"People question me, like you're questioning me now, say 'Must've been fun making The Wizard of Oz.' It was not fun. Like hell it was fun. It was a lot of hard work. It was not fun at all."
— Jack Haley
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Alien film series
There's a good case to be made for the Alien franchise being cursed, as nearly every film was subject to some form of production woes.
Alien and Prometheus are listed in Ridley Scott's folder while Aliens is covered in the James Cameron folder.
Alien³ had the most beleaguered production history out of the franchise, the details of which are the stuff of industry legend.
After the success of Aliens, 20th Century Fox was keen to get production of a third film moving immediately. William Gibson submitted a draft featuring Hicks and Bishop fighting biomechanical xenomorphs on a space station, but his draft was rejected and he declined further involvement. At this point, the studio didn't want Sigourney Weaver back, and scripts were written with this fact in mind. Eric Red was brought onboard, and penned a new script that had a spaceship discover the remains of the Sulaco crew (who were killed by the xenomorphs), before moving the action to a small town in an Earth-like biodome. Producers Walter Hill and David Giler disliked the script, and Red was ousted, with tentative director Renny Harlin also leaving soon afterwards. Next, David Twohy came onboard and wrote a new script centered around a prison planet. Hill and Giler liked the script, but this too was rejected.
By this point, nearly four years had passed since pre-production began. Vincent Ward was hired, and soon after, with Fox hiring Weaver back with a $4 million payday and a co-producer credit, Ward wrote a script where Ripley crashlands on a "wooden planet" filled with monks. At this point in production, 1/5 of the planned budget had already been spent, and Fox told Ward to rein in his plans (even prompting then-CEO Joe Roth to state "What the fuck is going on?" after hearing about Ward's plan to have Ripley be placed in a cryotube by "seven dwarves" in the finale). After butting heads with executives, Ward left the project.
A rotating series of writers came in to try and improve the script during this time. Greg Pruss was hired to rewite John Fasano's "wooden planet" script, but left after butting heads with Ward. Fasano then returned to rewrite his script, but had a falling-out with Ward. Larry Ferguson was then brought in to rewrite the Fasano script, and Fox complained that the treatment was not favorable towards the Ripley character. Finally, producers Walter Hill and David Giler did an emergency rewrite that combined Twohy's prison script and Fasano's religious elements.
David Fincher, who at that point only had a handful of music videos to his credit, was brought on board to helm the film. He was greeted with a long list of problems; a major set had already been constructed (a monastery set built before the setting was changed to a prison — but still kept, as a church inside the facility), the budget was running behind, the script was still incomplete and roles still hadn't been cast. After being informed by the executives that he had to include as many of the creative ideas the producers asked for, Fincher rushed into production to make up for lost time.
Cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth fell ill a few days into filming, necessitating a replacement in Alex Thomson.
Somewhere along the line, Hill and Giler (the latter of whom referred to Fincher as a "shoe salesman" during a conference call with the studio) fought with Fincher for 2 months over the script, and he complained about their budgetary restrictions. They and screenwriter Rex Pickett (who was also hired to rewrite the second half of the duo's script) in turn abandoned Fincher, and left him to finish the script himself. Fincher would end up rewriting lines and entire scenes on-the-fly during production, while trying to keep Fox (who were requesting daily updates from the set) at bay.
Fox sent in a troubleshooter to investigate the spiraling production costs. A rough cut was screened for the crew, and reportedly made several audience members throw up due to a graphic autopsy scene. Hill and Giler were brought back onboard by the studio to give input, and it was deemed that the film had many issues that required significant reshoots (including a finale that was deemed too similar to Terminator 2), and a pivotal sequence that had to be filmed (the death of the xenomorph!).
Fincher (depending on which source you believe) either spent the next year attempting to edit the film, or was locked out of the editing suite altogether by the studio. The reshoots reportedly pushed the budget to $65 million, and were done in Los Angeles with almost an entirely-new crew. This was reportedly the last straw for Fincher, who walked away for good at the end of the reshoots. Because of the breakneck pace of the reshoots, composer Elliot Goldenthal only had a single night to create a new piece of music for the reshot finale. The finished film was released in May 1992.
Even its post-production history was sordid. Fincher refused to come back and re-edit the film for the Alien Quadrilogy DVD set, as he was still bitter over the whole experience. Likewise, FOX executives severely cut down Charles Lauzirika's documentary on the film, "Wreckage and Rape", citing that it made the company look bad. It wasn't until 2010 that the uncut documentary (as "Wreckage and Rage") was released on the Alien Anthology Blu-Ray set.
Alien: Resurrection was relatively sedate. There was only one major thing that went wrong during filming — Ron Perlman injuring himself and nearly drowning while filming one sequence, which required the shooting schedule to be slightly reshuffled to give him time to recover — and production and post-production otherwise flew by without a single problem. That's not to say things were entirely okay behind the scenes, though, as writer Joss Whedon had major differences of opinion with the producers and director Jean-Pierre Jeunet over the tone and design of the film, but was overruled on every occasion. Even then, he didn't kick up much of a stink, since he was too busy setting up Buffy the Vampire Slayer to get involved in any major disputes.
