At 92 years old, Clint Eastwood remains a prominent figure in Hollywood, most recently putting out Cry Macho in 2021. However, one of his most iconic films is Unforgiven, and it was a project long in the making. Originally growing roots in the mid-1970s, Unforgiven did not premiere until 1992. And while the ending cuts from the main character William Munny’s killing spree to the man’s abandoned Kansas home, the film’s screenwriter, David Peoples, has revealed the movie actually had a much more “tender” ending.
To lay some foundation for the story and the widely different final scenes for Unforgiven, Yahoo! provided a brief summary.
Clint Eastwood’s 1992 Western follows William Munny, played by the Hollywood stalwart himself. Viewers watch as Munny, a retired 19th-century gunman, gets back into the killing game when he receives word of a massive payday.
Overall, the film sees Eastwood’s character battling an internal moral battle which, in the original screenplay, he struggles in sharing with his children. In pursuance of the $1,000 bounty presented to him, Munny leaves his home and his children and comes face to face with a multitude of violent criminals. Per the outlet, the original cut from the screenplay versus what actually rolled on the big screen differs drastically.
‘Unforgiven’ Screenwriter Compares Drastically Different Final Scenes
Before Clint Eastwood released Unforgiven in 1992, production for the film began more than a decade prior, with its screenwriter David Peoples beginning work on the project in 1976. In fact, before fans knew the Clint Eastwood film as Unforgiven, Peoples had entitled it The William Munny Killings. Aside from the switch in title though, the news outlet reports much of the rest of the film remained the same, including the final scene—at first.
According to Peoples, Unforgiven‘s original final scene really emphasized Munny’s humanity. In it, he returns to his Kansas homestead after his violent killing spree, glad to see his children, Will Jr. and Penny. The final moments see Munny praising his children for taking care of their farm in his absence. The final dialogue reads as follows:
William Jr: “I guess you didn’t kill nobody then.”
Munny: “Naw, son, I didn’t kill nobody.”
In speaking about that original cut, Peoples said, “What’s good about that scene is that it means that the killings aren’t triumphant killings. Munny doesn’t say, ‘I killed that motherf—er.’ He’s ashamed of what he’s done.”
How Does Clint Eastwood’s Take Compare?
More than anything, Peoples said that while he misses the loss of that original cut “to this day,” he admitted that Clint Eastwood nevertheless managed to make a “beautiful movie.”
Given the suspense and drama of the rest of the film, it makes sense that Eastwood left the final scene just as indefinite. Rather than sharing a meaningful reunion with his children as in People’s original script, Eastwood’s character and his children abandon their Kansas home and head elsewhere to start over. Meanwhile, the only thing marking their existence in Kansas is Munny’s wife’s grave.
Of his colleague’s ending, the Unforgiven screenwriter said, “He had this sense that the movie had already ended, and sticking on another scene wasn’t going to help…He has a brilliant sense of drama.”