Warning: Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen Sicaro
Fascinating stuff for Sicario fans (of which I am one) in this week’s Hollywood Reporter cover story. In an interview with producer Basil Iwanyk, who started Thunder Road after leaving Warner Bros. in 2006, a pretty interesting nugget gets dropped. It turns out, that crazy scene at the end where Benicio Del Toro’s character infiltrates the drug lord’s compound and murders…well, everyone...wasn’t quite so extreme in the original version:
You’re saying, “Trust the filmmaker.”
Exactly right. I mean, Sicario had a totally different ending. In the original script, Benicio Del Toro has his discussion with the drug lord, then he shoots the drug lord and turns to the mother and says, “Get your kids out of here.” But a week before shooting, we changed it [to having his family killed]. At our first test screening in New Jersey, I told people, “Listen, as those kids are killed, there’s going to be a big chunk of the audience that’s going to reject the movie.” But that was the highest-testing scene in the movie. I would never of thought of that, but my job was to take that leap with Benicio and [director Denis Villeneuve].
As Iwanyk noted, that scene became the movie’s trademark—the one you’d talk about with friends when it was over. Check out the rest of the interview for Iwanyk’s perspective on running a large production company while maintaining artistic integrity, and be happy for the freedom he gives his artists—without it, one of the year’s most memorable scenes would be sitting somewhere on the cutting room floor.