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Face/Off (1997) Poster

(1997)

Trivia

Co-screenwriter Mike Werb got the idea for the face surgery from a friend who had a hang-gliding accident. They had to remove most of the skin from his face, reconstruct the bone matter, and put his face back on.
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Jump to: Director Trademark (4)  | Spoilers (10)
Nicolas Cage and John Travolta spent two weeks together before filming to learn how to play each other. They decided on specific gestures and vocal cadences for each character that could be mimicked.
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Originally, Nicolas Cage turned down the role of Castor Troy, citing a lack of interest in playing a villain. However, once he was told that he would actually be playing the hero for a majority of the film, he quickly signed on.
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The first real-life face transplant was accomplished in 2012 on Richard Norris, who'd accidentally shot himself in the face with a shotgun the same year the movie came out.
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The scene of Adam listening to "Over the Rainbow" on his portable headphones was John Woo's idea and not part of the original script. Paramount Pictures refused to finance the extra scene and John Woo had to use his own money to make that happen. He was later paid back as the film turned out to be profitable. (A similar scene can be seen in Woo's Hard Boiled (1992))
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The John Travolta asked the writers if they were making fun of him with the "ridiculous chin" line. They explained that Castor was such a narcissist that he would hate having anyone else's face.
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Originally Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were in mind to play the lead roles. When John Woo was brought in to direct, he decided that John Travolta and Nicolas Cage would be more suited to the roles.
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Nicolas Cage didn't want to see the grotesque face makeup, so John Woo hid all the reflective surfaces on set.
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The crew shot on Nicolas Cage's birthday. John Woo let Cage get emotionally charged up for a scene, then surprised him with a birthday cake. Afterwards, Cage asked Woo not to do that again.
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Nicolas Cage doesn't like heights. He said that shooting one action scene was "one of the most frightening days of my life."
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According to producer Barrie M. Osborne, most of the challenging action scenes, including the fight on the deck of the boat and the airplane going down the runway, were originally planned as green screen shots. But they filmed them practically to support the "realism of story".
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For John Woo's birthday, Nicolas Cage and Nick Cassavetes gave him a Dirty Harry (1971) poster signed by Clint Eastwood. Woo has called Eastwood "my hero."
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According to his blood test results, Castor Troy's glycohemoglobin (A1C) is much higher than 6.5%. He most likely has diabetes.
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The studio wanted John Woo to take the slash out of the title. He kept it in so people wouldn't think it was a hockey movie.
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The name for the floating prison, Erewhon, is a simple anagram of "nowhere" (originally used as the title of a satirical novel by Samuel Butler in 1872).
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The crew had to get the plane shot in one take because they were really destroying a plane. They shot it with 13 cameras from multiple angles.
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Unlike John Woo's previous US movies Hard Target (1993) and Broken Arrow (1996) and his later one Mission: Impossible II (2000), this had little to no studio interference, and the only scene that MPAA demanded to be cut was the opening assassination scene where Sean Archer's son is killed.
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The main character is named Sean Archer. Sagittarius the Archer, one of the constellations of the zodiac, is diametrically opposite (half-way around the year from) the constellation Gemini. Castor and Pollox are the two major stars in the constellation Gemini.
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Joan Allen was John Woo's first choice for Eve. The studio wanted to go with someone younger and make her a stepmother, but Woo fought for Allen.
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Nick Cassavetes surprised John Woo by shaving his head for the role. Woo said it was just the image he wanted.
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The two main characters' blood types reflect their antagonistic nature. Sean Archer's blood type is O negative, the universal donor, reflecting Archer's role as a police officer dedicated to serving the community. Castor Troy's is AB positive, the universal recipient, someone who takes from society without giving anything back.
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The magnetic boots the prisoners wear in Erewhon prison are the same boots worn by the Goombas in Super Mario Bros. (1993).
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The other pairs of actors that were considered for Sean Archer and Castor Troy besides Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford and Michael Douglas were Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro and Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal.
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The script as presented to director John Woo was set in the future, but Woo suggested changing the setting to the present to focus on the dramatic and psychological elements of the storyline.
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Before shooting emotional scenes, John Woo played soft, sad music to help the actors get into character. John Travolta said he didn't need it. He nailed the scene in one take, earning the nickname "One-Take John."
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Mark Wahlberg turned down the role of Pollux Troy.
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Gina Gershon and Nick Cassavetes came up with the brother/sister kiss. Gershon said, "There's something so warped about them anyway... I think they just really love each other."
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Erewhon Prison is a reference to Samuel Butler's "Erewhon", about a city in which the protagonist is imprisoned and in which many of the normal rules of society are reversed.
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Co-screenwriter Mike Werb joked that the bomb had "the longest lag time in movie history...Just long enough to keep the plot going."
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Originally written in 1990, the script was first optioned by producer Joel Silver before falling into the lap of Michael Douglas who, the screenwriters fervently hoped, would star in it alongside Harrison Ford. Instead, Douglas took over as producer with the roles of cop, Sean Archer, and villain, Castor Troy, eventually going to John Travolta and Nicolas Cage.
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Most of the stunts in the movie were done without the use of any digital effects.
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John Woo let Nick Cassavetes write a lot of his own lines for the movie.
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In Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux were Zeus's twin sons by Leda. The brothers fought together in the Trojan War. Leda was also the mother of Helen of Troy. Pollux was immortal, Castor was mortal. They were allowed to spend alternating days together between the underworld and Olympus because Zeus took pity on the pair and "gave" Castor half of Pollux's immortality because they could not take the separation of death.
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When Dubov is attacked by the guards at the prison, he dodges behind a box marked "Ingen". That's the company that cloned dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (1993). "Ingen" also means "no one" in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish.
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The process to reconstruct the ear is very similar to modern day 3D printing.
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This is composer John Powell's first movie.
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The original script was mostly set in the prison. The writers called it "Birdman of Alcatraz in the future." In it, some prisoners hung upside down from the ceiling by their boots with IVs collecting bodily fluids.
