Little-known sci-fi fact: The even weirder original Being John Malkovich ending

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Nov 6, 2014, 3:54 PM EST (Updated)

It's been 15 years since writer Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze collaborated on the film that would launch their respective cinematic careers: a strange fantasy in which an office building tunnel takes you into the mind of actor John Malkovich, then spits you out beside the New Jersey Turnpike. The film's bizarre conceptual hook is enough to make you interested, but it's also a complex exploration of marriage, gender identity, celebrity obsession and any number of other themes lurking in what's now become a classic example of Kaufman's imagination. 

The final film, in case you need a refresher, ends with Craig (John Cusack) first abandoning the body of Malkovich -- in which he's lived for months while making the actor the world's most famous puppeteer -- then attempting to go back into it to regain the love of Maxine (Catherine Keener). Unfortunately for him, Malkovich has already been permanently taken over by Dr. Lester (Orson Bean) and his band of Malkovich-obsessed followers, who are hoping to prolong their lives by using Malkovich as a host. The portal Craig had been using to access Malkovich's mind now leads into the mind of Emily, Maxine's baby, which she conceived with Craig's wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) while Lotte was inside Malkovich's body. Craig is trapped there, and watches as the two women in his life share a loving relationship as parents. 

Yup, that's pretty weird, but according to Devin Faraci of Badass Digest -- who scored an early draft of the script back in 1999 -- Kaufman had even stranger things planned originally. The script still features Craig taking control of Malkovich for an extended period of time, but instead of making the actor a world-renowned puppeteer, "He makes Malkovich a famous puppet." After revealing to the world that he's the man controlling the complex puppet that is Malkovich, Craig books a gig in Vegas, where he stages elaborate performances with Malkovich that include things like chainsaw juggling.

Craig's act attracts the attention of puppeteer The Great Mantini, who is famous for manipulating a massive puppet of former president Harry S. Truman. Mantini challenges Craig to a kind of puppetry duel: Malkovich and Truman will perform the play Equus in front of a crowd of puppet enthusiasts, and the crowd will vote on which puppeteer was best. Whoever loses has to retire. So the challenge begins, and that's when things get even weirder

See, this version of this script still features the cult who wants to possess Malkovich's body, but this time they're being led by the actual Devil (also known as Mr. Flemmer, as in the Mertin-Flemmer building where the portal to Malkovich's mind is), who shows up to the Equus performance, takes over the show, turns the Truman puppet into a swan, burns it and then raises the corpse of the real President Truman, who tells the audience they should vote for Mantini. Craig is defeated and, as in the final film, leaves Malkovich's body to the cult. Once the Devil and his gang are inside, they take Malkovich out into the streets of Manhattan, where he makes a bunch of people literally dance until they die.

I swear I'm not just making this up as I go.

And even that's not the whole story of how Kaufman's Malkovich script originally ended. For the rest, plus a more detailed version of what we've told you, head over to Badass Digest and read Faraci's account. This version of the story was apparently ditched due to budget concerns, "among other things," but even reading the summary creates a series of truly striking images in your brain. I don't know if this would've made a better film, but it would certainly have made a memorable one.

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(Via Badass Digest)