When you’re dealing with a film that has a great deal of material to draw from, there is often a debate about what is canon and what is not. Of course, everything that is mentioned in the film is canon, that’s straightforward enough, but what about everything else? What if a character develops their own backstory for a character? Even if that character’s history is never voiced out loud to the audience, it still informs the actor’s performance; it still influences the outcome. Should it not be considered part of the story?
What about a movie that is an adaptation of book? Sure, films make changes that differ from the source material, but they often make those changes very obvious. If nothing is said, if no changes are noticeable, are we to assume that the film character and the book character have identical backstories?
Then there are the scenes and stories that never made the final cut. These scenes were obviously intended to be part of the story; they altered and informed the characters and the plot, so should we include them in the canon? It’s your call, really.
So what characters find themselves in this type of situation? Which movies held back information about the characters? We’ve done some digging and hope to bring some of the missing backstories to light. Perhaps it changes the way you view these players, giving you some more insight into why they are the way they are. Some of them are funny little additions to characters we know well, while others tell us more about characters we know virtually nothing about. We’ll start with the least revealing information and work our way toward the most interesting. Here are 15 shocking backstories for some of film and TV’s biggest characters.
15. Child Killer, Natasha Romanoff – The Marvel Cinematic Universe
Not a whole lot is known about Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), the Black Widow, in the Marvel films, but with a little bit of digging, we can find out much more than the movies let on. We know that Romanoff was part of the Red Room initiative, which trained and sterilized the women to make them into the best possible soldiers. In Captain America: Civil War, there was to be a scene that gave us a glimpse into her past, but it was cut at the last minute. In the script, we see that the Black Widow and Captain America were talking about the turmoil between the Avengers members, and the Black Widow tells Cap a story from her past: “In Russia, in the Red Room, there were dozens of us. All girls, all young. We lived together. They let us be friends. Then they dropped us in the tundra, two weeks walk from home, with just enough supplies for one of us to survive,” she said. “Don’t let them push us into the cold.” So basically, she killed dozens of little girls when she was a little girl.
14. Cousins, Ariel & Hercules
This one isn’t as much of a backstory as it is a little genealogy. There’s no secrets here, but, if you haven’t already done the math yourself, it might be something you’ve not considered before. Look at Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Originally Ursula was meant to be Ariel’s aunt, first of all. It’s hinted at when Ursula says she used to live in the palace, but that’s a story for another day. Ariel’s father is King Triton. King Triton’s father is Poseidon. Poseidon is Zeus’s brother. Zeus is Hercules’s father. Hercules and Triton are, therefore, first cousins, which would make Ariel and Hercules second cousins. Pretty neat little connection that Disney hasn’t capitalized on yet.
13. Born Male, Lambert – Alien
One of Ridley Scott‘s traditions for his films is to write up biographies for his characters. He did this for Alien and gave the backstories to each of the actors to help inform their characters. These brief biographies for the various Nostromo crew members were also included in the crew manifest in the Alien Anthology. None were particularly interesting except for one, Lambert (Veronica Cartwright). It was revealed that Lambert was born a male, but underwent Despin Convert sexual realignment at birth. The reasons why were never disclosed, but perhaps in the future, we have better procedures for identifying individual sexual identifications earlier.
12. Much Stronger Powers, Rogue – X-Men
While the film franchise X-Men has done a lot of good things with the many characters it’s introduced through the years, one of the most prominent members, Rogue (Anna Paquin) was shortchanged. We first see Rogue with the ability to absorb another person’s life force when she kisses her boyfriend, but outside of that, Rogue is basically useless. In the comics, however, Rogue becomes an entirely different superhero when she uses her ability to absorb powers on Ms. Marvel—Carol Danvers. By doing this to a hero with such a prominent personality, Rogue’s absorption of the abilities, such as flight and super strength, became permanent. This is why Rogue is such a bada*s in the comics. While this isn’t the case in the films, there’s a good chance it could happen at some point in the future. Never say never.
11. Mom’s Face Mask, Coma the Doof Warrior – Mad Max: Fury Road
Coma the Doof Warrior might seem like a basic side character in Mad Max: Fury Road, but there is much more to him than that. Not only is he a fan favorite, George Miller thought he was important enough to draw up a detailed backstory for him. The legend goes, when Coma was a young lad, he was a musical prodigy—this is why he rocks out so hard as a grownup. Coma lived with his mother quietly and happily until a group of raiders happened upon them and murdered his mother, cutting off her head and leaving Coma alone with her. Later, Immortan Joe came across the boy holding on to his mother’s head for dear life. Immortan Joe took young Coma and began to use him at the front of his army to motivate the troops. To keep his mother close by, Coma cut off her face and wears it whenever he goes to battle as a reminder. That’s what that mask is.