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"Over the Rainbow" is performed by Olivia Newton-John, whose most notable film role in Grease (1978) was opposite John Travolta.
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John Travolta based his "toast" on Vietnam vets toasting their fallen comrades on Veteran's Day.
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Yun-Fat Chow was rumored to be in the movie during the early stages of filming. He could not appear in the film due to contractual obligations, and Margaret Cho took the role.
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The studio wanted Archer and Sasha to sleep together, but the writers and John Woo argued against it.
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John Woo cast Gina Gershon based on her performance in Bound (1996).
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The shot of Castor Troy's coat blowing in the wind is an homage to Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
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John Travolta and Nicolas Cage were considered to reunite after this movie for The Expendables 2 (2012) and Killing Season (2013) but scheduling conflicts caused them to not reunite again. Robert De Niro replaced Cage in the "Killing Season" opposite John Travolta.
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The ornate box that is opened for Castor Troy on the tarmac contains the following: a bag of blue pills, sunglasses, three rolled cigarettes (or joints), a pack of Chiclets, four pieces of Bazooka Joe bubble gum, a switchblade, and what appears to be a blue glass vial.
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In early drafts of the script, Archer went to Castor's mother's place to hide out. The writers wanted the mother to be played by Elizabeth Taylor or Jack Nicholson in drag.
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Joel Schumacher visited Nicolas Cage on set and offered him the role of Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow in a sequel to Batman & Robin (1997). The movie never happened, but the two men would later work together in 8MM (1999).
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Weapons coordinator Robert 'Rock' Galotti made five gold pistols for the movie. One was pre-sold to Planet Hollywood.
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Some of the prisoners are actual ex-convicts recruited by John Woo because he "wanted real people."
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The stuntmen were lifted up by wires for one shot. The actors' faces were digitally added in.
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At one point, Patrick Swayze was being sought for one of the lead parts.
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Many of the oil rig shots were done on a backlot because of the danger of creating explosions on an oil rig.
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In the film, Castor Troy gives Sean Archer's daughter a balisong knife. In Kick-Ass (2010), Nicolas Cage's character gives his daughter two balisong knives.
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John Travolta's fingers are bigger than Nicolas Cage's, so it was hard to get the wedding ring off but easy to slip on.
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The writers cited White Heat (1949) and Seconds (1966) as influences on the plot.
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Julianna Margulies turned down the role of Sasha Hassler because filming conflicted with her schedule for ER (1994).
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A lot of people caught the flu while filming the prison scenes because of the dirty conditions there.
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Gina Gershon told John Woo that she wanted to shave her head for her role. He didn't like the idea.
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Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick made over 200 boots for the movie - some metal, some plastic. The metal boots weighed about 25 pounds each.
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Pollux Troy's voice and speech mannerisms performed by Alessandro Nivola weren't part of the script. Nivola was inspired by Charles Crumb, the brother of artist Robert Crumb who appeared in the documentary Crumb (1994), a film Nivola was watching at the time of filming.
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Gina Gershon decided Sasha should kick a man in the groin. "I thought that just encapsulated her whole personality, the whole 'killer' mom."
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Nicolas Cage is a big fan of Yun-Fat Chow. John Woo originally asked Cage to decide on the make-up for the beginning of the film (where Troy is going to kill Archer). Cage decided to don a moustache, similar to the famous assassination scene in The Killer (1989).
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The crew built a ramp onto the police boat. Archer's boat launched off it at about 40 mph.
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Walsh says to Archer "Your height difference is negligible." Travolta is actually two inches taller than Cage's six feet. The movie offsets this by saying (on the computer screen) Castor is 6'1''.
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The choir in one of the opening scenes is a non-profit charity choir based in LA.
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Both Harve Presnell and John Carroll Lynch appeared in Fargo (1996) the previous year, though they do not share any screen time together in either film.
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Nick Cassavetes (Dietrich) would direct Dominique Swain (Jamie) in Alpha Dog (2006) 9 years later.
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The power lever on the Lockheed Jetstar has a JW white and blue inscription, referring to the director John Woo.
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Thomas Jane later starred opposite John Travolta in The Punisher (2004). In that film, Thomas Jane's character, retired FBI agent Frank Castle seeks revenge upon corrupt businessman Howard Saint (Travolta) whom mass murdered Castle's entire family during a family reunion. In this film, Sean Archer is an FBI agent and seeks revenge upon Castor Troy whom killed his son in an assassination attempt on his life.
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WILHELM SCREAM: When Dubov pushes the gurney into the guards on the elevator.
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Tommy Flanagan and CCH Pounder later acted together in Sons of Anarchy (2008).
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Nicolas Cage and Chris Bauer also went on to star together in 8MM (1999).
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Sean Archer chokes Castor Troy in the same manner that he previously choked Dietrich.
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It was released in June 1997, the same month as Nicolas Cage's other action hit Con Air (1997), which came out a few weeks earlier. The films were shot consecutively, from the summer of 1996 to early 1997, with the two productions nearly overlapping at one point.
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Nicolas Cage and Joan Allen previously appeared in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986).
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The jump was 70 feet. They called in a stuntman who specialized in high dives.
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Three sets of each of the boats were built for the movie by a company in Florida.
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Colm Feore and Gina Gershon would later appear in The Insider (1999). However, they don't share scenes on both movies.
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The studio pitched for an African-American lead in face-off, but John Woo didn't think that was a good idea. Seeing as Nicholas Cage was white, his black face may have given Troy's criminals a second thought as to his true identity.
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In the film, Archer mourns his deceased son Michael. In real life, John Travolta's son, Jett Travolta - five years old at the film's release - died on January 2, 2009 at age 16 from Kawasaki disease.
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It was announced in mid-1995 that Marco Brambilla would direct the film.
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Joan Allen played John Travolta's wife. In Pleasantville (1998), she played William H. Macy's. Travolta and Macy would go on to star together in Wild Hogs (2007).
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First of two collaborations with director John Woo and actor Nicolas Cage. Their second collaboration was "Windtalkers" (2002).
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Thomas Jane and Chris Bauer also played together in 61* (2001) as Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra respectively.
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Director Trademark 

