You are on page 1of 121

LIONS OF FLORENCE

by

Kenneth White

adapted from excerpts from


"The Agony and the Ecstasy"
by
Irving Stone

and
"The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci"
by
Dmitri Merejkowski

Kenneth White
1108 Wellesley Avenue
Modesto, CA 95350-5044
(209) 567-0600
Ken1White@aol.com
1

FADE IN:

TITLE CARD

"He who, without Fame, burns his life to waste


leaves no more vestige of himself on earth than
wind-blown smoke, or foam upon the water"
-- Dante, Inferno

EXT. FLORENCE, ITALY - DAY

Just across the Ponte Vecchio from the Uffizi gallery,


stands the stately Palazzo Canigiani.

The building directory lists the occupants. One name reads:


"Editech Art Diagnostics."
INT. PALAZZO CANIGIANI – OFFICE – SAME TIME

In a high-ceilinged office, RESEARCH ASSISTANTS and


UNIVERSITY INTERNS hustle about, busy working on a variety
of projects.

Two giant images shimmer on side-by-side, electronic display


screens hung from the rafters. The displays are almost
three-dimensional in depth and clarity.

The image on the right is a sketch of men and horses locked


in fierce combat over a flag.

The image on the left is a sketch of naked men scattered


along a riverbank, struggling into their battle armor.

DR. MAURIZIO SERACINI, dressed in his usual tweed jacket and tie,
chews on his fingernails.

DR. MAURIZIO SERACINI


Benvenuto Cellini called it the school
of the world. Scuola del mondo.

DR. CARLO PEDRETTI, impeccably dressed, sips espresso.

DR. CARLO PEDRETTI


Kenneth Clark christened it the birth
of the Renaissance.

The two scholars sit side-by-side, staring across the top of two
high-resolution computer monitors. A digital version of each
sketch is displayed on each monitor.
2

SERACINI
Imagine, Leonardo and Michelangelo.
Painting in the same room. Side-by-
side.

PEDRETTI
Two tortured, insecure geniuses.
Obsessed with their legacy.

SERACINI
This was to be their signature
achievement.
(gestures expansively)
These lions of Florence.

New York Times reporter, MELINDA HENNEBERGER, perches in a chair


beside the two men, taking notes on a portable computer.

MELINDA HENNEBERGER
A painting competition. How incredible.

PEDRETTI
Orchestrated by Niccolo Machiavelli,
the master manipulator.

SERACINI
It just doesn’t get any better.

Seracini calls up two new, digital images on the two


monitors. These are thermo-graphic projections.

SERACINI
Vasari transformed the Grand Hall into
the Granduke's hearing room. He built
new walls and covered them with his own
frescoes.

PEDRETTI
It was common to build a new wall
instead of knocking down the old one.

Seracini leans into the monitor, chin in hand, too absorbed to


push up the eyeglasses that are nearly slipping off his nose.

SERACINI
We’re studying the hall’s walls using
non-destructive, multi-spectral
diagnostic imaging. By employing a
portable echo-graph, we should be able
to penetrate Vasari’s walls with low-
frequency sound waves.
3

PEDRETTI
Simply put, we’re trying to identify
the exact spot where Leonardo and
Michelangelo painted their murals.

SERACINI
For sixty years, people came to admire
the horses of Leonardo.

PEDRETTI
Though flawed, it was a beautiful
fresco by a great artist.

SERACINI
They wouldn’t dare destroy it.

A telephone rings. In the background, someone answers it.

An ASSISTANT approaches Seracini.

ASSISTANT
(to Seracini)
Line one for you, sir. A "Mr. Gates."

Seracini winks at Pedretti.

EXT. FLORENCE - PALAZZO VECCHIO – MIDNIGHT

The Palazzo Vecchio—the Old Palace—was, and is, the center of


Renaissance Florence.

INT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – SALA GRANDE – SAME TIME

The Sala Grande, or Grand Hall, is the dominant room in the


palace.

Seracini, Pedretti, and Henneberger stand in the center of


the hall.

SERACINI
This is the Sala del Gran Consiglio of
the Palazzo Vecchio.

PEDRETTI
It was the seat of power for the
Florentine Republic. The city’s
democratic council, the Gran Consiglio,
met here from 1495 to 1512.

SERACINI
It was home to the Medici after they
returned to power in 1512.
4

PEDRETTI
Politically speaking, this is where the
Renaissance was born.

SERACINI
The paintings would have flanked the
throne of the Gonfaloniere, the chief
executive.

PEDRETTI
A man named Piero Soderini.

One-by-one, they climb a metal ladder to the top of a


rolling scaffold, rising sixty feet into the air. They stand
in the middle of the platform.

At one end of the platform, a collection of complicated-


looking equipment is carefully arranged on shelves bolted to
the platform.

SERACINI
(gestures at fresco)
When I was analyzing the Vasari fresco,
I came upon a tiny green flag. There
were words written in white paint.
Cerca Trova. "Seek, and you shall
find."

Seracini points at the flag on the fresco.

SERACINI
I assumed it was a soldier's motto. As
I continued my research, I realized
there was no other writing on any of
the frescoes in the entire hall.

PEDRETTI
Sounds inviting, yes?

SERACINI
It was a message, you see.

PEDRETTI
A challenge.

HENNEBERGER
You believe Leonardo’s fresco still
exists?
5

SERACINI
I do. And I intend to find it. It is
the least I can do for my native
Florence.

PEDRETTI
Yesterday, we found a discontinuity. A
narrow space of some kind in the wall.
There, behind the panel where Cerca
Trova is written.

HENNEBERGER
A window to the past.

SERACINI
The fresco hasn't been seen for almost
five hundred years.

All three turn to gaze at the tiny green flag.

EXT. ARNO RIVER VALLEY - DAY

A Peregrine falcon floats over the beautiful Tuscan


countryside of the Arno River Valley.

The falcon drops down and skims along the surface of the
river, as it flows into Florence.

TITLE: FLORENCE, 1503


EXT. FLORENCE - DAY

16th Century Florence is a city of commerce and violence,


art and revolution.
As they labor, WORKMEN sing verses from Dante's Divine
Comedy.

In the shops and banking houses, down-to-earth, fast-talking


MERCHANTS haggle with sober, tight-fisted BANKERS.

Bands of cock-sure MERCENARY SOLDIERS (condottieri) swagger


through the streets, sweeping INNOCENT BYSTANDERS out of
their way, or brutalizing those who stupidly stand their
ground.

CHILDREN and MAIDS run errands.

Horses and hand-carts clatter across the stones.

CITIZENS hurry to complete a task or transaction or


transgression.
6

The spire of the Palazzo Vecchio thrusts upward into the


lapis blue sky.

In the square surrounding the Palazzo, a brace of lions pace


in matching golden cages.

A pair of stone lions guard the main entrance to the Palazzo


Vecchio.

Two SOLDIERS spit on a manacled PRISONER, as they force him


to kneel and kiss the ass of the lion of Florence.

EXT. PIAZZA SAN MARCO – GARDEN - DAY

The garden of the Piazza San Marco is an enormous oblong.

Each of the four encircling walls of the garden are open,


roofed galleries (loggias). Each loggia displays ancient
Greek and Roman statues.

Under each loggia, STUDENTS, SCULPTORS, PAINTERS, and MODELS


study, sculpt, paint, and pose.

A straight path, lined with cypresses, leads to a small


building (casino).

On the wide porch of the casino, PIERO DI LORENZO DE’


MEDICI, 32, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Il Magnifico—
struts back and forth between the pillars of the porch.
Sharp-faced, he’s a dark man with black hair and hard eyes.

DE' MEDICI
Florence is the most powerful city-
state the world has ever known. We must
celebrate the restoration of the
Republic.

PIERO SODERINI, 51, the Gonfaloniere de giustizia of the


Signoria of Florence, nibbles on a pear. Moon-faced, he’s a
plain man, with blonde hair bleaching white, and calm eyes.

SODERINI
I have called home all the artists
scattered by Savonarola, including
Leonardo and Michelangelo.

DE' MEDICI
Two artistic titans. Native sons of
this magnificent city. They must leave
us a legacy.

NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI, 34, secretary of the second chancellery


of the Florentine republic, gnaws on his nubby fingers. Rat-
7

faced, he’s a little man, with close-cropped hair and shifty


eyes.

MACHIAVELLI
I have a wicked notion. Quite poetic,
actually.

DE' MEDICI
Speak plainly, secretary.

MACHIAVELLI
A contest. Commission each to paint a
fresco in the Sala Grande.

DE' MEDICI
Ah, yes. To the glory of Florence.

SODERINI
Side-by-side, for all the world to see
and marvel.

DE' MEDICI
Two frescoes by the two greatest
artists of our time. It is brilliant.

SODERINI
It will distract the citizens from the
French and Spanish invaders at our
gates.

DE' MEDICI
It is rumored they despise each other.
They cannot bear to be in the same
room.

SODERINI
We must convince them this competition
is worthy. For the sake of Florence.

MACHIAVELLI
Leave that to me.

EXT. SANTISSIMA ANNUNZIATA – DAY'S END

It is a neighborhood of high-walled, private villas.

INT. LEONARDO'S STUDIO – SAME TIME

The studio, bathed in the merciful, gentle light at the end


of day, throbs with activity.
8

The Leonardeschi—SERVANTS, STUDENTS, ADMIRERS, and YOUNG


DANDIES—speaking in all manner of tongues, scurry about
their business or pleasure. It seems much more an aviary of
humming-birds than a working studio.

MUSICIANS accompany a TENOR, who sings a heartfelt love


song. ACROBATS warm up in the wings, awaiting their turn to
perform. POETS rehearse their rhymes.

The sweet, sensuous activity swirls around LEONARDO DA


VINCI, 52.

Refined, self-assured, athletic, graceful, serene. A


Renaissance dandy, as light and shadowy as sfumato, he’s
attired in silk and lace. He steadies himself at an artist's
easel with his right hand, while he paints with his left.
Beyond the easel sits the enigmatic LISA DI ANTONIO MARIA
GHERARDINI, 24, third wife of the prominent Florentine
citizen and silk merchant, Francesco di Bartolommeo del
Giocondo.

Monna Lisa, La Gioconda, the quiet lady in her still pose,


smiles that smile—a thing more divine than human.

LEONARDO
(caressing his beard)
Does the music soothe you, my lady?

MONNA LISA
It does, Nardo mio. It does.

LEONARDO
Your smile tells me so.

MONNA LISA
It is a pleasant evening.

LEONARDO
The light is so forgiving, so merciful.

Leonardo, his cool blue eyes twinkling, smudges the


ridgeline of a mountain peak with his fingers, rendering the
image soft and smoky, misty and mysterious, full of dark
shadows.

LEONARDO
Sfumatissimo.

EXT. SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE DEL DUOMO - DAY

The cathedral, Il Duomo, dominates the Florentine skyline.


9

EXT. DUOMO - WORK YARD – SAME TIME

The work yard runs the full width of the block behind the
Duomo Works buildings. The front half of the yard serves as
quarters for the ARTISANS who maintain the cathedral.

In the middle of the rear half of the yard, bathing in the


glorious Tuscan sun, stands the mammoth statue of David,
mounted on a revolving turntable and surrounded by fifteen-
foot scaffolding.

Straddling the scaffolding is MICHELANGELO DI LODOVICO


BUONARROTI SIMONI, 29.

Reserved, severe, ill-tempered, solitary, surly. A broken-


nosed, jug-eared boxer with a bad attitude. Dressed in
filthy workmen's clothes, his curly hair matted with dust
and marble chips, he’s as hard and flinty as the stone he
carves. He wears a lantern around his forehead which, when
lit, makes him look like a Cyclops. His amber eyes bore into
the eyes of the giant statue.

Michelangelo slowly, caressingly polishes the face of the


statue, coaxing an almost flesh-like color from the stone.

ARGIENTO, his assistant, stares up in awe.

ARGIENTO
Your father will be proud.

MICHELANGELO
(tugging at his sparse
goatee)
He'll be paid his florins. Then he'll
be proud. For him, money shines
brighter than fame.

ARGIENTO
It is poetry. It is perfection.

MICHELANGELO
Perfection is unattainable, Argiento.
Completeness is preferable.

EXT. PIAZZA NAVONE - DAY

VENDORS hawk their wares in the open marketplace.

Leonardo, followed by a retinue of SERVANTS, ADMIRERS, and


HANGERS-ON, glides down the aisles. He waves to those he
knows and nods to those he doesn’t.
10

He abruptly stops in front of a stall selling wild fowl. A


variety of BIRDS—crows, siskins, pigeons, hawks—are penned
in cages. Their less fortunate brethren hang from poles—
freshly dead, plucked, and smoked.

BIRD VENDOR
Fricassee, fry, or stew. A bird for
every meal. A meal for every bird.

Leonardo wrinkles his nose in disgust.

LEONARDO
I partake of no animal’s flesh.

BIRD VENDOR
Don’t know what ye’re fortakin’, sir.
LEONARDO
I will take them all.

Leonardo gestures grandly for his SERVANT to pay the man.


The servant, shocked, empties Leonardo’s silk purse, then
digs into his own pockets. Unable to find even a moth in his
own pants, he urgently solicits funds from those within
arm’s length, until he has enough. He pays the vendor.

BIRD VENDOR
A banquet, then?

Leonardo opens the cages, removes the birds, and tosses them
one-by-one into the sky.

LEONARDO
No, freedom.

Leonardo removes a notebook from his cape pocket. He wildly


sketches the fluttering BIRDS from a variety of angles,
madly bowing and dipping, like a news photographer snapping
off photos at the scene of a disaster.

EXT. PIAZZA SAN LORENZO - DAY

Michelangelo shuffles through the Piazza, head down.

A BLACK CAT, lapping stagnant water from a puddle, hisses at


Michelangelo as he passes.

A scrawny, THREE-LEGGED DOG roots around in some garbage.

Michelangelo stops, pulls some stale bread from his pocket,


kneels, and offers the morsel to the dog.

The dog backs up, bares its teeth, and growls at


Michelangelo.
11

He throws the bread at the beast and storms off through the
Piazza.

INT. SANTA MARIA NOVELLA – CONVENT - DAY

In is peaceful in the cell of the nunnery.

Leonardo holds both hands of CATERINA, an olive-skinned,


frizzy-haired little old woman.

CATERINA
You were a white fledgling in a nest of
black crows, my little Nardo.

LEONARDO
I remember when father was away on
business. I would crawl into your bed
late at night.

CATERINA
With iceberg toes.

LEONARDO
You protected me from the night demons,
dearest Mother.

CATERINA
That was a very long time ago.

LEONARDO
I am all that I am because of you.

The old woman turns away, blushing.

CATERINA
I have some things for you.

She crosses to a worn, wooden chest. She removes a packet


wrapped in drawing paper and bound with hemp twine. She
returns, presenting the package to Leonardo.

He slowly unties the string, carefully coils it, and places


it in his pocket. He unfolds the paper. Inside are two
shirts of coarse gray linen and three pairs of wool
stockings.

CATERINA
I wove the linen myself.

Leonardo kisses both hands of this poor contadina from


Vinci.
12

EXT. ST. PROCULUS STREET – HOUSE - DAY

The modest house sits on the fashionable street, a block


from the superb stone pile of the Pazzi Palace.

INT. HOUSE – FAMILY ROOM - SAME TIME

LODOVICO BUONARROTI sits in a black leather chair at the


rear of the one-floor apartment.

Michelangelo sits on a wooden stool across the room.

LODOVICO
If the Medici think you’re dry fruit,
you will not make a single scudo.

MICHELANGELO
There's more than one family in
Florence willing to patronize the arts.

LODOVICO
What has happened to your pride?

MICHELANGELO
Pride is a sin.

LODOVICO
Are you to earn nothing forever?

MICHELANGELO
I will earn.

LODVICO
When? How?

MICHELANGELO
I don't know.

LODOVICO
Two dozen times you have said "No," or
"I don't know." When will you know?

MICHELANGELO
I don't know.

LODOVICO
I should beat you with a stick. When
will you get some sense in your head?

MICHELANGELO
I'm doing what I must. That is sense.

Lodovico slaps his own forehead with the flat of his hand.
13

LODOVICO
You are an artist. Whoever heard of a
Buonarroti an artist? I don't know any
more what a man has sons for!

Michelangelo stands, walks over to Lodovico's chair, and


puts a hand lightly on his father's shoulder.

MICHELANGELO
Trust me, Father. I am not looking for
wool on an ass.

EXT. PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA - NIGHT

Michelangelo and GRANACCI, his friend and mentor, emerge


from a narrow side street into the blazing light of the
plaza.
The Piazza is aglow with orange light from the burning oil
pots that hang from every window and droop from the top of
the crenellated tower.

Granacci walks around a pile of fine gray ash. Michelangelo


stares, questioning.

GRANACCI
They burned Savonarola on this spot.
The faithful place these ashes here
each night to honor his memory.

Michelangelo crosses himself and follows his friend.

They cross the plaza to the broad steps leading up into the
Signoria courtyard. Distracted by a noise, they stop at the
base of the statue of Judith by Donatello, and turn.

Leonardo saunters through the plaza, followed by his flock.

GRANACCI
Ah, Leonardo.

Michelangelo scowls at Granacci's fickle hero-worship.

Lovingly clinging to Leonardo's arm is a YOUNG BOY with features


straight from a Greek statue. He is dressed in an expensive linen
shirt and a cloak rich in silver brocade.

MICHELANGELO
Who's that with him?
14

GRANACCI
Giacomo Caprotti, his apprentice . . .
and companion. Leonardo calls him
Salai—devil—because he acts so badly
and looks so beautiful.

MICHELANGELO
(mutters, slightly
embarrassed)
He is lovely.

GRANACCI
Compared to Leonardo, Salai is dull.

Tall and graceful, Leonardo is dressed in regal splendor and


a disdain for convention: a rose-colored cloak barely
covering his shoulders, and falling short at the knees. He
wears his shirt and calze tight to the point of bursting,
lace about his neck and wrists.

Michelangelo shrinks back in the shadows, feeling hideous


and malformed in comparison. He tugs at his ill-fitting,
worn, and soiled clothes.

GRANACCI
Don't be fooled by the elegant
exterior, Mic. Leonardo has a
magnificent brain.

MICHELANGELO
With an ego to match.

GRANACCI
He has been dissecting animals for
years, and keeping meticulous notebooks
of his anatomical drawings.

MICHELANGELO
Humans as well, I hear.

GRANACCI
He is an engineer and inventor of
amazing machines. Even now, he is
completing experiments for a machine
that will fly through the air as the
birds do.