10. Shock Collars, The Predatory Animals – Zootopia
Originally, when the Disney team drew up Zootopia, the reasoning for how the predatory animals were kept in line and functioning in a civilized society was much darker and much sadder then the final product. Initially, each of the predators were meant to wear “tame collars,” shock collars that went off when these predatory animals got too excited. There was one scene in particular which had Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde attend a taming party, basically a bar mitzvah for animals becoming adults and getting their taming collars. It shows a bear named Morris receive his collar and get increasingly excited, when he gets too excited, the collar shocks him. It’s here that Judy realizes that Nick, too, is wearing a collar. The Disney execs took a look at this scene and said, whoa, ixnay on the tears bros. So they canned it.
9. Shipwrecked, Jesse Hooker – Near Dark
In Kathryn Bigelow’s awesome vampire flick, Near Dark, we know very little about the characters and their backstories, but Lance Henriksen drew up a detailed history for his character, Jesse. We know Jesse fought in the civil war because he tells Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) that he fought for the South, adding, “we lost.” This fact can also be seen by the Confederate flag that hangs on the inside of Jesse’s coat. The more detailed story that we weren’t told in the film goes like this. Jesse was in the Confederate Navy and got into a skirmish at sea, a battle that he lost and his crew died. Jesse, dying from a major chest wound, laid aboard his wrecked and drifting ship until he was found by a group of harpies (he refuses to call them vampires), who turned him into a “nocturnal nomad.”
8. R*pist, Slipknot – Suicide Squad
Slipknot, played by Adam Beach in the Suicide Squad movie, didn’t get a very fair shake in the film. He is the only guy in the bunch that didn’t get a backstory. We know next to nothing about him. Well, apparently they planned one for him, but we haven’t got any of the details yet. However, there is some history from the comics and it seems that some of this was replicated in the film, so maybe other origins hold true for Beach’s character as well. That being said, even the comics are light on Slipknot’s history. He is such a minor character that he hasn’t received much love from the writers. One thing we all want to know is, why is Slipknot in Belle Reve? The answer comes in two forms. In the comics, Slipknot first appeared in Firestorm #28: “The End of His Rope.” In this comic, Slipknot and Firestorm battled it out, ending with Slipknot being arrested and taken to prison. The next time we see him, he’s part of the Suicide Squad. When Beach was asked about his version’s backstory, he claimed that he was caught strangling Wonder Woman; he was also said to be a serial r*pist. So you get to choose which version you like best.
7. Gay Couple, Captain Hook and Smee – Hook
Even though Steven Spielberg never actually wrote in this particular backstory for his characters Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) and Smee (Bob Hoskins), both Hoffman and Hoskins got it into their heads very early on in the movie shoot that their characters were an old gay couple. This realization came to them while they were rehearsing, noticing the foot massage, the kissing, the comradery was intimate. As Hoffman put it, he and Hoskins looked at each other and said, these guys are “a couple of old queens,” so they played it up as if they really were. It was their belief that the creator J.M. Barrie really intended these two to be gay, which would make sense when you think about it.
6. Domestic Violence, Dr. Dre – Straight Outta Compton
If you don’t know the actual history of the individual members of the rap group, N.W.A., you might think that everything was included in Straight Outta Compton, but that isn’t the truth. The most glaring omission was Dr. Dre’s history of his abuse against women. While Dre has had several run-ins with the law regarding assault, the most famous incident was his encounter with journalist, Denise “Dee” Barnes at a party. The rapper assaulted her and was charged for it in real life, but it never made the movie. It has been revealed, however, that the incident was in an early draft of the script. Dre runs into Barnes at the party and says, “saw that sh*t you did with Cube. Really had you under his spell, huh? Ate up everything he said. Let him diss us. Sell us out.” After Barnes throws her drink in the rapper’s face, he starts, “flinging her around like a rag-doll, while she screams, cries, begs for him to stop.” Now you know the backstory.
