LIVINGSTONE: Have you ever had a mission, Mr. Stanley? Yes, of course, one brought you here. Then you will understand what I’m talking about. (He picks up a stick and draws a line in the sand in front of the fire.) For 1600 years mankind has been searching for the headwaters of the Nile – the fountain of Truth and Life – arising, as Ptolemy wrote, in the Mountains of the Moon. (He draws a circle around the end of the line.) Here. Somewhere quite close to where we are now. (looking to the lake) And this lake, I believe, feeds that great river. (On the rippling lake beside them the full moon shines down.) If this is the Nile’s source and I discover it, then people will listen to me on a subject far more important than this one. (CLOSE ON Livingstone, as the flickering light plays on his lined and weary face, and lends a sparkle to his eye.) I have a secret mission, Mr. Stanley, one that will bring us out of the darkness we live in, into the light of Truth.
THE STORY: The true tale of Stanley’s search for Livingstone, and the heartbreaking backstories of these two men who may have been searching for each other their entire lives.
THE BACKSTORY: The original title for this first television movie from National Geographic was Out of Darkness, which I think was a more appropriate and less sensational choice. This film marks the only time that an actor whom I had in mind when I wrote a part actually ended up playing it – in this case, Nigel Hawthorne.
The story of Stanley’s search for Livingstone and the transformation that happened in Stanley after finding this sainted man is truly remarkable – as remarkable as was Stanley’s life before embarking on this mission. I was thrilled to write this film – the remarkable producer Robert Halmi took my wife and me on the most memorable research voyage of our lives, traveling to Kenya and Tanzania and Zanzibar – and I only wish that the whole of my 97-page script had made it to the screen. Unfortunately, production fell behind while shooting in Africa, and I would estimate that nearly a quarter of my script was dropped along the way. Stanley’s astonishing life-journey was severely cropped, and many of the action sequences not-terriblyeffectively shot. The final film was severely criticized, treated much more harshly than it deserved, and I am only sad that the full story of these amazing men was not told. I still count this as one of my better scripts.