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How 'M3GAN's rock 'em sock 'em climax went down differently in the original cut
Both the unrated and theatrical versions of M3GAN are now streaming on Peacock.
Akela Cooper's screenplay for M3GAN originally had a different fate in mind for Bruce (the faceless robot invented by Allison Williams' Gemma), director Gerard Johnstone recently revealed during an interview with Empire.
According to the filmmaker, the initial version of the climax saw M3GAN (physically portrayed by Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davis) brutally decapitating Bruce and using him like a well-tamed mechanical bull to advance on Gemma and her 8-year-old niece, Cady (Violent McGraw). This alternate incarnation of the garage-based climax was filmed, but ultimately axed during the reshoot period.
"I remember James [Wan, the film's producer] saying, 'Oh, it's a shame it wasn't more scrappy,'" Johnstone reveals in the magazine's June 2023 issue (now on sale). "And I was like, 'Yeah, it should be.' So, we went back and nailed it."
The final cut released into theaters sees Cady taking control of Bruce (who inspired Gemma to finish building M3GAN earlier in the film) for a rock 'em sock 'em battle with the titular antagonist. While McGraw was unavailable to return to New Zealand — where the bulk of principal photography took place — Johnstone was able to secure the necessary pick-ups with her in Atlanta. It was very much worth the effort for an ending that brought the piece full circle.
"We realized, 'Oh sh**, it has to be Cady who puts on the gloves [to control Bruce],'" he recalled. "It's the best story idea. It completes Cady's arc, it strengthens her character. We just did such a better job of shooting it."
Moments before that nail-biting display of machine-on-machine violence takes place, a spooked Gemma finds M3GAN in her living room as the rogue doll plays a disquieting version of "Toy Soldiers" by Martika on the piano. "I'm unashamedly ripping that off from Interview with a Vampire," Johnstone confessed, going on to add that he had to fight to keep the scene in the film.
"One of my original first ADs, I remember him saying, 'That's a bit cute, isn't it?' He just reduced me to crumbs, so I took it out," he said. "But it was such a lesson in backing yourself. I just think people need more weird in movies."
Throughout its theatrical run, M3GAN garnered widespread praise and nearly $200 million at the global box office. A direct sequel — entitled M3GAN 2.0 — is currently in development and slated for a big screen debut in early 2025. Johnstone will return to direct, with Williams and McGraw reprising Gemma and Cady, respectively.
Looking for even more killer doll fun? Check out SYFY's Chucky series — the first season of which is now streaming on Peacock. The hit series (based on the long-running Child's Play film franchise) was recently picked up for a third season.