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Back in 1999, years before Syfy both jumped the shark and raped it by Sharknadomelding it with nearly every aspect of the natural world (and also years before it changed its name to Syfy), there was a little movie by Renny Harlin called Deep Blue Sea. It didn’t have to do anything special to make its sharks the silliest and scariest fish in cinema. Well, they had to make them super-smart and stuff, but no tornadoes were involved. A lesser-known fact about Deep Blue Sea is that its ending was not the original version that director Renny Harlin and the screenwriters had in mind. For an interview with Crave Online, Harlin details the surprising experience, cluing us in on a change that might have made the film completely forgettable. If you haven’t seen the movie, then you might be spoiling the film for yourself if you continue reading. Not that it isn’t predictable.
Luckily, Crave’s Fred Topel was one of relatively few people who actually got to watch Deep Blue Sea with its original ending intact, at one of the earliest test screenings. That ending was not received well by the crowd. “At the test screening, as you might remember, the audience was really with the movie and when Sam Jackson gets eaten, the audience was screaming and laughing and we thought, okay, it’s a home run,” Harlin said. “When it came to the last seven minutes of the film, all of a sudden it just fell flat like a pancake and people kind of hated it. We were like, what the hell happened?”
You may recall that Saffron Burrows’ character, Dr. McAlester, was the one responsible for genetically modifying the sharks as a way of possibly curing Alzheimer’s. In the film’s theatrical ending, she gets eaten up by a shark. But for the original version, she actually survived alongside Thomas Jane and LL Cool J. Boo!
“Basically what had happened was that the audience felt so deeply that the scientist character, the woman who was behind the whole experiment with the sharks, that it was all her fault,” Harlin continued. “In their minds, she was the bad guy and in our minds, she was the heroine and we thought saving her was the key. Basically, we had test cards that said, ‘Kill the bitch.'”
Astoundingly, this all happened a mere month before the film was released. But all it took was a little tinkering and a single day of reshoots, and it was done. Granted, it was never going to be one of the greatest endings of all time, but I can’t imagine it ending any other way.
“It was my idea, I said, ‘Okay, we don’t have time for a big reshoot but I have an idea. When she falls in the water, what if she doesn’t survive?” Harlin went on. “We did a one-day reshoot at Universal Studios’ tank and it was a really simple shoot we did in order to change the ending of it. We did some CG work on the sharks and stuff like that, but it was a super fast fix and it saved the movie because the audience got what they wanted.”
I wonder what would have happened if they also complained about everything before the ending being goofy and trite. Oh well, it features one of Samuel L. Jackson’s finest moments, and there’s nothing wrong with that.