''Along Came a Spider'' tried three different endings, but never included the book's steamy romance

By Liane Bonin
April 11, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

[SPOILER ALERT: THIS STORY REVEALS A MAJOR PLOT TWIST.]

In the movie version of James Patterson’s bestseller ”Along Came A Spider,” Detective Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) hunts for a deranged child kidnapper with the help of comely Secret Service agent Jezzie Flannigan (”Patch Adams”’ Monica Potter). Naturally, sparks fly. Or at least they do in the book. ”It was something I would have loved to keep,” director Lee Tamahori (”Mulholland Falls”) tells EW.com. ”But I think audiences would have been queasy and uncomfortable with Morgan sleeping with Monica. It was a delicious element, but we were right in taking it out.”

And skin color had nothing to do with it. For the New Zealand director — who is half Maori and half Caucasian — it was an age difference of more than three decades which made a dalliance unsettling. Though he considered older actresses before casting the 29 year old Potter, Tamahori feared a middle aged love affair might limit the film’s audience to the 35 plus crowd. His star had even graver misgivings: ”I’m going to get in a lot of trouble here, but I read the book, and I thought the affair made Alex look stupid,” says Freeman, 63. ”He’s not James Bond. Alex Cross is not out there looking to get wet.” Potter agreed, describing her chemistry with Freeman as a ”paternal thing… We would have laughed too hard shooting it,” she says.

Tossing out the book’s sex scenes was just one adjustment. Though the movie’s finale was rewritten three times before shooting began, test audiences gave the thriller’s reworked conclusion a thumbs down. ”I knew when we got to the third ending that we were in trouble,” says Tamahori. ”I told everyone involved this was going to suck if we didn’t fix it. All I ever heard was no, no, we’re all happy with this. But happy doesn’t make a good story.”

To his relief, the otherwise positive reviews inspired Paramount chief Sherry Lansing to okay a week of reshoots. ”She said, ‘I didn’t make this movie to make a good movie, I made it to make a movie that would keep the franchise going,”’ says producer David Brown (”Chocolat”). ”And I reminded her, ‘We wrote an ending you folks didn’t like particularly,’ and she finally said, ‘You’re right, let’s shoot it.”’

So what ended up on the cutting room floor? ”We had Morgan show up with all the back up in the world — SWAT teams, sharp shooters,” says Tamahori. ”It hurt us with test audiences. They want the protagonist to do it himself.” [WE’RE WARNING YOU; WHAT FOLLOWS IS A MAJOR PLOT SPOILER.] Potter says the resulting gunplay verged on the absurd. ”They had snipers shooting me, they had Morgan shooting me, and then I shot myself in the head,” she says with a laugh. Her exit line wasn’t much more believable: ”They had me sneering at Morgan, ‘You son of a bitch, how’d you catch on? Tell them all to go away; we can run off to an island together.’ And I thought, Oh, this is wrong.”

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