The Fisher King Beat Sheet

The Fisher King Beat Sheet

The Fisher King

Written by Richard LaGravenese
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Running time: 134 minutes
Year: 1991


PROTAGONIST: JACK LUCAS, 40’s, former Howard Stern-esque shock-jock.
CHARACTERIZATION/MAIN MISBEHAVIOR: dependence, alcoholism and narcissism
EXTERNAL GOAL: To help Parry get back on his feet and find love / To help Parry get The Holy Grail
INTERNAL GOAL: To forgive himself for Parry’s wife’s murder
THEME: Forgiveness and grace lead to personal salvation.
CENTRAL DRAMATIC QUESTION: Will Jack forgive himself and help Parry move on with his life?
ENDING: Jack steals the The Grail from Langdon Carmichael and Parry wakes from his coma. With Parry back on his feet, Jack declares his love for Anne and she accepts him back in her life.
ARC: Jack goes from a broken-down, narcissistic alcoholic to a man who forgives himself of past sins through learning to love someone other than himself.


Jack Lucas, a popular Howard Stern-esque radio shock jock, instigates a troubled caller to his radio show. When the caller goes on a shooting rampage, killing innocent people, Jack’s career is over.

Jack, down and out and living off his girlfriend, attempts suicide, but is saved by a homeless man named Parry. When he finds that Parry’s wife was murdered by the troubled caller, Jack decides to help Parry.

Jack discovers Parry’s infatuation with a shy woman, he sets them up on a date and they hit it off. Feeling the guilt has lifted, Jack calls his agent and breaks up with Anne because he needs time to be alone. His world is turned upside down when Parry is beaten by thugs and falls into a coma.

Guilt-ridden over Parry’s situation, Jack breaks into Langdon Carmichael’s home and steals a cup that Parry believes is the Holy Grail.  After delivering it, Parry wakes from his coma. Jack goes to Anne, declares his love for her and she accepts him back in her life.



1 – OPENING IMAGES: “Hit the Road, Jack” by Ray Charles over NYC radio shock-jock, JACK LUCAS, hard at work. Jack’s cynical, vain, arrogant, and a misogynist. He humiliates all callers to the thunderous appreciation of his sycophantic staff.

4 – Jack talks with EDWIN, a troubled, regular caller to his radio show. Edwin tells Jack of the woman he met at a “Yuppie” bar. Jack spins a conversation about the sentimental moments marking the start of a relationship, to a full-fledged assault on the Yuppie’s purpose in the world.


They’re not human. They don’t feel love, they only negotiate love moments. They’re evil, Edwin. They’re repulsed by imperfection, horrified by the banal -- everything that America stands for. Everything that you and I fight for. They must be stopped before it’s too late. It’s us or them.



Okay, Jack.

5 – Riding in a limo, Jack discusses the film he begins shooting the following day with his agent, LOU. A homeless man appears, knocking on the limo’s window. Jack refuses to give the man any money, saying, “a couple of quarters isn’t gonna make a difference anyway.”

6 – In his high-rise penthouse apartment, Jack stares at his reflection and comments, “I hate my cheeks.” Vanity at its finest. Instead of dinner with his young girlfriend, he decides to stay in for the evening and learn lines from his new film’s script. In the bath tub, he looks into a hand mirror and repeats a line over and over again, “forgive me… forgive me… forgive me.”

9 – Jack dances his way into the living room repeating his “forgive me” line. Turning on the evening news, he’s delighted at the sight of his picture over audio of his morning on-air conversation with Edwin, until a cut to a reporter outside a crime scene.


Edwin Malnick arrived at the peak hour of seven-fifteen, took one long look at the handsome collection of the city’s best and brightest, then removed a shotgun from his overcoat and opened fire. Seven people were killed before Mr. Malnick turned the gun on himself and shot a hole through his head... few will soon forget this lonely man who reached out to a world he knew only through the radio, looking for friendship, and finding only pain.

9 – Jack is devastated.



10 – Now a broken-down alcoholic, Jack works for his girlfriend, ANNE, at Video Spot.

