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Given Hollywood’s penchant for greenlighting sequels to just about anything (hello, Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2), it’s rare that you hear a studio angled for the high-profile lead in a summer blockbuster to be killed off. And yet, during a recent presentation at the Visual Effects Society Production Summit in Beverly Hills, Fox officials confirmed that they initially believed James Franco’s character should have died at the end of Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and that their last-minute decision to spare the scientist’s life led to late-game reshoots that tightened the film’s already intense postproduction schedule.
“We shot [the alternate ending] for three hours and [Franco] was back on the plane,” said Fox’s president of postproduction Ted Gagliano, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
A copy of the script confirms that Franco’s character, Will, gets caught in the crossfire between Caesar and the military forces trying to stop an ape uprising. It still ends on a tender moment between Caesar and Will, but much darker than the way the film now ends.
Needless to say, the decision probably pays off for Fox, which has a huge hit on their hands in Rise. The sci-fi prequel has earned an estimated $409 million at the international box office, and should command a follow up picture – providing writers can figure out how a sequel would fit into the canon of pre-existing Apes films. And thanks to a last-minute decision, Franco will be able to participate in the ape insanity, though one could easily make the argument that Caesar (and Andy Serkis, specifically) is the star of this franchise, and audiences would come out to support another film even if Franco had to bite the bullet in Rise’s final scenes.