Famous Characters That (Originally) Were Meant To Die Horribly
There's no formula to creating a successful character. Otherwise, our self-published novel Wolverine Skywalker Of The Clan MacLeod And The Philosopher's Skynet would have sold more than five copies. But every once in a while, someone will come up with a character which captures the imagination of millions worldwide ... only to say, "You know what would be cool? Killing their ass."
Yet, whether it's through persistence, greed, circumstance, or plain dumb luck, some iconic characters have managed to survive their own creators' best attempts to waste them.
As Far As Joss Whedon Is Concerned, The Avengers' Agent Coulson Is Still Dead
Let's face it, death is laughably cheap in the superhero genre. If a beloved and lucrative character "dies" in the comics, it's only a question of whether it will turn out the corpse was a doppelganger or if they'll have to invent some pseudoscience to justify resurrection ( like the time Spider-Man posthumously gave birth to himself, as one does). It's a quick way to insert some emotional drama that can easily be taken back later. So when SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson "died" in The Avengers, it's easy to assume that writer/director Joss Whedon always intended to bring him back in a sequel. You know, even though his death serves as the entire motivation for the heroes through the film's climax and is kind of the central tipping point of the plot.
And sure enough, ABC quickly announced it was launching the TV series spinoff Agents Of SHIELD, starring Agent Coulson -- complete with a convoluted and half-explained resurrection.
"It was a surgical, memory-planting thingamajig. Don't worry about it."
But what many don't know is that the people in charge of the Marvel TV spinoffs and the people who make the film franchises are not the same people -- they're two different divisions of a huge company, which is itself owned by an even huger company. You'll note, for instance, that Coulson hasn't turned up in any of the 58 or so Marvel films that have been made since The Avengers. That's because, according to Whedon, not only was Coulson supposed to stay dead, but in the universe of the films, he still is. Here's the quote:
"[T]he Coulson thing was, I think, a little anomalous just because that really came from the television division, which is sort of considered to be its own subsection of the Marvel universe. As far as the fiction of the movies, Coulson is dead ... But I have to say, watching the first one with my kids ... and watching Coulson die but [thinking], 'Yeah, but I know that he kind of isn't,' it did take some of the punch out of it for me ... I think it's disingenuous to say we're going to fight this great battle, but there's not going to be any loss. So my feeling in these situations with Marvel is that if somebody has to be placed on the altar and sacrificed, I'll let you guys decide if they stay there."
"Sweet, he's 100 percent cool with it. Call Clark's agent!"
"That's not exactly what I ..."
Whedon later said the comments came off as meaner than he intended, that he thinks the show is great, etc. (He directed the pilot. It's not like he went and tried to burn down the set in a fit of rage or anything.) Still, this is a great lesson for any aspiring writers or creative types: If you're doing work on somebody else's franchise, you are not getting final say over where the story goes.
No matter how much creative control he's given over the movies he writes/directs, Whedon is working for a multi-billion-dollar corporation using characters which span dozens of product lines. If the next Avengers film begins with Tony Stark sitting bolt upright in bed and realizing that all of the events of Age Of Ultron were nothing but a very vivid nightmare ("Pepper, I had the robot dream again!") there's not a damned thing Whedon can do about it.
J.J. Abrams Wanted Poe Dameron To Die At The Beginning Of The Force Awakens
The same way the original Star Wars trilogy had Luke, Leia, and Han Solo, and the prequels had Obi-Wan, Padme, and a mannequin with a frowny face drawn on it with a sharpie, one of the first things the new movies did was establish a new threesome of young characters we're supposed to root for: Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron. Poe is a smartass Resistance pilot, and considering that like 60 percent of all fan art produced about The Force Awakens includes him, it's safe to say that he's been a big hit with the audience.
And 90 percent of said fan art shows him making out with either of his two co-stars in this photo.
However, remember when Poe's ship crashes into the desert and it looks like he died? Yeah, originally there was no "looks like" -- he flat-out got killed in the first act. Which makes sense when you remember that this movie was directed by J.J. Abrams, who's been wanting to do pull this trick since the producers didn't let him kill Jack in the first episode of Lost. This is like if Han got killed in the cantina scene in the first Star Wars, or if Harry Potter started with Hermione suffocating after Hagrid accidentally sits on her.
"And then Cinderella steps on a landmine and BLOWS THE FUCK UP! Holy shit! Well, pleasant dreams, honey."
What saved Poe was the fact that Oscar Isaac, the actor who plays him, tends to die in movies a lot, and he wasn't stoked about doing it again. When he met Abrams to talk about the character, Isaac made it clear that he was disappointed about lasting about as much as Indiana Jones' Peruvian sidekick in Raiders -- which inspired Abrams to rejiggle the script at the last minute and spare him. So in the final film, you wind up with this weird thing where Poe stays dead for about an hour of runtime, then shows up again, quipping and doing a series of cool things that don't really impact the plot in any way. If they'd cast someone different, he'd presumably have remained a corpse that whole time.
