It’s the movie Entertainment Weekly called the greatest romance of the past 25 years. Boom boxes have come and gone, but the iconic image of John Cusack holding his over his head so that Ione Skye can hear their song is all-but-universally recognizable. “I used to think I had a crush on John Cusack,” a 20-something friend told me. “But I really had a crush on [his Say Anything… character], Lloyd Dobbler.” A lot of the teen girls in the audience (and even the grown-up women) identified with Corey, DC, and Rebecca, who said, “If you were Diane Court, would you honestly fall for Lloyd?” “Yeah.” “Yeah.” “Yeah!”
Diane (Ione Skye), the high school valedictorian memorably described as “a brain…trapped in the body of a game show hostess,” does fall for Lloyd, then breaks up with him after pressure from her father (John Mahoney), then comes back to him when it turns out her father, the person she trusted most, was stealing from his nursing home residents to get money to give Diane lavish gifts.
Susannah Gora of Salon notes that writer-director Cameron Crowe (“Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Almost Famous,” and the upcoming “We Bought a Zoo” with Matt Damon) has been posting deleted scenes, just the screenplay, not footage, on his website.
Crowe had based the Lloyd character on a real-life man named Lowell Marchant, who was his neighbor in Santa Monica during the time he was working on this script. Marchant was an optimistic 19-year-old kickboxer from Alabama, who, as Crowe told me when I interviewed him for my book “You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried,” “would knock on the doors of his neighbors to make friends. And you’d answer it, and he’d be like, ‘Good afternoon, I’m Lowell Marchant. And I would like to meet you. I’m your neighbor, and I’m a kickboxer. Do you know about kickboxing?’ And he would wipe off his palm on the side of his pant leg, and shake your hand. And it was just such a great thing.” Crowe told me that Marchant’s simple, thoughtful gesture of wiping his palm before going for the handshake “was the first little spark for the bonfire that would become getting the character right.”
But what struck me as perhaps the most interesting and most significant finding in all the newly released material was this: Originally, Lloyd had a line at the very beginning of the film in which he asks one of his friends, “Did [Diane] ever say anything about me?” The line was ultimately scrapped, which may seem insignificant if not for one thing: That was the only time that Cusack’s character ever uttered the phrase that was the title of the film. As it stands, that phrase, “say anything,” is spoken many times — but only by Diane and her father.
It is a lot of fun to read over the script for the famous dinner scene and see the stage directions, and understand how much Mahoney, Skye, and Cusack brought to the film, and to see the portions that Crowe wrote but did not use. And if it inspires you to watch the movie (again or for the first time), that’s good, too.