“Kill your darlings” may have been William Faulkner’s advice to writers, but the same spirit of storytelling ruthlessness also applies to filmmaking. While actors can audition, sign contracts and even perform their hearts out in front of a rolling camera, there’s no guarantee that their efforts will actually appear in the finished movie.
In August, it was revealed that Uma Thurman would have had a role in Oliver Stone’s drug-trade thriller, Savages, but her scenes were trimmed out of the theatrical version of the film. Thurman’s part in the unfolding drama simply wasn’t pivotal enough to justify her presence, so she had to go.
Leaving an actor’s work on the cutting room floor is by no means an unusual occurrence, as this list proves. Indeed, it’s such a common procedure that we’ve had to do a spot of editing ourselves, and select just 10 cameo appearances that were deleted from the final cut. And because this is Den Of Geek, we’ve tried to stick to genre movies of particular geek interest.
Harrison Ford – E.T. (1982)
Having successfully retrieved the Ark of the Covenant from the clutches of the Nazi party as Indiana Jones in 1981, Harrison Ford calmed himself down for a small role in Steven Spielberg’s next film, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.
After the scene in which scores of frogs are released in a classroom, Elliot’s sent to the principal’s office by a pair of nurses. Ford played the principal, who gives Elliot a speech about having “His whole life ahead of him” while the boy levitates in a chair. We don’t see Ford’s face, but his voice is immediately recognisable – too recognisable for Spielberg, perhaps, since this scene was deleted from the finished movie after the director voiced the concern that audiences would be too distracted by the sudden appearance of Indiana Jones.
The loss of the scene was probably just as well, since Ford seems ill at ease in a role that’s entirely free from his trademark cynicism and grump; “Well, tomorrow’s the first day of the rest of your life,” his principal simpers in a creepily flat tone. The dim lighting and weird over-the-shoulder camera angle, meanwhile, makes Ford look more like a Bond villain than a schoolteacher. Even poor Elliot seems a little frightened.
“Uh, may we go now?” he asks, before sprinting out of the office like his hair’s on fire.
Eugene Levy – Ghostbusters 2 (1989)
Now well known for his great comedy turns in the American Pie series, as well as numerous other films and TV shows, Eugene Levy’s been working as an actor for over 40 years. Mostly appearing on television for much of the 70s and 80s, Levy would have picked up one of his earlier big-screen credits in Ghostbusters 2.
Here, he played Sherman Tully, the cousin to the bumbling Louis (Rick Moranis). In his scene, Levy appeared alongside Moranis, and tells Ray Stantz (Dan Ackroyd) about seeing his dead grandfather at the foot of his bed, only for the Ghostbusters to leap into the Ecto-1A, leaving the character to recite the rest of the tale to himself.
Unfortunately, this largely incidental scene was trimmed from the final film. Levy’s name does, however, remain in the finished cut, albeit briefly – a billboard poster for the movie Cannibal Girls appears in once scene, which has the actor’s name printed on it. This was one of director Ivan Reitman’s early films, and also one of Eugene Levy’s very first movie credits.
Michael Biehn – Terminator 2 (1991)
Since he died in the last act of James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi thriller, The Terminator, you might think that a reappearance from Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese in the sequel would defy logic. But Cameron was keen to find something for Biehn to do, so he wrote a brief sequence in which Kyle Reese appears to Sarah Connor in a dream. With Connor stuck in a mental institution and unsure how to protect her teenage son, Reese provides a call to action, reprising Connor’s line from the first movie, “On your feet, soldier!”
As Cameron began working on the final edit, though, this scene was one of several that didn’t make the final cut. Although it’s a shame to see Reese absent from the finished theatrical version, he was at least reinstated for the extended versions of T2 that later appeared on home release.
Jack Black – True Romance (1993)
For his 1993 thriller, written by Quentin Tarantino, director Tony Scott assembled a remarkable cast, including Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman and Brad Pitt. But even their combined wattage didn’t make True Romance the hit it surely deserved to be; instead, the thriller’s steadily built up a cult following in the years since, and is now widely regarded as one of the late Tony Scott’s finest films.
