Hollywood Studios Going to Extreme Lengths to Prevent Script Leaks

Published 2 years ago by , Updated June 7th, 2014 at 10:29 am,

Christopher Nolan on the set of The Dark Knight Rises1 Hollywood Studios Going to Extreme Lengths to Prevent Script Leaks

Earlier this year, Star Wars Episode VII producers Bryan Burk and Kathleen Kennedy reflected on the difficult decision of where to draw the line between teasing fans with details of what’s to come and outright spoiling the movie before it even reaches theaters. It’s a debate that a lot of movie fans go through on a personal basis as movie development and production details continue to become more accessible through the Internet. When you’re excited about a movie, it’s natural to want to know everything about it – but you also want to be surprised.

It’s a dilemma that Screen Rant is directly in the middle of, as a site that reports updates and rumors regarding movie releases and offers speculation as to what they might mean. On the one hand, we’re always keeping a keen eye out for any interesting news or leaked details about upcoming movies, but at the same time we kind of like it when studios succeed in keeping things under wraps. It’s an odd contradiction.

Living in the digital age, the number of avenues through which a movie script can be leaked is always growing, meaning that Hollywood producers face a constant battle to upgrade their secrecy and security measures and keep certain documents from getting into the wrong hands. The Wall Street Journal has published a very interesting report on this issue, highlighting some of the ways in which different studios endeavor to keep scripts from being leaked. Some of these stories would probably make for a pretty good spy thriller in their own right.

The report sets the scene at the offices of Christopher Nolan’s production company Syncopy where, in order to view the script for his upcoming sci-fi thriller Interstellar, those involved with the movie must first get past a security gate of a 142-acre complex, then have their name checked against a list of people with permission to view the script. After that, the privileged visitor is taken on into an office where, “No note taking is allowed, no pictures, and definitely no photocopies as you read the dog-eared, slightly faded, only physical copy of a document potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”

jj abrams star wars 7 trek 3 cloverfield 2 Hollywood Studios Going to Extreme Lengths to Prevent Script Leaks

As strange as it might sound to make people travel all the way to Syncopy’s offices in order to view a copy of a script, such a precautions are necessary in a world where humans are flawed. Just last year a copy of the script for the Doctor Who episode “Nightmare in Silver” – penned by Neil Gaiman – was left in the back of a taxi cab, where it was luckily found by a student who returned it to the BBC without reading it or posting spoilers online. Every physical copy of a script that’s let loose in the real world is one that could be left in a restaurant, or fall out of its owner’s bag, or picked up and taken to school for show-and-tell by an actor’s offspring.

J.J. Abrams’ company Bad Robot, also notorious for its secrecy, subscribes to a similar policy of safely entombing its scripts. In order for cast members to get a look at a copy of the Star Trek Into Darkness script, they first had to travel to Bad Robot’s offices in Santa Monica (housed in a building that says  “The National Typewriter Company” on the front), and after being buzzed in, were permitted to view a copy of the document that was printed on red paper, to make it more difficult to photocopy.

Notable script leaks in recent years include Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s script for an R-rated Deadpool, the Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and a partial copy of The Avengers that was stolen from a printer’s memory, but luckily recovered whilst the thief was still trying to peddle it to news sites for money.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl in The Fifth Estate Hollywood Studios Going to Extreme Lengths to Prevent Script Leaks

Perhaps the most poetic of leaks was the script for The Fifth Estate, which showed up on WikiLeaks last month after site founder Julian Assange (who was played by Benedict Cumberbatch) had already denounced the film as, “A mass propaganda attack against WikiLeaks, the organization (and) the character of my staff.”

WSJ’s report also contains a few interesting accounts of how recent and upcoming movies were kept under wraps. Each copy of each script for The Hunger Games adaptations has a few slightly different words, so that if it reaches the public the studio will be able to figure out exactly where the leak came from. Those involved with the production of Pacific Rim had to read the script on a special iPad application that self-destructed the document within hours of receiving it, whilst actors on Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium were given the script on custom-built iPads that kept all files locked onto the tablet.

Tell us in the comments if you would read the script for upcoming movies like Star Wars Episode VII or The Avengers: Age of Ultron if they were leaked online, or if you’d resist the temptation and wait to be surprised in the theater.


Source: Wall Street Journal

Follow H. Shaw-Williams on Twitter @HSW3K
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  1. Not even a question; surprised in theatre, otherwise, what’s the point?

  2. I would never read a script before the movie came out. that is no fun. Just like i try not to read a book until after its adapted. I dont want that stuff spoiled. Yeah sometimes its nice to hear that a certain character or scene will be in the movie. but i dont want to know EXACTLY every beat of the film before seeing it.

    • that’s why you should never read books, just in case they get adapted into a movie. Good strategy.

  3. I would not read the script for a film that I care about seeing. I enjoy casting updates and teasers, but do not want to know too much beforehand. I think that leaking scripts, in most cases, is a pretty low thing to do.

    Reading that about Star Trek Into Darkness is kind of funny, though, red paper and what not. Obviously they wanted to protect the “big character reveal…but other than that, that’s a lot of effort spent protecting a script that…kind of seems like it did not have much effort put into writing it.

    I actually feel kind of bad about the appetite that I’ve developed for constant updates, but I guess that it just goes with the way things are these days. How did we ever manage before? *laughs*

  4. I like to read scripts after seeing the movie to aee the changes. I found the django unchained original script to be far supperior to the final product.

