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Inside Move: ‘Unfaithful’s’ ambiguous ending

Helmer, test auds convince Fox for pic's close

With his upcoming Fox release “Unfaithful,” director Adrian Lyne found a happy ending offscreen — with a more ambiguous ending onscreen. But the effort was not without struggle.

In one version of the Richard Gere-Diane Lane thriller about infidelity, all of the moral and narrative issues are tied up in a neat, comprehensive way. In the other, a more ambiguous finish leaves audiences to decide how everything plays out.

Lyne’s preferred ending closely echoes that of the pic on which “Unfaithful” is based: Claude Chabrol’s 1968 film “La Femme Infidele.”

Fox and Lyne debated the two endings before locking “Unfaithful” for its May 10 release, after six possible endings were reportedly shot on location in Tarrytown, N.Y.

Lyne favored the ambiguous ending. Fox wanted the simple, morally upbeat one. After hearing the comments from focus groups, however, Fox did a reversal and sided with Lyne.

“There’s a real danger in underestimating the audience,” Lyne tells Variety. “It’s the ending I always wanted, which was in the original script. It’s much more interesting this way. … But the movie is by nature controversial.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether the ambiguity will sell tickets. Lyne is no stranger to such art-and-commerce dilemmas: His “Fatal Attraction” remains the most famous case of an ending being altered due to testing.