John Woo: [dove] A dove flies by before the final face-off. The final face-off took place at a church, referencing The Killer (1989), also directed by Woo.
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John Woo: [back to back banter] Sean vs. Castor with an obstacle between them throwing around a few comments before the "showdown."
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John Woo: [reflection] Castor Troy reflected in Dr Walsh's glasses.
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John Woo: [guns] Castor Troy's two handguns.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The special edition DVD contains several deleted scenes, most notably an alternate ending in which Sean Archer looks into a mirror, and Eve gasps as she (and the audience) sees Castor Troy's face as Archer's reflection. The studio nixed this ambiguous ending in favor of a happy conclusion in which Archer is definitely, completely himself again and Castor is dead with no chance of returning.
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After escaping from the prison, Archer steals a beige Volvo. In The Rock (1996), Nicolas Cage's character says he drives a beige Volvo. In Con Air (1997), the second of the "trilogy," Cameron Poe drops the dead body of "Pinball" from the plane, and it falls onto a beige Volvo.
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The boat chase at the end of the film was originally intended for Hard Target (1993), also directed by John Woo.
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Castor Troy kills a total of 20 people during the course of the film (Michael Archer, Anderson, Montgomery, Berkeley, Pinkus, Genelli, Winters, Tito, Miller, Dr. Walsh, Dietrich, Loomis, Victor, Sasha, the owner of the boat, and 5 unnamed cops in the finale). Archer on the other hand only kills 4 people (Pollux Troy, Lars, Leo, Castor Troy).
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One of two John Travolta and John Woo collaborations, the other was Broken Arrow (1996). In both movies Travolta played the villain.
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John Woo used a harpoon here instead of a gun because he wanted Castor to die "like Jesus...with the spear."
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The end scene with the boat chase was shot in San Diego and won an MTV Movie Award for Best Action Scene. The stars are two Wellcraft 97 Scarab SCS 23 high performance power boats.
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In the narrative behind Castor Troy being Adam's father: Castor Troy had a threesome with Sasha and Deitrich and Adam had been conceived.
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The IMSDB script shows a number of different things changed before the final cut:

