adaptation of the book
the richest man in babylon
EXT. BEN'S GARDEN, SUBURBS - MID-MORNING
A 40 odd-year-old, portly mechanic is humped shirtless on a wall that surrounds his ramshackle home. BEN sips a small stubby as the sun sizzles down on his stout dad-bod. Swaths of scrap mental and rusty car parts litter the garden like a backstreet scrapyard. Ben wistfully gazes at a partially built muscle car parked beneath a large weathered sign that sits at the end of a pole. It reads “Big Ben’s Auto Repairs”. His wife SARAH comes to the door.
Are ya just gonna sit there all day, or are ya actually gonna finish that job? The cupboards are catchin' dust and the fridge is empty!
Sarah slams the door shut. Ben - unflinching and unfazed - continues to blankly stare into space, He looks over towards the end of the street at a luxurious and evergreen home of a wealthy neighbour. A gardener is mowing the lawn; a cleaner disposes bags of trash into a bin. A smart well-dressed man and women hastily leave the house. They share a kiss and depart in separate luxury cars. Ben looks on, his gaze fixated on the car as it approaches him at speed. The car squeals and comes to a sudden halt in front of Ben’s house. LAWRENCE ANDERSON, Ben’s wealthy and beautiful neighbour recedes the car window.
Ben is cut-off mid sentence.
Could you book me in your diary for a repair next week? Yesterday, I popped into the local coffee house for my usual decaffeinated-espresso-macchiato, and a crispy chickpea sub-sandwich, and when I returned, some degenerate had vandalised my car.
Where’s the damage?
It’s right their Ben.
On the door. Can you not see it?
Ben takes a closer look at the door. There's a small scratch about 1cm in length.
I see it.
How does next Tuesday sound. 8am sharp?
Lawrence looks at his watch.
Damn, II must dash - I’m going to be late for my chemical face peel. See you Tuesday.
Lawrence squeals off leaving Ben speechless. Ben takes a swig of his beer and throws the can at a bin. It hits the rim and lands on the ground among a litter of empty cans. Again he stares blankly at the cans - engrossed in thought until his attention is caught by the twanging of guitar strings. He turns to see Cobie, his 40-year-old friend approaching from the opposite direction. He has long hair and baggy clothes, he looks like the type of guy who’s just walked out of a festival or spent the last 12 months backpacking on a spiritual awakening.
Ben nods his head
They greet each other with an informal handshake. Strong and firm like an arm wrestle.
Still not finished her then?
Cobie nods towards the partially built muscle car.
Don't ask. I’ve got the client breathin’ down my neck - wanting the job done last week, and I'm one-step away from being
That’s rough man. I was gonna ask if I could borrow 50 quid till next week. I’m going to head into town later to catch the gig at Porters.
Sorry Cobie, I ain’t got it, and even if I did, I still wouldn’t be able lend it ya. 50 quid would be all that I have, and nobody lends-out their entire fortune, not even to their oldest friend. My wallet's collecting dust faster than she is.
Ben nods towards the muscle car and stares at it. Again lost in thought.
Why don’t ya just get her finished? That’ll keep you goin' for a month or so. Plus, you'll be able to pop-out for a sneaky one with me tonight.
Ben doesn’t respond. He gazes at the car still lost in thought.
Are you okay man? You don’t seem yourself.
Ben still staring at the car.
Remember when we were kids, we used to go out to to that bar... what was it called? the one with the red lion statue in the entrance.
Ben's tone of voice becomes merrier and faster paced.
That's the one. You, me and Tony used to head into town on a Saturday afternoon. We’d get our wigs chopped, grab a bite to eat, and splash the cash on some fresh clobber for the night of adventures that lay in wait.
The three fuckin’ Amigos! You were driving that old, racing green, MG cabriolet at the time.
Cue Montage: A hair clipper buzzing and cutting hair...a knife and fork dropped on a dirty plate...a piece of clothing being scanned...a wad of cash snatched from a hand...three young men in a MG cabriolet, nodding along to music.
Ben still wistfully daydreaming looking into space.
Then later in the evening, it was pre-drinks at yours, suited an’ booted while listening to some good music and then taxi to Babylon.
Cue Montage: A shot of spirit being downed (ice jingles in the bottom)...a tie being straightened...a comb running through hair...a vinyl record spinning...a taxi door slamming and speeding off.
I can still picture it, the place had a glitterball as wide as that tyre.
Ben points to a large tyre sitting outside his workshop.
And a picture of Mr-T hanging from the wall.
And toilets that reeked of piss.
We’d order drinks, take them outside to the table with the wonky leg, and talk about the future.
Cue Montage: Shots being poured at the bar...walking/dancing through the dancefloor....drinks placed on a wooden table...a cigarette being lit.