13 – Jaded, angry, and drunk, Jack watches the film he was supposed to star in. Anne laughs, pissing off Jack. She questions his continual desire to watch it and torture himself. She encourages him to get past it, but Jack takes a stab at the low-brow love story she reads.



It happens to be a beautiful love story.


You know, you used to like that about me. You used to say you like that I didn’t make you think so much. That we could be together and not think...


Yeah, well... suicidal paranoiacs will say anything to get laid.

Anne’s deeply hurt.


Have another drink, Jack. It’s on the house... like everything else.

14 – Anne turns up the volume on the TV and exits. The actor on the television says Jack’s line, “forgive me.” Staring into the TV, Jack laughs, throws the remote control at the TV and leaves.

16 – On the street, Jack is handed a wooden Pinocchio doll by a young boy who mistakes him for a homeless man. Later that night, Jack’s far more intoxicated and talking to the doll.


(to Pinocchio doll)

You ever get the feeling sometimes... you’re being punished for your sins?

18 – At the edge of the East River, Jack has tied cinder blocks to his ankles (plus the Pinocchio doll), ready to jump and end his life. Seconds before he jumps, two JUVENILE DELINQUENTS approach him with a baseball bat, two flares and a gallon of gasoline.

20 – INCITING INCIDENT: The juvenile delinquents beat Jack down and cover him in gasoline. Moments before they try to light Jack on fire, an maniacal homeless man, PARRY, appears like a knight in shining armor.

21 – Parry beats off Jack’s attackers with his manic wit, a little song and dance, a few homeless friends and street smarts.

22 – Parry takes Jack to a homeless camp, where Parry’s homeless friends force Jack to drink alcohol until he passes out.

24 – Jack wakes up in Parry’s hideaway, an apartment boiler room. Parry is a schizophrenic. Talking to people that don’t exist, he claims he’s a “knight on a special quest.”

28 – STRONG MOVEMENT FORWARD (external): In a magazine article on real estate billionaire LANGDON CARMICHAEL, Parry points to a picture of Langdon in his study. On a shelf is, what Parry claims to be, The Holy Grail. Parry asks Jack to help him get the Holy Grail from Langdon. Jack refuses and leaves.

THE FISHER KING LEGEND: The Fisher King was charged by God with guarding the Holy Grail, but later incurred some form of incapacitating physical punishment for his sin of pride, and had to wait for someone to deliver him from his suffering.

30 – On the way out of Parry’s place, Jack is accosted by the LANDLORD of the building, where the man tells Jack he continues to help Parry because of the “tragedy.”

30 – END OF ACT ONE TURN: The landlord informs Jack that Parry’s wife was murdered by Edwin. Jack is speechless, devastated.


31 – Jack tells Anne about the attack and nearly being set on fire by two juvenile delinquents. She immediately believes he’s seeing someone else until she sees his bruised face.

33 – Jack asks Anne is she knows what the Holy Grail is and if she believes in God.


Oh, yeah, you gotta believe in God.

(trying to be intellectual)

But I don’t believe God made man in his image, ‘cause most of the shit that happens is because of men. Nah, I think man was made in the devil’s image and women were created out of God -- ‘cause, after all, women can have babies, which is kinda like creating, and which also counts for the fact that women are so attracted to men, because, let’s face it, the devil is a helluva lot more interesting. I slept with a few saints in my day and believe me I know what I’m talking about... boring! So, the whole point of life, I think, is for men and women to get married, so God and the devil can get together... and work it out.

33 – Jack and Anne make love.

35 – Jack goes to Parry’s hideaway and discovers Parry’s religious artwork (depicting a red devil horsemen), sword, and book on the Holy Grail. Jack’s startled by the landlord.

36 – The landlord gives a bit of history on Parry to Jack:


That’s his real name -- Henry Sagan. He was a teacher over at Columbia. They kept him in some mental place on Staten Island. He did not speak for over a year, then, all of the sudden, he’s this Parry guy.

36 – The landlord lets Jack dig through Parry’s old pictures, where he finds a picture of Parry’s wife ripped in half. The landlord says, “he was crazy about her.”

