<I>Lions</I> Ending Gets Second Chance on DVD20 Nov, 2003 By: Fred Topel
New Line Home Entertainment will release Secondhand Lions as a Platinum Series DVD Feb. 3, with three documentaries, visual effects comparisons, filmmaker commentary and deleted/alternate scenes.
Secondhand Lions tells the story of Walter (Haley Joel Osment), a boy sent to live with his uncles (Robert Duvall and Michael Caine), who tell him some crazy stories. Were they Legionnaires who fought a rich sheik, or just petty crooks who robbed banks? The film ends with the sheik's son arriving to meet the adult Walter (Josh Lucas), confirming all the fantasy stories. The film always ended by confirming the stories were true, but the earlier version was much more elaborate, according to writer/director Tim McCanlies.
“There was a funeral where Josh Lucas as the adult Walt gives this long speech about how the uncles were so great to me,” McCanlies said. “And then two trucks pull up and guys on horseback jump out, and it's the Foreign Legion. Then the big limo pulls up, and it's the evil sheik now on oxygen shaking his fist at the [casket]. And it was very funny and worked great on the page. It was just a wonderful moment in the script. We showed it to the [test] audience, but as soon as Bobby, Michael and Haley left, they sort of weren't really ready for another 10 minutes of all the other people we've never met before. And it certainly didn't need a three-minute speech on how great the uncles were because they just saw how great they were,” he said.
“So we tried it without that funeral scene and then, of course, people want to know, ‘Well, where did they get the money? Were they really bank robbers or not?' So, I needed to answer those questions, but I needed to answer them damn fast. So that's when I came up with the idea of the helicopter coming in, which we did as a one-day shoot.”
McCanlies is happy to be able to show the original ending on the DVD as a reward for Lucas' dedicated performance. “Poor Josh. He worked so hard on this three-page speech. He did a wonderful job, and then I had to bring him back to reshoot and it's like, ‘What do you mean the speech isn't in the movie anymore?' I just said, ‘Oh, it'll be on the DVD.’
Other deleted scenes include simple moments between the three main characters. “There's a dinner scene when Haley first arrives that's really a funny scene, but since we already had a breakfast scene, it seemed like more of the same,” McCanlies said. “There's 45 minutes worth of deleted scenes.”
The DVD also includes a feature on McCanlies' screenplay, which was listed as one of the 10 best unsold scripts by many industry insiders for 10 years until star power got the film produced. McCanlies recalled his original inspiration. “I was sort of the action-film guy and was getting tired of movies where something had to blow up every five minutes,” he said. “Hearkening back to why I am in this business, I realized it was films like To Kill a Mockingbird, movies that really were about something. So I wrote this script, not the kind of thing that Hollywood normally does, which is probably why it took 10 years to get made.”