According to his biography, when Steve Martin read the script for “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” he couldn’t forget the fact that it was 145 pages long. Most comedy scripts come in at around 90 pages, and a 145-page script is too much even for a play. I’m a screenwriter and many competitions I submit to make it clear in their submission guidelines that your script will be discarded if it exceeds 120 pages.
Martin asked Hughes if he planned to cut the script. “He looked at me strangely and said, ‘Cut?’ I realized he didn’t mean to cut anything!” recalls Martin. He quickly learns that the filmmaker never married himself to his script. He gave Martin and John Candy the freedom to ad-lib as they pleased; and they did, so much so that their improvisation got out of hand.
Ironically, Hughes ended up trimming a scene, in a move that still baffles Martin today. At the end of the film, Neal Page is finally in Chicago, riding the CTA train on his way to his family, and finally free of Del Griffith. He pondered the earlier conversation between the two; Del jokes that he hasn’t been home in years. This prompts Neal to return to the CTA station where he sees Del sitting inside alone with his luggage storage. Apparently, in the script, Del delivers a lengthy monologue revealing that his wife died and he has no family.
Even without the monologue, the film still hits home with its holiday messages about giving, valuing family, and being grateful. And don’t pay badly for Deutch. As a “thank you,” Hughes gave him the director’s chair for the 1988 comedy “The Great Outdoors.”