Black gang members are the heroes of Steve Bannon’s screenplay about the 1992 Rodney King trial

A straight line from the Bard to Bannon.
A straight line from the Bard to Bannon.
Image: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
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Stephen Bannon loves fire and brimstone as much as the next political tactician.

The chief strategist to US president Donald Trump is known for his obsession with sweeping arcs of history and battles between good and evil, as well as his flare for the dramatic. That’s ever more apparent in a recorded table-read of his script The Thing I Am, released today by NowThis.

The script, completed in 2002, is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus. It was co-written with Julia Jones, Bannon’s collaborator from his previous career as an aspiring filmmaker. Actor Gary Anthony Williams reads the part of the titular Coriolanus, who in this version is not a Roman military leader but a Blood gang member in 1992 Los Angeles, against the backdrop of the beating of Rodney King.

The Thing I Am was intended to be a rap musical, but the musical compositions have been lost.

The reading is bizarre. The edited version shows the actors, for the most part, reading the script for the first time. Its main achievement is to highlight the awkwardness of two white people in the late 1990s trying to write dialogue for black gang member characters who also speak in iambic pentameter.

A few choice lines:

Let’s unite and don’t gangbang and let it be a black thing for the little black girl and the homie Rodney King.

Get your sorry asses over to South Western. Coriolanus is king ‘o the day. The bitches are going off crazy like frogs and the wiggers are kissin’ his ass.

You are a pair of strange ones. More of this busta ass nigga talk would infect my brain. Peace now, let’s parlay.

At the end of the movie, Coriolanus is stabbed and killed by Crips to the chant of “Red rum! Red rum! Red rum!” The death seems to unite the rival gangs as they carry his body and then lay it into the ground.

The script is consistent with Bannon’s worldview before he became deeply involved with the right-wing news site Breitbart. Before he came to espouse the politics that led him to the White House today, Bannon was bent on making a name for himself in Hollywood, and his films reflected a love of war, history, and social upheaval.

When asked what he thought of the script, NowThis president Athan Stephanoloulos declined to give his opinion. “We’ll let the script speak for itself,” he said.