If you’ve seen either version of Planet of the Apes, the overall outcome of Rupert Wyatt‘s Rise of the Planet of the Apes shouldn’t have come as a huge shock — the end result is spelled out right there in the title, after all. But there was one key element of the ending that nearly turned out very differently, until a very late reshoot shifted the fate of one of its major characters. And given that the film ultimately wound up grossing $409 million worldwide, essentially guaranteeing a sequel or two, it was probably a pretty wise move on the part of the filmmakers. Read more about the alternate ending after the jump. (Spoilers for Rise of the Planet of the Apes follow, obviously.)

To refresh your memory, the version we saw in theaters this summer ends with James Franco‘s character Will Rodman apologizing to lead ape Caesar (Andy Serkis) for everything that’s happened, and trying to convince him to come home so Will can protect him. Caesar declines, giving Will a hug and telling him “Caesar is home.” (Watch the theatrical ending here.)

During a panel at the Visual Effects Society Production Summit, however, Gagliano revealed that the character of Will was originally supposed to die, and that the ending we saw was the result of a last-minute change of heart from the filmmakers. Franco and Serkis were flown in July 4th to reshoot the scene for the film, which had an opening date of August 5. According to an excerpt from an earlier draft of the script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, posted over at The Playlist, Will perishes saving Caesar’s life.

Gagliano didn’t give a reason for the change, but one likely explanation is that the filmmakers felt it might be useful to have a major human character that they could bring back for a potential sequel. But if you’d rather see Franco’s character drop dead, you may still get your chance eventually. Gagliano also spoke about “the importance of alternative scenes and supplemental material” for after market sales. “For example, we thought James Franco’s character should die (in Apes), so we are going to sell (the alternative clip) down the road,” he said.

Discuss: Which ending do you prefer? Personally, I think Will’s death would’ve been the more interesting route, as it would’ve added another layer of poignancy to Caesar’s storyline. But then, I tend to come out on the side of killing off characters, so maybe that’s just me.

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