MICHELANGELO
God did not intend man to fly. If he
had, he would've given us bird's
brains.
15

GRANACCI
It is a dazzling performance he puts
on, imitating a rich nobleman. He hopes
to persuade the world to forget that he
is the illegitimate son of a Vinci
innkeeper's daughter.

MICHELANGELO
He's very convincing. An effective
actor.

GRANACCI
Ah, yes, but he is the only man in
Florence who works as hard and long as
you do. Look for the real Leonardo
beneath that facade.

INT. LEONARDO'S STUDIO – LATE AFTERNOON

The OLD MAN poses, leaning on a stack of ledgers and holding


rolls of parchment. He is the portrait of prosperity.

Leonardo sketches his portrait in red chalk.

LEONARDO
Father?

Ser Piero da Vinci rouses form his reverie.

LEONARDO
Look at me, please. I want to get the
eyes right.

Leonardo’s father stares at his son, a tinge of respect


creeping into his face.

PIERO DA VINCI
You look well, my son. Even prosperous.

LEONARDO
(without conviction)
My house is in good order.

PIERO DA VINCI
Although you are a grown man, I still
worry.

LEONARDO
I know.

PIERO DA VINCI
Is there nothing I can do for you?
16

LEONARDO
You have done enough.

PIERO DA VINCI
I have much to give and little time to
give it.

LEONARDO
You will outlive us all. Save it for
the inheritance.

PIERO DA VINCI
Ever the practical son.

LEONARDO
(mumbles to himself)
For a bastard.
PIERO DA VINCI
I’m sorry, I did not hear you. My ears
are almost as bad as my eyes.

LEONARDO
I said basta. Enough for the day. The
light is leaving us.

PIERO DA VINCI
Ah, so it is. So it is.

EXT. DUOMO - WORK YARD - DAY

A slight, pale wisp of a YOUNG WOMAN with a piquant face


strolls through the rear work area, her arm on the arm of a
FAT MAN with a dead eye.

Michelangelo’s eyes meet those of the woman. He stops


working. She stops walking.

MICHELANGELO
(whispers to Granacci)
Who’s that?

GRANACCI
Contessina. The only daughter of
Lorenzo the Magnificent. Sister to
Piero. Why?

MICHELANGELO
No reason.
17

GRANACCI
You care nothing for girls. They might
as well be radishes. You know nothing
about what it means to be mattress-
able.

Michelangelo glares at Granacci.

The odd couple stroll around the work yard, inspecting the
sculptures. They circle back toward Michelangelo. And stop
in front of him.

Contessina dabs at the sheen of perspiration on her nose


with a blue silk handkerchief embroidered with the de’
Medici family crest.

Michelangelo continues working, feverishly trying to


concentrate on his work and not her. He carves a herringbone
pattern on a pietra serena.

CONTESSINA
(to the fat man)
The stone has a smell.

MICHELANGELO
(without looking up)
Freshly picked figs.

CONTESSINA
And this?

Contessina points to a piece of marble on the bench beside


Michelangelo.

CONTESSINA
Does it smell of freshly picked plums?

MICHELANGELO
No, it has hardly any.

Michelangelo chips off a piece of marble and awkwardly holds


it out to her.

MICHELANGELO
Here, smell for yourself.

Contessina recoils, crinkling her nose and laughing at him.

Embarrassed, he suddenly begins furiously hammering at the


marble with his chisel, sending stone chips flying.

CONTESSINA
Why do you work so . . . so furiously?
It would exhaust me.
18

MICHELANGELO
Cutting stone doesn't take strength
out, it puts it back.

CONTESSINA
It is a foreign land.

MICHELANGELO
Here, try it yourself. It's amazing how
alive it becomes under your hands.

CONTESSINA
Beneath your hands, perhaps. Will you
finish that for me?

MICHELANGELO
It’s nothing.

CONTESSINA
I like it.

MICHELANGELO
I will finish it.

As Contessina walks away, she lets the silk handkerchief


slip from her fingers.

Michelangelo stares at the handkerchief for a moment, then


leaps to his feet, snatches it from the ground, and ties it
around his neck.

Contessina glances back over her shoulder, sees what he has


done, and smiles.

INT. RUSTICI'S SCULPTURE STUDIO - NIGHT

The gigantic studio overflows with food and drink.

Eleven MEN stand together. A twelfth, ELDERLY MAN lies on a


litter. Twelve SERVANTS kneel before their masters, each
holding a container filled with fresh food.

Leonardo towers at one end of the ragged line, next to


SANDRO BOTTICELLI.

This is the Company of the Cauldron, a cooking academy.

A well-dressed MERCHANT raises his goblet.

MERCHANT
To the Company of the Cauldron!
19

The merchant is surrounded by the leading lights of


Florence. The city’s renowned ARTISTS and ARTISANS, the
MEMBERS of the Signoria, the BOARD MEMBERS of the Wool Guild
and the Duomo, as well as Piero Soderini and Niccolo
Machiavelli.

CROWD
To the Company!

MERCHANT
And the restoration of the culinary
arts to the Pantheon of noble arts for
the first time since Roman times.

CROWD
To food!
MERCHANT
Savonarola should have known better.
Gluttony is not a vanity.

CROWD
To gluttony!

Michelangelo, shaggy and unkempt, enters the studio still


dressed in his filthy work clothes. He's escorted by
Granacci.

As he walks past Leonardo and Salai, Leonardo grimaces, then


sniffs slightly.

Michelangelo stops, clenching his fists.

Granacci gently touches Michelangelo’s back, urging him


forward toward the party.

GRANACCI
They are here to honor you, Mic. Do not
embarrass us.

Michelangelo, extremely ill at ease, sits down at the head


of a long banquet table.

On either side stand his friends and mentors. To his right,


RUSTICI, to his left, Granacci.

Arrayed along either side of the table are the storied


CITIZENS of Florence.

At the opposite end stands Soderini. He lifts a cup in toast


to Michelangelo.
20

SODERINI
To the David, Il Gigante. The first
major commission agreed upon by all
since the death of Savonarola.

The crowd applauds.

SODERINI
To Florence. The first city of the
world.

The crowd hurrahs.

SODERINI
To our rebirth.

The crowd shouts.


SODERINI
To Michelangelo. You are the midwife.
Handle the baby carefully.

The entire congregation toasts Michelangelo. Rustici and


Granacci pound him on the back.

Old ROSSELLI, the man on the litter, gestures for the throng
to be quiet. He motions for the other eleven members of the
Company to move closer so they can hear him. They do.

ROSSELLI
I am too old to enjoy these orgies of
meat and drink any longer.

The crowd vehemently and loudly disagrees.

ROSSELLI
As much as I dislike promoting anyone
from a rival studio, I herewith resign
from the Company. And nominate
Michelangelo Buonarroti to succeed me.

The crowd erupts in assent.

The solitary Michelangelo, the unwanted loner, is moved to


tears.

The twelve members of the Company clasp their hands


together.

THE TWELVE
Welcome to the Company!

The crowd applauds the unanimous election.


21

RUSTICI
You know what this means? You cook next
month.

The crowd roars with laughter.

The room settles as smaller groups form to eat, drink, and


talk.

Michelangelo hears the voice of Leonardo speaking to a group


behind him.

LEONARDO
I refused to compete for the David
commission because, well, because
sculpture is such a mechanical art.
BOTTICELLI
Perhaps it had more to do with your
reputation for not completing
commissions.

Leonardo bristles at the tiresome and redundant accusation.

ROSSELLI
Surely you would not call Donatello a
mechanic?

LEONARDO
In some ways, yes. Sculpture is so much
less intellectual than painting.

BOTTICELLI
Still, for a commission as important as
the David?

LEONARDO
No, no, I would never carve marble. At
day's end, the marble carver is as
filthy as a baker. His clothes stink.
When I paint, I work in my finest
clothes. I end the day as immaculate as
I began it. No, sculpting does not suit
me. No, indeed.

Michelangelo feels his spine stiffen. Rustici places his


hand on Michelangelo’s back. Michelangelo glances over his
shoulder. Leonardo's back is to him.

Again, Michelangelo's face flushes, a rage rising. He stares


at his clenched fists, balled upon the table, grasping for
control.
22

MICHELANGELO
(mutters under his
breath)
One day I will make Leonardo eat those
words.

LEONARDO
(oblivious)
Sculpture is for laborers.

Michelangelo abruptly leaps to his feet, kicking the chair


out from under him. He spins to face Leonardo, who has
turned around, startled by the ruckus.

MICHELANGELO
Sculpture is the first and original
art.
LEONARDO
It was. Until the fine art of painting
was developed. Carving is extinct.

MICHELANGELO
The sculptor comes closer to the truth.
He carves from reality. The painter
creates an illusion, a magical trick.
You can walk around a statue. You can’t
walk around a painting.

LEONARDO
The painter can portray the entire
universe. The sky, rain, stars, rivers.
The sculptor makes a man, a horse, then
does it all over again. Monotonous.
Tedious. Sculpture is a bore.

Tears of frustration well in Michelangelo’s eyes.

MICHELANGELO
Painting is perishable. Stone is
eternal. Show me a painting that’s as
old as the Greek statues in the de'
Medici garden.

LEONARDO
Or as cold.

MICHELANGELO
Isn't it true, Leonardo, that your
equestrian statue in Milan is so
colossal that it can never be cast? No
wonder you talk against sculpture.
You're not capable of finishing your
work!
23

A thunderous, uncomfortable silence envelopes the room.

Leonardo raises his hand to his heart, stung by the cruel


depth of this personal attack.

Michelangelo storms from the room, kicking the door open as


he marches into the night.

EXT. DUOMO – WORK YARD - DAWN

As the sun breaks over the horizon, Leonardo gingerly picks


his way through the SLEEPING WORKERS. He approaches the
giant statue of David, in bright relief against the brick
wall. He looks around.

Argiento lies on his straw mattress beneath a tree.


Michelangelo sleeps on the top plank of the scaffolding that
surrounds the statue, slumped in the spot where sleep
finally triumphed the night before. The lantern is still
stuck to his forehead. Hardened candle wax has splattered on
the plank.

Leonardo slowly walks around the Colossus. He removes a


sketch pad and red chalk from a knapsack slung over his
shoulder. He removes a silk handkerchief from his cloak,
dusts off a low, wooden bench and carefully sits.

Leonardo studies the naked, adolescent body. The veins on


the right arm. The contracted eyebrows. The curls across the
forehead.

Leonardo begins to sketch. To disguise the copy and make it


his own, he adds sea-horses around the feet, replaces the
sling with a trident, and adds a garland of seaweed. He
continues for several minutes, then finishes with a
flourish.

He writes "Neptune," then signs his name.

INT. LEONARDO'S STUDIO - DAY

A monumental cartoon (cartone) hangs from the rafters. It


portrays the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and a Lamb.
The face of the child resembles Leonardo.

A CROWD of artists, merchants, soldiers, clergy, students,


lay men and women admire the partially completed drawing.

MERCHANT
He is a master of self-promotion.
24

SOLDIER
Narcissist. It’s all about Leonardo.
It’s always about Leonardo.

Michelangelo elbows his way through the crowd to get a


better view of the cartoon. His face is flushed. His eyes
drink in the mastery and the power.

He moves to the end of the studio and sits on a bench. A


folio rests on the bench. Michelangelo opens it. He sees a
sketch of a male nude observed from the rear, with arms and
legs outstretched. It is galvanically alive and convincing.

MICHELANGELO
(to himself)
Leonardo has dissected. There is no
doubt now.
Michelangelo closes the folio, withdraws a folded sheet of
wrinkled paper and a short nub of charcoal from his work
shirt. He plunges into copying the three figures in the
massive cartoon.

EXT. TUSCAN COUNTRYSIDE – DAY

Leonardo and Salai sit on the edge of a rock wall bordering


a deep pool of water that feeds a stream. A waterfall
cascades into the still pool.

Leonardo sketches the water as it rushes downstream over


partially submerged rocks and tree trunks.

LEONARDO
Water is the essence of nature. It is
to the world what blood is to our
bodies.

SALAI
It nourishes and destroys.

Leonardo stares at the swirling water. It begins to spiral


downward, faster and faster, forming a whirlpool.

LEONARDO
The world will end in a flood.

Leonardo lays down his sketch pad and removes some drawings
from a leather folio.

It is a series of sketches of canals and locks, a machine


for excavating canals and a machine for raising water.
25

LEONARDO
Machiavelli and I have designed a way
to control the Arno. We will build a
canal that connects the Arno to the
sea. A series of locks will carry the
water uphill to Florence.

SALAI
Magnificent. Truly original.

Leonardo looks back at the water rushing downstream.

LEONARDO
The past flows into the present and
feeds the future. It is all connected.

EXT. RUSTICI'S VILLA – PORCH - EVENING


Rustici and Michelangelo savor a candlelit supper on the
porch overlooking the Arno.

A YOUNG GIRL, blonde in the Florentine tradition, her hair


plucked back to give her a higher brow, her breasts propped
up in a gown of green taffeta, leans over Michelangelo to
clear the empty plates. Her breasts linger on his shoulder.

Michelangelo pulls away, startled and mildly annoyed.

The young girl smiles a coy smile.

RUSTICI
That will be all, Vermiglia.

Vermiglia bows and goes inside.

RUSTICI
If you don’t like Vermiglia, she has a
buffet of cousins. Would you like her
to choose one for you?

Michelangelo blushes vermilion to the roots of his hair.

RUSTICI
I think she’s lonely here, Angelo. It
would be a pleasant life.

MICHELANGELO
Thank you, caro. I have a way of life.
As for casual affairs, what you put
into the ladies at night, you can't put
into the marble in the morning.

Rustici sips from his goblet of wine, then stares out at the
Arno.
26

RUSTICI
Cesare Borgia is marching on Urbino.
They say he’s helping incite a
rebellion in Arezzo against Florentine
rule.

MICHELANGELO
He will not be satisfied until he rules
the entire peninsula.

RUSTICI
Leonardo has joined Borgia's army as an
engineer. I detect the hand of
Machiavelli in this.

MICHELANGELO
Leonardo is a traitor. He trades
Sforza, the tyrant of Milan, for
Borgia, the tyrant of Rome.

RUSTICI
Borgia pays him well.

MICHELANGELO
To draw war maps of Florence. We give
him hospitality, commissions to paint,
and that is how he thanks us.

RUSTICI
Leonardo is at loose ends. He can't
seem to finish his painting of Monna
Lisa.

MICHELANGELO
What else is new?

RUSTICI
He's more interested in testing his new
war machines than his art. He doesn't
understand politics, you know.

MICHELANGELO
Tell that to his fellow Florentines
when his war machines batter down our
walls. He says he respects all life,
yet he designs the most terrifying
weapons of mass destruction we’ve ever
known.
27

RUSTICI
He’s amoral, Angelo. He’s not
interested in right and wrong as it
applies to people. Only in the true and
false of science and knowledge.

MICHELANGELO
I should be glad to be rid of him, I
suppose. He fled once before, you know.

RUSTICI
Yes, that messy business with the male
prostitute. He nearly burned at the
stake for that morsel.

MICHELANGELO
I hope we can count on his absence for
at least another eighteen years.

Rustici shakes his head wistfully.

RUSTICI
You two stand like the Apennines above
the rest of us, yet you hate each
other. It doesn't make sense. Or does
it?

INT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – SODERINI'S OFFICE - DAY

The impressive corner office overlooks the Piazza and the


rooftops of Florence. Elegant, paneled in dark wood, it
features a broad ceiling painted with the lilies of
Florence.

Behind a massive oak desk sits Soderini. Machiavelli


slouches in a low chair across from him.

SODERINI
Leonardo da Vinci is a great painter.

MACHIAVELLI
I have seen the Last Supper in Milan.
It is tremendous. No one in all of
Italy can equal him.

SODERINI
I am envious of Milan's fresco. You
pledged one for Florence.

MACHIAVELLI
I am very close. With the right
incentive, he will give Florence what
he gave Milan.
28

SODERINI
We may not have the strongest army, but
we have the greatest artists.

MACHIAVELLI
Leonardo is as hard to hold as Proteus.
The contract must be very specific.

SODERINI
Will he finish? Or, will he abandon it
for another distraction?

MACHIAVELLI
I’ll bet my life on it.

SODERINI
You may have to.
MACHIAVELLI
(taken aback)
Patience, Gonfaloniere. Patience.

SODERINI
You gave me your word, secretary. Where
I come from, a broken promise can be
lethal.

MACHIAVELLI
I will not disappoint.

SODERINI
What of Michelangelo? Is he committed?

MACHIAVELLI
I have a plan.

SODERINI
So be it.

MACHIAVELLI
Michelangelo is a melancholy young man,
driven. He must be drawn out by
kindness and flattery. He cares little
for money, but his father has enough
greed for them both. We can obtain his
services for a song.

SODERINI
It is settled then. Let the game begin.

INT. SANTO SPIRITO – LIBRARY - DAY

PRIOR BICHIELLINI sits at a large table in his manuscript-


lined library.
29

Michelangelo stands before him.

THE PRIOR
Leonardo is returned?

MICHELANGELO
Soderini has given him the keys to the
Grand Hall of the Signoria.

THE PRIOR
He has accepted the commission, then?

MICHELANGELO
A fresco. For the wall behind the
platform on which Gonfaloniere Soderini
and the Signoria sit.
THE PRIOR
They pay him ten thousand florins for
this?

MICHELANGELO
The largest commission since the death
of Savonarola. Given to a man who would
help Borgia conquer Florence. They only
gave me four hundred florins for my
David.

THE PRIOR
Do not be greedy, my son.

MICHELANGELO
I must have a greater commission.

THE PRIOR
What about the commissions you’ve
already promised.

MICHELANGELO
They can wait.

THE PRIOR
By what right? What you have begun, you
must finish! Do not be Leonardo. Honor
your commitments.

MICHELANGELO
This is my great opportunity, Prior
Bichiellini. I can create something
glorious. I can shame Leonardo.

The Prior pushes his papers aside, his eyes blazing behind
his spectacles.
30

THE PRIOR
There is only a God-given number of
years in which to work and fulfill
yourself. Do not squander them in petty
quarrels.

INT. LEONARDO'S STUDIO – LATE AFTERNOON

Leonardo works on La Gioconda’s portrait. It is only the


artist and his subject.

LEONARDO
If I could only talk to Michelangelo
for a while, face-to-face. He would
understand that I am no enemy of his.
There is no man who could come to love
him as I.

Monna Lisa shakes her head.

MONNA LISA
Would he truly understand?

