The Big Picture
- Many fans of Tom Cruise are unaware of his early film Legend, which had a couple of alternate endings.
- The movie failed to resonate with audiences, possibly due to the fantasy genre not yet finding its way.
- Alternate endings for Legend were considered, including one where it was all revealed to be a dream and another where the lovebirds run off into the sunset.
No matter how big a star gets in Hollywood, fact is, they all had to start somewhere. And for many of the household names that grace the screen today and even for the last few decades, there are plenty of early films that many fans don’t actually know ever happened. And that’s probably okay for the successful performers who continue to be on the tips of everyone’s tongues today. Take Tom Cruise, for example. The guy who seems to have been an elite movie star since many of us can remember had a few misses in addition to his hits in his early career, some of which only true fans know of. One of those films was the 1985 fantasy movie Legend. And what’s even more surprising about this obscure film, especially to those who know it well, is that the ending was almost completely different from what ended up in the final cut.
Even though Legend might seem like an unimportant blip on Cruise’s impressive credit list, many moviegoers agree that the movie is worth a watch. That’s not too surprising when you look at some of the names behind it, including Ridley Scott, one of the many directors to work with Cruise. The Mission Impossible star was just at the budding stage of his massive career at this point, and playing a lead role in a fantasy love story probably seemed like a no-brainer. However, the movie failed to resonate with audiences, possibly because the fantasy genre hadn’t yet found its way. That, in combination with a lukewarm reception from film critics, caused the movie to fade out of the minds of most fans. But for those who know of the movie and remember it, they might be surprised to find out the way it was originally intended to conclude.
Legend follows Cruise’s character, Jack, as he treks through a fantasy world of magical creatures such as goblins, fairies, and the ever-important unicorns. Jack is known for his bravery, and Princess Lili (Mia Sara) can’t help but fall for him. The film begins with the bliss these two are experiencing, ignorant of the darkness that grows in the distance. Beyond the enchanted forest, the Lord of Darkness, brilliantly portrayed by Tim Curry, has sinister plans to forever change this land of light and goodness to a frozen wasteland. This may have been one of Curry’s most obscure roles, and surely one of his toughest.
In this magical land of Legend, Princess Lili cannot help but touch a living unicorn, which is a no-no when it comes to keeping the balance of nature intact. This act allows the Lord of Darkness to be able to capture the unicorn’s horn, which is the tool he needs to bring forever darkness to the world. This sets Jack on his journey to not only save his love but take back the unicorn’s horn and destroy Mr. Demon. The film carries on with Jack’s adventures on his quest before eventually getting to his final destination. And here is where most fans of the film don’t know what might have been.
What Was ‘Legend’s Original Ending?
This all leads to the film’s climax when Jack confronts the Lord of Darkness with his love Princess Lili, along with the rest of the world on the edge of peril. And this epic battle may pale in comparison to the fantasy stories we are used to today (thanks a lot, Peter Jackson), but it is still captivating enough to keep viewers’ attention. Set in the backdrop of a beautifully designed evil lair flowing with lava and fire, it’s not only Jack who must overcome an incredible obstacle. Princess Lili herself is battling her own inner demons as the dark world is highly tempting, powerful, and manipulative. If Jack doesn’t save her in time, she can very well be Mrs. Lord of Darkness pretty soon.
When it was all said and done, thanks to courage and a bit of perfect timing, Jack is able to defeat the forces of evil by casting the Lord of Darkness into an eternal void, take back the unicorn’s horn, and snap his beloved Princess Lili out of her hypnotized state. As the unicorn’s horn is restored to the animal, darkness disappears from the land, the frozen landscape melts, and the world comes full circle, back to light and good. Although plenty of the lessons and conclusions may seem a bit predictable, Scott’s direction presents the story in a way that makes it feel fresh and enjoyable. And this was not his only film that could have had a different ending.
How Could ‘Legend’s Ending Have Been Different?
For plenty of Cruise fans who saw Legend in theaters, that was the end of that. The film slipped away out of Hollywood’s mind, and Cruise continued upwards along his ever-successful career. But as the trend has been recently, there have been plenty of look-backs at older films by many different people involved. Most commonly, directors re-release older films with a new edit, allowing fans to enjoy their « director’s cut. » But something a little bit more « in the know » feeling is information about previous productions; facts that were previously unknown. In the case of Legend, it has been revealed through interviews and social media spreading that the ending had alternate possibilities than what was ultimately chosen, and many may think the other choices could’ve been better.
In the released production of Legend, good simply defeats evil. Sure, there are some speed bumps and difficulties for Jack to get there, but it is fairly straightforward. The first alternate ending was seen in Ridley’s director’s cut of the film, which has Lili waking up to Jack, and the whole mess being one horrible dream. Even though they truly love each other, they realize that they come from two different sides of the fence, and Lili isn’t too keen on leaving her royalty status. Jack promises Lili to visit one day again, and that’s how it ends. It’s also been revealed that another considered ending was Jack and Lili winding up together and running off into the forest, which is now back to being warm and beautiful. However, the Lord of Darkness shows that he cannot truly be expelled, as he laughs from the void watching them frolic. There is also one more ending, which was shown in European theaters, which is just simply the two lovebirds running off into the sunset, happily ever after.
There’s no doubt that during the creation process, movies have endings that can change throughout the course of the production. It’s possible that alternate endings are shot nowadays just to have a director’s cut available later down the line to make a few extra bucks. But surely none of that was on the radar back when Legend was made and just hearing different tidbits and stories of how an obscure film such as that could’ve been different is much more interesting. The movie, as it was and is now, is worth a watch just to see a young Tom Cruise take on a type of role we usually never see him in, which is also one of his most underrated performances. Ridley Scott’s directing is spot on as it always is, and the different magical characters in the film only enhance the story. And of course, Legend will always be worth a watch just for that giant red devil, Tim Curry.