. In this version, Archer's first name as "Jon", not "Sean".

.After planting the bomb in the Convention Center, Castor kills a janitor who catches him in the act. This was filmed and can be found as a deleted scene on the DVD.

. In the airport hangar shootout, it is Pollux, not Castor, who shoots Loomis in the ear. Pollux is also shot in the shoulder. Also, there is dialogue when Pollux is being captured. . Castor and Archer still have dialogue in the hangar. But while the film had it when they have guns trained on each other, the script originally had the bickering happen in between exchanges of fire. Both end with Castor being thrown against a ventilation grating with back-blast from a jet turbine.

. After the hangar shootout, Archer talks with Lazarro as they watch Pollux being loaded into a SWAT van in handcuffs and Castor being loaded into an ambulance. In this version, only three agents are killed in the gunfight. A photographer tries to take a picture of the agents' dead bodies waiting to be zipped up in the body bags, to which Archer promptly confiscates his film.

. The attempted interrogation of Pollux has Pollux managing to fool the polygraph while claiming that the bomb schematics are just a mental exercise.

. Archer's surgery is inter-cut in the script with Archer learning to mimic Castor's various tics and mannerisms, more than just his voice: his walk, his voice, and his mannerisms. One scene never filmed is a scene in which it's revealed that Castor is a leftie while Archer is a rightie. Also, the surgery is done in Quentin Tarantino-style anachronistic order.

