Throughout much of the year, the film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play “August: Osage County” had been pegged by many as one of the biggest contenders in this year’s awards race.
With a cast including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Margot Martindale, and Benedict Cumberbatch, and producers like Harvey Weinstein and George Clooney behind it, it was seen as the film to beat in quite a few circles.
That perception changed this week after the John Wells-directed film held its world premiere in Toronto. Reviews from the screening were a mixed bag – some loving it, some having big issues with it.
One of those issues was the ending which was altered from the original play. Now, Wells tells The Los Angeles Times that the ending is still not set and could very well be changed before release.
The play ends with Streep’s matriarch Violet on the steps of her house, abandoned by her adult daughters whose lives she made miserable. The film shows this, but continues forward and shows the eldest daughter Barbara (Roberts) driving away through Osage County and stopping briefly to look at the landscape one last time.
Wells says the film originally ended like the play did, but poor test scores led to the additional scenes:
“We tested it over and over again and people rebelled in the theater. They were terrified about what happened to Barbara. They felt like we were hitting them on the head with a hammer. I heard it over and over again – to the point that it was ‘Let’s see what happens if we put Violet on the steps and then cut to Barbara.'”
The new ending resulted in better test scores and was preferred by Weinstein. Critics, the other producers, Letts, and Wells himself aren’t fans of this new version. Wells says:
“I’m not sure I’m OK with doing it that way. I don’t want to say there’s anything wrong with the current ending, because there isn’t. But it’s something we’re still talking about. We don’t open for three months, and it’s possible you’ll see something different.”
No matter the ending, the film is still expected to be a player in the awards race – even if its not the clear front runner it was once pegged as.