"My best advice as a director is to never make anything called Suburbicon."

MICHAEL CLAYTON

The Abridged Script

FADE IN:

INT. RICH ASSHOLE’S HOUSE

Lawyer GEORGE CLOONEY is paying a visit on rich jerk DENIS O’HARE.

DENIS O’HARE

So there was this guy out running at night, and I may have slightly run him over with my car. My lawyers say you’re their bag man, so come on, how are we gonna handle this? We bribing cops? Destroying evidence? Making witnesses disappear? I’m game.

GEORGE CLOONEY

I’m going to recommend a lawyer to represent you.

DENIS O’HARE

...Wait, that’s it? That’s not even morally gray! Come on, can’t we at least hide a dead hooker or something?

GEORGE CLOONEY

Look asshole, this may be a character study about a man becoming plagued by doubt and self-loathing as a result of the moral turpitude of his profession, but I’m GEORGE FUCKING CLOONEY, so obviously we’re going to be doing the most squeaky-clean movie star version of that possible, to the point that I hardly perform a single questionable act in the whole story!

DENIS O’HARE

But won’t that entirely blunt the impact of-

GEORGE CLOONEY

Shut up, you’re not even a relevant character. I’m done with this mood-setting in media res baloney, bye.

(leaves)

He gets in his car and drives moodily off through the woods. Then he stops when he sees some HORSES on a nearby hill, and gets out and goes to them.

GEORGE CLOONEY

Hello, Symbolic Horses. What are you here to represent?

HORSE

Well we’re not so much Symbolic Horses as we are Convenient Horses. We basically exist to provide a reason for you to get out of your car right now.

GEORGE CLOONEY

Why does the story need me to be out of-

His CAR explodes!!

INT. CAFE

Three days earlier, GEORGE is meeting with a MAFIOSO.

GEORGE CLOONEY

So later in the movie, I’m going to have a choice between pursuing justice and accepting a lot of money. We can’t just have the conflict revolve around me wanting money, because of the movie-star thing I mentioned earlier. Or mentioned three days from now, I suppose. Could you give me a sympathetic motivation for possibly choosing eighty grand over justice?

MAFIOSO

How about you owe money to the mob and if you don’t pay it we might kill you?

GEORGE CLOONEY

Ehhh, getting into debt with the mob is still kinda scuzzy...

MAFIOSO

How about your deadbeat junkie brother owed money to the mob and you took the debt on to protect him like the beacon of selflessness that you are?

GEORGE CLOONEY

Perfect! Yes, that nicely scrubs any lingering hint of ambiguity out of my character, thanks. Now to spend time with my humanizing son character!

He goes and drives his son AUSTIN WILLIAMS to school.

AUSTIN WILLIAMS

So in this fantasy novel I’m reading there’s this group of people who are traveling together, but what they don’t realize is that they’re all having the same dream which is prophetically telling them where to go.

GEORGE CLOONEY

Aren’t you a little young to be reading Stephen King’s The Stand?

AUSTIN WILLIAMS

No, this is a book we made up, it’s called Realm and Conquest because Tony Gilroy got really lazy and just stuck two generic medieval-sounding words together at random.

GEORGE CLOONEY

Well we sure are spending a lot of time yammering about this nonexistent book, so I look forward to seeing how it gets shoehorned into the plot.

He drops AUSTIN off, then gets a call from his boss, SYDNEY POLLACK.

SYDNEY POLLACK

All right George, I think that’s enough meandering setup stuff. Go meet Tom Wilkinson in jail so the actual plot can start happening.

INT. JAIL

GEORGE goes to meet lawyer TOM WILKINSON, who has been ARRESTED.

TOM WILKINSON

zgrumnffurrur wldnorp ffmmmmm

GEORGE CLOONEY

Um, what? Tom, you-

TOM WILKINSON

JEBEDIAH HEDGEFUND!!! NO JOB TOO SMALL! NO ARTERY TOO OSSIFIED!! BBWWWWUUUUURRRRRPPP

(bangs head against wall)

Urk, sorry about that. Don’t tell anybody, but when I go off my meds I get just a liiiittle bit loopy.

