Zooey Deschanel as Jovie in Elf

Thank Goodness This Horrific Version of ‘Elf’ Was Shot Down

Elf‘s 20th anniversary has arrived, making it the perfect time to celebrate this timeless and magical Christmas film. It is also an excellent time to celebrate the producers who made sure one director’s terrible version of Elf was never made.

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Elf premiered on November 7, 2003, and in the years since, it has earned a spot as one of the greatest Christmas films of all time. The movie follows Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell), a man who was raised by elves after accidentally sneaking into Santa’s gift bag as a baby. As an adult, he realizes he’s human and sets off to New York City to find his biological father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan). 20 years later, the film remains an annual tradition for families nationwide and still stands as one of Ferrell’s most iconic and beloved roles to date.

There are a lot of things to love about Elf, from the way it captures the Christmas spirit to how its humor is appealing to audiences of all ages. However, one of the biggest reasons for its longevity is Ferrell’s character. Buddy the Elf sticks with audiences because his innocence and childlike wonder are endearing and infectious. The whole film really encourages viewers to maintain some of that childlike wonder and find the magic in the holidays. If one director had his way, however, Elf wouldn’t have been nearly as innocent.

One potential director wanted to ruin Elf for everyone

Will Ferrell as Buddy in New York in Elf
(Warner Bros.)

It’s well known that Jon Favreau directed Elf—he also likely saved the film. When he signed on, Elf‘s original script—written by Judd Apatow—would’ve made for a raunchier PG-13 movie. After Favreau rejected that idea, the film underwent rewrites and ultimately became a much more family friendly movie. However, at one point, Elf was going to be a lot raunchier and darker than the PG-13 version written by Apatow. Producer Todd Komarnicki revealed that he received a pitch from a directorial candidate during Elf‘s early development. The unnamed director was concerned that the movie wasn’t “edgy enough” and that nobody would be interested in it. So he proposed an idea to make Elf more “edgy.”

One might assume the director pitched something along the lines of Bad Santa, or maybe wanted Buddy to get into the “syrup” a few more times. However, this director’s idea of “edgy” was to give Zooey Deschanel’s character, Jovie, an abusive boyfriend. In Elf, Jovie is Buddy’s love interest, who goes from a somewhat jaded employee to understanding the magic of Christmas. If that director’s version had been greenlit, Jovie would’ve been living with her abusive boyfriend in a “grimy apartment.” According to Komarnicki, the unnamed director said, “I imagine a lot of the movie taking place in her apartment on the Lower East Side. I see one of those dented doors with the big metal thing, but it’s not safe for her because Jovie’s boyfriend beats her.”

Gif of Ice Cube looking horrified in Ride Along
(Universal Pictures)

Thankfully, Elf‘s producers did not go with this director after that incredibly creepy and bizarre pitch. Additionally, Komarnicki joked that the director might be in prison now. Even though this version of Elf didn’t happen, the thought that it could’ve is horrifying. Jovie is the only major female character in Elf, and she’s already kind of regulated to a love interest. This unnamed director really thought a Christmas movie should feature a woman being a victim of domestic abuse for absolutely no reason.

This is just one example of why depictions of violence against women in film are so rampant and so harmful; oftentimes, they serve no purpose. Male filmmakers think it’s just “edgy” and not a real-life problem that impacts women, or they fetishize it like this unnamed director who wanted to rewrite Elf so that it took place entirely in Jovie’s apartment with her abusive boyfriend. However, the fact that the producers of Elf rejected this idea and the movie became a wildly successful holiday classic is further proof that viewers don’t need to see women being helpless, hurt, or traumatized to empathize with a character.

(via Yahoo! Entertainment, featured image: Warner Bros.)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.