Frank Darabont Actually Edited A Few Alternate Endings For The Mist — And None Of Them Worked [Exclusive]

"The Mist" is a movie that already came built-in with an alternate ending, as it were, in that Stephen King's novella left a different blueprint for how it might end. What King had written was more open-ended and hopeful about the fate of David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and the other survivors, including two characters played by future "The Walking Dead" actors who were meant to marry on the show.

This week, as "The Mist" celebrates its 15th anniversary, /Film has been looking back at the movie through our own Eric Vespe's extensive new oral history, which contains some great behind-the-scenes stories and insights from the cast and crew. Director Frank Darabont has defended the film's unforgettable ending (not that it really needs defending, but it was polarizing for some viewers), and both he and producer Denise M. Huth have spoken to the fact that it was the ending he always wanted to deliver, from the very beginning. As Huth put it, "It was the whole reason for making the movie."

That doesn't mean other options weren't considered. Huth said:

"I remember Frank and [editor] Hunter [Via] cut a few different things just to see how they would play, whether it's like the novella, [where] they just drive off into the mist and we don't know what happens. There was one that I swear to God was even worse. It was, you ended on Billy [Drayton, played by Nathan Gamble] waking up and saying 'Daddy?' and then it cuts to black and you hear a gunshot. And it was so awful. It was just so much worse. They did try a few different variations, but what we had worked best. It felt like the most complete story. It felt like the ending that the story needed to have."

'The ending that the story needed to have'

"The Mist" famously ends with a despondent David Drayton unloading four bullets on the four passengers in his car, including his own son Billy, just when it seems all hope is lost and a suicide pact is their last resort for escaping the Lovecraftian monsters in the mist. Seeing that shocker of an ending framed from a child's perspective would have certainly twisted the knife, but as it is, "The Mist" still delivers what we've called a "gut-punch of an ending." As the fifth passenger, Drayton exits his car and sees the cavalry arrive in tanks and gas masks.

Another character played by a "The Walking Dead" alum, Melissa McBride, shows up again with her son on the back of a military transport, and we realize that, when she went out into the mist to save her son earlier in the movie, she didn't die. For her, all hope wasn't lost, which only throws into relief the utter folly and thudding finality of Drayton's decision (the last in a long line of bad ones) to give up hope.

For some in the audience, that ending might have landed like a slap to the face, but that's not necessarily a bad thing in this case. "The Mist" is a movie that shakes the viewer up and refuses to let them be complacent or leave without contemplating the point of it all. Frank Darabont went with the bold choice instead of the safe one. As Denise M. Huth says, it was "the ending that the story needed to have."