Doctor Hanray's Second Chance

This screenplay by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997


A screenplay adapted from the short story by Conrad Richter

Opening music. Tracking shot across a field, eventually cutting across a road, where camera stops. Off in the distance, a car approaches. Cut between credits and car approaching towards the camera. After credits cease, camera pulls back to reveal COMMON MAN, standing by the roadside in front of a guardhouse, against a chainlink fence, dressed casually. A metal sign on the fence says "RESTRICTED AREA". Close in on COMMON MAN.

COMMON MAN

See that car approaching? The driver of that car carries a burden. Though it is true that we all carry a burden of some sort, but his is much, much heavier. You see, the driver is none other than Dr. Peter Hanray... perhaps you have read of his work? I'm sure that you have... he developed the atomic bomb. This place is in fact where he grew up, the lovely town of Hope, Nebraska. Or it was, until this military complex was built in his honour. Yes, the Hanray Advanced Weapons Research Facility, a sprawling four acre complex nestled within the river valley. Quite an impressive monument to the man.

Camera turns, revealing the barren landscape. It continues to rotate, until it returns to the road. The car has now come to a stop in front of COMMON MAN, who is now dressed in a soldier's uniform, a rifle slung over his shoulder. He is smoking. HANRAY turns off the engine and steps out of the car. COMMON MAN rests his hand on his rifle. HANRAY stops.

HANRAY

Hello.

COMMON MAN

This is a restricted area, sir. You'll have to move along.

HANRAY

I would like to visit the valley.

COMMON MAN

As I said, this is the property of the United States Government and visitors are strictly forbidden. So please move along.

HANRAY

Is Stone Church still around? I remember it being not too far from the highway on the way into town.

COMMON MAN

I don't think so... but as I said, you can't go in there.

HANRAY

I just want to look around... after all, I was born here.

COMMON MAN

Sir, we get a lot of people who come by here who went to high school here or worked on their uncle's farm or whatever, and we tell them all the same thing. No civilians are allowed in here... so you'll have to reminisce somewhere else.

HANRAY

I know that... I just want to visit my parents' graves... that's all. Can't you make an exception? I promise I won't cause trouble.

An expression of sympathy is seen on COMMON MAN's face and he thinks momentarily.

COMMON MAN

Maybe I can get you to fill out some forms... the top brass might be able to fit you in next week sometime.

COMMON MAN exits as HANRAY steps towards the fence and gazes through silently at the area beyond. Intercut footage of Hiroshima bombing. HANRAY winces slightly after each intercut. COMMON MAN returns with yellowed forms.

COMMON MAN

Could I have your name?

HANRAY

Hanray. Peter Hanray. My father and my mother are Dr. John and Isabelle Hanray. They're buried in the Stone Church cemetery. I have some ID if you need it...

HANRAY reaches into his jacket pocket for his wallet.

COMMON MAN

(astonishment on his face) Peter Hanray!? I'm sorry I didn't recognize you, sir. You had a beard in your picture on "Time" magazine. I'll just call the colonel and he'll be right over in no time...

HANRAY

I didn't come here to see Colonel Eisenbeck... I just want to look around, by myself.

COMMON MAN

Yes sir, but it's regulations. Just let me speak to the colonel... I'll be right back.

HANRAY continues gazing through the fence. Camera pivots, following COMMON MAN to guardhouse (HANRAY is in foreground, COMMON MAN in background). Focus in on COMMON MAN. COMMON MAN picks up phone.

COMMON MAN

Yes sir... it's him... the guy who made the A-bomb... but he doesn't want to come up... no, he's alone. (focus on HANRAY) Yes, I'll tell him that.

COMMON MAN hangs up and returns to HANRAY.

COMMON MAN

Mr. Hanray, Colonel Eisenbeck's gonna be here in a couple of minutes, Mr. Hanray. He'll take you around.

HANRAY

This is not really necessary. I don't really want to be of trouble.

COMMON MAN

Well Colonel Eisenbeck doesn't think it's any trouble. He's actually honoured for you to visit our little instillation. It's not very often that we get visitors of your calibre.

Close in on HANRAY. HANRAY nods silently and smiles, and turns away from COMMON MAN, then the smile disappears. Close in on COMMON MAN, who turns to face the camera.

COMMON MAN

It looks like our friend Dr. Hanray will finally get to visit the valley. It's a shame though that everything's gone now.

Camera pans across landscape, returning to COMMON MAN, who has now changed into the uniform of a colonel. COMMON MAN approaches HANRAY, his hand outstretched, which HANRAY shakes.

COMMON MAN

Doctor Hanray! What a pleasant surprise! Sorry to keep you waiting... if we had known that you were coming, we would have made preparations. We definitely wouldn't have kept you waiting like this. So what brings you here to our humble facility?