. The inmate Archer recognizes is not Burke Hicks, whom Archer busted for stalking the UN Secretary General, but a Frenchman named Fabrice Voisine who was convicted of poisoning five Canadian MPs.

. In the script, it's revealed in Archer's "extract information about the bomb" conversation from Pollux that Castor Troy received a tattoo of the Sphinx on his tenth birthday. It also turns out that that was the day his mother died by overdosing. Though Castor had attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, he failed. Afterwards, he made a promise to protect Pollux. Also, Archer comes close to giving himself away by scratching his wedding band. Pollux is also clearly uneasy because Archer smiles like himself, not like Castor, after getting the information.

. Castor's first meeting with Archer after Castor gets his new face is expanded. It claims to have had Dr. Walsh's assistants tortured to make Dr. Walsh (originally Dr. Malcolm Hoag) give him Archer's face. The original version also has Castor burn down the Walsh Institute to kill Dr. Walsh and the technicians, while killing Miller and her partner Brodie (who was cut from the film) in a "car accident". Lastly, Castor has Tito killed in the laboratory fire in the final movie, but in the original script, he goes to Tito's house and shoots him before stealing Archer's ring.

. When Castor privately talks to Pollux in the interrogation room, he likens taking Archer's face to John Dillinger switching with J. Edgar Hoover, Carlos the Jackal running Interpol, or Kaddafi heading Mossad. He and Pollux beam about the possibility of exposing undercover drug agents and blackmailing movie stars, or Castor's ambition to blow up Air Force One, then as Archer become a household name overnight.

. The way in which Tito dies in this version leads to a scene where, upon escaping from prison, Archer goes to the crime scene at Tito's house. He tries to contact Eve and Lazarro from Tito's house phone, not a stolen car phone. Then he steals Tito's car and tries to go to his house, but is discouraged by the police presence. It is outside an art gallery that Archer meets up with Dietrich, who is described as owning a chic gallery. In doing so, they have a very close encounter with Castor.

. The Dietrich's apartment scene reveals some things the film never does about Castor Troy, like having a tryst with one of his girlfriends in the owners box at Dodger Stadium.

. When Castor beats Jamie's boyfriend up, he's acting angry at the idea that Karl calls him a wimp.

. Victor Lazarro's death is the same, but what he's confronting Castor about is different. In the final film, he's confronting Castor about his gestapo tactics. The script has Lazarro confronting Castor about all the behaviors he shows that the real Archer doesn't - he meets with Miller, who dies in suspicious circumstances, and he doesn't give a shit that Tito has been murdered. Also, Castor smokes and drinks, but Archer doesn't.

. And after killing Lazarro, Castor tells him, "Now you understand." He also then pretends to apply CPR when the paramedics arrive.

. There is a scene that didn't get filmed where Archer uses a trash can to smash a sporting good store window, inciting a bunch of teenage youths to start looting the store. When the police arrive, Archer grabs a cop's tear gas can to blind him, then steals the officer's police car. He then calls in a phony dispatch report to get the police staked out at his house to leave, before sneaking into his house.

. Archer attempts to shoot Castor with a tranquilizer dart during Lazarro's funeral and the 21 gun salute.

. The confrontation and Mexican standoff happens in a boathouse near the church, not in the church proper.

. Dietrich and Aldo are not killed in the shootout at Dietrich's apartment in the original script. Rather, they die along with Sasha in the Mexican standoff.

. Eve tells Wanda and Buzz of the deception in person rather than on the phone in the script. In turn, there are more agents present, including Wanda and Buzz, when Castor uses Jamie as a human shield.

. In the script, to end the final confrontation, Archer first shoots Castor in the chest with a pistol, then as Castor tries to flee, shoots him in the leg. He also tries to mutilate his face with the boat's still spinning propeller before succumbing to his bullet wounds.
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Even though Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were considered to play Sean Archer and Castor Troy and didn't get the parts, they later worked together in the Expendables and Escape Plan movies in which they both escaped from a futuristic prison like Sean Archer as Castor Troy do in this film.
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