The other day I was reminded, for some random reason, of a great scene from the 2007 film Charlie Wilson’s War wherein we get a really lovely confrontation between Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s character (and real life CIA officer) Gust Avrakotos and CIA administrator Henry Cravely (whom I’m not sure was real or not) played by John Slattery:
The piece of this that sticks in my memory is the moment, at the end of his rant that starts about a minute in, where Gust finishes his rant with “…and I am never, ever sick at sea.” Weird flex, right? But cool in the moment.
But in seeing this scene again, I remembered that I’d heard it before, from Alec Baldwin back in 1993, in the underrated neo-noir Malice. Here’s the scene; it’s worth going with the whole clip to get context (and a late performance by George C. Scott), but Baldwin’s bit starts at about 3:00. Here, he’s a high-powered and egotistical surgeon accused of malpractice due to arrogance:
There it is again: “I am never, ever sick at sea.”
That’s a weird line — I mean, it’s great, but it’s odd once and super odd TWICE in very similar contexts, which is enough to tickle my brain into a bit of research. Two things immediately came to light:
First, that the line is a reference to Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1878 H.M.S. Pinafore; and
Second, that the screenwriter on both films was one Aaron Sorkin.
Sorkin is a documented G&S nerd — so much so that he wove references thereto into the fabric of his best known work, the award-winning TV show The West Wing. In season two, he even literally ENDS an episode with the main cast singing along to a song from (yep) Pinafore.