Then again, this guy could probably make rotting in a casket look cool.
Pinocchio Was Originally Lynched, But The Editors Intervened
Most incarnations of Pinocchio have him as an adorable wooden child who wants to be a real boy. But the original story was less Walt Disney and more Child's Play. The Adventures Of Pinocchio started as a magazine serial about a rampaging little shithead without a conscience. Literally, he had no conscience. Because he killed it (the original "Jiminy Cricket") with a hammer.
To be fair, that's a pretty fucking terrifying conscience.
But don't worry, the story wasn't just a senseless collection of violent acts. Pinocchio's creator, Carlo Collodi, wanted to leave children with a positive message. That's why, in the last chapter, Pinocchio is caught by two bandits, hanged from a tree, and left to die. Remember, kids: If you misbehave, you will get murdered.
"Oh, if only you were dying instead of me, father! If only all of mankind died! Hail Satan!"
That was it. Cash the check and move on to bigger and better things. Collodi was done. His editors, however, weren't. The serial was still popular, so the magazine pleaded with Collodi to somehow keep it going. And so, after a few months of silence (during which juvenile delinquency presumably reached an all-time low), a new chapter was published in which Pinocchio is resurrected with the help of a blue-haired fairy, because why not.
It was at this point that the story became much more kid-friendly. The dead cricket came back as a ghost who kept Pinocchio's anti-social tendencies in check, and he gradually became the character we are now all familiar with. Eventually, the same fairy turns him into a real boy. When Disney got ahold of the book, he did away with the whole "maniacal asshole puppet" stuff at the beginning, probably because he already knew how to make the softer chapters traumatizing enough.
Jurassic Park's Author Undid Ian Malcolm's Book Death Because Of The Movie
Before Jurassic Park was a blockbuster film, it was a blockbuster novel by Michael Crichton, and the breakaway character was clearly supposed to be paleontologist Alan Grant (played in the film by Sam Neill). Everyone else (aside from maybe the kids) existed to be dinosaur fodder or to run away in terror. Math dork Ian Malcolm was one of the latter, a side character who is injured early in the book during a T-Rex attack and dies from his injuries. They even mention his funeral at the end.
But then this happened:
We understand if you need to take a minute.
Jeff Goldblum played the role in the film version with enough charm, humor, and nerdy sex appeal that he became a fan favorite. Meanwhile, Crichton, who had never written a sequel and had no intention to start doing so, found out that they were making a new Jurassic Park movie with or without him. So he gave in to the pressure and began to write a sequel to the novel. It was Crichton himself who realized he needed Malcolm for the sequel, because it's a bad idea to write a dinosaur story without a character constantly pointing out that everything is a bad idea.
So how would he handle the resurrection? He kind of didn't; it says that the end of the first book was the result of "bad reporting." Which is understandable. Journalists and officials were probably too distracted by the "HOLY SHIT, DINOSAURS" part to get the rest of the story right.
"Mrs. Gennaro, I'm sorry to inform you that your husband didn't die shooting a bazooka
like we initially said. You might wanna sit down for this ..."
Once Crichton finished the book, Spielberg and the screenwriter proceeded to ignore most of it anyway ... except for Malcolm being in the lead, obviously. It's too bad that Crichton passed away before getting to write another novel about that lady who gets smacked around by dinosaurs and killed in Jurassic World.
Shane Black Quit Lethal Weapon 2 Because He Wanted To Kill Riggs
The first Lethal Weapon made an instant star out of writer Shane Black during a time when screenwriters got about as much acknowledgment in the industry as the studio janitors. A big part of the success of the film was the unique chemistry between suicidal hotshot Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and his past-the-age-at-which-this-shit-is-acceptable partner Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover). The two were such a big hit that they went on to feature in three increasingly disappointing sequels, a rage-inducing 1992 video game, and a goddamn TV remake starring Damon Wayans.
Your daily reminder that God is dead.
But, perhaps sensing where his characters were going, Black almost prevented all of that by giving Riggs an incredibly depressing death relatively early on. When Black submitted his script for the highly anticipated Lethal Weapon 2, the studio noticed a little problem: The character played by Gibson, one of the most famous and beloved stars in the world at the time, got killed at the end. And not merely killed; he gets stabbed and suffers a slow and painful demise. The whole script was even darker in tone than the original, with Riggs foreseeing his death before it happens. On the upside, he's not suicidal anymore! On the downside, the entire audience might be.
As it turned out, this wasn't what Warner Bros. had in mind for the sequel. They wanted less brooding and torture scenes, and more zaniness and flying toilets.
