American Beauty - cut content (lost alternate ending of drama film; existence unconfirmed; 1999)
American Beauty is a critically acclaimed drama film released in 1999. It was directed by Sam Mendes and starred Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, and Thora Birch. The film won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2000 and Spacey won Best Actor for his performance.
The film's plot focuses on Lester Burnham's struggles with finding happiness in his life after he blackmails his boss to be fired from his job as a magazine executive and later taking a job at a fast-food outlet, while also dealing with his troubled relationships with his wife Carolyn and teenage daughter Jane. He also has two new next door neighbors of retired U.S. Marines Corps named Colonel Frank Fitts and his wife Barbara, and has a teenage son named Ricky, who has an obsession with his videotography and whom Jane later falls in love with. Col. Fitts expresses homophobia towards his gay next door neighbors Jim Olmeyer and Jim Berkley with his son.
When one day Lester attends a high school basketball game with his daughter Jane, he becomes infatuated with his daughter's cheerleader friend Angela Hayes and has sexual fantasies about her. After one day of seeing Lester and Ricky together through Lester's garage window and viewing his son's video of a nude Lester lifting weights, he comes to the conclusion that his son is gay and plans on killing Lester.
Alleged Alternative Ending
In the released cut's ending, Lester Burnham is shot by Colonel Fitts. In an alternate ending, Lester and Carolyn's daughter, Jane, as well as Colonel Fitts' son, Ricky, are arrested and put on trial for Lester's murder. The prosecutors use Ricky's videophillia against him as evidence. One version of this ending resulted in the two being guilty, while the other showed them both innocent. However, this alternate ending was left out with concerns that it would detract from the film overall.
Alan Ball, one of the film's screenwriters, told Amazon.com. "We actually shot it, and when it got into editing it was just too cynical and too awful." An interview about this deleted ending with Ball can be found here.
It is currently unknown how much of the intended ending was filmed, and none has been found or released. While Mendes hasn't commented on the subject, many members of the film's crew remember filming at least some footage for these endings. It is possible that the scenes were removed by Mendes at the last minute or that they never existed at all.