The Ex: According to screenwriters David Guion and Michael Handelman, executives completely changed this Zach Braff comedy when it didn't test well, and then changed it again for DVD. Guion later said in an interview:
"That movie was a bit of a cautionary story for screenwriters in terms of that it was a movie that struggled a little bit and didn’t test well initially, and the financers panicked and said, 'We better show a lot of people getting hit in the balls.'"
One Missed Call: According to star Shannyn Sossamon, the decision to turn this horror remake into a PG-13 movie was made at the last minute by the studio against director Eric Valette's wishes. Valette allegedly has his own preferred Director's Cut which has never been released. Screenwriter Andrew Klavan says the actors, producer, director, and himself couldn't agree on what the movie should be, and that their pulling in different directions resulted in the final mess of a finished film.
Kingdom of Heaven: Ridley Scott wanted to make a political drama, but Fox wanted a Gladiator-style action movie with a romance suplot. They also weren't enamored with the original cut's three-hour length. This led to some elements of the story being dropped, including Sibylla's character motivation, Balian's backstory, and King Baldwin V's entire character. They would be restored in the director's cut.
Blade Runner. Amongst the things the executives tried to change was adding narration by the protagonist, Deckard, to explain the story, because they felt the viewers wouldn't understand the movie otherwise. Executive meddling also changed the ending to have Deckard and Rachael driving off into the mountains, using footage from a different movie. Several versions have since been released that removed all these changes.
Michael Mann's The Keep is a rather severe example. Running over three hours originally, the studio haphazardly cut it down to 96 minutes, resulting in an incongruous, David Lynch-type film. Characters spoke in fragmented conversations that seemed to skip ahead of themselves — you can actually hear the mid-sentence cuts to the audio track in some places. Michael Mann has disowned the film, and author F. Paul Wilson has since refused to allow any further film adaptations of his novels.
This happened a lot to Guillermo del Toro's films. He's notorious for sticking to his guns, like a lot of Mexican directors, meaning that he would often run into problems; in fact, he's one of the few to even want to work in Hollywood to begin with.
Mimic was left unrecognizable by executive meddling. Del Toro likened it to "having a beautiful daughter and watching her arms get cut off," possibly a Titus Andronicus reference.
Pan's Labyrinth: Executive felt that viewers wouldn't get the setting, Franco's Spain, and wanted the film set in Nazi Germany instead. Del Toro stuck to his guns here and won out.
Hellboy: Executives felt that Hellboy should be changed from an out-and-out demon to a human who was (somehow, inexplicably) born in Hell who would turn into Hellboy when he got angry, a la the Hulk. Del Toro vetoed all attempts to change the character and again eventually won out.
Pacific Rim: Del Toro resisted the studio's insistence on 3-D, thinking it wouldn't add anything to the movie (if it didn't detract from the experience outright). He eventually conceded to the conversion, but he oversaw the whole process to make sure it was done right. Fortunately, this wasn't hard to do, as many scenes were already in CGI.
Alan Moore, because of this trope, not only refuses direct involvement with film adaptations of his comics, but also voluntarily relinquishes all profit rights to them. He also asks to have his name removed from adaptations' credits, which the studios only really started doing with Watchmen.
Watchmen had a Troubled Production with two versions by different studios. The earlier Fox version saw a lot of changes. The setting was updated to take place during the War On Terror, it went from a character study to a straight action flick, and the plot was changed to Ozymandias going back in time to kill Dr. Manhattan, which somehow transported the characters into the "real world", where they're known as comic book characters. That one languished in Development Hell. The subsequent WB version similarly tried a Setting Update, only for Zack Snyder to threaten to quit if anything was changed.
The production of what would eventually become Superman Returns was similarly fraught with meddling, most of it from producer Jon Peters. Kevin Smith was originally recruited to write the screenplay in 1997, but he backed out after being inundated with Peters' demands, which were bizarre to say the least. The film as we know it didn't emerge until 2003, when Bryan Singer was handed the project and steadfastly refused to alter the mythos. Among Peters' changes:
He demanded that Superman not fly or wear his iconic tights, the latter on the grounds that it was "too faggy". On the other hand, he wanted the film's villain, Brainiac, to speak with a "homosexual lisp" and have a robot sidekick who would be a "gay R2-D2 with attitude".
His choice to play Superman was Sean Penn, on the basis of his performance in Dead Man Walking, where he had what Peters called the eyes of a "caged animal, a fucking killer".
He wanted Superman to be an ordinary human being who got his powers from his suit, which was itself a living being which crawled out of a tennis ball tube. Peters is said not to like comic books, which may explain why he was unaware that he had ordered Superman to be turned into Venom.
He wanted a fight scene between Brainiac and two polar bears. This was ridiculous enough to be parodied in Superman: The Animated Series, where Superman steals something from Brainiac, hides it in the Fortress of Solitude, and jokes that he should guard it with a polar bear.
Highlander II: The Quickening: After production ran late and over-budget, the insurance company took over production. They made numerous changes, including changing the Immortals' Back Story and merging two fight scenes together. Director Russell Mulcahy blamed this for the film's incredible crappiness and tried to salvage it by recutting into something closer to his original vision; it would be released as Highlander II: The Renegade Version.
Producer/distributor Harvey Weinstein is infamous for recutting films without the consent of their directors, to the point that he has been nicknamed "Harvey Scissorhands" and "Darth Weinstein".
Fanboys: The executives ordered so many changes that whole swathes of supblot make no sense unless you ignore them. The DVD version is a better, but it's still ridiculously obvious which scenes the executives demanded. The original still exists, and the director still has a print of it, but he's not allowed to show it to anyone. The director recounts the whole debacle in this podcast.
The 2013 South Korean film Snowpiercer nearly went through Weinstein's editing machine as well, ignoring protests from the film's director, Bong Joon-Ho (famous for The Host). The original unedited film was a box-office hit in Korea, and it also got positive reviews after screenings in the UK. Weinstein cut the film by 25 minutes and edited it to play up the action at the expense of character development. Bong fought for the original cut, pointing to the negative press surrounding the recut, and he got his wish — but Weinstein scaled back the number of theaters that would show it.
He also did this to Vampire Academy, much to the chagrin of its screenwriter, Daniel Waters.
Scream 4 was another victim of Harvey Weinstein's tampering, with both Hayden Panettiere and director Wes Craven reportedly complaining about script changes. The DVD Commentary brings up a number of instances, particularly noting that the film originally ended with a "We got a heartbeat!" scene involving Panettiere's character Kirby. Given that the finished version has the most downbeat ending of the series and was the least successful at the box office, and given both audiences and critics gave Panettiere major props, leaving Kirby writhing on the ground in agony with her fate left in the air might have been a mistake.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a quasi-failure with a big price tag. Paramount tried to avoid this in the future by removing Gene Roddenberry as executive producer. They were also outraged by a script he wrote in which the Enterprise crew had to ensure the Kennedy assassination. But since Roddenberry made Star Trek to begin with, they had to kick him upstairs, where he could become his own meddling executive.
The original ending of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan did not have Spock performing a mind-meld on McCoy, and did not have the shot of Spock's casket having soft-landed on the Genesis planet. It was implied that he was Deader Than Dead. This tested poorly, with Harve Bennett noting in Shatner's book Star Trek Movie Memories that there was "a silence, a heavily funereal silence" as the test audience left the theater. As a result, over Nick Meyer's vehement objections, the "Remember" shot and the tracking shot resting on Spock's casket were added to the final theatrical cut. Particularly sharp-eyed viewers will note the change in film quality during the "Remember" shot.
The traitorous Lt. Valeris in 1991's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was originally written to be Lt. Saavik from the three previous films, so that her betrayal would have a more profound impact. However, Gene Roddenberry overruled writer/director Nicholas Meyer in what was by all accounts an epic battle of rank-pulling, and forced the creation of a "new" protégé for Spock. Meyer even pointed out that he wrote Saavik himself (as she first appeared in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is one of the least popular Star Trek films, and fans largely blame executive meddling. Among the problems were that the script changed hands numerous times, and the budget and schedule were so tight that Industrial Light and Magic couldn't be used to make the special effects.
