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Ending “Gone Girl” differently: The dangers of alternate last acts

The news last week that director David Fincher will be making a movie version of "Gone Girl" with an ending that differs significantly from that of Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel could not be called shocking. Filmmakers change the books they adapt all the time, partly because what works on the page doesn't always work on the screen, but also to meet mass audiences' expectations of an upbeat resolution.

Classics like Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" and commercial novels like Jodi Picoult's "My Sister's Keeper" have been "tweaked" to deliver happier endings, often to the author's dismay. The late Richard Matheson got to see a somewhat faithful ending to his post-apocalyptic novel, "I Am Legend," in the 2007 Will Smith vehicle, but it earned thumbs downs from test audiences and the theatrical release was changed to something that essentially cancels out the point of Matheson's original. (Check out the DVD for the alternate.)

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