When it comes to endings, Seven may have one of the most iconic in the business. The answer to what's in the box is both equal parts shocking, horrifying, and perfect, creating an ending that helped elevate Seven to a cinema classic. Well, that ending almost didn't happen. Though it was the writer's original ending for the film, rewrites completely removed the box from play, and we only now have the true ending due to a clerical error.
As a quick reminder, Seven ends with (Spoilers!) the revelation that John Doe (Kevin Spacey), the nefarious serial killer obsessed with the seven deadly sins, has arranged one final trick for detectives Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman). At the climactic final confrontation between the three, a box is delivered to Mills which contains the head of his wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow). Mills then murders John Doe, thus becoming the final sin, wrath.
Cool ending, right? Well, according to screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, the original director of the film didn't want to keep it in the film.
This whole behind-the-scenes story was collected over at The Hollywood Reporter, who spoke to Seven screenwriter Walker for the details. Originally, David Fincher was not the first director attached to Seven; that honor went to Jeremiah Chechik, who you may best know as the director of Christmas Vacation. Chechik had Andrew Kevin Walker rewrite several things from his script, including an ending that ditched the box altogether.
Eventually, Jeremiah Chechik left the project and David Fincher was soon courted for director. He was sent a draft of the script, but instead of getting the Chechick version, he received the original head-in-a-box script. Whoops! But, lucky for all of us, Fincher liked the original script much better, as recalled by Walker.
[Fincher] expressed some interest, but in expressing his interest to them, had mentioned there was a head in the box. And they were like, 'Oh, no, no, no. We sent you the wrong draft.' And then they sent him the vastly rewritten, Jeremiah Chechik draft, which had a completely different ending and Fincher said, 'No, I wouldn't be interested in doing that.'
David Fincher and Andrew Kevin Walker eventually met to go over the script, and very little was changed from the original draft. Walker goes on to elaborate how great it was to work with Fincher, who "didn't get the schematics to a building and want to make a boat." So, thanks to Fincher's good eye, we got what we have to assume was the better version of the film. Seven is a great neo-noir thriller and it's hard to picture it ending any other way. And to think we were almost deprived of Brad Pitt "what's in the box?" memes.