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Death Becomes Her (1992) Poster

Trivia

Jump to: Director Trademark (1)  | Spoilers (26)
Meryl Streep accidentally scarred Goldie Hawn's cheek with a shovel during the fight scene.
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At one point, Lisle (Isabella Rossellini ) asks Madeline (Meryl Streep ) how old she thinks she is. Streep answers 38, to which Rossellini gives her a dirty look. Rossellini was in fact 39 years old at the time of filming.
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Catherine Bell was Isabella Rossellini's nude body double.
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In several scenes, references to deceased musicians and actors are visible. When Bruce Willis's character falls through the glass roof and lands in the pool, Jim Morrison can clearly be seen with a girl. Later on, an extra playing James Dean turns around (with his signature hairdo) as Willis steals his Grey Spider. During the big welcome address at the ball, Elvis Presley is scolded for making random public appearances, an urban myth long-held by his fans that think he's still alive but hiding from the public eye.
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In an interview Meryl Streep revealed that she assumed the role of Helen (Goldie Hawn's character) was meant for her. Not the "song-and-dance" role of Madeline.
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Bruce Willis replaced Kevin Kline as Ernest.
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A pneumatic bra was built to create the effect where Meryl Streep's breasts become higher and firmer after drinking the potion, but the effect didn't look realistic enough. In order to get the shot, Streep's dresser stood behind her, out of sight of the camera, and pushed her breasts into position.
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In the scene where Helen sits down onto a shovel handle, she didn't sit in the way she was expected to. So the VFX people at Industrial Light & Magic had to morph the image to make it look like the shovel handle was going through her chest.
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During the description of the plot to kill Madeline, there was a quick shot of the folder being stamped "case closed" at a desk. Also on the desk was a brain in a glass jar labeled "abnormal" - a tribute to the original Frankenstein, or to the spoof Young Frankenstein (1974).
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In a UK television interview, Meryl Streep was asked about this uncharacteristic role, and she replied that it was too original to pass up.
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This film takes place over the course of 51 years, from 1978 to 2029.
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The film was originally going to be a sequel to Tales from the Crypt (1972). The latter film was a favorite Halloween classic for director Robert Zemeckis when he was a young man.
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In the opening scene, Meryl Streep's character is starring in a musical version of Sweet Bird of Youth (1962), a play by Tennessee Williams about an aging actress who pines for her lost youth.
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The film won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, defeating Batman Returns (1992) and Alien³ (1992).
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The former client Isabella Rossellini's character refers to when she uses the quote, "I want to be alone" is silent film legend Greta Garbo, although her actual words were, "I want to be left alone."
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The film underwent some major re-editing after negative feedback was received at test screenings. The entire ending was changed, and the role played by Tracey Ullman disappeared from the film completely, despite the fact that she was featured briefly in the trailer for the film.
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Animatronic puppets of Meryl Streep's head were created and used to shoot the scene where a "resurrected" Madeline confronts Ernest. The effect didn't look right in the shot. Ultimately, CGI was used.
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Among the guests at the party are: Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, Greta Garbo, Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, and James Dean.
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For the majority of the movie, Madeline had been shown to be wearing white, whereas Helen wore red. The one exception was in Helen's fantasy sequence, in which Madeline wore a red dress and she wore a white dress. This is shown in one of the film's main promotional posters.
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The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Sydney Pollack.
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The figure of a nude woman can be briefly glimpsed inside the vial of potion Madeline purchases, suggesting ominous things about its ingredients (look carefully during the closeup of Madeline's check, and then the vial, changing hands).
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Meryl Streep wasn't thrilled that the film relied heavily on visual effects. Streep claimed that shooting the film was like "going to the dentist" and states that the film is her first, last, and only VFX-driven film.
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The three main character's names are a play on words. Madeline, Ernest and Helen can be shortened to Mad, Ern, Hel, or "Madder 'n Hell."
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Bruce Willis suggested two ideas for the title of the film. These choices were "It's Death, Baby" and "My Man Death". Ultimately, "Death Becomes Her" was chosen.
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The film has often been said to be like an "extended episode" of Tales from the Crypt (1989) by fans of the show. Especially considering that director Robert Zemeckis had produced the show while concurrently directing this film.
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The potion is depicted in the film as a pink ethereal essence. In the original script however, it was described as a thick gray mercury-like fluid.
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The box containing the potion is decorated with the symbol "ankh", an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic ideograph symbolizing life.