One fact that didn’t come to light, until True Romance’s deleted scenes appeared on DVD, is that Jack Black had an extremely brief cameo role, originally for the film’s first act. As self-confessed movie geek Clarence (Christian Slater) heads to the movies to enjoy a Sonny Chiba triple-bill, Black appears as an usher in the cinema foyer. Then aged just 24, this was one of several tiny walk-on parts Jack took on in the early part of his career – blink, and you might miss a glimpse of him in Demolition Man (also 1993), Waterworld and another Tony Scott thriller, The Fan.
After years of paying his dues, Black finally broke through, and gave us such films as School Of Rock, King Kong and, erm, Gulliver’s Travels.
Bruce Campbell – The Quick And The Dead (1995)
One of Sam Raimi’s longest-serving collaborators, Bruce Campbell’s often appeared in the director’s films since the breakout success of The Evil Dead and its sequels launched their respective careers. In 1995, Raimi took on the western genre with The Quick And The Dead, a film whose decent reviews and starry cast (lead by Sharon Stone and supported by Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio) couldn’t scare up much support at the box office.
While filming, Raimi once again found some work for his old friend Bruce Campbell. The actor was given a brief yet prominent moment in a scene featuring Pat Hingle which was later cut, not due to timekeeping or pacing, but because Raimi never had any intention of using it in the first place. In a recent interview with Maxim, Campbell explained that Raimi only shot the scene to placate Hingle, who’d spent several days pestering the director about his character’s motivation.
“My character doesn’t do anything to defend my daughter. I would defend her,” Hingle repeatedly said to Raimi. “Aren’t you going to do anything like that?”
Exasperated, Raimi asked Campbell – who just happened to be visiting the set, and wasn’t there to work – to appear in a scene with Hingle and his character’s daughter. “He concocted a whole scene he had no intention of using with me and Pat, where I come up to his daughter as the scummy guy and go, ‘Hey girly girl, you and me gonna do the Devil’s Dance!’ Campbell revealed. Hingle’s character then moved in and defended his daughter by kicking Campbell in the backside.
“Hengel walks away thinking that he’s the most influential actor ever,” Campbell said. “Sam turns to me and goes, ‘Well, were not even gonna process the film. Thanks Bruce.’ He did it just to shut an actor up.”
This may explain why, although Campbell doesn’t appear in the film’s final edit, Raimi left his name fairly prominently in the credits.
Chris Cooper – The Ring (2002)
In 2002, Gore Verbinksi brought his English-language remake of the classic Japanese horror film The Ring to American screens. Although less effective than Hideo Nakata’s 1998 original, the film was still a huge success, earning back more than five times its $48 million budget.
What audiences wouldn’t have necessarily known at the time, however, was that actor Chris Cooper once had a brief yet pivotal role, with scenes that bookended what we see in the finished movie. Cooper played a child killer who approaches Naomi Watts’ journalist character, Rachel, to help clear his name. Rachel visits Cooper’s character at the end of the film, and leaves a copy of the deadly videotape at his house, thus condemning him to a hideous supernatural death.
According to Cooper, the scenes were cut after test audiences began to wonder why his character wasn’t more prominently featured. “What I hear is when they ran the screenings, it was more a disruption than anything,” Cooper said in a 2002 interview with Moviehole. “They said, ‘Well, where’s Cooper? We want to see more of him.’ So they cut it all.”
Audiences saw plenty more of Chris Cooper that same year in Spike Jonze’s Adaptation, a role which earned the actor a richly deserved Oscar.
Ben Affleck – Elektra (2005)
Given that Elektra was a spin-off from 2003’s Daredevil, you may be wondering why Ben Affleck wasn’t in this movie, too. But like Michael Biehn’s dream sequence cameo in Terminator 2, Affleck’s cameo as Matt Murdock was trimmed.
Legend has it that the cameo was taken out because of the ongoing media fascination with Affleck’s relationship with Jennifer Lopez which, by the time Elektra had begun filming, was already on the rocks – when Fox’s bosses heard that Affleck and Elektra herself, Jennifer Garner, had begun dating, they decided to quietly snip the scene out.
For Affleck, this probably wasn’t a bad thing in the long run – Elektra was poorly received by critics, and where Daredevil at least managed to double its money, the spin-off only just covered its costs.
Terence Stamp and Jacqueline Bisset – Mr & Mrs Smith (2005)
This star vehicle for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, about a married couple who also happen to be assassins, was a box office hit for director Doug Liman. Its path to the screen, however, was fraught with problems, with the lead roles cast and re-cast several times, and the script reportedly going through as many as 50 rewrites.
