The movie characters who were supposed to die (but got saved by a rewrite)

They were one rewrite away from a date with the grim reaper. We look back at the movie characters who were never supposed to make the end credits…

Warning: lots of spoilers ahead. We’ve labelled the name of the film we’re talking about in the sub-headers, rather than the characters themselves, to help you avoid stumbling upon something you didn’t want to know…

LETHAL WEAPON 2

It’s a film that’s cropped up a few times in recent weeks on the site, but perhaps the most interesting thing about Lethal Weapon 2 was that it was supposed to mark the end of Mel Gibson’s Riggs character. As it stood, it instead marked the moment where Riggs went from a man on the edge to part of a comedy double act.

However, the original plan, when Riggs is shot in the film, was that he’d die. That was what writer Shane Black had intended to happen, and he reportedly left the project when he was overruled on the matter.

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There’s some argument over whether the scene where Riggs died was actually filmed (a body bag sequence has been rumoured), but as it turned out, the ending was ultimately changed to allow Riggs to walk away at the end of the film, and to prepare for the blockbuster hits that would become Lethal Weapon 3 and Lethal Weapon 4.

You do wonder, if Riggs had died in Lethal Weapon 2, whether an already-liked film would be talked about now in even more favourable terms. Even accepting Patsy Kensit. 

ROCKY V

There’s very little to redeem Rocky V, however you look at it, and perhaps in this case it’s best that Sylvester Stallone didn’t follow through with his planned original ending for the film. For the idea here was that Rocky V would be a darker piece, where Balboa, struggling from the impact of his fight with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, would pass away at the end of it.

If the original plan had been adhered to, then it would be the fight with Tommy Gunn at the end of the film that would have seen the end of Rocky Balboa. A fairly limp way to go, when you consider who he’d fought in the film before.

Stallone, ultimately, had similar thoughts once production had begun, thinking that Rocky shouldn’t die in a fight in the street. Instead, he survived, and Rocky Balboa, the sixth movie, turned out to be a far more fitting end to the series.

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SCREAM

I distinctly remember watching Scream for the very first time and thinking that the character of Dewey was a certainty for the chop. Appreciating it didn’t necessarily fit the rules of the horror movie that Scream was following, David Arquette’s character still wasn’t one that I’d have expected to make it intact to the end of the original trilogy. And yet, he did.

But in the original script? Dewey was supposed to die. As it turned out, too, that was the plan even after production started, with director Wes Craven shooting the scene where he met his demise. However, to be on the safe side, Craven also shot a scene where he survived, and it was that that made it into the finished movie.

Dewey will next be seen trying to brave his way through 2011’s Scream 4…

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BATMAN

Now granted, Alexander Knox wasn’t a major character in Tim Burton’s film of Batman, back in 1989. Yet, as played by Robert Wuhl, he was an important one, working alongside Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) to try and uncover the mystery behind the Bat. However, would the character have been more memorable had The Joker killed him in the denouement of the movie?

That was, as it happens, the original plan. However, as Robert Wuhl himself revealed many years later, they “liked [my] character so much that they decided to let me live”. That said, Knox didn’t appear in the sequel, Batman Returns, although Vicki Vale was mentioned once in the film.

THE FOX AND THE HOUND/LADY AND THE TRAMP

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Considering that Disney hasn’t been shy about killing characters in its films in the past – Bambi’s mother, for starters, and more recently, Mufasa in The Lion King – it’s perhaps surprising that it was reticent to do so in The Fox And The Hound.

Hardly vintage Disney, to be fair, the film featured hunting dog, Chief, who has an argument on a railroad track and is seemingly done for. And in the original screenplay, that was, indeed, the plan. It’s the death of Chief that’s supposed to drive a wedge between Copper and Todd, the fox and the hound of the title.

However, reportedly due to concerns from some of the crew working on the film, the decision to kill Chief was reversed, echoing a similar decision that was made with the character of Trusty in Lady And The Tramp decades earlier. In that instance, Walt Disney himself vetoed the death of the character at the end of the film, worried about repeating the reaction to the aforementioned Bambi.

FIRST BLOOD

Sylvester Stallone has a thing for resurrecting characters that were once upon a time supposed to die. (There was supposed to be a death in The Expendables, but a character was reprieved.)

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In the book upon which the first Rambo film was based, John Rambo dies at the end. It’s a logical ending to the story, too, to be fair, but Stallone, sniffing a major action franchise, opted to keep him alive instead, choosing for Rambo to turn himself in instead. That said, the decision wasn’t made at the start, as the sequence where Rambo dies was shot.

Still, three sequels and lots of money later, Stallone probably thinks he made the right decision there. Here’s that original ending, though…

RETURN OF THE JEDI

There’s been quite a bit of chatter about this in recent years, but the crux of it is this: Han Solo, as played by Harrison Ford, was not supposed to make it to the end of Return Of The Jedi. He was instead, apparently, supposed to die in the raid on the Death Star.

One strand of thinking, it should be noted, is that it was never the intention of George Lucas to kill Solo off. Instead, the urging came more from Harrison Ford himself, and writer Lawrence Kasdan.

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However, an interview given by A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back producer, Gary Kurtz, throws a different light on it.

Kurtz and Lucas parted company after Empire, over dissatisfaction with the direction the story was going. And as Kurtz told the L.A. Times earlier this year, “The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.”

Instead, as you more than likely know, Solo survived, got the girl, and the credits rolled. But the tone of the ending would have been a lot more bittersweet had one of the franchise’s main heroic characters been defeated…

FULL METAL JACKET

It’s Private Pyle’s death that marks the turning point of Stanley Kubrick’s penultimate film, Full Metal Jacket. For me, and many others, the astounding first half, ending with Pyle’s suicide, is the peak of the movie, and offers something that the second half never has a chance of living up to (good as it is).

However, as Matthew Modine wrote in the book, Full Metal Diary, it was actually his character, Joker, that was supposed to die. The suggestion came from Modine himself, though, that Joker should live, leaving his character the one to see things through to the end, and to be the one to see firsthand just how savage and brutal the war proved to be.

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TRUE ROMANCE

One of Tony Scott’s finest films, and one of Quentin Tarantino’s finest scripts, True Romance is, staggeringly, 18 years old this year, but it remains something really quite special.

Released in the aftermath of the success of Tarantino’s debut feature, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance gave Christian Slater a prime role as Clarence. And, at the end of the film Clarence is reunited with Alabama, and when we see them last, they are on a beach with their son.

However, that’s not how things were originally supposed to be. Tarantino’s original script had Clarence meeting his maker at the end, leaving Alabama driving off, claiming that she didn’t really care about him anyway.

Tony Scott shot two endings to the film, but went with the one where Clarence lives. And Tarantino has subsequently agreed he made the right choice, with the caveat that, if he’d directed the film himself, he’d have gone with the original ending, given that the tone of his film would have been different to Scott’s interpretation.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY

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It’s pretty well known that the theatrically-screened ending to the low budget horror hit Paranormal Activity wasn’t the one in the original cut of the film put together by director Oren Peli. However, when Paramount picked up the film, the ending changed to the one where Katie throws Micah’s body at the camera. Micah dies, Katie survives.

But certainly in the original cut of the film, Katie dies too. In that ending, Micah doesn’t go upstairs, and we see Katie return to the bedroom, brandishing a knife and covered in blood. Eventually, after a bit of faff, the police show up, Katie stumbles down the stairs with the knife, the police fire, and up pops a title card that dedicates the film to the two characters.

As things stand, therefore, and with Paranormal Activity 3 heading to production, Katie is still alive and kicking… 

Also:

The character of Spock wasn’t originally set to be resurrected when he carked it in Star Trek II, but the third film was ultimately devoted to bringing him back to life.

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Meanwhile, in The Butterfly Effect, the ending you get depends on which cut of the film you watch. We won’t spoil it here, but the director’s cut is a very different beast to the theatrical release…

Also, we’re indebted to @@revoltingross on Twitter for reminding us that Gizmo wasn’t supposed to get to the end of Gremlins. The original plan was for him to turn into Stripe.

See Also:

 

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