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... one of the biggest examples on how Executive Meddling can ruin a film. It was originally more than 3 hours and cut after the studio forced Ridley Scott to do so. Complete elements of the story went out the window; many characters and much of the plot were altered with this move, none more than the character of Sibylla. King Baldwin V, Sibylla's son, was cut completely from the movie. Depth for many characters was cut, such as much of Balian's backstory. When this movie opened in theaters, it was met with mostly poor reviews.
The Director's Cut however, was critically acclaimed, some calling it the most significant DC of all time. Ridley Scott has disowned the theatrical version and calls this version the "real" version.
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, using footage from a different movie. Luckily, 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, it was haphazardly cut down to 96 minutes by the studio, resulting in an often incongruous, David Lynch type film with characters speaking in fragmented conversations that seem to skip ahead of themselves (you can actually hear the mid-sentence cuts to the audio track in places). Michael Mann has disowned the film, and author F. Paul Wilson has since refused to allow any further film adaptations of his novels.
Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy was almost a victim of Executive Meddling. While the movie was in its infant stages, executives felt that Hellboy should be changed from an out-and-out demon to a human who was somehow inexplicably born in Hell, or a human who turned into Hellboy when he got angry, a la the Hulk. Thankfully, the director vetoed all attempts to change the character.
Executive Meddling succeeded in destroying Del Toro's earlier film, Mimic. He compared it to "... having a beautiful daughter and watching her arms get cut off," possibly a Titus Andronicus reference.
...and has now managed to obliterate Del Toro's adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness before filming even started. The reason? The Wolfman (2010) got poor reviews, and executives assumed this meant there was no market at all for gothic horror films.
Also because there's no Token Romance to draw in a typical female demographic and they feared a modern audience would lack ability to relate to the period setting.
He's not the only one: He's Mexican and Mexican directors are famous for sticking to their guns (or at least trying), especially toward higher-ups and very especially towards American movie companies due to cultural, racial and historical reasons. That's the reason why only three Mexican directors (the other two are Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro González Iñárritu) work in Hollywood. Other Mexicans either didn't accept any kind of American meddling or hate Hollywood with a passion.
Pacific Rim is a VERY rare case of good executive meddling. Guillermo del Toro didn't think 3D would add much to the movie or could even detract from the experience. They managed to convince Del Toro to do the conversion and the movie became a better experience due to it. But he accompanied the entire proccess to make sure the conversion wouldn't be half assed. As many scenes are made in CGI the conversion of these was much faster and easier.
Alan Moore has had no direct involvement with film adaptations of his comics. However, film executives have made changes, to the point where, early on Mr. Moore has not only distanced himself from any further attempts to make film translations of his works, he has also voluntarily relinquished all rights to the profits from them. (He has also asked to have his name taken off the adaptations. Starting with Watchmen, they seem to be listening.)
Speaking of Watchmen, Fox's version certainly counts here. The film was updated to take place during the War on Terror, it went from a character study to a straight action flick, and Ozy's big plot went from killing half of New York to bring about world peace to simply going back in time to kill Dr. Manhattan, thus somehow transporting the characters into the "real world", where they're known as comic-book characters. Be thankful for Development Hell, folks; Love It or Hate It, WB's version is certainly more faithful, challenging, and involved than it could have been.
Even that movie was close to suffering extreme Executive Meddling. Originally, they wanted to set it today, and Snyder said "If you change anything, I'm out." He was also the one who insisted on using David Hayter's script (which was endorsed by Alan Moore while he still believed that Hollywood could make a good movie), though it was amended slightly by Alex Tse.
After almost finishing production on Superman II, director Richard Donner was fired by producer Alexander Salkind, who wanted a lower-budget movie with more camp. The result on the franchise was disastrous — many of the stars, including Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman, refused to work with new director Richard Lester, and the 3rd and 4th movies in the series were so critically disliked that the pseudo-reboot/sequel Superman Returnsignores them entirely.
The production of what would eventually become Superman Returns was similarly fraught with meddling from above. When Kevin Smith was recruited to write a screenplay for the film in 1997, he was met with a number of increasingly bizarre demands by producer Jon Peters, among which were that Superman not fly or wear the iconic tights (this latter on the grounds that it was "too faggy"), that the film's villain, Brainiac, speak with a "homosexual lisp" and have a robot sidekick (described by Peters as "a gay R2-D2 with attitude"), in addition to a fight scene between Brainiac and two polar bears and a marketable space dog pet, Chewbacca a la mode. His choice for the actor to portray the Man of Steel? Sean Penn, based on Penn's performance as a violent death row inmate in Dead Man Walking saying that Penn had the eyes of a "caged animal, a fucking killer." And, the infamous Giant Spider; listen to him talking about it all here. J. J. Abrams, also at Peters' instruction, created a treatment featuring Superman as an ordinary human being who got his powers from his suit, a living creature that crawled out of a tennis ball tube. (It is said that Peters is not a fan of comic books, which may explain his apparent unawareness that he had ordered Superman to be turned into Venom.) It wasn't until Bryan Singer was handed the project in 2003, and steadfastly refused to make any alterations to the mythos, that production actually got underway.
Speaking of Jon Peters' involvement in Superman, there's the legendary Saga of the Giant Spider. He seems to have something of an obsession with monstrous arachnids:
Peters had requested of Neil Gaiman that Dream fistfight a Giant Spider, among others, in the proposed and quickly abandoned original The Sandman adaptation attempt.
According to Kevin Smith, Peters had wanted Superman to fight a giant spider in an homage to King Kong.
