There’s no word in the movie business that draws more eye rolls and negativity than “reshoots.” Reshoots might seem to signal that the film is doomed or the director’s vision isn’t panning out, but this isn’t the case most of the time. Most studios account for reshoots and believe they’re an intricate part of the creative process. After all, there’s a clear difference between studio interference and reshoots that were orchestrated by the director.
Filmmakers like J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg have embraced reshoots as a film’s saving grace, raising the film from subpar to just perfect. Reshoots allow a director to go back and refine their film, usually thanks to studio notes, test screenings, or just personal choices. Sure, some films have given reshoots a bad name, but that wasn’t the case before the digital age.
Be aware that we’ll be discussing spoilers for each of these films so with that in mind, we’ll be taking a look at 15 Movies That Were Improved By Reshoots.
15. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Everyone panicked the moment it was announced that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story would succumb to reshoots. However, as soon as audiences left theaters, they quickly realized that their initial hesitations were merely paranoia. Details on Gareth Edward’s original cut are scarce, but several key figures in the film’s production have made it clear that the reshoots were for the better.
A variety of introduction scenes were reshot, including Cassian’s, Jyn’s, and Bodhi’s. Cassian’s new introduction allowed him to be seen and succeed as a morally gray character, while Jyn and Bodhi’s new scenes allowed for them to be more fleshed out.
Beyond tweaking certain scenes and adding more levity to our heroes, the film’s reshoots allowed us to witness Darth Vader’s rage in the film’s finale. Yup, the action sequence that many consider to be one of the best moments in Star Wars history was, in fact, a reshoot. Not only did the ending allow us to marvel at Vader’s inherent anger and ability to crush the Rebels, but it also ended the film on a bombastic note.
14. Back To The Future
Robert Zemeckis’ classic time-travel comedy Back To The Future would have been completely different and likely wouldn’t have made much of an impact culturally if the film hadn’t gone through reshoots. While the main role of Marty McFly is synonymous with Michael J. Fox, the studio didn’t get him at first. The role of Marty originally went to Eric Stoltz, best known for his role in Mask.
Four weeks into shooting the film, Robert Zemeckis, and writer Bob Gale came to the conclusion that Stoltz was a fine dramatic actor but he just wasn’t working in the comedy department. Stoltz’s role was later given to Fox, whom the studio had wanted all along. With the perfect comedic and charismatic lead cast, the rest was history, and Back To The Future went on to become an instant classic.
In E.T, a young boy named Elliot befriends an alien who is lost on Earth. Throughout the film, we see Elliot and the titular E.T become friends, helping each other along the way. One of the most empowering films from the ’80s, Steven Spielberg’s classic film about childhood wonder and the importance of friendship wouldn’t have been as impactful if it didn’t have any reshoots.
In the original cut of the film, E.T. fails to recover, and dies in a government facility. Test audiences were furious at the fact that the lovable alien had died, and that his friendship with Elliot never managed to get a fulfilling end. Spielberg went back to the drawing board and reshot the film’s ending, making sure E.T. made his way back to his home planet.
12. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
When Edgar Wright was working on his cinematic adaption of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, he came into one slight hiccup: the source material didn’t have an ending yet. Channeling his inner creativity, Wright and co-writer Michael Bacall created their own ending which featured Scott coming to the conclusion that he’s better suited for Knives – not Ramona, the woman he just spent the past two hours fighting for.
When it came time for test screenings, audiences were less than enthused to find out that Scott picked Knives. Wright quickly remedied this by reshooting the ending to accommodate the screening tests– and Ramona and Scott’s relationship. While both endings work for Scott’s character, it’s definitely more rewarding for him to end up with Ramona.
11. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Spawning half a dozen internet memes and its very own brand of men’s cologne, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was destined to be a classic. However, the original cut of the film was panned by test audiences who barely laughed at the narrative in front of them. Director Adam McKay and producer Judd Apatow went back to the drawing board after the studio demanded reshoots to figure out what went wrong.
One dud from the test screenings was a major subplot that focused on hippies who rob banks and end up kidnapping Veronica. That entire subplot was scrapped from top to bottom and was replaced with more the more funnier ad-lib comedy the cast was known for.