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The character of Vivian Adams who talks to Ernest at Helen's book signing event is portrayed by director Robert Zemeckis's then-wife, Mary Ellen Trainor.
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The trailer features the theme from Tales from the Crypt (1989) by Danny Elfman.
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Sydney Pollack portrays the E.R. Doctor in an uncredited role. This is the first time that he and Meryl Streep had worked together since Out of Africa (1985).
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This is the second Robert Zemeckis film to win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. The other Zemeckis films that won the award are Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Forrest Gump (1994), respectively.
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This was the first film that used photo-realistic human skin software.
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Though her character, Helen Sharp, is portrayed as a 50 year old woman during the majority of the film, Goldie Hawn was actually 46 years old when she shot this film.
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In the scene where Mr. Franklin abruptly shows up during Madeline's appointment with Anna (Michelle Johnson) at the beauty spa, Anna quickly loses her French accent. This is to show that the beauty spa is a fake, shallow environment. Anna and the receptionist's fake European accents are part of the facade.
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When Helen comes to the mansion to speak with Ernest, and tells him she has changed from the woman he once knew - telling him she can say the words "sexy" and "sex" - she has red lipstick on her top teeth the whole time.
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Isabella Rossellini (Lisle), Mary Ellen Trainor (Vivian Adams), and Michelle Johnson (Anna) each starred in an episode in the show, Tales from the Crypt (1989). Rosselini starred in the season six episode, "You, Murderer". Trainor starred in the season one episode, "And All Through The House." And Johnson starred in the season three episode, "Split Second". The show was produced by this film's director, Robert Zemeckis.
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Isabella Rossellini revealed on The David Letterman Show (1980) that she had nothing on but a sarong and necklaces for her character of Lisle.
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Even though the film deals with undead people, the words, "undead" and "zombie" are never mentioned.
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Isabella Rossellini used a body double for her nude scene in this film. Interestingly, a couple of years earlier, she did her own nude scene in the film, Blue Velvet (1986).
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The film won the Best Visual Effects Oscar, BAFTA, and Saturn Awards.
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This is Mary Ellen Trainor's third time starring in a film directed by Robert Zemeckis. The other films that Trainor starred in are Romancing the Stone (1984), Back to the Future Part II (1989), and Forrest Gump (1994). Trainor and Zemeckis were married for 20 years during the period that these films were made.
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During filming, director Robert Zemeckis would say, "Hold onto your butts." Screenwriter David Koepp and frequent Zemeckis collaborator wrote this as a catchphrase for Samuel L. Jackson in Jurassic Park (1993).
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Even though her character, Madeline Ashton, is portrayed as a 50 or over year old woman throughout most of the film, Meryl Streep was in fact 43 years old when she shot this film.
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In the original script, Madeline Ashton and Helen Sharp were originally old college friends, instead of childhood friends, who met at Radcliffe College.
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The scene where the "resurrected" Madeline confronts Ernest, Meryl Streep had to wear a blue screen hood over her head while walking backward.
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In a 2017 Vanity Fair article after the 25th anniversary of the film's release, the film was stated to be a "gay cult classic" and a "a touchstone of the queer community".
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Lisle's three main assistants are named Tom, Dick, and Harry. Their names are well-known placeholder type names that refer to ordinary people. Ironically, these three characters are anything but ordinary.
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According to the original screenplay, Madeline's lover was a Latin cabana boy named Marcello.
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The film opened during the same weekend as Bébé's Kids (1992) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992). The film ended up defeating the latter two films and earned about $12 million. It ultimately earned $58 million domestically.
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After Kevin Kline dropped out of the film and turned down the role of Ernest Menville, Jeff Bridges auditioned for the role. Bridges was turned down.
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The moment before the shovel fight, Helen knocks Madeline's head and neck backward to where the head is hanging from the collarbone. This effect was achieved by Meryl Streep wearing a blue screen hood over her head to where, later in post-production, it's digitally removed while an animatronic head in Streep's likeness is attached to her back saying her recorded line.
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The trailer was narrated by Percy Rodrigues.
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In the scene where Madeline punches in the entrance code and enters the gate as Helen slips past her unseen, you get a brief glimpse of her license plate. It reads "2HYE305."
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Lisle states to Madeline that she hasn't seen an Autumn or Winter season in years. These two seasons represent the "dead" seasons. This indicates that Lisle makes her public appearances during the Spring and Summer, which are the "alive" seasons.
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The trailer for this film has several missing scenes that ultimately never made it into the final cut of the film. Among the removed scenes is the scene where Madeline (Meryl Streep) and Helen (Goldie Hawn) are interacting with Toni (Tracey Ullman).
