Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the biggest shocker of the summer. No one expected it to perform as well as it did (Fox had moved it from its original Thanksgiving release date to the August dumping ground). And certainly audiences didn’t expect it to be as good as it was. At least I didn’t; not after those hokey trailers. I also don’t think I’m alone in saying that Rise is the best big studio movie of the year — or at least a tie with X-Men First Class. As I noted in Franchise Me, one of the few things I found lacking in the film was the arc of Will (James Franco), who becomes increasingly less-and-less important/interesting until he’s essentially irrelevant by the end of the film. So it does not come as much of a surprise to learn that Will was originally slated to get his ass killed.

The Hollywood Reporter has Hollywood reported on the Visual Effects Society Production Summit, which took place this past weekend. It was here that Fox’s president of post-production, Ted Gagliano, revealed that originally Will died. And by “originally” I mean that they shot it, edited it, did all the FX, and left it that way until July. Then, over the July 4 weekend, only one month before the film was to open, they decided that maybe Will deserved a reprieve. Needless to say, doing brand new FX while finishing up the already heavy workload of the film was taxing on the post crew, but presumably by this point Fox realized that the film was actually turning out great, and their minds were probably thinking about sequels. I like that line of thinking. Then Gagliano said, “The other thing we really want to institutionalize at Fox for these after markets, is the importance of alternative scenes and supplemental material. For example, we thought James Franco’s character should die, so we are going to sell [the alternative clip] down the road.” Kinda undermines any creative air to that decision making process when you then say that you thought he should die.

Indiewire has posted a purported page from a Rise script dated Jan 2010 which has the original death of Will.

If this page is legit (and there really isn’t any reason to assume it isn’t), it’s hard to say how close this is to what was actually shot. As far as I can recall, there isn’t a character named Huffs in Rise. (A check on IMDb confirms that.) I’m also not sure who Alpha is or what the “battle in the Africa” is referring to. Unless there is a typo there, and we’re talking about the film’s prologue in which poachers hunt down and capture chimps in Africa — though it seems odd to refer to that as a “battle.”