John Travolta Fought To Keep Get Shorty’s Dialogue From Sounding Too Much Like A Screenplay

When Travolta heard about “Get Shorty,” he initially wasn’t interested in the project. The original script included Frank’s modified dialogue, so the movie’s charm was missing. Still, Tarantino strongly encouraged Travolta to get on board. Although the actor relented, Travolta — who was highly selective when choosing his roles — had a key stipulation: The film needed to restore Leonard’s dialogue.

Without a copy of the original screenplay, it’s uncertain how different “Get Shorty” could’ve been. In 2004, Leonard told The Guardian that Frank was an ideal collaborator because he knew it was more interesting to “get the characters knocking heads and see how they turn out” — a technique that helped make “Get Shorty” entertaining. Still, Travolta shared an approximation of one of Frank’s changes with Time Magazine. Early in the film, Chili discovers that a gangster has taken his jacket from a restaurant coat check. This moment sets up the movie’s main rivalry. But in Frank’s version of the script, Chili doesn’t seem too invested in the jacket, stating:

“Where’s my coat? You better find it. It cost $400.”

Leonard’s version of the line was more detailed, which made it feel like the mobster really cared about the coat, stating:

“You see a black leather jacket, fingertip length, has lapels like a suitcoat? You don’t, you owe me three seventy-nine … You get the coat back or you give me the three seventy-nine my wife paid for it at Alexander’s.”

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