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The film had a budget of $55 million. It ended up being a moderate success at the box office in earning up to $58.4 million domestically and $90.6 million internationally, totaling to $149 million worldwide.
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Jennifer Jason Leigh was considered for the role of Helen Sharp.
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Thanks to the technological advancements of this film, Industrial Light & Magic used some of the same techniques for Jurassic Park (1993).
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In this film, Helen's hair is light brown and then, red. In real life, Goldie Hawn is a natural blonde.
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Director Trademark 

Robert Zemeckis: [citation] The shots in the psychiatric clinic where Helen is brought look exactly like those in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975).
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Helen drinks the potion on October 26, 1985. This is the present date in Back to the Future (1985), which was also directed by Robert Zemeckis.
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One of the early drafts of the script had Lisle being over a hundred years old, instead of 71. It was also implied that she has pandered her potion to several historical figures throughout the ages, with varying results. Another draft had Lisle being Cleopatra, hence the Egyptian-themed box and potion.
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An edited picture from the original ending was used during Ernest's funeral scene. The picture of him aged was actually a picture of him in full age makeup from the first ending. Bruce Willis's aged face was used, but put on an actual picture of a mountain climber, which thus resulted in the end picture of Ernest at his funeral.
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The original ending was overall different from the theatrical version. It involves Tracey Ullman's character, Toni, helping Ernest in a ruse of faking his own death in order to get away from Madeline, Helen, and Lisle. The plan worked and the two end up running away to Europe to start a new life together. Many years later, Madeline and Helen, both parodies of their former selves, with cracked, peeling paint and putty covering most of their grey and rotting flesh, are on vacation in Switzerland, yet they are completely bored and miserable. They notice an elderly couple being affectionate and they become envious of them. As the couple gets into a car and drives away, Madeline and Helen realize it's Ernest and Toni and chase after them, only to be hit by an oncoming car and break into pieces, similar to the theatrical ending.
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In one of the original proposed endings, Madeline and Helen steal a car from one of the guests at Lisle's party in order to chase after Ernest. However, they end up accidentally driving off of a cliff and crash into a huge explosion. Then, Madeline and Helen emerged from the wreckage as charred skeletons.
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In one of the early drafts of the script, Lisle's main desire was to preserve the world's greatest minds and creative talents for her own interests. Such figures that she enticed to take the potion were William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, and Max Factor. However, like Ernest, they all came to the same conclusion that taking the potion in order to have eternal life in a physical, fragile world is wrong. In retaliation and to keep her secret, Lisle ends up killing them. This would explain why in the theatrical film, Lisle wanted to capture and possibly kill Ernest after he rejects taking the potion.
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Madeline has mocked and chastised Ernest for being impotent. Yet, ironically, as evidenced by his eulogy, when he later remarries and quits drinking, Ernest ends up having a total of six children(two sons and four daughters). This is incredible considering that he was over 50 when he became a father.
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In the original ending, Ernest's hand, which was infused by the potion, was shown to have remained young after many years. This confirms that the potion is nevertheless effective in body parts where it's infused in, despite the entire body not internally ingesting small or large amounts of the potion to where the person becomes immortal. Thus, this means that Ernest was still mortal, even with his young hand.
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At Helen Sharp's book signing event, upon closer inspection, there's a brooch pinned on one of the straps of Helen's dress. The brooch is the same brooch that Lisle gives to all of her clients. This is a subtle clue that Helen had already long taken the potion between her time in the mental institution and when she sees Madeline and Ernest again after many years at her book signing event.
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After he finishes examining Madeline, the E.R. Doctor (Sydney Pollack ) takes a tablet out of his pocket and puts it under his tongue as he explains to her and Ernest about her condition. The tablet is a nitroglycerin tablet. This indicates that the doctor has heart issues as that nitroglycerin is used to treat chest pain and heart problems. In the next scene where Ernest is looking for assistance from the medical staff, he sees almost all of the staff trying to revive the same doctor after he dies from a heart attack after he had examined Madeline. The fatal heart attack was most likely caused by the extreme shock of discovering that Madeline is legally dead yet is somehow alert and communicative, and drinking from Ernest's flask before he took his medication which can have serious repercussions when the two chemicals are mixed. This also means that Lisle's immortality secret dies with the doctor. Had the doctor lived or was more healthy, he probably would have found out about the cause of Madeline's condition and possibly reveal this situation publicly, which would've ruined Lisle.
