It's common to hear about actors that very nearly played iconic film roles but had to pass for various reasons. The same thing happens to film directors and the ways that some movies could have turned out differently can be even more significant. Swedish director Ruben Ostlund was apparently very interested in directing Passengers at one point, though he wanted to change the film's setup in a very interesting way.
There was one film I really wanted to do that has been made now. That was "Passengers." But I wanted to change the setup of "Passengers." The main character is a guy who wakes up in one of those pods on a spaceship. I wanted to put his family in the other pods, his wife and kids. Then there's this dilemma: He's going to die on the ship because the travel takes 300 years. If he wakes up his kids, they will die on the spaceship and not on the planet they're heading for; if he wakes up his wife, then the kids will not have a mother when they arrive. So of course, you have to wake up another woman, because you don't want to be alone. Then you can swipe on pictures to see the women, like Tinder. You have to decide on the pictures and pick someone. To bring things [like] that would be relevant in contemporary times. But when I pitched this to the producers, I think they got scared.
It's clear that Passengers was just a scary movie for producers to begin with. The script had been around since 2007 but nobody seemed interested in touching it. When it finally came out last year we all discovered why. The film deals with a character, played by Chris Pratt, who is woken from suspended animation 90 years before his spacecraft reaches his new home. In a desperate move to simply no longer be lonely, he wakes up another passenger, which succeeds in giving him somebody to live with, but sentences her to the same fate.
Ruben Ostlund tells Variety that he wanted to add an additional layer to the story by adding a family for Chris Pratt's character that he would not wake up because he did not want to force them to live out their lives on the spacecraft. It's somewhat understandable why this may not have worked for producers. The actions taken by the main character in Passengers are difficult enough as they are. Adding a family that he won't awaken makes it even more clear that the act is morally questionable. It also makes the romance that blooms, assuming that was still a part of the story, feel even more wrong.
Passengers received a lot of criticism from viewers, if not for the plot itself, then for the way the movie fails to resolve the story's questions in any meaningful way. One wonders how Ruben Ostlund's ideas could have impacted the film's ending and given us a more satisfying conclusion. If nothing else, there's a good chance that either way Passengers was going to be a movie that people talked about.