LEONARDO
He would. He feels jealousy and fear
because he is shy and unsure of
himself. He has no reason to fear me.
When I beheld his David, I could not
believe my eyes. No one can imagine who
he is, and what he will be. I feel
that, even now, he is not only equal to
me, but stronger.

Monna Lisa gazes straight into Leonardo’s eyes with a smile


filled with mystery. She smiles upon him with his own smile.

MONNA LISA
Messer Buonarotti may be as strong as
the wind that shakes the mountains.
But, he does not possess the still
voice, the calm, wherein the Lord
dwells. He knows this, and hates you
because you are stronger than he is,
even as the calm is more potent than
the tempest.

Leonardo turns back to the portrait. He adds a final brush


stroke to the corner of the mouth, at the edge of the smile.

LEONARDO
It is finished.
31

In a mirror, we see a reflection of Leonardo. We turn our


gaze from the mirror to look at the flesh-and-blood
Leonardo. He’s dressed exactly the same as the Monna Lisa.
The same gown, the same smile.

We turn back to the mirror. Seeing it side-by-side with La


Giaconda, we realize it is a self-portrait.

INT. DUOMO HEADQUARTERS – UPSTAIRS LIBRARY – SUPPER HOUR

The artists and artisans of Florence gather.

EXT. DUOMO HEADQUARTERS – WORK YARD – SAME TIME

Michelangelo hovers below the windows of the library facing


the work yard. He overhears the hubbub of many VOICES above
him as the artists greet one another.
He climbs a back stair to a small vestibule adjoining the
library.

INT. DUOMO LIBRARY – SAME TIME

Someone raps for order and it is silent.

FRANCESCO FILARETE, herald of the Signoria, steps forward.

FILARETE
There is only one place for the Giant
to reside and that is where the
Donatello Judith stands. The Judith was
erected under an evil constellation. We
have gone from bad to worse since.

INTERCUT LIBRARY AND VESTIBULE

Michelangelo smiles and nods a mild assent. Another voice


starts speaking. Michelangelo opens the door of the
vestibule and peeks into the library.

MONCIATTO, the woodcarver, surveys his peers.

MONCIATTO
The Giant was meant to adorn the Duomo.
It would be a suitable ornament to
Santa Maria del Fiore.

Old Rosselli rises feebly from his litter.

ROSSELLI
Messer Filarete and Messer Monciatto
speak the truth. However, I believe the
best place is on the stairs of the
Duomo.
32

Leonardo clears his throat and waits for everyone to focus


on him.

LEONARDO
I choose the Loggia dei Lanzi to the
west of the Palazzo Vecchio because the
marble will be protected.

Michelangelo scowls.

MICHELANGELO
(hisses under his
breath)
The back of the statue will be
condemned to permanent shadow. The
Loggia will dwarf my Giant, you old
fool.

GIULIANO DA SANGALLO adds his voice.

DA SANGALLO
My brother Antonio and I agree. It must
be kept out of the rain. The marble is
soft and has suffered already from
exposure.

SIMONE DEL POLLAIUOLO, the architect known as Il Cronaca,


the storyteller, steps forward.

IL CRONACA
What about the Grand Hall? Where
Leonardo's fresco is to be painted.

Michelangelo glowers.

MICHELANGELO
(mutters)
Isn't there one man here who will say I
should have the right to select the
spot?

From his perch in the window, FILIPPINO LIPPI raises his


hand and is recognized.

LIPPI
Everyone has said wise things. But, I
am sure the sculptor will propose the
best place. He has certainly considered
longer, and with more authority, the
location where the Colossus should be
placed.

A murmur of agreement ripples through the room.


33

Michelangelo grins, pumping his fist in the air.

ANGELO MANFIDI claps his hands once.

MANFIDI
Before your magnificent lords decide
where the statue ought to be placed, I
suggest that you ask the advice of the
Signori, among whom are many respected
intellects.

Gonfaloniere Soderini scans the gathering, nods to his


colleagues of the Signori, and smiles.

SODERINI
In front of the principal entrance to
the Palazzo Signoria, in the Ringhiera,
where the Judith now stands. As a
symbol of the valiant Republic. That
will please the Republic. It will
please the artist. It will please me.

Michelangelo smiles, closes the door noiselessly, creeps


down the back stairs to the yard, and out into the night.

INT. LEONARDO'S WORKSHOP - DAY

Leonardo theatrically storms up and down. He does nothing


without a dash of drama.

LEONARDO
The haranguing place. The arrogance of
it all. I will live to tell them all,
"I told you so."

SALIA
Be calm, my lord.

LEONARDO
They have dubbed him my equal in
sculpture. On what basis? One statue.

SALAI
A breathtaking statue.

LEONARDO
One nonetheless. I am replaced because
I did not have the time to finish the
Sforza statue.

SALAI
Or the money.
34

LEONARDO
Precisely. What now? Will he challenge
me at painting? The audacity.

SALAI
He cares nothing about painting. He
said as much before the Company.

LEONARDO
I will not let him win. They should be
talking about me, praising me. I am the
center of it all. La Giaconda will
prove it.

SALAI
It shall be your masterpiece. Your
legacy.
LEONARDO
If only I had accepted the commission
for the David. If only he had not come
along. If only the Giant had not been
born.

Leonardo slumps in an overstuffed, brocade-covered chair.

Salai brings him a cup of tea.

Leonardo waves him away.

Two young APPRENTICES enter the room, carrying a tray of


fruit, bread, and cheese.

LEONARDO
If only I could snap my fingers and it
would all be gone. And things would be
as they had been. If only.

Leonardo cradles his head in his two hands.

The apprentices turn to face each other and smile a


diabolical smile.

EXT. DUOMO – WORK YARD - DAY

The David, encased in a cobwebbed net of enormous hemp


ropes, rests inside a twenty-foot cage of wood. A series of
slip knots running along the ropes, tighten under the
statue's weight and slacken as the pressure eases, allowing
the David to float easily in its cage.

WORKERS rip out a portion of the brick wall behind the work
shed in the rear yard.
35

YOUNG BOYS smooth the road leading away from the yard toward
the spire of the Palazzo Vecchio.

Using windlasses turned by a bar, forty MEN drag the huge


crate forward and ease it onto greased, round logs. The
human chain heaves against the rope.

As the heavy frame inches its way forward, the rear log is
released, picked up by WORKMEN who run forward, and place it
under the front of the cage.

The David, secured at the crotch and upward over the chest
with ropes, sways slightly against the slip knots.

PROCESSION

The statue moves slowly, inexorably, out the yard and down
the Street of the Clock to the corner. The workers maneuver
the sharp turn into the Via del Proconsolo, and down that
street a half block.

Hundreds of CITIZENS watch. TRADESMEN place bets with


MONEYLENDERS, wagering whether the Colossus will make the
entire journey without incident.

As darkness descends, the onlookers disperse, shouting as


they go.

CITIZENS
Good night!
Until tomorrow!
Good luck!
May God go with you!
Glory be to Florence!

EXT. VIA DEL PROCONSOLO - MIDNIGHT

The David gleams ligament white in the moonlight.

Michelangelo throws a blanket down inside the wooden cage,


in the space behind the David where the right calf joins the
marble tree trunk. There is just enough room for him to lie
stretched out on the wooden floor.

WOODEN CAGE - LATER

Michelangelo, half asleep, is roused by the sound of running


feet and VOICES. Suddenly, a barrage of stones smash against
the side wall of the frame. Michelangelo springs up from the
floor.

MICHELANGELO
Guards!
36

He hears the running feet scurry down the Proconsolo. He


jumps from the cage and gives chase, yelling at the top of
his lungs.

MICHELANGELO
Stop! Guards! Stop them!

The half dozen fleeing forms appear to be YOUNG BOYS. His


heart pounding wildly, Michelangelo returns to the David.

Two GUARDS, one with a broken nose and one with a dead eye,
wait there, holding lanterns.

BROKEN NOSE
What's all the noise?

MICHELANGELO
(pointing at the
David)
He was being stoned.

DEAD EYE
(looking around for
someone)
He who?

MICHELANGELO
(frustrated, pointing)
Him.

BROKEN NOSE
(scanning the night)
There's no one here.

MICHELANGELO
The statue.

Both guards finally look up at the face glowing in the


moonlight.

DEAD EYE
Stoned? By?

MICHELANGELO
I don't know.

BROKEN NOSE
Did they hit it . . . him?

MICHELANGELO
(picking up a stone)
I don't think so. I only heard these
hit the cage.
37

DEAD EYE
(nudging his partner
in the ribs)
You're sure you weren't having a bad
dream?

MICHELANGELO
I tell you I saw them. And heard them.
If I hadn't been here . . .

Michelangelo dismisses the guards with a scowl and a wave of


his hand. They leave, chuckling and nudging each other.

Michelangelo circles the David, peering through the


darkness, checking for damage. He climbs back inside and
strokes the forearm of the Colossus.
MICHELANGELO
Why would anyone want to hurt you?

EXT. VIA DEL PROCONSOLO – EARLY MORNING

The statue continues its journey. Michelangelo, Soderini,


and other dignitaries watch. Leonardo and Salai loiter at
the edge of the crowd.

SODERINI
Do you have enemies?

MICHELANGELO
None that I know of.

FILARETE
We should rather ask, "Does Florence,
does the Republic, have enemies?"

MICHELANGELO
(nods toward Leonardo)
What of Leonardo?

SODERINI
Impossible. He’s above that sort of
thing.

MICHELANGELO
He may not have picked the stones, but
he certainly could’ve paid for them.

MICHELANGELO
To what purpose?

MICHELANGELO
Jealousy. Pure and simple.
38

FILARETE
Of what? He has no equal.

MICHELANGELO
(glowers)
Not yet.

SODERINI
(smiles a smug smile)
We shall see. We shall see.

MICHELANGELO
Just let them try again tonight.

Michelangelo scowls at Leonardo. Leonardo reacts, confused.

EXT. PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA – LATER THAT NIGHT


The cage rests at the bottom corner of the Piazza della
Signoria, where Piazza San Firenze joins the large plaza.

Michelangelo, again half sleeping, hears something.

Several YOUNG MEN step from the shadows, rocks in hand.

Just then, concealed GUARDS, including Broken Nose and Dead


Eye, leap from hiding. They attack the attackers and soon
have them face down on the street, hands tied. They yank
them to their feet.

Broken Nose and Dead Eye nod acknowledgement to Michelangelo


as he steps up to face the young men.

MICHELANGELO
Why would you stone my statue?

When no one speaks up, Broken Nose prods one of the younger
men who wears no shoes.

BAREFOOT VANDAL
They made us.

He nods at the older boys.

An older boy, who has a red cross painted on his cheek,


yanks away from the guards.

RED CROSS VANDAL


It is obscenely naked. Savonarola would
have wished it destroyed.

Another of the older boys, who wears a gold cross around his
neck, steps forward to stand beside his compatriot.
39

GOLD CROSS VANDAL


It is bad art. I wanted to show that
some people know better.

MICHELANGELO
There is an old Tuscan saying. "Art has
an enemy called ignorance."

One of the older boys spits at Michelangelo’s feet.

The guards drag the manacled boys off to the Bargello.

EXT. PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA - RINGHIERA – MORNING

CARPENTERS knock away the cage.

WORKERS unslip the knots and remove the rope mantle.


The statue of Judith is carried away.

The David is moved to replace her in the haranguing area, at


the foot of the steps to the Palazzo Signoria, facing the
open plaza.

Michelangelo and Granacci enter the piazza. Michelangelo


catches his breath sharply, amazed by the sight.

The David stands in all its majestic grace, lighting up the


Signoria with pure white light.

Exhausted and humbled, Michelangelo breaks into wracking


sobs.

INT. LEONARDO'S APARTMENT - DAY

Leonardo lounges in his personal quarters, eating a fig.


Salai fans him with a feathered fan. It is a scene from the
Arabian Nights.

Machiavelli sits uncomfortably nearby on an oversized silk


ottoman.

LEONARDO
I am afraid.

MACHIAVELLI
Of what, maestro?

LEONARDO
Failing, as I did in Milan.
40

MACHIAVELLI
The Last Supper was a noble experiment.
As close to perfection as man can
attain.

LEONARDO
I fear that above all.

MACHIAVELLI
What, dear sir?

LEONARDO
Perfection. Nature is perfect. I cannot
compete with nature.

MACHIAVELLI
Pursue completeness, not perfection,
Leonardo. Perfection is something man
aspires to. Woman, on the other hand,
inclines by nature to completeness.

Leonardo ponders this, then glances at Salai. They share a


smile.

LEONARDO
It is true. It is nearly impossible to
be free of defect.

MACHIAVELLI
This time will be different.

LEONARDO
I am not sure.

Machiavelli, sensing Leonardo's dilemma, leans closer.

MACHIAVELLI
(lying through gritted
teeth)
Michelangelo has been commissioned.

LEONARDO
Commissioned? For what?

MACHIAVELLI
To paint.

LEONARDO
He is a sculptor.

MACHIAVELLI
He says he will school you in painting.
41

LEONARDO
School me? The great Leonardo.
Impossible. The pupil would do well to
learn from the master.

MACHIAVELLI
They say he is twice the artist you
were at his age.

LEONARDO
"They" have much to learn.

MACHIAVELLI
He says you are a woman if you will not
accept this challenge.

Leonardo and Salai again exchange a smile.


LEONARDO
Who is he anyway?

Machiavelli allows a small smile of triumph to color the


corners of his mouth.

MACHIAVELLI
If, for whatever reason, you choose not
to accept the commission, I may have
something else of interest.

LEONARDO
Pray, what is that?

MACHIAVELLI
The French governor is seeking a
military advisor. You would have duties
similar to those you performed for
Cesare Borgia when we first met.

LEONARDO
Do the French pay well? I have a
lifestyle to support.

MACHIAVELLI
Better than the Pope. In cash.

INT. MICHELANGELO’S WORKSHOP – COURTYARD - DAY

Michelangelo chisels away at a chunk of marble.

His father, Lodovico, sits in the shade of a tree, smoking a


pipe.

Machiavelli sits uncomfortably on a piece of cold stone.


42

MACHIAVELLI
They have forgotten you.

MICHELANGELO
As I knew they would.

MACHIAVELLI
They take the magnificent David for
granted.

MICHELANGELO
The city talks only of Leonardo and the
new commission.

LODOVICO
You have had your day and it has
passed.
Michelangelo rubs his broken nose.

MACHIAVELLI
Florence has proclaimed Leonardo the
first artist of Tuscany.

MICHELANGELO
Florentines are fickle. I’ll go where
I’m appreciated.

LODOVICO
Where would that be?

MICHELANGELO
To Constantinople. To build a bridge
across the Bosporus for the Ottoman.

MACHIAVELLI
The Turkish emperor is more capricious,
and dangerous, than all the princes of
Florence.

MICHELANGELO
I've had worse patrons.

LODOVICO
You give up too easily. You always have
and always will. You haven’t the
backbone.

MACHIAVELLI
This is the chance you’ve been waiting
for all your life. To excel in
Leonardo’s own field of art.
43

LODOVICO
To show all of Florence, nay the world,
that you are now the master.

MACHIAVELLI
To let them see with their own eyes.
Your vision, side-by-side with his. It
will be no contest.

LODOVICO
It will make you more valuable to your
benefactors. Perhaps they will pay you
what you’re worth.

MACHIAVELLI
Do this for our beloved city. Do this
for the glory of Florence.
MICHELANGELO
Stop badgering me. My head hurts.

MACHIAVELLI
If you’re not the measure of this
commission, I know of another
opportunity.

Michelangelo stops chiseling. Lodovico stops puffing.

MACHIAVELLI
I have spoken with the emissaries of
Pope Julius II about you. He’s seeking
someone to sculpt his tomb. I told them
only one man can do the job.

Michelangelo returns to chiseling. He hits a hard spot in


the marble. He looks around for a bucket of water.

MACHIAVELLI
What?

MICHELANGELO
Water. I need water.

Lodovico looks around as well.

LODOVICO
There is none.

Michelangelo spits on the hard spot, then continues to sweep


the chisel over stone.

MACHIAVELLI
What do you do when you run dry?
44

MICHELANGELO
No good scalpellino ever ran out of
spit.

EXT. PALAZZO SPINI - SUNSET

Opposite the Church of Santa Trinita, near the bridge, at


the corner of the wharf and the Strada Tornabuoni, looms the
enormous Palazzo Spini. Its roughly quarried, brownish-gray
stones, with latticed windows and crenellations, recalls an
ancient fortress.

Along its walls stretch long stone benches. CITIZENS play


dice and gossip.

Michelangelo trudges past Santa Trinita. He’s been working


day and night and looks it. Medusa-haired and raggedy-
clothed, his goatee is matted and dirty, speckled with
marble dust and chips. The ever-present Cyclops-lantern is
affixed to his forehead.

As he passes, Michelangelo sees a GROUP OF MEN talking in


front of the Spini. A TALL MAN leads the discussion. His
back is to Michelangelo and he is obscured by the early
evening shadows.

Michelangelo stops at a distance to listen. His bloodshot


eyes stare into the dying sun.

LEADER
(reads)
"'Philosophy,' my master answered me,
'To him who understands it, demonstrates
How nature takes her course, not only from
Wisdom divine, but from its art as well.
And if you read with care your book of
physics,
After the first few pages, you will find
That art, as best it can, doth follow nature,
As pupil follows master.'"

Michelangelo smiles, recognizing the lines.

MICHELANGELO
(mutters to himself)
Immortal Dante. Canto XI of the
Inferno.

Michelangelo continues on his way. As he moves past the


congregation, some in the group stare at him, gazing past
the discussion leader.

Distracted by the stares, the leader turns to look as well.


It is Leonardo.
45

LEONARDO
Here is Michelangelo. He knows Dante
very well. Better than I. He will
explain the verses.

Hearing his name, Michelangelo stops. Realizing that


everyone is staring at him, he shrinks from their gaze, shy
and suspicious.

Michelangelo looks so much like a lowly laborer returning


home from his work that some of the YOUNGER MEN around
Leonardo begin to giggle.

Leonardo smiles as well, ever the enabler.

Michelangelo’s eyes blaze, his brow darkens, scorched by the


laughter.

MICHELANGELO
Explain them yourself. You unnatural
bastard!

Leonardo's face flushes, flaming red with wonder and hurt at


this unwarranted outburst.

LEONARDO
I was not mocking you. I asked in
earnest. It is not my fault these
others laughed.

Michelangelo covers his burning ears. He strides away, head


lowered and back bent, sputtering to himself.

EXT. ROAD TO ROME - DAWN

Granacci finds Michelangelo standing alone at the confluence


of the Sieve and the Arno, on the road that leads to Arezzo
and Rome.