They tried with Star Trek: Insurrection; many observers, including SF Debris, claim this would have improved the movie. Paramount executives wanted to fix some of the film's plot holes, such as why the Designated Villains were bad guys for wanting access to a planet's miraculous healing powers, and why Picard was so intent to save a particular race of only six hundred (thus well below the threshold for avoiding dangerous inbreeding).
Spider-Man 3 director Sam Raimi wanted to do a movie focusing on a hero with negative qualities and a villain with positive qualities, while wrapping up sub-plots involving Mary Jane and Harry "Goblin Jr." Osborn. The story was packed as it was, when producer Avi Arad insisted that fan-favorite Venom be added to the film. Raimi disliked the character and at first refused, but eventually gave in. This left the movie with Venom and Eddie Brock shoehorned in. Gwen Stacy was also shoehorned in, filling a role that was originally just a random woman. It was commercially successful, but reviews were mixed, and Raimi was dissatisfied with the final product.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is a spoof of the Sports StoryTropes. This was reflected in the original ending, which spoofed the trope Underdogs Never Lose by having the heroes lose the final round to the Jerkass villain, only for one of their number to win big in Vegas and recover some of their losses. The suits didn't like this and insisted that the heroes win. In response, the director created an overly-complicated ending with an obviously labeled Deus ex Machina, and a scene in the credits shows the villain whining that he only lost because "audiences can't cope with anything challenging." The DVD has an "alternate ending" which gives insight into how the original might have gone; if it were genuine, it would have been the cruelest ending ever.
Daredevil's original version didn't survive when Fox executives saw spinoff potential in Jennifer Garner's Elektra. They recut the film to give Elektra more prominence, cutting off most of Matt Murdock's backstory, his legal career, and any sense to the ending. The result was heavily panned, as was the eventual Elektra film.
The Golden Compass was left with much of its content on the cutting room floor. Chris Weitz's original cut was three hours long, in line with New Line's desire for the next The Lord of the Rings. Then they changed their mind, worrying about the general darkness of the His Dark Materials series, and tried to lighten it up, doing so by cutting the Downer Ending and 45 minutes' worth of other scenes. This created such glaring gaps that they needed reshoots to smooth them out. They also added a very strange and obvious Sequel Hook. They even insisted on cameos from The Lord of the Rings actors like Christopher Lee and Ian McKellen, the latter of whom voiced over a character already being played by someone else. The film went so far over budget that New Line sold the international distribution rights in order to finish post-production. This blew up spectacularly, as the film did poorly domestically but was a smash hit internationally. As for the original cut, it's unlikely to see the light of day; Weitz claims it still needs $2 million worth of effects.
Back to the Future suffered from this extensively. Some of it worked; for instance, the mechanism that would take Marty back to the future was originally a nuclear test in Nevada, which was changed to the ordinary lightning bolt. Others didn't, and Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale bowed down to a lot of pressure. But they stopped short of naming the film Spaceman from Pluto. Steven Spielberg handled this by answering the memo: "Thanks for the joke memo, guys: it's the funniest thing ever. We're still laughing about it." The executive who suggested it was too proud to admit he was serious.
In The Matrix, the Wachowski siblings had wanted to have the machines use the humans plugged into the Matrix as a gigantic neural network computer. However, executives thought that the audience wouldn't understand this, so they changed it to using the humans to generate electricity, even though this violates the laws of thermodynamics and creates several plot holes (though some fans find it a decent enough metaphor).
The Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle centers around the subtle and omnipresent (yet hilarious) issues faced by the ethnic minority Indian and Asian main characters. The execs wanted to change them to both being Jewish, which not only would have negated the central concept but also have proven the entire point of the film. The director refused, but he did place a Jewish buddy duo in the film. The film's sequel, perhaps trying to avoid this, put the racial issues front and center, and has Harold and Kumar arrested as terrorists.
The scene where the narrator severely beats another member of the club out of jealousy for the apparent attention he was getting from Tyler Durden originally focused more on the beating. Censors deemed this unacceptable so the scene was altered to focus more on the narrator's face, and the reactions of the onlookers. Many considered the alteration to be more disturbing than the original scene.
During the scene where Tyler is discussing with the narrator the night of sex he has just had with Marla Singer, there was originally a flashback line where she intimately whispers to Tyler that she "wants to have [his] abortion". Studio executives were outraged by this line and demanded director David Fincher that it be changed. Fincher complied under the executives' promise that he would change the line only once. The studio executives begged for it to be changed back when it turned into Marla nostalgically exclaiming that "[she] hadn't been fucked like that since grade school". (Helena Bonham Carter herself only said the line because being English, she didn't realize how young "grade school" would be.)
The films ends with the success of Project Mayhem and what appears to be a sort of reconciliation between Marla and Tyler, which differs rather greatly from the novel's ending. Even the book's author, Chuck Palahniuk, is said to have liked it better than his own ending, though he also mentions in his book "Non-Fiction" that the process of watching the book become the movie was deeply depressing, most especially the way actors such as Pitt and Norton wrote in their own bits of dialogue.
This happened in two media regarding the alien designs. The makers of the adult alien's action figure wanted to add genitals to them; the director of ''Alien: Resurrection wanted to do the same to the "newborn" alien. Both times, the producers said no, saying it was "too much".
Alien³ had a legendarily Troubled Production. 20th Century Fox spent millions of dollars over a period of four years trying to get the script up and running — every director who signed up left, either due to creative differences or refusing Fox's mandates (such as the inclusion of Sigourney Weaver). Fox then brought on rookie director David Fincher, whom they believed they could control. Fincher had other plans and started several battles with the producers. Fox prevented Fincher from shooting key scenes (which he shot anyway), sent him back for reshoots after a deliberately botched test screening (using, as actor Ralph Brown put it, "brain-dead kids from Southern California"), insulted him on several occasions and eventually locked him out of the editing room. The producers would also try to hide the story of the film's production, blocking the original version of the making-of documentary Wreckage and Rage (itself originally titled Wreckage and Rape, telling you what the creators thought of it). Fincher hated the final product and was even so discouraged from directing that he almost turned down Se7en.
The Nazi propaganda film Der Ewige Jude ("The Eternal Jew") was envisioned by Joseph Goebbels as an understated and subtle (well, by Nazi propaganda standards) demonstrations of the "evils" of Jewry. Goebbels believed that the best propaganda was primarily entertainment and not obviously propaganda. Hitler disagreed and demanded more polemical material, including laughably crude (even for Nazis) comparisons of Jews to rats. It was a box-office flop, and some viewers fainted at the crudity. Unfortunately, Goebbels would get his way with the much more effective and successful Jud Suss.
Jud Suss itself is a more straightforward example. Director Veit Harlan and star Ferdinand Marian hoped to make something more nuanced than standard Nazi propaganda; however, little of their attempted complexity survived Goebbels' micromanagement. Notably, the film initially climaxed with Suss providing a Motive Rant explaining his villainy as a reaction to lifelong anti-Semitism. Unsurprisingly, Goebbels ordered the scene cut, feeling it made Suss too sympathetic.
The same thing happened with Triumph of the Will but in reverse. Nazi officials (including Goebbels, though for reasons of personal rivalry with Leni Riefenstahl) complained there wasn't enough propaganda in it. Hitler, however, allowed Riefenstahl to make the movie her way, creating the classic propaganda movie of the era. On Triumph and her subsequent films, Riefenstahl had Auteur License, where most other German filmmakers were answerable to Goebbels.
The planned ending of the 2007 film of I Am Legend tested poorly and was replaced at the studio's insistence. The new ending was nothing like the book's and also completely against the point of the original film. Among other things, it introduces serious plot holes, skips the shocking twist that made the book so successful (while still heavily foreshadowing the now-nonexistent twist), and even removes the reason for the movie to be called "I Am Legend".
A planned adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Mort was nixed when producers wanted to "lose the Death angle". The book can largely be described as "Death takes an apprentice". Here is Pratchett's comment about it:
"What you have to remember is that in the movies there are two types of people 1) the directors, artists, actors and so on who have to do things and are often quite human and 2) the other lifeforms. Unfortunately you have to deal with the other lifeforms first. It is impossible to exaggerate their baleful stupidity."
