It’s been 15 years since Adam Sandler tried to make an amnesia-stricken Drew Barrymore fall in love with him daily on an idyllic Hawaiian island in 50 First Dates. The film marked the second of the unofficial Barrymore-Sandler trilogy that began with 1998’s The Wedding Singer and concluded, at least for now, with 2014’s Blended. But it’s also an unexpected rom-com, given the very traumatic nature of the ailment suffered by Barrymore’s Lucy after a car crash leaves her waking up every morning with no memories of anything that happened to her after her accident. Sandler’s Henry, a notorious commitment-phobe, finds himself drawn to Lucy and making her fall in love with him from scratch every day.
In honor of the anniversary and as part of EW’s romantic-comedy-themed Untold Stories issue, director Peter Segal revealed some original script details that could have changed the story completely.
50 First Dates… in Seattle?
“Originally, the story was written to take place in Seattle, and when we decided to change it to Hawaii, it took on a whole new personality, and now I can’t imagine movie not having been filmed there because the island and the people became very unique characters and an innate part of the film that was never originally planned. [Seattle] would have completely changed the tone. One of the things I’ve been very proud of is that the soundtrack for the movie won a gold record, and it was very specifically ’80s covers that were done with an island vibe, and obviously we couldn’t have done that in Seattle.”
50 First Dates… in a Cafe?
“The original script, most of it all took place in the cafe, and one of the first things I did when I came on board was, I said, ‘We really have to open up the movie because it feels very claustrophobic. We’ve got to get out of here, right now this is playing like My Dinner with Andre over and over again.’ Once I encouraged Adam to open up the movie and the script to write new scenes in the Kualoa Ranch, then came all the ideas of tying him up and using the penguin as a decoy, and Drew saving Adam with the baseball bat, kicking Rob Schneider’s ass. All those were a result of that, and they became some of the more memorable, hilarious scenes in the movie that were not there originally when it took place all in the cafe. It was fun to open that up.”
50 First… Kisses?
“50 First Kisses was actually the original title of 50 First Dates, but marketing found that the term ‘kisses’ was turning off guys, so they changed it to 50 First Dates.”
An Alternate Ending?
“This ending is very different from the original script version, which had Lucy waking up in bed and immediately looking at a mural on the ceiling that tells the story of her accident and life since. As her eyes pan from left to right, she turns to see Henry lying next to her in bed, and in this version, they didn’t have children. It was a mural that she painted that, unlike the mural in her father’s garage, which they painted over each day so she had a blank canvas to work on, this one Henry left up so that when she woke up in the morning she could see a pictorial timeline of her last day to reintroduce her. So by the time she finished panning with her eyes from left to right, she would come to rest on Henry, and unlike earlier in the movie when she woke up in bed with him and he was a stranger again and she screamed and had a reaction, it was a way of reintroducing her to her life again. And we thought that was fine, but it wasn’t until the idea came up of completing Henry’s journey and seeing him fulfill his dream of studying walruses in their natural habitat, the idea came up, well, what if Lucy, her father, and their child were all there with him, and that just seemed really exciting and very emotional to me. The hardest thing in movies is come up with a strong beginning and a strong end, and if you have that, you’ve got a shot, and I think to this day, it’s the best ending to any movie that I’ve done.”
A Cure for Lucy?
“The studio debated, should Lucy be cured and it be a happy ending? And I’m so glad everyone supported this bittersweet ending because that’s what was so heartbreaking about it, that she has to re-experience this every day. And it’s so amazing what Henry does for her every day. It breaks your heart for both characters, what one has to go through and the other has to endure, and I think that’s part of the charm and heartbreak of it.”