As even the most casual movie fan could tell you, virtually every frame of a film – even a bad film – takes months of planning and creative development. That said, it’s quite startling just how many memorable movie scenes were either a last minute addition, or were very nearly left on the editing room floor!
From pre-production re-thinks to post-production re-shoots, you wouldn’t believe how many iconic cinematic moments came this close to not winding up on the screen. With this in mind, here’s a round-up of six amazing movie scenes that almost never happened!
6. Darth Vader unleashed (Star Wars: Rogue One)
Without doubt the most talked about scene in Star Wars: Rogue One comes during the film’s finale. Here, one of cinema’s greatest ever villains, Darth Vader, personally pursues the stolen Death Star plans, dramatically dispatching several Rebel soldiers along the way.
It’s a moment fans have wanted to see since the character first appeared on screen – the legendary Sith Lord fully unleashing his Force powers and skills – but it almost didn’t happen! This jaw-dropping scene didn’t feature in the original script, and was only conceived and filmed during the editing process, a mere four months prior to Rogue One’s release.
The scramble to add the scene was worth it though, if the monumentally positive fan reaction is anything to go by.
5. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (The Wizard Of Oz)
When someone mentions The Wizard of Oz, chances are you immediately think of Judy Garland’ Dorothy Gale delivering a wistful, poignant rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. It’s one of cinema’s all-time classic musical numbers and later came to be considered Garland’s signature song. But did you know The Wizard of Oz’s stand-out scene very nearly didn’t make the final cut?
See, the studio heads at MGM had numerous issues with “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” which ranged from the reasonable to the ridiculous! Complaints included that the musical number made the film’s opening over-long, that its subject matter would be confusing to children, and (best of all) that having Garland perform in a barnyard was demeaning!
Fortunately, director Victor Fleming and several producers lobbied hard for the song’s inclusion, and thanks to their efforts, film history was made.
4. The Joker gives his approval (The Dark Knight)
Christopher Nolan isn’t know for being overly fond of actor improvisation, but that doesn’t mean the acclaimed director isn’t open to input from the cast when it works.
Such was the case in The Dark Knight, when the Joker begins applauding the newly-promoted Commissioner Gordon from his holding cell – a moment cooked up on the spot by the late Heath Ledger!
While not present in the movie’s original shooting script, Nolan wisely kept this unplanned addition. It lends the scene an unsettling air that remains blackly comic – somewhat like the villainous clown himself.
3. The Fellowship takes the stairs (The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring)
Given the sumptuous visuals on display in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, you’d be forgiven for thinking that director Peter Jackson was given a blank cheque to realise his vision for the movies. However, that’s far from the case, and according to the audio commentary for The Fellowship Of The Ring, at least one planned action set piece had to be scrapped due to budgetary constraints.
Originally, when the Fellowship is fleeing from the Balrog in Moria, the big fiery beasty was going to soar over them as they made their way down the most impractical staircase this side of Hogwarts! Jackson and the movie’s producers quickly determined that the visual effects involved made this version of the scene cost-prohibitive, so it was replaced with the more affordable, stripped back version in the finished film.
To be perfectly honest, this revised sequence seems like a real improvement over what Jackson had planned. For starters, the Fellowship’s efforts to navigate the crumbling stairs while dodging orc-fired arrow is thrilling enough without throwing a fire monster into the mix. But more importantly, by continuing to delay the full reveal of the Balrog, Jackson further ratchets up the tension until the creature finally arrives!
2. Puppy love at the dinner table (Lady and the Tramp)
The dinner date between the titular pooches in Lady And The Tramp isn’t just one of the most famous scenes in the movie – it’s one of the most well-known in any film, ever! But interestingly enough, Walt Disney himself wasn’t initially a huge fan of the concept, fearing that watching dogs chow down on spaghetti would be more ludicrous than remarkable.
Disney was so sure that the scene would be a disaster that he was on the verge of cutting it throughout pre-production, despite the pleading of animator Frank Thomas. It wasn’t until Thomas delivered his first take on the sequence that ol’ Walt relented, thoroughly blown away by how genuinely romantic it was.
1. Indiana Jones brings a gun to a knife fight (Raiders Of The Lost Ark)
In a truly epic bait and switch moment, Raiders Of The Lost Ark sees an exhausted Indiana Jones shoot a swordsman with his revolver rather than engage in a lengthy duel. It’s a hilarious gag that not only plays with audience expectations, but also establishes Indy as more of a down-and-dirty scrapper than a noble warrior – and it was never supposed to happen!
Instead, director Steven Spielberg originally intended for our hero to face-off against his opponent utilising his signature whip. However, star Harrison Ford was suffering from dysentery and wasn’t up for filming the elaborately choreographed fight. So, Spielberg and Ford decided on the spot that Indy would simply draw his revolver and a blow his enemy away, creating big screen gold in the process.