Superman II once had a totally different ending
Director Cameron Crowe announced yesterday that the unseen original ending of Vanilla Sky, his 2001 cult classic starring Tom Cruise, will be included on the upcoming Blu-Ray edition. These days, when a studio scraps and replaces the ending of a film, the jettisoned footage is almost guaranteed to show up as a DVD or Blu-ray extra the following year.
But that wasn’t always so. In earlier eras of film, endings left on the cutting room floor were rarely found again. Film scholars are still searching (likely in vain) for the final reel of Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and Billy Wilder’s original ending to Double Indemnity (1944). Frank Capra shot between two and four different endings for Meet John Doe (1941). Stanley Kubrick cut a final scene from The Shining (1980) and a climactic pie fight from Dr Strangelove (1983), neither of which will probably ever see the light of day. But like Vanilla Sky, there are a few films from the ‘80s and ‘90s with alternate endings that went unseen for years before emerging on home video or bootleg. Below, watch 6 original endings that were cut from classic films.
Superman II (1980)
Why it was cut: Richard Donner, who directed the 1978 hit Superman: The Movie, was fired from the sequel partway through filming and replaced with Richard Lester. Donner had already shot 75 percent of his film, much of which Lester rewrote and reshot for the theatrical version. Essentially, the producers created two different films. Among many differences, Donner’s version ends with Superman destroying the Fortress of Solitude, breaking up with Lois, then revisiting his turning-back-time trick from the first Superman to restore normality.
When it was released: Bootleg versions of Donner’s scenes circulated for years before their complete restoration on the 2006 DVD Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.
Rambo: First Blood (1982)
Why it was cut: Director Ted Kotcheff and Sylvester Stallone always intended for war veteran-turned-mercenary Rambo to die at the end of the film. Kotcheff told Film Divider that he shot the theatrical ending as a failsafe, and put it into the film when the original suicide ending (shown here) left test audiences outraged.
When it was released: The alternate ending was first revealed on the 2004 Ultimate Edition DVD release.
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Why it was cut: Frank Oz’s dazzling original ending to his dark musical comedy was faithful to the Broadway production: The bloodthirsty plant devours the film’s protagonists, Seymour and Audrey, and proceeds to destroy New York City. In Oz’s words, test audiences reacted with “upset and anger” that Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene’s characters didn’t get a happily-ever-after. The epic $3 million, 23-minute finale sequence was shelved and a new ending was shot for the final release.
When it was released: A black-and-white rough cut made it onto a 1998 DVD release before being pulled by producer David Geffen, who said that the footage “looked like s—-.” Devoted fans spent years trying to painstakingly reconstruct the footage before Warner Home Video released the fully scored, full color version on the 2012 Director’s Cut Blu-Ray.
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Why it was cut: In the original ending to the stalker film, the deranged Alex (Glenn Close) kills herself and attempts to frame her lover Dan (Michael Douglas) for the murder. Douglas agreed with dissatisfied test audiences that the Alex deserved a harsher comeuppance. “She had been so powerful and so evil in a Machiavellian psycho way that it left the audience frustrated… [they] wanted somebody to kill her,” he told EW in 2011. Thus was born the film’s over-the-top climax, in which Alex is strangled in the bathtub by Dan then shot to death by his wife.
When it was released: The original ending was included on a special VHS director’s cut in 1992, then appeared on the DVD release in 2002.
Why it was cut: “The original ending that they shot, it was sadder, and I guess when they showed it to an audience, they got bummed out. So they made it more upbeat,” Matthew Broderick told Vulture. The original ending hewed more closely to the Tom Perrotta novel and denied antihero Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) her future political success.
When it was released: It wasn’t — not formally, anyhow. The alternate ending was posted online in 2011 by someone who found a VHS workprint of the film at a farmer’s market in Delaware.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Why it was cut: James Cameron fought to end his Terminator sequel with this upbeat coda, in which an older Sarah Connor reveals that Judgment Day was averted, Skynet never happened, and John Connor is now a senator with a family. This ending terminated the possibility of another sequel, which may be why the film’s producers disliked it — but test audiences didn’t go for it, either.
When it was released: The ending was included on a little-seen 1993 laserdisc, then on special edition DVD in 2000.
True Romance (1993)
Why it was cut: Writer Quentin Tarantino wrote a downbeat ending that had Clarence (Christian Slater) dying in the final shootout and Alabama (Patricia Arquette) fleeing on her own. Director Tony Scott however, wanted to give the outlaw couple a happily-ever-after. In his commentary on the DVD, Tarantino describes confronting Scott, who told Tarantino, “It’s not for Hollywood reasons. I want to do it because I love these two kids, and I want to see them get away.” Scott shot both endings, but used the happier one, a decision Tarantino eventually agreed with.
When it was released: The original ending (along with Tarantino’s audio commentary) are on the two-disc special edition DVD released in 2005.
Image credit: Everett