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Image / Living / Culture

‘Legally Blonde’ cast spill on an alternate ending, a Judge Judy cameo and much more insider trivia


by Sarah Finnan
09th Jul 2021

Reese Witherspoon / Instagram

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With a third movie set for release in 2022, ‘Legally Blonde’ is celebrating 20 years of Elle Woods by revealing some fairly juicy movie secrets.

A movie franchise that defined a generation, two decades on and we’re all still quoting Elle Woods  – “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” The pop-culture inspiration behind many subsequent pieces of work, Legally Blonde The Musical, Kim Kardashian’s 2019 Halloween costume and its success continues as a regular re-watch.

Equal parts funny and thought-provoking, watching Ms Woods take on the patriarchy exposed us to a whole new understanding of feminism (and correct perm aftercare). Here we were presented with an onscreen heroine that was blonde, beautiful and impeccably dressed, but she was also much more than that. She was hardworking, a loyal friend and far more intelligent than people gave her credit for. Not to mention incredibly funny – her response to Warner’s condescending “You got into Harvard Law?” continues to be one of my favourite movie comebacks of all time.  

A movie that was very much ahead of its time when it first came out in 2001, the issues it tackles, unfortunately, continue to be as relevant today as they were back then. We may live in a post #MeToo world but the war is far from won and misogyny continues to be just one of many problems modern women face in their day-to-day lives. 

With the movie soon to celebrate its 20th anniversary, the New York Times gathered some of the cast and screenwriters together in honour of the occasion and let’s just say that lots of tea was spilt. Discussing how it transitioned from “raunchy script to feminist classic”, the group touched on many of the film’s most enduring moments – from Jennifer Coolidge’s famous “bend and snap” scene to the alternative endings that never came to be. 

Admitting that the original version was more provocative than the one they actually went with, actress Jessica Cauffiel (who played Margot, one of Elle’s best friends), said that the first script was much more “in the vein of American Pie”. “What we know now as Legally Blonde, and what it began as are two completely different films. It transformed from nonstop zingers that were very adult in nature to this universal story of overcoming adversity by being oneself,” she continued. 

Later speaking about the movie’s casting, it turns out that Reese Witherspoon was always the top choice… with other big names rumoured to be up for the role nothing more than hearsay. According to screenwriter Kirsten Smith, “[Reese] was the first person who read the script. It seemed like she was just right on the edge [of fame]. We didn’t send it to any other actors.”

Committed to really doing the job right, the team spent weeks doing lots of field research – including a visit to Stanford law school and a night on the town with one particular sorority house. Arriving at the latter to find that “everyone was wearing pink”, costume designer Sophie de Rakoff noted that the encounter was the foundings of Elle’s aesthetic, personality and identity. 

If there’s one thing the movie is known for though, it’s Elle Wood’s Harvard admissions video. The complete opposite to anything the college admissions board had seen up until that point, she stood out for her rather unique pitch as to why they should accept her… and in a little known piece of trivia, it seems that Judge Judy very nearly featured in it. “We wanted to shoot [Elle, Serena and Margot] chasing Judge Judy wherever she tapes her show and them being like, ‘Judge Judy! Judge Judy! Can we get an autograph?’”, fellow screenwriter Karen McCullah revealed. The scene never made the final cut though. Why? Because they “couldn’t get Judge Judy on board”. 

As for the ending they finally decided on, screenwriters settled on the graduation speech as the perfect close after trialling out a number of others on test audiences. But, there were several other options to choose from – one of which apparently saw Elle and Vivian holding hands on a beach in Hawaii. “The insinuation was either they were best friends or they had gotten together romantically,” Cauffiel recalls. However, while co-star Alanna Ubach (who played Serena, Elle’s other best friend), remembers the same thing, screenwriters claim never to have written that particular close. They did propose a huge musical number though.

Proving to be one of the most difficult decisions to settle on, the final ending wasn’t the first one they filmed either. Things were originally meant to end outside the courthouse with Elle and Emmett sharing their first kiss. Audiences felt the story wasn’t about Elle finding a boyfriend though and feedback said it was too much of a rom-com ending, so writers added the graduation speech in instead.

Fans weren’t so impressed to learn that some of the other suggestions were vetoed but considering that Donald Trump later reworked Elle’s valedictorian speech for his own presidential purposes, it’s probably safe to say that not everyone objected to the ending the movie has now. 

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