37 – Unable to sleep, Jack digs through old news articles on his public demise. Anne comforts him.


I was there was some way I could just... pay the fine and go home.

40 – Jack finds Parry sitting atop a car with its alarm going off on Park Avenue. Jack attempts to give Parry money, but Parry is more interested in following a socially awkward girl, LYDIA.

42 – FIRST TRIAL: Jack slows Parry down for a moment and gives him seventy dollars. Parry is gracious. Jack leaves.

42 – FIRST CASUALTY: Waiting to cross the street, Jack notices Parry give a homeless man the money. Jack rushes over and attempts to get the money back, but Parry stops him. If Jack really wants to help, he’ll help Parry get the Holy Grail.

44 – Parry takes Jack to scope out Langdon Carmichael’s townhouse.

46 – COMBAT: Jack talks with Parry about moving on with life and Parry breaks down, falling down in the street, screaming. Parry sees visions of a RED KNIGHT on top a RED HORSE.

This marks a rise in the stakes. If Jack didn’t realize it before, Parry is certifiably insane.

46-48 – When Jack tries to calm Parry, the Red Knight backs away. Parry believes the Red Knight is afraid of Jack and chases him through Central Park. Jack, horribly out of shape, follows.

49 – Jack finds Parry on top of a large boulder. As Parry explains they nearly caught the Red Knight, they hear the distant screams of a man. Parry, the brave knight, rushes to person’s aid. Jack, barely able to breath, follows slowly.

50 – Parry and Jack find a GAY BUM crying hysterically, trying to bury himself in dirt. They lend a hand.

52 – Jack and Parry take the gay bum to the emergency room.

Jack finally shows some compassion for someone besides himself.

54 – While Parry waits to see Lydia come through Grand Central, Jack talks with a disabled homeless man, SID. People walk by Sid and few throw change in cup. Jack picks up a coin someone tossed at Sid that missed the cup.


Asshole. Guy didn’t even look at you.


Well, he’s paying so he don’t have to look.

Jack begins to empathize with the homeless.

56 – Parry spots the girl and follows. He slips into a fantasy where all the commuters in Grand Central Station begin ballroom dancing to an orchestral waltz. He’s in love.

58 – Jack misses dinner with Anne. Anne asserts all her feelings as if Jack is there.

60 – In the middle of the night, Jack follows Parry back into Central Park (where he knows it’s not safe at night) and Parry talks about “cloudbusting,” where you “lie naked on your back, concentrate on the clouds and try to break them apart with your mind.”

60 – Parry strips naked and Jack walks away, frustrated and angry.

61-64 – Jack, fully clothed, lies next to Parry, still butt-naked, in the middle of Central Park. Parry believes Jack is not a happy man. He tells Jack the story of The Fisher King…


It begins with the King as a boy, having to spend the night alone in the forest to prove his courage so he can become a King. While he’s spending the night alone, he’s visited by a sacred vision. Out of a fire appears the Holy Grail, a symbol of God’s divine grace. And a voice says to the boy, “you shall be keeper of the Grail so that it may heal the hearts of men. But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power, glory and beauty. In the state of radical amazement, he thought for a brief moment, not like a boy, but invincible. Like God. So, reached into the fire to take the Grail and the Grail vanished, leaving him with his hand in the fire to be terribly wounded. Now, as this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper, until one day, life for him lost its reason. He had no faith for any man, not even himself. Couldn’t love or feel love. He was sick with experience he began to die. One day, a fool walked into the castle and found the King alone. The Fool, he was simple-minded. He didn’t see a King, he only saw a man alone and in pain. And he asked the King, “what ails you, friend?” The King replied, “I’m thirsty, I need some water to cool my throat.” So, the Fool to a cup from beside his bed and filled it with water, handed it to the King. As the King began to drink, he realized his wound was healed. He looked in his hands and there was the Holy Grail, that which he sought his entire life. He turned to the fool and said with amazement, “how could you find that which my brightest and bravest could not?” The Fool replied, “I don’t know. I only knew that you were thirsty.”

