What Happened To Famous Movie Characters After The Movie Ended - According To The Books

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Vote up the most surprising futures for famous movie characters.

Major studios love adapting books that have franchise potential or ready-made sequels. It all but guarantees financial returns over multiple movies if the first installment is successful. There are some rare cases, however, where you have to turn to the original source material to find out what happens to famous movie characters after the credits roll. 

Sometimes there is no movie sequel because the first film was financially unsuccessful. In other instances, the movie was a success but a sequel never managed to get off the ground for other reasons. The director or lead actor might not want to retrace their steps, or maybe the movie gets stuck in development hell and never manage to got off the ground. 

Whatever the reason, there are many characters whose stories continue in their book versions but not on screen. Their outcomes are sometimes shocking, sometimes redundant, and sometimes just plain weird. Vote up the most surprising futures for famous movie characters.

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  • Suffice it to say that Robert Zemeckis’s 1994 hit adaptation of Forrest Gump is very different from the source material. Apart from the obvious plot variations, Winston Groom’s 1986 novel is darker, more bigoted, and nowhere near as sappy. When it came time to write a sequel, however, Groom had no choice but to reconcile the book and its Oscar-winning adaptation because the movie far outstripped the success of the book Gump & Co. addresses the movie from the outset:

    “Let me say this: Everybody makes mistakes, which is why they put a rubber mat around spitoons. But take my word for it - don’t never let nobody make a movie of your life story.” 

    At the end of the film, Forrest (Tom Hanks) marries and cares for the love of his life, Jenny (Robin Wright) as she dies of an unnamed disease, and takes on the responsibilities of single parenthood for their young son. After quickly killing off the book version of Jenny (she was alive and well at the end of Groom's first novel), the narrative in Gump & Co. is as erratic as the plot of the first book. Forrest plays in the NFL for the struggling New Orleans Saints, loses his shrimp business, spends some time on a pig farm, and winds up homeless in Washington with his old pal, Lieutenant Dan. He’s blamed for both the Iran-Contra affair and a Wall Street insider trading scandal, but balances out his scorecard by inciting the mob that tears down the Berlin Wall and capturing Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War. He chats to Jenny’s ghost, meets a new romantic interest, and starts an oyster business that goes gangbusters. The book ends with Forrest meeting Tom Hanks and going to the Academy Awards. After being called onstage to receive the Oscar for “Most Lovable Certified Idiot in America,” he declares, “I got to pee.”

  • In some cases, it’s a mystery why a certain movie does not get a sequel when its source material did. When it comes to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, however, there is no mystery about it. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Roald Dahl’s sequel, would be extremely difficult to adapt into a script, let alone a film. It picks up right after the events in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Wonka tells Charlie that he is appointing him as his successor. They fly to Charlie’s house in Wonka’s glass elevator to pick up the rest of the Bucket family and pile his parents and grandparents in with them for the journey back to the factory. 

    Wonka claims that they have to “go up before [they] can come down,” and the elevator climbs higher and higher until everyone inside it starts floating and Wonka announces that they're in orbit. They start an international incident when the United States spots them veering unacceptably close to its cruise-ship-style spacecraft called Space Hotel ‘USA,’ and speak gibberish to the president to prevent him from turning them to ice. After an attack from slug-like aliens, they gather enough momentum to plummet back to the factory. When Wonka suggests that Charlie’s grandparents try his latest creation, a vitamin that turns back the clock, they accidentally revert into infants. All in all, Dahl’s sequel is as eccentric as any of his other novels, with plenty of political satire, space catastrophes, and revisionist history thrown in.

  • The ending of Mike Nichols’s film The Graduate is one of the most haunting and hotly debated sequences in movie history. Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) and Elaine (Katharine Ross) have defied the suffocating expectations of their parents and 1960s conventions by leaving Elaine’s husband at the altar and running off together. Pumped up with adrenaline and gleeful rebelliousness, they tumble into a bus to start a liberated life together. As the bus pulls away from the church, however, the expressions on their faces start to shift as the reality of their situation and the prospect of their future slowly settle over them. 

    The ending of Charles Webb’s 1963 novel is just as ambiguous. As the bus pulls away, Elaine takes Benjamin’s hand. The book concludes with this exchange:

    ”Benjamin?”

    “What.”

    The bus began to move.

    Given this cliffhanger and the success of Nichols’s film, you’d expect Webb’s sequel to have arrived on bookstore shelves within a few years at most. Instead, it took more than four decades. Finished in 2005 and published two years later, Home School takes place in the 1970s, 10 years after Benjamin and Elaine hopped on the bus. They now live on the East Coast with their two sons, a continent’s width away from Elaine’s mother, Mrs. Robinson. When they decide to withdraw their kids from the local school and homeschool them instead, they are faced with backlash and threats, most notably from the school’s principal. Their saving grace is Mrs. Robinson, whose seductive charms have not diminished in the decade since her affair with Benjamin.

    Despite the return of The Graduate’s three central characters, Home School is as much a product of ‘70s culture as the first book was of ’60s culture. While Benjamin and Elaine are still struggling against the expectation of creating a suburban nuclear family, they are also unsettled by its opposite. During Mrs. Robinson’s visit, a hippie couple and their two children come to stay. They are equally opposed to conventional schooling, but also allow their children to continue breastfeeding into adolescence and eschew every other parental norm. For fans who spent decades speculating about what happened after Elaine and Benjamin got on the bus, Home School probably isn’t what they expected.

  • After 'Snowpiercer,' The Inhabitants Of A Second Train Venture Outside To Prevent A Collision With The Remnants Of The First Train
    Photo: RADiUS-TWC

    Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 film Snowpiercer is a dystopian action thriller about the last survivors of the human race who live aboard a train that navigates the frozen globe. The film revolves around the class struggle between those who are relegated to the slums at the back of the train and those who live in opulence at the front. Curtis (Chris Evans) leads the rebellion, only to discover that the leaders of the train orchestrated the unrest to cull the population to sustainable levels. In retaliation, Curtis and the remaining rebels create an explosion that triggers an avalanche that destroys the train and everyone onboard. The only survivors are two children, Timmy and Yona, who stumble into the frozen landscape and spot a polar bear. This final image suggests that the frozen planet may be habitable after all. 

    The movie was adapted from the French graphic novel series, Le Transperceneige, created by writer Jacques Lob and artist Jean-Marc Rochette. While they share a similar premise (the last remnants of humanity live in a train traveling through a post-apocalyptic frozen planet), the movie made significant changes to the characters and the story. At the end of the first graphic novel, The Escape, everyone onboard the Snowpiercer dies of a virus and no one escapes. The sequel, The Explorers, follows a second train called Icebreaker, whose inhabitants are terrified of crashing into the ruins of Snowpiercer. Explorers are sent outside the train for dangerous braking exercises, and conflict within the train escalates. A third novel, Terminus, ventures outside the train and into a world of scientific experimentation and human genetics.