5. Child Abuse Victim, Joker – Batman (TV Series)
The history of the Joker has long been a mystery and most incarnations of the character have wanted it that way. As with most comics, the Batman canon is about as muddied by the different writers and different chapters as a comic book can get. Most fans tend to accept The Killing Joke’s explanation for how the Joker became what he is today. He was a failed comedian who fell into a vat of acid and got all twisted and psychopathic. The question remains, how could one incident make someone as crazy as the Joker is? Adam West, who played Batman on the Batman TV series in the 60s, came up with a different backstory for his primary villain, the Joker, played by Cesar Romero, that goes against this. He would say on a panel, “I did a little backstory in my head for Joker. I reasoned the insanity, whatever you want to call his psychopathic quality—I reasoned that he was kidnapped by a perverted clown when he was a youngster.”
4. Chopped Off His Own Limbs, Tin Man – The Wizard of Oz
In the film, The Wizard of Oz, the Tin Woodman isn’t given much of a history. All we’re told is that he was chopping wood a year ago when it started to rain and he rusted up. This is the same as in the book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, but we’re also given more backstory for the character. The story says that the Tin Man used to be a regular guy named Nick Chopper. Chopper was a woodman who made his living chopping down the forests of Oz. Then along came the Wicked Witch of the East one day and enchanted his axe. This hexed axe then began to chop off his limbs, one at a time. After each limb was cut off, a tinsmith would replace it with a tin prosthetic limb, until, finally, he had no regular limbs left. The only thing that wasn’t replaced with tin was his heart.
3. Joe’s Barren Warrior, Furiosa – Mad Max: Fury Road
We know very little about Furiosa (Charlize Theron) from Mad Max: Fury Road and, though there has been a lot of speculation, George Miller and the cast has kept it relatively hush hush in case there are any prequels or sequels planned in the future. Yet, even though the specifics might not be available to us, we have found some general information that can help you fill in the blanks of her history. We know that Furiosa and her mother were kidnapped about 20 years before the events of the film took place. It’s likely that Furiosa was meant to be a bride of Immortan Joe, but, for whatever reason (some speculate because she is barren), she was not used as such. Eventually, Furiosa became Joe’s secret weapon warrior, earning the title “Imperator.” In one major battle, Furiosa lost her arm, but we know nothing more than that. She was chosen to protect the brides from some of the men, which she did from a distance. Eventually, however, as she grew closer to them, Furiosa began to pity them and desired to remove them from their horrible treatment. So she did.
2. Prominent Relatives, Galadriel – The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings books and all the related material are so rich in history and backstory that the film adaptations would undoubtedly need to leave out some significant details. Many of the characters have little backstory, such as Gandalf and even Aragorn, but perhaps the most mysterious of them all, at least in the films, is Galadriel (Cate Blanchett). Almost nothing is revealed about her backstory in the films, but it is very interesting and everyone should know the basics. Galadriel is the granddaughter of Indis, who was a sister (or the niece) of Ingwë, the first elf awoken. Both Galadriel’s grandfather’s Finwë and Olwë were high elf kings. Galadriel’s own daughter Celebrían was Elrond’s wife and Arwen’s mother, making her their sister-in-law and aunt respectively. Galadriel was also the niece of Fëanor, the most prominent elf in history. Fëanor was in awe of Galadriel and was even said to have been inspired to create the Silmarils (the Great Jewels that caused many battles) based on how Galadriel’s hair shone. In fact, Fëanor “had begged her thrice for a tress and thrice she refused to give him even one hair.” This is also why Galadriel and Gimli’s relationship is so important. Fëanor, the greatest elf to ever live asked three times for one hair and was denied, while Gimli, a lowly dwarf, asked for one hair and was given three.
1. Killed His Family, Voldemort – Harry Potter
Voldemort is a character that many Harry Potter fans felt was ripped off a bit in terms of his backstory. There were a few little snippets that the film audience got, but there were some fairly important moments that never made the cut. Perhaps the most significant moment that never made the films was the explanation of how Voldemort got the Marvolo Gaunt’s ring (the ring with the Resurrection Stone in it, one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes). So, what do we know? We know that Voldemort cursed the ring, Dumbledore found it and was cursed by it—eventually leading to him being killed by Snape. The story of how Voldemort came by the ring is really cool. Tom Riddle (Voldemort) went to track down his family. When he went to the Gaunt house, he found his uncle, Morfin Gaunt, who told him about how his father (Tom Riddle Sr.) abandoned him and his mother (Merope Gaunt), and returned to the Riddle’s home. Voldemort then stunned Morfin, stole his wand and trekked over the Riddle house. There he found his father and his grandparents, he killed them all with Morfin’s wand and returned to Gaunt’s house. He then gave back the wand, made Morfin believe that he had done the crime and took the ring. For a while afterward, he wore the ring openly as if to show off his crime and look like a total bada*s.