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The Alternate Ending to ‘Splash’ That No One Has Heard Of

Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures / murraymomo / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures / murraymomo / MovieStillsDB

The hit 1983 romantic comedy Splash made movie history as one of the first big hits for famous stars of the movie industry like actors Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. For such a sentimental film, it’s hard to imagine the plot following any other path – but some speculate that the ending we know and love today almost never happened.

The rom-com that made waves in theaters

Splash follows Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks), who is reunited with a mermaid who saved him from drowning as a boy. Years later, he returns to the same spot off Cape Cod where he nearly drowned and once again tumbles into the sea. He’s rescued once more by the mysterious mermaid, Madison (Daryl Hannah).

Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah in Splash
Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah as Allen and Madison in Splash (1984). (Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures / Zayne / MovieStillsDB)

Unsure if what he saw was real or if he imagined the rescue, Allen goes about his life. Meanwhile, the mermaid decides to search for Allen in New York City, sprouting legs once her tail dries. She shows up naked at the Statue of Liberty and Allen falls in love at first sight. While the couple falls for each other, Madison struggles to keep her secret. To make matters worse, everyone chases her in the hopes of proving she is really a mermaid.

Splash was producer Brian Grazer’s first passion project

The rom-com was a smash (or should we say splash!) hit with audiences, even bagging an Oscar nomination for best screenplay. The story was originated by Brian Grazer, a law clerk working at Warner Bros. in the ’70s who decided to pursue a career in Hollywood. After being kicked out of the office of legendary movie executive Lew Wasserman, Grazer got the idea for Splash. 

Brian Grazer and Ron Howard filming Splash
Brian Grazer (left) and director Ron Howard (right) behind the scenes filming Splash. (Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures / CaptainOT / MovieStillsDB)

For several years his idea went nowhere, and it wasn’t until Grazer changed the entire approach to the story that his script began getting some attention. Grazer, along with the writers who developed the screenplay, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, originally wrote the story from the mermaid’s perspective. Once they switched it to center around the man’s perspective, Hollywood executives could finally see its box office potential.

The ending we know and love is nothing like the original

The film was greenlit and soon entered production with emerging director Ron Howard at the helm – but there was just one problem: there were rumors of another mermaid film in the works. This made Walt Disney Productions wary, as they were planning to launch their new production studio, Touchstone Studios, with Splash. Luckily, Howard promised to get the film done quickly and on budget before the other mermaid film was released. Thankfully, all the worrying was unnecessary. The rival film was never completed.

Actress Daryl Hannah in a mermaid costume on the beach
Daryl Hannah poses on the beach as Madison the mermaid. (Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures / Zayne / MovieStillsDB)

With the filming complete, all that was left before releasing Splash was some screen testing. The original ending had the mermaid returning to the sea while Allen remained on shore, never seeing his true love again. According to Ron Howard, that version ended up on the cutting room floor after the wives of all the men involved in the film said they hated the original ending!

More from us: The Filming of ‘Jaws’ Almost Ended in Real-Life Tragedy

They changed it around so the lovers could be together after Allen makes the ultimate sacrifice and leaves his family behind to become a water-dweller. Just like that, Splash finally made waves with audiences who were hooked on this modern take on a classic love story.

Elisabeth Edwards

Elisabeth Edwards is a public historian and history content writer. After completing her Master’s in Public History at Western University in Ontario, Canada Elisabeth has shared her passion for history as a researcher, interpreter, and volunteer at local heritage organizations.

She also helps make history fun and accessible with her podcast The Digital Dust Podcast, which covers topics on everything from art history to grad school.

In her spare time, you can find her camping, hiking, and exploring new places. Elisabeth is especially thrilled to share a love of history with readers who enjoy learning something new every day!

The Digital Dust Podcast