There was a film version of The Wee Free Men in the pipes, but according to Terry, the script he was shown "had all the hallmarks of something that had been good, and then the studio had got involved." The project is now mired in Development Hell.
In the original The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Klaatu was initially supposed to survive the barrage of bullets via the Applied Phlebotinum that brought him back to temporary life in the final cut to reinforce his God-like powers. Unfortunately the censors didn't like the ending, suggesting it was too left-wing of a movie, forcing the line, "That power is reserved for the Almighty Spirit."
Casablanca was barred by the Hays Code from having Ilsa leave her husband for Rick at the end; this led to the film's famous Bittersweet Ending. The execs also refused to let Rick be arrested at the end, leading instead to the famous line, "Round up the usual suspects."
The movie of Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters suffered greatly from meddling, as expounded in this essay by the scriptwriter. Among other things, the execs wanted to change the slugs to space spores.
Babylon A.D., which evidently made sense at some point, was reportedly disowned by its director because of Fox's meddling, as described here. They cut the film down so much that Vin Diesel, who hadn't seen a cut of the film for months, jokingly wondered if he was still in the movie at all.
The Hitman movie was severely meddled with, at least according to well-substantiated rumors. If you watch the trailers (and promotional stills) carefully, you can see the remains of a different "train station" scene. It is said that the producers ordered the editor, Nicolas de Toth, to direct the re-shoot — without even notifying the director, Xavier Gens. The leaked near-final script contains scenes that could be matched to the remains seen in trailers and promotional photos.
While the Ed Wood "masterpiece" Glen or Glenda? would have been a horrible movie regardless, the suits pulled the strings behind the scenes, adding softcore bondage so the film could draw more publicity as an adults-only extravaganza. Ironically, this meant that the film didn't make much of a profit and only gained national attention when it was re-released in theatres in the coming decades.
The Super Mario Bros. movie was originally a Disney production. Disney wanted a more fantasy-based production, but they were in a hole early when they were forced to fire director Greg Beeman after spending $10 million in just six months. They scrambled for nearly a year before finally hiring Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel (of Max Headroom fame) — the only directors interested in it. They told the new writers to strictly limit new action scenes or anything requiring special effects; they were ignored, resulting in two re-writes before filming began. Then the execs micromanaged the heck out of Morton and Jankel, deleted 20 minutes' worth of footage, and created an atrocious animated intro to make up for it. It's said that this treatment was a big reason why Nintendo refused to license its characters to Disney for its theme parks (going with Universal Studios instead).
A Streetcar Named Desire had a fair amount of this going on during production. Some of the jazzy, brass-heavy music was deemed "too suggestive" and re-scored with strings. The ending was also changed, to show Stella leaving Stanley after he rapes Blanche. Blanche's monologue about her husband was also toyed with, making it nearly impossible to realize he was homosexual if you hadn't read or seen the play and ruining his motivation for killing himself. These changes were mandated by The Hays Code; a Director's Cut 40 years later would make up for it.
Street Fighter: Early on, Steven E. de Souza decided that they should only include seven fighters from the game in order to avoid having a messy story and bloated cast. The representatives from Capcom initially agreed, but reneged on their promise and forced him to include nearly the entire roster, causing the core cast to balloon from seven to fifteen, which doesn't even take into account supporting roles or Canon Foreigners. Also, Capcom really wanted de Souza to cast Japanese actor Kenya Sawada as Ryu, despite the fact that the director wast looking for a comedic actor with better English skills. The character of Captain Sawada was created as a compromise, causing the cast to bloat even further.
The movie version of the stage musical 1776 was commissioned by the U.S. government in the runup to the Bicentennial. As such, it suffered from executive branch meddling, in particular regarding the Villain Song "Cool Considerate Men". It detailed the motives of what were then "conservatives" — i.e. the wealthy, risk-averse colonists who opposed the independence movement. Then-president Richard Nixon hated the song for its implied parallels to his conservative movement. He was unsuccessful in getting it removed from the play, but he was friends with producer Jack Warner and got it removed from the film. He went so far as to ask Warner to destroy the footage; Warner, no longer in charge of the studio, could only have the negatives packed into unmarked boxes. He would later regret cutting the song from the film, feeling it was essential to the plot. The song would make it to the Special Edition DVD release.
According to the commentary on the extended edition DVD, the creative team behind Underworld was pressured by the studio to keep Viktor a sympathetic character throughout, and have Lucian be a straight villain. One wonders what would have happened in such a movie, since that would have negated the story and the bulk of the action. The writing and directing team luckily prevailed, keeping the revelation of Lucian as a sympathetic figure and Viktor as a lying murderous jerk.
Brazil stands out as one of the most contentious instances of Executive Meddling ever. It was a battle between the director, Terry Gilliam, and Universal Studios and its COO Sid Sheinberg.
Sheinberg wanted to replace Michael Kamen's orchestral score with contemporary rock music (to "attract the teens"), change its tone from a sci-fi epic to a love story, and repurpose a Dream Sequence from earlier in the film to serve as a real-life happy ending (instead of its planned Downer Ending). He also tried to cut the film's running time from 142 minutes to 97. Gilliam fought back, but could only get some of the footage back; only ten minutes were edited out. Then he started clandestine screenings for students and critics, who liked it and got the film positive vibes. Sheinberg wasn't impressed. Then a frustrated Gilliam bought a full-page ad◊ in Variety asking Sheinberg when he would release the film. Sheinberg, undeterred, finished his version with outside editors. This version, which was released theatrically, is known as the "Love Conquers All" version; it was not well received.
Gilliam's own, original 142-minute cut has since been recognized as a classic and is now available on home video. It was also the version released in Europe, where distributors had no problem with the original content. Gilliam swore off working with Universal for a decade until 12 Monkeys, also a critically acclaimed film — he was so wary about what happened with Brazil that he had a documentary crew record everything behind the scenes (which eventually became the documentary The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys).
Disney thought that the film's original screenplay, written by Brian Clemens, was too intense. They hired their own people to revise it. They also cut 20 minutes off the film's run time and changed the opening credits sequence from its original, much darker incarnation.
The original ending was to have the Watcher appear and take the heroine to his spaceship, which contained the girl who was haunting the heroine throughout the film. However, Disney wanted to rush the film's release to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the acting career of Bette Davis, who played the girl's mother. The scenes involving the spaceship weren't finished at the time, so they were left out of the film, and the ending became unintelligible. Rather than finish the special effects shots required for the film's intended ending, Disney put in a new ending in which the Watcher is now a pillar of light (instead of an insectoid alien), with the events of the missing girl's disappearance and the Watcher's presence being explained by the heroine's younger sister (who is possessed by the Watcher).
Disney also fought Anchor Bay's attempt to restore the original cut on the DVD; they did eventually allow a release with a rough cut of the never-filmed ending shown as an "alternate ending", along with a second "alternate ending" meant to approximate the original cut's ending. Both endings would eventually appear on the Disney DVD version of the film.
The producers of Times Square tried to remove the original cut's lesbian content and added songs so that the soundtrack would be a double album. Director Allan Moyle resisted and was fired. The deleted footage is apparently lost.
Rob Zombie's 2003 horror film House of 1000 Corpses was initially filmed while Rob was negotiating for Universal Pictures to distribute it. When Universal execs saw the final cut, they turned pale and refused to release it, though it was eventually picked up by Lionsgate. Rob groused to Guitar World magazine shortly thereafter, "I called it House of 1,000 Corpses; what did they think it was going to be about?"
Dune had its runtime pared down by hours, and the result was a confusing mess to many people who didn't read the book. Oddly, though, that's David Lynch's preferred cut of the film. He was so displeased with the three-hour TV version that he asked for his name removed from the credits.
The original producer of Monty Python's Life of Brian abandoned the film just as the Pythons were getting ready to shoot (or, as Michael Palin put it, "when they finally read the script"). The film was left without a producer, but then in stepped former BeatleGeorge Harrison, who was a total Python fanboy who also happened to be rich enough to finance the film on his own. He even founded his own production company just for this film, although it went on to produce a number of later successes as well. When asked why, Harrison just said, "I wanted to see the movie." Eric Idle would later call it "the most expensive movie ticket ever purchased."