Peters finally got his Giant Spider fix when he produced the movie of Wild Wild West.
In Comic Book The Movie, Mark Hamill's character at one point interviews Kevin Smith about the film adaptation of his favorite superhero, where Smith mentions how executives wanted him to add a scene with a giant mechanical spider. Later, he acquires a copy of the shooting script with one shot of him looking up after reading "Scene 37: The Giant Mechanical Spider".
The giant spider would also make a brief appearance in the comic Superman: Birthright, which managed to make it spectacular.
And possibly due to Jon Peters' ridiculous request for Brainiac to fight a polar bear, the miniseries Superman: Kryptonite has perhaps a very subtle joke where Superman is outside his Fortress of Solitude, talking about his relationship problems with Lois Lane. His lone listener, as it turns out, is a resting polar bear. Strangely enough Jon Peters produced Tim Burton's Batman which ironically has neither a giant spider, nor any executive meddling beyond the Prince songs.
One could argue the World Engine in Man Of Steel resembles a spider, too...
An even better reference to Brainiac fighting a polar bear would be the Superman: The Animated Series episode in which Superman meets Brainiac for the first time and steals an orb with all information about Krypton which he places in the Fortress of Solitude and jokingly says to a polar bear next to it he should guard it.
After four years of work on his dream project, The Island of Doctor Moreau, up-and-coming director Richard Stanley had attracted enough star power (Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer) to make his picture... only for star Kilmer, going through a divorce at the time, to request a role swap with Rob Morrow (playing the part of Montgomery), so as to make his load a little easier. To make matters worse, Kilmer ended up coming on set two days late, right in the middle of filming scenes his character was required for, and due to all this pressure, the dailies the studio received were abysmal; as a result, Stanley was fired from his own project.
Rob Morrow left shortly thereafter, to be replaced by David Thewlis. The studio subsequently handed the film over to veteran director John Frankenheimer, who rewrote the entire screenplay and managed to make enemies out of both Thewlis and Kilmer. The shoot became a disorganized mess; not surprisingly, the finished film bombed horribly.
Russell Mulcahy, the director of Highlander II: The Quickening, has blamed the incredible crappiness that is the film on the fact that the film's insurance company took over production after he repeatedly came in late and over-budget. They made numerous changes to the movie, including changing the Immortals' Back Story, and merging together the two fight scenes between MacLeod and the villainous Katana. Mulcahy tried to salvage the movie later by re-cutting it to match his original vision as best he could and releasing it 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".
The film Fanboys. You can listen to its director recount the entire spectacular debacle in this podcast. The version of the film on DVD is as close as we'll ever get to the original cut — which the director still has a print of that he is not allowed to show anyone. It is unspeakably frustrating. The version on DVD is still pretty good, but it is ridiculously obvious which scenes survive from the original version and which scenes were ordered from the executives; there are whole swathes of subplot that make zero sense unless you ignore them.
The 2013 South Korean film Snowpiercer nearly went through Weinstein's editing machine as well, ignoring protests from the film's director. The film in its unedited version was a box-office smash in its native country and also garnered positive reviews from screenings in the UK. Weinstein had made a cut of the film that was 25 minutes shorter, edited to play up the action at the expense of character development. Director Bong Joon-Ho (The Host), who had no input in the new cut, continued to tell fans he'd hope the film would play unedited, and considering the negative press Weinstein's edit was generating, Joon-Ho eventually won out. However, it now appears Weinstein is scaling back the number of theaters the film will play.
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. In this case, it was Creator Meddling!
The supreme irony being, as Nicholas Meyer is reported to have pointed out in Leonard Nimoy's book I am Spock, was that Roddenberry was pontificating over the storyline of a character he did not create. Nicholas Meyer wroteStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and that is the first instance of Saavik appearing.
However, Roddenberry had been a victim of pretty extreme executive meddling himself after the quasi-failure of The Motion Picture in 1979. Paramount execs, enraged by the first film's price tag (Charles Bludhorn [a fairly important man at the studio in that he owned Paramount's (then) parent company Gulf + Western], when interviewing Harve Bennett for the job of replacing Roddenberry as Executive Producer, flat out asked "Can you make it for less than forty-five-fucking-million dollars?") and outraged by a script Roddenberry was shopping which would have had the Enterprise crew have to ensure the assassination of John F. Kennedy, kicked Roddenberry upstairs, taking him completely out of the day-to-day running of the next three movies. Helmed by two people unfamiliar with Star Trek, they are commonly considered some of the best movies in the series.
Because the script for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier went through so many hands, and because its production time-frame & budget were restrained so tightly that Industrial Light and Magic couldn't be used for effects, meddling is considered to be one of the major factors in why the movie is so overwhelmingly unpopular.
We would like to better establish why the future of six hundred Ba'Ku is so important. Currently it is unclear why Picard is so passionate about the future of this particular race. The "Blood Feud" between a few hundred Son'a and six hundred Ba'Ku seems like nothing more than a gang fight. Numerous civilizations have been eliminated by previous Star Trek megalomaniacs, so what makes the Ba'Ku special? To be blunt, with only six hundred people in the gene pool, The Ba'Ku would inbreed themselves into extinction in a few generations.
They were ignored.
Ironically, that last argument actually supports Picard's position - the Ba'ku would only have inbred themselves into extinction if they were removed from the planet.
Another example of Executive Meddling having a positive effect; when he completed Clerks, first-time director Kevin Smith initially experienced a lot of trouble raising interest from a distributor in order to sell it. It was suggested that he remove the unnecessary and out-of-placeDowner Ending in which Dante is killed by a robber. The rest is history.