GEORGE CLOONEY

No shit. Mind telling me why you stripped completely naked in a meeting with one of the people we’re fighting in a class action suit, and chased her out of the building and through the street? Cause that’s not a legal strategy I’VE ever heard of.

TOM WILKINSON

I just got sick of defending our evil Captain Planet-villain clients U-North! That plaintiff is brave and good and deserves better!

GEORGE CLOONEY

...Which is why you traumatized her forever with attempted sexual assault.

TOM WILKINSON

Actually she’s surprisingly cool with it and now we’re buddies, as dumb as that is on every possible level. Besides, the neat thing about the Crazy character trait is that I can do whatever damn illogical or contradictory thing I like, and if anybody questions it I can just shrug and say, “Yeah, well, Crazy”.

GEORGE CLOONEY

Well I don’t have the first clue how to fix this, but I can get you out of here at least. Just remember, by having you remanded into my custody I’m putting my ass on the line, so you better not fuck me over.

TOM WILKINSON

Of course! You’re my friend and you’re doing me a huge favor, I’d never bail on you.

GEORGE CLOONEY

Great! And while we’re hanging out, we can talk about our Batman movies. I thought Batman Begins was great, how much did you love Batman and Robin?

TOM WILKINSON

Uhhhhh

(flees)

GEORGE CLOONEY

Damnit, why does that always happen?

INT. RESTAURANT

GEORGE goes to meet with U-North’s general counsel, TILDA SWINTON.

TILDA SWINTON

(sweats)

I’m the main villain of this movie, a corporate lawyer who is in a constant state of crippling anxiety over her job performance.

(trembles violently)

Dare you even attempt to take on such an imposing and formidable foe as me?

(shits pants)

GEORGE CLOONEY

Yeah, anyway, I came to this meeting to say sorry about Tom going all cuckoo-bananas, and then us losing him, and whatever other embarrassing fuckups our firm has going on at the moment.

TILDA SWINTON

It’s worse than Tom being loose and crazy! He also has a copy of a memo by a U-North scientist entitled “RE: Holy fuck our new fertilizer is made of pure concentrated evil and will kill anybody who touches it”.

(has panic attack)

Fortunately the original was “accidentally” destroyed in a warehouse fire, but the copy still isn’t great.

(screams for a solid minute)

GEORGE CLOONEY

How come you destroyed the original but then left copies of it floating around?

TILDA SWINTON

We’re not made of warehouse fires, dude. Now I need you to find Tom and stop him! If you fail, you will have to face the wrath of me, TILDA SWINTON!

(faints from terror)

(wakes up shrieking from night terrors)

EXT. NEW YORK STREET

TOM is about to enter a building in NEW YORK CITY when GEORGE appears in front of him.

TOM WILKINSON

George! I see you were able to track me down using your skills as a resourceful bagman?

GEORGE CLOONEY

Yes, I used all my cunning to deduce that you might have chosen to hide out in YOUR APARTMENT. A place that you own and that everybody already knew about.

(sighs)

God I hope at some point of this movie I’ll get to do at least one thing that couldn’t have been handled by a random unpaid intern.

TOM WILKINSON

And now you’ve come to try and have me thrown in a nuthouse, haven’t you? FOR SHAME! Trying to get your mentally unstable friend the professional help he very obviously needs, how morally bankrupt!

GEORGE CLOONEY

Sure whatever, keep trying to trick the audience into thinking I’m a jerk somehow. In the meantime I should have no trouble getting you committed on the basis of that horrifying “naked pursuit of a minor” incident.

TOM WILKINSON

You’d think so, but since I’m not currently in the same state where that happened, legally it pretty much didn’t.

