5 Last-Minute Changes To Iconic Movies
You'd think that with hundreds of millions of dollars and Samuel L. Jackson's apparent willingness to be in literally anything, filmmakers would get whatever they need on the first try. But some of your favorite movie moments were in fact added months after everyone went home, either during reshoots or at some very late stage when they realized that what they shot the first time was garbage. Like how ...
NOTE: The final entry contains an Avengers: Endgame spoiler, so if you haven't seen it, you may want to stop before then.
The Death Star Attack In A New Hope Was Entirely Redone In The Editing Room
The success of Star Wars is an object lesson in how nobody can win without a little help. Or, you know, a lot. For all of George Lucas', let's say, inconsistent creative instincts, he was wise enough to hand a massive amount of control over to a trio of skilled editors: Paul Hirsch, Richard Chew, and Marcia Lucas, the latter of whom George apparently married out of gratitude and then divorced shortly after Return Of The Jedi.
These editors sat down and adjusted huge swaths of this very weird little film Lucas had shot called Star Wars. Most notably, Marcia rebuilt the Death Star trench run scene from the ground up. She knew that, as originally planned, it dragged and had no sense of urgency, saying that audiences needed to "cheer when Han Solo comes in at the last second" (rather than, say, simply wake up during the end credits music). But the biggest problem she had to solve -- one that is lethal to any action sequence -- was that there was no tension.
That's why the biggest change was cleverly altering and reediting the footage so that, instead of hanging in space like a fat machine moon with nothing to do, the Death Star was actively attacking the Rebel base on Yavin IV. Yep, that was all added later. You ever wonder why the Death Star didn't just shoot the planet Yavin, which was in the way, and destroy the moon that way? Because none of that stuff was originally filmed. In the original script, they weren't under a direct threat.
The whole notion of the Rebel base being on the brink of obliteration by the Death Star's giant laser (thus putting a ticking clock on the mission)was created in post-production with whatever they could cobble together. That's why you never see any onscreen character mention the base being under attack, and instead we're given offscreen voiceovers and random cut-ins of computer screens saying "The Death Star is totally about to fire on us, you guys!" That was all their attempt to add excitement to the sequence.
You can see what the original would have looked like here, or read the shooting script. The whole third act is just lifeless. The motivation for the final sequence would have boiled down to "The Empire is probably going to destroy our base at some point in the future, so we'd better take out the Death Star as a preventative measure."Important side note: Film editors don't getnearlyenough credit in general.
Frodo Originally Straight Up Killed Gollum
By the time Frodo and Gollum fight over the One Ring inside Mount Doom near the end of Return Of The King, most audience members have watched their loved ones grow old and wither away. And considering that director Peter Jackson and his crew filmed principal photography for all three LOTR movies back-to-back over the course of an unprecedented 438 freaking days, it's likely that they probably wanted to go home by the end too.
So you can imagine why, by the time they got around to shooting Gollum and Frodo's climactic tug-of-war, Jackson basically said, "Screw it. Have Frodo spin-kick Smeagol into the fire. It's what we all want." Fans of the books will recognize this as the exact opposite of what originally happens. Just like in the final version of the film, Gollum mostly sort of slips during the scuffle and burns his own ass up like an idiot (or his own greed was his undoing, however you want to look at it).
Frodo murdering Gollum may have been cathartic on some level, but considering how we learned Gollum's tragic backstory only a few (thousand) hours earlier, it also makes him sort of an unsympathetic dick and waters down his entire emotional arc. Like, good on you for saving Middle-earth, but maybe don't slaughter the sad addiction metaphor while you're at it.
To his credit, Jackson did realize that turning Frodo into a cold-blooded killer might not endear audiences to his diminutive protagonist, so they went back and reshot the scene. Then they shot another 37 scenes of people slowly smiling and embracing.
Rambo Was Supposed To Kill Himself In The First Movie
Although more recent installments in the Rambo series portray the titular soldier as an invincible, wrinkled specter of death and electrified genitals, in the first movie, he kills exactly one dude, and it's halfway an accident down to the guy neglecting to wear a seatbelt. But when First Blood was originally shot, Rambo was going to kill two characters: the policeman with a blatant disregard for personal safety, and himself. This massive action series would have consisted of exactly one very depressing film.
