Directors, editors and producers (probably even actors) may hate it, but not every gem of a scene ends up in the final cut of a film. They get cut for a variety of reasons: most commonly simply to shave down the running time, but also in some cases the scenes don’t play as expected, or repeat a point made elsewhere in the film. Fortunately, those great moments that were heartbreaking to splice out of the final cut can have a way of resurfacing on DVD — and in The Envelope! Here are six such instances from awards season films, which give a window in to what might have been.
John Ottman, editor
What’s Missing? Several scenes related to Freddie Mercury’s childhood growing up in Zanzibar got the snip, including one where he scandalizes his family at a party, and another where he reads a book with the word “bismillah” in it.
Why Cut It? “It was about time constraints, and we’d been expecting [his youth in] Zanzibar to be the seed for how in the end when he hugs his father the emotional moment would be even more devastating for the audience,” says Ottman. “We found in test screenings that it worked [without those scenes], and then the father does mention earlier how he sent Freddie off to boarding school. So we let it be said, and not seen.”
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Marielle Heller, director
What’s Missing? After Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) and Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) get a little spare cash, he agrees to come with her to a cat cafe, where she’s in feline heaven — and he is not.
Why Cut It? “The original running time of the film was three hours, so we had a ton of scenes to cut,” says Heller. “One of the last ones was this cat café scene — when Lee had extra money, she’d go to cat cafes and let herself get rubbed all over by cats. Watching Richard be so disgusted by the cats was just so funny to me. I had a real fondness for that scene.”
Pawel Pawlikowski, director
What’s Missing? “Not too much ends up on the cutting room floor,” Pawlikowski says in an email. “I often delete scenes before I even shoot them.” What did get left out was the fight between Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) after she reveals she’s slept with Michel (Cédric Kahn); the scene goes from verbal to physical violence.
Why Cut It? “The scene was powerful. But even while shooting the first few takes, I realized that we were on the wrong track,” he writes. “It was all too literal, too obvious, too much like a normal realist drama — at odds with the rest of the film, which works best by suggesting, rather than showing,” he says.
Peter Farrelly, director
What’s Missing? While at a fancy dinner party, Tony (Viggo Mortensen) has a chat with one of the guests (Lindsay Brice) about art, then later at dinner shows everyone it’s best to eat chicken with your hands.
Why Cut It? “Here’s the problem,” says Farrelly. “It came after the Kentucky Fried Chicken scene, and they’re not that far apart from each other. Two long scenes about chicken — and the first one was way funnier. The second scene is what I call ‘grandma funny’ — it might tickle your grandmother, but not many others. I love the actress in the scene, so I gave her a credit. But it had to go for the betterment of the movie.”
Gabriela Rodriguez, producer
What’s Missing? As Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) walks Pepe (Marco Graf) home from school, they have a short conversation about his plans for the future. “He’s telling Cleo, ‘You know, why I don’t call you “Mom” anymore?’ and she says, ‘Why?’ and he says, ‘Because when I grow up I’m going to marry you,’ ” says Rodriguez. “It was so endearing in so many ways, and it was an intimate moment between them.”
Why Cut It? “There already was that intimate moment between Cleo and Pepe, in the rooftop scene we kept, and while this one is lovely and everyone loved it, it didn’t need to be there in the end. The rooftop scene had the same impact.”
Adam McKay, director/writer
What’s Missing? Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) walks Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) around the Capitol cafeteria, pointing out everyone in the room: who’s climbing up, who’s going down — and it’s all a musical number.
Why Cut It? “It’s this spectacular song and dance, which we shot over two days,” says McKay. “It ends with a big flourish — and we kept screening and showing it, and it wasn’t landing. People didn’t hate it, but we lost energy. It felt redundant, that other scenes were doing the same thing more effectively, so it was a really hard call. My youngest daughter was very pissed at me, but everyone I asked about it had a split response. It was jaw-dropping, but we couldn’t keep it.”