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It Starts On The Page: Read ‘The Sympathizer’ Premiere Script “Death Wish” By Don McKellar & Park Chan-wook

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Editor’s note: Deadline’s It Starts on the Page features standout limited or anthology series scripts in 2024 Emmy contention. “What they want to hear, Sir, is that we still share a purpose: the Mission Civilization, a faith in the good fight, the American way, et cetera,” double agent the Captain (Hoa Xuande) tells the desperate General (Toan Le) as the fall of Saigon appears imminent in the opening episode of HBO’s The Sympathizer. “A sophomore debate theme for a Fort Leavenworth alum like yourself.” In many ways, the line from the “Death Wish” script, written by The Sympathizer creators Don McKellar and Park Chan-wook, sums up the complexities and duplicities of the premium cabler’s multi-genre limited series based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer-winning novel of the same name.

Starring Robert Downey Jr in several roles personifying America and its disastrous involvement in Southeast Asia, The Sympathizer flipped the script literally and figuratively on the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

As Old Boy helmer Park, who also directed the premiere, and McKellar explain in the forward to their script below, the seven-episode The Sympathizer embraces unconventional wisdom and takes a new perspective on a history too many of us have learned from Hollywood movies.This script is about writing.

Writing under pressure, under the scrutiny of merciless supervision. Perhaps some of you can identify.Our hero, the Captain, is an author, a reluctant author, forced to tell his story — or rather, re-tell his story, a story we think we already know — the story of the Vietnam War and its consequences.

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