Spider-Man 3: 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, but producer Avi Arad insisted that fan-favorite Venom also be added into the film. Sam Raimi, who disliked the character, at first refused but eventually gave in and shoehorned Eddie Brock and Venom into the script. Gwen Stacy was also shoehorned into the film, filling a role originally to have been played by a random woman.
As part of the movie's general spoofing of "underdog sports hero" movies, the script for Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story originally had the likeable underdog heroes lose the final dodgeball round to the Jerkass villain, but nevertheless recover some of their losses thanks to one of their number winning big in Vegas. The suits forced them to change this to an ending where the heroes ended up winning after all. In response, the director turned this into an over-complicated Deus ex Machina-strewn ending, and later had a scene over the credits with the villain whining about how he only lost because "audiences can't cope with anything challenging, can you?" It's also spoofed on the DVD, which features an "alternate ending" which, if it had been genuine, would have been the cruelest ending ever.
They even play with the Deus ex Machina ending: the movie even puts a small sign that says "Deus Ex Machina" on the treasure chest at the end!
The Daredevil film is a pretty clear version of this: the director filmed one version of the movie, only for Fox executives to think that Jennifer Garner's Elektra had potential as a spinoff once they saw early footage. So the movie had a hacksaw taken to it as a result, with a lengthy subplot revolving around Matt Murdock defending a murder victim removed (with the consequence of the movie's ending now making no sense and leaving virtually no mention of the iconic Nelson & Murdock law firm in the movie), Elektra given prominence, and most of Daredevil's origins shunted to the side. As a result, the theatrical cut was panned, and then Elektra also didn't do well in theatres. Thankfully, the director's cut has become quite popular on DVD, and holds up as one of the better Marvel movies.
Quite a lot of the film adaptation of The Golden Compass resides somewhere on the cutting room floor, mainly because the studio was dead set on making this their new PG-13-rated fun-for-the-whole-family blockbuster franchise (His Dark Materials fans take a minute and let that sink in). Can't have anything remotely edgy in a PG-13-rated fun-for-the-whole-family blockbuster franchise, can we?
Chris Weitz's initial cut of The Golden Compass ran approximately three hours. New Line was banking on this new His Dark Materials trilogy to be their next The Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately, the studio got cold feet at the 11th hour. They felt that not only was the film running too long (ironic considering how long each of the The Lord of the Rings films ran in their theatrical cuts), but they were worried about the Downer Ending in which Lord Asriel kidnaps Roger and tears him apart from his daemon, effectively killing him in the process in order to rip open the barrier between worlds. Without Weitz's involvement, the studio cut this ending out along with approximately 45 minutes' worth of other scenes. This created such glaring gaps in the storyline that reshoots were promptly made to help smoothen these out, including an extremely self-conscious Sequel Hook. Scenes (particularly during the last third) were re-ordered since the real climax of the film had been excised, resulting in the battle of Bolvangar becoming the climax when it was meant to be a skirmish. To help drive home that this was their next The Lord of the Rings, Christopher Lee was given a cameo during the reshoots as one of Magisterium leaders, and Ian McKellen was brought in to voice Iorek Byrnison despite Nonso Anonzie having already completed his work in the role. The film had gone so far over budget that they sold the foreign distribution rights in order to finish post-production. All of this blew up in New Line's face when the film did poorly domestically but was a smash hit internationally, resulting in the studio getting swallowed up by parent company Warner Brothers. When asked if we'll ever see his original director's cut for the film, Chris Weitz answered that it's not likely as the missing hour of footage requires another $2 million of effects to complete. All this happened after the ditching of a fine screenplay by Tom Stoppard.
Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale bowed down to a lot of Executive Meddling in order to get Back to the Future made, but they stopped short of renaming the movie Spaceman from Pluto. Steven Spielberg handled this by answering the memo that suggested the new title with another one that read: "Thanks for the joke memo, guys: it's the funniest thing ever. We're still laughing about it." It actually worked, as the executive behind this was too proud to admit he was serious.
At least some of the Executive Meddling was positive. The budget forced the change from a Nevada nuclear test to the hometown lightning bolt, to power the flux capacitor. And imagine Back to the Future without "Doc" Brown!note Originally "Professor" Brown.
The sequels only exist because of this. After the runaway success of the first film, Zemeckis and Gale were told "We're making more and either you'll make them or we'll get someone else." They opted to do the sequels.
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 decent as a metaphor).
In the stoner flick Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle, one of the main focuses in the movie is about the subtle but ever-present racial issues that the racial minorities face in a hilarious manner. The execs wanted the director to change their ethnicity to them both being Jewish, which would have effectively nullified the central concept of the characters and, at the same time, ironically proven the point of the film. The director/writer said no and, as a compromise, placed a Jewish buddy duo into the movie as the lead characters' close friends.
Perhaps as a reaction to this, the film's sequel places the racial issues completely front and center, with a plot that involves Harold and Kumar being 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, and 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".
According to the commentary track, Helena Bonham Carter (who played Marla) didn't quite realize the implications of the line, since the term "grade school" is never used in England. When someone pointed out that she was implying that Marla had had sex before the age of thirteen, she was horrified.
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.
The Alien series has the distinct honor of having one example of this spread over two media: with both the original movie's Adult Alien action figure and the "Newborn" Alien in Alien: Resurrection, the sculptors and director, respectively, wanted to add actual genitals to them, but were slapped down as being "too much". Heavy meddling by Walter Hill and David Giler turned the Dan O'Bannon/Ronald Shusett version from crap to great.