The original Army of Darkness ending had Ash drinking too much sleeping potion and, instead of waking up in the present, arriving in the post-apocalyptic future and screaming through the credits. When test audiences complained about the ending, meddling executives stepped in to request a new, much happier ending be filmed in its place. However, Tropes Are Not Bad; the theatrical ending is widely considered better, as it gives Ash some closure. The original ending, though, was used in the international release.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan was supposed to be one-third on the boat, and two-thirds in New York, and the studio forced the director to reverse the ratio. The main reason the studio forced this decision was because they simply didn't have enough of a budget to be able to film all the New York scenes.
The seventh movie was originally going to pit Jason against Freddy himself. However, the two were owned by Paramount and New Line, respectively, and neither side could come to an agreement over how to proceed. It took New Line getting a hold of the rights to Jason (plus years of Development Hell) for Freddy vs. Jason to come along.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers had so much meddling that it resulted in two different altered cuts of the film. One way or another, the executives took over the film after it ran over time and budget. Their first attempt to salvage it became the "Theatrical Cut". The "Producer's Cut" is the other version, which trims the violence and cursing, has a ton of alternate takes, changes the opening narration, and cuts 20 minutes from the Theatrical Cut. The two also have very different explanations for Michael's killing ways; the Theatrical version offered a scientific reason, but the Producer's Cut said it was supernatural.
Halloween II (1981): John Carpenter didn't want to do a sequel, but the producers said that they were doing one with or without him. He figured that if someone was going to be paid to write the script, it might as well be him. Rick Rosenthal was then brought in to direct, but the producers didn't like his decision to make it more of a thriller than a slasher, so they got Carpenter to shoot some extra scenes, mostly involving killings. As a result, Rosenthal is not a fan of the released version.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was the unfortunate victim of this, with the original 3 hour film being cut down to 2 1/2 hours, due to the studio being nervous about the commercial success due to the length. But when the Ultimate Cut was released, many critics and audience members retracted their negative statements in praise of Zack Snyder's original vision.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Fox executive Tom Rothman didn't like the Darker and Edgier direction director Gavin Hood was going with the movie, forcing so many rewrites that portions of the screenplay were rewritten even after filming had started. He also decided that Deadpool, a Medium AwareEnsemble Darkhorse in the comics who can't shut up, should only make a brief appearance before his mouth gets sewn shut, obviating any reason for people to want to see him. The reaction to that one was so negative that even after Rothman left, no other execs were confident in Deadpool's theatrical success; the eventual Deadpool movie was a pleasant surprise on that front.
The 1967 spy comedy In Like Flint has agent Flint uncovering a plot by a group of powerful women executives (in those pre-liberation days they were heads of cosmetic companies, fashion houses, etc.) who commandeer and arm a space station to take the reins of power from men and run the world their way. As originally scripted, Flint argues with them that even though they had been dealt an unfair deal in life, their plan was simply the other side of the coin, adding that "if it's a slug on one side it's a slug on the other". Someone in the studio hierarchy trimmed his eloquent case down to "Ladies...forget it!" and the movie's producer quit in protest.
The theatrical cut of Erich von Stroheim's Greed was cut to two hours by MGM. The original cut was nine and a half hours. Most of the cut material is deemed lost.
There were two cuts of Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate: a five-hour cut and a studio-mandated 210-minute cut. This was the only time during the film's production that Cimino would capitulate to studio demands.
The film of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was intended to be entirely different. Joss Whedon wanted a B-Movie feel to it; the execs much preferred the comedy aspects of the script. The meddling was so bad that Whedon — himself no stranger to executives meddling in his TV series — walked off set one day and never came back. A version of the original script apparently still exists and is considered canon in series continuity. Whedon claims that the Origin comic miniseries is the closest publicly available thing to it.
The TV Setdiscusses this trope. A fellow whose brother has just committed suicide wants to make a thoughtful Dramedy TV show that would serve as a fictional account of their relationship, and a way of coming to terms with suicide in general. A particularly pushy executive gets involved, and it gets turned into a Lowest Common Denominator comedy called Call Me Crazy! Oh, and does the brother have to commit suicide?
Lenny: "Suicide is depressing to, like, 82% of people!"
Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers suffered terribly from this when it was released in America. For starters, America is the only country in which that was the title. In Europe, it was released under Polanski's original title, Dance of the Vampires. Executives also cut out 20 minutes of footage (from a film that was only 107 minutes to begin with), dubbed over the characters to make them sound American (and not very well), and added a cheerful little slapstick cartoon short to the beginning, which clashed badly with the tone Polanski was reaching for. The finished product was so bad that Roger Ebert would simply say that, in the screening he attended, no one laughed even once, although a couple of people cried.
With Gremlins, Warner Bros. thought the film focused too much on the gremlins and wanted most of their scenes cut. Producer Steven Spielberg, in a move reminiscent of Back to the Future's response to meddling, suggested that the studio could cut every gremlin scene and call the movie People. The studio wisely backed down.
The classic Film NoirThe Big Sleep had positive executive meddling. The film was completed in 1944, but then shelved so the studio could push through its backlog of WWII movies. It was finally released in 1946. In the meantime, stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall had married, and the pair's first film, To Have and Have Not, had been released, demonstrating their bankable chemistry. The Big Sleep was recut and new scenes, mainly featuring the two leads flirting, were inserted. This made the movie even more confusing, but the results were worth it. The original 1944 version survives, though, as it was shown to U.S. troops overseas during the war; both are available on DVD.
Scooby-Doo: Writer James Gunn wrote a PG-13 movie around urban legends and Wild Mass Guessing developed by fans. Despite these elements being filmed, Warner Bros. forced many of them to be cut to get a PG rating. Later on, Gunn's contract mandated that he write a sequel and he was forced to leave the Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake as a result.
Red Dawn (2012): The plot of the movie was originally centered around a Chinese invasion of America. After the movie was completed, the executives decided to change the villain from China to North Korea, and went so far as to digitally alter every Chinese symbol into a North Korean one and add additional scenes. Theories abound, from suggesting that distributors were unnerved by the prospect of a Chinese invasion, to the risk of the film being Banned in China itself, which would leave a lot of money on the table.
A scene in The Santa Clause ended up deleted in the DVD releases because of complaints from the parents of children who watched the film. Said children dialed the number that Scott Calvin sarcastically gave (1-800-SPANK-ME), and discovered that it was a phone sex hotline.
Tremors had some positive meddling regarding the casting. The studio suggested that Michael Gross, then a household name due to Family Ties, should play Burt Gummer. The crew was worried, as this would be Playing Against Type for Gross, but Gross did so well in the role that he made the character an Ensemble Darkhorse. Similarly, the studio also suggested casting country singer Reba McEntire, who had never acted in a movie before; she was successful enough in the role to launch her own acting career.
In The Avengers, Joss Whedon wanted Loki to have a muscular Dragon intimidating enough to go up against the Hulk. Marvel said no, not wanting too many Asgardian or fantasy elements in the movie. Marvel also replaced Edward Norton with Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, although this one worked out as fans liked Ruffalo's portrayal (and Norton was notoriously difficult to work with).
Iron Man 3 fell victim to this twice from two different parties:
Disney were responsible for the first example (to the plot) - Shane Black originally intended to adapt the Demon in a Bottle comic book storylinenote this storyline dealt with Tony Stark's alcoholism, but Disney objected as children would be watching it.
Marvel's corporate arm were responsible for the second one - The Big Bad was original female, but they insisted it be a male character, as toys based on female characters wouldn't sell. As a result, the entire script had to be changed, and led to the downsizing of both Ellen Brandt's and Maya Hansen's roles.
This got Ant-Man stuck briefly in Development Hell. Edgar Wright signed on in 2006 and originally wanted it to be a standalone film, like the first Iron Man film. Marvel insisted on some sort of tie-in to the rest of the MCU, such as cameos by Howard Stark and Peggy Carter. Wright left the project as a result.