HANRAY

I'm not here for an official visit... just a personal one.

COMMON MAN

So where are you headed? I'll personally escort you there.

HANRAY

If you don't mind, I'd prefer to go by myself.

COMMON MAN

I understand, Dr. Hanray, but regs are regs... you know that. You have to have a guide. You might get lost or something might blow up... you never know. But if you are really insistent, I could give Washington a call...

HANRAY

No... that's alright. Escort me if you must. Just stay back... and you'll have to be patient. I may be here awhile.

COMMON MAN

I've cleared my calendar, Dr. Hanray. Take as much time as you want. Now follow me to my jeep and we'll head in.

HANRAY

Is it alright we take my car?

COMMON MAN

(pause) Sure... I don't see why not. (turns to guardhouse) Private! Keep an eye on my jeep!

Acknowledgment from off-screen. COMMON MAN and HANRAY approach HANRAY's car and get inside. Cut to shot of rear left wheel. Rising shot of car pulling off and driving through entrance to facility. Interior shot of car with HANRAY in foreground.

HANRAY

I'm a little bit disoriented. Where's the road that used to come down over Penny Hill? I could swear it being around here.

COMMON MAN

Oh, there's no road up here anymore. We had some security concerns with a road so close to one of our test sites. You know, with amateur photographers and that sort of thing. So we bulldozed it all. But if you keep going straight, you'll be able to reach Stone Church with the service road that we put in.

HANRAY

(resumes driving) That's a shame about the road. I used to ride my bike down there. Were you here when this all happened?

COMMON MAN

I was here when they were in the planning phase. Just when we started buying up the private properties in the area.

HANRAY

Whose houses used to be over there (pointing)?

COMMON MAN

Honestly... I can't remember. It's been awhile. But I do remember them putting up a real fuss about leaving.

HANRAY

What did they complain about?

COMMON MAN

Oh... about anything and everything. They had three days to get their money and move out. Was that too much to ask for? (HANRAY looks forward silently) You know, it reminds me... there was this old lady just over the ridge (pointing) who also refused to leave and gave us all this crap about how her folks had farmed here since before the Revolution. So the guy that we sent with the eviction notice told her: 'So now you know how the Indians felt when you ran them off their land!' (laughs)

HANRAY

I don't think her family ran off any Indians...

COMMON MAN

Well hell, maybe not. But she had to get a move on. The contractors had already come in, the equipment was ready, and we had deadlines to meet. You know... getting things out to the men at the front lines to fight with. They made plenty of things for the war effort right here. But of course... you knew that.

HANRAY

Yes, I do.

COMMON MAN

But I think our crowning achievement was the bomb that you invented. It's pretty amazing to be able to wipe out a whole city with one bomb. And I heard that you can even do better than that now. Isn't science wonderful?

External shot of car coming to a stop.

HANRAY

I suppose. I'd like to visit the cemetery now. Could you wait here till I get back.

COMMON MAN

You know, I'm not supposed to let visitors wander around on their own... but I guess I could make an exception for you. I'll be here if you need anything... just give me a shot.

HANRAY

Thanks... I appreciate it.

HANRAY exits car and walks towards a church in the distance. Tracking shot of HANRAY walking through the grass towards the church. HANRAY looks back, and notices that the car and COMMON MAN are gone. He stops momentarily before resuming towards the church. He opens a gate at the entrance to the cemetery, and walks towards a pair of tombstones under a large tree. HANRAY reads the epitaph.

HANRAY

John Hanray... faithful physician. He went about doing good... unlike his son.

Long shot of HANRAY standing before the tombstone. He turns and walks away slowly. Close-in on Hanray, his face showing the contemplation in his head.

BOY

(Heard off-screen) Hey, mister.

HANRAY stops and turns. Focus in on BOY sitting on the grass.

HANRAY

You shouldn't be here. If the soldiers catch you, you'll be in trouble.

BOY

You look kinda lost, mister.

HANRAY

Where are your parents? Are they here with you? (BOY points off into the distance) They're over there? Come with me... this is no place for a youngster like you to be wandering around.

HANRAY holds out his hand. BOY gets up off grass and grabs hold. Tracking shot of them both walk through the cemetery.

HANRAY

So what's your name?

BOY

Peter. Peter Hanray.

HANRAY stops and looks down at the BOY. BOY lets go of HANRAY's hand and runs off.

BOY

My parents' house is over there! Come'on!

HANRAY

(Running after BOY) Wait!

Panoramic shot of HANRAY running after boy across a field. Close in on HANRAY as he stops and is awestruck. Close in on house, well-kept. BOY opens front door and runs in. Camera follows and HANRAY approaches house. The door opens for him and he steps inside.

Interior of house. FATHER is sitting on a sofa reading a newspaper. MOTHER is knitting on another chair. BOY is jumping up and down excitedly.

