As we are fond of pointing out, it's easy to think of pop culture icons as having just walked onto the scene fully formed. But even the most timeless stories and characters went through creative tinkering right up until the last minute. You know, the way Batman was almost a blond geek in red spandex.
Some of the early versions of these characters weren't just different, but were utterly freaking insane. For instance ...
5Indiana Jones: Pedophile
You Know Him As:
The adventurous, treasure-hunting, Nazi-murdering, Karen Allen-boning archetypal badass, responsible for thousands of disillusioned archaeology freshmen who didn't realize that "Bullwhip Acrobatics" is not included in most university curriculums.
"Also, should we bring our own Nazi to kill, or will the school provide one?"
But You Almost Knew Him As:
Talk about raping your childhood.
In Raiders of the Lost Ark, we find out that prior to the events of the movie, Indy and Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) had an affair that ended when he was 27 and she was about 17. But their relationship took place in the 1920s, when (adjusting for inflation) 17 was like a solid 25 in modern breasts, so it's at least pretty much kosher according to the conventions of the time.
But no possible justification could make Indy anything other than a "sick child molester" if he had boned Marion when she was, say, just 11 years-old. Which is exactly what Lucas and Spielberg originally planned for him.
His winks are signals for help.
During a 70s brainstorming session for Raiders, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas seriously considered the idea that Indiana Jones' backstory should totally include the time he had sex with a girl who still had most of her baby teeth. Lucas commented that it would be "amusing," to which Spielberg immediately added that it would be even funnier if Marion was this 12 year-old slut who came on to Indy and seduced him!
Of course, the first movie wouldn't actually show Indiana Jones molesting a tween, but the terrifying implication would have still been there.
Other ages were also suggested, but Lucas made it clear that they shouldn't go higher than 16 with the sex, because then "it's not interesting anymore."
"Harrison, you got a minute? I have something interesting to show you."
4Edward Cullen: Vampire Commando
You Know Him As:
The delicate, sparkling, "vegetarian" "vampire" -- played by Robert Pattinson in the Twilight movies -- who in spite of being over a hundred years old spends most of his time hanging around high school kids.
Perhaps we owe George Lucas an apology.
But You Almost Knew Him As:
It's hard to believe, but when Stephenie Meyer's novels about teens making out with walking corpses were first being optioned for a movie, the studios weren't treating it like a box office gold mine. That's probably why when Paramount finally did acquire the Twilight movie rights, it decided to just ignore the books and turn the whole thing into a huge action flick aimed mostly at guys.
Accordingly, its version of Edward had less of him breaking into girls' rooms to creepily watch them sleep and more of him taking down vampire-hunting SWAT teams from the treetops.
We're totally seeing a lunch box tie-in here.
Other major changes to the books included turning the bland Bella into a vampire action-heroine (that is, she'd get to play a character who wasn't completely useless). But perhaps most interestingly of all, this other Twilight would introduce an original nemesis for Edward -- a Korean FBI agent who tracks and hunts vampires across the country. And of course he knows karate -- we shouldn't even need to type that part.
To summarize, Edward Cullen could have been a genuinely threatening vampire murdering swarms of human commandos and getting into martial arts fights. Instead, the only thing he ended up killing was the dignity of vampires everywhere.
Even the Count from Sesame Street lost street cred.
Paramount eventually sold off the Twilight rights in 2007 after production was held up for too long. We like to imagine that it was due to problems with acquiring that much fake blood and military-grade explosives. After that, the new studio made the questionable business decision to stay faithful to the books -- a decision so questionable that the films have pulled in close to $2 billion in worldwide box office so far (to say nothing of merchandise and DVDs) and have become a bona fide cultural phenomenon the likes of which the planet has seldom seen.
I could be fighting a Korean FBI agent right now instead of bathing in my millions.