Much of Marvel Studios' meddling came from a Creative Committee within Marvel Entertainment as a whole. Meddlers included such notable names as Joe Quesada, Brian Michael Bendis, and CEO Ike Perlmutter. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige grew increasingly tired of them, eventually convincing Disney to dissolve the Committee (and make themselves the only meddler).
DreamWorks decided that Cameron Crowe's original vision of the film as a "band on the road" movie wouldn't appeal to audiences, so the theatrical version removed a large amount of Stillwater material in order to reshape the film as a love story between William and Penny. To compensate for tampering with the film, Dreamworks later released the "Almost Famous Untitled: The Bootleg Cut" DVD, which features the film as Crowe intended.
Crowe also planned for the film to be released as "Untitled," but Dreamworks demanded a more unique name. Extras were allowed to submit potential titles ("Saving William's Privates" was one), until Crowe settled on "Almost Famous."
The brief topless shot of Joey Lauren Adams was not part of the script, but insisted upon by Universal. When Adams refused to be filmed topless, Universal threatened to fire her from the film. Director (and Adams' boyfriend at the time) Kevin Smith had to persuade her to do the scene.
The "semen as hair gel" joke was removed for being deemed too gross, and almost resulted in the replacement of Jason Mewes with Seth Green as Jay.
Jacques Tourneur famously directed a number of atmospheric movies of supernatural nature that delivered chills while leaving much unseen and to the imagination. With 1957's Night of the Demon, he intended to show said demon, at most, in a brief "did I see that?" glimpse toward the end, but the producer insisted on a full-on rubber suit creature, very visible at both the beginning and the end. Opinions vary on its inclusion, but many feel it's a fine movie regardless.
Shown in a subverted form in the movie Morning Glory.Rachel McAdams' character is hired to be the Executive Producer and given free rein to do whatever she wanted with the show with in a show as long as it was in the budget.
Tank Girl suffered badly from this according to Rachel Talalay. They fought over the film and the studio cut out a ton of stuff, and like in Blade Runner, it had an opening narration tacked on (which Lori Petty hated), and the studio also insisted on removing scenes of Tank Girl in bed with Booga from the video releases. The studio intereference may have been the main reason why Talalay hasn't helmed a feature film since and now mostly works in directing episodes of various TV shows. Large chunks of the plot and dozens of jokes (including the ones best-loved by test audiences) were cut, and the producers kept asking, "Who is Tank Girl? What is her motivation? What is the origin story of Tank Girl?", proving that film studios only understand these movies through the lens of Batman.
Cecil: That's like asking for the "backstory" or "motivation" of Benny Hill. It doesn't add anything to the character; it just distracts from the time when they could be doing something funny.
James Brooks' Ill Do Anything was originally written and filmed as an Old Hollywood-style musical. Then it was shown to test audiences, who believed the musical numbers should be cut. Brooks was forced to remove the songs and shoot several new scenes in their place, releasing the film months later as a non-musical. As Nathan Rabin points out in his review of the original bootleg for his book ''My Year of Flops', one of the film's themes consists of "test screenings and Hollywood's pathological need for approval." The irony was not lost on him.
This is why Pete Travis was fired from the post-production of Dredd and replaced with screenwriter Alex Garland. Reportedly, Travis's cut was not the action-filled film that the studio and producers wanted, so he was locked out of the editing room and eventually let go. Garland could even seek co-director credit, but he and Travis managed a deal.
This occurred heavily in The Core. John Rogers originally wanted to have a magnetic reversal occur, but he was told that it was too far fetched. The capsule that drilled into the core was also expected to have a window.
That Lady in Ermine had its ending changed from the original operetta and its adaptations. Angelina was supposed to be back with her husband after her identical ancestor convinced the Colonel of an invading army to leave. Execs thought it meant Angelina got away with cheating, so the ending was changed to the marriage being annulled and Angelina and the Colonel ending up together.
Disturbing Behavior was practically shredded in the editing room, having nearly twenty minutes cut (the theatrical edit is just 84 minutes long) and a different ending put in by the studio over the objections of director David Nutter. Among the scenes cut include numerous story and Character Development scenes whose absence the film greatly suffers for, which perhaps explains the film's tepid reception by critics and at the box office. Fortunately, all of the scenes in question are included on the DVD. The Sci-Fi Channel's edited-for-TV version of the movie often reinstates the deleted scenes, making it something of an unofficial director's cut, though it leaves the theatrical ending.
Peter Jackson knew a proper trilogy would be a hard sell, so he came up with a two-movie treatment. He showed it to Miramax; they agreed to it, but their then-parent company Disney balked at the projected cost. They leaned on Miramax to suggest changes, which included: mash it into a single film; "use or lose" Saruman; combine Rohan and Gondor (and make Éowyn Boromir's sister); cut the entire Moria sequence and describe it in an Info Dump; and pare down the four Hobbits to two and kill off one of them at some point. Jackson flatly refused, so Miramax gave him four weeks for another studio to bite, after which they'd just hire another director. Then New Line did bite, told Jackson to make it a full trilogy, and the rest is Oscar-winning history. The fallout at Miramax led to Harvey Weinstein's departure (and indirectly to Disney ousting CEO Michael Eisner as well).
Ironically, the prequel series The Hobbit suffered much more from executive meddling. Now Jackson presented New Line a two-film treatment which the studio insisted should be expanded to three (even though the source material was much shorter than The Lord of the Rings was). The studio originally threw the series into Development Hell when it refused to pay J. R. R. Tolkien's estate its due; when they finally cleared that up and got the green light to start filming, they gave Jackson only six months of pre-production. They also forced a lot of added plot threads, which caused more than one Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole — in particular, they wanted more Alfrid scenes and forced Legolas into Kili and Tauriel's love story.
Zulu on a governmental level. The film company was forbidden under Apartheid law to actually pay the Zulus acting as extras. Director Cy Enfield, who'd struck up a friendship with the Zulus acting in the film, was upset with this and decided to leave them the cattle used in the film, which was more valuable to them than money anyway.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie was originally invisioned as an origin story of how Joel got stuck on the Satellite of Love. The executives also wanted little (if any) movie riffing (obviating the point of the series), insisted on using only Universal's collection of movies, asked them to "dumb down" the riffs and add more cursing, rewrote the ending, imposed Invisible Advertising, and pared down the movie thinking people wouldn't get why it's so long — leading to a film shorter than most episodes of the original series. It was bad enough to contribute to Joel Hodgson leaving the series.
Blazing Saddles: They tried. Mel Brooks was called into a meeting with the film company executives where they had a long list of changes that they wanted to make, including removing all instances of the N-word, and cutting the beans scene entirely. Mel took careful notes of all their requests, and when the meeting was over he dumped his notes in the garbage, because his contract gave him final cut on the film.
The infamous scene from Predator where the group freaks out and fires their guns wildly into the jungle was put into the film solely because the studio told John Mctiernan that the movie needed more "gun shooting scenes". So he added a scene where the gun shooting was pointless.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation, just weeks before its scheduled release, was pulled for reshoots to give Channing Tatum's character, Duke, more screentime (as a response to Tatum's increased box-office draw). It is also believed that the film was, in part, rescheduled over the studio's fears of the film bombing in an already-crowded fall 2012 movie market.
In The Wizard of Oz's original script, Oz was a real place that Dorothy had really visited. Executives thought that audiences would be too "sophisticated" to accept a fantasy land like Oz (in odd contrast to today's Viewers Are Morons mentality), thus enforcing the famous All Just a Dream ending. They also tried to cut the song "Over the Rainbow" just because they didn't like the idea of their star singing in a farmyard.
A draft of the first Charlie's Angels film was written by Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld, but a subsequent rewrite trashed everything except the opening scene, which doesn't inform the plot. Sonnenfeld joked that he wrote everything except the plot, dialogue and characters.
The Crow is notable for averting Executive Meddling for the most part and for being endorsed by the comic's creator James O'Barr. O'Barr once mentioned in an interview an executive who tried to meddle, suggesting it be adapted as a musical starring Michael Jackson. O'Barr thought the guy was joking; when he insisted he was serious, O'Barr showed him the door.