BOY

(Pointing at HANRAY) There he is! That's him!

FATHER and MOTHER look up and smile at HANRAY. Close-up on HANRAY. He mouths 'mom' and 'dad'. FATHER puts down the newspaper and gets up. He steps forward and offers his hand.

FATHER

Good day, sir. Peter says that you were at Stone Church looking a bit lost.

HANRAY

(Shakes FATHER's hand) Ummm... yes... I-I hadn't been here in awhile. I was visiting and I got lost.

MOTHER

You certainly are not lost anymore. Peter can find anybody. He's a very bright boy. Could we offer you something to drink? Maybe lemonade?

HANRAY

Sure... that would be nice.

MOTHER

Peter... go to the kitchen and bring the pitcher of lemonade in the fridge. And bring some glasses too.

BOY runs off. FATHER motions HANRAY to sit in the remaining unoccupied chair. HANRAY sits down.

FATHER

So tell me. How long have you been away from Hope?

HANRAY

A very long time.

FATHER

Did you travel far?

HANRAY

Farther than I can tell you.

MOTHER

I'm sorry.. but you look so familiar... I just can't put a finger on your name...

HANRAY

I'm... Philip Sanders.

FATHER

Oh yes... I remember your family... they sold the farm a few years back and moved to the city, am I right?

HANRAY

That is correct, sir.

MOTHER

So how do you like life in the big city, Mr. Sanders?

HANRAY

It's not as peaceful as it is here. It feels good to be in Hope again.

BOY returns with a tray with lemonade and four glasses. He sets them down on the coffee table and carefully pours four servings.

FATHER

So what do you do, Mr. Sanders, out there in the big city?

HANRAY

I'm... a scientist.

MOTHER

How exciting! That's what Peter wants to be when he grows up.

BOY nods as he passes the glasses of lemonade around.

BOY

Can I go upstairs and play now?

MOTHER nods and BOY runs up a flight of stairs.

HANRAY

I don't think Peter should be a scientist.

FATHER

(Stunned) But why?

HANRAY

(Stands up and begins to pace. Camera rotates around him as he speaks.) Peter won't be happy as a scientist, and I speak from experience. The research that he works on won't be of his own choosing, and he'll have to make trade-offs on his way to making his big breakthrough. And by the end, he will wonder if it was worth all the sacrifices that he made to get there.

FATHER

But Peter's more interested in science. All he talks about is the great opportunity for public service in being a scientist. And all the good it could bring.

HANRAY

Why don't you encourage him to be a doctor... just like you. Make him see the good in medicine.

MOTHER

We tried to encourage him to take over John's practice, but Peter says that he doesn't want to deal with death and dying. His mind is set to be a scientist.

HANRAY

Mr. and Mrs. Hanray, I'm afraid for Peter's future. I don't want him to do something that he will regret.

FATHER

Even if it turns out to be the wrong decision, there's always time to change things. Sure, this may turn out to be the wrong decision, but Peter will learn from what he's done. He'll see what he's done right, and what he's done wrong. I don't know if you call it becoming mature, change, or just living life. But this happens to everyone and it's just a natural process. Don't worry about Peter, Mr. Sanders. I think he'll be fine.

MOTHER

Regardless of what Peter does, we'll always be proud of him.

Knock at the door. HANRAY turns his head to the door. No one else seems to notice.

FATHER

Is something wrong, Mr. Sanders?

Another knock.

COMMON MAN

(From behind door) Mr. Hanray! Mr. Hanray! Are you alright?

HANRAY

(Turns back to face FATHER and MOTHER) I'm sorry, but I have to go now.

MOTHER

So soon? Won't you at least stay for dinner?

HANRAY

No... I can't stay here. This is not where I belong. But thank you for the lemonade. And my best wishes to Peter.

FATHER

Well, it was a pleasure chatting with you. As I said, don't worry about Peter. He'll be fine. (Shakes HANRAY's hand)

MOTHER

We'll say a prayer for you.

HANRAY

Thank you. I love you both.

The door swings open and HANRAY exits. Cut to exterior. HANRAY and COMMON MAN are standing in a field. The house is gone.

COMMON MAN

Where did you go, Dr. Hanray? You had me worried. I thought you got lost or something.

HANRAY

I was lost, but I think I'll be alright now. I had to sort a few things out.

COMMON MAN

Did you see everything that you had to?

HANRAY

Yes... yes, I did. I think it's time for me to go.

Cut to HANRAY's car pulling away from the camera. COMMON MAN waves good-bye, who then turns to face the camera.

COMMON MAN

So there goes Dr. Hanray. You know, not many people get an opportunity to start over. Dr. Hanray is a very luck individual indeed. He's off in a new direction now, and he certainly won't be looking in the rearview mirror.

Fade out.


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