. And a couple of bottles of Dom Perignon. To cabana one.
Very good, sir.
54-55 – Gail answers the door in a towel. Fletch kicks back while she gets dressed, the food arrives.
56 – MR. UNDERHILL PAYOFF: Mr. Underhill receives his bill, demands to know who authorized the charges.
56-60 – STANWYK’S PARENTS SETUP: Just as Fletch learns that Gail has never been to Utah and that Stanwyk hasn’t seen his parents in years, Mr. Underhill shows up. Fletch reveals that he’s a reporter. He tells her of Stanwyk’s proposition, the lie about cancer and the Utah property.
60 – FLETCH = DEAD STANWYK SETUP: Fletch asks Gail for twenty four hours to figure everything out. She gives him one of Stanwyk’s suits, which fits Fletch perfectly, and he exits through a window.
Sequence II: Fletch observes a secret meeting between Stanwyk and Karlin. After a high speed chase with the police, Fletch narrowly avoids apprehension.
60 – STANWYK & KARLIN SETUP: Fletch follows Stanwyk, watches him put a few gallons of gas in his trunk. Later, Stanwyk meets with Karlin in secret, picks up a briefcase.
62-65 – Fletch spots cops at his apartment and flees. He pulls up next to a teenager in a sports car, takes the driver’s seat. Cops chase them through the city.
66-69 – Fletch ditches the cops for a moment, pulls in to a Holiday Inn. He makes his way through the kitchen to a banquet celebrating Fred “The Dorf” Dorfman. Fletch grabs a mic, interrupts the speaker. He rallies the crowd to thank the police swarming the banquet and they facilitate his escape.
Sequence III: Fletch learns that Stanwyk has booked a flight to Rio with a woman named Sally Ann Cavanaugh.
69-70 – ASSUMPTION OF POWER: At LAX, Fletch learns that Stanwyk has booked a flight to Rio and purchased a ticket for a woman by the name of Sally Ann Cavanaugh who connects out of Provo, Utah.
71 – Fletch calls Frank, tells him of the police and recent developments, but Frank doesn’t care: He demands the story or he’ll fire Fletch.
Sequence IV: Fletch arrives in Utah and learns Sally Ann Cavanaugh is Stanwyk’s wife.
72-76 – In Provo, Fletch breaks into Sally Ann Cavanaugh’s home. While searching the home, he’s confronted by a man with a shotgun, a man hired to look after the home. Fletch tells him that he’s Sally’s cousin and the man tells Fletch that Sally moved out that morning. When the man insists he’s gonna call the cops, Fletch kicks him in the balls and escapes.
76 – Fletch calls Larry, asks her to search every hotel in LA for Sally Ann.
77-78 – STANWYK’S PARENTS PAYOFF: Impersonating an insurance underwriter, Fletch questions Stanwyk’s parents MARVIN and VELMA at their pig farm. They claim Stanwyk visits them every few weeks.
78-79 – END OF ACT TWO TURN: Fletch learns that Sally Ann Cavanaugh has been Stanwyk’s wife for the last eight years.
80 – DECISION: Fletch takes Stanwyk and Sally Ann’s wedding picture from Velma to show to Gail.
Sequence I: Fletch brings Fat Sam and Gummy to the paper: They agreed to go on the record and name Chief Karlin as the drug source on the beach.
80-81 – Fletch gives Gail the info on Stanwyk and Sally Ann, asks for another day to figure things out. She agrees.
82-84 – GUMMY’S ROLE PAYOFF: Back at the beach, Fletch tells Gummy he’s a reporter who is about to crack Karlin as the drug source on the beach. Fletch learns that Gummy delivered the drugs from Karlin to Fat Sam and that Karlin gets his drugs from South America.
84 – Fletch reveals himself to Fat Sam, learns Karlin extorted Fat Sam to be the dealer.
85 – POINT OF NO RETURN: Fletch brings Fat Sam and Gummy to the paper with their confessions naming Karlin as the drug source on the beach. Fletch is back on Frank’s good side.
Sequence II: After Fletch arrives at Stanwyk’s home library, Stanwyk pulls a gun on him. Fletch gives Stanwyk a letter, which details Stanwyk’s improprieties. Gail then shows up and later, Karlin. Karlin and Stanwyk argue, reveal Stanwyk was running drugs and Karlin was distributing. Their argument intensifies and Karlin shoots Stanwyk dead. Fletch fights Karlin. Gail saves Fletch, knocks Karlin out with her tennis racket.
86- – Dressed in Stanwyk’s suit, Fletch arrives at the mansion, checks Stanwyk’s Jag. The keys are in the glove compartment and gas canisters are in the trunk.
87 – FLETCH = DEAD STANWYK PAYOFF: Fletch enters Stanwyk’s library and Stanwyk draws a gun on him: Stanwyk intends to burn Fletch’s body in his car and stage his own death (Fletch was chosen because they are the same size). Fletch gives Stanwyk a letter that details Stanwyk’s plan, but is interrupted by Gail.
We see that it is addressed to:
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD
‘Dear Sir: Alan Stanwyk murdered me tonight. The charred remains found by the police in the Jaguar are mine, not his. Mr. Stanwyk, using my name and passport, boarded Pan Am Flight 306 for Rio, where he intends to establish residence with --’
He stares at Fletch.
He is lifting Stanwyk’s two attaché cases.
Pretty hefty. Keep reading.
‘...with his legal wife, the former Sally Ann Cavanaugh.’
Stanwyk stops. He’s stunned, and not about to read anymore of this.
GAIL’S VOICE (O.S.)
Keep reading, Alan.
99-102 – Fletch spills the beans: Stanwyk intends to leave with the cash and his wife, Sally Ann.
102-103 – STANWYK & KARLIN SETUP: Chief Karlin walks in, interrupts Stanwyk from shooting Gail and Fletch. Their conversation reveals Stanwyk was running the drugs and Karlin was distributing. They argue and Karlin shoots Stanwyk dead.
103 – CLIMAX & GAIL TENNIS PAYOFF: Fletch turns on the fireplace gas as Karlin approaches. Karlin raises his gun and Fletch tosses a zippo into the fireplace, which sends a fire blast at Karlin. The two men wrestle for Karlin’s gun. Karlin gets the upper hand, but Gail grabs a tennis racket and knocks Karlin out before he can kill Fletch.
Fletch can finish his story.
Sequence I: Fletch takes a vacation with Gail to Rio.
104-105 – Behind a large print that reads “Police Chief Karlin Indicted: Jane Doe’s Testimony brings First Degree Murder Charge,” Fletch argues with Frank over expenses. Gail shows up. Fletch talks basketball, but she just wants to go to Rio with him.
105 – A poster of a Rio beach on Fletch’s cubical wall fades into the real thing, with Fletch and Gail arm and arm, walking down the beach.
The coroner had ruled Stanwyk dead or extremely sleepy. And Chief Karlin was facing twenty years in the funhouse. I decided to accompany Gail to Rio and personally assist her in her grief therapy. On the beach, I explained basketball to her, but she didn’t seem to grasp it.
105 – CLOSING IMAGES: Fletch explains basketball to Gail.
When it came to basketball, Gail was lost. But we had our own version of one-on-one and she thought I was the bravest man in the world, which, of course, I am. By the way, I charged the entire vacation to Mr. Underhill’s American Express card. Want the number?
105 – THE END.