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CBS Corporation, New York / CBS / 2018


Gold Cannes Lions
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"Teasing John Malkovich" opens with Academy Award nominated actor John Malkovich reading a script to a piece he's about to perform. He becomes so frustrated with the poorly written dialogue that he calls his agent to complain about the part. After a tense and occasionally humorous back and forth with his agent, Malkovich confronts the film's director on stage as they're setting up for the first shot. It's at this point that the Malkovich and the audience are clued in to what this film is supposed to be about, it's a "sports tease," a short film that airs right before a big sporting event to get the audience excited for the game. The irony being that if the audience at home sees the "tease" then they've already decided to tune in for the game. Once Malkovich realizes that, he delivers a riveting performance as only he can.


The AFC Championship game is one of the most watched sporting events in the United States every year, attracting roughly 50 million views, which is second only to the Super Bowl. Huge television events like that call for a special opening film, or "tease," that sets the viewers up for what they're about to watch. In this past AFC Championship game, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, possibly the most dominant team in the past 17 years with 5 Super Bowl victories was facing off against Blake Bortles of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who had never even reached the Super Bowl once. This was a classic David versus Goliath matchup that called for a dramatic film to set the stage.


Teasing John Malkovich



A wide shot of a busy stage reveals stagehands moving props, PAs handing out water and orchestra members tuning their instruments. A director barks orders to his crew.

Sitting in the audience, in a sea of otherwise empty chairs, is JOHN MALKOVICH. He flips through the pages of a script. We push in on the Title Page: AFC Championship Tease. Jaguars vs. Patriots. CBS Sports. He finishes reading it, is distressed.

JOHN: (to himself) This is ridiculous.


John paces a hallway taking to his agent on his cell phone.

JOHN: Yes I read the script. It’s self-indulgent, melodramatic and nearly fifteen pages long. I thought you said it was a simple two-minute spot about the AFC Championship game.


John is in his dressing room reading the script.

JOHN: “A matchup replete with a plethora of potential… A matchup of men resplendent in physical acuity.”

He drops the script.

JOHN: Gimme a break.


John continues to read the script. A MAKE UP ARTIST touches him up.

JOHN: “Brady, the immortal gladiator whose body is a pristine temple of brilliance.”

John looks to the Make Up Artist.

JOHN: Any of this make sense to you?


John looks in the mirror – trying to rehearse a line.

JOHN: “Bortles, a fearless feline, who claws are grasping for the next echelon of achievement.”

He tries it a few different ways.

JOHN: This is impossible.


John is on the phone with his agent.

JOHN: I don’t think this is right for me. You sure they can’t get Nantz? (then) Fine, I’ll talk to the director,

John hangs up, turns around and takes a few defiant steps towards the stage. He immediately walks into a harp. He collects himself, apologizes and undauntedly marches on.


John walks through the busy stage avoiding the musicians. Standing by a camera is the DIRECTOR. John approaches.

JOHN: Excuse me. Are you directing this AFC Championship commercial?

DIRECTOR: Mr. Malkovich! Good to meet you! I am. And it’s not a commercial… we call it a “tease.”

JOHN: A tease?

DIRECTOR: Yeah. We “tease” the viewers with this huge production to get them to watch the game.

JOHN: But they are already watching it. There is nothing left to tease.

DIRECTOR: (realizing he is right) Huh.

JOHN: I want to talk about the script. Nobody says things like… (reads from script) “The furtive genius of Foxboro.” Or, “ Jacksonville’s omnipotent and captivating running back.”

DIRECTOR: Football fans eat this stuff up.

JOHN: And the orchestra. Is that really necessary?

DIRECTOR: We wanted to take it to the next level… we had room for it in the budget… so we got the orchestra. (then, laughs) It ain’t my money!

JOHN: Listen… I’m not sure this is right for me.

DIRECTOR: Wait until you hear them play. (yells to Conductor) Helmut, can Mr. Malkovich please hear the music?

A swell of beautiful music begins to play from the stage. John speaks over the music, explaining to the Director.

JOHN: It’s just… you’ve overcomplicated this. The story of the game is so simple. It’s one of the oldest tales in sports. I mean, go back to the bible, right? David and Goliath. The mighty giant against the tiny longshot. The overwhelming favorite against the underdog with no chance.

As his speech intensifies, so does the orchestra playing behind him. The lights in the theater dim. The busy staff comes to a grinding halt. All eyes on John Malkovich.

JOHN: And yet, in football, the whole point is you always have a chance. How can you say anything else after watching Bortles, Fournette and the Jaguars last weekend? (then) Then again, the Patriots – well, has any other team in any other sport offered a longer, more impressive, more “overwhelming” vision of supremacy… ever?! (then) Was that a little much? Maybe it was a little much. But the point stands. Brady… Belichick…. No matter who else you plug in… the machine works brilliantly. (then) And yet… if you’ve watched football long enough… hell, if you watched football last weekend, you know that anything world can happen on that field. (quiet, to Director) This is where you add the footage.

The orchestra crescendos as we cut to Patriots and Jaguars footage. After a few beats, the music begins to fade out. As it does, John gracefully wraps up his speech.

JOHN: The NFL’s David and Goliath, competing for the right to play in the Super Bowl. It’s as simple as that.

We cut back to the stage. The music ends. So does John. Everyone in the theater applauds. The Director included.

JOHN: So, anyway… that’s kinda what I was thinking.

John turns and walks off stage. The Director watches him go and then, in awe, looks to the Camera Operator.

DIRECTOR: Please tell me you filmed that.

The Camera Operator gulps.

CAMERA OPERATOR: You didn’t say action.


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