Granacci touches his friend on the shoulder.

Michelangelo turns. There are tears in his eyes.

GRANACCI
What is it, old friend?

MICHELANGELO
(sobs)
My dearest Florence has made it clear.
I’ll never be Leonardo. I’ll never be
as handsome, as graceful, as famous.

Michelangelo slams his fist into his hand.


46

MICHELANGELO
I am the best draftsman in all Italy.
No one will believe it by my simply
saying it. I must prove it.

GRANACCI
How?

MICHELANGELO
A fresco. Of the same proportions as
Leonardo's. In the same room. He asked
for the entire eastern wall of the
Grand Hall. He was given the right
half. I’ll ask Soderini for the left
half. I’ll display my skill side-by-
side with the great Leonardo. I’ll
prove that I can out-paint him, figure
for figure! All the world will see and
judge. Then Florence can say who is
truly the first artist of our time!

GRANACCI
This obsession is a sickness, a fever.
We must find some way to cure you.

MICHELANGELO
That’s not funny.

GRANACCI
I was not trying to be. What you cannot
stand is Leonardo's proximity.

MICHELANGELO
The smell of his perfume, perhaps.

Granacci glances at his friend's sweat-caked arms and legs,


his shirt dirty from the smoke of his forge, his boots worn
and grimy.

GRANACCI
There are times when a bath would not
kill you.

Michelangelo picks up a stone and shakes it at Granacci.

MICHELANGELO
Get out of my sight, you . . . you
traitor!
47

GRANACCI
I did not bring up the subject of
smells, you did. Why bother yourself
over his painting, when you have years
of sculpture at hand? Forget him.

MICHELANGELO
He's a thorn in my side.

GRANACCI
Suppose you come out second best? What
then?

MICHELANGELO
Trust me, Granacci, I'll come out
first. I have to.
EXT. MONTE CECERI - DAY

Clouds encircle the peak of Monte Ceceri—Swan’s Mountain—


above the town of Fiesole.

Leonardo and Salai clamber up the steep path that runs up


the side of the mountain. Salai carries a new set of
artificial wings for testing.

At a spot where the crag juts out and the wind is calm,
Leonardo sits on a stone to rest. Salai sits beside him.
They look down upon Florence, transparently lilac in the
smoky haze of the afternoon sun.

LEONARDO
Ah, Tuscany. Eternally green.
(recites)
"Italy is the garden of Europe, Tuscany
is the garden of Italy, Florence is the
flower of Tuscany."

SALAI
Florence sparkles like an amethyst.

LEONARDO
The apprentice is becoming a poet.

SALAI
I meant no offense.

LEONARDO
None taken.

SALAI
You feel at home here on the mountain,
dearest Nardo.
48

LEONARDO
It reminds me of Monte Albano and
Vinci. I spent my childhood climbing
its back.

SALAI
It's a good place to reflect.

LEONARDO
And escape.

SALAI
From what?

LEONARDO
Expectations. Loneliness. Despair.
SALAI
Over what?

LEONARDO
My reputation, my work. Questions
whether it will ever be more than a
worthless, unfinished mess.

SALAI
Your fame will outlive us all.

LEONARDO
(recites)
"O vain glory, of all human powers,
How briefly green endures upon the peak
. . .
In painting Cimabue thought he excelled
And now it is Giotto that is celebrated
And the fame of the first is growing
dark."

SALAI
Dante?

LEONARDO
Dante.
(he stands)
Never place your hope on the morrow,
sweet pea.

They continue their ascent. As they climb, it grows colder


and more windy.

At the summit, Leonardo walks out onto a flat bluff.

Salai helps his master attach his wings.


49

Just then, a GIANT WHITE SWAN floats up over the edge of the
bluff. It hovers there, waiting.

LEONARDO
I knew you would come again.

The swan drifts away from the edge of the bluff, beckoning
Leonardo to join it in flight.

Leonardo dashes towards the edge of the bluff and jumps. He


flaps his wings madly. He hovers for a moment. Then drops
like a rock.

Salai and the swan glance at each other. Salai runs to the
edge.

The swan prepares to dive after Leonardo. Suddenly, Leonardo


re-appears above the lip of the bluff, madly beating his
wings. And flying.

Salai and the swan sigh a sigh of relief. The swan waits for
Leonardo.

Together, they soar toward the sun.

INT. SODERINI’S OFFICE – LATE AFTERNOON

Michelangelo enters. He is bathed, barbered, and wearing a


clean blue shirt.

Soderini slouches behind his massive desk.

Machiavelli lounges on a divan nearby.

Michelangelo strides to face the gonfaloniere.

His scent precedes him, enveloping Soderini.

SODERINI
(leaning away)
Phew. What did the barber put on your
hair?

MICHELANGELO
(flushes and stammers)
. . . a scented oil . . .

SODERINI
(to a groom)
Get a towel.

The GROOM hurries to a sideboard and returns with a hand


towel.
50

Soderini tosses it to Michelangelo.

SODERINI
Rub that out. Stick to your own smells.
At least they're unique.

MICHELANGELO
I’ve always valued your honesty,
Gonfaloniere.

SODERINI
Now, then, what brings you here on this
warm afternoon?

MICHELANGELO
Troubles, Gonfaloniere. But, no one
comes here to share his pleasures.
SODERINI
That's why I sit behind such a spacious
desk. It can hold all the problems of
Florence.

MICHELANGELO
It’s your shoulders that are broad.

Soderini nods his head deprecatingly.

MICHELANGELO
I’ve come seeking a favor.

Soderini gestures for him to continue.

MICHELANGELO
I wish a commission.

Soderini glances at Machiavelli. They exchange sly smiles.

SODERINI
You have much on your plate now.

Soderini plays Michelangelo like an expert sport fisherman


plays a fighting fish.

MICHELANGELO
I have many stone works. I wish to
paint a fresco.

SODERINI
You have no experience painting fresco.

MICHELANGELO
That’s never stopped me before, or
others before me.
51

SODERINI
(playing out some
line)
And, where would you like to paint this
fresco?

MICHELANGELO
In the Sala Grande. Behind the podium
from which you govern.

SODERINI
(playing out a little
more line)
We already have someone painting a
fresco there.
MICHELANGELO
Leonardo, I know. Everybody knows. I
wish to paint beside him.

SODERINI
Everyone knows you dislike him.

MICHELANGELO
What does it matter who, or what, I
like or dislike?

Soderini gets up and walks around his desk to stand beside


Michelangelo. He covers his nose with a linen handkerchief.

SODERINI
You've told me yourself you never liked
the fresco work at Ghirlandaio's.

Michelangelo lowers his head, his voice dogged.

MICHELANGELO
I was wrong. I can paint fresco. Better
than Leonardo.

SODERINI
Are you sure?

MICHELANGELO
I'll put my hand in fire.

SODERINI
Even supposing you can, why would you
want to take the years away from the
marble? Your Madonna for the Bruges
merchants is divine. So is the Pitti
tondo.
52

MACHIAVELLI
Your talent is a gift from God.

It’s Machiavelli’s turn to toy with the fish a little


himself.

MACHIAVELLI
Why would you throw it away for an art
you consider second-rate?

MICHELANGELO
You were so thrilled, Gonfaloniere, to
convince Leonardo to paint your wall.
You said the world would come to see
it.

SODERINI
And they will.

MICHELANGELO
Why wouldn’t twice as many come to view
two panels? One by Leonardo, the other
by me? It would be a great palio, a
great race. It would excite people. And
bring great glory to Florence.

SODERINI
You think you can surpass him?

MICHELANGELO
On my mother’s grave.

Soderini walks back to the gold-emblazoned chair and eases


into it.

SODERINI
The Signoria will never approve. You
already have a contract with the Wool
Guild and Duomo to carve the Twelve
Apostles.

MICHELANGELO
I'll carve them. But, the other half of
the wall must be mine. I don't need two
years, as Leonardo does. I'll do it in
one year, ten months, eight
. . .

SODERINI
No. I can’t let you get yourself into
trouble. I won’t let you promise what
you can’t deliver.
53

MICHELANGELO
Because you don't believe I can do it?
You're right not to believe, since I
come here with only words in my hands.
Next time, I’ll bring drawings. Then
you’ll see what I can do.

SODERINI
(nettled in spite of
himself)
Come back with a marble Apostle
instead. That's why we built you that
workshop. To carve Apostles.

Soderini turns his eyes upward and gazes at the lilies on


the ceiling.
SODERINI
Why wasn't I content with two months as
Gonfaloniere? Why did I take this job
for life?

MICHELANGELO
Because you’re a wise and persuasive
Gonfaloniere.

MACHIAVELLI
Who is going to get the city to pay for
painting the other half of the wall.

Moving to where only Soderini can see him, Machiavelli makes


a gesture like he’s just hooked a big one. He begins reeling
in the imaginary fish.

INT. LEONARDO’S STUDIO – WORKROOM - NIGHT

Leonardo stares through a magnifying glass in an observatory


he has constructed beneath the skylight. He studies the
moon.

A stuffed bird, with moth-eaten wings, dangles suspended


from a crossbeam. Drawings in various stages of completion
lie scattered about the room.

Heaps of old, dusty books climb to the ceiling. Jars filled


with little monsters, pickled in alcohol, line the wall
shelves.

Brass quadrants, globes, various devices of mechanics,


astronomy, physics, hydraulics, and optics rest among bones
of human skeletons and the rusted parts of dead machines.
54

Leonardo crosses to his desk, sits, and writes in a


notebook. He finishes a notation and looks across his desk
at Machiavelli, who stands there patiently.

LEONARDO
My apologies, Niccolo.

MACHIAVELLI
None required.

LEONARDO
There is so much to do and so little
time.

MACHIAVELLI
Your mind is insatiable, your energy
unlimited.
Excited, Leonardo unrolls a scroll, flattens it with a
wooden model of a flying machine and a clay model of the
Vitruvian man.

LEONARDO
I have sketched more ideas for our
project to re-route the Arno away from
Pisa. Our dream of making Florence a
sea port is within reach.

Leonardo fans out the series of drawings of machines to


raise water and dig canals that he shared with Salai at the
edge of the waterfall.

MACHIAVELLI
That’s what I’ve come to talk with you
about.

LEONARDO
Has the funding run out again?

MACHIAVELLI
No, but the gonfaloniere’s patience
has.

LEONARDO
The fresco?

MACHIAVELLI
The contract is clear. If you miss any
deadlines, you forfeit the entire
amount.

LEONARDO
I know, I know.
55

Absent-mindedly, Leonardo rummages around his desk for


something.

MACHIAVELLI
I pulled many strings as secretary of
the chancellery to get you this
commission. Don’t make me look the
fool.

LEONARDO
I cannot find . . .
(stops rummaging)
When is the first deadline?

MACHIAVELLI
Already past.
LEONARDO
And the second?

MACHIAVELLI
Also past.

LEONARDO
Yes, I see.

MACHIAVELLI
Do you? You must focus at the expense
of all other projects!

Machiavelli strikes the open scroll.

LEONARDO
Yes, I will focus.

MACHIAVELLI
Our necks are at stake.

This statement gets Leonardo’s attention, finally.

LEONARDO
I said I would.

MACHIAVELLI
Would you prefer that Michelangelo
finish his cartoon first? He will, you
know. Because he works harder. How will
that make you look?

LEONARDO
This contest is vulgar.

MACHIAVELLI
Michelangelo is eager for the duel.
56

LEONARDO
I am too old to have to compete.

MACHIAVELLI
Michelangelo isn’t.

LEONARDO
The gauntlet is thrown? The challenge
made?

MACHIAVELLI
It is.

LEONARDO
Then he will rue the day.
Leonardo finally finds what he was searching for. It is a
bird’s feather.

INT. TAVERN – END OF DAY

The tavern is a popular haunt for the working class. It is


boisterous and drunken loud.

We follow a SERVING MAN as he navigates the crowd, carrying


a tray of tankards.

A MONEY CHANGER snatches a tankard as the serving man


passes.

A WOOL DYER, one arm dyed blue the other red, sits across
the table from the money changer. He’s surrounded by other
ANXIOUS MEN, clamoring for attention, their outstretched
hands filled with coins and bills.

The money changer takes a swig from the tankard, licks his
lips, and slams the tankard hard on the table.

MONEY CHANGER
Now I’m ready. Back to business.

On the wall behind the money changer is a rustic dart


scoreboard that has been crudely modified. On the left side
is scrawled, "Mic." On the right is written, "Leo." Below
each man’s name, a "0" has been scratched in white chalk.

The wool dyer slides some coins across the table. The money
changer carefully counts them.

MONEY CHANGER
Your wager?
57

WOOL DYER
Ten florins.

MONEY CHANGER
On?

WOOL DYER
Broken-nose.

MONEY CHANGER
To?

WOOL DYER
Shame the Milanese whore Leonardo.

A YOUNG SOLDIER leans in over the back of the wool dyer.


YOUNG SOLDIER
Put mine on the whore, the putah. To
school the boy.

The gamblers erupt, each trying to get their bet in.

GAMBLERS
(at once)
Leonardo!
Michelangelo!
The Vincan!
Buonarroti!
The lyre player!
The quarryman!

A BUTCHER, his arms glistening with animal fat, flings a


tight wad of bills that hits the money changer in the chest.
The money rebounds onto the table.

BUTCHER
A week’s wages that neither man
finishes.

This bold, yet not surprising, wager quiets everybody.

MONEY CHANGER
An interesting proposition.

BUTCHER
Consider their history. They are master
procrastinators both.

MONEY CHANGER
It will be a battle of the titans.
58

BUTCHER
And Florence will be the greater for
it.

The crowd of gamblers roars their assent.

EXT. PIAZZA SIGNORIA - MORNING

A well-dressed banker crosses the Piazza Signoria.

A shabby, HAIRY MONK bellows at anyone who stops, or pauses


long enough, to listen.

HAIRY MONK
Pietra mossa non fa muschio. A rolling
stone gathers no moss.
The banker pauses and thinks a moment. Struck with a
thought, he pulls a nub of charcoal and a small piece of
paper from his vest and scribbles something. He continues,
veering suddenly down a muddy alleyway.

The banker approaches a rusted metal door. A dangling wooden


sign lists the sole occupant as a Dr. Lazerius—Necromancer,
Diviner, Notary, Aromatherapist, and Bail Bondsman.
Matchmaker has been scratched from the list. The banker
enters.

INT. LAZERIUS OFFICE – SAME TIME

Bug-eyed, stuffed animals dangle from the rafters. A


THREADBARE OWL sleeps on a worn perch.

The room is claustrophobic with jars of pickled animals and


human body parts, crocks of potions, drawers overflowing
with dried herbs, hanging chains of amulets, various
versions of pentagrams, and astrological charts.

Dusty degrees, letters of thanks, and autographed portraits


of the RICH AND FAMOUS who have frequented the establishment
pepper the walls.

Ambient, New Age, harp music plays in the background. Thick


incense burns. A makeshift fountain gurgles in the corner.

The banker steps into the main room, stops, and sniffs the
air.

BANKER
Not Patchouli oil. Pop into the
Sixteenth Century, my good man.

DR. LAZERIUS looks up from a dusty book to gaze at the


banker through his one good eye. The socket of the other eye
59

is filled with a badly painted glass eye. There’s something


a little off about it.

The banker sits down at a small, round table.

Dr. Lazerius drags his chair to sit across from him. He


whisks a silk scarf away, revealing a round, silver chalice
filled with smoky blue liquid.

BANKER
I must know.

LAZERIUS
It is still too dark to see.

BANKER
I intend to place a sizeable wager. The
future of my bank depends on certainty.

LAZERIUS
Uncertainty is the only certainty.

BANKER
Stop talking in riddles.

LAZERIUS
Riddles are what I know.

BANKER
Who will prevail?

LAZERIUS
It is a competition in lateness.

BANKER
Which man will finish before the other?

LAZERIUS
I still cannot divine.

BANKER
Who will be crowned the first artist of
Florence?

LAZERIUS
Come again. Another day, Messer
Zimmerman.

INT. SANTA MARIA NOVELLA - HALL OF THE POPE - DAY

Leonardo stands in the center of the huge Hall of the Pope


(Sala del Papa), in the convent of Santa Maria Novella. The
disused refectory has been retro-fitted as his studio for
the fresco work.
60

LEONARDO
Please open the doors. Let my adoring
public see me at work.

Salai and some STUDENTS fling open all the doors and
windows.

Unfortunately, it’s raining and there’s no adoring public to


be seen.

EXT. SANT'ONOFRIO – HOSPITAL OF THE DYERS - DAY

The Hospital of the Dyers at Sant'Onofrio (Ospedale di


Sant’Onofrio) is a charitable hospital, founded by the Art
Guild of the Dyers. It fronts the Street of the Dyers, just
a few blocks from Santa Croce.
The gutters of the cobblestone-lined street in front of the
hospital run blue, green, and crimson.

DYERS hustle up and down the street. Some carry finished


goods on their backs, others shoulder pots of dye. Patterns
are scratched into the surface of their skin, with dyes
rubbed into the wounds. They look like some kind of heathen
tribe.

INT. SANT'ONOFRIO - HOSPITAL OF THE DYERS – SAME TIME

Michelangelo and Argiento stand in the center of a long,


narrow, high-ceilinged room, which faces south onto the
Arno. The room is bathed in bright sunlight. The long back
wall is larger than the half of the Hall of the Great
Council allotted to him for his fresco.

MICHELANGELO
Lock the door. I don’t want any
distractions. Or witnesses.

INT. SANTA MARIA NOVELLA - CONVENT LIBRARY - DAY

Leonardo, Machiavelli, and AGOSTINO DI VESPUCCI, brother of


explorer Amerigo, lean over a long table lit from above by a
candelabra.

MACHIAVELLI
The Battle of Anghiari. It was a
cavalry battle fought by the Tribes of
the Dragon.

LEONARDO
Horses. I can paint horses.
61

MACHIAVELLI
di Vespucci has written a narrative
describing it.
(turns to di Vespucci)
Agostino.

DI VESPUCCI
The battle took place in the upper
valley of the Tiber. On the flat plain
between Anghiari and Sansepolcro. It
was a battle for the bridge over the
Anghiari. The Florentines defeated Duke
Filippo Maria Visconti and the
Milanese.

LEONARDO
Is this a joke, Niccolo? Some kind of
test?

Machiavelli smiles.

DI VESPUCCI
I am confused.

LEONARDO
I, a friend of Milan, am asked to paint
the defeat of Milan?

DI VESPUCCI
Florence triumphed. That is all that
matters.

