The final draft of the script for Joker by director Todd Phillips and co-writer Scott Silver is now released free online. Deadline disseminated their screenplay as a PDF everyone can read and download.
A lot of what is found on the page is what ultimately made it onto the screen. The opening scene in the office of Arthur Fleck’s psychiatrist is – word for word and beat for beat – the way it plays out in the film, vividly.
Joker is a standalone thriller unconnected to any continuity or previous portrayals of the character.
Also, as those who have seen it by now know, the setting is the 1980s and it resembles a Warner Bros. movie of the era.
Silver and Phillips make that clear on page two with their brief intro that also touches on Gotham’s wretched state and class divide.
“This story takes place in its own universe. It has no connection to any of the DC films that have come before it.
We see it as a classic Warner Bros. movie. Gritty, intimate and oddly funny, the characters live in the real world and the stakes are personal.
Although it is never mentioned in the film, this story takes place in the past.
Let’s call it 1981.
It’s a troubled time. The crime rate in Gotham is at record highs. A garbage strike has crippled the city for the past six weeks. And the divide between the “haves” and the “have- nots” is palpable. Dreams are beyond reach, slipping into delusions.”
As Deadline puts it, the writers veer away “from the traditional comic book portrayals of the Gotham City madman” and press “into the psychological recesses of modern life” found in Arthur Fleck.
They also kept things deliberately ambiguous from the get-go to avoid overexplaining Fleck or what unfolds. “We purposely set out to leave some things vague and unanswered,” Phillips said to Deadline. “That was a clear intent from the beginning.”
No one predicted, from that beginning, Joker would be hit by a myriad of controversies and criticisms before its theatrical release. In spite of it all, what resonates most with Phillips is the reaction to a line in Arthur’s notebook empathetic to sufferers of mental illness:
“I think a lot of different things about the film have really connected with people and one of the things I’ve noticed has really caught on is the idea of what Arthur writes in his notebook: ‘The worst part of a mental illness is that people expect you to behave as if you don’t.’ That really resonated with a lot of people who do suffer from mental illness and saw a little bit of themselves in the movie, or in Arthur, or in his experiences in different ways. I’ve had so many people write me emails or posts on my Instagram saying, ‘That line is exactly what it feels like…’”
“If you have a broken leg people hold the door open for you and you clearly have an ailment, but when you have a mental illness it’s a hidden thing so even when people know you have it they just expect you to behave as if you don’t. They don’t see it on you and often they don’t see you at all.”
What About Her?
The script’s release also sheds light on the fate of Sophie, Arthur Fleck’s fantasy girlfriend played by Zazie Beetz.
We didn’t see it in theaters but she was unharmed and left a gift from Arthur before he went to be on Murray Franklin’s show. He puts an envelope full of money he got from Randall – the co-worker Arthur brutally slew that gave him a gun and ratted on him – outside Sophie’s door. Accompanying the cash is a magic wand of flowers and a note saying “On Murray Franklin Tonight – Pleese Watch!”.
Zazie Beetz in new official still of JOKER via Total Film pic.twitter.com/oNxQ1UtuAY
— best of dc girls (@girIsofdc) August 20, 2019
So she may be around for a sequel if that ever happens as some hope it will.
“ONE BEELLYUN DOLLARS!”
Joker is a billion-dollar movie and the highest-grossing R-rated feature. It’s also scoring nominations for the award season, receiving four nods from the Golden Globes (Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Original Score by Hildur Guðnadóttir). Ironically, it didn’t land one for best screenplay though the film is up for that at the Critics Choice Awards.
We’ll see how Joker’s chances at the Globes hash out Jan. 5. Critics Choice winners will be revealed Jan. 12 – one day before Oscar nominees are announced.
Out on digital now, Joker hits Blu-ray in January.
And in case you missed it above, you can find the PDF of the Joker script here.
Leave comments if you feel like reading or downloading Joker’s script.