Mythical alternative cuts of films we'll never see

Scott J. Davis
·Contributor
·10-min read
Alternative versions of Mrs Doubtfire, Suicide Squad, Terminator Salvation offer a tantalising 'what if?' (20th Century Fox/Warner Bros/Paramount)
Alternative versions of Mrs Doubtfire, Suicide Squad, Terminator Salvation offer a tantalising 'what if?' (20th Century Fox/Warner Bros/Paramount)

Zack Snyder's Justice League is finally out in the world. The result of a years-long campaign from Snyder's most ardent advocates, it goes a long way towards atoning for the sins of the 2017 cut of the film that went down with superhero fans like a fart in a lift.

At four hours long, this new version reconstructs Snyder's original vision for the film before he left due to a family tragedy. It was hastily reedited with new footage shot by Joss Whedon, and fans clamoured for Snyder's 'cut' to be released. It's a rare example of a fan campaign that achieved its aims.

Here are some of Hollywood's most legendary alternative takes, that are unlikely to ever see the light of day, hashtag campaign or not.

Batman Forever... but darker

TWO-FACE (TOMMY LEE JONES) AND THE RIDDLER (JIM CARREY) CONSPIRE TO DESTROY BATMAN IN
TWO-FACE (TOMMY LEE JONES) AND THE RIDDLER (JIM CARREY) CONSPIRE TO DESTROY BATMAN IN "BATMAN FOREVER" (Getty Images)

With all the fan fury surrounding Zack Snyder’s Justice League, it was inevitable that the unseen, darker and — on paper — better version of Joel Schumacher’s first dive into the world of The Dark Knight would resurface. Flashes of footage, trimmed from the two-hour-long theatrical cut, can be seen in early trailers and U2’s music video for 'Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me'.

Read more: How Snyder's Justice League compares to the original

The 2005 re-issue DVD had some of the deleted scenes allowing fans to get a glimpse of what they were initially aiming for but now it seems that the longer version — rumoured to be close to three hours long — does indeed exist somewhere. Last year, journalist and author Marc Bernardin tweeted on “very good authority” of its existence, while writer Akiva Goldsman mentioned to Collider that some of the removed footage told more of Bruce’s anxiety and grief.

Event Horizon... with more hell

Jack Noseworthy is sucked into mysterious vortex in a scene from the film 'Event Horizon', 1997. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)
Jack Noseworthy is sucked into mysterious vortex in a scene from the film 'Event Horizon', 1997. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)

Paul W.S. Anderson’s dark, gothic and gruesome Event Horizon, the British filmmaker’s second Hollywood studio venture is one of the most underrated horror films of the last three decades.

Despite its box office disappointment in 1997, its since become a cult classic, and fans have yearned for the original 130-minute version that was edited at Paramount’s request. Sadly, despite being invited to restore his original version after huge sales on home video, the excised footage was lost or destroyed. Anderson has said some of the footage has resurfaced on VHS tapes over the years but that we may never see a definitive “Director’s Cut” which saw more “Visions from Hell” and many additional scenes.

Mrs. Doubtfire... but with f-bombs

Robin Williams in the kitchen in a scene from the film 'Mrs. Doubtfire', 1993. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)
Robin Williams in the kitchen in a scene from the film 'Mrs. Doubtfire', 1993. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

“Release the R-rated version” has been the cry on social media in the last week or two after a viral Tweet stated that multiple different rated versions of the 1993 comedy classic do exist due to Robin Williams’ consistent improvisations, thanks to a Yahoo interview from 2015.

The film itself has yo-yoed between a PG and 12 certificate over the years due to “sexual references” — mainly in the infamous dinner scene with Pierce Brosnan — thus adding fuel to the fire that the higher-rated versions exist. Step forward director Chris Columbus who has reiterated the existence of a PG, PG-13, R, and even NC-17 version of the film, first mentioned on the “Ageing Gracefully” segment on the Blu-ray release of the film in 2008 - in which Williams says “it’s a bit rough - brace yourselves.” Many of the deleted scenes are readily available but with the other versions sitting safely somewhere, surely it is only a matter of time before we get a glimpse.

Fantastic Four... but good

Josh Trank helmed the 'Fantastic Four' reboot in 2015. (Credit: Fox)
Josh Trank helmed the 'Fantastic Four' reboot in 2015. (Credit: Fox)

The big budget reboot of Fantastic Four is considered one of the infamous film disasters of recent memory.

Multiple disagreements between 20th Century Fox and director Josh Trank occurred during production and the studio ordered reshoots — resulting in some horrific “bad wig” scenes — and in the lead up to the film’s eventual release, it was all anyone was talking about.

Read more: The best and worst 'director's cut' films

Trank tweeted just before its debut that we’ll never see his version whilst star Toby Kebbell (Dr. Doom) added credence to the alternative version. However, given that much of that was never filmed, a director’s cut doesn’t really exist though some excised scenes are said to be still out there somewhere.

Suicide Squad... the Ayer cut

Suicide Squad (Credit: Warner Bros)
Suicide Squad (Credit: Warner Bros)

After the successful campaign for Warner Bros to release Zack Snyder's Justice League, some fans have taken up the campaign for David Ayer's original cut of Suicide Squad to get the same treatment.