The first sequel, on the other hand, is infamous for being cut in half in an attempt to make it more like the first. Director Tim Pope and script writer David Goyer have both renounced the theatrical version, and the supposed "Director's Cut" only has ten more minutes of footage. The novelization and comic adaptation, however, kept the script intact.
During filming of The Blues Brothers, Universal kept pressuring John Landis to replace some of the African American musical stars in the cast like Cab Calloway and Aretha Franklin with acts like Rose Royce who were more contemporary and successful (the notable exception was Ray Charles). Such changes would have contradicted much of the Aesop behind the movie, to give respect and attention to blues, jazz and R&B's rich history and traditions, which were being neglected as new trends in music were emerging and traditional black musicians were being forgotten. Landis refused the changes, but as a result some theater chains refused to book it into their theaters in white neighborhoods.
Sam Peckinpah's Major Dundee got this treatment. He wanted to make the film similar to his later The Wild Bunch, but the studio wanted a regular "Cavalry vs. Indians"-like Western, and Peckinpah lost out.
This is commonly referred to in regards to the Troubled Production of Prometheus. The film was originally intended to be much closer to a true Alien prequel, with Jon Spaihts' original script ("Alien: Engineers") being much more coherent and logical; among other things, it gave many of the supporting characters much clearer motivations, answered commonly-addressed moments of idiocy (the expedition team keeps their helmets on inside the ship at all times) and tied in much better to the Alien canon (the team originally discovered the Engineer outpost on LV-426, and Holloway gave birth to a proto-chestburster). Midway through pre-production, 20th Century Fox brought Damon Lindelof of LOST onboard as a "name" writer to rework Spaihts' script, jettisoning a large amount of context, explanation, and connections with the main franchise in the process. Interestingly, the Blu-Ray special features have the cast and crew explicitly describing the film as an Alien prequel, despite the marketing and trailers distancing the film from the source material.
Ian McEwan claimed of his work on The Good Son, that such instances occurred once Macaulay Culkin stepped into the project. The script was subsequently taken out of McEwan's hands and rewritten.
The initial U.S. release of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America was cut by more than an hour and a half from 229 minutes to 139 minutes, and re-edited from an original non-linear story line that would have given Pulp Fiction's editor nightmares into straight chronological sequence — with the result that the film's stars (Robert De Niro and James Woods) don't even show up on-screen until forty minutes in. The European release was the original, and it was critically acclaimed.
My Stepmother Is an Alien was supposed to be a film about child abuse, using the concept of an evil alien to build as a metaphor for this touchy topic. Said screenwriter Jerico Stone: "I wanted to reach kids in a way that wouldn't make the story just a disease-of-the-week TV movie. And after certain incidents I'd experienced, I realized I could tell the story as a fable, a fairy tale that would make it easier for kids to grasp the child abuse angle." The film didn't turn out that way, for one, it was rewritten as a silly comedy instead of a horror film, at the behest of Paramount, who subsequently turned it down. It ended up at Weintraub Entertainment Group, and (like most of their output) was a flop.
Planet of the Apes very nearly got a gritty reboot in 1995. Titled Return of the Apes, the movie would have been as bizarre as violent, with a plot centered around two scientists that travel to Africa 102,000 years before the present looking for a cure to a disease that is ravaging humanity in the future, only to run into a war between primitive humans and advanced gorilla-like apemen. It had a $100 million budget approved, Arnold Schwarzenegger had signed as the lead, Stan Winston was making the special effects, Terry Hayes was writing and Phillip Noyce was directing. So, how come you've never heard of it? Enter Fox executive Dylan Sellers, who thought that the script needed comedy. In particular, he thought that the film needed a scene in which Schwarzenegger would teach the evil killer gorillas how to play baseball. When Hayes turned in the revised script without this scene, mere months before shooting, Sellers fired him, Noyce quit the project in protest, and the film went back into Development Hell. In the words of fellow producer Don Murphy, "Terry wrote a Terminator and Fox wanted The Flintstones."
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, the second-to-last of Peter Cushing's Frankensteinmovies, has an particularly insane example that everyone except the one person who held the money hated from filming all the way to this day: the rape of Anna by Doctor Frankenstein. He had done many villainous things throughout the movie, from blackmailing the young couple to do his bidding through all the way to the murder of several innocent people — but all these things could all be traced back to Frankenstein's insane and hyperfocused amoral dedication to scientific progress. This was what had always made Cushing's Frankenstein an interesting and complex villain. Then the rape scene was thrown in because the producer demanded "More sex!" Cushing is visibly shaken during the entire scene and took the actress Veronica Carlson out for dinner afterwards in order to talk through what they had just experienced. Carlson in turn asked her friend Roger Moore to be present on the set for moral support. And just to make it official, director Terence Fisher stormed off the set in the middle of shooting the scene and the producer had to finish it himself.
The existence of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is due to this trope. Steven Spielberg wanted to end the series with Last Crusade, but both Harrison Ford and George Lucas insisted that a fourth film be made. It went through 20 years of negotiation and Development Hell, caused mostly by Lucas being set on very specific scenes and plot points that had to be used in the movie. Writers like Frank Darabont and M. Night Shyamalan either quit or were fired by Lucas. The film was finally made and released in 2008, when Spielberg had no other projects in sight and Ford had given an ultimatum demanding that the movie be done now or never.
Averted with the original Terminator. The film's backer, Hemdale, wanted James Cameron to end the film when Reese destroys the tanker truck with the Terminator inside, completely eliminating the memorable show-off between Sarah Connor and the now-skeletal Terminator in the factory. Hemdale would have most likely succeeded had Cameron not stuck to his guns.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day goes to great lengths in its introduction to imply that Arnold is the bad guy again and Robert Patrick John's protector. The production crew were rather disappointed when the advertisers decided to make a point of stating outright that Arnold was the good guy in every trailer.
The original screenplay for Robin Hood (2010) was a very sought-after script titled Nottingham. It was about the Sheriff of Nottingham trying to investigate some murders in his city, with his efforts frequently being hindered by a brigand who lived in the local forest. Then the studio that bought the script decided that one can't make a Robin Hood movie in which Robin Hood isn't the main character and threw away the script completely, turning the movie into yet another film about how Robin of Locksley became the famous outlaw of Sherwood Forest.
When On Our Own was picked up for video distribution by a Mormon-owned studio, they re-cut numerous scenes, re-dubbed lines of dialogue, and filmed an additional framing device to place the film within their religious ideals. The result was a film that often contradicted itself, and writer/director Lyman Dayton had his name removed from this version.
Blake Edwards reluctantly consented to MGM cutting 24 minutes from his film Wild Rovers in return for a promise that the studio wouldn't interfere with his next film. Instead, the studio started meddling with The Carey Treatment while it was being filmed, resulting in a film that Edwards did everything to disown and whose screenwriters hid behind a collective pseudonym.
Edwards' A Fine Mess was originally intended as a heavily improvised homage to Laurel and Hardy's 1932 short The Music Box, with Richard Pryor and Burt Reynolds as the leads, in the spirit of Edwards' The Party. Problems with the studio are among the reasons why it eventually turned into the scripted chase comedy that was released.
While he did enjoy acting in R.I.P.D., Jeff Bridges believes the studio changed some things around that made the movie underwhelming.
In The Thing (2011), the executives chickened out and changed many animatronic effects to the cheapest CGI they could find. That awful-looking alien tetris tower inside the otherwise well made starship was there to hide a completed animatronic alien pilot that remained from a better ending the writers had created but would be more expensive to produce.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Originally, Rhianna Griffith, the actress who played Jack, was slated to return, a decision backed by Vin Diesel. Instead, Davalos got the role because studio executives thought she was prettier. Likewise, the second live action movie featured significant cuts which made the movie less fun to watch.