Alien³'s production problems are the stuff of industry legend, and are chronicled in interviews and the "Wreckage And Rage" documentary on the Alien Anthology setnote Even this is the result of Executive Meddling. The original title was the much more emotive and accusatory "Wreckage and Rape". 20th Century Fox spent millions of dollars (over a period of four years) to try and get the script up and running - and every director who signed up ended up leaving due to creative differences and/or Fox attempting to stifle their creative process (Renny Harlin and Vincent Ward both expressed concerns when the studio tried to micromanage their planned directorial efforts) by forcing mandates (like the inclusion of Sigourney Weaver) onto them. Fox executives then brought on rookie director David Fincher, who they believed they could control. Fincher had other plans, and what resulted were back-and-forth battles between the two parties. 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. They even attempted to hide the story of the film's production from the public for years - DVD producer Charles Lauzirika was barred from featuring the original version of "Wreckage and Rage" on the Alien Quadrilogy set by Fox executives.
Tropes Are Not Bad! Sort of. Inadvertently. The Nazi propaganda film Der ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew) was envisioned by Joseph Goebbels as an understated and subtle (by the standards of Nazi Propaganda) demonstration of the "evils" of Jewry, in keeping with Goebbels' (mostly correct) theory that the best propaganda was primarily entertainment and not obviously political. However, Hitler demanded more polemical material, such as laughably (even to the Nazis) crude comparisons of Jews to rats. It was a box-office flop, and some viewers fainted at the crudity. Inadvertently, executive meddling transformed what might be a chilling piece of propaganda into an embarrassing farce. Unfortunately, Goebbels had got his way with the much more effective and successful Jud Suss which was re-released to compensate for the failure of Der ewige Jude.
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.
The planned ending of the 2007 film of I Am Legend tested poorly and, at the studio's insistence, was replaced with one that was both nothing like the book and completely against the point of the original film. Among other things, it introduces some serious plot holes, skips the shocking twist that made the book so successful (while still heavily foreshadowing the now-nonexistent twist), and removes the reason for the movie to be called "I Am Legend" — Which, really, seems to be par for the course of every adaptation of the book.
A planned adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Mort was nixed when producers wanted to "lose the Death angle". 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."
Despite marketing The Colour of Magic in the film and TV tie-in section of bookstores. Someone must pay.
There was also 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," and the project is now mired in Development Hell.
The BBC wanted to do seven series of thirteen episodes of the Watch novels. Unfortunately, according to Terry, they had the attitude "We cannot be bound by anything in the books because we are the BBC." So a Bible was written, which contained the absolute immutables. And back came the letter "Thank you for the Bible. If we feel the need to change anything in it, we'll be sure to let you know afterwards." The Watch-Novels-as-BBC-series has been canned.
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."
Although this was a product of The Hays Code, and was not specifically directed at Casablanca.
Ingrid Bergman was always going to get on the plane; the ending that was changed was Bogart's character getting arrested by his French police friend (changed to him saying: "Round up the usual suspects" instead.)
The movie of Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters suffered from this. Executives who wanted to change the slugs to spores from space and other disgraces are listed in this essay by the script writer.
Babylon A.D., which evidently made sense at some point, was reportedly disowned by its director over an egregious example of this. The full story can be found here. The studio in question? Fox.
"The film's production was reportedly riddled with problems, from vast delays to budgetary concerns to weather setbacks. Kassovitz points to the studio, 'Fox was sending lawyers who were only looking at all the commas and the dots,' he says. 'They made everything difficult from A to Z.' The last stroke, Kassovitz says, was when Fox interfered with the editing of the film, paring it down to a confusing 93 minutes. Diesel too was astounded at the film's length. Having just completed production of the fourth installment of The Fast and the Furious, he had not seen a cut of the film in six months. 'Am I even in the movie any more, or am I on the cutting room floor?' the actor joked. Fox could not be reached for comment on this story."
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 actually direct the re-shoot (the infamous swordfight scene) without even notifying the director Xavier Gens about it. Also, the leaked near-final script contains scenes that could be matched to the remains seen in trailers and promotional photos. The studio in question? Fox. Again.
One of the Godzilla series's more infamous Special Effect Failures is the incredibly obvious strings holding up the prop for the titular airborne antagonist of Godzilla vs. Megaguirus - made much worse by the fact that the film was made in 2000, even though Toho's giant monstermovies have hid their the wires very well ever since the early 1960s. As it turns out, the effect is perfectly convincing in the Japanese print of the film; when Sony released it on DVD in America, however, they used a much brighter print for some reason, rendering the strings extremely visible.
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 Orange Cinema adverts reference this. In one example, Macaulay Culkin (the actor who played the boy from Home Alone) is acting in a deep-sounding film about a guy in jail writing a diary/letter about his experiences/history. Then a director comes on, and pitches a Home Alone sequel. Next thing we know people are thumping into each other and paint cans are knocking their heads (like in the movies). Mac is not amused. (The advert could also be in reference to Home Alone'sSequelitis.)
The fantasy-based production of Super Mario Bros. that predated the second, sci-fi-oriented production had already drained $10 million of the total budget in the six months under former director Greg Beeman. The producers scrambled for nearly a year to get another director before finally settling on Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel (formerly of Max Headroom fame) because they were the only directors interested in the property. With already $10 million in the can, the new writers working with Rocky and Annabel were dictated to severely limit any action sequences or concepts that would require special effects. They ignored this mandate and wrote a very hardcore version of the film that was later re-written twice, the second time actually being filmed. Faced with a massive delay, the producers had over half the shooting script trimmed of sub-plots and backstory to save time. Rocky and Annabel were also rarely allowed to direct under their own style and forced to send daily updates to the producers so they could dictate further changes. In the end, over 20 minutes of deleted scenes were removed to get Mario and Luigi into the parallel world quicker and to get the rating down, including a scene at the Boom Boom Bar where Iggy and Spike rap while Stripperiffic girls dance around them. Finally, the producers had the atrocious animated intro made to make-up for the backstory clarified in the deleted scenes.