However in recent days, WarnerMedia CEO Ann Sarnoff cuttingly stated that “We won’t be developing David Ayer’s cut”. The original trailer was the best indication of how Ayer’s original vision was darker and more coherent than the theatrical version, but after the disappointment of Batman v Superman and the success of Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy, reshoots were ordered and changed the film forevermore. Ayer spoke of this last year (tweet) and has himself been talking a lot about what he was forced to change. Sadly, this description is probably the closest we will ever get to knowing how it may have panned out.

The franchise is getting a do-over with James Gunn's The Suicide Squad hitting screens later this year.

American History X... Tony Kaye's cut

Edward Norton in a scene from the film 'American History X', 1998. (Photo by New Line Cinema/Getty Images)
Edward Norton in a scene from the film 'American History X', 1998. (Photo by New Line Cinema/Getty Images)

Praised by critics on its initial release, American History X had a complicated production history that ultimately saw director Tony Kaye retreat from Hollywood for nearly a decade. He also sued New Line Cinema due to his upset over the film’s final edit and release. The initial cut was met with praise through test screenings but the studio wanted a further edit which saw star Edward Norton get involved and it was that version that was released. Kaye had been given time to do his own edit but it would take a year for him to complete. Kaye has been very outspoken about the experience and his version reportedly no longer exists — he even made a documentary about the making of the film, called “Humpty Dumpty” but it has still never been seen.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles... but much longer

Steve Martin and John Candy sit in a destroyed car in a scene from the film 'Planes, Trains & Automobiles', 1987. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)
Steve Martin and John Candy sit in a destroyed car in a scene from the film 'Planes, Trains & Automobiles', 1987. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)

Who here wouldn’t want to spend even more time with Neal Page (Steve Martin) and Del Griffith (John Candy) if they had the chance? John Hughes’s 1987 classic has garnered a legion of fans over the years though many may not know of the initial version’s existence. A 2020 documentary from Hats Off Entertainment assembled what it may have looked like.

Before he died, Hughes held little hope of the original version ever resurfacing, while editor Paul Hirsch suggested both a 220-minute and 120-minute version exist but gives no idea where they are, with many trailers and adverts edited from the initial assembly, hence why they have popped up from time to time.

Star Wars - Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker... a longer cut

John Boyega is Finn, Daisy Ridley is Rey, Anthony Daniels is C-3PO and Oscar Isaac is Poe Dameron in this still from <i>Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker</i>. (2019 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™, All Rights Reserved.)
John Boyega is Finn, Daisy Ridley is Rey, Anthony Daniels is C-3PO and Oscar Isaac is Poe Dameron in this still from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (2019 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™, All Rights Reserved.)

Many felt TROS was rushed: re-written and re-edited to “undo” the toxic reception to The Last Jedi leading many to believe a longer “J.J.” cut exists. Actor Dominic Monaghan, who has a small role in the film, has alluded to one.

“Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed,” Monaghan told The Hollywood Reporter. “I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version.... Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

There was talk of a Disney+ director’s cut but so far all talk has been unfounded, including a much-mooted Hayden Christensen cameo that was axed. There are certainly some gaps in the film that could were no doubt part of the final edits, but this one can be filed as “urban legend”. For now.

Terminator: Salvation... with a different ending

McG says that a different version of Terminator Salvation exists, and that he might be interested in releasing it (Image by Columbia Pictures)
McG says that a different version of Terminator Salvation exists, and that he might be interested in releasing it (Image by Columbia Pictures)

Let’s face it, the Terminator franchise is pretty much dead now. Multiple attempts to reenergise the franchise since 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day have fallen flat. The most recent effort Terminator: Dark Fate, which saw James Cameron and Linda Hamilton return, fell hard at the box office.

McG’s 2009 sequel-come-prequel Terminator: Salvation, which starred Christian Bale, had its fair share of production dramas (not least Bale’s infamous on-set rant) but for all the flaws, there was a much darker, riskier film initially conceived and shot. Originally, there was a drastically different ending which saw John Connor dying and being replaced by a friendly Terminator (Sam Worthington). “It’s the most nihilistic thing of all time," McG told EW in 2009. "And Christian went f—ing crazy, of course. He was insistent that it be done that way! He wanted the bad guys to win! Can you imagine the oxygen going out of the theater?! What just happened! It would piss you off! But maybe two years from now, you’d think it was ballsy. But in the end, it just felt like too much of a bummer.”

With the dwindling interest in the franchise, this one may always be a curiosity than an eventuality.

Dune (1984)... David Lynch's three hour epic

British actress Francesca Annis on the set of Dune, directed and written by David Lynch. (Photo by Nancy Moran/Sygma via Getty Images)
British actress Francesca Annis on the set of Dune, directed and written by David Lynch. (Photo by Nancy Moran/Sygma via Getty Images)

As the new version is finally coming later this year, we thought we would include the infamous first “successful” attempt to bring Frank Herbert’s much-revered book to the screen. Considering it his only real failure in his long career, David Lynch’s original vision was a three-hour epic that he and producer Dino De Laurentiis edited down to a studio-mandated two hours with numerous cuts, reshoots, and additions. De Laurentiis would later say: “we destroyed the film in the editing room”.

It was lambasted on release and flopped until a 1988 television version that was 186 minutes — known as the extended edition — was shown. Lynch disowned the film (“It was a nightmare for me… I kind of died the death”) and has rarely talked about the film or his experiences since even turning down the chance to make his director’s cut. Much of the footage exists, but without Lynch to piece it all together, it will probably never see the light of day.

Watch the trailer for Denis Villeneuve's Dune