The first-first version of First Blood ends with Rambo in the police station, surrounded by the army and cops. Colonel Trautman walks in to put ol' Rambo down, but he doesn't have the nerve to actually go through with it. Remember, at this point in the series, Rambo is a wounded war vet suffering from PTSD -- it makes sense that the colonel would hesitate. Rambo, however, has no such qualms, so he walks up to him and pulls the trigger himself. It's ostensibly a metaphor about the wretched way America mistreats its veterans.
But after shooting the emotionally powerful scene, Sylvester Stallone reportedly hopped back up and asked to speak to the director in private. Stallone then suggested, basically, "Hey, Rambo has suffered enough by this point in the movie (and I'd like to make a lot more money out of this series), so what if we didn't kill him?"
In a weird twist on how things normally work in Hollywood, Stallone's proposal for a happier, more open finale actually pissed off producers, who wanted the movie to remain a dismal suicide mission. But the director ultimately sided with Stallone, so they went ahead and filmed a nonlethal ending, paving the way for 30 years of Rambo sequels which mostly forget about the whole "tortured vet" thing and just have him kick the shit out of anyone on the same continent as him.
Nobody Knew What To Do With The Wizard Of Oz's Transition To Color
Color film has been around long enough that even your grandparents have probably forgotten how utterly mind-blowing The Wizard Of Oz's use of color was -- specifically, the brilliant carpet-pull transition from the monochrome of the real world to the vibrant technicolor of Oz. It's one of the most famous shots in all of film history.
Although the idea to have the real world be dingy grey and Oz be not-grey was one they'd intended for a while, The Wizard Of Oz was plagued with so many production problems that nobody bothered to spend time figuring out how in the hell they'd actually, you know, do it. The original idea was to shoot the scene in color, and then hire a bunch of artists to go in and hand-draw sepia smudges over each individual still, but that would've been crazy expensive.
Fortunately, the producers had no clue what they were doing and had decided that Oz needed to undergo extensive reshoots and add more Kansas scenes without "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."But it was during these pointless reshoots that producer Mervyn LeRoy sat down and figured out how they were going to make the transition without spending too much more money (or almost killing any more cast members). The idea he settled on was pretty much the same plan they had in the beginning, but instead of painting the film stock,he'd paint Judy Garland.
Well, technically LeRoy painted the entire set and Garland's stunt double's clothes and skin sepia colors. She went to the door to open it, but then backs out of the frame so the unpainted Judy could frolic into the magical full-color land of Oz and murder multiple witches.
Now here's the big spoiler we warned about in the open ...
Tony Stark's Final Line In Avengers: Endgame Was Added During Reshoots
When Avengers: Endgame promised to more or less wrap up the last 11 years of MCU films, that theoretically involved gracefully concluding the story of Tony Stark, who is arguably the franchise's main character. Thankfully, the directors delivered a nearly pitch-perfect conclusion for Iron Man, as he sacrifices himself to save the entire Universe. Everything comes full circle too when Tony redelivers his famous line "I am Iron Man" one final time.
But originally, Iron Man's counter-snap was accompanied not by a fantastic one-liner callback to his origins, but instead ... silence. As it was first filmed, Tony didn't say a damn word. Iron Man set the whole tone for the MCU with his memorable quips and sarcasm, and while in the editing room, the directors quickly realized Tony really should say something, but they couldn't think of what. They wrote several different lines, but nothing seemed to fit. They didn't even take my suggestion of "You snapped, Thanos! But now it's time for Crackle and Pop!"
Eventually, the editor suggested the line we all assumed they'd agreed on about seven years ago, and the Russo brothers excitedly called Downey to the studio to reshoot the scene. And that's how I and hundreds of other grown-ass adults with children and jobs came to sob quietly together in the dark over the fate of a glorified action figure.
For more, check out The Horrifying Deleted Timeline From Back To The Future:
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