According to a 9.11 Steven Zeitchik story in the L.A. Times, John Wells and Tracy Letts‘ August: Osage County ends with those mushy, inconclusive shots of Julia Roberts‘ Barbara character driving away in a pickup truck instead of Meryl Streep‘s Violet sitting in her home all alone (which is how the play ended) because — get this — plebians in test screenings didn’t like the Streep ending and “they were terrified about what happened to Barbara,” says Wells.
Zeitchik’s story says that Wells and Letts were/are for the original ending, but the producers and the Weinstein Co. are in favor of the pickup-truck ending.
“Keeping it the way it was in the play was just too alienating to the people the film needed to appeal to,” Wells says. “I heard it over and over again — to the point that it was ‘Let’s see what happens if we put Violet on the steps and then cut to Barbara.’”
“I’m not sure I’m okay with doing it that way,” Wells adds. “I don’t want to say there’s anything wrong with the current ending, because there isn’t.” HE response: Yes, there fucking is something wrong with it! The Roberts-in-a-pickup finale is AWFUL because (a) it conveys nothing except to tell us that Roberts knows how to tromp on a gas pedal and (b) it undermines the piece as a whole.
Serious artists never listen to an audience about how to edit a film. The rubes are not the creators. They are not the sculptors. They are the people who buy the tickets and eat the popcorn and THAT’S ALL. The film has to end with Violet abandoned and stuck with herself because that’s the ending. The bitch has gotten her just desserts.
Okay, here’s a slight compromise. If the Weinsteiners are too terrified of alienating Roberts fans to stand up for the integrity of the piece, simply intercut the Roberts-driving-away-in-the-pickup-truck footage with Streep on the staircase. Streep, pickup truck, Streep, pickup truck, Streep, pickup truck and then one final long shot of Streep. Simple.
Wells tells Zeitchik that the ending “[is] something we’re still talking about. We don’t open for three months, and it’s possible you’ll see something different.”