Although most agree that "The Simpsons" has been steadily fading out of cultural relevancy since season 9 or so, it did have a resurgence in 2007 with "The Simpsons Movie." Say what you will about the film, but it undeniably made "The Simpsons" cool again for at least a little bit. The Simpson family was suddenly popping back into the commercials, and being sold as Burger King kids' meal toys. And as anyone who was in middle school at the time can tell you, that Spider Pig song was caught in every kid's head for months.
But as the showrunners of "The Simpsons" have long since made clear, nothing about making this movie was easy. "Even though the movie is three times the length of the TV show, it was hundreds of times harder to write," said David Mirkin in a 2007 interview, who was the showrunner from seasons 4-6 of the show and a co-writer on the movie. Matt Groening, who created the show and co-wrote the movie, added, "It was always a matter of writing and rewriting, with an emphasis on rewriting. We were always tinkering with the script, and never stopped trying to come up with a better line or scene."
But not all rewrites are created equal, and there was one that would've completely changed the movie had it not been changed again a few days later. As showrunner Matt Selman recently told GQ, "For one crazy weekend, the villain of the movie was Hank Scorpio."
Hank Scorpio, The World's #1 Boss
Fans of "The Simpsons" may recall Hank Scorpio from season 8's "You Only Move Twice." There, Homer moves to a new town to work for his new boss, voiced by Albert Brooks. The upside is that Hank is a wonderful boss, treating Homer with unending kindness and support that the devilish Mr. Burns never provided. The downside is that Hank is also a diabolical supervillain. A lot of the humor of the episode comes down to the fact that Hank's evil schemes never factor into Homer's decision to leave the company; Homer leaves town because the rest of the family is miserable, and there are no hard feelings between him and Hank.
The episode is widely considered one of the funniest episodes in the series, so it's easy to see why the writers would strongly consider bringing Hank back for the movie. It helped that in the earlier drafts of the movie, the villain — Russ Cargill, still played by Albert Brooks — wasn't quite working. "Originally the villain was, like, a sad sack in the government. He didn't get a lot of respect," explained Matt Selman. "He didn't seem like a good villain because he seemed so — even when he went crazy, he seemed too kind of wimpy and powerless and pathetic."
The reason for the turn towards Scorpio seems clear: who's another Albert Brooks character on "The Simpsons" who isn't wimpy or powerless or pathetic? Selman explained, "Then for one crazy weekend we said, what if it was literally Hank Scorpio from this beloved episode 'You Only Move Twice?' We should put out the Hank Scorpio draft."
Albert Brooks Put A Stop To It
"It was Albert Brooks who was like, 'I don't think it's a good idea,'" said co-writer David Silverman, and it's easy to see why. A core part of what makes Hank Scorpio so great is that his relationship with Homer is always positive. Yes, Hank might technically be evil, but he's exactly the kind of supportive boss Homer's always wanted. Making him the villain would require Homer to lose his admiration for Scorpio once he drops a dome over the entire town, and nobody wants to see that.
The other reason is that the movie would be forced to explain how a Bond villain like Hank ended up working for the government, which would've taken up time that the movie should use to focus on the actual Simpson family. In the end, Brooks' villain role in "The Simpson Movie" ended up being a brand new character. Russ Cargill has similarities to Hank Scorpio — mainly, he has an upbeat, friendly demeanor despite constantly doing evil things — but as far as the plot's concerned, he's a completely fresh face.
For The Best
In the end, Russ Cargill was the right choice for the main villain, because he's barely a villain. He doesn't interact with the Simpson family much, and when he does get to talk face-to-face with Homer and Bart, he's killed in an absurdly anti-climactic way by Maggie. (Admittedly, Maggie's been well-established as a potential murderer by this point, so it's not completely out of nowhere.)
Cargill serves his purpose as the shifty government official who moves the plot forward in the final two acts, but for the most part, he just hangs back and lets Homer's internal conflicts take up the movie's focus. This was a smart screenwriting choice, as it allows the movie to give Homer what might be his best, most substantial character arc in the show's 30+ year history. As some fans have pointed out, "The Simpsons Movie" basically serves as the end of the Jerkass Homer trend. At the start of the film, Homer is at his most selfish and cruel, but this time he properly atones for his sins. Throughout the rest of the show, Homer's a nicer, tamer character than he was throughout the early 2000s.
It's a decision that makes "The Simpsons Movie" feel like a meaningful part of the show's history, as it's actually had a (subtle, but substantial) impact on the way its main character is written. It's a decision that would've been hampered if they decided to let Hank Scorpio take up too much of the spotlight. Hank didn't get to be in "The Simpsons Movie," but as great a character as he is, he simply wouldn't have belonged.
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The post The Simpsons Movie Almost Made A Fan-Favorite Character The Villain Of The Film appeared first on /Film.