5 Last Second Changes That Saved Classic Movies From Sucking

Your favorite movies have all been one misstep away from being a RiffTrax feature.
5 Last Second Changes That Saved Classic Movies From Sucking

In an alternate universe, every good movie or TV show you can think of is objectively terrible. It only takes one piece of terrible advice; one yes-man too weak to nix a creator's stupid impulse; one errant studio executive saying "I love it! But... giant mechanical spider?" -- and your favorite movie is only good for a RiffTrax. For example ...

The Producers Of Se7en Wanted To Get Rid Of The Big Twist

In the climactic scene of Se7en, villain John Doe (Kevin Spacey) delivers a box to rookie detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) that contains the decapitated head of his wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow) in order to bait Mills into killing him, thus completing his murderous, biblically themed performance piece.

New Line Cinema

You can tell it's fictional because a package-delivery driver actually paid attention to the "fragile" sticker.

When Pitt read the script, he fell in love with it, but he knew that the producers were going to have major reservations -- specifically, with Paltrow's brutal off-screen death, and Spacey's villain "winning" in the end. As a condition of agreeing to do the movie, Pitt made the producers promise that the ending would be filmed as written, and that they wouldn't cop out at the last minute by having Mills arrest Doe, or Paltrow pop out of a cake and yell "psych!" at the end.

But after the first press screenings, producers responded exactly the way that Pitt feared: They went into panic mode and tried to figure out how to reshoot the ending without the Paltrow jack-in-the-box. The alternative ending -- the one they seriously almost went with -- was that Doe decapitates Mills' dog instead.

New Line Cinema

"You always wanted him to learn to play dead..."

Sure, John Wick proves that could have worked, maybe, after some extensive reshooting with additional scenes to highlight how much Mills really, really, fucking loved his dog (do you remember him even having a dog in that movie?) but in the end Pitt convinced them to go with the original vision, and a classic was made. Albeit one that nets you some funny looks if you list it as "your favorite movie."

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind Almost Featured Orangutans on Roller Skates

Steven Spielberg is the founding father of the big-budget summer blockbuster, and he loves him some aliens. In his 1977 hit, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, he knew that he didn't want his aliens to look like people in silly costumes -- this was a serious piece, not befitting a guy in a rubber suit.

It needed at least -- at least -- an orangutan in a rubber suit.

Columbia Pictures

The Humane Society film-set check-ins don't cover animals' dignity.

Yes, in the rough of the climactic scene, the aliens were portrayed by trained orangutans in alien masks. And roller skates. Haha, what? Why roller skates? Well, Spielberg thought that the apes' physiology, unpredictable behavior, and skating movements would seem suitably alien -- and, failing that, it would be hilarious to try.

But it turns out that wrangling orangutans isn't an easy job, particularly in a roller rink. The vision was for a party of alien-costumed orangutans to skate down a ramp toward the camera, but the orangutans had other ideas. Every time they tried to film the scene, the orangutans would refuse to participate and latch onto their handlers. On one of the few occasions that they managed to convince the apes to participate, the lead immediately ripped off its alien mask and started skating backwards. Which, if you ask us, would have been one hell of a twist to end a movie on.

Columbia Pictures

"So we just saved the monkeys for Indy 4."


The Director Of The Sopranos Wanted Bruce Springsteen's Guitarist For The Lead

TV series creator David Chase came up with the idea for The Sopranos because he was a massive, massive, nerd for Goodfellas. In fact, he initially wanted Ray Liotta to play a key character, but Liotta declined, saying that doing TV was "a step backward." Of course, this was 1999 -- it's hard to imagine Liotta declining a TV role today because he's too big of a movie star.

You might think the casting call for Tony Soprano was populated with big names like Robert De Niro, James Caan, Frank Vincent, or Joe Pesci, but nope -- Chase's first choice for the role was Steve Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen's guitarist.

Jim Dyson/Getty Images

Seen here as Silvo, making the same face as HBO execs at the suggestion.