MACHIAVELLI
This work is commissioned by Florence
for the glory of Florence. For the
Republic.

LEONARDO
It’s a reason. Not a good reason, but a
reason.

INT. SANTO SPIRITO - LIBRARY - DAY

Michelangelo stands next to a tall writing desk. He faces


the AUGUSTINIAN MONK who serves as curator.

MICHELANGELO
(stammers)
I am seeking . . . wisdom. Um,
information.

CURATOR
(humorless)
We all are.
62

MICHELANGELO
I wish to find a moment in history. A
moment of glory and pride for Florence.
A battle celebrating the power of the
Republic.

The curator gestures for Michelangelo to follow him. They


walk down a long aisle filled to the rafters on either side
with manuscripts.

The curator stops and pulls a folio from the shelf. He walks
to a reading desk and gently lays the manuscript down.

The curator gently turns the pages. He stops.

CURATOR
(reads)
"Cascina, near Pisa, 1364. On a hot
summer day, the Florentine forces made
camp on the banks of the Arno. Feeling
safe from attack, a number of the
soldiers had gone bathing in the
river."

MICHELANGELO
The human body. I can paint the human
body.

The monk carefully turns the page.

CURATOR
(reads)
"English mercenaries under the command
of Sir John Hawkwood attacked. The
Florentine soldiers scrambled from the
river in time to repel three Pisan
attacks and rout the enemy."
(closes manuscript)
It was a defining moment in our
history.

MICHELANGELO
It shall be mine as well.

INT. HALL OF THE POPE – LEONARDO'S STUDIO - DAY

Leonardo sketches composition studies in red chalk. Heads of


men in agony. Horses baring teeth. Smoke swirling.

LEONARDO
I am thinking of a continuous cycle. A
large panoramic composition.
63

MACHIAVELLI
The hall has windows.

LEONARDO
(quickly improvising)
Divided into three sections . . .
around the windows.

Leonardo continues to talk as he sketches, becoming more


animated. He shuffles through several drawings and fans them
out like playing cards.

A finished drawing depicts two soldiers, one with an


upraised sword. Another drawing shows the Florentine cavalry
charging. In the distance sits a town with tents, providing
a backdrop for the fighting horsemen.
MACHIAVELLI
It is much less than the contract
demanded.

LEONARDO
It is only words on paper.

MACHIAVELLI
Those words determine your
compensation.

Leonardo waves his hand, dismissing the thought. He turns


his full attention to the sketches.

LEONARDO
I want the viewer to experience a story
unfolding in a spatial and temporal
direction. It doesn’t merely depict
space, but time as well.

MACHIAVELLI
(impressed in spite of
himself)
Profundo.

EXT. STREET OF THE STATIONERS - DAY

Head-down, mission-in-mind, Michelangelo marches down the


street. He enters the first shop he sees.

INT. SHOP – SAME TIME

Michelangelo buys the largest squares of paper he can find.


He also purchases colored inks and chalks, as well as
crayons of black, white, red, and brown.
64

INT. MICHELANGELO’S WORKSHOP – NIGHT

Hunched over his work-bench, drawing swiftly, Michelangelo


works feverishly at the composition study, organizing the
scene on the Arno at Cascina.

INT. SODERINI’S OFFICE – LATE AFTERNOON

An exhausted Michelangelo stands across the room from


Soderini. The two men stare at each other, then glance at
the floor between them.

Fitted together on the floor in front of the desk are a


dozen large sheets of paper. Sketched across the overlapping
sheets are twenty male figures.

Michelangelo drops into the first of a single row of tall


leather chairs lined against the side wall. He looks tired
and beaten.

Soderini studies the drawings in silence. He looks up.

SODERINI
I was wrong to discourage you. To be an
artist, one must sculpt and paint with
equal authority. This fresco can be as
revolutionary as the David, and bring
us the same joy.

Michelangelo smiles, vindicated.

INT. HALL OF THE POPE - LEONARDO’S STUDIO - DAY

A large lizard, hobbled and tethered, lies still on a work


table. It is covered with the scales of fish.

Leonardo carefully attaches a set of silver horns.

SALAI
You’ll have your wish at last. To paint
a herd of horses.

Leonardo attaches a gossamer beard and wings filled with


quicksilver, which quiver as the beast breathes.

SALAI
They expect a masterpiece.

LEONARDO
As do I.
65

SALAI
What if it fails their expectations?
Can you stand to be second best? Can
you bear the insults?

LEONARDO
Patience protects us from wrongs, just
as clothes protect us against the cold.
When we get cold, we add more clothes.
When we are wronged, we increase our
patience so the injustice cannot touch
our soul.

SALAI
Get ready, doll. It’s going to be a
cold summer.
Leonardo un-hobbles and un-tethers the beast. It skitters
across the table, a shimmering monster.

EXT. BOBOLI GARDENS - DAY

Michelangelo and Granacci stroll the labyrinthine gardens.

GRANACCI
How good can it get? You are going to
paint a forest of Davids.

MICHELANGELO
So they say.

GRANACCI
(a touch caustically)
You have been repatriated, Mic. You are
once again our first artist, providing
the fresco comes out brilliantly. I
only hope you are not paying too high a
price.

MICHELANGELO
A man pays what he must.

GRANACCI
You do not seem too excited.

MICHELANGELO
I am. I’ve been given an extraordinary
opportunity to paint something
magnifico. To demonstrate that the nude
can be made the sole means of artistic
expression. To prove forever and for
all that no man can capture the nude
figure as I can.
66

GRANACCI
Ah, what would we do, what would we be,
without ego.

EXT. ANGHIARI - DAY

Leonardo, Salai, Machiavelli, and an ENTOURAGE walk the flat


plain between Anghiari and Sansepolcro.

There are so many people and they are so animated and bubbly
that they frighten the livestock away, forcing the angry
HERDSMEN to chase after the skittish beasts.

Leonardo stares at the open space of land. He closes his


eyes.

MIND’S EYE
Leonardo flashes on a tornado of intertwined figures, a
confused rage. Knots of frantic men and tormented steeds
clustered in an ecstasy of wrath around the Standard, the
Milanese banner. It is a fantasia of carnage, an orgasm of
brutality.

BACK TO PRESENT

Leonardo opens his eyes, pale and shaking from the


frightening vision.

LEONARDO
War is a most beastly madness. It runs
counter to nature. It is evil.

MACHIAVELLI
A necessary evil. It is better for a
prince to be feared than loved. He must
combine force and shrewdness, the lion
and the fox. That is how he triumphs.

LEONARDO
Man is an animal.

EXT. TUSCAN COUNTRYSIDE – SUNRISE

Michelangelo and Granacci tramp the countryside.


Michelangelo shoulders a saddlebag, Granacci a wicker
basket.

EXT. COUNTRYSIDE – LATE AFTERNOON

Michelangelo and Granacci sit beneath a grape arbor eating


lunch.

Michelangelo stares at the Apennines. He closes his eyes.


67

MIND’S EYE

Michelangelo flashes on a large group of men, young and old,


with the water and the sun on them, galvanized into action;
all of them at a moment of danger, of tension, of pressure,
of psychological crisis. The moment is recorded not only on
their faces, but in the bending, reaching, and straining of
their bodies.

BACK TO PRESENT

Michelangelo opens his eyes and smiles.

GRANACCI
Why a battle? A triumph of any kind
would do.
MICHELANGELO
I’m a patriot. Florence must show the
wolves at our gates. We fear nothing
and can take care of our own.

INT. POPE’S HALL - LEONARDO’S STUDIO - DAY

A large wooden frame, holding several large folios of paper


hemmed with linen, hangs from the wall. A cartoon covers the
folios.

The smaller composition sketches we saw Leonardo working on


earlier dot the wall on either side of the cartoon. There is
also a drawing of a mercenary knight.

There are several small clay models of men and horses.

The room overflows with joyous activity. Free-flying


songbirds sing, flowers lie strewn carelessly across the
floor, minstrels play, poets recite, a fire roars in the
fireplace. It is a warm, inviting place to work.

Leonardo roughs in a black chalk head in three-quarter


profile.

SALAI
He looks like you.

LEONARDO
It is me.

SALAI
He fights for Milan.

LEONARDO
So he does.
68

Leonardo smiles and continues drawing. He works leisurely,


almost carefree and nonchalant.

He takes breaks to sip wine, play the lyre, sing a song,


visit with friends, enjoy a manicure.

The full impact of the nearly finished cartoon is


overwhelming.

"The Battle for the Standard" is a fantasia of carnage.

LEONARDO
There must not be a spot that is not
trampled with gore. Pazzia
bestialissima.

SALAI
War will never again be portrayed as
romantic chivalry.

INT. DYER’S HOSPITAL - MICHELANGELO’S STUDIO - DAY

The long room in the Dyers’ hospital, now converted to


Michelangelo's studio, is cold, bleak, and dank.

An oblong strip of paper, cut to scale, covers a drawing


table.

Michelangelo sketches wildly, working in an absolute fury,


driven by a force he cannot contain.

It’s obvious from the bags under his eyes, the unkempt hair,
and the lank, greasy clothes, that he’s been working non-
stop and sleeping in his clothes.

Michelangelo gnaws on a crust of bread as he works. The


lantern on his forehead repeatedly slips down over his eyes,
antagonizing him no end.

Argiento offers a cup of water.

MICHELANGELO
I won’t be scolded for wasting time on
canal pumps, flights of birds, and
mechanized killing machines.

Michelangelo draws a series of lines in chalk, dividing the


oblong into a number of squares.

He painstakingly transfers the sketches he showed Soderini


to larger sheets of individual paper, representing each
square of the master sketch.

Argiento glues the separate sheets together.


69

Argiento, Granacci, ANTONIO DA SANGALLO, and Michelangelo


tack the cartoon to a light wooden frame and prop it against
the long wall of the hospital.

MICHELANGELO
Leonardo is misguided. War is not the
most bestial madness. It’s a manly
exploit. The struggle of heroes for the
glory and greatness of their
fatherland.

"The Bathers" is a group of muscular nude warriors, locked


in frantic but graceful gyrations.

GRANACCI
How strange that poor motivation can
create such rich art.

Michelangelo does not answer.

GRANACCI
You must open these doors and let
everyone see what you have
accomplished.

MICHELANGELO
I don’t want adulation. I don’t need
approval.

DA SANGALLO
People grumble over your closed doors.

GRANACCI
Even members of the Company ask why you
lock everybody out.

DA SANGALLO
Now that they can see the miracle you
have created in such short time, they
will understand.

MICHELANGELO
I would prefer to wait a little longer.
Until I have the fresco completed in
the Grand Hall. But, if you both say I
must, then I must.

INT. POPE’S HALL – LEONARDO’S STUDIO - DAY

Leonardo hears steps resounding on the brick floor. He


recognizes them, and, without turning around, makes a wry
face.
70

SODERINI
Messer Leonardo. I have an accounting
question that requires clarification.

LEONARDO
(mumbles under his
breath)
He strangles me with his red tape.

SODERINI
There appears to have been a purchase
of thirty-five pounds of Alexandrian
white pigment that wasn’t entered into
the account.

Leonardo turns.
LEONARDO
I have not bought any white.

SODERINI
Then what were the moneys used for?

LEONARDO
I do not know.

SODERINI
That could be a problem.

LEONARDO
I will return the full amount to the
treasury. On my word.

SODERINI
Don’t be so hard on us. Compared to the
Sforzas and Borgias, we’re humble folk.
I’m accountable only to the people.
It’s a sacred trust.

LEONARDO
My apologies.

This admission doesn’t slow Soderini. He’s on a roll.

SODERINI
The princes pay you in gold, we in
copper. Don’t you prefer the copper of
liberty to the gold of slavery?

Leonardo listens in silence, feigning agreement.

Soderini, affecting the pompous air of a connoisseur, begins


studying the cartoon.
71

SODERINI
Simply amazing. Look at those horses.
They almost look alive.

Leonardo rolls his eyes heavenward.

Soderini glances at Leonardo, good-naturedly but sternly,


like a schoolmaster counseling a talented, but
insufficiently diligent, pupil.

SODERINI
However, I’ll say what I’ve said
before. If you continue as you’ve
begun, the end result will be too
heavy, too depressing. Don’t be angry
with me for telling the truth.
(gestures at the
cartoon)
This was not what we expected.

LEONARDO
What was it, then, that you were
expecting?

SODERINI
That you’d depict the memorable
exploits of our heroes. Something that
would elevate the soul of man.

Leonardo listens in silence, stupefied by the monotonous


sounds of Soderini’s words.

SODERINI
Art that doesn’t benefit the people is
the amusement of idle men, the whim of
the rich, the luxury of tyrants.

LEONARDO
To end this dispute, perhaps we should
let the citizens of the Florentine
Republic decide whether my picture can,
or cannot, bring any benefit to the
people. Ten or twenty thousand fools,
convened together, cannot be mistaken.
After all, the voice of the people is
the voice of God.

Soderini smiles in agreement, then suddenly realizes he is


being mocked. His eyes narrow.

SODERINI
Let me just say that I’m confident
Michelangelo’s painting will benefit
the people.
72

INT. DYER’S HOSPITAL – MICHELANGELO’S STUDIO – DAY

A CROWD cautiously enters the Dyers hospital, eyed


caustically by Michelangelo. They carefully move as a pack
to the foot of the cartoon. They stop in dumbstruck awe.

Rustici, standing at the edge of the crowd, catches


Michelangelo’s eye and gestures for approval to move closer
to the cartoon. Michelangelo nods.

As Rustici approaches the cartoon, Granacci crosses to join


him.

GRANACCI
(whispers to Rustici)
What you say will carry great weight.
Consider your words carefully.
RUSTICI
(to Michelangelo)
Leonardo painted his panel for the
horses, you for the men. Nothing as
superb as Leonardo's has ever been done
of a battle scene. Nothing as
magnificently shocking as yours has
ever been painted of human beings.
(gestures to the
cartoon)
The Signoria is going to have one hell
of a wall.

EXT. DUOMO STEPS – SUNDAY AFTERNOON

A CROWD gathers on the cool marble steps of the Duomo to


observe the Florentine pageant as it floats by.

The blonde, slender GIRLS, carrying their heads high, wear


colorful coverings on their hair and long-sleeved gowns,
high-necked, with overlapping skirts pleated and full, their
breasts outlined in sheer fabric.

The OLDER MEN wear somber cloaks.

The YOUNG MEN of prominent families create the greatest


splash between the Duomo steps and the Baptistery by wearing
their calzoni with each leg dyed differently and patterned
according to the family blazon. Their suite of ATTENDANTS
follow in identical dress.

Granacci and Salai approach the steps from opposite


directions. They try to avoid making eye contact, by quickly
looking up, down, and all around. They fail miserably.
Caught in the web and not wishing to appear rude, they stop
and bow low to each other.
73

GRANACCI
Messer Salai, good day to you.

SALAI
And to you.

GRANACCI
I trust your master is well?

SALAI
He is. And yours?

GRANACCI
The usual. He frets over the wall.

SALAI
Leonardo as well.

GRANACCI
It is quite the seductive spectacle,
this duel.

SALAI
Indeed. It’s all the talk in the
streets and squares.

Both men pause to listen to the buzz around them. They nod
in assent and shrug their shoulders.

GRANACCI
Our Florentines watch this contest with
the natural curiosity of the mob
seduced by a carriage wreck.

SALAI
They regard our masters as two starving
dogs fighting over a bone in the
street.

GRANACCI
Now they have spiced it with politics.
They say Michelangelo stands for the
Republic against the Medici.

SALAI
And Leonardo supports the Medici over
the Republic.

GRANACCI
Why must it always be about politics?
74

SALAI
For the Florentines, life without
politics is like a meal without
seasoning.

GRANACCI
The city has separated into two warring
camps.

SALAI
And daily they do verbal battle.

Both men stop to listen again. They smile and shrug once
more.

GRANACCI
Michelangelo is a painter, not a
politician. He chooses not to
participate.

SALAI
Leonardo is a lover not a fighter. He
refuses to lower himself.

GRANACCI
So be it.

SALAI
So be it.

The two men bow and continue on their way.

INT. POPE’S HALL – LEONARDO’S STUDIO - DAY

The hall overflows with ADMIRERS—artisans, citizens,


merchants, common men, and students.

Leonardo stands beside his cartoon, explaining every nuance


to an interested, lavishly-dressed OLDER MAN.

In the middle of the crowd, a YOUNG MAN sits on a short


stool, rapt in studying and copying the cartoon. He has the
face of an immaculate Madonna with gentle, perceptive eyes;
long, luxuriant hair, fastidiously kept. He carries himself
confidently, with an expression of gracious warmth. He wears
fine clothes, but no jewels.

Leonardo, curious, approaches the young man, who stops


sketching and nods to the master.

Leonardo glances at the sketches. The young man allows him


to, even tipping the pad so Leonardo can admire the work.
75

LEONARDO
Quite good for one so young.

YOUNG MAN
Twenty-one this year, maestro.

LEONARDO
Where do you come from?

YOUNG MAN
I was born in Urbino.

LEONARDO
Who is your father and what is your
name?

YOUNG MAN
My father is Giovanni Sanzi, the
painter. My name is Raffaello Sanzi. I
am a former apprentice of Perugino’s.

LEONARDO
Former?

YOUNG MAN
I seek commissions of my own.

Leonardo looks again at the sketch pad.

LEONARDO
That should not be a problem.

YOUNG MAN
I must tell you something, maestro. I
consider you the greatest of all the
artists of Italy.

LEONARDO
What of Michelangelo?

YOUNG MAN
He is unworthy to tie the shoe straps
of the creator of the Last Supper.

LEONARDO
I agree. But, let us keep that our
little secret.

Leonardo takes the young man’s sketch pad and fans through
the pages. With each sketch, he is both impressed and
unsettled.
76

LEONARDO
My son, if you continue as you are, I
predict you will some day be a great
master.

INT. DYER’S HOSPITAL – MICHELANGELO’S STUDIO - MORNING

Michelangelo stares at the cartoon. Argiento and Granacci


stand beside him.

ARGIENTO
A crowd of young men await outside the
doors.

MICHELANGELO
What do they want?
ARGIENTO
They ask if they might sketch.

MICHELANGELO
Sketch what? These chicken scratchings?

ARGIENTO
Yes.

MICHELANGELO
I suppose. What harm can they do? Let
them in.

Moments later, the YOUNG MEN stand in open-mouthed awe of


the cartoon, their drawing materials hanging loose in their
hands.

Michelangelo nods toward the handsome young man we just met


in Leonardo’s studio.

MICHELANGELO
Who is that?

