2013’s “Carrie” remake ultimately didn’t amount to much, reviews were weak and box-office was tepid. It’s a shame as the hiring of “Boys Don’t Cry” director Kimberly Peirce promised a film that would hopefully take more risks with Stephen King’s original work.
Turns out the original version of the film probably did, but it was a version that freaked out studio executives – some of whom couldn’t even say the word “vagina” according to Peirce.
It has been previously reported that due to heavy-handed editing some forty minutes of the film was cut out including material that was a lot closer to Stephen King’s original 1974 novel, more character development, more prom and post-prom violence, along with an iconic and daring new ending.
Speaking at the AFI Directing Workshop for Women’s 2014 Showcase, Peirce spoke about that ending and how she wanted to come up with something that would have the same shock value as the original De Palma film’s did back in the day. The solution? Sue the cheerleader would have given birth to a full-grown Carrie. A rough version of that scene appears on the DVD albeit in a form that suggests it’s ‘only a dream’.
Unfortunately, as she tells it, her plans were met with skepticism from executives who seemed inordinately worried about labial folds getting screen time and had problems articulating that:
“They liked the idea, but they were concerned. They wouldn’t, or couldn’t, at first articulate what it was. Finally, one of them ventured, “So… you really want to show a vagina?”
I said, “Well, not necessarily. I want to give people a scare… Look. There’s lots of birth scenes in movies that don’t show a vagina, if that’s not what they’re about. The Fly, Aliens, Game of Thrones…” But still, there was a very big concern about the vagina.
She went on to shoot a much tamer and different non-jump scare ending that didn’t work in a test screening. With the release looming, they came back and asked for the original ending but were still very focused on how she would shoot it:
Now I was getting confused. I had shot a lot of nude scenes. I had shot a dildo-packing scene, teen girls showering, gay sex, straight sex, oral sex, anal sex, stripping, rape… I didn’t even realize all that until this afternoon. But in all of that, I had never had a vagina issue. I had never suddenly felt compelled on set to take the camera and run it up to a vagina and film it. And I have lesbian tendencies. And even if I had, this could have been remedied. Just don’t show the f–kin’ scene.
Then I began to see where the problem lies. When one guy started forming a sentence that should have included the word “vagina,” he would just stop. “So when you have to shoot the hand coming out of the, uh, the, uh,…” and then there was just silence. And giggles. And finally it came out: “the Vajayjay… The cooter, the hole,” other euphemisms.
Now a number of these men were married with kids. And presumably their wives had vaginas, and their kids came out of those vaginas. It was fascinating to me that they were uncomfortable with birth scenes and vaginas. It felt like the 1950s, and I also thought that The Vagina Monologues had solved this.
Peirce goes on to say her job as a director is to allay everybody’s fears so they storyboarded every shot, used body prosthetics and framed up every shot. Finally it was crunch time:
“I was having a production meeting, and the guy who hadn’t been able to say the word “vagina” said it. A few times. Proudly. “So, you’ll shoot towards the, uh, vagina? But not at the vagina?” And then, excitedly: “Can you believe we’re all at a work meeting, saying the word ‘vagina’?”
The ending tested well, and for a while it looked like we were going to use it in the release. But in the end, they decided it was going to be too polarizing. So they put it on the DVD
Is it any wonder we struggle to get jobs in an industry where, some – not all – men have a hard time saying the word “vagina,” dealing with birthing, with things coming out out [of], or going into, vaginas. Nearly every woman I have talked to has come up against this sort of thing and has a crazy anecdote… because this is not one man’s vagina problem, any more than it’s one woman’s problem getting hired. It’s a system giving us obstacles that we have to overcome.
Look, my studio gave me the resources-and they were immense-to write, shoot, edit, screen and put on the screen and out there in test audiences a scene that they basically thought was about a vagina. It wasn’t. But that’s what they were afraid of, and they still let me do it. And now it exists on a DVD. And I think that’s a win.
You can see all of Peirce’s talk on Youtube.