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Trivia / Death Becomes Her

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  • Deleted Role: Tracey Ullman (a long-time friend of Meryl Streep) was to have a supporting role as a bartender named Toni who befriends Ernest. In the film's original ending, Toni helps Ernest fake his death and they run away to start a new life together. After the ending was changed, the character was scrapped and Ullman's scenes were cut from the film.
  • Divorced Installment: The film was originally going to be a sequel to the 1989 Tales from the Crypt movie. The TV series' theme song was used in the trailer, even after the film became stand-alone.
  • Irony as She Is Cast:
    • Meryl Streep, a well-known, awarded actress today, plays the role of hammy actress Madeline Ashton. And she pulls it off, too. Because she's Meryl Streep.
    • In-universe example: Madeline is cast in a musical version of Sweet Bird of Youth, which is about an older woman desperately clinging to her youth and beauty.
    • Also, Goldie Hawn as the (initially) mousy Helen and Bruce Willis as the weak-willed Ernest.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: The theatrical trailer includes several scenes that never made it into the film: a shot of Madeline driving her convertible down a sunny street; some dialogue between Madeline's agent and a young woman at the book party ("Is that someone?" "That's Madeline Ashton. She was a big star in the 60s." "I thought she was dead!"); scenes of Ernest removing a very frostbitten Madeline from a freezer and dragging her up the mansion stairs ("I feel sweaty!" "That's not sweat, dear. I think you're defrosting"). Two scenes featuring Tracey Ullman also made it into the trailer, despite her character being removed from the film entirely: a scene with Ernest and Toni looking down at the body of a man slumped over the bar ("Now HE'S dead!"), and Madeline and Helen confronting a sobbing Toni, with Helen hysterically exclaiming, "He's dead? Ernest is dead? EVERYBODY'S dead!"
  • Playing Against Type: Bruce Willis playing a cowardly, bumbling Henpecked Husband. Bonus points for the character being literally impotent.
  • Troubled Production: No major catastrophes, but this movie was made back in the early 90s, when digital effects were still in their infancy. This means that they had to stage the scenes down to the smallest detail, and any slight unplanned movement would ruin a take, which had the effect of exhausting the actors. Later on, Meryl said that while she was proud of the movie and her work in it, never again would she do a movie so effects-heavy.
  • Uncredited Role: Sydney Pollack portrays the E.R. Doctor in an uncredited role.
  • Underage Casting: Though her character, Helen Sharp, is portrayed as a 50 year old woman during the majority of the film, Goldie Hawn was actually 46 years old when she shot this film.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Kevin Kline was cast as Ernest, yet asked for too much money.
    • The original script has a number of scenes and elements that never made into the film:
      • A character played by Tracey Ullman (as noted above) and her subplot with Ernest were completely removed from the final film. Death Becomes Her was intended to be Ullman's big return to the big screen.
      • Madeline and Helen were originally going to be old college friends, who met as students at Radcliffe (rather than in high school). Madeline (while still vain and rather hateful) was also conceived as a far less malicious character: her feud with Helen began because Helen was jealous of her popularity and success with the boys, and Ernest was the first love interest she had ever stolen from Helen — an act of fear and desperation, which she regretted.
      • Helen originally wasn't supposed to take the potion until the film's final act, shortly before her fight with Madeline. (She would have aged reasonably since her last meeting with Madeline, but would still have been beautiful and glamorous enough to seduce Ernest and make Madeline feel insecure at the book party.)
      • Madeline's lover was originally a Latin cabana boy named "Marcello". The original screenplay included a scene where the two meet for sex after Ernest leaves for work, and another where Madeline calls him immediately after taking the potion to arrange a meetup.
      • Several still-living (at the time) celebrities were going to appear in younger form at Lisel's party, including Dick Clark and George Hamilton.
      • When Ernest enters the morgue to look for Madeline, he was supposed to be interrupted (several times) when a drawer containing the body of a priest rolled out on its own; this would have explained the crying nuns in the hall, as well as Ernest's sudden conviction that Madeline's resurrection is a "miracle" and a sign from God. (It's unknown whether the scene itself was actually filmed, as the deleted scenes have never been released.)
      • One draft of the script gave more depth to Lisle's character. Originally, she wasn't going to be merely 71, but old beyond imagination. Her deepest desire was to use the potion to preserve the greatest minds and creative talents of the world forever, such as William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln and Max Factor. Unfortunately for her, those great minds came to the same conclusion that Ernest ultimately did: eternal life is not a dream but a nightmare, and she killed them in retaliation. The fact that pretty much the only people interested in the potion were the vain, narcissistic personalities of Hollywood was a bone of contention for her. It brought her wealth, but not the collection of intelligent talent she dreamed of.
      • One proposed ending for the film had Madeline and Helen stealing a car at Lisle's and chasing after Ernest, only to drive off a cliff and crash with a fiery explosion (just like in the staged "accident" Helen planned earlier in the film). Madeline and Helen would emerge from the wreckage of the car as charred, smoldering skeletons.
  • Working Title: Bruce Willis jokingly suggested My Man Death and It's Death, Baby as titles for the film.


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