Remember the awesome scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy shoots the swordsman? Yeah well, the only reason they included that in the movie is that Harrison Ford had the shits -- as we've mentioned before, Ford had dysentery and didn't feel like performing a sword fight like the script called for, so they improvised that joke on the set. Apparently that sort of thing happens in Hollywood all the time: Here are some examples of memorable scenes (or even entire movies) that only happened because something went wrong.
#6. The Empire Strikes Back -- Han Solo Was Frozen Because They Didn't Know if Harrison Ford Would Play Him Again
The carbonite scene in The Empire Strikes Back is arguably the most iconic moment in the entire movie that doesn't include the words "I am your father." In it, Han Solo has been captured by Darth Vader and is frozen alive into a slab of carbon to be turned over to Jabba the Hutt, while the love of his life watches helplessly.
Princess Leia is there, too.
The scene also includes the dialogue that defines Han Solo: When Leia says "I love you" to Han for the first time ever, he just looks at her and says "I know." The man is being dragged by Stormtroopers into a machine that freezes people, for all he knows these are his last living moments before Jabba uses him to refresh several hundred pina coladas, and somehow he still finds the time to be cooler than everyone else in the room.
But They Only Included It Because ...
Basically, that scene only exists because Harrison Ford hated Han Solo and wasn't sure if he even wanted to come back for another Star Wars film. None of what we just described was in the original script: The movie was supposed to end with Han and Chewie flying off in the Millennium Falcon, safe and sound.
And the world would have been deprived of so many essential things.
This changed for practical, not artistic, reasons. See, unlike Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford didn't sign up for two more movies after the success of the first Star Wars. Ford thought that Han should just be killed off because he wasn't interesting to him. Since Ford was being such an indecisive Nancy (that's a saying, right? It sounds like it is), George Lucas needed to figure out a way to "freeze" the character for a while in case they later had to explain why he never appeared again. And so Lucas, as one of the greatest creative minds of our time, decided to literally freeze the character.
"Lower him into the convenient plot device!"
By the way, hardcore Star Wars fans know that the iconic "I know" line also almost didn't happen: According to the final script, Han was supposed to reply with a far less original "I love you, too." Ford himself came up with the classic line on the set, not Lucas.
It's fascinating to think that if Ford didn't return, Han Solo would have just stayed frozen or died off screen in Return of the Jedi with Lando Calrissian likely stepping into the sassy space pilot role. This is just another example of how Star Wars wasn't planned from the beginning like Lucas keeps saying.
#5. Apocalypse Now -- Marlon Brando's Fat Butt Changed the Entire Ending
In Apocalypse Now, Martin Sheen is Capt. Willard, a U.S. officer in Vietnam who is sent on a special mission to find and kill Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Kurtz was a decorated officer who lost his mind and now lives deep in the jungle, where he's worshiped with Steve Jobsian devotion by the natives.
Marlon Brando's Cambodian fans are intense.
It's one of Brando's most memorable roles, and a great part of the mystique comes from the fact that we never get a good look at him: Kurtz is always partly covered in shadows, almost like they're part of him, as if at some point he'd stopped being a man and turned into some sort of demon made of darkness and insanity.
After 2 1/2 hours of buildup, the final confrontation between Willard and Kurtz is short and anticlimactic: Willard just grabs a machete and hacks Kurtz, who offers little resistance, having accepted his fate. And then Willard leaves the temple peacefully as the natives bow in front of him, as if to underscore the pointlessness of war.
But They Only Included It Because ...
Pretty much everything about that classic ending was an accident. The whole final act of Apocalypse Now would have been completely different if Marlon Brando had simply laid off the Kit-Kats and learned his lines. Director Francis Ford Coppola had envisioned Kurtz as a "lean and hungry" Green Beret ... but when Brando showed up for filming, he was hungry, alright, but not so lean. Apparently, this is what Coppola was expecting when he cast Brando:
"Ve have vays of denying our urge to eat cake."
And this is what he got:
Jake's Rolex World
Five men died when the helicopters dropped him off on the set.
There was no way they could fit that behemoth into a Green Beret uniform, and on top of that, the actor hadn't even read the script and generally couldn't give less of a shit about the movie. So Coppola had to improvise: He dressed Brando in black (presumably luring him to the dressing room with Hostess pies) and decided to shoot him in shadows and mostly in close-ups in an attempt to hide his enormous gut.
It took them approximately 250,000 tons of shadows to accomplish that.
Coppola also reduced Kurtz's part to make it less physically demanding for Brando: The original climax called for an epic physical confrontation between Kurtz and Willard, but that didn't seem possible, unless Brando had some hidden moves, like maybe he could do a Hundred-Hand Slap like E. Honda in Street Fighter II (he couldn't).
Since Brando was being such a pain in the ass, in the end the director simply let him make up his own lines and then edited the resulting incoherent mess into the spooky, ethereal ending that went down in movie history.
#4. Se7en -- The "Head in the Box" Ending Was Included Because the Director Read the Wrong Script
Of all the '90s-crime-thriller-last-scene-plot-twists featuring Kevin Spacey, Se7en's is definitely the creepiest. In the movie, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are Mills and Somerset, two city detectives investigating a serial killer (Spacey) who bases his murders on the seven deadly sins.
"I was gonna go with the Seven Wonders, but I'm on a budget here."
At one point the killer turns himself in and agrees to lead the detectives to the location of the last two bodies, but when they reach the place there's nothing there. Then a messenger arrives and delivers a box: Somerset looks inside and is horrified to find the head of Mills' wife. The killer reveals that he murdered her because he envied Mills, who in a moment of grief and anger shoots the killer dead. And so, the killer and Mills become the last two sins: envy and wrath. Just as the guy planned.
Even if the whole movie wasn't awesome, that moment alone would be enough to elevate Se7en from just another generic serial killer flick to a classic, and David Fincher from "the guy who botched Alien 3" to "the future director of Fight Club."
But They Only Included It Because ...
Of course, "just another generic serial killer flick" was exactly what the studio wanted when they bought the screenplay: The first thing they did was tell the writer to get rid of that ending to make the movie more marketable, and he did. And that's how it would have stayed, if they hadn't messed up and sent Fincher the wrong version.
In the second act, Somerset and Mills visit Toontown in search of clues.
According to Fincher, the version of the screenplay New Line Cinema meant to send him included every cop movie cliche possible: Mills and Somerset were seen "driving on sidewalks to get to the woman, who's drawing a bath while the serial killer sneaks in the back window." That's the movie New Line wanted to make.
However, when Fincher was offered the script to direct, New Line accidentally sent him the old version they definitely had no intention of making, and he fell in love with the original gut-wrenching ending. It took Pitt and Freeman siding with Fincher to finally convince the producers -- Pitt in particular said he wouldn't do the movie unless "the head stays in the box" and they didn't re-edit the scene afterward.
"Come on, Mills, I'll buy you another hamster."
This whole thing does explain how the hell the studio thought it would be a good idea to do a sequel where Somerset had magic powers: They had no idea what they were doing in the first place. And speaking of amazingly depressing endings, there's another famous one that almost didn't happen ...