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In the scene where Ernest is spray painting Madeline's lower body with flesh-colored paint while the phone was wildly ringing due to Helen calling him constantly, off to the side of Ernest among the various items and tools he's using to give Madeline a "fresh" makeover is a vat filled with red liquid. Upon closer inspection, the liquid is Madeline's blood. As a mortician, Ernest is required to drain the blood from corpses in order to avoid further decomposition and unsanitary occurrences.
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From when she first took the potion in 1985 to when she gets killed in 1992, Helen enjoyed her eternal youth and beauty for seven years. Whereas Madeline enjoyed her eternal youth and beauty for only one night before she gets killed shortly thereafter in 1992.
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In the original script, the character of Madeline Ashton was originally conceived as a somewhat less malicious character, despite still having qualities of vanity. Her reasoning for her feud with Helen was due to Helen being jealous of her popularity and success with boys. Also, Ernest was actually the first love that Madeline had ever stolen from Helen. She did this out of spite, desperation, and fear to which she interestingly ultimately regretted doing.
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Helen was originally suppose to take the potion in the final act of the film, leading up to her fight with Madeline.
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In one of the proposed original endings, Ernest was meant to die from the long fall at Lisle's mansion while trying to escape and his funeral was meant to take place afterward at the very end of the film.
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During Helen's fantasy when she states her plot to kill Madeline to Ernest, a drugged Madeline is put behind the wheel of her car until Helen took the break off, causing the car to drive off of a cliff and crash into a fiery explosion. This scene is similar to one of the film's original endings in the script in which Madeline and Helen accidentally drive off of a cliff chasing Ernest.
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There are several scenes featured in the trailer that didn't make it into the final cut of the film. One of the scenes is the scene where Ernest takes a frostbitten Madeline out of the freezer and drags her upstairs. She says, "I feel sweaty." He responds, "That's not sweat, dear. I think you're defrosting."
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Originally, when Ernest enters the hospital's morgue in search of Madeline, a drawer containing the body of a priest suddenly rolls out at one point. The three nuns, who were briefly seen in the theatrical cut, were there to review the priest's body. This explains why the nuns were in the morgue crying as they were gliding away. This became one of the deleted scenes that were never released.
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In an unreleased deleted scene, Ernest and Madeline's housekeeper, Rose (Nancy Fish), arrives at the mansion to get ready for work. When she goes to the kitchen and opens up the freezer, she sees Madeline in there. Madeline says to her, "Close the door." Horrified, Rose closes the door and runs away screaming. This is followed by Ernest getting Madeline out of the freezer and dragging her upstairs.
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In one of the many deleted scenes, especially the scenes concerning Toni (Tracey Ullman), Ernest and Toni are conversing in the bar she's working at. They look over and see a man slumped over the bar and Toni says, "Now, he's dead!"
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Madeline "dies" four times throughout the film. First is when she is pushed down the stairs and initially breaks her neck. The second and third times are when Helen hits her in the head with a shovel. The fourth time is the ending of the film when Madeline and Helen fall down the church stairs and shatter into pieces. Helen only "dies" twice, once from Madeline shooting her at point-blank and the other from falling down the stairs at the end of the film.
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In the original script, Helen didn't become an obese cat lady. And when Ernest meets up with Helen years later at her book signing event, she hasn't yet taken the potion thus she looks older yet is still beautiful and glamorous. She was beautiful enough to seduce Ernest and make Madeline antsy and jealous.
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Body Count: 4
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In the theatrical ending, Ernest's second wife's name is Claire according to the priest's eulogy. This shows the removal of the character of Toni (Tracey Ullman), Ernest's love interest from the original cut of the film. In the original ending, Ernest and Toni would go on to marry and have a happy life together.
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Ernest states that he uses spray paint on corpses because it sticks to dead flesh better.
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Madeline briefly blackmailing Ernest into helping her get rid of Helen's body by going to the police in order to expose his own crime of murdering her is unfounded. This is due to the strange circumstances involving the immortality potion she ingested. If she would've gone to the police, the police would've had a lot of questions over how she ended up in this undead state. Besides probably charging Ernest for murder, the police would've also had to examine her which would've eventually got back to Lisle. Thus, Madeline would get into serious trouble with Lisle. Lisle warned her to make sure that the immortality secret remains a secret as well as to take care of her body. If she would've done what she threatened to do, she would've publically exposed not only Ernest' crime but also inadvertently publically exposed Lisle's immortality secret. Also, Madeline being a famous actress and celebrity would've made this particular situation much worse.
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