How one day we’d all be men of success. You dreamt of playing a gig each and every weekend in your own bar, and how you would stage dive into the audience and crowd surf like a rockstar.
Cue Montage: Cobie on stage playing to a large crowd...Cobie diving into crowd...Cobie crowd surfing.
Cobie smiles and plays a little guitar riff (Bill and Ted style).
I’d dream of owning the best auto repair garage in town. Floors that you could eat your dinner off, dazzling lights that could be seen from the other side of town. I'd have handful of employees, a receptionist and a complementary “Big Ben’s Auto Repair” air freshener for every customer.
Cue Dream Montage: Big Ben's Auto repairs sign...Lavish auto repairs shop...Ben in a suit greeting a customer...a set of Ferrari keys being handed over...Ben handing over a complementary air freshener...Ben waving and smiling as the customer drives away...Sarah, hugging and kissing him.
I’ve been sitting here all morning contemplating this. I’m 45 years old, I’ve worked hard all my life and this is all I have to show for it.
Ben presents his run-down home with his hands.
I’ve worked on some of the finest cars that money can buy. Exotic super cars, luxury sedans, classic muscle cars. I thought that one day, I myself Would own such a machine. Instead I’m drivin’ around in that piece of shit.
Ben points to an old weathered 2003 Vauxhall Zafira. One of its doors is a slightly lighter shade of blue than the rest of the car.
No matter how hard I’ve worked, no matter how hard I’ve saved, I just couldn’t seem to get ahead. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is as good as it gets.
Ben grabs two ice-cold stubbies from a cooler beneath him. He passes one to Coble. The pair crack them open.
Well at least one of us made it.
Ben stops half-gulp and turns to Cobie.
He passed me last week in town. He was drivin’ some sort of expensive super car - top down, shades on, suited and booted.
Shit, I ain’t seen Tony, in what...20 years. The last time I saw him was that crazy-ass night before he left for the city.
Me neither. He beeped his horn and waved. I had no idea who it was, so I just waved back - as you do. It wasn’t till he passed that I clocked his personalized number plate.
Well I’ll be damned. What was it he left to do?
He was involved in something boring like copy-writing or somethin', but I heard that he’s now the “big swingin’ dick” over at AP Barnaby and Sons.
Ben exhales an impressive whistle.
We should pay him a visit.
What for? To beg for a handout? No thanks.
I ain't beggin’ for no hand out either but surely a good old pal would be willing to offer us some good advice. It’s not as if we have anything to lose.
Ben takes a swig of his beer, with an intrigued look upon his face.
Let’s do it. Right here, right now.
Now’s just as good of a time as any.
Cobie smiles. They toast their cans together.
Ben & Cobie (in unison)
Ben leaps from the wall and downs his last bit of beer.
Hold on, how many you had? You good to drive?
Ben shakes his can.
Ben once again throws the can at the bin. This time It lands square in the centre, like a 3 pointer from Mike Jordan. He puts on a t-shirt and jumps into his rust-bucket of a car. Cobie opens the rear door, chucks in his guitar and jumps into the passenger seat. Ben starts the car, puts on a cheap pair of shades and revs the engine. Ben inserts a CD and presses play. FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY - THE O JAYS starts to play.
(BEFORE YOU READ ANY FURTHER, PLAY THE SONG ABOVE).
Sarah comes out out of the front door.
Where the hell ya goin’?
I’m puttin’ food on the table baby: I’m puttin’ food on the table.
The car speeds off from the drive. The title credits roll.
EXT. SUBURBS - MID-MORNING
We follow the car through wealthy suburbs. We pass luxurious homes with large drives and thick vibrant lawns, We pass a jogger in designer sportswear, CLOSE-UP on the joggers smart watch. We pass a dog walker wearing high heels. She has a Poodle at the end of a leash - CLOSE-UP on the dogs diamond studded collar. We pass an upmarket cocktail bar - CLOSE-UP on a fizzing cocktail and a pair of gleaming white gnashers.
EXT. SKID ROW - MID-MORNING
As the credits continue to roll and the music continues to play, we enter a rundown part of town. We pass weathered houses that are falling to bits - CLOSE-UP on broken windows. We pass a homeless man sat in a door way - CLOSE-UP on money being put into a tin. We pass a sultry young woman wearing revealing attire. CLOSE-UP on a man handing her a wad of cash - they head into a building. We pass a group of men sitting around the forefront of a house. They are smoking and drinking bottles of beer. - CLOSE-UP on a man's rotten teeth. We pass a newspaper dancing in the breeze. It hits a lamppost - CLOSE-UP on headline - INFLATION AT ALL TIME HIGH.