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The bizarre 'M3GAN' scene that director Gerard Johnstone fought to keep in the final cut

One of M3GAN's best moments almost didn't make it into the movie.

By Matthew Jackson
M3GAN (2023)

Breakthrough horror-comedy hit M3GAN has a lot of moments scattered throughout its runtime that could have been more extreme. The film's violent edges are shaved down just a little bit in order to deliver a PG-13 release that a wider audience can enjoy, and we've already heard about a potential unrated extended cut arriving to show us all what we missed from the theatrical version. But at least one moment in the finished film stayed in, despite issues, because director Gerard Johnstone just couldn't see the film without it.

Speaking to The New York Times, Johnstone revealed that the scene in which a detective (Millen Baird) laughs inappropriately while speaking with Gemma (Allison Williams) outside her home was one of his late additions to the M3GAN screenplay by Akela Cooper. The scene is essentially a piece of storytelling connective tissue, allowing Gemma to get some new information about both the issues with her neighbor and the boy who was hit by a car earlier in the film. For Johnstone, it was a moment that could be made just a little more interesting. So when the detective explains that the boy's ear was ripped off before his death, he chuckles, then quickly corrects himself with a very dry, "Sorry, I shouldn't laugh." 

“It just made me laugh,” Johnstone said of the moment. “Had to be a scoff. If it was big it would be too broad. It’s one of those funny things: so specific."

If the audience you saw M3GAN with was anything like mine, Johnstone's addition ranked among the biggest laughs in the movie, a moment of honest-feeling weirdness to which we can all relate, and a blackly comic aside in a film already teeming with black comedy. But not everyone was convinced. 

“I remember my editor saying: ‘If there’s one scene that’s got a bull's-eye on it, it’s this one,’” Johnstone recalled. 

Producers at Blumhouse weren't sure about the scene, and angled for the moment to end up on the cutting room floor, but Johnstone stuck to his guns. He made sure that the detective's laugh and apology stayed in the film through the test screening process. When test audiences ate it up, it became a key moment that had to stay. 

“There’s a lot of inappropriate humor in the movie,” Johnstone said. “In the test screenings, people said, ‘I’m not sure if I should be laughing.’ A scene like that should help people figure that out.”

M3GAN is now available on VOD

Need more killer dolls in your life? Check out SYFY's Chucky series, the first season of which is now streaming on Peacock.