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A look inside Hollywood and the movies. : THE VANISHING : ‘Death Becomes Her’ and the Lost Ullman Ending

Comedienne Tracy Ullman is known for disappearing into her characters, but in “Death Becomes Her,” the dark comedy starring Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis, she disappeared from the movie altogether.

But her disappearance came at the hands of the film’s director-producer Robert Zemeckis, who, maybe, only coincidentally, is at work on his upcoming project, “Houdini.”

Those who saw the trailers for “Death Becomes Her” might have noticed Ullman in the role of a bartender who is also the girlfriend of Willis’ character, a hapless plastic surgeon caught between Streep’s and Hawn’s characters. But that was before Zemeckis (“Back to the Future,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”) changed the ending.

The discarded “saccharine” ending--to use Zemeckis’ adjective--showed Willis’ character running away to Europe with Ullman, in order to escape Streep and Hawn.

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“The original ending was a more conventional, happy ending,” Zemeckis said. “It wasn’t the correct tone for the film.”

The director said he opted for the “dark tone” and “more risky ending,” which meant that Ullman’s character would have to go. “We were all heartbroken over losing the character. (She) was so great.”

But in the end, Ullman was only one of “seven or eight actors with speaking roles” who were cut out of the movie, Zemeckis says.

“Death Becomes Her” opened last weekend in first place at the box office with a hefty gross of $12 million.

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As for Ullman, she may be unseen, but was heard by her spokesman to say: She enjoyed her two days of work on the film and did the role because “she and Meryl are good friends.”


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