Why David Ayer Had To Rewrite The Original Ending To Training Day

This post contains immediate spoilers for the ending of the 2001 film "Training Day."

The original "Training Day" movie, starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, has an action-packed ending that involves a shootout, a foot chase, leaps from a building, a barking pit bull, punches and kicks, broken windows and windshields, and a car wreck. Washington won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Detective Alonzo Harris, the corrupt cop who shows Hawke's rookie narcotics officer, Jake Hoyt, the ropes on the streets of L.A., only to betray him and leave him to be executed before a chance connection saves his life.

At the very end of "Training Day," Alonzo goes out in a hail of bullets when the Russian mob catches up with him on the street. But it seems that some of the film's climactic action arose from a need to cater to the multiplex crowd.

"Training Day" was directed by Antoine Fuqua from a script by David Ayer, who would go on to become a filmmaker in his own right, helming movies such as "End of Watch," "Fury," and "The Suicide Squad." Before "Training Day," however, Ayer only had one credit to his name: the 2000 submarine actioner "U-571." In an interview with Screenwriter's Monthly Magazine back in 2003 (via Screenwriter's Utopia), Ayer addressed some of the changes his "Training Day" script underwent on the road to the screen:

"Vast amounts of [the script], amazingly, made it through the development process unscathed. There was more of an action ending that had to be added on so you could sell the movie to the theater owners, because they know what sells tickets. Action sells tickets. So, I had to graft on the action module."

How the ending was different

When asked how the script originally ended, David Ayer said to Screenwriter's Monthly Magazine:

"Just very simply with Ethan Hawke's character, Jake, just dumping the money on the bed and walking away. I think we knew at that point that that was it. But that was the art movie version. That would have been a version no one saw. When you're going full freight on a studio project, come on, it's commercial speech. It's for the profit, not show art, so we've got to be realistic."

On Rotten Tomatoes, the critical consensus for "Training Day" is positive overall, but it's interesting to note that it singles out the film's ending as "less than satisfying." According to Washington (via Moviefone), the script for "Training Day" originally ended with Alonzo evading justice and living, but the actor felt it should enforce the biblical idea that "the wages of sin is death." Alonzo is such a larger-than-life character — as he says, King Kong "ain't got s***" on him — that it feels like his character really deserved to go out in a big way, too. 

Having the hail of bullets at the end gives Alonzo a memorable denouement, like that of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in "Scarface" or Sonny Corleone (James Caan) in "The Godfather." While Ayer's motivation for changing the ending of "Training Day" may have originated from a need to appeal to commercial tastes, it arguably suits the movie's heightened reality and is part of what made it such a thrilling crowd-pleaser.