*It’s a known fact that if time travel were possible, many of us would consider going back to do everything from avoiding devastating mistakes to keeping tongues in check before saying something crazy to making a move sooner on that hot crush before he or she got snatched up by someone else.
As an all-time classic, many filmgoers are fine with “Juice” just the way it is. But the art of going in to the past would have been welcomed by the movie’s co-writer, Ernest Dickerson, who would have eliminated one major regret he’s had over his directorial debut.
So what’s the regret?
Not keeping the original ending of “Juice,” which saw Tupac Shakur’s Bishop meet his death in a different way than what made the final cut. According to Dickerson, the ending everyone saw was made possible via a compromise that sought to satisfy those who were not happy with the filmmaker’s initial finish.
“There were some compromises that the studio wanted me to make and the big one was the ending of the film,” Dickerson shared with EURweb. “The original ending as written and as we shot it was that in the fight on the rooftop between Q and Bishop, when Bishop goes over the edge, Q is trying to hold on to him and he’s trying to pull him up. And he [Q] says, ‘Come on man. Come on, come on, come on.’ And as Bishop is hanging there, we hear the sirens, the police sirens coming in the distance. And Tupac looks in Q’s eyes, and he goes into almost like a Zen state and he says, ‘I’m not going to jail.’ And he lets go of Q’s arm. So for those last couple of seconds, Q is struggling to hold on to him as his arm slips out of his hand. And he falls silently into the abyss. He falls into that alleyway.
“And that was the way we shot it,” Dickerson continued as he shed light on why the original conclusion never saw the light of day in a movie theater. “When we had a preview screening for a test audience, the audience did not like the fact that the “bad guy” decided how he was going to die…they say audiences have a problem with it. Now in hindsight, I don’t think it’s a big problem because, to me, that was the strength of that character. That was the part of that character that showed you that he was a force to be reckoned with, that he wasn’t a punk.”
While crafting Bishop’s death that way displayed the character’s inner strength, the angle failed to connect with studio heads. Their opposition was made known when they gave Dickerson their opinion and an alternative to the scene in a way that wasn’t hard to figure out.
“The studio made a not-so-veiled threat that if you don’t cut it so it looks as if he just slips out of his hands, then we probably won’t support this film in the way you would want it supported,” he explained. “And so we re-cut it so that he just slips out. He’s trying to hold on to him but he slips out of his hands. We missed that moment because it was a heavy moment between the two friends, where Bishop looks in Q’s eyes and he says, ‘I’m not going to jail, man. I’m not going to jail’ and he let’s go. All that is gone.”
Dickerson’s remembrance of the ending comes amid the 25th anniversary of “Juice,” which arrived in theaters on January 17, 1992 and starred Shakur, Khalil Kain, Cindy Herron, Jermaine Hopkins and Omar Epps, who played Q. In honor of the milestone, “Juice” will be available on Blu-ray for the first time on June 6. The special edition will include new interviews with Dickerson, Epps, Hopkins and Kain as well as never-before-seen footage of the cast and crew on set and a featurette on the impact of the film’s hip-hop fueled soundtrack.
Years after the ’90’s drama struck a nerve with fans, the power of that original ending and its exclusion remain a longstanding thought that isn’t leaving Dickerson anytime soon.
“I do. Yeah, I do. I do. I do. I think it was a much stronger ending and I think it says so much more about the frame of mind of somebody like Bishop. That this is a statement, this is a frame of mind, this is a feeling that has to be legitimately dealt with, that he would rather die than go to prison,” Dickerson stated when confirming his regret and difficulty in looking at the theatrical ending. “So yeah, I do feel it’s hard for me to look at because every time that comes up, they made us put a scream in. And to me, it was much stronger when none of that was in there. We did have that ending in there. So I’m trying to find it and see if my editor still has it. If there is a 25th anniversary release of the film, we can put that in.”
Bishop’s insistence on not going to jail carries a far deeper meaning, Dickerson mentioned while noting how the character reflected on his father’s experience behind bars. An early scene in “Juice” shows Bishop looking at his father and giving him money before leaving for school as the patriarch stares blankly while watching TV.
“That’s where it came from, knowing how his father had been brutalized in prison and how he wasn’t gonna let it happen to him. When we made the film, we made the film that we wanted to because it was totally independent and we didn’t have to cow tow to anybody yet,” Dickerson said, noting how he capitalized on the independence when bringing the project to the masses before “Juice” got picked up by a major studio.
Had he kept the original ending, Dickerson is confident “the film still would’ve maintained its strength, actually.”
“I think the film would’ve been stronger with the original ending.”
To see the ending used in the theatrical version of “Juice,” scroll below: