Guest Post: Musings on Alternate Endings

So after reading Castor’s article ‘great movies … until the third act‘, I thought I should write up an article about alternative ending(s) to some well-known films. Most film fans know that directors or studio people demand a new ending if say, the first test screening didn’t go too well, or maybe the director just didn’t like the original ending from the script. The following films have a completely different ending to the ones released in the theater and these endings can’t be found on deleted scenes on DVD/BD. Some of the endings were actually filmed, but the studio or director decided to cut those scenes out and replace with a new one. Some alternative endings on certain films you can actually see on DVD/BD because the director shot it but decided to cut it from the final film, so those don’t count.

Here are the films with big alternative ending that might have changed the outlook of the film:

The Bourne Identity

Originally the film was going to end in NYC just like the novel, it was supposed to have a big shootout scene in a subway station but because of 9/11 tragedy, they decided to shoot the action scene in Paris instead. In this particular climax scene, Bourne was being ambushed by the CIA assassins and it would’ve have been a big shootout sequence, which involves machine guns, motorcycles and rocket launchers. Universal wasn’t too thrilled that during the shoot, so far the film doesn’t have a big action scene so they wanted to go out with a bang and director Doug Liman agreed. In fact, Universal was going to give him an extra $5 – 10mil to shoot the scene. But then 9/11 happened and the film’s producer Frank Marshall decided it wasn’t such a good idea to include such a violent sequence after the tragedy.

What Marshall didn’t mention was that Matt Damon refused to be involved in that big shootout scene. In an interview, Damon said he didn’t sign up to do a Rambo movie. Liman on other hand, wanted to keep that scene but he relented after he learned Damon won’t do it, obviously you can’t shoot a big action scene without your leading man. So they rewrote the script and shot the small shootout sequence in the apartment building. There’s another alternative opening and ending to this film, it’s available on DVD/BD if you’re interested.

BTW, Liman got his wish on his next film Mr. & Mrs. Smith, if you remember that film has a big shoot out at the end.

The Saint

So okay this film wasn’t a big hit or well liked but I enjoyed it and there’s a big chunk of the film that was cut out. After the film was released, a lot of people (including myself) complained that the film didn’t have enough action at the end; well the film didn’t really have any action at all for the climax scene. Per IMDb, here’s the description of original ending of the film:

In the original version of the film, Dr. Russell collapses while giving a lecture and dies in The Saint’s arms. The Saint sees Tretiak, Jr. stabbing him in the leg with the tip of his cane. Thus the final half-hour has him set to destroy the villains’ plans and avenge her death. With Dr. Botvin’s help, he switches the formulas around and humiliates Tretiak during his show trial of the Russian president. The Saint battles Dr. Russell’s killer on a stairwell as Russian tanks pound outside, exposing and setting fire to the vast stockpile of heating oil in the basement. With the stairwell disintegrating around them, the fight spills out on to the chandelier, suspended above the blazing oil.

The Saint teases Treatiak, Jr. with the disc containing the formula for cold fusion. As he reaches out for it, The Saint cuts the rope and Tretiak, Jr. plummets to a fiery death. Returning to Dr. Russell’s home, the Saint finds a letter from her, a tear fills his eye and he vows from now on to use his skills only for good. Test audiences didn’t like the way Dr. Russell died three-quarters of the way into the film. Footage from the original ending features prominently in the film’s primary trailer. Director Phillip Noyce hopes one day to be able to restore the original version for a Director’s Cut DVD.

I would love to see this version someday; maybe Paramount will let director Phillip Noyce do a director’s cut version. But I highly doubt we’ll ever see it since the film was never a big hit and not considered a cult favorite.

28 Days Later

Now, you can find alternative endings of the film on DVD/BD, one was shot while other only made it as far as story boarding. Since I’m too lazy to write, I’m referencing Wikipedia:

The “Radical Alternative Ending”, rather than a bare ending, is a radically different development of the movie from the midpoint onwards; it was not filmed and is presented on the DVD as a series of illustrated storyboards with voiceovers by director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland. When Frank is infected at the military blockade near Manchester, the soldiers do not enter the story. Instead, Jim, Selena and Hannah are somehow able to restrain the infected Frank, hoping they will find a cure for the virus nearby as suggested in the radio broadcast. They soon discover that the blockade had protected a large medical research complex, the same one featured in the first scene of the film where the virus was developed. Inside, the party is relieved to find a scientist self-barricaded inside a room with food and water. He will not open the door because he fears they will take his food, although he does admit that the “answer to infection is here.”

Unfortunately, he refuses to talk further because he does not want to make an emotional attachment to people who will soon be dead. After hours of failed attempts to break through the door or coax the man out, Jim eventually brings Hannah to the door and explains Frank’s situation. The scientist reluctantly tells them that Frank can only be cured with a complete blood transfusion, and supplies them with the necessary equipment. After learning that he is the only match with Frank’s blood type, Jim sacrifices himself so that Frank can survive with his daughter. Just as his journey began, Jim is left alone in the abandoned medical facility, and Selena, Hannah and Frank move into the room with the scientist as a horde of the infected breach the complex. The computer monitors show death and destruction come to life around a thrashing, infected Jim, who is strapped to the same table as the chimp had been in the opening scene.

Garland and Boyle explain that they conceived this ending to see what the film would be like if they did not expand the focus beyond the core four survivors. They decided against it because the idea of a total blood replacement as a cure was not credible. As Boyle said in the DVD commentary, it “didn’t make much sense” since the film had already established that one drop of blood can infect a person. “What would we do? Drain him of blood and scrub his veins with bleach?”

If you are a fan of the movie, I would highly recommend you check out this behind the scenes stuff on DVD/BD.

Patriot Games

Another of Phillip Noyce’s film has an alternative ending. This one wasn’t as big as The Saint’s ending but we it was quite different from the actual ending. In the original ending, the scene involved Jack Ryan and Sean Miller fighting on large rocks in the middle of the storm after the shoot-out in Ryan’s house. I remember Entertainment Tonight showing this particular scene during their visit to the set of the movie, but when I finally saw the film I was like what happened to the fight scene between Ryan and Miller? Well what happened was, they test-screened the film and the audience found the fight scene to be boring. So they decided to switch to the boat chase with machine guns and have Ryan and Miller fight on the boat instead.

I don’t think this film would’ve changed much had they went with the original ending but I would like to see that scene nonetheless. Unfortunately this ending is not available anywhere for us regular movie-watchers.

Well, those are some alternate endings I found interesting. Do any of these endings make you like the film more if you didn’t like ’em in the beginning? Or do those endings actually ruin the films for you?

15 thoughts on “Guest Post: Musings on Alternate Endings

  1. Informative post Ted! In Patriot Games’ case, it seems like the boat fighting scene was definitely a more thrilling choice.

    I singled out 28 Days Later as a movie that disappointed me in the third act but the alternate ending doesn’t sound that appetizing either. It seems quite low on action with the characters just whining around, pounding on some door ahah 😉

    And finally, glad the Bourne Identity didn’t turn into some massive action fest at the end, that probably kept the entire franchise grounded. Good on Matt Damon for having the vision to refuse doing it.

    1. Ted S.


      Yeah I much prefered the current ending in Patriot Games.
      As for 28 Days Later, Garland and Boyle said they just couldn’t figure out how to end it properly with that ending, that’s why they went with the current one.

      Don’t know if you read any of the Bourne novels but they have so much shootouts and explosions in them; I’m glad they decided to keep the film version more grounded too.

      1. Totally agree that I much prefer the less bombastic ending of Bourne Identity, good call there Matt. It’s got enough action throughout the film anyway. I’m just sad to see Clive Owen got shot 😦

  2. Interesting piece. I’d never heard about the alternate ending to THE BOURNE IDENTITY before. Some other ones I’ve heard about are the darker (if you can believe that) ending to SE7EN, and the much better ending to I AM LEGEND

    1. Ted S.

      I was thinking of including the alternate ending to Se7en but I assumed fans of the film have seen it since Fincher included it in the DVD/Blu-ray.

      I actually prefer the original ending of I Am Legend to the alternate one.

    2. I can’t imagine a darker ending to Se7en than what’s in it currently! I never saw the behind-the-scene of it but I don’t think I want to now.

      1. Ted S.

        I wouldn’t say the alternate ending of Se7en is darker than the current one. Basically Morgan Freeman’s character shot John Doe and told Pitt’s character that he’s still young and can go on with his life even though he just lost his wife. So I guess it’s dark because Freeman’s character gave up on life but he pretty much felt that way throughout the film.

  3. I liked this post, Ted! I did a similar post on which our beloved Ruth also contributed to:

    The Bourne ending and 28 Days Later…while intriguing….are better left on the drawing boards. glad they ended the way they did.

    Specifically glad that Bourne kept the style that it needed to maintain without the “Rambo” feel.

    btw, I liked the “scrubbing his veins with bleach” line! haha

    Thanks for sharing all of these. I had never heard of any of the alternate endings to these films!

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Scarlet, I like that post of yours too.

      I didn’t mind the way 28 Days Later ended at all.

      As for The Bourne Identity, when I first saw it I didn’t really like it because the film didn’t have any big shootouts in it. In the book, there were at least 5 to 6 big action scenes so I was expecting the same for the film. Looking back I’m glad they didn’t go with the big finally and kept it grounded.

  4. Very cool post. Interesting how different “The Saint” and “Bourne” would have been with those changes. I also quite enjoyed “Saint”, by the way. Good to know there’s another fan out there.

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  6. Wow the alternate ending to 28 Days Later is a shocker! I don’t normally go in for horror/zombie flicks but I really like that film. I’m glad it ended the way it did, because it still has this forboding creepiness at the same time as being hopeful.
    The alternate ending is cool, but Boyle was right that it isn’t credible. And I think it’s more affecting to see Jim become almost as bad as the infected as a means of survival in order to escape than having him sacrifice himself to let Frank survive.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah I didn’t mind the current ending at all, but it would’ve been cool to have seen that other ending too.

  7. Some call 28 Days Later’s ending a cop-out, but I appreciated the way it ended.

    The Saint’s ending is radically different, though, why change it that drastically?

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