Can A Movie Have Two Heroes? by Michael Hauge

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: Michael, I’ve seen films that have two nemesis working against the hero but how about two heroes in a film? Is that really done?

Watch the video series on Youtube here

Michael Hauge: Yes. That is done and it’s perfectly fine. It’s primarily done in two kinds of movies. Buddy movies and love stories or romantic comedies. I guess that is three kinds? But if you have two heroes, two protagonists, all that means is that everything I’ve talked about in this interview about the hero, and the hero’s six stages, and the hero’s goal and the hero’s arc and so on, has to apply to both. So take a movie like PRETTY WOMAN. You have two equal heroes, meaning they equally are the main character, they both drive the story forward, they are on the screen an equal amount of time and so on. And is typical in romantic comedies, each of them has two goals. His [Richard Gere’s character] is to put together a deal for this shipping yard or something, that is why he hires her [Julia Roberts’ character] to pretend to be his girlfriend. And he starts to fall in love with her, so his second goal is to win her love. Her goal is to make three thousand bucks by pretending to be his girlfriend and she gets the three thousand dollars. That is her finish line. And she is falling in love with him, so her other goal is to win his love. And so now they are both pursuing a finish line and in the end either they will both be together and achieve the goal or they won’t be and they’ll fail. And then for each of them there must be those five turning points and they must be able to divide them into those six stages and those turning points will occur very close together. Sometimes the turning points are identical because when they first meet is the opportunity for both of them. Now when he hires her that is the change of plans for both of them. So that works just fine. Sometimes you will have one of those where one of the heroes has an arc and the other one might be fully evolved and be living in their essence. But most of the time both characters are going to have to grow and transform in parallel, simultaneously if they go into the inner journey for those characters.

Check out Michael Hauge’s book Writing Screenplays That Sell on Amazon

Actually it is possible to have more than two heroes. If you take a movie like LOVE ACTUALLY, AMERICAN GRAFFITI or anyone of those sort of ensemble stories, CRASH and so on. They have multiple heroes. A word to the wise: if you’re trying to launch a career, until you are well-established, I generally recommend against using multiple hero stories, because no matter how good a job you do, scripts with multiple heroes are hard to read. Because when we meet them on the screen no one is going to confuse on the screen Sandra Bullock with Don Cheadle or whoever else might be in it. But it is very easy to confuse the character named Mary with a character named Susan and we have to keep seven or eight heroes straight just by their names on the page. And it’s also very complex because you have to carry seven different heroes through all six stages and give them equal time and have them all weave together. That is usually something for later in your career, at least after you’ve gotten some produced or had some scripts sold, unless you pick a story and someone will pay you to do it. But it’s a tough kind of script to write just because of the mechanics of it, let alone because of the artistry involved in combining it. But a two-hero story is very commercial and is fine to pursue.

Film Courage: Does the hero have to be human? Can it be a place? Can it be an animal? Barring animation, but can it be a place?

Michael Hauge: No. It has to be a character. It has to be an entity that takes action and is pursuing some kind of goal. Every character in a movie is going to have some kind of goal they are going to want to pursue. It may not take them to the climax like the hero’s is, but it has to be an entity…I don’t know how to say it better…and entity that takes action. Certainly it can be in ZOOTOPIA as Judy Hopps is the hero and she’s a bunny or a rabbit who is a cop. So that’s fine. It can be any kind of anthropomorphic character. It can be a cyborg in I, Robot for instance or A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the Steven Spielberg movie or something like that. But it has to be a character. It can’t be a place, can’t be a quality, can’t be a collective noun. The hero cannot be The Resistance. The villain cannot be the Nazis. These are terms that apply to individual characters.

Question for the viewers: What is your favorite movie with two heroes?

Watch the first half of Michael Hauge and Mark W. Travis Film Courage series here on Youtube

(Bonus clip)

Film Courage: Take Stephen King’s movie CHRISTINE. What about the car?

Michael Hauge: Well, the car wouldn’t be the hero of that movie, it would be whoever that kid was who was trying to stop Christine. I don’t remember that movie…

Film Courage: Okay…[laughs] we can scratch that.

Michael Hauge: Well okay. If you don’t want to scratch it, [the car] Christine would be an anthropomorphic character because it takes action. It rolls and talks or whatever it says. You could consider it a character, yes.

Film Courage: Or even K.I.T.T. in Knight Rider? I know we are talking about television here…was a car.

Michael Huge: We’re talking about television…we’re talking about bad television! Bad cinema. This is Film Courage, not Film Crap! What are you…what are you doing to your show here?

Film Courage: The thing is, we are showing an example, though of how something doesn’t have to be human. It can be a machine, it can be anthropomorphic.

Michael Hauge: And what could go wrong? Because we’ve come up with so many good examples of machine heroes.

Watch the second half of Michael Hauge and Mark W. Travis Film Courage series here on Youtube

Film Courage: [Laughs] How about R2-D2?

Michael Hauge: I know you’re going to cut this out [laughs]. But I really want you to keep this segment of the video in.

Film Courage: This is for the bonus features.

Michael Hauge: This is an important lesson for everyone. Watch out for the machine heroes, you know!

Film Courage: Okay…[laughing] we can stop.


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