For some reason, HBO balked at casting a musician with no acting experience as the lead in a very expensive show, and forced Chase to audition other actors. Several showed some promise, but when James Gandolfini auditioned, he quit mid-audition because he thought he sucked. Luckily, Chase called him back for a couple more auditions, and Gandolfini was ultimately selected as Tony Soprano. Although the stunning lack of air guitar is very noticeable in the final show.

Finally, HBO was afraid that audiences would be confused about the title and assume The Sopranos was some prissy opera thing, so they offered to produce the show under the title "The Family Man." They only nixed that because a competing network was about to start producing a show called Family Guy.

20th Century Fox Television

For our younger readers, Family Guy was a low-rated, short-lived, Fox cartoon cancelled in 2002.


The Shawshank Redemption Was Almost A Rob Reiner Movie Starring Tom Cruise

The Shawshank Redemption is one of the greatest films of all time. Which is strange, since it has so much going against it: For one thing, it's a Stephen King story, and although several King adaptations have been masterpieces, just playing by sheer numbers, they mostly turn out terrible. For another, it's directed by Frank Darabont, whose credentials at the time were basically "being a huge Stephen King fan."

When Darabont first pitched the screenplay, Castle Rock was excited about the idea, but wanted Rob Reiner to direct. Makes sense: Reiner did another King adaptation, Stand By Me, but he had one condition: He wanted Tom Cruise for the lead.

Columbia Pictures

Would have made the poop-escape scene a lot more intense.

Despite Castle Rock offering Darabont, in his words, "a shitload of dough" to hand the project over to Reiner, Darabont figured that maybe Top Gun himself wasn't "every man" enough to play protagonist Andy Dufresne, so Darabont rejected all offers until he was finally allowed to direct the movie. Ultimately, the role was offered to Tim Robbins, who was uh... considered way more "every man" back then.

Stanley Kubrick Wanted 2001: A Space Odyssey To Be Full Of Stupid Aliens

For 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick partnered up with legendary science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke in order to do sci-fi properly. In the original vision, Kubrick wanted an alien named Clindar, who "could pass for a human with some surgery," to star as the entity that teaches early humans how to use technology. As the script progressed, Clarke eventually convinced Kubrick to replace the role of Clindar with an inanimate monolith. According to preliminary designs, Clindar was supposed to look something like this:

Douglas Trumbull, The Stanley Kubrick Archives

It's like Picasso fucked H.R. Giger.

If you've seen the film, then you know that the protagonist never actually meets the aliens who sent him on his quest -- unless that whole kaleidoscope space-baby thing was supposed to be about that. Who knows?

But we do know it's lucky we never got to see them: Drafts of Kubrick's proposed scripts involve aliens shaped like reptiles, like "cone-shaped things with pea bulbs all over it," or "towering insect-like creatures." Clarke kept a journal of the whole ordeal that reveals his exasperated attempts to keep Kubrick's insane ideas in check. At one point, Kubrick wanted an alien society of "slightly fag robots," which would have ruined the movie, sure, but it would have given us a hilarious YouTube clip.

Jordan Breeding is a part-time writer, a full-time lover, and an all-the-time guitarist. Check out his band at http://www.skywardband.com, or on Spotify here. Billy Fitzsimmons is a freelance writer, check out his awesome articles here.

It's Spring Break! You know what that means: hot coeds getting loose on the beaches of Cancun and becoming imperiled in all classic beach slasher ways: man-eating shark, school of piranhas, James Franco with dreadlocks. There are so many films about vacations gone wrong, it's a chore to wonder if there's even such a thing as a movie vacation gone right. Amity Island and Camp Crystal Lake are out. So what does that leave? The ship from Wall-E? Hawaii with the Brady Bunch? A road trip with famous curmudgeon Chevy Chase? On this month's live podcast Jack O'Brien and the Cracked staff are joined by some special guest comedians to figure out what would be the best vacation to take in a fictional universe. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased here!

For more other amazing creations that were almost total garbage, check out 6 Baffling First Drafts Of Classic Novels and 6 Creepy Details That Were Almost In Classic Disney Movies.

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