ARGIENTO
They call him . . . Raphael.

Michelangelo likes Raphael immediately.

Michelangelo claps his hands, startling the collection of


admirers. Their drawing materials clatter to the floor
simultaneously.

MICHELANGELO
You came here to sketch. Start
sketching.
77

The students pick up their materials and rush to find the


best vantage point.

Raphael does not move. He stares at Michelangelo, then turns


to the cartoon. In a moment, he turns his gaze back on
Michelangelo. His eyes are not so much admiring, as
incredulous. His expression says he cannot believe it could
possibly be Michelangelo who had really done all this, but
some outside, supernatural force.

Raphael walks up to Michelangelo and speaks in a soft-spoken


voice lacking the slightest shred of flattery.

RAPHAEL
This makes painting a wholly different
art. I shall have to start again, at
the beginning. Even what I have learned
from Leonardo is no longer sufficient.

Michelangelo is nettled by the comparison, but flattered


nonetheless.

RAPHAEL
With your permission, maestro. I would
like to work here, before the cartoon.

Antonio da Sangallo and his nephew, SEBASTIANO, come up


behind Raphael, who still awaits Michelangelo’s answer.

ANTONIO DA SANGALLO
My nephew has asked to terminate his
apprenticeship with Perugino and work
here. With your permission, I intend to
grant his wish.

Michelangelo is bewildered.

GRANACCI
Whether you want it or not, Mic, you
are now the headmaster of a school of
talented young apprentices.

INT. POPE’S HALL – LEONARDO'S STUDIO - NIGHT

A MAN dressed as a laborer scurries from the hall. There is


something odd about his look.

It is Leonardo, but the clothes hardly fit the man. He


sniffs and turns up his nose. He retracts his body within
the clothes, trying desperately not to allow his body to
touch the filthy fabric encasing him.
78

He casts a glance over his shoulder and looks around him,


furtively. He gingerly drapes a shabby cloak over his
shoulder, then dashes down a side street.

INT. DYER’S HOSPITAL – MICHELANGELO'S STUDIO - SAME TIME

A MAN dressed as a man of wealth exits the hospital.

It is Michelangelo. He is comically costumed in what he


would consider the clothes of a gentleman. The wig he wears
seems to have a mind of its own.

He disappears into the shadows.

EXT./INT. DYER’S HOSPITAL – MICHELANGELO'S STUDIO - LATER

Leonardo sneaks up to the hospital. He clumsily crawls


through a window, hoping no one will see him. But, there’s
no one there to discover him. He creeps furtively along a
back wall, then stops. He looks up at the massive cartoon.

LEONARDO
Incredible. The quarryman can paint.

Leonardo hears something. Startled, he turns.

Argiento, curled up on the stone floor, snuffles then goes


back to sleeping quietly.

Leonardo wraps the cloak tighter around his shoulders and


scurries from the room.

EXT./INT. POPE’S HALL – LEONARDO'S STUDIO - SAME TIME

At the exact same moment that Leonardo sneaks into the


Dyer's Hospital, Michelangelo sneaks into the Pope’s Hall.

Michelangelo mingles, as best he can, with the others


visiting there. He accepts a goblet of wine and a delicacy,
but doesn’t quite know what to do with either one. He
wrestles with the wig and his clothes, then suddenly stops.
He stares at the cartoon.

MICHELANGELO
Tremendous. The lyre player can paint.

Fearing he may be unmasked, and uncomfortable amongst the


finery and revelry, Michelangelo hurries from the room.

INT. SANTA MARIA NOVELLA - DAY

The two cartoons mounted in their wood frames, lean against


a wall, side-by-side, cheek-to-jowl, as they will appear in
the Grand Hall.
79

A STREAM OF FLORENTINES—tailors, bankers, merchants,


weavers, painters, and artisans—course through the doors.
Caught up in what could almost be described as religious
frenzy, they worship at the base of these holy relics.

Leonardo stands in front of his cartoon, surrounded by his


entourage and fawning ADMIRERS, his back to Michelangelo.

Michelangelo stands in front of his cartoon, also surrounded


by ADMIRERS—mostly quarrymen and stonemasons—his back to
Leonardo.

At the exact same moment, Leonardo and Michelangelo both


glance over their shoulders at their rival’s artwork, then
at each other. They lock eyes for a moment, then quickly
look away, embarrassed to be caught looking, let alone
staring.

Leonardo and Michelangelo return to their conversations.


They each talk to their gallery, but they are speaking to
one another.

LEONARDO
True beauty is inspired by nature.

MICHELANGELO
True beauty is inspired by God.

These two men are as different as the sun and the moon.

INT. LAZERIUS OFFICE - DAY

The banker sits facing Dr. Lazerius across the chalice of


smoky blue liquid.

LAZERIUS
Hello, again, Messer Zimmerman.

ZIMMERMAN
I have again, as instructed.

Lazerius holds out his hand for payment.

ZIMMERMAN
Not a florin without an answer.

Lazerius waves his hands over the bowl, gazing into the
liquid. He realizes he’s trying to look through his bad eye
and rotates his head to stare with his good eye. He strains
so hard to see that his bad eye pops out of its socket and
into the blue liquid, splashing dye all over the fine
clothes of the banker.
80

Lazerius, smiling meekly and shrugging, fishes the eye from


the chalice, dries it off, and casually pops it back home.

Suddenly, the liquid begins to roil and boil. It begins


spinning like a crazed whirlpool. An endless torrent of
water explodes from the bowl. Geysering upward and cascading
down, it floods the entire room.

Papers, jars, globes, the banker, and Lazerius—anything that


can float—all bob atop the foaming blue liquid. The near-
dead owl dances along its perch, flapping its wings in a
futile attempt to avoid the rising tide.

LAZERIUS
You have your answer.

ZIMMERMAN
What does it mean?

LAZERIUS
A hard rain is gonna fall.

INT. SANTO SPIRITO – PRIORY – HOSPITAL - DAY

A CADAVER lies on a shrouded table. Dissecting tools are


arrayed neatly on a side table.

Leonardo enters the room from a door on one side of the


room, carrying sketching materials.

At the exact same moment, Michelangelo enters through a door


on the opposite side of the room, also carrying sketching
materials.

They stop, confused.

LEONARDO
There must be a misunderstanding. I was
scheduled to dissect today.

MICHELANGELO
There must be a mistake. Prior
Bichiellini promised I could dissect
today.

After a brief moment of silent speculation.

LEONARDO
There are equal halves. Perhaps we can
share.

MICHELANGELO
I’m willing if you are.
81

Leonardo nods and gestures for Michelangelo to approach the


body first.

Michelangelo gestures for Leonardo to approach first.

They both nod and approach simultaneously.

LEONARDO
A most handsome young man.

Leonardo plucks up a scalpel with his left hand.

MICHELANGELO
A Moor, I believe.

Michelangelo plucks up a scalpel with his left hand.


LEONARDO
I did not know you were mancino, too.

Leonardo raises his left hand and brandishes the scalpel.

MICHELANGELO
You know little about me.

LEONARDO
(genuinely excited)
Do you write left-handed as well?

MICHELANGELO
I do everything with my right hand,
except things that require force. Or,
when I’m tired. Then I use both.

LEONARDO
I have developed an ingenious way of
writing. Like the Hebrews. All-ebraica.
I call it mirror writing.

Leonardo holds up a notebook filled with his writing.

LEONARDO
The hand moves with less effort.
Because it always leads the writing, it
does not smear the ink.

Leonardo pulls a mirror from his satchel and demonstrates.

LEONARDO
It is harder to decipher, but easier to
keep a secret.

MICHELANGELO
You have too many secrets.
82

LEONARDO
Who calls the kettle black? You, who
works behind locked doors.

MICHELANGELO
Touché.

LEONARDO
The devil’s hand. They call it the
devil's hand.

Leonardo stares at his left hand.

LEONARDO
Do you believe that?
MICHELANGELO
Sometimes. When the burden of
expectations becomes too great.

LEONARDO
The life of an artist can be lonely.

MICHELANGELO
Absolutely. But, it’s the life we’ve
chosen.

LEONARDO
The only life we would live.

MICHELANGELO
My sole ambition, my whole life, has
been to be a slave to art.

LEONARDO
I gladly share your chains.

Michelangelo touches the dead body.

MICHELANGELO
It’s already decaying.

LEONARDO
(recites)
"He who, without Fame, burns his life to waste
leaves no more vestige of himself on earth than
wind-blown smoke, or foam upon the water."

MICHELANGELO
(mildly irritated, but
touched)
Dante again.
83

Leonardo also reacts as the memory of their previous


encounter washes over his face.

LEONARDO
I know in my heart and deep in my soul
that one painting on a cloister wall in
Milan will scarcely secure my legacy.

MICHELANGELO
You're too harsh on yourself.

LEONARDO
My mother, Caterina, died not long ago.
In this very hospital. It makes one
think of mortality.

MICHELANGELO
Sometimes I wish my father would die.

LEONARDO
Is it that bad?

MICHELANGELO
I am his quarry.

INT. SANTA MARIA NOVELLA – DAY

The CROWD viewing the two framed cartoons at Santa Maria


Novella has grown in size and excitement.

More STUDENTS sketch.

The RICH AND POWERFUL, attended by SERVANTS and accompanied


by LARGE RETINUES, move through the hall, awed and quieted
by the magnitude of the works.

A young student sits on his haunches, sketching madly. It is


six-year-old BENVENUTO CELLINI.

Raphael approaches.

Cellini feels his presence, stops, and looks up at his


fellow artist. He stands and gestures to the two paintings.

CELLINI
It is the school of the world. Scuola
del mondo.

INT. SANTA MARIA NOVELLA – DAY

WORKERS carefully carry the two framed cartoons out opposite


doors.
84

RAPHAEL (V.O.)
Neither man will ever surpass it.

INT. LEONARDO'S STUDIO - DAY

Leonardo sits in an ornate chair that resembles a king’s


throne. He sucks on a cluster of grapes. He stares at his
cartoon, safely returned to its nest.

There is a flurry of activity in the room, but it swirls


away from Leonardo, leaving him isolated.

One of the GAMBLERS FROM THE TAVERN sidles up to Leonardo.


He leans down and whispers into Leonardo’s ear.

GAMBLER
Maestro, a man of some means, an
acquaintance of mine, has asked me to
convey a proposition.

LEONARDO
(roused from his
reverie)
What? Say what?

GAMBLER
A proposition, sir.

LEONARDO
What kind of proposition.

GAMBLER
The party I represent would be willing
to pay you five hundred ducats. In
gold.

Leonardo blanches at the amount, choking on one of the


grapes. He coughs and slingshots the grape across the room.

LEONARDO
That is a great deal of money.

Leonardo recoils mildly, finally taking in all of the


ruffian beside him.

GAMBLER
It must not be taken lightly, sir.

LEONARDO
What must I do to receive this bounty?

GAMBLER
Stop painting.
85

Leonardo stares back at the man, confused for a moment,


unsure of what he’s just heard.

LEONARDO
Painting? Stop painting what?

The gambler points at the cartoon.

LEONARDO
I have only just begun.

GAMBLER
Then it will be easy to stop.

LEONARDO
I have a contract.
GAMBLER
You’ve been known to break contracts.
Besides, what do contracts mean to the
great Leonardo?

LEONARDO
I have been challenged. By
Michelangelo. I must demonstrate who is
rightfully, and forever, the first
artist of Florence.

GAMBLER
Everyone in the city, nay the world,
knows you are. What need have you to
prove it?

LEONARDO
Pride.

GAMBLER
Hubris has humbled greater men than
you.

Leonardo leaps to his feet, insulted, huffing and puffing


like a blowfish in mock anger.

LEONARDO
(waving his arms)
You insult me in my own home. Leave at
once. Shoo, you cockroach.

GAMBLER
(as he leaves)
As you wish. But, you’ll live to regret
it.
86

INT. MICHELANGELO'S STUDIO - DAY

Michelangelo sits on an edge-worn wooden stool. He gnaws on


a crust of bread. He stares at his cartoon. The troublesome
lantern has been crudely stitched together to fit his
forehead more tightly.

Argiento sits on a stool beside his master, staring at him,


like a dog waiting for some kind gesture—a word, a bone, a
stroke—from its owner.

The SAME GAMBLER that visited Leonardo enters the studio. He


shivers and pulls his cloak tighter. The room is cold, dark,
bleak, and silent. The man approaches Michelangelo.

GAMBLER
(teeth mildly
chattering)
Maestro.

Michelangelo does not answer.

GAMBLER
Maestro, a moment of your time.

Michelangelo says nothing.

GAMBLER
Maestro . . .

MICHELANGELO
Stop babbling! I heard you the first
time!

GAMBLER
Apologies, maestro.

MICHELANGELO
I don’t deserve to be called maestro.

GAMBLER
Few would agree.

MICHELANGELO
What do you want? Can’t you see I’m
working.

Mildly confused, the gambler stares at Michelangelo, then


looks at the cartoon, then looks back at Michelangelo, then
glances over at Argiento, who shrugs.

GAMBLER
I’m the bearer of a message, m . . .
Signor Buonarotti.
87

MICHELANGELO
Be quick about it.

GAMBLER
I represent a group of men. From the
finest families in Florence. Men of
great influence and power.

MICHELANGELO
(tensing)
I’ve nothing in common with their
class.

GAMBLER
These men think very highly of you.
This gets Michelangelo’s attention, despite his resistance.

GAMBLER
In fact, they think so highly of you
they’d like you to join them.

MICHELANGELO
In what?

GAMBLER
A secret society of sorts.

MICHELANGELO
And what do they expect in return?

GAMBLER
Something you can afford.

MICHELANGELO
Get to the point, man. You waste my
time. And take my air.

The gambler takes a deep breath, shrugs apologetically to


Michelangelo, and finally exhales.

GAMBLER
(gestures at the
cartoon)
They would have you walk away from this
contest.

MICHELANGELO
You confuse me with Leonardo. I never
walk away from a job.
88

GAMBLER
What about the statues for the Wool
Guild? What about the bronze Hercules?
What about . . .

Michelangelo leaps to his feet and begins thrashing the


gambler mercilessly about the head. The gambler cowers.
Michelangelo knocks him to the floor and begins kicking him.

Argiento grabs his master by both arms and pulls him away
before he can do more damage, or even kill the man.

The gambler, bleeding from the nose and mouth and ears,
stands, a bit wobbly.

MICHELANGELO
Nothing, no man, not even the Pope, can
make me abandon this work!

GAMBLER
Perhaps yes, perhaps no.

Michelangelo picks up his stool.

MICHELANGELO
I should kill you. Cut you open before
you die. Just to study your final
moments.

The gambler scurries for the door. The stool clatters in his
wake as he dashes out the door.

INT. LEONARDO'S STUDIO - DAY

Leonardo sits at his work table. A framed, painted portrait


by Jan van Eyck sits on an easel on the table. Leonardo
studies it, then makes notes in his notebook.

MACHIAVELLI (O.S.)
The Flemish masters are fascinating.

Leonardo jumps, startled by the silent intruder. He turns.

LEONARDO
Ah, Machiavelli. I did not hear you
come in.

Machiavelli just smiles.

Leonardo turns back to the portrait.


89

LEONARDO
They continue to develop amazing new
paints and techniques. If only I were
as brilliant.

Machiavelli pulls a large, leather-bound book from behind


his back and drops it onto the table.

MACHIAVELLI
You are.

Leonardo runs his hand over the words on the leather cover.

LEONARDO
Pliny the Elder.

Machiavelli opens the volume to a book-marked page.


MACHIAVELLI
Someone, an ally, told me of a
technique for fresco that’s both unique
and startling.

Machiavelli stabs a dirt-encrusted fingernail at a passage


in the book.

LEONARDO
(reads)
"A layer of granular plaster is applied
and primed to a hard flat finish. Over
this is added a layer of resinous
pitch, applied with a sponge, onto
which the paint is applied. It requires
heat to fix the colors onto the
plaster. The effect is to heighten the
brilliance of the colors by producing a
very glossy effect."

MACHIAVELLI
It’s an experiment, a risk, but you’ve
never shied from an experiment.

LEONARDO
I am the disciple of experiment!

In his notebook, beneath the notes on the Flemish painters,


Leonardo signs his name with a flourish and adds "Disciple
of Experiment" below his signature.

INT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – GRAND HALL - DAY

Michelangelo and Granacchi survey the walls.


90

GRANACCI
You have never painted fresco, Mic.

MICHELANGELO
Oil painting is for flowery young men
who smell like women. Fresco is the
method of men.

GRANACCI
True fresco, buon fresco, is difficult
to master. The potential for disaster
is great.

MICHELANGELO
You question my mastery? Or, perhaps my
masculinity?
GRANACCI
Painting on wet plaster requires
preparation and precise timing. Once
you begin a section, you cannot change
your mind. You cannot procrastinate.

MICHELANGELO
I’m not a schoolboy, Granacci. I
understand the risks.

GRANACCI
Many great artists have conceded when
faced with a fresh wall of plaster.

MICHELANGELO
If Leonardo can master fresco in Milan,
I can master fresco in Florence.

Granacci looks doubtful.

INT. LEONARDO'S STUDIO - DAY

ASSISTANTS and APPRENTICES carefully unpack and arrange a


wagon-load of new supplies.

Leonardo inspects each barrel and container, pot and sack.

LEONARDO
Quicklime, sand, linseed oil, Greek
pitch, Venetian sponges, and
Alexandrian white.

Leonardo claps his hands and the assistants begin mixing


quicklime with water. They trowel the wet plaster onto a
piece of wood the size and shape of a standard portrait,
which lies flat on a long, wooden work table.
91

Leonardo mixes a batch of pigments with water in individual


pots. He stirs a crock of pitch methodically. He adds
solvent, then gum. The mixture begins to thicken.

Leonardo carefully sponges a layer of pitch over the wet


plaster. He sketches in the face of Monna Lisa and applies
paint to complete the portrait.

An apprentice lights two braziers of coal that sit on the


table on either side of the painting.

Leonardo watches as the freshly applied paint fuses with the


plaster and the plaster dries to stone, leaving a shiny,
brilliant finish. Leonardo smiles.

Machiavelli, standing off to the side, smiles also, but his


is a smile of malevolent deceit.
INT. MICHELANGELO'S STUDIO - DAY

It is a cold, drizzly January day. PERUGINO enters the hall.


Twenty-five years older than Michelangelo, he has the
lurching gait of a country man, a face scarred with gullies
from years of toiling in the sun and rain.

MICHELANGELO
(whispers to Argiento)
Perugino. My mentor.

Michelangelo approaches Perugino and hugs his old master,


warmly.

