Here’s my idea for a movie. Anyone willing to make this movie can have the idea for free. Just get it done. It’s called The Three Johns.
It’s about a guy named John who owns a hardware store in small town USA. He’s good guy, the sort of master craftsman who you can bring in a stripped screw or damaged hinge and he can pick out the exact replacement from the massive wall of drawers and nooks behind him instantly on seeing your part. He’s a good family man, active in the church, the whole nine yards.
Unbeknownst to his friends and family he’s also involved in some criminal enterprise. For the purpose of this post he’s running a prostitution ring out of the truck stop. But it could just as easily be drugs or dog fighting or importing Kinder eggs.
Here’s the hook: You cast the Johns Cusack, Goodman, and Turturro to play him. You shoot each scene three times, swapping out only the John. Then when you edit the film together you show each scene three times, once by each John.
Also, you give the Johns pieces of their script out of order. So, let’s say there are 4 parts to this whole thing: The hardware shop, the church, the house, and the truck stop. You start Cusack off at the church. Serving as a deacon reading scripture, sitting on the board going over financials, teaching Sunday school. Just give him the scenes where John is very in control as an upstanding, if stuffy, member of the community.
By contrast, the first thing Goodman sees is the scripts for the hardware store. People hanging out in there. The high school football player who works there comes in a bit late and get’s needled a little for it. An indigent person comes in asking if he’s hiring. Set him up to play John as a very friendly, outgoing, hands on sort of guy.
Finally, Turturro first gets him at the truck stop. He’s running his business, which is problematic because the new girl just doesn’t understand how to act. He get’s violent with her. It’s just a bad situation.
Inverting those first two actors in the scenes now, after already having played one version of the character, forces them to play the new scenes differently. Maybe John’s needling of the football player now comes off as disapproval. Mean while, at the church, John does well talking to people, but having to get up in front of the congregation makes it obvious he’s not cut out for public speaking.
Then they go home. And his daughter’s friend Cassie want’s fuck all to do with him. His daughter thinks everything is cool, but Cassie is made uncomfortable by his very presence. See, Cassie has a new job starting tonight working as a waitress down at the truck stop. And she’s pretty nervous about it, so John tries to help her calm down and talk to her.
The writing here is key. It needs to sound real for each variant of The John. ”Look, these are just hard working guys stopping in for a piece of pie. Give ‘em a smile, chat ‘em up a little. And it’ll all be over before you know it. You might even enjoy it.” A perfectly reasonable piece of fatherly advice that becomes spine chillingly evil in the wrong context.
All three of those actors play significantly different characters in their careers. I just think it would be interesting to see how their acting choices change the narrative.