When the Canadian-made romantic comedy “The F Word” opens today, it will feature a different ending than it originally had when it premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Star Daniel Radcliffe admits he initially felt “weird” about having to shoot the new conclusion, but after seeing it at a recent screening in Toronto, he’s “really happy with it.”
“My concern was that it would just go on too long and it would take away from the impact of the emotion of the last part of the film, but it really doesn’t,” the former “Harry Potter” star said in an interview.
“It leaves you on a high.”
Radcliffe stars as Wallace, a Toronto software-manual writer who gets put into the “friend zone” by alluring animator Chantry (Zoe Kazan). Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis co-star as their off-the-wall friends, Megan Park plays Chantry’s frank-talking sister, and Rafe Spall plays Chantry’s boyfriend.
When “The F Word” debuted to acclaim at the Toronto film fest, CBS Films bought it but “they wanted more of an ending,” said Montreal-based director Michael Dowse.
“It wasn’t about changing the ending but adding more of a story to the ending, and I agreed.”
After testing the film in a couple of different markets, he and the film’s Toronto-based screenwriter, Elan Mastai, came to realize “why people would want more of a concrete conclusion to the story.”
As Dowse saw it, getting more money to add on to the ending was “an opportunity to improve the film,” which was up for several Canadian Screen Awards and made TIFF’s annual list of best Canuck features.
“I think people get so invested with these characters, they want to know what happened to them, and I think they felt a little ripped off that it was a sort of open-ended ending and they didn’t quite know what happened,” said the director of the 2011 hockey-bruiser film “Goon” and the “Fubar” hoser comedy franchise.
“They don’t want a grey area on the ending, they want to know clearly what happened, so that’s what we strived to do.”
Without giving anything away, the filmmakers set the new ending 18 months after the original one.
Pulling the cast together again over two weekends last November to shoot the new scenes “wasn’t easy,” admitted Dowse.
“Not all the cast was available, so we had to do some creative shooting to shoot one side of conversations one weekend and the other side another weekend to make it all work out.”
That was exactly what happened to Radcliffe.
“I don’t know if I should say this, but I’m going to — the scene with Adam Driver and Mackenzie and I, we were not together,” he admitted. “They filmed it the day before and we did the reverse on me the day after, when I got there.”
Kazan was in the middle of shooting a 1980s-set miniseries for HBO with what she called a “terrible haircut” and “a nightmare” of a schedule, but she thought it was “fun to see everybody again.”
“It was like going back to summer camp or something,” she said. “I was just happy that we had a distributor ... and if they wanted some changes made to it, that Mike and Elan crafted for them, I felt good about that.”
Radcliffe already had experience with tweaking an ending to a film before.
“We shot an ending to the fourth ‘Potter’ film that was very dark and then we reshot it,” said the London native. “The ending was still dark, but I think they wanted a bit of hope given at the end whereas before originally it had been very much a bleak ending.”
But with “The F Word,” he “loved” the original ending and wasn’t sure about adding onto it.
“I loved that there was something very kind of old-school Hollywood about the idea of the camera going off these people as they’re kissing onto something symbolic and sweet,” he said in
“There was something very old-fashioned and great about that.”
His mind changed, though, when he returned to Toronto to shoot the new scenes.
“What was actually surprising to me was how I really enjoyed when I went back to do that additional shooting,” said the 25-year-old.
“I was like, ‘This is lovely.’ Because after you finish filming you go, ‘OK, I’m never going to play that character again,’ and it was nice to actually get an unexpected reprise of that.”
“The F Word” is drawing comparisons to 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally” with its focus on whether two people who are attracted to each other can just be friends.
Kazan said she loved the sharp script, while Radcliffe was excited about the opportunity to further flex his comedic chops.
Growing up, he was a big fan of the “Austin Powers” films as well as TV comedies including “Yes Minister,” “The Office,” “Fawlty Towers,” “The Thick of It” and “The Day Today.”
“All that stuff was what I consumed as a kid rabidly,” said Radcliffe, who recently shot a cameo for the upcoming Judd Apatow film “Trainwreck.”
“So I’ve sort of wanted to do something more comedic for some time, but ... you have to wait to be given that opportunity, and I’m glad that Michael Dowse had, I guess, seen enough of me in ‘Extras’ and interviews I’d done to give me the chance.”
The ending wasn’t the only change the filmmakers had to make.
The Motion Picture Association of America wanted a PG-13 rating for the film, which required a title change, so in the U.S. it’s now called “What If” (even though the “F” in the original title refers to “friends”).
Dowse said he’s “fine” with the title change south of the border and understands the MPA “had good reasons,” and he’s happy Canadian distributor eOne has kept the original title here.
“That there’s two titles, I think it’s just one more thing people can talk about, so I think it draws more attention to the film in a weird way.”
New York-based Kazan has stronger feelings about the title change.
“I probably shouldn’t be that candid, but I think it’s really silly,” said the writer-actress, who penned and starred in the 2012 film “Ruby Sparks.”
“I think that our ratings board has a huge bias against anything sexual, which is really strange considering how much violence they let get through,” she added.
“I’m very anti-gun ownership and think that the amount of violence in our culture is just overboard, and the fact that they’re more offended by our little ‘F Word’ title than they are by thousands of bodies being blown up seems really silly and bad to me.”