Elektra's Original Daredevil Death Was Apparently Too Gruesome For 20th Century Fox

Long before Charlie Cox became the Daredevil we all know and love with his excellent Netflix show (soon to be sort of revived as a Disney+ "Daredevil" series), Ben Affleck had a go at it. After "X-Men" in 2000 and Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" in 2002, studios were keen to repeat their success and began churning out more and more cape-based fare that would ultimately lead to the deluge of superhero media we're currently enduring. But in the lead-up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's dominance, there were a fair few missteps, 20th Century Fox's "Daredevil" being one of them.

Written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, 2003's "Daredevil" didn't quite the heights of "X-Men" or "Spider-Man." Affleck admitted that he regrets the movie and it's generally seen as somewhat of a blunder. Prior to helming the film, Johnson had penned the frankly bizarre "Jack Frost," which saw former "Batman" star Michael Keaton appear in a family drama that, after 45 minutes, transmogrified into a supernatural tale of resurrection, with Keaton coming back from the dead as a snowman. After that, the natural progression for Johnson was seemingly to take on a Marvel superhero, i.e. The Man Without Fear.

When "Daredevil" arrived, instead of the Netflix show's one-take fight scenes and well-paced storytelling, the movie gave us Affleck's Matt Murdoch sleeping in a saltwater coffin and apparently learning how to fight simply by virtue of going blind. Oh, and there was a charming tip of the hat to legendary comic artist Joe Quesada, whose namesake in the film is a rapist who's violently killed by a subway train. In fact, violence was one similarity between the film and the Netflix show, which led to the movie being banned in Malaysia. 20th Century Fox wasn't too pleased with the brutality, either...

Elektra's death scene proved controversial

Mark Steven Johnson, who would go on to another underwhelming Marvel adaptation with "Ghostrider," decided to base much of his film on Frank Miller's run on the "Daredevil" comics. That mainly involved using the writer's go-to lineup of Elektra, Kingpin, and Daredevil as the main characters. Unfortunately, that meant Jennifer Garner's Elektra would suffer a violent death at the hands of Colin Farell's Bullseye, who slices her throat with a playing card before stabbing her with her own sai, in a shot lifted straight from Miller's "Last Hand" comic book storyline.

According to Johnson, the scene was originally a lot gorier than the version in the theatrical cut. Speaking to Yahoo on the film's 20th anniversary, the director said, "That's a scene I'm particularly proud of [...] [Fox] were like, 'It's pretty gruesome!' I do remember getting some blowback on that, because her death was quite graphic."

While the scene was trimmed for the theatrical cut, the edits were put back in for the home video release of "Daredevil," which constituted a director's cut of the film that added more than half an hour of extra footage. Producer Gary Foster revealed in a making-of featurette that, "there was a cut of this film at a reasonable length that included the director's cut material and it was something that we seriously considered as a theatrical cut of the film." Ultimately though, quickening the pace and shooting for a PG-13 rating over an R rating took precedence, but Johnson always preferred his cut. As he told Yahoo, "It's definitely a more complete version [...] when you're told to cut a half-hour out and make it more of a love story, things start to feel rushed and not quite right."

The director's cut doesn't save the film

Interestingly enough, in the making-of featurette, Mark Steven Johnson spoke about having to edit Elektra's death scene and seemed to think that the difference between what made it to theaters and what was in the director's cut was minimal:

"Stabbing Elektra isn't that different from the director's cut. The difference is that [Bullseye] doesn't take the long kiss on the lip and pull her lip back. It was interesting, it was okay to stab her, you just can't stab her and kiss her. So, it's these very odd things that you find that you're dealing with for the rating."

Whether the cuts to Elektra's death were made due to violence or because of a single kiss, it seems that overall Fox was adamant that they needed the PG-13 rating and a quicker-paced film. That even led to making major cuts to the big fight between Daredevil and Michael Clarke Duncan's Kingpin, which was supposed to be the big climax.

Still, Johnson recognizes that with or without the cuts, the film was flawed, telling Yahoo, "One of the mistakes I made with the film was wanting to put everything in. I wanted to do Daredevil's origin story, and I wanted to do the Elektra Saga and I wanted to introduce Bullseye and Foggy. I wanted everything to be in there, but the film could only support so much." At least he can rest safely in the knowledge that Charlie Cox seems to actually like Ben Affleck's Matt Murdoch, even if he thinks his suit "sucks." Let's hope Disney doesn't similarly tone down his version of The Man Without Fear when "Daredevil: Born Again" arrives on Disney+.