05 Aug [watch] Missing Pieces: The 27 Pages Cut from ‘AMERICAN BEAUTY’
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there are three versions every film goes through – the written version, the shot version, and the edited version. Between these there are infinite revisions and adjustments, additions and deletions that make each version distinct and unique, and differently effective. In the case of Sam Mendes’ AMERICAN BEAUTY, these versions came courtesy of screenwriter Alan Ball, Mendes himself, and editors Tariq Anwar and Christopher Greenbury, all of whom were nominated for Academy Awards (Ball and Mendes won).
But while there aren’t too many changes between the film Ball wrote and the one Mendes shot, when things moved into the editing room, the changes started to flow drastically. In the last week of editing, Mendes and crew chopped out 27 pages from the script and their corresponding scenes. This constitutes 1/5th of the entire story, or roughly half an hour of narrative and character development. So what the hell got cut out? And why? And did it work, or was there an even better version of the film lost to the cutting room floor? These questions are answered in the latest video by Michael Tucker for his Lessons From The Screenplay YouTube channel, who follows up last week’s video on AMERICAN BEAUTY’s character design and dialogue with this one on the excised pages and their effect on the finished film. It’s another fascinating look from Tucker at intention versus realization, and the ever-evolving art of narrative. Check it out and let us know in the comments and on Twitter if the AMERICAN BEAUTY we got was the best one possible.