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.
In the movie, Blanche's monologue about her husband had been toyed around, making it nearly impossible to realize he was homosexual if you hadn't read or seen the play. In fact, it ruins the reason why he kills himself.
The movie version of the stage musical 1776 — which was actually commissioned by the US government as part of the runup to the bicentennial — was subjected to executive branch meddling: Richard Nixon disliked the modern-day parallels/implications of the Villain Song (or at least Antagonist Song) "Cool Considerate Men," which was an ode to the wealthy, risk-averse conservatives who opposed the Independence movement ("To the right, ever to the right! Never to the left, forever to the right!"). He pressured his old buddy movie producer Jack Warner to not only expunge the number from the film but to destroy the footage as well. However, Warner was no longer directly in charge at the studio and the negatives were simply packed into unmarked boxes. The song was restored to its rightful place in the movie for the Special Edition DVD release.
And it wasn't the first time he'd tried to have the song killed. Nixon had earlier attempted to pressure playwright Sherman Edwards into removing the number after seeing a performance of the play at the White House, but Edwards refused.
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 actually happened in said meddled-with movie, since that would have negated the story and the bulk of the action.) The writing/directing team luckily prevailed, keeping the revelation of Lucian as a sympathetic figure and Viktor as a lying murderous jerk.
Brazil. Brazil probably stands out as one of the most contentious and publicly played-out instances of Executive Meddling ever. Universal's COO, Sid Sheinberg, tried to hack the Terry Gilliam film — which is now considered one of the best fantasy films ever made (currently it is 54th on the BFI's list of Top 100 British films) — down from it's original run time of 142 minutes to 97. He also wanted to replace Michael Kamen's orchestral score with contemporary rock music hits so it would "attract the teens", spin its tone from a sci-fi epic into a love story, and lastly, to use a dream sequence scene filmed for earlier in the film literally to turn its bleak last scenes into an cuddly, romantic happy ending. Gilliam fought back-and-forth with Sheinberg, who was holding him to a clause on the length of the film, but even after the director edited 10 minutes from the film to fall under his contract's agreed-upon running time, Sheinberg continued to fight Gilliam on the film's Orwellian-like content. Gilliam then set up clandestine screenings for students & critics, which began to drum up buzz for the film. Film critics in both New York and L.A. began putting it on their top 10 lists — without the film having yet been officially released. Finally, frustrated, Gilliam bought a full-page ad◊ in Variety asking Sheinberg, 'When are you going to release my film, Brazil?'. Gilliam eventually secured a theatrical release of his 132-minute cut. Sheinberg worked with outside editors to create his shorter cut (dubbed the 'Love Conquers All' version) which was also released theatrically, to massive indifference. Gilliam's original 142-minute cut was eventually released by Criterion on home video, side-by-side with the shorter 'Love Conquers All' cut, which actually still occasionally crops up on television in syndication.
Brazil was considered one of the more prominent examples of Executive Meddling in recent years so much that a whole book, The Battle Of Brazil, was written by L.A. Times' film critic Jack Matthews on how much Sheinberg & Universal screwed Terry Gilliam over. A documentary based on the book, hosted by Matthews, appears on Criterion's home video releases.
Gilliam wouldn't work with Universal Studios again for nearly ten years, until he directed Twelve Monkeys to nearly-unanimous critical acclaim. During the film's shoot, Gilliam has a documentary team recording everything in case things went sideways as they did with Brazil. The resulting film, The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys, was included on the film's release on home video.
The film's original screenplay, which was written by Brian Clemens, was deemed too intense by Disney; the company hired first Rosemary Anne Sisson and then Gerry Day to revise it.
It didn't help the film that producers Ron Miller and Tom Leetch would argue over some of the film's scenes, with Miller wanting to tone down some of the film's more intense moments. An example of this includes a scene where the film's heroine receives a Bright Slap from her mother, which was toned down to have the mother shake her shoulders instead.
The film's intended 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 Bette Davis's acting career (Bette Davis played the role of the missing girl's mother). As a result, the scenes involving the spaceship, which weren't even finished at the time, were left out of the film, and the ending became unintelligible. After receiving a poor response by critics, the film was pulled from theaters and wouldn't be officially released for over a year.
Rather than finish the special effects shots required for the film's intended ending, Disney instead changed the 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). In the process, Disney also cut twenty minutes off the film's run time and changed the film's opening credits sequence (the original sequence was darker and featured the Watcher scaring a girl and incinerating her doll, with the credits appearing on screen while the doll's head was melting).
When Anchor Bay was releasing Disney films on DVD, the company enlisted the film's director, John Hough, to re-edit the film, with the plans being to release a two-disc version of the film that would contain the original 1981 release and a director's cut, which would include the original opening credits sequence and a finished version of the film's intended ending. Disney showed great resistance to this (with most of it probably being because Anchor Bay's releases of Disney films were of much better quality than Disney's own DVD releases). In the end, while Anchor Bay was eventually able to release The Watcher in the Woods on DVD, only the original 1981 version of the film was used, with a rough cut of the spaceship ending appearing on the DVD as an "alternate ending" (along with a second "alternate ending" that is an approximation of the ending that appeared in the original version of the film). Both endings would eventually appear on the Disney DVD version of the film.