The director of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 wanted to make the film more psychological thriller exploring the relationship between medial, fiction and reality that would also be a commentary on the media frenzy and fan community around the first film. The film would start out lighthearted, and slowly grow stranger and darker, with the end remaining vague about whether the main characters committed horrible acts due to actually being under the influence of the Blair Witch or if they lost touch with reality while getting too deep into the fiction. The studio initially liked this take, but upon seeing the director's first cut, they wanted to add more gore and violence earlier on in the film, which included scattering around some revealing scenes from the end, and adding a completely new scene where the characters massacre a group of foreigners visiting the site of the first film. To make the mood of the film darker, the studio also changed the soundtrack to hard rock note for example, the original cut used "Witchcraft" by Frank Sinatra for the opening credits as Soundtrack Dissonance, but the studio replaced it with "Disposable Teens" by Marilyn Manson. Finally, that "Book of Shadows" in the title which is nowhere to be seen in the actual movie was added by the studio.
The Last Laugh: Director F.W. Murnau and screenwriter Carl Mayer originally wanted the film to end with the death of the doorman at the bathroom. Executives at UFA pressed them to conjure up a happy ending before the film's premiere in order to maximize its economic potential. Murnau and Mayer, obviously annoyed by this, created a cynical epilogue, showing the doorman having inherited from an eccentric hotel guest, who bequeathed his entire estate to the last person seen before he died. The executives also pressed the artists to change the film's title from "The Last Man" to "The Last Laughter".
Limitless: The film's original, darker ending that was closer to the source material was changed after it didn't test well (combined with the writer and director not really liking it).
The RoboCop reboot fell victim to this big time. The director and star both pushed for a hard R tribute to the beloved cult classic. Sony executives were more interested in ripping off iconic moments from Iron Man and Batman films to try and build a new superhero franchise. Reportedly, the director complained that for every ten ideas he had, nine were cut by the studio.
The reason the prologue for The Wolfman (2010) is so short and why a good chunk of character development and establishment are left out is because the execs thought the audience would want more Wolfman and less storytelling. The Director's Cut reinserts many of the removed scenes.
The original cut for Event Horizon was 130 minutes long, but executives at Paramount were unsure about this, given that the film would be rated NC-17. After a disastrous test screening, Paramount told director Paul W.S. Anderson to remove thirty minutes and cut some of the violence in order for the film to be rated R. Because of this, the running time was shortened from 130 to 95 minutes and the film was a critical and commercial disaster. Anderson has since regretted shortening the running time of the film. The 35 minutes of deleted footage were presumed lost until 2012, when Anderson himself said that a videotape containing the original cut was found while he was being interviewed at the San Diego Comic-Con.
Mostly averted in the case of Drop Dead Gorgeous, but not for lack of trying by New Line late in the production, according to BuzzFeed's 15th-anniversary piece on the film. After principal photography was over, while the film was being edited, New Line, which hadn't really paid much attention during shooting, looked at its tracking numbers and found that not only were very few potential viewers aware of the film, fewer still planned to see it. Panicking, they asked the filmmakers to recut the film Lighter and Softer, more like a conventional teen comedy along the lines of Clueless. But there wasn't much existing material to do that with, by then it was already too late to get the cast back together for reshoots, and most of the editing was done. The studio never realized that, as the screenwriter put it, it was a movie for girls who saw Clueless and said "Fuck them!"
As related by Frank Darabont in Fangoria Magazine, the meddling was rampant in director Chris Walas's The Fly II. The screenwriters wanted to explore a number of themes, among them an exploration of what it means to be a son to a father. Those themes were dropped in favor of Squick and Gorn. Darabont says that at the first screening, Walas turned to him at the film's conclusion and said, "It's not the movie I wanted to make, either." Mel Brooks reportedly remarked that, "In all my years, I have never seen such vile studio interference on a project." The worst thing? All these decisions were made by executives who hadn't even seen the first film.
This CinemaBlend article suggests that The Last Airbender may have been more a case of this trope than solely the fault of M. Night Shyamalan. Nepotism, script rewrites, and cut scenes to keep the movie under 100 minutes long seem to have ultimately killed Shyamalan and company's enthusiasm for the project, leading them to phone it in just to get their paychecks.
Additionally, a crewmember of the movie posted just how nightmarish the production was to everyone, including Shymalan.
The Bridge on the River Kwai, specifically the commando storyline. While present in Pierre Boulle's novel, it was a minor subplot compared to the prison camp story. Hoping to boost box office appeal, producer Sam Spiegel (over David Lean's objections) beefed up this storyline. William Holden's character Shears, a British officer in the book, becomes an escaped American POW shanghaied into helping destroy the titular bridge. Spiegel also demanded Lean add not one but two token love interests: a British nurse Shears meets at a Ceylon hospital, and Siamese women who join the commando team. Spiegel's meddling certainly didn't ruin Kwai, though most critics consider the commando story weaker than the main plot. This was at least an improvement over Carl Foreman's early drafts, which featured more elaborate and outlandish action scenes like a submarine battle and elephant stampedes!
Several scenes in Dracula Untold were shoved in late in production, after Universal decided to hop on the bandwagon of shared universe films with their classic monster properties.
Dragonball Evolution suffered immensely from executive meddling. Ben Ramsey's original script was a much more faithful adaptation of the source material, complete with Pilaf and his gang, Oolong, Pu'ar, the Nimbus and even a cameo from Krillin. The higher-ups at Fox didn't want a kids' movie, so the concept of the movie being based in the early portions of Dragon Ball was scrapped in favor of having the movie set during Goku's teen years, modernizing the Dragon Ball world and making the story more of a coming of age film, so that the casual audience wouldn't feel alienated by Dragon Ball's original premise. Needless to say, the script was changed a lot once it was out of Ben Ramsey's hands.
When Steven Spielberg pitched a special edition of Close Encounters of the Third Kind featuring scenes that had to be cut from the original shooting due to budget and schedule issues, Columbia allowed him to produce it under the condition that he also shoot an ending scene taking place inside the space ship, which Spielberg didn't want to show. Naturally, for the film's 20th anniversary, Spielberg released a director's cut of the special edition that didn't include the executive-mandated spaceship scene.
The first victim was Hard Target. According to several crew accounts (including one here), Woo was locked out from the post production offices by Jean-Claude Van Damme under order from Universal executives to keep Woo from protesting the studio's treatment of his film.
Seven years later it happened again, with Mission: Impossible II. Allegedly, Woo butted heads with star Tom Cruise over Woo's cut of the movie. Once editing started, Cruise, under order from Paramount executives, locked Woo out from the offices, again to keep him from protesting the studio's treatment of the film. Needless to say, it was the failure of Paycheck, which too suffered from executive meddling, that was the straw that broke the camel's back, as Woo gave up on Hollywood after that.
Shortly after acquiring distribution rights, Lionsgate took Dying of the Light away from writer/director Paul Schrader and cut the film down. The end result was critically panned, and Schrader has disowned this version.
According to this interview with director Jeffrey Bloom, Flowers in the Attic had many conflicts between him and the producers on how the movie should have gone. Bloom wanted to remain faithful to the book, including more suggestions Brother-Sister Incest, but many scenes were either cut or never filmed due to time restraints. During post production, Bloom walked away from filming the new ending for the final cut in which Corrine is hung from her wedding veil because he felt it was dumb. He speculates that, had author V. C. Andrews lived to see the film, she would've hated the ending too. The new ending was filmed without Bloom's involvement, and the original ending was thrown out.
The 2014 reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was hit by executive meddling, but many of the details are not yet known. Before the movie came out it was indicated that Eric Sachs (William Finchtner's character) was going to be the Shredder. Fans of TMNT pitched a hissy fit that the Shredder wasn't going to be Japanese, and the studio forced them to do reshoots to make the Shredder a Japanese man whose face is always in shadow. As a result of these last minute changes, the Shredder's motivation and goals in the movie are pretty much non-existent, while Eric Sachs has a much clearer motivation for being a villain.
Grizzly Man: Averted to the applause of a grateful nation. The executives wanted to actually play the audio recordings of wildlife activist Timothy Treadwell's final moments (basically, the audio of a man and woman being mauled and eaten by a wild animal) in the film. Director Werner Herzog vehemently refused on grounds of taste. The most audiences got was his reaction to listening to the recording himself with headphones on so the sound couldn't be picked up. Based onhis reaction, and merely Jewel Palovak's (Treadwell's ex-girlfriend) reaction to Herzog's reaction, anyone who viewed that film really dodged a bullet. Hell, he even warned her never to listen to it and urged her to destroy it (she still has it, but won't listen to it or release it).
