The Big Changes Made To Thoroughbreds As It Was Developed

Thoroughbreds Anya Taylor Joy Olivia Cooke

The new dark comedy Thoroughbreds marks the directorial debut of newcomer Cory Finley -- but a surprising fact about the film is that the original idea that inspired it couldn't have been more different than the final product coming to theaters. Not only was it initially developed for a completely different medium, but the first draft of the script had only extremely vague similarities to the story that is ultimately told. Recently speaking with Finley, he told me,

It changed a lot, and it's sort of a multi-part question, because it started as a play. And the play changed drastically from its first draft to the last - and the first draft was like unrecognizable. There was some stuff about a horse, and it was set in Connecticut, but other than that it was like about a middle-aged woman. It was a completely unrecognizable play. There was a character in that early draft who was named Lily, who was kind of a predecessor Anya's character. And I just decided to kind of rebuild the story around her, and it started to really come into its own when I did.

This bit about the evolution of Thoroughbreds came right at the start of my interview with Cory Finley, who I spoke with as part of the movie's Los Angeles press day. I always love to ask filmmakers about the differences between first drafts and final cuts, curious about the movie we didn't see, but Finley offered a story much more extreme than the ones I usually hear. It seems that the project always had the same title, given that a horse was always involved, but it was really only a fraction of the original approach that is featured in the actual film.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke play Lily and Amanda in Thoroughbreds -- two teens from wealthy families living in Connecticut who used to be friends but grew apart as they got older. Following a brutal incident involving a horse, Amanda has become a total outcast, but reconnects with Lily when her mother arranges tutoring sessions. It's a strange reunion, particularly because Amanda has recently become in-touch with the fact that she has no emotions, but they are able to bond through their hatred of Mark (Paul Sparks), Lily's emotionally abusive step-father... and before long begin hatching a plan to kill him. It's a complex and wicked plot -- but apparently none of it was featured in the original version of Cory Finley's script.

Further discussing the development of the Thoroughbreds screenplay, Finley added that the focus on Lily led him towards a completely different narrative, eventually introducing the entire supporting cast of the feature. That sounds like a lot of work, but apparently the filmmaker had a lot of fun with the exploration and evolution. He told me,

Then I did have a pretty complete version of kind of the character and the core of who they were and their relationship, and its ups and downs by the time I turned it into a screenplay - but there was a lot of expansion as far as sort of building out to their particular plotting and all the characters that they kind of pulled into. So changed pretty immensely, and I love that.

Thoroughbreds, which features the final performance from Anton Yelchin, arrives in theaters this weekend -- and be sure to stay tuned on the site from not only more from my interview with Cory Finley, but also stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.