64 – As Parry begins to remember that he heard the story at a lecture, at the college where he was a professor, he sees a vision of the Red Knight again. Jack snaps him out of it…

65 – MIDPOINT: Jack asks Parry why he hasn’t asked the girl out on a date. Parry tells him he’s after the Grail and Jack insists she’ll give him the strength to get it.


Women are great. You know, they make homes and they, uh, kill the livestock so the knights can go out there and get Grails... and slaughter villages with a clear head. I mean, where would Arthur be without Guinevere?


Happily married, probably.


Well, that’s a bad example, but trust me on this: a woman who loves you keep you going, gives you strength and makes you feel like you can do anything.


Is that what your girlfriend does for you?




Parry smiles, pretends his nose extends like Pinocchio’s during a lie.


67 – Jack attempts to call Lydia from his apartment, but Anne overhears him asking for her. She freaks down and Jack is forced to tell her what’s going on: he’s not with another woman, he was out with Parry. He feels “indebted” to Parry and feels if he can get Parry the woman he loves that his luck will change.

68 – Anne feels for Jack and helps him call Lydia. Jack calls Lydia, telling her she won a membership to Video Spot. Lydia hangs up on him.

70 – Jack hires the gay bum to sing a Video Stop cabaret to Lydia in her office.

72 – Lydia accepts the Video Stop card from the gay bum.

73 – At the store, Jack and Anne put Parry a Video Stop shirt seconds before Lydia arrives to redeem her prize.

77 – Parry attempts to help Lydia pick out a video, but can’t find anything she likes. On her way out, she notices Anne’s nails. Jack offers to have Anne do Lydia’s nails. Lydia accepts.

79 – Parry psychotically flirts with Anne while Jack finds a suit for Parry to wear.

81 – ASSUMPTION OF POWER: Jack cleans Parry up.

83 – Getting her nails done, Lydia lets down her guard with Anne.


I think some people are meant to be alone. This is my idea, that I... I was born a man in a former life and I used women for pleasure. So now, I’m paying for it. I wouldn’t mind so much, if I could just remember the pleasure parts.

86 – Jack and Anne talk their respective friends into going out to dinner.

87 – On the way to dinner, Lydia talks with Parry about her job and they connect. While talking, Parry grabs the wire off champagne cork wrapper in the trash.


Your calculations determine whether a book is published or not. And maybe it’s a book that changes the way people think, or, you know, act --


Yeah, but we publish is mostly trashy romance novels.


Don’t say that. There’s nothing trashy about romance. Romance is passion; is imagination, beauty, besides you can find some pretty wonderful things in the trash.

With this, Parry shows her his creation – a little wire chair made from the champagne     wire. Lydia is impressed.

90 – During dinner, both Parry and Lydia are clumsy, socially inept fools. Anne comments they were “made for each other.”

91 – Parry sings a song for Lydia. Jack finally shows some affection to Anne.

93 – On the way home from dinner, Jack and Anne laugh like they haven’t in years. Outside the door, Anne comments how proud she is of Jack. They go upstairs and make love.

95-98 – While walking home with Perry, Lydia expresses her fears that Parry’s intentions are not for love, but sex, and fleeting. She runs away. Parry catches up and professes his love. He tells her how well he knows her, how he’s followed her and fallen in love. She kisses him and goes inside her apartment happier than she’s been in years.

99 – Outside Lydia’s apartment, Parry flashes back to his wife’s murder. The Red Knight appears and Parry begs him to let him “have her.” Parry runs and the Red Knight chases.

102 – With the Red Knight still chasing him, Parry makes his way to the East River (where he saved Jack) and stumbles upon the two juvenile delinquents again. This time they get the best of him with their baseball bat and switch blade.

104-107 – Jack calls his agent, Lou, and tells him he’s worked out his personal problems and is ready to work again.

108 – Anne is ecstatic with the news, but Jack wants to be alone, so he can focus on his career. Anne’s hit with a ton bricks when Jack can’t answer if he loves her.


