Jon Stewart's Role In The First Wives Club Was Left On The Cutting Room Floor

Hugh Wilson's 1996 film, "The First Wives Club," is a hysterical comedy about three middle-aged women who partner up to seek revenge on their ex-husbands after being dumped for younger women. Gentle Annie (Diane Keaton), superficial Elise (Goldie Hawn), and brazen Brenda (Bette Midler) make up the vengeful trio, and their differing personalities clash in hilarious ways that produce comedy gold.

Watching the brilliant comedic chemistry between Keaton, Hawn, and Midler, it seems like it would've been obvious that the film was going to be a hit, but it wasn't. Everyone, including the director and screenwriter, thought the film was going to be a huge flop.

The first cut of the movie had big problems. The script was a mess, the cut was way too long, and early female test audiences didn't like it. Since women were the movie's target audience, that was a very bad sign, so the movie went back to the editing stage.

Eventually, in order to save the film, an entire storyline, featuring Jon Stewart, would have to get the ax.

The long hodgepodge script

In an interview with Vogue, director Hugh Wilson shared the big reasons he thought the film was going to crash and burn, saying:

" ... the script was a conglomerate of a whole bunch of people's work. I think a friend of [producer] Scott Rudin's, who was a comedy writer in New York, did the final script, and he had so much confidence in the film that he demanded his name not be in the credits! The script was also so long that after we shot it and put it all together, the movie was longer than "Gandhi." We started screening it, and I would just have chats with the audience, mostly women, and they said they didn't think the movie worked, but they wanted it to work."

So, the script was a tangled mess of several writers, the first cut was over three hours long, and the movie's intended audience wasn't interested in the film. Those are some massive hurdles for a movie. The film's editor, John Bloom, needed to cut 40 minutes out of the original edit to make the movie work.

One easy character to get rid of was Elise's rebound boyfriend, played by Stewart. So, like the Hollywood starlet in the movie, the filmmakers kept nipping and tucking, making Stewart's role smaller and smaller, until eventually, he would disappear altogether.

Unfortunately for Stewart, leaving him on the cutting room floor would prove to be the best thing for the movie, because screeners loved the final edit without him.

It worked out well for everyone in the end because Stewart found a steady, daily gig on Comedy Central, and "The First Wives Club" would be a box office hit.

A surprise success

"The First Wives Club" was released on September 20, 1996, along with some pretty heavy competition, which included Bruce Willis' last action film, "Last Man Standing." Everyone thought an action film would easily draw more audiences than a comedy about three middle-aged divorcees, but they were all proven wrong. The comedy stayed number one at the box office for three consecutive weeks and earned over $105 million domestically.

A huge part of the movie's success is the chemistry between Keaton, Hawn, and Midler, who played their roles to perfection in this film. The three veteran actresses enjoyed working together and took pay cuts to get the movie made. They even approached the studio about a sequel, but executives refused to raise their salaries despite the film being a box office hit, so they decided not to pursue it.

Everyone's favorite first wives are currently working on a comedy together called "Family Jewels," and although it isn't the sequel they wanted, it should have the trio bantering and arguing with each other the way audiences loved back in 1996.

And, because I'd hate to cut him out of this ending, Jon Stewart is currently hosting his second television show, an Apple TV+ series called, "The Problem with Jon Stewart."