In the original, this landed on a pregnant woman and caused a miscarriage.
When the studio rejected the script, Black felt like a failure and quit the movie -- though he has since realized it was actually his best work. The script was rewritten and Riggs lived on to star in further sequels and remakes. Who would have guessed when we first saw Riggs with a gun in his mouth in 1987 that he'd even survive Mel Gibson's career?
The Producers Tried To Kill Vin Diesel's xXx Character In A DVD Extra
Despite its somewhat misleading name (or perhaps because of it), Vin Diesel's xXx was a financial success when it came out in 2002. It starred Diesel as Xander Cage, a snowboarding James Bond for a newer, douchier generation. Diesel will reprise the role in a new sequel coming out next year. Which is a little surprising, considering that the character wasn't in the sequel and was last seen in a short film titled The Death Of Xander Cage. Guess what it's about.
Diesel should have been more specific when he requested a scene in which he "gets blown."
Xander's unceremonious death was included in the xXx director's cut DVDspecifically as a giant "fuck you" to Diesel. When the bald muscleman dropped out of the first sequel, xXx: State Of The Union (eventually starring Ice Cube), the producers were so hurt that they made that short to let everyone know that Xander was done and never, ever coming back. Although he never looks at the camera and only seems to talk in recycled lines from the movie (because he's being played by Diesel's stunt double), the producers made sure we knew it was the real Xander by including a Looney Tunes-esque shot of his distinctive neck tattoo falling out of the exploding building:
They wanted a tearful Ice Cube to come in and sew the tattoo to his neck, but he was busy that day.
One of the main bad guys from State Of The Union then picks up the patch of skin and says, "Poor Xander, you never had very much between the ears." Because the producers didn't want to burn that bridge; they wanted to bomb it.
Something else that bombed? xXx: State Of The Union. Turns out the franchise ain't shit without Diesel, so they had to un-kill his character to keep the series going. We don't know what Diesel's exact conditions for coming back were, but it's probably not a coincidence that the third movie shares no producers with the first two except for Diesel himself.
Stallone Was Determined To Kill Rocky Balboa In Rocky V, But The Suits Stepped In
Rocky V may have successfully killed off the Rocky franchise for 16 years, but it would have done a lot more than that had Sylvester Stallone had his way. The movie had a lot of problems, not the least of which was Stallone's insistence in casting his own son in a major role, despite the fact that he A) was not a very good actor, and B) was way too old to be playing the same kid we saw at the end of Rocky IV, unless Rocky had been feeding him fast-acting steroids instead of breakfast.
1990 was a great year for nepotism.
The film also suffered from massive studio interference, which is normally a recipe for disaster. But in this case, it saved an iconic character. Stallone had decided at the time that Rocky needed to die at the end of the film. Not content with having Tommy Morrison kill our eardrums every time he spoke, he was also supposed to kill Rocky. In the shooting script, Rocky is beaten to death in the fight with Tommy Gunn, and Adrian gives a speech next to the Rocky statue, telling people to believe in themselves and whatever.
Nothing screams "inspirational" like your hero getting beaten to death in a fistfight.
Two weeks into shooting, director John G. Avildsen got a call from the head of the studio telling him in no uncertain terms that Rocky Balboa was not going to die in this film -- because, in his words, "These people don't die." (Italians?) Unlike with Lethal Weapon, there were no plans for more sequels here. The studio just thought that Rocky dying was too damn depressing. Avildsen took their concerns/demands to Stallone, who finally wrote a new ending: the wholly original idea of Rocky triumphing against the odds and embracing his wife as people cheered for him.
Rocky lived, the franchise died, and years later, Stallone and Ryan Coogler revitalized the character and the series with a pair of new films (Rocky Balboa and Creed) which were way better than they had any right to be. Thanks, Rocky V.
This time, the kid is too young to be Apollo's real son. Math isn't Stallone's strong suit.
Micky McMichaelson occasionally writes moderately funny things on the internet. You can read more of them here: https://twitter.com/mickymcmike
Zoroastrianism used to be one of the biggest religions in the world, but their idea of heaven had a slight twist on it: to get there you'd have to cross a bridge. Sometimes rickety, sometimes wide and sturdy, if you fell off you'd go to the House of Lies for eternity. Fun! Not terrifying at all! This month, Jack, Dan, and Michael along with comedians Casey Jane Ellison and Ramin Nazer as they discuss their favorite afterlife scenarios from movies, sci-fi and lesser-known religions. Get your tickets here and we'll see you on the other side of the bridge!
For more famous characters we almost lost, check out 7 Iconic Characters They Saved From The Cutting Room Floor. And also check out 5 Famous Characters Who Died Horrible Off Screen Deaths.
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