Do you think you’re company is such a treat? Your moods, our pain, our problems. Do you think this has been entertaining for me?


Then what do you want to stay with me for?


Because I love you.

109 – A phone call interrupts their break up. It’s police — Jack’s wallet has been found…

110 – END OF ACT TWO TURN: Jack and Anne rush to Parry in the ER. The doctor explains that Parry is re-experiencing the catatonia he experienced after his wife’s murder. There’s no telling when he’ll snap out of it. Parry will be sent back to an institution.


Poor Lydia. She finally finds her prince and he falls into a coma. Some women just have no luck, huh?

111 – Anne walks out of Jack’s life.


112 – On the air, Jack’s back on top.

113 – Outside a high-rise office building, Jack and Lou attempt to walk inside when Jack is noticed by the gay bum. The gay bum is overjoyed with the sight of his old friend, but Jack pretends he doesn’t exist. The security guard pulls him away and Jack does nothing to stop him.

114 – A TELEVISION EXECUTIVE pitches Jack a show about homeless people. Homeless people who love the “freedom of being homeless.”


It’s all about the joy of living, not the bullshit we have to deal with: the money, the politics. And the best part is, it’s called “Home Free.”

114 – Without word, Jack rushes out of the meeting and to Parry’s old boiler room, where he finds a book on The Holy Grail. He remembers Parry’s old request: to help him get the Grail from Landon Carmichael’s home.

116 – Jack arrives at Parry’s new home at the institution. He hides when he sees Lydia on her way out.

117-120 – At Parry’s bedside, Jack brings Parry the Pinocchio doll. Upset, he screams at Parry, but he doesn’t wake. He comments how comfortable he is in life, how well he’s doing, but he quickly breaks down…


It’s easy being nuts, try being me.


So, I won’t do it. I don’t believe in this shit. Don’t give me this stuff about me being the one. There’s nothing special about me. I control my own destiny, not some floating, overweight fairies. I decide what I’m gonna do and I am not risking my life to get some fucking cup for some fucking vegetable!

120 – POINT OF NO RETURN: Dressed in Parry’s clothes, Jack climbs a rope outside of Langdon Carmichael’s castle-like New York townhouse — he’s gonna steal the Grail for Parry and risk his life to do so.

125 – Jack finds The Grail inside Langdon’s study. The inscription on the cup reads, “To Little Lannie Carmichael for all his work.. P.S. 247. Christmas Pageant 1932.”

126 – Jack stumbles upon Langdon Carmichael in the study, passed out from pills. He carefully makes his way out, but decides to avoid the danger and go through the front door, tripping a laser alarm. He runs from Langdon’s townhouse with The Grail in hand.

127 – CLIMAX (external): Jack delivers The Grail to Parry’s beside, placing it in his hands. Later that night, Parry wakes up with The Grail. He notices Jack asleep. He places his hand on his back and speaks, but Jack pretends to be asleep.


I had this dream, Jack. I was married. I was married to this beautiful woman...and you were there too...I really miss her, Jack. Is that okay? Can I miss her now?

129 – The next morning, a patient reads the New York Post. On the front page, a headline reads “Accidental Suicide Thwarted by Night Prowler.”

130 – Lydia comes for her daily visit to the shock of not finding Parry in his bed. She immediately hears men singing… Parry leads all the patients, along with Jack, in a rendition of “How About You?”. Parry and Lydia embrace…happy to be in each other’s arms again.

132 – CLIMAX (internal): Jack walks in on Anne in her office at Video Stop. He’s uncharacteristically nervous and she’s justifiably defensive.  He tells her he loves her and she slaps him across the face — hard. She then grabs him and they kiss like two people in love.


133 – A late night in Central Park, Parry and Jack lie on their backs, cloudbusting. One of the clouds move, bringing out a full moon…


Am I doing that?


Are you crazy? That’s the wind.

134 – Parry and Jack sing “How About You?”, howl and moon and laugh like two old friends…

134 – THE END.

William Robert Rich
William Robert Rich

William Robert Rich is a story analyst, screenwriter, and co-author of Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan. He's currently based in Austin, Texas.

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