Part of the many pleasures of Knives Outlies in its screenplay. Nominated for an Academy Award, the work twists and turns, provides and dissects its whodunit genre, and gives all kinds of old-fashioned thrills a refreshingly frank coat of paint. Now, thank the good heavens above, Rian Johnson has posted the entire shooting draft of the script online — alongside already existing scripts of Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and Looper.
Yes, sadly, no outer space movies means no Star Wars: The Last Jedi screenplay to read (can you really imagine Disney being that free?). But it’s an absolute pleasure to dive into one of my favorite 2019 films in this new way. Aspiring writers should especially take note of how one of the best in the biz does it — and gives it up for everyone to look at for free!
Things of note in the shooting draft: It has a fun knife graphic on the title page (something you can also see in previous films; Looper has a gun, etc.). Johnson is sparing of and often ignoring punctuation rules — the first line of dialogue spoken has no periods when, grammatically, there should be two — making the piece read like punchy prose rather than a traditional screenplay. This is a “shooting draft” not a “final cut” draft — meaning sequences and small moments are here that you will not recognize for they were removed from the final cut. And finally, Johnson’s usage of concise character descriptions upon their introductions is simply masterful, as droll and descriptive as the film itself. Although to see what Daniel Craig did with the Benoit Blanc introductory phrase “speaks in the gentlest southern lilt you have ever heard in your life” really, really makes me laugh. That’s his “gentlest”?!
Check out the entire script, and Johnson’s others, on his website.