Perugino does not seem to notice this uncharacteristic


gesture of affection from his former student. He stands near
the windows of the oblong hall in silence.

After a time, he advances slowly toward the large cartoon.


His face has turned charcoal, his eyes seem glazed, his lips
flutter as though in an effort to force out words.

Michelangelo picks up a stool, puts it behind Perugino.

MICHELANGELO
Please . . . sit down . . . I'll get
some water.

Perugino knocks the stool out from behind him with a savage
backward kick.

Argiento scuttles off to a far corner of the room.

PERUGINO
(sputters)
. . . beastly . . .
92

Stunned and dumbfounded, Michelangelo stares at the old man.

PERUGINO
Give a wild animal a brush, and he
would do the same. You will destroy us
. . . all we have spent a lifetime to
create!

MICHELANGELO
(sick at heart)
Perugino, why do you attack me? I
admire your work . . .

PERUGINO
My work! How dare you speak of my work
in the presence of this . . . this
filth! If my work is painting, then
yours is . . . debauchery!

MICHELANGELO
(ice-cold)
You mean the technique is bad, the
drawing, the design . . . ?

PERUGINO
You know nothing of such matters! You
should be thrown into the Stinche and
kept from destroying the art that God-
fearing men have created!

MICHELANGELO
Why am I not a God-fearing man? Is it
that I’ve painted nudes? That this is
. . . new, revolutionary?

PERUGINO
Don't talk to me of originality. I have
done as much as any man in Italy to
revolutionize painting.

MICHELANGELO
(trying to control his
temper)
Yes, you’ve done much. But, painting
doesn’t end with you. Every true artist
re-creates the art.

PEREUGINO
You go backward. Before civilization,
before God.
93

MICHELANGELO
(eyes narrow)
You sound like Savonarola.

PERUGINO
You will never get one figure of this
immorality up on the Signoria wall. Not
if I have anything to say about it.

Perugino storms from the hall.

Michelangelo rights the stool and sits down, trembling.

Argiento creeps to his master's side, carrying a bowl of


water.

Michelangelo dips his fingers, touching them to his feverish


face.

EXT. DYER'S HALL – SAME TIME

Outside the hall, Perugino passes Machiavelli, who nods.


Perugino returns the nod and continues on his way.

INT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – GRAND HALL - DAY

Salai stares at an unfurled scroll he holds at arm’s length.

Sketched on the scroll is a detailed drawing of a moveable


scaffold. The engineering-type drawing shows the scaffold
from a variety of different perspectives and illustrates how
it can be raised and lowered using double-threaded wooden
screws.

SALAI
It’s an ingenious design, maestro.

Leonardo takes Salai by the hand and leads him closer to the
scaffold. Leonardo gestures for the workers to raise the
platform.

LEONARDO
The screws have a double-threading, you
see. To the right and to the left. One
raises, the other lowers.

SALAI
Marvelous.

LEONARDO
It will save these weary old bones from
too much wear and tear.
94

SALAI
(affectionately kisses
Leonardo)
Look who’s talking of old.

EXT. MARBLE QUARRY - SUNRISE

Standing alone, Michelangelo smiles up at the jagged ridges,


the sloping white walls of marble, the zigzagging paths that
daring workers have dug to reach the higher deposits of
rock. He strides toward the path.

EXT. MARBLE QUARRY – MORNING

Michelangelo works among the STONECUTTERS, joyously re-


visiting familiar tasks. He tests the stone, choosing a
block according to purity and lack of veins. He detaches it
from the exposed quarry wall, squares the block, and
prepares to lower it with ropes. Then, ever so carefully, he
guides it as it slides down the slope, rolling across timber
logs.

EXT. MARBLE QUARRY - AFTERNOON

Michelangelo dangles like an alpine goat from the peaks


along the steep walls of the mountain. He works with the
TECCHIAIOLI, as they detect and dislodge the tecchie, or
splinters of marble, that could kill or maim the workers
below. It is a labor worthy of eagles, with men suspended
halfway between earth and the purest sky in all of Tuscany.

EXT. MARBLE QUARRY - EVENING

Michelangelo shares a meal of bread and cheese, mixed with


the all-invasive marble dust, with his humble CO-WORKERS. He
laughs, mouth open and full of food, looking totally alive
and at ease. The marble clings tenaciously to his hair and
nostrils. He smiles.

MICHELANGELO
(mutters to himself)
What a fool I’ve been. I should never
have left sculpting.

INT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – GRAND HALL - DAY

The Grand Hall is a beehive of activity. The space reserved


for each fresco has been measured out and marked off. Each
measures twenty-one feet high by fifty-four feet long.

ASSISTANTS mix quicklime with water and sand. OTHER


ASSISTANTS trowel wet plaster onto the wall.
95

PLASTERERS work their floats over the wet plaster, smoothing


it out and creating a new work surface for each fresco.

In a corner of the Hall, inside a square, wooden frame


bordered on all sides by heavy black fabric, Leonardo stands
in front of an easel. STUDENTS cluster around him in the
darkened space. He traces the upside-down image of HERCULES,
as he floats on the canvas.

DARK-HAIRED STUDENT
It is so real.

LEONARDO
It is called camera obscura. If someone
stands outside bathed in light, their
exact image can be projected through a
concave lens inside onto a canvas.
Upside down like this.
(he traces)

One INQUISITIVE STUDENT peeks through a gap in the fabric


and gazes out over the sill of the wide, low window, where
he sees Salai dressed and posing as Hercules. The likeness
on the canvas is incredible.

INQUISITIVE STUDENT
It is more real than nature.

LEONARDO
(frowns momentarily)
Nature is the only reality.

SHORT-HAIRED STUDENT
It is witchcraft.

LEONARDO
It is art.

BLONDE-HAIRED STUDENT
Beware the eyes of the church.

LONG-HAIRED STUDENT
Leonardo is untouchable.

INT. MICHELANGELO'S STUDIO - DAY

Michelangelo balances on his haunches, staring at the Taddeo


tondo.

The door opens. Raphael enters, crosses to Michelangelo, and


quietly stands by his side.
96

MICHELANGELO
(over his shoulder)
Why have you come? You’re Perugino's
countryman. You studied in his studio.

RAPHAEL
I came to apologize for my friend and
teacher. He has had a shock, and is now
ill . . .

Michelangelo stands and stares into Raphael's sympathetic


eyes.

MICHELANGELO
Why did he attack me?

RAPHAEL
When he saw the Bathers, he felt
exactly as I had. That this was a
different world. That one had to start
over. For me, it was a challenge. But,
I am not yet twenty-two. Perugino is
fifty-five. He can never start over.

MICHELANGELO
I appreciate your coming here, Raphael.

RAPHAEL
Then be generous. Ignore him.

MICHELANGELO
I’ll hold my tongue. For now.

INT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – GRAND HALL - DAY

Leonardo tinkers with an olive press he has modified to


grind material into pigments for his oil paints. Salai
stands beside him.

LEONARDO
It is none of my business.

SALAI
If art is business, then it’s your
business.

LEONARDO
What is it to me?

SALAI
Defend him and, perhaps, he’ll befriend
you.
97

LEONARDO
I have no time for their petty
squabbles.

SALAI
It’s great art. It must be seen.

LEONARDO
If it is meant to be, it will be.

SALAI
It’s censorship of the worst kind. How
would you feel if the shoe were on your
foot?

Leonardo reacts as a memory washes over his face.


LEONARDO
It is not the first time the small-
minded have attempted to destroy
something they do not understand.

SALAI
You were lucky then. You had friends.

LEONRDO
He does not want us to be friends.

SALAI
Then stand beside him . . . in the name
of freedom.

INT. RUSTICI'S STUDIO - EVENING

The Company of the Cauldron meets for dinner. Everyone is


there, including Leonardo and Salai, Soderini and
Machiavelli. The room bubbles with excitement.

Michelangelo enters the studio. The laughing banter ceases,


replaced by restrained silence.

At that moment, Perugino enters the studio.

SODERINI
You've both been summoned here to put
an end to this petty squabbling.

MICHELANGELO
He attacked me.

PERUGINO
He deserved it.
98

SODERINI
Enough. I declare a truce. Now.

A stifling, deadly quiet envelopes the room.

SODERINI
The harm you've done each other is
cruel, but reversible. The damage
you've done Florence is not.

Soderini strides toward Michelangelo and Perugino. They fall


back.

SODERINI
We’re known around the world as the
capital of the arts. We can’t allow our
artists to indulge in quarrels that
hurt us. The Signoria orders that you
both apologize. That you desist from
attacking each other. And, that you
both return to the work from which
Florence draws its fame.

Perugino, crestfallen, approaches Michelangelo and holds out


his hand.

Reluctantly, Michelangelo takes it.

Michelangelo’s and Leonardo’s eyes meet. There is a moment


of sympathetic recognition.

Leonardo turns away.

EXT. SANTA TRINITA - DAY

Leonardo crosses the bridge opposite the church of Santa


Trinita.

On the bridge, he’s overtaken by a spry and meanly, hump-


backed DWARF.

Leonardo continues walking, paying no heed to his fellow


wayfarer, who keeps pace with him—hopping, skipping, and
running ahead of him like a little dog—trying to catch his
eye and start a conversation.

DWARF
Tell me, Messer, you haven’t, of
course, finished the portrait of La
Gioconda as yet?

LEONARDO
I have, sir. For now. What concern is
that of yours?
99

DWARF
I was simply curious since you have
been struggling with this one picture
for many years. To us, who know no
better, it seems even now so perfect
that a greater work we could not even
imagine.

Leonardo glances at him, clenching and unclenching his


fists.

DWARF
What is the future fate of this
picture?

LEONARDO
The lady and I will decide.

DWARF
Ah, then you haven’t heard yet, Messer
Leonardo.

LEONARDO
(croaks)
Heard?

DWARF
Ah, my God, you do not know. What a
misfortune! Poor Messer Giocondo is a
widower for the third time. The Madonna
Lisa has departed this world, by the
will of God.

Leonardo stops and leans against the stone railing of the


bridge. He begins to cry.

Mission accomplished, the messenger scutters away and off


the bridge.

MONTAGE - CHANGE OF SEASONS

The clear light and soothing blossoms of Florence in Spring


surrender to the deadening humidity of Summer.

EXT. ARNO RIVER - DAY

The Arno has receded within its banks.

Leonardo, Machiavelli, and Salai survey the putrid quagmire.

The excavating equipment, water locks, and canal lie in


shattered pieces.
100

Leonardo throws a handful of sketches to the ground and


storms off.

The wind unfurls the pile of sketches to reveal the drawings


of Leonardo’s vision for the canal connecting Florence to
the sea.

INT. MICHELANGELO'S STUDIO - DAY

Michelangelo, Granacci, and Argiento stare at the gigantic


rectangle of marble.

Michelangelo caresses the stone like a lover caressing his


beloved.

MICHELANGELO
There’ll be no Hercules to stand beside
my David. The giant must remain in his
tomb of stone.

INT. SODERINI'S OFFICE - DAY

Soderini sits behind his desk. Standing before him are


Leonardo and Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Granacci.

SODERINI
You’re the two greatest artists of our
time, titans each, and I have to scold
you like schoolboys.

Oblivious, Leonardo steps forward, excitedly brandishing a


notebook. He opens it and spreads it on the table before
Soderini.

LEONARDO
Gonfaloniere, I have sketches. For the
statue of Hercules.

The drawings show multiple views—front and back—of a


standing, vigilant Hercules. The face in the sketches is
obviously Salai.

LEONARDO
It will rival the David, standing
shoulder-to-shoulder at the entrance to
the Palazzo Vecchio. Twin towers of
freedom.

Leonardo glances over his shoulder at Michelangelo, who


scowls.

Soderini studies the drawings, obviously impressed.


Suddenly, he slams the notebook shut and pushes it away
toward Leonardo.
101

SODERINI
I don’t want to see sketches for new
projects.

Soderini looks squarely at Leonardo, then Michelangelo.

SODERINI
I want to see the current projects
completed. I simply wish you to finish
what you’ve started. Your reputation,
no, your very lives, depend upon it.

The veiled threat does not go unnoticed by the men facing


him.

EXT. PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA – MOMENTS LATER


Leonardo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and Granacci exit the
Grand Hall into the Piazza.

Leonardo and Machiavelli go in one direction, Michelangelo


and Granacci in the opposite.

LEONARDO
Who cares about reputation. I have
bills to pay.

MACHIAVELLI
We should go where we’re appreciated.
To France.

LEONARDO
Yes, to France, and a more friendly
clime.

Granacci and Michelangelo walk around another pile of fine


gray ash marking the death of Savonarola.

MICHELANGELO
I’ve let Soderini down. I’ve let
everyone down.

GRANACCI
It is of no importance.

MICHELANGELO
How can you say that? This is my home.
102

GRANACCI
(whispers)
I have been told by those who know. The
Pope has heard of the cartoon. The Holy
Father plans a massive fresco in the
Sistine Chapel.
(pauses for effect)
And, he wants you to paint it.

Michelangelo can barely suppress a smile of excitement.

EXT. ARNO RIVER VALLEY - SUNRISE

A summer storm brews. It’s a dark, ominous morning. Thunder


clouds roll across the valley.

INT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – GRAND HALL – MORNING


WORKERS roll Leonardo’s movable scaffold into place in front
of the blank rectangle on the right side of the wall.

ANOTHER GROUP OF WORKERS assembles a traditional


scaffolding, made of wooden planks lashed to wooden support
poles with leather thongs, in front of the blank spot on the
left side of the wall.

Each rectangle has a new coat of dried plaster marking out


the dimensions of the "canvas."

Leonardo and Michelangelo enter the hall from opposite


corners, like prize-fighters prepared to go fifteen rounds
in a championship fight. The confident Champion versus the
cocky Contender.

A section of Leonardo’s cartoon lies on a work table behind


his scaffold. ASSISTANTS prick tiny holes in the paper,
following the lines of the drawing. An APPRENTICE fills a
small bowl with water and gesticulates to ward off the evil
eye. LABORERS stoke several large warming pans with straw.
Salai plays a triumphant march on the lute.

A section of Michelangelo’s cartoon lies on another work


table behind his scaffolding. APPRENTICES stand by, watching
their brooding master. Argiento fills a small bowl with
water, also gesturing to ward off the evil eye.

On either side of the two blank "canvases," MORE ASSISTANTS


mix quicklime with water and sand.

High up on each platform, PLASTERERS trowel a half-inch


layer of wet plaster onto a small section of the dry surface
of new plaster covering the entire canvas. Other PLASTERERS
smooth the fresh plaster evenly with their floats.
103

On Leonardo’s side of the wall, workers crank the screws and


the plasterers descend and dismount the scaffold. Leonardo,
followed by his apprentices, mounts the scaffold. The
workers crank the screws and the scaffold ascends. One of
the workers sponges a fresh coat of pitch onto the section
of fresh plaster.

The apprentices place the pricked cartoon of the Standard up


against the fresh plaster and pitch. While two hold the
cartoon, a third strikes the cartoon with a pounce bag
filled with charcoal powder. The apprentices carefully pull
the cartoon away. A perfect reproduction of the cartoon
appears in the wet plaster.

On Michelangelo’s side of the wall, plasterers clamber down


the rungs of the scaffolding, while apprentices scamper up
the scaffolding with a section of the cartoon of the
Bathers.

Michelangelo slowly moves to the farthest edge of the hall.


He suddenly turns and sprints toward the scaffolding. He
jumps as high as he can, grasping the top of the scaffold
platform with his left hand, then his right. He swings and
pulls himself up onto the platform.

As the two apprentices hold the cartoon in place,


Michelangelo carefully traces over the chalk lines of the
cartoon with the point of a stylus. The apprentices remove
the cartoon to reveal traces in the fresh plaster which
exactly reproduce the cartoon.

Leonardo steps up to face the freshly powdered, fresh


plaster. To his right is a wooden tray attached to the rail
of the scaffold. There are pots of different colored paints,
a crock of pitch, sponges, several brushes of different
sizes, pieces of cloth, and a small incense burner, which
wafts scented smoke into the air around the scaffold.
Leonardo cups the smoke, pulls it toward his face, sniffs,
and smiles.

Michelangelo steps up to face the freshly etched, fresh


plaster on his side. To his left is a small shelf crudely
nailed to the floor of the platform. There are pots of
paints, brushes, and rags. Michelangelo snorts, choking, as
the scented smoke from Leonardo’s side drifts across his
face.

Leonardo snatches up a brush in his left hand, flourishes it


like a baton twirler, and strikes a dramatic pose.

Michelangelo grabs a brush in each of his two hands, spreads


his legs to ground himself, and prepares to attack the
canvas.
104

Leonardo dips his brush in a pot of lapis lazuli paint and


turns back to face the wall.

Michelangelo dips one brush in black paint, one brush in


white paint, and turns back to face the wall.

At the exact same moment, Leonardo and Michelangelo turn to


face each other, nod, and turn back to the wall.

The contest begins.

MONTAGE – THE COMPETITION

The two men work all day. Leonardo in his reserved, relaxed
style. Michelangelo in his furious, attacking style.

BACK TO PRESENT – DAY'S END


The Grand Hall grows darker as the end of day, and the
gathering storm, approach.

Michelangelo methodically adds some highlights. He stands


back to admire his work.

Leonardo continues to tinker with his, smearing some of the


paint with his fingertips to achieve sfumato. Below him, at
the foot of the fresco, workers light the warming pans
filled with straw.

Suddenly, a blob of wet plaster slaps Leonardo up alongside


the head. It sticks to his beautifully coiffed hair, then
slowly drips down the side of his face and onto his
immaculate, beautiful clothes.

Stunned, Leonardo grasps some of the foreign substance with


his fingertips, holds his fingers in front of his face,
examines the material, sniffs it, and slowly turns to face
Michelangelo.

Michelangelo, his left hand caked in wet plaster, sneers at


Leonardo.

Leonardo gingerly grabs a pot of paint and flings it at


Michelangelo.

Michelangelo ducks and tosses a pot back at Leonardo.

Leonardo’s workers begin turning the screws rapidly. The


scaffold lurches, nearly upending Leonardo, and begins
descending. He javelins several of his paintbrushes at
Michelangelo.

Michelangelo leaps to the edge of his scaffolding. He begins


climbing down. As he descends, he flings a salvo of
105

paintbrushes, pulling them from his shirt like an Indian


pulling arrows from his quiver.

Leonardo and Michelangelo leap from their scaffolds onto the


floor at the same time. They fire off another round of paint
pots before ducking behind the protection of their own
scaffold.

