Here’s the scene. It was night on a cold and windswept mountaintop movie set. Writer and movie star had found shelter near the playback monitors. I was passing on to Bruce Willis the conversation I’d had with the producers earlier in the afternoon.

“They want you to dial back on the f-bombs, partner,” I said.

“Like they don’t know this movie’s gonna get an ‘R’ rating?” said Bruce.

“Matter of tone,” I countered. “That and the F-word is like a money bunny.”

“Money bunny?” smirked the star.

Yes. Money bunnies. I described them like this: Adding F-words beyond what I’d already carefully written in the script was like a rabbit mating ritual. Once one actor starts tossing out extra-curricular curse words then it catches on like a virus and soon everybody but the extras feel it’s open season for improvised expletives. The money part comes from the increase in looping costs to complete a broadcast version of the film.

“Think of it this way, Bruce. Every extra F-word you put between my commas is another ten minutes of hearing ‘beep beep beep’ in the ADR booth.”

“Ha. I’m a fuckin’ ADR commando,” said Bruce.

“Help me out, dude,” I said. “My mom’s gonna see this movie.”

Bruce busted out a sympathetic laugh.

“Your mom and my aunt,” laughed Bruce. “But since we got forever until the next setup. You first.”

So I started with this one. I was just out of high school and I’d written a little twenty-minute short. I had a script, a cast from the local community college theater department, and a high school that had agreed to let me use the campus as a location on a forthcoming weekend. All that was left was the cash to pay for the film and processing. So I sought out my dearest financier. My mom.

Now I won’t say my mom was cheap. But she was frugal to a fault. Still, she liked my pitch and ponied up a couple of hundred dollars. Thanks mom.

Then a slight stumbling block. The principal of the school I was planning to shoot at wanted to see the script before giving final permission to film on his campus. What the hell? I thought. I’d written what I felt was an accurate depiction of high school drama. After all, I’d graduated only a couple months earlier. I dropped off the script with the principal and shuffled off to my job hauling bags of mail in the back of my pick-up.

Late that night, after I’d returned home, my mom was waiting for me at the kitchen table, her trademark lit cigarette, cup of black coffee, and a half-penciled crossword puzzle angled between her elbows.

“I got a disturbing phone call this afternoon,” said my mom with her patented direct and unwavering eye contact. “Do you know the principal over at Oakmont High?”

I gulped.

“He said you showed him your script for that little film I financed and was totally offended by all the foul language.”

“Just some curse words, Mom.”

“The kind of curse words you’d use in front of me?”

“I don’t curse in front of you.”

“But you curse around others?” she asked, smoke-reduced nicotine smoke curling from her mouth.

“The film’s about high school. It’s how everybody talks.”

“Everybody including my son?”

There was no climbing out from the trap she’d so aptly set. Inside I fumed that the nitwit principal hadn’t the stones to confront me directly with his complaint. Not only that, he’d called around until he’d procured my family’s unlisted number and narced me out to my mom. Now she was distressed.

“I’d like my money back, please,” she said.

“I’ve already bought the film,” I said. “Can’t return film because they can’t tell if it’s been exposed –”

“You know how I feel about coarse language.”

We argued. Her primary concern was that in using her money for my dirty little movie, I’d heap shame on our good name. In the end, we agreed that I’d use a pseudonym instead of my own baptismal name. Not that anyone with a room temperature IQ wouldn’t know that Barbara’s boy was the film’s auteur. But for my mom, it was a simply a matter of principle.

“Great story,” said Bruce. “Stuff with my aunt wasn’t near as melodramatic. After Die Hard I did one of those interviews in Playboy. Never used to curse around my family. But this was Playboy. So who’s gonna read it, right? Well, I’ll tell you who fuckin’ read it. My Goddamn Aunt! She calls me up and gives me earful of grief, man. How disappointed she is in me, blah blah blah. And all I could do is apologize. Tell her how sorry I am and how much I’d try to watch my fuckin’ language.”

“Just like now,” I said.

“Yeah, I’m hopeless,” said Bruce. “But you already know that.”

“Here’s one more about my mom,” I said. “Die Hard story.”

Die Hard 2 was about to open. Expectations were high for the massive summer sequel launch. Because it was my first screen credit, the distribution folks at Fox told me to pick an opening night showing at any exhibitor in the nation and they’d arrange however many tickets I’d require for friends and family to see the movie. I chose the best screen in Sacramento and invited fifty or so people. The theater roped off the block of seats.

The atmosphere, as one might imagine, was pretty electric with anticipation. My wife and I sat in the rear-most row, flanked by my sisters and their husbands. My mother and father sat directly in front of us. The lights dimmed. The movie unspooled. And so began Die Harder, or as my mother came to call it, The Attack of the F-Bombs. I’d already seen the movie quite a few times. And not once had I noticed the cornucopia of four-letter utterings. And not just from Bruce Willis as John McClane. Dennis Franz joined the parade as well as William Sadler and John Amos. The Money Bunnies were flying as fast as the bullets and explosions.

When the picture finally concluded and my birth name appeared on screen, I received applause from nearly every quadrant of the house. From everyone but my dear and disappointed mum. And when the house lights eventually pushed out the darkness, my mom turned around in her seat, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “Nice language, dear.”

I know they sound like cold words from a mother immediately after witnessing her son’s big-screen debut. But if my mom was anything, she was consistent in both her praise and her criticism.

“Thanks, mom,” I said. “Glad you liked the movie.”

This past Thursday, my mom left this world after sixteen years of suffering from a DMV-sized line of painful maladies. When she finally passed, I was holding her hand and she was looking me firmly in the eyes, full of both conviction and unconditional affection.

