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The Deleted Character That Would Have Completely Changed Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" was a cinematic revelation when it premiered in 2004. It's still widely celebrated as one of the most innovative romantic movies in recent memory. Named one of the best films of the 21st century by The New York Times, it stars a vibrant Kate Winslet and an atypically understated Jim Carrey as Clementine and Joel, who undergo a brain-altering procedure to destroy all evidence of their volatile relationship and forget the other ever existed. Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, and Elijah Wood also star as employees at the fictional Lacuna Inc., which is responsible for pioneering the memory-wiping technology. The film won the Academy Award for best original screenplay and Winslet was nominated for best performance by an actress in a leading role.

Written by Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich") and directed by Michel Gondry ("Kidding"), the sci-fi romance is both a thought experiment carried to its logical conclusion and a gorgeous meditation on the complexities of relationships and the devastation of loss. Despite its sobering themes, it's also a strangely optimistic film: after Clementine and Joel's memories are erased, they still find themselves magnetically drawn to one another through the lingering impact of their emotional history. In the film's final scene, they learn about the turbulent trajectory of their doomed first relationship — and decide, despite this knowledge, to try again. 

However, Kaufman's vision for the film was initially quite different, according to a 2019 interview with Gondry and Carrey in Vanity Fair. "We don't end up together in Charlie's version. I walk away," Carrey said. Kaufman's original screenplay also featured a later-deleted character whose presence might have completely changed the details of Clementine and Joel's origin story, casting a cynical shadow over their relationship. 

Director Michel Gondry deleted the character of Joel's ex-girlfriend

Ellen Pompeo ("Grey's Anatomy") was originally slated to play the role of Joel's ex-girlfriend Naomi, a character that is mentioned in passing but gets no actual screen time in the film's final cut. Charlie Kaufman's original screenplay included multiple scenes of dialogue between Joel and Naomi, which would have had profound implications both for Joel's character and his relationship with Clementine (via IndieWire).  

In one deleted scene, for example, Joel calls Naomi after meeting Clementine and asks her to press pause on their plans to get back together, urging her to consider the "problems we had." The call would have preceded one of the most memorable and romantic exchanges between Joel and Clementine, who had asked Joel to call her after a chance encounter on the beach. When Clementine asks him "What took you so long?," Joel replies "I just got in." Keeping the scene between Joel and Naomi both exposes the line as a lie since he'd just gotten off the phone with Naomi before calling Clementine, thus making Joel's pursuit of Clementine seem more calculated and less spontaneous.

It also undercuts Jim Carrey's portrayal of Joel as a self-deprecating, romantically inexperienced introvert who is somewhat haplessly overcome by Clementine's manic-pixie charms. Another deleted conversation between Naomi and Joel explicitly shows that their relationship failed because Joel fell for Clementine, whereas the edited version of the film implies that Naomi and Joel were already on the verge of breaking up before Clementine arrived.