Fans of the 2001 classic Legally Blonde will remember the movie's final scene, when Elle delivers an inspiring speech to her fellow classmates during her graduation from Harvard Law School. But it turns out, Legally Blonde almost had a way different ending — and fans will be thrilled to learn why the screenwriters decided to go a different route.
Karen McCullah and Kirsten "Kiwi" Smith, who wrote the 2001 screenplay, talked to Entertainment Weekly about why they decided to make the switch. Apparently, the movie almost didn't end with the graduation scene at all. Instead, there was almost a Legally Blonde ending where the movie stops right after Elle wins her big case, and Emmett kisses her outside the courthouse. That ending would have included a flash-forward, too, but only as a tag. Here's what McCullah told EW about the initial ending:
"Originally it ended at the courthouse right after the trial. Everyone was congratulating Elle, and Emmett came up and gave her a big kiss. Then there was a tag where it was a year in the future and she and Vivian, who was now blond, had started the Blonde Legal Defense Fund and they were in the quad handing out pamphlets."
While it would have been fun to see Vivian with blonde hair, the revised ending definitely does more justice to Elle's journey. Yes, she did find love with Emmett, but that's only one aspect of Elle's story and her Harvard experience.
And evidently, early audiences saw that, too, which is why the ending was changed. "The test-screening audience didn't feel like it was an exciting enough ending for her, success-wise. The kiss made it seem like it was a rom-com," McCullah told EW.
There's nothing wrong with that — except for the fact that Legally Blonde is more than just a rom-com. After Elle studies harder than ever to do well on the LSAT and get into Harvard Law School, initially just to impress her ex, she discovers that she actually likes practicing law — and she's good at it, too. By the end, she finds a new best friend in fellow classmate Vivian, and both of them leave their co-ex Warner in the dust. Emmett helps Elle along the way, but he's far from the only great part of Elle's new life.
Smith also told EW that the original audience "knew that this was not a movie about a girl getting a guy." After the ending didn't sit well with the test audience, the two screenwriters, along with director Robert Luketic and producer Marc Platt, were so inspired to change the ending that they wrote the graduation speech Elle delivers while they were still sitting in the test audience's theater.
The logistics of working out the new ending weren't easy, either. Reese Witherspoon was already filming The Importance of Being Earnest in London, so the Legally Blonde crew shot the graduation scene in London, too. Well, part of it, anyway. McCullah shared that while Elle's speech was filmed in London, the crowd's reactions were shot in California. Witherspoon and Luke Wilson (Emmett) also had to wear wigs while filming the ending — her hair was apparently damaged from hot rollers, while Wilson had shaved his head for The Royal Tenenbaums.
Still, the new ending was worth all of the logistical headaches. Not to ding Emmett — who doesn't love Wilson's character? — but the new ending is way more satisfying. Fans got to learn that not only did Elle graduate from Harvard Law School, but she also earned the respect of her professors and her peers. Her relationship with Emmett is great, but it's not where her journey ends, and it's great that the movie's crew recognized that fact.