I firmly believe that she’s in heaven where, if four-letter words are spoken, they tickle her ears and remind her of how much her only son adored her.

Read my new thriller, THE SAFETY EXPERT. Available in trade paperback and ebook at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

Doug Richardson
Doug Richardson
Author and screenwriter. Books: THE LUCKY DEY THRILLERS: BLOOD MONEY, 99 PERCENT KILL, AND REAPER, THE SAFETY EXPERT, AND THE SMOKING GUN. Movies: HOSTAGE, BAD BOYS, DIE HARD 2.
  • James

    Wow, hard to admit that our mothers have such a strong hold on what we should aspire to and keep us honest.

    Thank you so much for the inspiring read and I offer my sincerest condolences for the loss of what I would assume to be your biggest critic and biggest fan.

    • Thanks James. Can’t say my mom was ever a fan of my work. At least she was a fan of her son.

  • In most of my life experience–social, work, private–the judicial use of profanity was considered a matter of professionalism. IE, the higher the rung on the social ladder, the less acceptable the swearing. Community Theater cured that. Somewhat. The characters in my current screenplay still tend to avoid swearing but it’s consistent with supposedly representing the race to another species. Best foot (claw?) forward, etc…

    • I try to keep my cursing to my characters. Emphasis on “try”.

  • I’m making my first short film this June, and even though I know I can get it into our local film festival, I won’t even try… because it starts with a sex scene. I may be a bad-ass hit chick, but I have no desire to sit in a theater with my mom and dad watching a romp between the sheets I wrote. I hear ya. All the way.

    I am confident your mum is smiling down on you. Maybe even chuckling a little now that you’re finally sharing her story with your readers. I wish I could have met her. Hugs, DHD.

    • Hey. If I could drop celluloid FBombs on Mom, you can withstand a little screen sex. Just make sure you sit behind your parents.

  • My condolences on your loss, Doug … your mother sounds like she was sterling through and through …

  • Thanks for sharing her stories with us. I know she’ll always be in your heart, but so sorry for your loss!

  • I will attempt to reproduce the note I just left here that the interwebs chose to erase with their “Captcha” code words!

    Love to you and your family. Love your mom in this article!! My mother swears in unexpected ways and it still never ceases to crack me up. She turns 89 yrs old on Monday. So sorry for your loss. She seemed like quite a force of nature.
    Do you remember that your father taught me how to shoot a gun? You took me to a shooting range and I was scared and freaked out and he took me aside and patiently taught me how to handle a gun. He told me it was just like a tool, like a hammer, but you have to know how to handle it. I’ll always remember him for this.

    • I recall that day very well. We drove up there in my Jeep. The top was down. Your hair was blowing in the wind… Wait. Maybe that’s another memory. Thanks for the kind thoughts about my dad and late mum. Keep enjoying the time with yours.

  • Dan @elctrifyingmojo

    Another amusing tale expertly crafted, this time however with a bitter-sweet finale. Sincere condolences and best wishes to you and your family Doug.

  • Unk

    Wow. I put guys in the Navy from Oakmont High.

    Great story. Your Mom obviously loved you and that’s what I take away from this especially since I come from a family that taught me the F-BOMB from a very early age.

    You are a lucky guy to be sure…

    Unk

  • Cillian Daly

    Hey Doug, just to say very sorry to read, at the end of another great blog, that your mum had passed. I can’t imagine it, especially as it’s my mum that keeps pushing me to write, and shoot short movies when not at a keyboard!

    My condolences.

    Cillian.

    • My best to your mum, C-man. She knows what’s best for you.

  • Cillian Daly

    (I didn’t feel twitter was the most appropriate place for me to say it!)

  • Wow. Our moms can be so much more powerful in our lives than we may realize. Thank you so much for sharing all of this. So beautifully written, I’m sure your mum was so proud of you.

    Well, you’ve inspired me! I’m going to go call my mom now.

  • I know the first one wasn’t yours Doug but was the Yippee Kay Ay line an ad lib or scripted?

    In the early 90’s when Die Hard 1 and 2 were first televised here in the UK the f-bombs were dubbed as was this famous line even though it was shown after the watershed.

    So instead of one of Cinema’s best pay off lines, us Brits were given

    “Yippee Kay Aye Kimosabe!!!”

    LOL

    • I like the Kimosabe of it. You know what? Strange that I don’t know. As a writer I kind of wish it was scripted. But I’ve never asked Bruce. Based on my experience? Best guess is the Yippee Kay Yay was scripted. And the MF was Bruce.

  • For me, an occasional trafficker in profanity myself, I loved the moment when your mother could still knock the wind out of you with “Nice language, dear.” It’s a truly graceful picture of her.

    • She’s gone. And could still knock the stuffing out of me.

  • My mom cursed all the time when I was growing up. Every other word out of her mouth was dirty. But the first thing she always does after reading my scripts is give me a lecture about foul language. Finally I said “Mom, you cussed all the time throughout my youth.” And she goes “Yes, but that was in private. You want this to be on a movie screen.”

    I love your stories. Thanks for sharing.

  • I just discovered your stories this week and ive been reading them whenever I have some spare time. I gotta say this one is my favorite. Please Please Please write another Die Hard script. I watch Hostage and just kinda imagine it as an almost John McClane story….Die Hard 5 really let me down. Im still kinda shocked at how poorly written it was. Maybe they really just cut out the story and dialogue, but either way I woulda much rather seen a Doug Richardson script. Keep up the good work and my fingers are crossed that u may work on die hard 6

    • Thanks for the good words Dan. Glad you found the blog. As for writing another DH script, well, that’s not really up to me. At least from the start. Bruce and I crossed some swords on our last outing. Drew a little blood. Not sure his wounds have healed.