GEORGE CLOONEY

...Yeah, that sounds depressingly like how laws actually work. Oh well then, I guess I pretty much give up. Bye.

(leaves)

EXT. STREET

TILDA goes to a secret rendezvous with ROBERT PRESCOTT and TERRY SERPICO.

TILDA SWINTON

Hi. I need some crimes done. My predecessor gave me your number and said that you do crimes?

ROBERT PRESCOTT

That we do. Although if the orientation for your new job includes, “here are some murderers that could come in handy”, maybe it should have occurred to you that you were making a VERY BAD career move.

TILDA SWINTON

Either way, I need to stop Tom at all costs. Just yesterday he called us on the phone to explain in detail just how very incriminating that document he has is, and how much he’s going to use it to fuck us.

ROBERT PRESCOTT

...Why did he do that? Why not give the document to the opposing counsel, or the press, or do anything at all with it other than wave it in the face of the giant ruthless company he’s screwing over?

TILDA SWINTON

I’m guessing the answer to that is a shrug followed by “Yeah, well, Crazy”. We need to shut him up. I don’t suppose you could... you know...

(clears throat meaningfully)

ROBERT PRESCOTT

Break into his known address and steal all copies of the document, so that he has no evidence and his claims are just the ranting of a total whack job? Sure, that should be pretty easy.

TILDA SWINTON

Well sure, I like the way you’re thinking. But I meant that maybe you could... if you know what I mean...

(winks)

(taps nose conspiratorially)

ROBERT PRESCOTT

Grab him and haul him back to Minnesota, so he can be legally committed and whatever remaining vestige of credibility he had would evaporate forever, thus rendering him totally harmless?

TILDA SWINTON

All good ideas. BUT. What I was ACTUALLY hoping you would do is... the OTHER thing...

(coughs in a way that sounds suspiciously like “murder him”)

(casually drops tombstone which reads “RIP TOM WILKINSON, 1948-ASAP”)

ROBERT PRESCOTT

...Sure. Why not. If you want to kill a mosquito with a flamethrower, I suppose that’s your business.

INT. WAKE

TOM has been KILLED. GEORGE goes to his WAKE.

SYDNEY POLLACK

Such a shame that Tom dropped dead of a drug overdose. Right at the time that he was being a threat to some rich evil people. And when he was making an obsessive point of NOT taking medication. I think he would have wanted us to not question anything, don’t you?

GEORGE CLOONEY

Well I’m suspicious! And to follow my suspicions, I’m going to go to the crime scene and look for clues.

(is handed note)

Oh. Apparently this too is supposed to be seen as one of my morally questionable actions. Good thing the movie explicitly says as much, I honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell otherwise.

He goes and searches TOM’S APARTMENT. He comes across a receipt from a COPY SHOP.

GEORGE CLOONEY

Oh, and look, Tom had a copy of Realm and Conquest. And opening it to a random page I see an illustration of some horses on a hill. Which explains why, later on, the sight of some horses on a hill makes me stop my car and go to them.

(pause)

Wow, so in the end we went on and on about that book just to contrive a way for me to get out of a car? I feel like almost anything would have been a more elegant solution.

He goes to the COPY SHOP and shows them the receipt.

COPY SHOP EMPLOYEE

Okay, that order appears to be complete. We have finished the three thousand bound copies of - wait, three THOUSAND copies of the incriminating document? What the fuck was the point of that? Was he going to hand them out in the street? All he needed to do was scan it and email it to two or three people, that would’ve fixed...

(pause)

This is a “Yeah, well, Crazy” thing, isn’t it.

GEORGE CLOONEY

Yep! It really is the lazy writing excuse that keeps on giving.

He grabs a copy of the DOCUMENT and then goes running to SYDNEY.

GEORGE CLOONEY

Hey, look! I found a piece of evidence which doesn’t provide any proof whatsoever that somebody killed Tom, but makes it generally plausible that somebody might have wanted to! Which is useful in some way, I guess!

