Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s ‘Cursed’ (2005) was a movie plagued by studio meddling to the point that those involved were not satisfied with the end product. What was released in theaters on February 25th, 2005 was not the film Craven and Williamson set out to make two years earlier, and I’m not talking just about the studio decision to chop the film down from its R rating into a tamer PG-13 rating.
Announced in October of 2002, with an August 2003 release date, Miramax/Dimension Films Co-Founder Bob Weinstein claimed that ‘Cursed’ would “re-invent the Werewolf genre”. The story centered on three strangers, Ellie (Christina Ricci), Vince (Skeet Ulrich), and Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg), who all survive a Werewolf attack following a car accident on Mulholland Drive. As days pass, the three begin to experience a slow-building metamorphosis that begins with their senses and intensifies as they near a full moon. But the werewolf that attacked them isn’t finished with them yet, and the three must come together to kill the beast and put an end to their curse once and for all.
Principle Photography began in March of 2003, and Wes Craven later had been told by Weinstein that he was happy with the production, but then, just four weeks shy of wrapping Principle Photography, after completing 90% of the shoot, Bob Weinstein had suddenly shut down the production over concerns regarding the third act and the special effects. As a result, Kevin Williamson was ordered to do a complete re-write with new plot points from studio notes, and legendary special effects master Rick Baker – you know, the guy responsible for the effects in ‘An American Werewolf in London’ – was fired; his designs scrapped and to be replaced with new designs from KNB, while most effects were to be done with CGI instead of practical. After a year of hiatus for these new alterations, production resumed in the fall of 2004.
Because of the delay, cast members Omar Epps, Illeana Douglas, Heather Langenkamp, Scott Foley, Robert Forster, James Brolin, Mandy Moore, and Corey Feldman had to leave the project. The biggest cast departure, though, was Skeet Ulrich, whose character Vince was omitted and replaced by a new character named Jake Taylor, who would later be played by Joshua Jackson. Another notable change is Shannon Elizabeth’s character Becky Morton being reduced to just the opening, even though her character appeared for a few scenes through out in the original version.
So how different is the original version from what was released in theaters? Let’s take a look.
NOTE: In my research of this original version, several sources have been consistent in stating that Christina Ricci’s character had been originally named Ellie Hudson prior to the decision to make her and Jesse Eisenberg’s Jimmy siblings. However, according to the revised shooting draft that I read, labeled: 2nd White Revision – 4/7/03, her full name is listed as Ellie Harper.
The script begins at rooftop party for Endangered Species sponsored by PETA. Here, a young woman named Jenny Taylor, dressed as a leopard, talks to a mysterious man dressed as a wolf. The mysterious masked figure claims to be a Werewolf, and Jenny plays along, believing that they are flirting. Jenny becomes terrified as the conversation gets weird, with the man dressed as a wolf informing her that he is going to stalk her, and eventually kill her, and even detailing how he’s going to do it. Creeped out, Jenny leaves the man at the party. In the parking garage, as she approaches her car, she becomes frightened by strange animal-like noises and notices someone lurking in the shadows. She chases the figure away, but when she makes an effort to return to her vehicle, she notices the wolf costume neatly folded on the hood of another vehicle, next to the wolf mask. She is suddenly attacked and mauled in the parking garage, torn apart by the beast. Later, on the freeway, a cloaked figure drives Jenny’s Honda Civic with Jenny’s corpse in the passenger seat so that they can use the carpool lane. The vehicle heads towards Hollywood.
The script then moves onto the three leads: Vince Winston, Ellie Harper and Jimmy Myers – all of whom strike out in the romance department. Vince, the son of a wealthy business owner, is intoxicated at a nightclub and fails to pick up a girl named Becky after incorrectly guessing her name. Ellie, a career woman working for the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, meets her pretentious boyfriend Kyle Cole at a restaurant, only to be informed that he’s dumping her after he insults her character and states that she’s bad in the sack. Teenager Jimmy intentionally lets his golden retriever, Zipper, off the leash to stage an encounter with his crush Brooke, who works at a wax museum – but this doesn’t work in his favor as she barely recognizes him and her dickhead boyfriend Bo arrives to pick her up.
Vince leaves the nightclub in his Mercedes, still intoxicated and driving recklessly. Ellie is on her way home in her Volvo, distraught by her conversation earlier, and just as she’s about to answer her cell phone, she strikes an animal, causing her to lose control of her vehicle and colliding into Vince’s Mercedes, sending it over an embankment. Freaked out, Ellie gets out of her vehicle to check on the person she hit, and flags down an approaching truck, which happens to be driven by Jimmy. Jimmy stops, and Ellie asks him to get her cell phone and call the police as she goes down to check on the wrecked vehicle. She makes her way down to find the still drunk Vince unharmed from the accident. Vince wants to settle the matter privately and to avoid the police based on the fact that he was driving drunk. As the two talk by the wrecked car, they hear noises from the woods as something – an animal – circles them. Scared, the two start to make their way up the steep embankment and are met by Jimmy, who informs them that the police are on their way. The drunken Vince stumbles and nearly falls back, but Jimmy catches him just before he falls. Suddenly, the beast appears, biting into Vince’s shoulder and yanking him back. Jimmy, still holding onto Vince as this happens, is pulled down as well, and the two roll and tumble back down the embankment. As they reach the bottom, the beast retreats back into the woods. Ellie makes her way back down to check on the two, and just as the police arrive above, the beast lunges out from behind Ellie, wounding her arm and knocking her down, and then charges towards Vince and Jimmy, also knocking them down and wounding Jimmy’s chest as it flees into the woods beyond them. In the distance, a howl echoes through the air.