    • i went to see SKYFALL in the cinema
      in listowel county kerry here in ireland where i live
      when i got home i read the ‘django unchained’ script

      i was blown away till i saw the movie

      the scene where dicaprio “won” hildy in a card game was class
      the scary close up on her face
      when he says ‘welcome to candie land’ would have been
      maybe the best scene in the film (had it been left in)


  5. I would have to agree with everybody else. I would deff not read the script. I also completely understand why studios are now going to EXTREME lengths to keep scripts under wraps. I mean, look at it from the writers view, I would be so pissed if someone released my entire script online before it even hit theaters.

    But good article H. Shaw-Williams.

    • Exactly, it must really suck. These lengths may seem extreme but they’re understandable.

  6. I wouldn’t read the script, that’s horrible. It makes the film feel almost like an adapted book, which will never live up to the human imagination.

  7. That movie idea you mentioned for a spy-thriller sounds awesome aha. I wouldn’t read the script, obviously it spoils everything but it’s also a slap on the face for the writers and director. They go through all the trouble to create a movie, than someone leaks the key element to the film.

  8. I sympathize with the studios and artists who endeavor to keep secrets secret.
    The digital era with its digital tools affords a wealth of techniques to open the safe.
    I have been spoiled before, mostly after a film is released in the wild and before seeing it.

    Even there, and I do my best to avoid that, when spoiled I still saw the movie.
    So whilst I am sympathetic as stated any leaks and by whatever means,
    I think, do not effect box office nor in any way diminish the work.

  9. It’s a freaking BOOK… Many many people already know exactly what happened. The 3rd book was a real drag though, and should be changed for the better in any way possible.

  10. I’m all for that. I’d also prefer if the trailers would show a lot less than they do at the moment. I understand that studios would like to sell their money shots, but I think part of the problem why big budget flicks like The Lone Ranger etc. tank so hard is that you feel as if you’ve already seen the whole movie after being bombarded with the way too long and thorough trailer for weeks in advance. Why still watch the movie when the whole story is already laid out in the trailer and you get the money shots along with it?

  11. Neither catching fire or interstellar look original anyway for studios to go through all of these
    Extreme lengths.

    • Except Interstellar is an original script based on the theories of Kip Thorne whereas Catching Fire is a straight up adaptation.

  12. This makes sense. Because we don’t want to know the script until the movie that’s already written come out.

  13. I would never read a script for a film I’m dying to see, it would ruin any and ALL excitement I would have for the film. No way.

  14. “Each copy of each script for The Hunger Games adaptations has a few slightly different words, so that if it reaches the public the studio will be able to figure exactly where the leak came from.”

    That’s the Canary Trap, a method that has been used by intelligence agencies for a long time. They refer to it as the Barium meal test.

  15. It’s kind of accepted that twitter or other places online are fair game. Read at your own risk. That’s such BS. I don’t know how any of this entertainment is enhanced when you know all the plot details.

    Thanks to the screenrant guys for always striking the right balance. Keeping us informed and interested but not giving us all of the details they hear or are rumored.

  16. I would read Age of Ultron in a heartbeat.

  17. I don’t even read leaked scripts for movies that haven’t gotten the green light (like Deadpool). I just never saw the point in it.

    I knew there was going to be an Avengers movie because I read it in a newspaper weeks before Captain America released then saw my first clips in the post-credits scene.

    Between then and the first trailer airing a week before release, I knew nothing about The Avengers movie so I had zero expectation, which is how I like it (the movie still turned out to be lacklustre but still, I least I can’t say my expectations were high or low beforehand because I had no idea or opinion on it before viewing).

    Contrast that with me following every day of TDKR, from pre to post and then marketing for 13 months and still loving the hell out of that movie.

    Also going on Wikipedia to spoil Cloverfield for me because I couldn’t wait the extra week for UK release and still saw it 3 times in cinemas because it was that good.

    That movie had a lot of secrecy too come to think of it.

  18. interstellar? I’ll wait for November of next year to learn the details, thank you.

  19. I used to go out with a girl who was in PR for Universal, she used to bring home scripts for me to read all the time and it’s always a bad idea 1. As soon as you imagine how a scene plays out it’s hard to get the image out of your mind whilst watching the film. 2. I find them extremely tedious (I know that one is personal but hey it’s my comment).

    I think we all know we are basically desperate to find out about plot details for up coming features we want to watch but when we do it takes away some of the experience when we finally get to watch the film.

    But I don’t think it’s going to stop any time soon!

  20. I will read a script any chance I get. If I enjoy the subject matter and the film is decent looking in previews I will go see the movie and or eventually see/own it on BluRay.


    What is the issue if I read Superman kills Zod before he actually does it? A movie a Script and a book are three different things and the way I perceive it to be and the way an actor, director, writer etc. portrays it are again different.

    The issue in my opinion lies with Id0ts that ‘spoil’ stuff. Of course Im very flexible with that also. I dont mind spoilers and it doesn’t effect my view of film what so ever.

    However if after a month or two you dont know that….. well it is not really spoiler information IMO.

    Anyho… my 2 cents.

  21. I’d read. I would enjoy seeing how the director would shoot the material compared to my own visions. Frankly, half these scripts are predictable and I only go for the visuals anyway.

  22. I’ve already read Gareth Edward’s “Godzilla” shooting script, meh. Also read The Guardian’s of The Galaxy, lets just say they better get their sh!!! together real fast, real soon.

  23. @ Allen

    the godzilla script please ?


    (thank u)

  24. I have seen all parts of Star wars and I must tell you all were amazing and now I am desperately waiting for Interstellar..!!

  25. @Allen

    Can I please get the Godzilla script, too?? Thanks in advance!


  26. Terrific steam showers, my family had one of these installed approximately 5 years ago and so it could possibly do with modernizing, would never buy a bland old routine kind of shower again