How Did Test Audiences Change the Ending of Legally Blonde?

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Test audiences caused an entirely new ending to Legally Blonde.

Over the years, a common Movie Legends Revealed has involved some interesting changes to classic films based on test audience reactions, from fans not liking the original twist in the film, Major League, to fans not liking who Andie ended up with in Pretty in Pink (it happens in TV, as well, with test audiences dramatically altering the set-up of The Big Bang Theory). Another example of a film changing its original ending after test audience disapproval was the classic 2001 Reese Witherspoon hit film, Legally Blonde...

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The movie was about a young woman, Elle Woods, who thinks that she is going to be proposed to by her college boyfriend, Warner. Instead, he breaks up with her because she isn't "serious" enough for him, as he is planning to attend Harvard Law School. Elle decides to prove herself and win Warner back by getting into Harvard Law School, as well.

Once there, her personality clashes with the other students, including Warner's new fiancee, Vivian. However, Elle proves herself as a brilliant legal student and eventually even successfully defends a woman accused of murder. Elle was allowed to be the woman's lawyer because she was supervised by an actual lawyer, Emmett, who was a partner of Elle's professor (who was the original lawyer on the case). Emmett and Elle fall in love and after the trial ends in a victory (due to Elle's knowledge of hair maintenance)...

Warner tries to get Elle back, but she rejects him.

Originally, the film ended when Elle won the trial and she and Emmett shared a kiss (and she rejects Warner). There was then a flash forward to a year later, where Elle and Vivian (who become friends over the course of the film. Vivian breaks up with Warner, of course) have started the Blonde Legal Defense Fund (Vivian dyed her hair).

However, the test audiences didn't feel like the film properly resolved Elle's legal future. The two co-writers of the film (as well as the producer and the director) got together in the film lobby after the test screening and came up with a new ending right there and then. Co-writer Karen McCullah amusingly noted to Entertainment Weekly, “The whole movie is painstakingly written over many drafts in two years and then the ending is quick."

So now the movie ended with flash-forward of TWO years to Elle's graduation, where she gave an awesome speech...

Amusingly, though, Witherspoon was shooting the film The Importance of Being Earnest in England, so the speech had to be filmed in England, as well. In addition, due to a hair mishap while shooting that film, Witherspoon had to cut her hair very short. So she wore a wig for the scene (again, though, it's two years later, so it's not a big deal).

While Witherspoon was in England, the reaction shots from the rest of the cast were all filmed in Los Angeles and then spliced together. See if you can tell the difference...

Luke Wilson, also, had shaved his head for Royal Tenenbaums....

so he had to wear a wig, as well.

The Warner rejection scene was re-filmed, also, to make it work in with the new ending. However, Elle always rejected Warner, they just used a different version of the scene in the original film.

It all worked out well, but it's pretty funny how hard doing alternate endings can be sometimes!

The legend is...


Be sure to check out my archive of Movie Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of film.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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