Later, as the three have their wounds tended to, Jimmy talks to Detective Harzel and speaks of a giant wolf. Harzel instantly dismisses Jimmy’s claims. Harzel approaches Ellie and Vince asking them what it was that attacked them. Ellie claims that she didn’t get a good look at it, and Vince claims the same – although it appears that he’s holding back and choosing his words wisely. Vince’s family chauffeur Toby, who’s described later on as one who fills the fatherly void to Vince, arrives with a limo to bring Vince home, and Vince offers Ellie a ride. During the ride, Vince tries to make small talk, trying to get to know Ellie, but she’s business as usual and is all about getting his insurance information.
The following morning, the three notice some unusual changes: Ellie takes notice of some strange markings on her hand; Vince becomes freaked when he can hear the private conversation between his father and step-mother about how he’s a disappointment from a great distance away; Jimmy is concerned that Zipper, his only friend, is frightened and won’t come anywhere near him.
It should be noted here that Jimmy’s arc through-out the story remains the most intact aspect between this original script and the final film, with the only difference being that in this script he lives with his single father, who verbally abuses him and smacks him around a couple of times – but everything else, ranging from his interactions with bully Bo, his growing confidence as he tries to get closer to Brooke, the wrestling confrontation, infecting Zipper with the curse, and the reveal that Bo is actually gay and tries to make a move on him – that’s all still here. Oddly, while Ellie and Vince have several interactions together through-out, Jimmy’s story is separate and the three don’t come together again until the third act.
Back on Ellie and Vince: while at work, Ellie catches a whiff of something that smells appealing to her, and as she nears the employee break room, she discovers that it was a colleague’s nosebleed. She then gets a call from Vince, who asks her if she’s experiencing anything strange since the previous night, and then proposes that they meet later to talk. She informs him that she has a business meeting later, but he’s persuasive. She then arranges for her meeting to be moved to the specific bar that Vince wants to meet her at later.
At the bar, Vince waits patiently for Ellie, and bumps into Becky, whom he struck out with the night before. But now he remembers her name, so she hangs around. Being a self-proclaimed “star fucker”, and taking notice of actor Scott Baio, Becky decides to interrupt Scott’s meeting with Ellie. Scott is already agitated by the news from Ellie that he will be appearing on the late-night show third, following Ashton Kutcher and Carrot Top, and Becky’s interruption only fuels his frustrations. Vince shows up trying to get Becky away from Ellie’s meeting, but Vince and Scott get into an altercation in which Scott shoves Vince, and Vince, on primal instinct, punches Scott. Before Scott could strike back, the fight is broken up by his assistant, Joanie. Not impressed by Vince, Ellie runs off, chasing after Scott and Joanie hoping to make things right. Joanie demands that Scott goes on the show second.
Later, Vince and Becky walk along the Santa Monica pier. They see a fortune teller named Zela and go to get their palms read. Upon reading Vince’s, Zela informs him that he’s marked by the curse of the beast. Shaken up by this discussion, Vince suddenly leaves. While on the pier, his body suddenly begins to convulse and spasm, and he falls backwards off the pier – but just before reaching the ground his body twists in the air and he lands on all fours while letting out a growl. At the same time as this happens, Ellie also convulses as she unlocks the door to her apartment, and similarly, Jimmy does the same while researching werewolves in his bedroom. Meanwhile, Becky searches for Vince along the pier, calling out his name, but is then savagely attacked and killed by a werewolf.
The following morning, Ellie wakes up naked on the high-rise of a billboard, Vince wakes up naked in a jail cell, and Jimmy wakes up naked in the shrubs outside of his house.
Like in the final cut, Ellie goes to work and has an episode in the bathroom stall after sucking the blood off of Craig Kilborn’s finger. As a colleague attempts to check on her, Ellie scares her away as she begins to transform. Ellie fights it, but is scared of what’s happening to her. As this happens, Jimmy takes on Bo and his two cronies in the school gym. At the Winston mansion, Vince’s father confronts him regarding his night in jail. Vince doesn’t want to have this fight with his father and tries to walk away, but his father grabs at him. Suddenly Vince reacts with rage, picking up his father and throwing him through the glass patio door and out into the garden. Vince then leaps through the door, landing on his father and striking at him. He is pulled off by Toby, and Vince then asks his chauffeur to get him out of there.
That night, as Ellie arrives at her place, she finds Vince waiting for her. Inside she listens as Vince explains to her about the fortune teller, the pier, waking up in the cell and attacking his father. He then proves to her something is wrong by showing her that his shoulder is completely healed. She then checks her own wound, discovering that it had healed as well. As the two talk, they find themselves having urges towards each other. They then take a trip to pound town.
