In the original ending, audiences thought Reese Witherspoon's character was struck by lightning.
It turned out to just be a joke, but the studio demanded that it be reshot.
"I don't know why we thought that was really funny," director Andy Tennant told Insider.
The ending of "Sweet Home Alabama" puts you in a good mood as Melanie (Reese Witherspoon) finally realizes that Jake (Josh Lucas) is her true love.
But in the original ending, director Andy Tennant came up with a dark joke that completely ruined the vibe of the rom-com.
While looking back on the movie for its 20th anniversary, Tennant talked to Insider about how, in the original ending, test audiences thought Witherspoon's Melanie character died.
Like in the finished movie, in the original ending, Melanie leaves her fiancé (Patrick Dempsey) at their wedding when she discovers she hasn't signed the documents to divorce Jake. She races to find Jake on the beach as he's preparing for a lightning storm to collect glass that's formed when lightning hits the sand. There, she professes her love for Jake and the two kiss, but this is where the original ending is different.
In the original version, we hear lightning strike as they kiss and then a white light covers the screen. The scene cuts to friends and family dancing at a wedding reception. Jake walks in holding Melanie in his arms who looks unconscious. He tells everyone, "Melanie Carmichael is dead." Everyone is in shock. Then he says, "Long live Felony Melanie," which is the nickname from her youth. Melanie, who was just playing dead, gives him a kiss. They then go and dance as the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Sweet Home Alabama" plays and the credits start.
Tennant said test audiences did not like the ending.
"I don't know why we thought that was really funny," Tennant said. "It was funny on paper."
Tennant said the reaction of actress Mary Kay Place, who played Melanie's mother, was so sad he could instantly feel anger from the audience.
"When we showed it to a test audience the whole room was just like, 'What the fuck!'" he said. "The audience loved the movie up until that shot."
"I did think the ending would work," Lucas told Insider. "I thought it was funny and silly and weird."
But it was instant to Tennant that it would have to be changed. In fact, he had no say in it.
"Literally, Nina Jacobson, head of Buena Vista Pictures, walked up the aisle before the lights had even come up and said to me, 'We're reshooting the ending,'" Tennant said.
A reshoot was done where after the kiss on the beach, Sheriff Wade (Courtney Gains) tracks them down and brings them back to the bar where the friends and family scramble to make up a wedding reception. And when Melanie and Jake arrive they dance to, you guessed it, "Sweet Home Alabama."
"It never bodes well when you hear you're doing a major reshoot," Lucas said. "But it worked out."
We'll say. Audiences loved the movie as it had a record-breaking opening at the box office with $35.6 million in September 2002 - a record that would stand as the best opening in September for 10 years.