Actors like Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, and Justin Long had their roles cut in favor of a more wacky, streamlined film that focused on the core cast rather than an ensemble. The reshoots managed to make the movie funny and accessible.
10. Fatal Attraction
Another example of test screenings affecting a film’s ending comes in the form of 1987’s Fatal Attraction. The Michael Douglas and Glenn Close psychological thriller about a woman refusing to end an affair originally ended in a much more low-key fashion, trading in any sort of catharsis for a moody and abrupt ending. The film’s originally ending showed Close’s character slitting her throat with a knife, leading to Douglas’ character to get arrested as his fingerprints were on the knife. After all, who would commit suicide by slitting their own throat? Well, audiences thought exactly that and found the ending lacking in any sort of emotional relief.
Instead of sticking to their guns, they decided it was best to add a much more impactful, violent, and suspenseful finale to the film. This led to the theatrical ending, which had Close’s character going to Douglas’ home to murder his wife, but ultimately failing, as she succumbs to a gunshot that was fired by Douglas’ wife.
Both endings seem to add a distinctive taste to the film and the two endings have divided die-hard fans of the film because both are unique in their own way. In the end, the popular choice seems to be the theatrical ending.
Just like how the film spawned nightmares of an entire generation, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was a nightmare production. The script suffered from numerous rewrites on set and Spielberg insisted on filming in the ocean, which led to disastrous weather conditions and a number of potential drownings. However, none of that sums up the disappointment that Spielberg felt when he realized the mechanical shark that was, ostensibly, the star of his movie, didn’t work at all. The shark looked unrealistic and managed to generate more laughter than terror.
When he screened the film for test audiences, Spielberg realized that the less of the shark he showed, the more scared they were. He decided it would be best to reshoot scenes that showed as little of the shark as possible to capitalize on the audience’s imaginations. He even re-shot the scuba diving scene where the victim’s head popped out in the editor’s swimming pool because he saw that the audience wasn’t reacting the way he wanted.
8. World War Z
The most famous example of reshoots drastically making a film better is Brad Pitt’s zombie thriller World War Z. With a disastrous shoot that led to multiple rewrites, on-set feuds, and an unhappy leading star, everyone assumed that the film would be a colossal failure. However, when the film hit cinemas, most were surprised to find the film was quite enjoyable and coherent.
Much of the credit for the film’s success comes from the seven weeks of reshoots that reconfigured the entire third act, which was originally set in Russia. The original finale lacked any sort of emotional complexity thanks to its large, climatic final battle that significantly shifted the tone of the film. Furthermore, the third act felt abrupt and failed to evoke any sense of satisfaction, which stirred the film’s producers the wrong way.
The studio realized that the property was worth saving and decided that reshoots were mandatory to deliver an ending that felt natural and coherent. With a new ending that focused on Brad Pitt’s family-man character, the film managed to be both a critical and commercial success, with a David Fincer-directed sequel currently in the works.
Payback originally began production as neo-noir thriller that harkened back to the noir films of yesteryear, but by the time the film had hit theaters, it had turned into an isolated project that had nostalgic roots within a modern, hard-boiled skin. Director Brian Helgeland was unceremoniously removed from the film after the studio and Mel Gibson fundamentally disagreed with his rough, edgy film that left no room for compassion for Gibson’s character.
A new director was brought on that reshot about 30% of the film, which resulted in a villain with a face was added (the original cut only had the voice of one), and a voiceover that had a cheeky yet sensible tone. With a much more fun and accessible tone, the studio and star felt much better, and audiences clearly reacted when the film hit cinemas in 1999.
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller’s magnum opus Mad Max: Fury Road was a hard sell to the studio, but it all worked out in the end when they saw the rough cut Miller had brought them. The footage they saw was raw, chaotic, and impressive enough that Warner Bros. decided that Miller’s vision shouldn’t be compromised. Warner Bros. thought it would be best to give Miller the time and money to go reshoot and add more action scenes. With more funds, Miller was able to add more weight and levity to the action sequences, as well as expanding on the Citadel scenes.
