Was a Film’s Ending Re-Shot Because Test Audiences Couldn’t Believe Bill Murray Could Beat Up Robert DeNiro?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Mad Dog and Glory had to change its ending after test audiences couldn’t believe Robert DeNiro not holding his own against Bill Murray in a fight.

Test audiences can often dramatically the change the way that films end. We’ve featured a few notable ones over the years, like who Andie ends up with at the end of Pretty in Pink or who the villain was in Major League (although, contrary to popular belief, test audiences DIDN’T lead to George Reeves being cut from From Here to Eternity).

Test audiences were at play in a big way in the 1993 film, Mad Dog and Glory…

The film was a good example of an interesting phenomena among movie stars called “playing against type,” which is that movie stars sometimes try to take roles that specifically play against the type of character that audiences are used to seeing that actor play.

Like, say you’re a comedy star, you want to show you can do a drama. If you’re a dramatic actor, you want to show that you can do a comedy. Stuff like that.

That was at play in Mad Dog and Glory, as in the film, the normally imposing Robert DeNiro plays a meek, mild-mannered police officer (the “Mad Dog” name is an ironic nickname given to him by his friends) who vies with a mobster for the love of Glory, played by Uma Thurman.

The mob boss is played by Bill Murray, who ALSO is playing against type in the film.

Well, at the end of the film (spoilers, I presume), DeNiro’s character finally stands up to Murray’s character and tries to fight for Glory. The two brawl in the streets and ultimately, Murray’s mob boss is so impressed by Mad Dog’s guts that he gives up pursuing Glory and lets Mad Dog be with her.

However, in the original version of the film, DeNiro’s character does not really brawl with Murray’s mob boss so much as he just gets his ass kicked. Mad Dog DOES take a swing at him, but it does no real damage and then Murray’s character proceeds to just beat him senseless. While during the fight, though, Murray’s character just realizes that he isn’t interested enough in Glory to pursue this anymore, so he leaves and Mad Dog and Glory end up together.

When test audiences saw this, though, they could not believe that DeNiro could not do better against Murray. In effect, the audience wouldn’t accept DeNiro outside of his “type” (well, not THAT far outside his type). So the ending was re-shot.

While it certainly is awesome to be a movie star, it probably is pretty annoying to be so totally stereotyped that audiences can’t buy you as something other than what they “know” you to be.

The legend is…


Be sure to check out my archive of Movie Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of films.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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