Dev Patel and Anil Kapoor in Slumdog Millionaire
Dev Patel and Anil Kapoor in Slumdog Millionaire

This blog was originally published on July 17, 2009. As the new year of 2015 begins, it’s a great tip for you to write stories that not only resonate, but may even be “touched by the divine.”

Doing a review of Slumdog Millionaire earlier this year, I discovered something fascinating.

We all know the movie, and the sweep of the Academy Awards that followed its release.

But I wonder if the movie would have had the same impact if filmmakers went with the ending the original script suggested?

In that dramatic finale, the hero played by Dev Patel “storms the castle” to get to the set of the Millionaire show and answer the final question that will make him rich. His last lifeline call goes out and by gosh SHE answers, the girl of his dreams, and the only one who can help him.

In the original script, she did! And there on the air, gave him the final answer that would solve all his problems, unite them in love… and good fortune… forever. Wow! What a happy ending!

But that’s not how it went. In the movie, Dev connects to the girl of his dreams, but she doesn’t know the answer. And now it’s just Dev and the depth of his experience we’ve seen him live through where he must search for the answer. As the clock ticks, and the pressure mounts, he does.


I’d say. But why?

In my opinion, it’s because that moment now delivered on a key part of what I call the “Five Point Finale,” in which the hero must “Dig Deep Down” to find the answer to any problem he faces.

It’s the “touched by the divine” part. And I think it made all the difference in making the ending of Slumdog Millionaire a success. It’s that part of the story where the hero, having died at All Is Lost, now knows he is not alone. A steely pro, a hero with true — not blind — faith, he knows that if he reaches out into the darkness, someone will take his hand. Someone not necessarily human.

If you are trying to figure out that last little piece in your finale, think of the difference between being given the answer, and digging deep down to find it. This “Use the Force, Luke!” beat is why we go to the movies. When we find it, it will guide our storytelling and give it supernatural power.