After having intercourse, they resume their discussions of reality and curses, and suddenly Ellie remembers that Jimmy was also wounded. By luck she finds the right phone number and calls up Jimmy to ask him if he’s experiencing anything strange since the other night. Jimmy lies as says that he’s not, but Ellie knows that this is a lie and gives him her number.
As in the final cut, Jimmy is chased around the house by the infected zipper, and runs outside to find Bo waiting for him. With Zipper raging and attempting to break through the door, Jimmy and Bo race for Bo’s car just in time. Jimmy then decides it’s time to call Ellie and tell her the truth.
Back at Ellie’s, her and Vince are watching the news when they learn that Becky has been killed on the pier. They then hear a mysterious sound coming from outside, and Vince goes out to investigate. At this time, Ellie gets the call from Jimmy and agrees to meet him. As she turns around, she’s startled to see Kyle standing in her apartment. Vince tackles him, and the two kick him out of the apartment. They then hear a howl from outside, and suddenly Kyle’s dead body comes flying through the window. Ellie and Vince make a break for it as the beast gives chase. They race towards Toby and the limo and climb in, and Toby peels away. But the beast leaps on top of the car, and begins to tear away at the roof as it tries to get to Ellie and Vince. The beast then smashes through the windshield, slashing Toby’s throat open, and then rips him out of the driver’s seat and onto the road – as this happens, Toby’s body hits the cruise control button and the limo keeps driving. Vince lunges forward to steer the vehicle as the beast continues its attack, further damaging the limo. They manage to fling the beast off of the limo and lose it as they make their way to meet Jimmy.
At the wax museum, Brooke is surprised to see Jimmy and Bo together and questions them. As the beat-up limo arrives, Jimmy approaches it as Brooke returns to work to close up for the night. Jimmy explains to Ellie and Vince that his dog has been infected, and also his theory that the werewolf is after them to finish what it started because there cannot be too many werewolves roaming around L.A. – suddenly, they hear the howl as the beast approaches from Hollywood boulevard. Ellie, Vince and Jimmy race into the wax museum, urging Brooke to lock the gate. Looking to hide, Brooke leads Jimmy, Bo, Ellie and Vince deep into the museum, but it’s too late as the beast is already inside. The beast attacks, slashing away at Vince’s chest as the others make a run for it. Eventually Ellie goes back to look for Vince while Jimmy tries to lead Brooke and Bo to the exit. Jimmy runs into Vince, but Vince has begun to change and is no longer his normal self, growling and lunging at them. Vince then leaps away from them.
Back on Ellie, we finally get the big reveal. The werewolf that attacked the three two nights ago is none other than Scott Baio. It turns out that Scott was attacked and turned while in Europe, and that his assistant, Joanie is the alpha werewolf that turned him (as opposed to the final cut, in which Joanie was turned into a werewolf after having unprotected sex with Joshua Jackson’s character Jake). However, Scott can’t bring himself to finish the job and make his first kill, leaving Joanie to clean up his mess as she’s been doing for the last few nights; first with Jenny, then Becky, and now the three that he let live on Mulholland Drive. Ellie makes a run for it as a frustrated Joanie then knocks Scott unconscious. Having successfully gotten Brooke and Bo out of the building, Jimmy heads back in to find Ellie and help bring an end to their curse. Jimmy and Ellie run into each other, and Ellie asks him if he’s seen Vince. Jimmy informs her that “he’s not on our side anymore”, and then Vince attacks them, knocking Jimmy down and grabbing Ellie by the throat. Joanie catches up and offers Ellie a chance to give in and be a part of the pack, but Ellie refuses. Jimmy then begins to transform as Vince has, and Joanie orders the two guys to kill Ellie, but instead, they lock eyes and suddenly attack Joanie. Ellie then begins to transform and joins in the fight, but Joanie is too strong and fights them off. The three fight the beasts lurking within themselves and revert back to their human forms as they try to flee from Joanie, who is momentarily distracted by a group of animal control officers who swarm the building. After causing the officers to flee, Joanie catches up to the three, once again attacking, but Ellie finds a prop sword and decapitates Joanie, releasing the three from the curse.
The three that started off as losers end up winners, with Jimmy hooking up with Brooke and becoming friends with Bo, and Vince and Ellie end up together.
Ultimately, I think this is the better version of the story and I don’t understand why it was changed as it was. I don’t understand why Bob Weinstein shut down production to re-tool the movie when it was so close to completion, and I don’t understand why they felt that the product they settled on was better than the version they set out to make.
While I still don’t think this would have been one of my top favorite werewolf movies of all time, and I don’t think that this would have lived up to the promise that it was going to re-invent the genre, I found this draft to be much more satisfying as a whole. I don’t mind the final cut of the movie – it does have its fun moments – but this is the version I really would like to see. There are missed opportunities and things I wanted them to do differently here, but it was still a fun and interesting read and showed a lot of promise.
You can download the script at this website:
And here’s a little behind the scenes promo that ran on Entertainment Tonight back in 2003, which features some footage from the original shoot.