SYDNEY POLLACK

Ooh, you know what? We can use this to finally give your character a legit moment of moral ambiguity!

(steps in front of two doors)

Will you choose Door Number One: whatever vague kind of justice that evidence can procure for poor dead Tom! Or Door Number Two: enough money to make the mafia not kill you, but you have to sign a super-mega-nondisclosure agreement which means you can’t get justice for Tom EVERRRR!!!

GEORGE CLOONEY

Oh no, what a quandary! I mean I suppose I could take the money, then just mail a dozen copies of the document around anonymously. But instead YOINK!

(takes money, doesn’t do other thing)

EXT. THE BEGINNING OF THE MOVIE

A depressed GEORGE pays off the mafia, then goes and does the beginning of the movie again. Meanwhile, ROBERT and TERRY plant a BOMB in his car.

ROBERT PRESCOTT

So Tilda had another freakout because George is suspicious about Tom’s death, so now we have to blow him up.

TERRY SERPICO

What happens if then somebody else finds it suspicious that George suddenly died right on the heels of Tom suddenly dying?

ROBERT PRESCOTT

I guess we’ll kill them too. Then kill whoever finds the third death in as many weeks suspicious. And so forth. Worst case scenario, we end up having to assassinate every single person in the world.

GEORGE comes out of DENIS’S HOUSE and starts driving off.

TERRY SERPICO

Wait, why didn’t his car explode when he started it?

ROBERT PRESCOTT

Wiring a car to explode when the ignition is turned? What kind of crazy sci-fi nonsense are you talking?! No, we’re going to activate the bomb by remote control.

TERRY SERPICO

Okay, so why didn’t we do that as soon as he got into the car?

ROBERT PRESCOTT

Why blow him up here, when instead we can follow him and blow him up at a random other place?

They follow GEORGE, but GEORGE takes a turnoff and loses them. When they decide to just set off the bomb anyway, GEORGE is safely hanging with the CONVENIENT HORSES.

GEORGE CLOONEY

Oh my God! Somebody’s trying to kill me! For now I better let them think they succeeded. I’ll throw my wallet and watch and phone into the car, which will somehow make the authorities think I died in it despite the total lack of a human corpse!

(ditches stuff, runs away)

INT. U-NORTH

GEORGE storms into U-NORTH to confront TILDA.

TILDA SWINTON

Fuck! You’re alive!

GEORGE CLOONEY

That’s right, and while your company poisoning everybody didn’t make me renounce my vaguely immoral ways, and you murdering my friend also didn’t quite do it, you coming after ME PERSONALLY makes me finally take a stand!

(pause)

That sounded nobler in my head. Anyway, I claim that I want money from you! Gimme ten million dollars!

TILDA SWINTON

Or what? You’ll tell the cops that you THINK the car bomb was U-North’s fault, but as ever you can’t prove diddley-squat?

GEORGE CLOONEY

YES THAT! COME ON, VERBALLY CONCEDE TO MY EXTORTION, THUS MAKING AN AUDIBLE IMPLICATION OF GUILT!! AND IF YOU COULD SPEAK DIRECTLY INTO MY LAPEL THAT’D BE GREAT THANKS

TILDA SWINTON

Fine, okay, whatever! I’ll just broadly say yes to whatever it is you’re saying, scary yelling man.

GEORGE CLOONEY

AHA! For the sake of this movie that counts as a completely irrefutable and legally-binding confession to all counts.

Indeed at this point the COPS swarm in and ARREST TILDA. GEORGE just sort of WANDERS OFF and goes for a CAB RIDE.

GEORGE CLOONEY

Well this is a bittersweet moment for me. At least I can be proud of what I’ve just done, even if my future is fraught with peril, as I face a rather quick and ignominious end to my once promising career. Guess I’ll just enjoy this moment while it lasts.

DIRECTOR TONY GILROY

You and me both, buddy.

END.

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