9 Movies That Changed Dramatically From Script to Screen

Filmmaking is an arduous process, a constant evolution from script to screen. It is the culmination of tireless efforts from a writer, director, crew, and cast to bring a story to life for audiences everywhere. But sometimes, the story can either get lost or change to the point where the final product is a different animal entirely. Several popular films have received this treatment, and such changes have become part of their legacy for many fans.

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Characters can be added, subplots can be discarded, and even entire stories can be planned out only to get thrown in the trash before the cameras roll. Sometimes these changes help improve the film’s final form, while other times, these ideas are more interesting than the film itself.


Gremlins (1984)

A film that balanced comedy and horror to the point where it influenced the arrival of the PG-13 rating. The titular monsters themselves are evil but fun characters, resembling both unholy demons and cartoon maniacs. But in the first draft, their antics were far more violent, including eating Billy’s dog, decapitating his mother and rolling her head down the stairs, and slaughtering an entire fast food restaurant of people.

If that wasn’t enough, Gizmo and Stripe were originally the same characters, forcing Billy to fight his pet. But then Steven Spielberg suggested that audiences would be more sympathetic to Gizmo and wouldn’t want to see him turn evil and killed.

‘Batman Returns’ (1992)

Much of this controversial sequel remained the same through its development, with one key exception in the first draft: Robin was supposed to be a significantly supporting character. Ash Craig Elvy of Screen Rant points out, this version of the boy wonder would have been a street urchin who would help Batman fight the Penguin in the climax.

Robin’s involvement went far enough that he received an action figure during the film’s toy wave and was set to be played by Marlon Wayans. But Robin eventually appeared in Batman foreverplayed by Chris O’Donnell as a fixture of Joel Schumacher‘s directing tenure.

‘Jaws 3-D’ (1983)

All the sequels to the classic thriller Jaws faced their difficulties during production in one way or another, and all of them have less than favorable reputations as a result. But the original plan for Jaws 3-D would have been something else.

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Because the very first version of a second Jaws sequel was developed as a spoof film called Jaws 3, People 0 from the people at National Lampoon. As discussed by Moviefone, his version would have been a Jaws sequel about a film crew making a Jaws sequel set in outer space, all the while a real shark attacks the set, and R-rated hijinks ensue. It probably wouldn’t have been great, but there’s a chance it would have been more thoughtful than the final film.

‘Cool World’ (1982)

cult animator Ralph Bakshi is infamous for raising the bar of animation for adults with raunchy, violent, stylistic films that leave the audience with a fun time and a bad taste in the mouth. But, as Timothy Glaraton discusses on 25YL, none of his movies faced more difficulty than Cool World.

He pitched the studio a dark, creepy, and stylistic horror animation about a live-action man who seduces a cartoon character, and she produces a psychotic hybrid daughter. The latter goes on a murderous rampage of revenge. But when he came to the set, he was given a wholly rewritten script that seemed more like a grittier Roger Rabbit than a horror.

‘Child’s Play’ (1988)

The ’80s slasher that gave unholy life to the serial-killing doll, Chucky, was far more of a psychological in his early stages. In the first script draft, outlined in further detail by Jake Rossen of Mental Floss, the toy itself would have been able to bleed even when not possessed, mixing it with Andy’s as part of a blood brothers ritual.

The doll would then come to life and kill everyone that it considered Andy’s enemies, becoming the living embodiment of his subconscious rather than the spirit of a serial killer. This element would have been built up as the film went on, leaving it ambiguous if Andy was the killer or not.

‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ (2000)

Perhaps the funniest of all animated Disney films, the story of a prince turned llama on a whirlwind adventure was developed initially as a musical called Kingdom of the Sun, far more in the style of a mythic drama than a buddy comedy. This version was a prince and the pauper-type narrative about a selfish Incan prince switching places with a Llama herder who looked exactly like him.

But because of production difficulties and poor reception from executives, in an unprecedented movie in the history of Disney animation, the entire film was re-tooled to the point where the only character to retain her voice actor, design, and name was Yzma.

Shrek (2001)

The animated, anti-Disney classic that introduced Dreamworksmost iconic character. but Shrek wasn’t always the same kind of ogre we know and love. He was initially voiced by beloved comedian Chris Farleythis Shrek, while still as gross and funny as ever, was a far more cynical and deadpan ogre who wanted to make his parents proud rather than just living his life in the swamp.

Tragically, Farley died before he could finish recording his lines and was replaced with fellow SNL cast member Mike Myers. Upon signing on, Myers insisted on a page one rewrite, intending for Shrek to be entirely his own character, and thus his original backstory, design, and personality were changed.

‘Back to the Future Part II’ (1989)

One of the most uniquely scripted sequels in history, expanding on the franchise’s science fiction aspects and creating a wonderfully inventive storyline. In the first draft, titled Number Twomuch of the film would have proceeded until the last third, wherein Doc and Marty went to the 1960s.

George and Lorraine would have been pseudo-hippies, and the objective of the climax, separate from getting the almanac, was to ensure Marty got conceived. After writing this draft, the filmmakers likely realized that apart from the time period, there wasn’t much different from the firstBack to the Futureso they decided to simply revisit the events of that film but from a different perspective.

‘Beetlejuice’ (1988)

The movie that established Tim Burton‘s signature style is one of the most beloved cult comedies of all time, with the titular ghost with the most becoming a Halloween icon. but beetlejuice himself was initially a far more threatening character, being a winged demon that took on the appearance of a small, middle-eastern man.

This was far from the drafts’ only difference, as Jessica Beebe or Screen Rant discussions. Originally, the Maitlands had a far more gruesome death, Lydia had a much smaller role, with the Maitlands’ closest living contact being her younger sister, and the climax was less of a dark wedding and more of an outright assault on the family.

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