The finished movie was largely carried along by Pitt and Jolie’s chemistry, to the extent that test audiences had absolutely no interest in its other characters. Liman’s original cut of the film featured Terence Stamp and Jacqueline Bisset, who played Pitt and Jolie’s bosses named Mother and Father, as well as roles for Keith David, Angela Bassett and William Fichtner as a marriage therapist. While shreds of David, Bassett and Fichtner’s performances remain in voice-only form, all traces of the great Stamp (and equally great Bisset) were trimmed before release.
So if you’re wondering why this mildly entertaining yet disposable action rom-com hardly ever cuts away from the golden couple at its core, you now know who to blame: Doug Liman’s test audience.
Liam Neeson in The Hangover Part II (2011)
Mighty man of action and heavyweight drama Liam Neeson was once given a brief yet memorable role in The Hangover Part II, where he played a tattoo artist. Unfortunately, a rushed production left his performance on the cutting room floor, and with director Todd Phillips running out of time to do reshoots, and Neeson unable to return to appear in a new version of the scene (he was filming Wrath Of The Titans by then), the filmmakers were forced to find someone else to play the part.
Mel Gibson was actually attached to the tattooist role before Neeson was, but as grim stories about the actor began to make headlines, Phillips began frantically casting around for someone else. Eventually, Nick Cassavetes, actor and also the director of The Notebook, was chosen.
“We were in a complete time crunch so I called up Nick and asked if he would do the part,” Phillips told Variety. “[I’m excited for everyone] to see the film. It turned out great.”
While critics didn’t concur with Phillips, audiences certainly did – thanks to that late reshoot, Liam Neeson narrowly missed out on appearing in what is currently the highest grossing R-rated movie ever.
Ethan Hawke – Total Recall (2012)
One of the criticisms levelled at this year’s Total Recall remake is that, although it stirred a few plot elements around (and ditched the trip to Mars), its wasn’t a markedly different film. One interesting change director Len Wiseman had in mind for his version of the story was that, as well as Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) having his mind erased, he’d also have his appearance altered.
In an earlier version of the movie, the pre-memory wipe version of Quaid would have been played by none other than Ethan Hawke. It’s said that he originally had a lengthy monologue at the start of the movie, which would have filled about five minutes, and he’d also have shared a scene or two with leading lady Jessica Biel.
Eventually, Wiseman decided to drop this aspect of the plot altogether, and Hawke is sadly nowhere to be seen – a pity, since he could have brought some proper edge and charisma to an otherwise blandly good-looking cast.
As with so many of the other trimmed cameos on this list, we’ll just have to wait for Total Recall to come out on disc before we can see how Hawke’s deleted cameo could have affected the film.
Ricky Gervais, Billy Crystal, Danny Trejo, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry – The Muppets (2011)
Those names mentioned above are just a few of the cameos trimmed from the theatrical cut of The Muppets. With the assembly edit running at around three hours, its makers had to trim much of them out, including a rumoured scene in which Miss Piggy sings, ‘I kissed a squirrel and I liked it’.
Most of Hollywood – The Thin Red Line (1998)
Maverick filmmaker Terrence Malick’s one of the few directors who can get away with assembling a huge cast of Hollywood’s most respected actors and then cut their performances out of his finished movie.
In the final cut of Malick’s three-hour war movie, The Thin Red Line, George Clooney’s once prominent role had been hacked down to just one measly scene. This is, however, precisely one scene more than actors Mickey Rourke, Billy Bob Thornton, Gary Oldman, Viggo Mortensen, Martin Sheen, Lucas Haas and Bill Pulman got – they all dutifully flew to Australia for the lengthy three month shoot, and subsequently disappeared from the theatrical edit.
And in case you thought that was a one off, Malick’s been up to the same old tricks in his latest movie, To The Wonder. That film originally featured appearances from Rachel Weisz, Barry Pepper, Michael Sheen, Amanda Peet and Jessica Chastain.
“I had the experience of working with [Malick], but I will not have the pleasure of seeing my work,” Weisz sighed in an August interview.
Like us, she’ll have to wait until the DVD comes out to see her deleted scenes.
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