John Carter is infamous for how Disney botched so much of its release. They first dropped the title of "John Carter of Mars", as they somehow reasoned that the "Mars" name was the reason their movie Mars Needs Moms was a huge box office bomb. They failed to properly develop word-of-mouth buzz and gave it Invisible Advertising that completely failed to mention how the property influenced virtually every sci-fi story of the last century. It all ended with a massive box office bomb.
In his commentary on the 20th-Anniversary DVD release of Hellraiser, Clive Barker says that the suggestions made by executives improved the film. Ironic, since they were trying to tone it down. The same cannot be said however for the fourth film, Hellraiser: Bloodline. Which was edited and rewritten by the studio to such a degree, Barker cut ties with the film franchise and director Kevin Yagher refused to be credited for it.
Josh Trank envisioned his film as being between 2 hours and 20 minutes long; the studio cut that down significantly to a little over 1 hour and 30 minutes, plus about 10 minutes for credits. Judging by Josh Trank's Twitter comment that he disliked the final cut, it also appears that the rumors that he wasn't very involved in editing and reshoots are true, meaning that the studio took over. Numerous reviews noted that the reshot scenes (in which Kate Mara wears a noticeable wig) are primarily in the second half, which feels like it belongs to a different movie than the first half.
The studio gave the movie a 122 million dollar budget, which was smaller than the 150 million Trank initially thought he had to work with. This led to some planned action sequences being cut, such as a Missing Trailer Scene where the Thing dive bombs an enemy terrorist camp.
Entertainment Weekly later revealed that Josh Trank lost the dressing room because he was combative and abusive toward the cast, producers, and crew, at one point almost getting into a fistfight with Miles Teller. This, combined with personal issues (such as Trank trashing his rental house in response to a landlord's complaintnote the damage was so severe that, in order to stave off a pricey lawsuit, a Fox executive had to fly out to New Orleans to personally apologize for Trank's behavior), led Fox to pull Trank from the film's production prior to the reshoots. The same article also mentions that Fox insisted that Trank include Kate Mara as Sue Storm and as a result, the two didn't get along during principal photography.
Ironically, according to sources who have spoke out in articles about the production, Fox tried to keep their distance from the project as a response to the perception of Fox as micromanaging taskmasters due to X-Men Origins: Wolverine's own Troubled Production and just let their new auteur work. However, by the time the production was going off the rails and they started to meddle, it was too late to save the project, which now had a disorganized vision and executive meddling.
In the lead-in to World War II, Hollywood executives and censors were extremely leery about offending Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, albeit less for political reasons than fear of losing these lucrative markets:
Warner also took Blockade, a Spanish Civil War epic, and excised all references to fascism.
This continued even after the war began; censor Joseph Breen tried to ban Fritz Lang's film Man Hunt as a "hate film" for depicting a near-assassination of Adolf Hitler. In this case, Fox studio head Daryl Zanuck sided with Lang and the film was released intact.
This contradicts documented information in the book An Empire Of Their Own, which chronicles the rise of Hollywood by German and Eastern European Jewish studio magnates. While some German Jews ranking as film execs or studio owners were carefully walking the line about not criticizing anti-semitism, the Eastern European Jews running their own large studios in Hollywood were adamant on not just bringing German anti-semitism to the fore, but also highlighting the American Fascist Party and their brown shirt march through New York. In short Hollywood executives and censors weren't of a collective mind on this topic, but rather two camps with two separate agendae.
The 2013 remake of Brian De Palma's Carrie was not intended to be a remake at all. Director Kimberly Pierce intended to make a film that was faithful to the Stephen King book than the earlier film, but the studio forced her to reshoot footage to bring it more into line with the deviations De Palma had originally made. A leaked screenplay confirms this.
Hussar Ballad. Soviet authorities weren't pleased with Igor Ilyinsky, famous for playing in comedies, portraying such an iconic figure as Field Marshal Kutuzov, and tried to force the director to replace him, even after the film was already finished. The director managed to show the film to Nikita Khrushchev's son-in-law, who liked it a lot and arranged for it to be released.
Gee Malik Linton wrote, produced, and directed Hija De Dios as a psychological social drama treating abuse of women and children in the New York Dominican community with Ana de Armas in the central role. Lionsgate Premiere tried to reshape the film as a New York cop procedural thriller starring Keanu Reeves under the title "Exposed", and the director had his name removed, using the alias "Declan Dale" instead. An alternate version that follows the director's vision was edited by Roman Polanski's longtime editor, Hervé de Luze, under the original name.
Suicide Squad suffered big time from executive meddling. In a lengthy report from The Hollywood Reporter, with insider information provides from several sources who worked closely on the film, there were several major issues before, during and after the production of the movie:
CEO Kevin Tsujihara announced Suicide Squad in October 2014, and it was “a sprint from the start” to meet its August 2016 release date. “[Ayer] wrote the script in like, six weeks, and they just went,”. And pushing the release date back was not an option, since Warner Bros. already had big deals signed with companies like Samsung and other merchandise partners.
Warner Bros. hired David Ayer to direct the movie, even though he had no prior experience making a big, CGI-filled blockbuster. Seasoned directors are expensive, meaning studios turn to those with less experience, relying on instinct that they will be up to the job.
Warner Bros. executives, who were nervous about Suicide Squad since the day it was announced, grew even more nervous after the negative response to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. “Kevin was really pissed about damage to the brand,” according to one executive close to the studio.
And then came the competing cuts. Warner Bros. felt that the movie didn’t deliver the fun, edgy tone that the “Bohemian Rhapsody” trailer captured. So while David Ayer continued to work on his version of the movie, Warner Bros. began working on another with help from Trailer Park, the company that had made the trailer. Multiple editors worked on Suicide Squad, though only John Gilroy is credited. Although, according to a source who worked on the movie, he left by the end of the process and that the final editor was Michael Tronick.
In May, David Ayer’s darker version of the movie, and Warner Bros.’s lighter, more fun version were screened for test audiences. Ayer agreed to this, and they gathered all of the feedback and tried to reach a middle ground. In order to get the movie to that point though, millions of dollars were needed for reshoots.
There was also a lot of “panic and ego” were involved, instead of calmly trying to address the tone issues. Things got so intense, that Ayer fired his long time agent, hired a new one, but then decided to go back to his old one just a day later. “He was under a lot — a lot — of pressure,” according to one source. And just to add on the pressure, apparently, according to one insider, “the movie’s got to do $750 million, $800 million to break even. If they get anywhere close to that, they’ll consider it a win.”
Spartacus: During post-production, Kirk Douglas received detailed memos from Universal Studios and Production Code offices demanding heavy cuts. Having received the instruction "Any implication that Crassus is a sex pervert is unacceptable," the producers excised the notorious "snails and oysters" scene between Olivier and Tony Curtis. More seriously, Universal trimmed several action scenes, along with political content that was deemed subversive. Apparently the studio feared that if Spartacus had a chance of winning, viewers would perceive the film as Communist! Nearly 30 minutes were cut, most of which was restored to the 1991 re-release.
Ex Machina had a difficult time getting a United States release. Universal's international arm produced and took most of the bill for the movie internationally. However, Universal's US executives rejected a US release believing that it wouldn't fit with the studio's film slate that year (and it's not hard to understand why; Universal had a clusterofbox officesmash hitsthat year and didn't see any room for Ex Machina to be part of it). Their art house unit, Focus Features, also rejected the film for similar reasons, meaning that indie film studio A24 had to broker an agreement with Universal to get the film to America. Unfortunately for Focus, Ex Machina's worldwide acclaim and decent financial results may have played a role in that unit's reorganization under Universal Pictures International and Focus Features head Peter Schlessel (who was instrumental in snubbing Ex Machina) consequently getting his pink slip.
On Dangerous Ground was supposed to have a depressing Did Not Get the Girl ending. Executives thought that that wasn't going to go down well with audiences, so they forced director Nicholas Ray to cut it out. That’s why the ending feels rather rushed; Ray refused to direct the revised final scene in question, so blocking was left to the main actors.