By the time JOKER reached the screen, director Todd Phillips had rearranged the opening scenes and they were no longer in the same sequence as they were in his original screenplay. He also interestingly added a new opening scene that is not in the screenplay at all.
“I always obsess over the opening shots of movies…
my movies, the movies I watch. It’s a great storytelling device.”
Todd Phillips – Director
In the new scene, we meet Arthur as he’s sitting alone putting on his make-up in the premises of his agency. There are other characters in the room, but he is singled out and not interacting with any of them. As the camera tracks slowly, menacingly towards Arthur where he is sitting at a mirror putting on his make-up, we hear the radio playing the local news in the background.
Here is a transcript of the opening scene from the film that is not in the script;
This scene very cleverly sets up the world via the radio station which forms the sound track and contrasts that with the images of our main character as he both physically and figuratively “puts on a happy face”.
VISUALS THAT SAY MORE THAN WORDS
The visuals speak directly to Arthurs’ character, as he alternatively contorts his mouth into a smile and then a scowl and then back to a smile; depicting the comedy and tragedy that is his life.
The scene also serves to set the dial in terms of where our lead character is at the beginning of the story. Here he is still very much depicted as Arthur – the way he is before he starts his transformation. By the end of the film he has fully become the Joker.
The scene that was the opening scene in the script written by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver only appears 3’40” into the film… (after the title sequence) and we are eventually introduced to the characters pain and the beginning of his change.
VIEW THE OPENING SCENE FROM JOKER