When the film hit cinemas in the summer of 2015, it proved that Miller was clearly a visionary who had planned everything with meticulous detail. The movie likely would have been great with or without the reshoots, but the added footage definitely added more meat to the film.
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Another Star Wars film that proves reshoots aren’t all that bad comes in the form of The Force Awakens, which functioned as a reboot of sorts for the franchise. A variety of scenes were reshot in the film to add more humor, emotion, and banter between the characters. J.J Abrams has said that Harrison Ford’s on-set injury was the film’s greatest gift because it allowed Abrams to reshoot a variety of scenes that featured Finn and Rey, which made their friendship reflect better.
Some of the key moments that were reshot include the opening encounter with Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron, the scene where Rey and Finn have to fix the Millennium Falcon, and more up-close shots of Rey when she’s battling Kylo Ren in the finale of the film. These reshoots allowed much more grace and joy to be present in the film, leading to one of the most popular films in the Star Wars franchise.
In 1999, Mike Myers was recording his lines for Shrek, but his performance at the time was different than what it eventually became. After recording all of his lines in a thick, goofy Canadian accent, Myers changed his tune when he saw a rough cut of the film in 2000. Realizing that Lord Farquad had a British accent, Myers wanted to give Shrek a Scottish accent to complement his character’s working-class nature.
Myers convinced the studio to let him re-record all of his lines in his newly implemented Scottish accent and they obliged. The re-animation process cost $4 million, but the studio happily put up with the bill when they saw how Myers’ new accent elevated the film. With reshoots, Shrek was able to become one of the most popular animated films of all time.
During the early morning of the 27th of April in 2014, director Sebastian Schipper began filming the final version of his film Victoria in Germany. Conceived as a film that would be shot in one-take, this was Schipper’s third and final chance to shoot his thrilling film about a young woman being roped into a bank heist.
Schipper only achieved the budget of the film by promising investors that he would deliver a “jump-cut” version of the film if the one-take scenario didn’t succeed. Schipper’s budget allotted for three chances to film the movie, but the first attempt was a dud. He believed the cast was bored, confused, and it lacked any sort of excitement. He found the second attempt to be angry, confused, and loose.
With his third attempt, he found the right balance to deliver a film that checked all of the expected emotions, had engaging performances, and dramatic dialogue that was mostly ad-libbed. The proof is in the pudding, as Schipper’s Victoria managed to make an explosive debut at many film festivals, garnering acclaim from many industry experts, and leading Schipper to be a well-sought after director in Hollywood.
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
Ending a saga that defined an entire generation was no easy thing to do for the cast and crew of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. The films ends on a sentimental note, taking place nineteen years after The Battle of Hogwarts, where the main trio are sending their kids off to Hogwarts at King’s Cross Station. The original epilogue was shot at the actual station, which led to a rushed filming, less than ideal lighting, and wonky make-up that made the cast look ridiculous.
Realizing it would be best to end the franchise on a high note, director David Yates wanted to reshoot the franchise’s last few moments at Leavesden Studios, giving the crew more time to prepare, have better lighting, and facial prosthetics that allowed the cast to look more believable. Clearly, the reshoots added more weight to the film and the franchise in general, allowing the cast to get into their roles one final time before going their separate ways.
1. The Omen
Richard Donner’s classic horror film The Omen had a drastically different ending that defeated the film’s original purpose. Centering on a young boy named Damien who is actually the Antichrist, he attempts to kill anyone and everyone who gets near him, including his new adoptive parents. The original ending had Damien and his adoptive family dying, with the final few moments taking place at their funeral. Something was missing from this ending– namely the idea that you can’t really kill the devil, no matter how you try.
Studio head Alan Ladd Jr. gave Donner the necessary funds to reshoot the ending, which allowed Damien to live and continue his reign of terror. This suggestion led to one of the most iconic shots in film history: Damien smiling at the screen as the film rolls to credits. This ending allows evil to win in a shocking turn and gives us a great sense of dread.
Which reshoots do you think improved the film the most? Do you have any other reshoot stories to share? Let us know in the comments!
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