Times Square was a victim of this. The original cut contained lesbian content, which the producers wanted removed. Additionally, the producers wanted additional songs added so that the soundtrack would be a double album. Director Allan Moyle resisted, and ended up getting 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?"
Dino De Laurentiis pared Dune down by hours and the result was a confusing mess to many people who didn't read the book.
A rare good case occurred with Monty Python's Life of Brian. The initial studio abandoned the film just as the Pythons were getting ready to shoot ("when they finally read the script," according to Michael Palin). Enter former BeatleGeorge Harrison, who happened to be a) extremely rich and b) a total Python fanboy. He founded a production company for the sole purpose of financing the film and more or less let the Pythons do whatever they wanted. When asked why, Harrison said, "Well, I wanted to see the movie." Eric Idle later called it "the most expensive movie ticket ever purchased."
The company Harrison founded, Handmade Films, had quite a few successes after Brian, including The Long Good Friday, Time Bandits, Monty Python At The Hollywood Bowl, and Withnail and I. The company was sold in 2004, but it still exists today.
Another good case of Tropes Are Not Bad is during the Python TV series, they wanted to use a screamer in one of their sketches. Over the course of the sketch, the sound volume would gradually grow quieter so that TV viewers would then turn the volume to the maximum. After that, they wanted to produce a very loud sound. They weren't allowed to do so...
The original Army of Darkness ending had Ash drinking too much of a 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. It does make a case for Tropes Are Not Bad, though, as the theatrical ending is counted by many fans as Ash's Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
It also benefits from the lack of a fourth movie. The original ending has a very obvious Sequel Hook, while the S-Mart ending gives Ash some closure.
The original ending was used in the international release. Most people outside the US don't even know about an alternate ending.
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 has the most stunning example of this trope. Apparently, the film ran over time and budget, so the suits decided to take it over to see how they could "salvage it". Their version is the Theatrical Cut. When the film was shown on TV, someone got a hold of the now infamous Producer's Cut. While the violence and cursing were trimmed, an assload of alternate takes and different opening narration were shown, and the entire last 20 minutes of the film is RADICALLY different from the Theatrical Cut. The main change is that the explanation for Michael's killing ways is altered: The Theatrical version offered a scientific reason, but the Producer's Cut says the reason is supernatural (which also explains why Micheal is also growing bigger in each previous film. It's because his power is growing). It also shows a final scene with Dr. Loomis realizing that he has been cursed by Thorn. This was likely altered when Donald Pleasance died. An early trailer showed that the film was originally going to called "Halloween 666: The Curse of Michael Myers." This version is only available through bootleg video releases.
Halloween II (1981) to a lesser extent. John Carpenter didn't want to do a sequel, but when 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.
Schumacher's planned screenplay had assistance from Frank Miller, and some cut scenes from the original version appear in the promotional music videos, namely an encounter with a giant bat.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: The Fox executives decided that it would be a brilliant idea to take Deadpool, the Merc with the Mouth and possibly one of the most popular characters appearing in the movie, introduce him and then remove him quickly, and then sew his mouth shut. Because he would be too entertaining and take attention away from Wolverine or something (no-one knows the exact reason).
Director Gavin Hood and top Fox executive Tom Rothman reportedly had clashes over the film's creative direction. One infamous incident happened while Hood was off-set, at which point Rothman took it upon himself to have one of the sets repainted from Hood's original Darker and Edgier theme into something more Lighter and Softer.
Hood has also stated that the scripting process was a mess, and that portions of the screenplay were hastily rewritten as the movie was filming.
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.
Erich von Stroheim's Greed reduced from five hours and a half (!) to 2 hours by MGM.
It's worse than that. The first cut of the film was nine and a half hours! And it's all gone as far as we know.
There were two cuts of Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate; a 5 hour cut and a studio-mandated 3 1/2 hour cut. This was the only successful implementation of this trope; all others were either considered and dropped or rebuffed by Michael Cimino.
The film of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was intended to be entirely different. Apparently, a version of the original script is available in one form or another, and is considered canon in the continuity of the series. However, the meddling was so bad that Joss Whedon reportedly walked off set one day and never went back. As several entries in the TV section suggest, Whedon is a regular target for Executive Meddling.
Specifically, the Origin comic miniseries is, according to Joss, still not quite right, but close enough to be accepted as canon.
Joss has stated in interviews that Frans Kazui purposely played up the comedy aspect of the script into the movie as opposed to the B Movie Horror aspect, as originally intended by Whedon.
The TV Set takes executive meddling as its focus. 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. But the executives didn't stop there: they also cut out 20 minutes of footage (from a film that was only 107 minutes to begin with), gave all the characters bad dubbing to make them sound American, 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.
Independence Day removed a very important scene where Jeff Goldblum's character explained a bit about what was going on with the TV signal, as it gave an early hint as to how the aliens are going to attack Earth, because Harvey Fierstein's character placed an ad-libbed kiss on Jeff Goldblum's character. Apparently, this was Roland Emmerich's decision as it would have apparently angered the MPAA if he kept it in, despite the fact that the kiss in question wasn't even close to being long enough to carry any romantic implications from Fierstein's character and another acting job that he did allowed him to get away with kissing another guy despite TV stations being even stricter in regards to content than Movies.
Averted with Gremlins, in a similar case to Back to the Future. Warner Bros. thought that the movie focused too heavily on the gremlins and wanted most of their scenes cut. Steven Spielberg, the movie's producer, asked the studio why they didn't just cut every scene with a gremlin in it and call the movie People, and they 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 because it was shown to US troops overseas during the war. The modern DVD release features both versions on a double-sided disc.
