Seven (or Se7en) was the film that broke David Fincher out of bad movie jail, established him as a major A-list filmmaker, and also cemented Brad Pitt’s star power, not to mention it still holds up very well today.
It also had one of the most controversial endings in cinema history, and it sure wasn’t easy to keep in the film, but how else could Seven have ended? What other ending would have worked?
As Seven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker said, the ending had to complete the cycle, and the conclusion was part of the story from practically the beginning, because when Walker first came up with the idea, it was a cop investigating murders based on the seven deadly sins, then the cop would become the seventh sin.
There’s an urban legend that Brad Pitt had it in his deal that the ending to Seven couldn’t be changed or he’d walk off the film, and apparently this is true. (It was also reported that Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey were Fincher’s additional allies in not changing the ending.)
Recently Pitt told Entertainment Weekly he “had no juice” in the ending to Legends of the Fall being changed, so he put his foot down on Seven, and he did indeed tell the powers that be, “I will do it on one condition – the head stays in the box. Put in the contract that the head stays in the box,” as well as, “He’s got to shoot the killer in the end. He doesn’t do the ‘right’ thing, he does the thing of passion.”
Of course, down the road people tried to backtrack and make it one of their dogs heads in the box, which would have sank the movie like a stone, and ruined everything that came before it. Anyone who’s a fan of the film probably knows the story of the disastrous test screening. Unassuming audiences were lured in with the promise of the new film from Brad Pitt – Legends of the Fall, and Morgan Freeman – Driving Miss Daisy, with the predictably horrific results.
Looking back on it years, later, Fincher giggled at the absurdity of it all. “They couldn’t have been more offended,” he recalled in Esquire. “You couldn’t molest the audience more than to promise Legends of the Fall and Driving Miss Daisy than to unleash this on them. They’d just been gang-raped.”
On the DVD commentary for Seven, Fincher also recalled being scolded by Seven producer Arnold Kopelson, who said, “You took a perfectly good genre movie and turned it into a foreign film.”
“Luckily Fincher and everyone fought for it,” says Walker. “It’s not like I’m saying the only good endings are really depressing, down endings. The only ending that’s good is the ending that’s appropriate to it. Sleepy Hollow (also written by Walker) always had a happier ending.”