Editors notice: Deadline’s Read the Screenplay sequence debuts and celebrates the scripts of movies that can be elements on this 12 months’s film awards race.
“Over the years I’ve developed my own genre of films, and they typically involve a man alone in a room wearing a mask, and the mask is his occupation,” mentioned The Card Counter filmmaker Paul Schrader, whose distinctive oeuvre consists of classics of American cinema that includes internally tormented central figures in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, American Gigolo, Light Sleeper and First Reformed, the latter of which earned Schrader his first Oscar nomination.
“I take that character and run him alongside a larger problem, personal or social,” Schrader defined, detailing how nomadic gambler William Tell, the titular character of The Card Counter performed by Oscar Isaac, suits the filmmaker’s mildew. In this case, Tell’s serving a self-imposed penance pushed by an awesome guilt.
“What if someone had done something that he cannot forgive himself for?” asks Schrader. “While society may have forgiven him, he hasn’t forgiven himself. He did a terrible thing, and now he’s living in a kind of purgatory. How does he work through it?” The movie’s story regularly reveals Tell’s former army historical past and the backstory that continues to hang-out him as he drifts aimlessly throughout the nation.
“He’s a nexus between the World Series of Poker and Abu Ghraib,” Schrader mentioned. “I asked myself what he could have done in his life that was so egregious that he simply could not get past his crimes. Even serial killers can forgive themselves, but what if he had done something that stigmatized his own country?”
“I had to come up with a profession for someone who is waiting, and who is living a sort of non-existence. Gambling felt like the perfect milieu,” Schrader revealed. “He exists in this limbo, traveling from casino to casino, playing cards, waiting for something to happen.”
Tell’s perpetually pointless journey is interrupted when he turns into entangled with two fellow loners (Tye Sheridan and Tiffany Haddish) who unexpectedly interact him with the world once more, setting him on a brand new course that would result in both redemption or smash.
“My aim is to create a crack in the viewer’s skull, opening up a rift between what they desire and expect of my characters and what they feel after spending time with them,” Schrader mentioned. “How they make that adjustment is up to them, but to get the viewer engaged in this kind of conflict is what every artist seeks. It’s not so important what my viewers think, but that they do think.”
Click beneath to learn the script for The Card Counter, which hit theaters in September by way of Focus Features after its world premiere on the Venice Film Festival.