Do The Write Thing

Rewriting the history of cinema for the greater profit

There are non such crucial moments in cinema as the ending.  It is the culmination of all that has come before it, get it right and you have an instant hit and something that will leave the audience talking long after the projector has cooled.  Get it wrong and all the good that precedes it is tainted.  Here's a list of some films that managed to turn it around in the final reel and some that didn't.

Lethal Weapon (1987)
The original script for Richard Donner's classic cop/buddy movie saw the death of Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson).  Fortunately the Studio saw the downer Donner was closing on and managed to turn it around.  The upside is a much better film and a pretty good sequel in Lethal Weapon 2, but there's always a downside, Lethal Weapon 3, Lethal Weapon 4 and generally Joe Pesci for example.

Se7en (1995)
Andrew Kevin Walker's screenplay for the claustrophobic brilliance that is Se7en had Detective Somerset  executing John Doe as he was retiring and it made sense for him to do it.  Both Pitt and Fincher argued with writer and studio and ultimately won out giving the audience the emotionally charged ending the film demanded.

Ocean's Eleven (1960)
The book sees Danny Ocean and his ex-military gang of thieves dig up their fallen comrad who's been buried with the loot, load it on to a plan and fly out of Las Vegas free and clear only to hit a thunder storm and for the plane to go down killing all of the remaining ten.  The idea of killing off the entire cast, Rat Pack et al., was unthinkable and a quick change of funeral planes for Henry Conte leaves the gang watching as their take goes up in smoke and one of the most iconic scenes in history plays out as the penniless gang walk off into the closing credits.

Titanic (1997)
It's almost unbelievable but one executive in a meeting asked why the boat had to sink.  Surely a real downer of an ending right?  It's amazing how idiotic some of the people at the top of their industry can be.  Fortunately someone in the meeting attended at least one history class and a film riddled with historical inaccuracies managed to get at least one thing right.

Gladiator (2000)
The death of Oliver Reed led to a complete 180 in character as Ridley Scott decides to make a hero out of Ollie's would have been apathetic villain of the piece.

The Big Sleep (1946)
The Hays Code left a lot of things in classical Hollywood cinema requiring change in order for it to make it to an audience but a book that's about pornography, blackmail and murder never stood a chance.  What Howard Hawks managed to achieve was something that few others could, as he makes a wonderful glass of cinematic lemonade from the lemons the censors would allow him.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
It's not just the original ending in this film that was changed.  The one and only print was destroyed in a fire leaving director Carl Theodor Dreyer the unenviable task of making a whole new movie out of cuts that he had initially rejected.

Tabu : A Story of the South Seas (1931)
When visionary narrative director F.W. Murnau teamed up with acclaimed documentarian Robert Flaherty it was with the intention of making a documentary in the vein of Nanook of the North but with the cinematic style of Faust.  It wasn't long before Murnau was staging scenes to push the narrative of the film and Flaherty left the production under a cloud.  What was intended as a documentary became a beautiful narrative driven film and one with amazingly charismatic "amateurs".

Jaws (1975)
With the ending of the book drawing parallels with that of the ending of Moby Dick both screenwriter and director knew there was something had to be done to set Jaws apart in it's own right.  The solution came to them and we got to see the "son of a bitch" smile.

American History X (1998)
Tony Kaye's ending for Neo-Nazi drama was a little too bleak for studio and controlling star alike.  Kaye's was removed from the editing process and the wheel was handed over to Edward Norton to "fix" the film.  So outraged by the change of tone and stitched on optimistic ending that Tony Kaye refused to have anything to do with the film and even asked the studio to remove his name from the film and credit direction to The Easter Buns.  Unsurprisingly the studio refused.

The Departed (2006)
Scorsese finally landed the Oscar he craved with this faithful remake of the excellent first installment of the Infernal Affairs trilogy.  Faithful until the end that is, unhappy with the notion of the baddy getting away with anything and justice left unserved the character of Staff Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) pops up to correct the balance and give the audience a little satisfaction.

A.I (2001)
Stanley Kubrick reportedly gave this script to Steven Spielberg saying "I don't know how to make this film".  Turns out some thought Kubrick didn't know how to write it either as his finished screenplay had it's ending rewritten to allow for much more of a happy family resolution to occur.


Dawniepants said...

Very interesting, though think how much better it would have been if the Titanic had made it, I mean there would be all those fun shots of Titanic passengers with their foam Statue of Liberty head-dresses all the inevitable 'I <3 New York' T shirts.
I'd have liked to see that...

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