There are rumors that less beneficial executive meddling occurred during the original shoot, because the actress playing the younger sister of Bacall's character was upstaging the lead.
The first live-action Scooby-Doo movies suffered from executing meddling. Writer James Gunn (yes, THAT James Gunn) wrote a PG-13 movie that rewarded its fans with many urban legends and Wild Mass Guessing developed by said fans being acknowledged on screen. Despite these elements being filmed, Warner Bros. forced many of them to be cut to get a PG rating. The final film is a case where the deleted scenes are actually better than what's shown on screen. 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 (that script ended up being finished by Scott Frank and Michael Tolkin).
The Red Dawn (2012) remake is centered around a Chinese invasion of America. However, 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. The executives initially claimed that North Korea would be a more plausible enemy than China, but they later admitted the real reason for the changes was because the idea of the Chinese invading scared off distributors, no one would touch the film until the changes were made, and it took almost a year to find a distributor.
A scene in The Santa Clause ended up deleted in the DVD releases because of complaints from one of the parents of the children who watched the film, tried to dial the number that Scott Calvin sarcastically gave (1-800-SPANK-ME), and discovered that it was a phone sex hotline.
During the casting process for Tremors, the studio suggested Michael Gross to play Burt Gummer. Gross was practically a household name due to Family Ties, which was why the studio wanted him. However, production was nervous because Gross was known for playing a laid back father with a hippie past - a far cry from the paranoid, trigger-happy Gummer. All that nervousness changed, though, when Gross auditioned - reportedly blowing production away with his range. A truly positive example of the trope, as production was thrilled to have Gross and Burt Gummer became the Ensemble Dark Horse of the franchise.
Reba Mc Entire's casting was also suggested by the studio. Considering she was an established country singer, but she never acted in any movie before, the production was even more nervous about it. However, her audition went very well and Mc Entire turned out to be a decent actress, launching a separate acting career.
Director Jon Favreau clashed with Marvel over the elements added to set up the events of The Avengers, which made for a messier and less-coherent story overall. Favreau had such a bad experience working on the movie that he refused to return as director for Iron Man 3.
Similarly, Marvel decided not to have Edward Norton reprise his role as The Incredible Hulk in The Avengers film, replacing him with Mark Ruffalo. This is because Norton is reputed for being notoriously difficult to work with. However, this ended up being a positive example, as Ruffalo's portrayal as the Hulk was praised by critics and audiences.
Joss Whedon has stated that in The Avengers, Loki was going to have a muscular co-villain (rumored to be Skurge the Executioner) that was intimidating enough to go toe-to-toe with someone like the Hulk. Marvel ordered Whedon to cut the character from the screenplay, as they didn't want an overabundance of Asgardian or fantasy elements in the movie.
The Avengers and Iron Man 3, unlike the previous Marvel Studios movies (bar Hulk), are made by Marvel's parent company Disney, but distributed through Paramount. The Avengers and Iron Man 3 were part of a five-picture distribution deal Marvel made with Paramount prior to Disney's acquisition of Marvel. As part of the acquisition, Disney purchased the rights to those two films, but Paramount's logo appears instead of any Disney logo as part of the deal transferring the distribution rights. Needless to say, it's quite jarring watching The Avengers on home video, where Paramount's logo is everywhere... but the box and menu layout resembles Disney DVDs, the trailer that plays is for Frankenweenie, and the print ads inside the box are for Avengers kids toys and Epic Mickey 2, showing that Disney is calling the shots from behind the scenes. Oddly enough, starting with Thor: The Dark World—the first Marvel film distributed by Disney—marketing materials for Marvel films do not bear any indication that Disney distributes those films.
The marketing for Big Hero 6, which has Disney's logo but not Marvel's, may indicate that Disney is really using Marvel as a banner, similar to how they marketed the Touchstone films.
Thor: The Dark World also had more to tell about the Dark Elves, especially Malekith, but those scenes were cut in favor of Loki, who has become theEnsemble Darkhorse of the films. YMMV on whether it hurts the film or not.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is actually a triumphant example. The producers thought the original ending was too anti-authoritarian, so they changed it—thereby inventing the cinematic Twist Ending.
DreamWorks decided that Cameron Crowe's original vision of Almost Famous 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 in Mallrats 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.
Executive meddling with Mallrats also resulted in the removal of a 'semen as hair gel' joke (deemed too gross, only a couple years before There's Something About Mary), and almost resulted in the replacement of Jason Mewes with Seth Green as Jay. Obviously, the latter would have been a disaster, as Jay is nothing more than a scripted portrayal of Jason's actual personality and manner of speaking.
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.
James Brooks' I'll 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 My Year of Flops book, 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 the reason 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 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.
The Lord of the Rings almost suffered this fate. Peter Jackson originally came up with a two-movie treatment since he knew a proper trilogy was going to be a hard sell, but when he showed it to Miramax, their suggestions were to, among other things, "use or lose" Saruman, combine Rohan and Gondor (so that Éowyn would be Boromir's sister), and mash everything into a single film. Instead Jackson went to New Line, who again said that it shouldn't be two films... it should(obviously) bethreefilms.
