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Published on May 9, 2009
This is the final scene from Norman Mailer's MAIDSTONE, in which he played the part of a famous movie director running for President of the United States, who is supposed to be assassinated in the finale.
Mailer concluded principal photography without resolving the final scene, and Rip Torn (playing his brother-in-law and assassin) allegedly decided to take it upon himself to "improvise" an attack by hitting Mailer on the head with a small hammer, drawing blood. Mailer retaliated by tackling and then nearly chewing Torn's ear off as they grappled viciously, and it rapidly escalated into an unhinged on-camera brawl as Mailer's horrified kids screamed in terror.
This is the completely uncut sequence. I have to wonder how "unplanned" it was, as the camera is obviously following Rip closely in the moments before the attack, and if principal photography had finished the day before, why was the camera crew still hanging around filming Rip and the Mailer family? Its more like Mailer knew Rip would pull something for the camera, but didnt know what, and overreacted because he wasnt expecting him to use a real hammer and actually start hitting him with it.
Mailer's verbal reaction is oddly artificial (although the ear chewing is very real and painful to watch) and his wife seems to be lurking just off camera, and then she suddenly starts screaming like a banshee, which is what sets the kids off. Rip seems to be truly apologetic and convincing in the moments after the fight, but Mailer is barely audible and withdrawn and struggling to improvise lame insults to throw back at Torn, who starts becoming irritated at the end by Mailer's weak and phony outrage. It's rather ironic considering his fame as a great writer that he cant come up with snappier dialogue, or deliver it convincingly.
Whatever the circumstances of the event, it's a truly strange and classic sequence indeed, and Rip's demented final facial expressions are unforgettable. I think that when Mailer says "you might as well turn that tape off, because he's a very dull talker, and he never stops as long as anything is running", Rip's hilarious "ooo, OOOO!!" stare and point response was probably his way of saying that Mailer was being hypocritical.
For more information on Mailer's ultrarare 60s trilogy of experimental films (Wild 90, Beyond the Law, Maidstone), check out the page on my site: