The leaked scripts of Burlesque (2010)


In early 2012, I stumbled across an old forum post that linked to a script for Burlesque, and that led to others.  Evidently two scripts -- 2008 and 2009 drafts -- were leaked in April 2010 (the movie was shot November 2009--March 2010 per Wikipedia).  They can currently be found at:

WARNING:  If you get a popup asking to install a Flash Reader update, do not accept.  My firewall says it's a fake.  It looks like the only way to download the files now is to go through social networks, but they can still be read online by clicking "View Document."

The sources are not identified.  Being posted seven months before the film's release suggests the scripts came from an insider, but there's no way to tell if they've been altered.  And there were many subsequent revisions, based on differences with the actual movie.  For that matter, I can't prove that the files I downloaded are the same ones that were posted in April 2010.  So -- interesting to read, but authenticity not established.



Comparing the Burlesque scripts with the movie


I only superficially checked the Burlesque scripts against the 2010 movie.  The most apparent difference is that the movie cuts story and character development in favor of musical numbers.  Tess seemed to be a larger role in the scripts, not just dialogue (e.g. the monologue on burlesque) but she also did the "Dr. Long John" number which Nikki performed in the movie.  There was also more comedy in the scripts (like a recurring "She'll be back" bit).


Neither script has a title or words for Tess's "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" song.  It's not in the 2008 script at all, the 2009 version just sets up the scene (page 97), then has a one-line description:



The movie's Gem-like slam at strip clubs is in both the 2008 (page 19) and 2009 (page 21) Burlesque scripts.  Here from 2008:

               (eyes widening, offended)
Strip club? Honey, I oughta wash your mouth out with Jagermeister! The only Pole you'll find in here is Natasha the shot girl.


The ankle-strap shoes that Ali wears in the movie are never called that in the Burlesque scripts, just "platform shoes" or -- oddly -- "sandals."  For instance, in the 2008 version (page 10):



On the main page I describe the scene in Burlesque (0:28:50) where Ali jumps up and down several times to pull up her jeans, then loses her balance and falls over.  This scene is not in the 2008 script, but it is in the 2009 version, and there's no Coyote Ugly-style jumping.  Here's Ali, on page 45:

Aha! Pants. She pulls them out, starts putting them on. He looks out. Her foot is caught in the pants leg. As she hops around, trying to untangle it--

Compare with Liz in Gem (page 42):

...she raises one leg to step out of her jeans.  Her foot wedges against the cloth, trapping her leg with the knee up high, and she looses her balance.  She overcompensates, first in one direction, then the other, hopping on one foot in a jerky circle.


Ali's montage in Burlesque (0:19:40), where we see the photographs from the burlesque books, is in both the 2008 (page 29) and 2009 (page 31) scripts.  Lili St. Cyr is not mentioned.  Here from 2009:

IN ALI'S HOTEL ROOM, Ali plops down a bunch of BOOKS, OPENS "The Golden Age of Burlesque", lays on her bed, petting her cat with her foot. She locks in on a photo of 20's-era Burlesque dancers...

The photos are described as:

a picture of Mae West
a gorgeous image of Josephine Baker

None of these pictures are in the movie, nor did I see a book called, The Golden Age of Burlesque (I've never heard of that title, apparently it was invented).


Both Burlesque scripts have the makeup scene much as it is in the movie (0:37:35); Ali is left behind by the other girls, Tess finds her sitting alone and helps Ali with her makeup.  The 2008 script has it on pages 52-53, the 2009 script on 55-56.  The 2009 version adds several bits, including the photo on Ali's dressing-room mirror -- no mention of Lili St. Cyr -- and Tess instructing her to wet her makeup brush:

[Ali] sees a picture of A CLASSIC BURLESQUE BEAUTY taped to the mirror.  Notices her eye make-up -- strong, thick eyeliner. 

(skipping ahead to the ending:)

Then Tess grabs a brush from her own station, tosses it to Ali.

                   TESS (CONT'D)
Dip it in water first, or you'll never get a clean line.

She leaves Ali alone.

In the movie, the scene continues with Tess doing Ali's makeup and reminiscing about watching her mother as a little girl (Cher's added dialogue). 



Comparing the Burlesque scripts with Gem


I looked for the unfilmed monologue that Steven Antin described in his DVD commentary, but these two scripts only have a paragraph; hardly a "monologue."  It doesn't share much with Gem except the concept of providing a history, but the setup has an echo of Star Bright (Singer in flashback) and Chorine (young Ann), on page 91:

Definition of burlesque.

               (by rote)
The word is dee-rived from the Eye-talian burr-laire, and means to mock or lam-poon through egg -- egg-zagger--
               (can't get word)

               (waving her down)
"Exaggerated imitation." They still give you that little booklet, huh...

Burlesque 2008 script, page 32, Tess replying to Ali:

You're WAS derived from Vaudeville...from the expression 'Voix-de-ville'--15th century France, meaning "voice of the city" referring to popular songs of the time that were later strung together into little stage shows which became known as "Vaudeville."

Burlesque 2009 script has a modified version on page 34.


Singer's monologue does have an echo, but it's in the opening sequence of the Burlesque scripts (pages 1-2, omitted in the movie).  In Gem, page 22, Singer introduces herself:

               (with quiet dignity)
I am Burlesque Present.

and then on page 33, setting up her final song: 

Singer's voice is tinged with that of a little girl whistling in the dark.

They said I was dead.  I didn't die.  I just didn't have any place to live anymore.  But I never stopped hoping.

Burlesque 2009 script, page 1-2 (paragraphing and descriptive text omitted):

Once upon a time... a long, looong time ago... there was a good little girl... and they called her... Burlesque. Some say she up and died... of neglect. Abandonment.  
...old age. But I say... no matter how hard you try, you can't keep a good girl down.


Gem's Ann has only one term of endearment -- "hon" -- and she only uses it a handful of times, on pages 4, 9, 44, 54, 101.

Burlesque 2008 script has a half-dozen uses of "honey" by various characters, but no "hon" or "hun."

Burlesque 2009 script, "hon" pops up twice, both times in new dialogue by Ali's co-worker Loretta (Dwight's Bar):

page 4:
Oh no, hon, now you know how Dwight feels about that.

page 12:
Ooh, hon, I'm not sure that particular approach is gonna --


Gem uses "sashay" in descriptive text.  I feared the word was so archaic that nobody would understand it, but couldn't come up with a better one. 

page 29:
She sashays around the stage. 

page 57:
Her walk... becomes a lazy sashay.

page 71:
She clumsily wheels and strides over there (sashay forgotten).

Burlesque 2008 script does not use the word.

Burlesque 2009 script, in descriptive text per Gem

page 8:
Nikki, a stunning, feisty brunette, sashays in.

page 35:
She sashays out leaving Ali standing there.


Gem page 38, after Tina insults her:

Liz's face turns to stone.

And on page 67:

Liz ignores her, stony-faced.

Burlesque 2008 script does not use the phrase.

Burlesque 2009 script, page 20, after Ali insults her:

Nikki's face turns to stone. 

And on page 66, Ali sees Sean:

Then she sees Tess beside him, stone-faced.


Gem page 71, Liz's audition doesn't begin well:

Something isn't right.  It's not just that Liz is awkward and doesn't know what to do, the star in her isn't there now -- she's just someone trying to please.  Tina sees it more than does the preoccupied Ann, and is baffled and frowning.

Burlesque 2009 script, page 51, Ali's audition doesn't begin well:

ON STAGE, the music starts. Ali readies herself, starts to dance. Behind a beat to two. She's got the steps right, but it isn't clicking. She's thinking too hard. No personality. After a few measures, Tess has seen enough.

Gem page 73 (portions omitted), Liz has a mishap:

Liz... backs up and almost loses her balance.  She windmills her arms and doesn't fall.

Tina... smiles encouragement when she sees Liz looking over at them.

Liz is enraged, taking Tina's smile as derision.

Burlesque 2008 script, page 48, Ali has a mishap:

ON STAGE - ALI starts to dance--behind a beat or two. She stops--soldiering on--then TRIPS and stumbles! Tess looks up at Dave and gestures cut the music. Nikki smiles, relishing this as Tess looks at Ali with an apologetic smirk.

Gem page 73, Liz's mishap pushes her to cut loose:

LIZ'S HANDS unsnapping the belt and throwing off the panels.

LIZ'S CROTCH slamming a bump.

TINA'S FACE recoiling in horror.

Liz begins walking toward Tina (and Ann), bumping as she goes.  She slides one foot forward and stops it as she bumps, then does the same with the other foot (so she's actually turned a bit each time she bumps, first left then right).  Each time she bumps she thrusts her hand out with the finger pointed at Tina, gun-like.  She changes hands from bump to bump.  Liz's teeth are bared.  She is killing Tina with each slam of her crotch.

Liz owns the stage.

Burlesque 2008 script, page 48-49 Ali's mishap pushes her to cut loose:

Sean puts up a finger, quickly walks on stage. He takes off Ali's T-shirt, revealing a sports bra. He takes her hair out of it's ponytail, messing it up as he whispers--

                    SEAN (CONT'D)
Just breathe. Honey--this is Burlesque. If you don't got precision--serve up some attitude.

(descriptive text omitted)

ALI takes a breath and starts to dance--her moves more fluid and confident. And then as the MUSIC kicks in--she literally transforms from an innocent girl into a sexy woman before our eyes. A sensuality we've not yet seen in her. She begins to own the stage.

The 2009 version is much like the above.  Both Burlesque scripts have Ali "own" or "owning" the stage in multiple places; the 2008 version has it on pages 49, 52, 58, the 2009 script has it on pages 52 and 91.  Like Gem, the phrase is used in descriptive text, not in dialogue as it was in the movie (0:33:00).

The movie's dance scene (0:32:20) is similar to the scripts, but Ali does not stumble, nor does Sean come on stage to help her.   


Gem page 83-84 (2007 Zoetrope posting, slightly different than the 2008 version), Star Bright finds Chorine sitting on the floor of a deserted storeroom and asks her what happened:

Chorine looks up at Star and tries to tell her, but she dissolves into tears after her first word.

I -- felllllllllllll...

Chorine's eyes close and she begins wailing as loudly as before, not covering her face.

Annnnn everyone saw mee... ann... ann... I wanna diiiiiiiiiiiiie...

After a few moments her eyes open as she realizes how loud she must be, and she covers her mouth with her hands, fighting the tears.

Burlesque 2009 script, Jack returns home, finds Ali sitting on his steps and asks her what's wrong (page 38):

I-- was--

And as she expected, as soon as she talks, she starts to cry.

                    ALI (CONT'D)

Shit. No way!

               (halting, gaspy sobs)
Came in -- busted the lock-- and stole all my MO-NEY-EY-EY-EY!!!

She sobs--trying to talk, with high-pitched SQUEAKS only heard by birds. Jack winces, trying to follow--

The 2008 Burlesque script has an almost identical exchange (pages 35-36).

The scene appears in the movie at 0:25:40, but without the dialogue above.  We see Jack finding Ali on his doorstep, then it cuts to an interior shot of them walking in the door, Ali's face streaming tears.


Gem page 85-86 (returning to 2008 version) -- Star Bright objects to Chorine staring at her:

I'll be here all week.  Don't wear your eyes out too soon.

Chorine realizes her offense and tries to think of an alibi.  She spots the necklace and points, her voice eager to be believed:

I was looking at the pearls.  We're not allowed to wear them.  Or beads.  In case the string breaks.

Star doesn't buy it, but thinks it was nice of Chorine to try.

The pearls, and the risk of them causing a fall, are used as a plot device, as is Star leaving some of them for Chorine to find (page 96):

...Star bends her knees so there won't be much of a drop, and lets the pearls fall onto the floor by the wall, where Chorine had been sitting.

Now the 2009 Burlesque script, page 19-20.  Nikki objects to Ali staring at her:

Didn't your Mama tell you it's not polite to stare?

Sorry, you're just -- so DAMN beautiful.

In that case, screw your Mama, stare away.

Ali mistakes Nikki for a female impersonator, which enrages Nikki.  She's about to unleash when:

Sean grabs her and drags her inside. As he does, a STRAND OF CRYSTAL BEADS comes off her costume, falls to the ground.

I'm really sor--

The stage door slams shut. Ali picks up the strand of beads. Holds them up in the light, watching them shimmer.

Ali takes the beads home with her, puts them on her cat, and that's it for the beads, they don't tie in with anything, doesn't seem to be any reason for them being there.  Most likely they're an artifact of my screenplay -- compare the last sentence above, with this one in Gem, page 84:

Star's gloved hand enters the picture, held out to Chorine, pearl bracelet shimmering.

The 2008 Burlesque script has a shorter version of the same scene (page 18-19) without Nikki verbally upbraiding Ali.  There are no dropped beads, and no use of the word "shimmer."

The scene, changed and shortened, is in the movie at 0:14:15.  No beads.

FYI, beads do play a part in the 1995 movie, Showgirls.  At 1:19:20 the chorus is dancing when one of the girls deliberately drops a handful of glass beads on stage.  A dance team slips on them and falls, the woman breaking her knee.  For the record, I didn't see Showgirls until I was researching Burlesque in early 2011, ditto Chicago (2002) and Coyote Ugly (2000).






Copyright © by Michael Wren

Burlesque scripts quoted as Fair Use

page created May 24, 2012, last modified March 29, 2015