Suddenly, the workers and apprentices for each artist,


including Salai and Argiento, join the fray. They run
together into the open space between the two scaffolds and
begin biting, kicking, punching, and tossing all manner of
objects.

Leonardo and Michelangelo scamper out from behind their


scaffolds, heading straight for each other. They stop and
begin bitch-slapping each other up and down the length of
their entire bodies. Then they begin pulling one another’s
hair. It’s a full-scale, hissy-fit, catfight.

Suddenly, a clap of thunder shakes the building. Everyone


stops. Another, more resounding blast of thunder shakes the
walls. Everyone looks up.

EXT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – GRAND HALL – SAME TIME

It begins to pour rain. Day turns to night. Church bells


clang, VOICES IN THE STREETS outside the Palazzo begin to
wail.

In the thunderous, darkened sky above the city, the shapes


of daggers and crosses appear. A PAIR OF GREEN EYES glower
down on the Piazza and Palazzo.

INT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – GRAND HALL – SAME TIME

Leonardo stumbles back to his side of the hall and beneath


his scaffold.

Michelangelo covers his head and retreats to his side of the


hall, beneath his scaffolding.

Another rolling rumble of thunder, more powerful than the


last, causes the walls to quake and the floor to roll.

On each of the tables behind the scaffolds, each of the


bowls of water spill, soaking each of the cartoons and
causing the lines of charcoal and chalk to smear.

Rain water gushes through the windows and doors, flooding in


a wide river along the floor.
106

Leonardo and Michelangelo jump onto the bottom of the


scaffolding to avoid the running water. They are both
visibly shaken.

A mighty wind blows through the hall, blowing out candles


and braziers and plunging the entire hall in darkness.

INT. LEONARDO'S STUDIO - DAY

Leonardo sketches at his work table. On yet another project.

In a heap on the table sits a contraption with a leather


mask featuring two eye-holes of Venetian glass, cane hoses
joined together with leather, and a suit made of pig skin.

A closer look at the sketch reveals a man wearing this


outfit. And walking underwater, with the cane hoses
extending to the water’s surface. It is the world’s first
deep sea diving suit.

SALAI
Charles d’Amboise, the French governor
of Milan, has written again.

Salai places a letter directly in front of Leonardo’s eyes


on top of the sketches.

LEONARDO
He is nothing, if not persistent.

Leonardo pushes the letter off to the side.

SALAI
He wishes to resurrect what the Sforzas
began. Since you helped start it, he’d
like you to help finish it.

Leonardo pulls a letter from his cloak pocket.

LEONARDO
Have you seen this?

Salai nods.

SALAI
Soderini is an ungrateful fool.

LEONARDO
Allow me.

Leonardo holds a magnifying glass up to the letter.


107

LEONARDO
(reads)
"The actions of Messer Leonardo are
most unworthy. Having taken a large sum
in advance, and scarcely begun work, he
has dropped everything, and has behaved
in this matter like a traitor to the
Republic."

Leonardo finishes reading and slams the letter on the table.

LEONARDO
A traitor. He accuses me of treason.
After all I have done.

SALAI
He’s a small-minded bureaucrat.
LEONARDO
I offered to re-pay the commission. I
borrowed money. From friends. From you.
He refused it.

SALAI
He’s incapable of forgiveness.

LEONARDO
I promised I would return to finish the
fresco. Three months. That is all I
asked.

Salai gives him a look.

LEONARDO
I know, I know. I have a reputation.

SALAI
Your promises are like footprints in
the sand.

LEONARDO
I am condemned to be an eternal
wanderer.

INT. MICHELANGELO'S STUDIO - DAY

Michelangelo stands in front of a block of marble. Granacci


stands at his elbow.

GRANACCI
The Pope wants you to come to Rome at
once. He has sent one hundred florins
as a travel allowance.
108

MICHELANGELO
It’s a bad time to leave. I must finish
the painting for the Signoria wall
while it’s still fresh in my mind.

GRANACCI
It is the Holy Father, Michelangelo.

INT. LEONARDO'S STUDIO - DAY

An empty room adjoining Leonardo’s studio is lit by the


light from the candle held aloft by Salai.

Leonardo stands before an easel. He flings back a heavy


cloth to reveal the Monna Lisa. It glows, almost alive.

SALAI
It’s so real.

LEONARDO
I have heard of portraits so alive that
when pierced with a poisoned needle,
the portrayed dies.

SALAI
She will live forever.

LEONARDO
It scares me.

SALAI
She is so distant from fear.

LEONARDO
Like her, I wonder if the entire labor
of my life has been a delusion.

SALAI
Like her, your name will echo through
time.

LEONARDO
I recall something Machiavelli once
said to me.
(quotes)
"The most fearful thing in life is not
cares, nor poverty, nor grief, nor
disease, nor even death itself. It is
tedium. Boredom is truly this century’s
malaise."

Outside the apartment, the INHUMAN VOICES OF THE NIGHT


surround them in the loneliness of blind darkness.
109

INT. SODERINI'S OFFICE - DAY

Michelangelo stands once again before Soderini, who once


again sits behind his enormous desk.

MICHELANGELO
Perhaps I should go north, maybe to
France. Then I’d no longer be your
problem.

SODERINI
You can’t run from the Pope. His arms
reach across Europe.

MICHELANGELO
Why am I so precious to the Holy
Father? I’m only a grain of sand in the
eye of the Colossus.

SODERINI
What is harder to obtain becomes more
valuable.

MICHELANGELO
I just want to be left alone.

SODERINI
Too late. You lost that right the day
you finished your stone satyr in
Lorenzo’s sculpture garden.

MICHELANGELO
I’d be content to live out the rest of
my days working in Florence.

Soderini studies Michelangelo's face carefully, for a long


time.

SODERINI
One cannot refuse the Pope,
Michelangelo. If Julius says "Come!",
you must go. His friendship is
important to us in Florence.

MICHELANGELO
And my house . . . the two contracts
. . . ?

SODERINI
We will hold them until you learn what
the Holy Father wants. The contracts
must be honored.
110

MICHELANGELO
I understand, Gonfaloniere. I
understand.

EXT. MONTE CECERI - SUNSET

Leonardo and Salai sit on the bluff overlooking Florence. A


small meal of bread, roasted chestnuts, dried figs, and a
flask of wine is spread on the grass between them.

Leonardo slices a piece of cheese with his folding knife and


passes it over to Salai. He then cuts a piece for himself
and begins to chew carefully.

Salai looks closely at his master as he masticates,


realizing that Leonardo has suddenly grown old. Salai blinks
back the tears welling in his eyes.
Suddenly, Salai jumps to his feet, startling Leonardo, who
spills wine on himself. Salai rushes to a large wooden cage
behind Leonardo.

SALAI
(an excited child)
Let’s release her. Now!

Leonardo slowly rises to his feet. He walks to Salai.

The cage is slung onto a wooden pole. Leonardo and Salai


hoist the pole onto their shoulders and carry the cage to
the edge of the bluff.

Leonardo opens the cage and a GIANT SWAN steps out, looks
around, and makes eye contact with Leonardo. The enormous
white bird noisily and joyously waves its wings, turning
rose-colored in the last rays of sunset, and flies straight
toward the sun.

Leonardo watches it fly away, his eyes filled with sorrow


and longing.

SALAI
You once said man will undertake his
first flight on the back of an enormous
swan.

LEONARDO
I just realized something. I will never
fly again.

Leonardo looks down upon his beloved Florence.


111

LEONARDO
(whispers)
Goodbye.

INT. PALACE - DAY

Michelangelo bounds up the circular stairs three at a time,


followed by a YOUNG MAN. He enters the bedroom, perspiring
from the climb.

Contessina lies in bed, covered by several quilts. Her pale,


exhausted face rests on the pillows, her eyes cavernous.

MICHELANGELO
(gasps)
Contessina.
Contessina beckons him to her bed, patting a place for him
to sit.

Michelangelo crosses to the bed and sits. He takes her hand,


white and fragile.

She closes her eyes. When she opens them again, there are
tears.

CONTESSINA
Remember the first time we met? In the
Duomo yard.

Michelangelo unbuttons his shirt and removes the blue silk


handkerchief stitched with the de’ Medici crest from around
his neck. Contessina sees it and smiles.

CONTESSINA
They all said how much you frightened
them. You never frightened me. I saw
how tender you were, under the scowl.

They stare at each other.

CONTESSINA
We have never spoken of our feelings.

Michelangelo runs his fingers gently over her cheek.

MICHELANGELO
I loved you, Contessina.

CONTESSINA
I loved you, Michelangelo. I have
always felt your presence.

Her eyes light up for a brief instant.


112

CONTESSINA
My sons will be your friends.

Contessina glances at the young man who led Michelangelo to


her room.

She’s seized with a coughing spell that shakes the bed. As


she turns her head away from Michelangelo, raising a
handkerchief to her lips, he sees the red stain.

He waits, gulping back the tears.

She does not turn back to face him.

INT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – GRAND HALL - DAY


Leonardo stands on the scaffold, which sits back, slightly
away from the wall. He stares at the fresco. Salai and
Machiavelli stands beside him.

MACHIAVELLI
You followed the instructions
carefully?

Machiavelli stifles a mischievous grin, which plays around


the edges of his lips.

SALAI
The paint refuses to dry.

Machiavelli smiles a conspiratorial, all-knowing smile.

An ASSISTANT lights a huge fire in a brazier at the base of


the wall.

LEONARDO
I am hoping the heat will finally set
the colors.

They watch closely as the fire grows and sends heat up the
wall. Leonardo holds out his hand to feel the warmth as it
climbs.

On Michelangelo’s side of the wall, WORKERS disassemble the


scaffolding.

OTHER WORKERS finish mounting all the pieces of the cartoon


of the Bathers onto a fir-tree frame. They carry it from the
Grand Hall.

INT. SODERINI'S OFFICE - DAY

Soderini’s face is grave. Michelangelo’s face is defiant.


113

SODERINI
(waves documents)
I’ve received three briefs from the
Vatican. Full of threats that we should
send you now, by fair means or foul.

MICHELANGELO
They’re empty threats. This is
Florence, not Rome.

SODERINI
In Rome, you could be of considerable
help to Florence. Defying His Holiness,
you become a source of potential danger
to us. You’re the first Florentine to
defy a Pope since Savonarola. I'm
afraid your fate may be the same.

MICHELANGELO
(shivers
involuntarily)
Which means I'll be hanged in the
piazza, then burned.

Soderini smiles for the first time.

SODERINI
You’re not guilty of heresy, only of
stubbornness. In the end, the Pope will
have his way.

MICHELANGELO
Gonfaloniere, all I want is to remain
in Florence. I'll start carving the St.
Matthew tomorrow, so I can have my
house back.

SODERINI
His Holiness would consider it a
personal insult. No one can employ you,
not Doni, or Pitti or Taddei, without
incurring the Pope's wrath.

Soderini touches Michelangelo gently on the shoulder.

SODERINI
You’ve tried the Holy Father as the
King of France wouldn’t have done. He’s
not to be kept begging any longer. We
don’t want to go to war with him over
you. Prepare to return.
114

MICHELANGELO
I seem to be a source of constant
sorrow for the Republic.

SODERINI
Your talent outweighs the aggravation.

MICHELANGELO
And the Bathers? Can I finish the
fresco? I am not done with Leonardo.

Soderini slowly puts the documents down and stares at


Michelangelo.

SODERINI
You’ve not been in the Grand Hall?
MICHELANGELO
The groom brought me through your
apartment.

SODERINI
Come with me.

INT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – GRAND HALL – MOMENTS LATER

Soderini and Michelangelo enter the Grand Hall. They walk


directly to the wall where Leonardo had painted the Battle
of Anghiari.

MICHELANGELO
(groans)
Dio mia, no!

The entire lower half of Leonardo's fresco is in ruin. The


colors have run sharply downward, as though pulled by
powerful magnets. Horses, men, spears, trees, rocks—all have
flowed into each other in an indistinguishable chaos of
color.

MICHELANGELO
What could’ve gone wrong? We Tuscans
have been the masters of fresco for
over three hundred years. Gonfaloniere,
how’d this happen?

SODERINI
He was trying to show his young rival
who the true master of Florence was.

MICHELANGELO
(shudders, then sighs)
All that time and effort wasted.
115

SODERINI
Leonardo ignored an important detail.
Pliny didn’t recommend applying the
process . . . to walls.

MICHELANGELO
The mistakes of the brilliant are
always mistakes no fool would ever
make.

SODERINI
He made a very small beginning of a
very great thing. And, now, it’s over.

INT. VILLA – MOMENTS LATER

A SERVANT ushers Michelangelo into a large, beam-ceilinged


room filled with art works, musical instruments, tapestries,
oriental rugs, free-flying birds, plants, and flowers.

Leonardo, in a red Chinese robe, writes in a notebook at a


high, ledger-like desk. He looks up, sees Michelangelo, puts
the notebook into a drawer, and locks it with a key.

Leonardo walks toward Michelangelo. An edge of his shining


beauty has faded from his face, his eyes hold a touch of
melancholy. He seems a brave, though defeated, man.

MICHELANGELO
Leonardo, I've just come from the Grand
Hall. I want you to know how sorry I am
about the fresco. Such a shame.

LEONARDO
(cool, defensive)
You are kind.

MICHELANGELO
I wanted to apologize for the things
I’ve said about you, about the statue
in Milan . . .

LEONARDO
You were provoked. I said unkind things
about marble carvers.

Leonardo begins to thaw. Color returns to his alabaster


skin.

MICHELANGELO
That’s still no excuse for such
rudeness.
116

LEONARDO
Your cartoon of the Bathers is truly
magnificent, Michelangelo. I sketched
from it, even as I did from your David.
Should you finish it, it will become
the glory of Florence.

MICHELANGELO
I don't know, Leonardo. I fear I've
lost all appetite now that your Battle
of Anghiari will not be fought beside
mine.

LEONARDO
There are many rivers between us.

MICHELANGELO
Indeed.

LEONARDO
We are more alike than different. We
will always be outsiders.

MICHELANGELO
Two southpaws.

Leonardo and Michelangelo clasp their left hands together,


lightly, momentarily.

LEONARDO
We will show them, will we not?

MICHELANGELO
They’ll not see the likes of us for a
very long time.

LEONARDO
I suspect we will never be friends.

MICHELANGELO
Too late for that, I suppose.

LEONARDO
There is no one I would prefer to
supplant me than you. There is no one I
respect, or fear, more than you.

Michelangelo bristles lightly at this presumption, then


softens momentarily.

MICHELANGELO
I’m profoundly grateful.
117

LEONARDO
Amusing is it not? How we spend all
this time and energy to create a
reputation and secure our legacy. And
the only one we can never impress is
the one person who matters the most.

MICHELANGELO
Ourselves.

LEONARDO
This city, our birthplace, treated us
both so badly, in so many ways, for so
long.

MICHELANGELO
Now, they can’t deny us.
LEONARDO
I fear Florence is too small a town for
both of us.

MICHELANGELO
I'll be going to Rome. To work on the
ceiling of the Pope’s chapel.

LEONARDO
I am off to France. To be court artist
and engineer to the King.

MICHELANGELO
Florence has always been our home and
now we’re both leaving her.

LEONARDO
They say I cheated Soderini and
embarrassed the Republic. It was never
about the money.

MICHELANGELO
They say I threatened the Republic by
not bowing down to Pope Julius. I’ll
obey the man, but I’ll not be his
slave.

LEONARDO
Small minds.

MICHELANGELO
Little hearts.
118

LEONARDO
May God go with you.

MICHELANGELO
And you.

EXT. CHATEAU - DAY

The chateau of Cloux is located near Ambroise in the south


of France.

INT. CHATEAU – STUDIO - SAME TIME

Leonardo reclines on a divan. Under his silk dressing gown


he wears the coarse gray linen shirt his mother made him.

He stares at his Monna Lisa.


EXT. SISTINE CHAPEL - DAY

The Sistine Chapel is located on the east side of the


Vatican.

INT. SISTINE CHAPEL – SAME TIME

Michelangelo stands in the center of the empty chamber. He


is dirty and unkempt. He wears the familiar lantern about
his forehead. And the blue silk handkerchief with the de’
Medici family crest.

He stares up at the blank expanse of ceiling.

INT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – GRAND HALL - DAY

On Leonardo's side of the wall, a chunk of plaster, painted


with the soldier in three-quarters profile, drops to the
floor.

INT. MEDICI PALACE – GREAT UPPER HALL - DAY

A WELL-DRESSED MAN cuts the Battle of Cascina into several


small pieces. He hands them out to a number of different
DIGNITARIES, MERCHANTS, and STUDENTS.

Each scurries from the hall with their treasure.

INT. TAVERN – END OF DAY

The score on the rustic dart board remains "0-0."

SERACINI (V.O.)
They never finished.
119

INT. PALAZZO VECCHIO – GRAND HALL – PRESENT DAY

Seracini, Pedretti, and Henneberger stand on the rolling


scaffolding in front of the Vasari fresco. The collection of
equipment on the scaffold shelves hums in mindless,
monotonous activity.

SERACINI
An incredible loss to the world.

PEDRETTI
Can you imagine having frescoes by
Leonardo and Michelangelo side-by-side
in one room today?

HENNEBERGER
I really can't.
SERACINI
The only record we have of Leonardo’s
work are the few sketches that survive.

PEDRETTI
And a handful of reproductions done by
Rubens and others.

Seracini points to copies of several sketches taped to the


shelves holding the equipment.

SERACINI
They buried Leonardo's fresco because
it was a threat.

PEDRETTI
They cut Michelangelo’s cartoon into
pieces because it was too good.

SERACINI
They erased all traces.

HENNEBERGER
I guess that's the price of perfection.

PEDRETTI
Or the price of fame.

A ping sounds from the scanning equipment.

Seracini leans in closer. He looks at a hi-res monitor as it


is fed images by the sonogram, which continues to mindlessly
scan the area where Cerca Trova is written.

SERACINI
There! Do you see it?
120

The screen displays a discontinuity, a gap behind Vasari’s


wall.

Though not clear, there appears to be an image of . . .

A HORSE'S HEAD

EXT. FLORENCE – DAY

The spire of the Palazzo Vecchio thrusts upward into the


lapis blue sky.

The city of Florence goes on about its business as it has


for thousands of years.

The Arno River flows through the Tuscan valley, wending its
way to the sea.

TITLE CARD

"O vain glory of all human powers


How briefly green endures upon the peak . . .
In painting Cimabue thought he excelled
And now it is Giotto that is celebrated
And the fame of the first is growing dark."
--Dante, Inferno

FADE OUT.

THE END