It's actually a bit worse - and in turn also a bit more awesome - than that. Miramax was actually fine with the two-film idea for LOTR. It was Disney - the parent company of Miramax - that vetoed the two films idea. Specifically then-CEO Michael Eisner, who balked at the estimated cost of the two films, saying expensive films like it wasn't the sort of films Miramax was supposed to be doing. So Harvey Weinstein went back to Peter Jackson and told him to do it one film, with all the changes noted above including a few other things: The Mines of Moria sequence was completely cut out, and the Fellowship just info dumped on how bad going through the mines had been; and them not seeing a need for their being four Hobbits, and to get rid of two of them. (And then Miramax even wanted to kill off one of the Hobbits, though it's not clear if that order came down before or after it was demanded they do the story in one movie). Anyway, Peter Jackson flatly refused to make the one-film-only version Miramax was demanding, so Miramax only gave him four weeks to get another studio to bite, thinking that no other studio would. (And that then they would just replace Jackson with another director if Jackson still refused to do the one-film version). However, New Line did bite, and told Jackson to do it in three. When the films ended up being a smash hit, the loss of it was one of the main reasons Harvey Weinstein left Miramax (because he felt Michael Eisner's veto of projects like LOTR was holding him and the company back); and Michael Eisner losing his position as CEO of the Disney company because he had passed on too many hit projects like LOTR. So, in this case, the Executive Meddling ended up backfiring on the executives.
The battle to make LotR into the trilogy it deserved to be is quite ironic considering the next Middle-Earth story The Hobbit ended up being expanded from two films into three with little fuss from executives.
Zulu on a governmental level. The film company was forbidden to actually pay the Zulus acting as extras, under apartheid laws. 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 3000The Movie. Hoo, boy. The movie was originally envisioned as an origin movie meant to reveal how Joel got stuck on the Satellite of Love beyond what was mentioned in the theme, but the executives wanted very little to none movie riffing, which would be one of the reasons why creator Joel Hodgson left the series. Universal insisted on only using their collection of movies, they were forced to "dumb down" various riffs, wanted more cursing (which wasn't too bad - one good riff had Tom utter "What kind of shithole planet is this?!" upon seeing Metaluna), was forced to rewrite the ending which made the scene where Crow finds the chainsaw a one-off gag (he was supposed to use the chainsaw to resume digging to Earth) and for the biggest slap in the face, they ended up with Invisible Advertising as distributor Gramercy chose to put more attention on Barb Wire over this.
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.
Remember the infamous Predator scene where the group freaks out and fires their guns wildly into the jungle? This was put into the film after the studio told John Mctiernan that they felt the movie needed more 'gun shooting scenes'. So he added a scene where the gun shooting was pointless.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation became a victim of this. Just weeks before its scheduled release, the film 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.
Happened with The Wizard of Oz. In the original script, Oz was indeed a real place that Dorothy had really visited, but execs thought that audiences would be too "sophisticated" to accept a fantasy land like Oz, so they changed it to its now famous All Just a Dream ending. Whether this was a good thing depends on your interperetation.
The execs also pressured the director to cut the 'Over The Rainbow' song, not liking the idea of their star singing in a farmyard. Fortunately, the song stayed in.
I know that those who have read my Conan shooting script agree that much of the work I did on story and character never made it to screen. I myself know that given the difficulties of rewriting a script in the middle of production, I made vast improvements on the draft that came before me.
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). He refused, but as a result some theater chains refused to book it into their theaters in white neighborhoods.
Which, of course, would go against 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 like James Brown and Cab Calloway were being forgotten about.
Scream 4 was another victim of Weinstein 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/only 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.
Sam Peckinpah's Major Dundee also 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.
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 (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.
The character of Shaw was originallly going to be named Elizabeth Watts, but this was changed by executives for fear of confusion with 20th Century Fox's President of Production, Emma Watts.
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.
Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America deserves mention. The initial US release 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 something like forty minutes in.
The European release, however, remained the same length. The original cut was critically acclaimed throughout the world. James Woods stated at one point that one American critic watched the US cut and called it the worst film of 1984. He saw the European cut years later and called it one of the best films of the 1980s.
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 though that the film needed a scene where 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 response 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. After 20 years of negotiation and Development Hell, the film was finally made and released in 2008, when Spielberg had no other projects in sight and Ford had given an ultimatum demanding the movie to be done now or never. The finished film proved to be a Base Breaker with fans and critics alike.
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 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.
His 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.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind got this only a few years after its release, but let's elaborate first. Steven Spielberg had expected the film to be released in the Summer of 1978, but a debt-laden Columbia Picturesinsisted he have it ready for Christmas 1977. The film was a success, but Spielberg was unhappy with the way it turned out because of its rushed production, thus he convinced Columbia to allow him to refine it for a re-release by filming new footage. The studio agreed, but under the condition that he film a scene showing the inside of the mothership during the climax. Spielberg ultimately complied, but when he created a Director's Cut 20 years later, he removed the mothership scenes.
Some horror filmakers whose works lean towards the atmospheric and character-driven types had have issues with distributors "wanting to open the film with a kill" to "to get the feel for the movie". Note that those deaths would likely be the only deaths to not elicit an emotional reaction from the other characters. And that inserting two people dying in a film not intended for splatter fans, of a type that usually forty minutes or longer character building, probably wouldn't make the film any more marketable to splatter fans.
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 foreign group who's come to visit the site of the first film. To make the mood of the film darker, the studio also changed the soundtrack to hard rock. Finally, that "Book of Shadows" in the title which is nowhere to be seen in the actual movie? 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 Ironman and Batman 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.
Event Horizon: The original cut 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.note Not that the studio ever 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.
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.
Which at least was an improvement over Carl Foreman's early drafts, which featured more elaborate and outlandish action scenes like a submarine battle and elephant stampedes!