Movies can go through substantial changes after being put before test audiences, and that was the case with one of the best shark movies of all time – 1999’s Deep Blue Sea. Director Renny Harlin originally shot an ending in which Saffron Burrows’ Dr. McAlester survives and kills the shark at the end. However, test audiences viewed her as the villain and wanted her to end up as shark food.
Some fans of the movie have started a petition to have a version of the movie released with the original ending, and it’s been supported by actor Thomas Jane, who played Carter Blake. In a 2013 interview with Renny Harlin, he explained what happened at the test screening.
“At the test screening the audience was really with the movie and when Samuel L Jackson gets eaten, the audience was screaming and laughing and we thought, okay, it’s a home run. 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?”
It turns out that the audiences had a different opinion on who was the main movie villain to the filmmakers. “Basically what had happened was that the audience felt so deeply that the scientist character (played by Saffron Burrows), the woman who was behind the whole experiment with the sharks, that it was all her fault. In their minds, she was the bad guy. 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.’ It was an amazing revelation.”
“I remember us all sitting down and going, ‘Holy shit, we are in trouble. How do we fix this?’ 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? She gets eaten by the sharks and LL Cool J is the hero. Everybody likes him, and Thomas Jane.'”
“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. It just goes to show that no matter how smart we think we are, it’s the audience who will tell us how it’s really supposed to be.” Tastes change, and how audiences viewed female characters particularly in the 90s and 2000s, isn’t how we view them today.