In his film debut, James Cameron ended up directing Piranha Part Two: The Spawning after the original director abandoned the project. While filming in Rome, Grand Cayman and Jamaica, Cameron had to struggle with a crew made up of Italians who didn't speak English and overbearing producer Ovidio Assonitis. At one point he reportedly broke into the Rome editing room to cut his own version of the film, but Assonitis re-cut it again. Still, the two good things were that he got the idea for The Terminator during production and reused some of the models for Aliens later. Lesson learned: if the producer's name is Assonitis, the filming may hit a few snags.
The Terminator had the action scenes being shot at a tight schedule given the nighttime setting, Linda Hamilton spraining her ankle at the beginning of the shoot and spending the rest of the movie in pain, and the Terminator endoskeleton being heavy and hard by Stan Winston's team to carry (as they found out that building a prop robot out of metal is realistic, but not practical). Also, Cameron's Bad Boss tendencies started to show, leading to the first T-shirts written "You can't scare me, I work for James Cameron" among the crew.
During post-production, John Daly, the producer, tried to shorten the film by insisting it end when the truck the Terminator is driving blows up, eliminating the whole scene with the now-skeletal Terminator chasing Sarah and Reese through the factory. Cameron physically threw him out of the editing suite.
Aliens was one of Cameron's most contentious productions, and one of the few times when his Jerkass demeanour is kind of understandable. The English crew thought Cameron was a tyrannical and incompetent substitute for Ridley Scott, and Cameron's workaholism clashed with their regular tea breaks and relaxed attitude towards production. The crew insulted his wife Gale Anne Hurd, implying that she was only getting producer's credit because she was married to him, and he had to contend with a walkout after firing original cinematographer Dick Bush who wouldn't light the alien nest the way he wanted (Bush was a very old school DP, who lit the scenes to his content, while Cameron was a very visually involved director) and was then replaced by Adrian Biddle (who had never DP'ed a feature before). Michael Biehn ended up replacing James Remar as Hicks shortly into production.
Unsurprisingly, production wound up behind schedule and the crew had to work at breakneck pace to finish the film in time for its July 1986 release date. This fell particularly hard on James Horner, who had to write the score without access to the film (that was still being filmed and edited) and record it in four days in an outdated studio. In turn, Cameron and editor Ray Lovejoy (who himself had come within a hair's breadth of being fired and replaced by Mark Goldblatt, until he impressed Cameron with his work on the final battle sequence) had to hack it in places to match the film without his input. Horner swore off working with Cameron for the next 11 years.
The Abyss had 40% of live-action photography take place underwater. It was filmed in two specially constructed tanks in an abandoned nuclear plant in South Carolinanote "abandoned" as in "its construction was never finished", not as in "it was used and decommissioned", requiring experimental technology and equipment to allow the underwater scenes to be filmed right. Over six months of 6-day, 70-hour work weeks ensued, and the production had to be delayed when on the first day the main water tank sprung a leak, requiring dam-repair experts to fix it. And later, the crew were forced to only film at night after a lightning storm tore up the tarpaulin covering the main tank.
It's significant that Cameron himself declared this the worst production he was ever involved in. It's the only production where he had to spend most of his time hanging upside down in decompression tanks from filming underwater — he even said he had to review the footage in this position. He also almost drowned Ed Harris through Enforced Method Acting, which resulted in the one and only time an actor has ever actually punched him. Cameron himself nearly drowned during production, too, when his diving suit malfunctioned while he was weighed down at the bottom of the giant water tank during filming.
Titanic, the film that cemented Cameron's reputation as Hollywood's biggest Jerkass, so much so that the crew claimed he had a psychotic alter ego named "(Noremac) Mij". Apart from terrorizing the film's two lead actors (Kate Winslet suffered bruises so impressive that the makeup artists took photos to use for reference later), driving it insanely over budget and schedule and having to deal with cast members who came down sick from a shitload of hours spent in cold water, Cameron and about 50 other guys fell victim to an almost Deadly Prank when a crew member put PCP in their soup, forcing them to spend a night in hospital. The movie stands as possibly his last completely Off the Rails production, as he's mellowed out quite a bit since. It helps that his next production was shot in a digital backlot, with less things that could go awry...
The Godfather wasn't that troubled on-set, apart from a delay due to Al Pacino twisting his ankle and Coppola arguing with the cinematographer. But Coppola's relationship with the Paramount executives was chaotic - they hated the casting, the lighting, the writing, the music, the length, everything. All the way through post-production, Coppola feuded with producer Robert Evans over the film's style and pacing. Threatened boycotts (or worse) by Italian-American groups threatened to prevent the film's release. You'll probably notice how the movie never uses the word "Mafia", as that was part of an agreement reached with said organizations. Producer Al Ruddy later said that "It was the most miserable film I can think of to make. Nobody enjoyed one day of it." But all of that was chump change compared to Coppola's much-anticipated follow-up...
Apocalypse Now, a case so famous that it has its own documentary dedicated to it, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. Coppola himself summed it up by saying "My film is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam" and famously explained that "We had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane." Let's see, where do we start?
Filming in the Philippines went on for a year, going nine months behind schedule and $17-19 million over budget.note The initial budget was projected at $12-14 million; it wound up coming in at $31.5 million. Among other setting-related problems, Typhoon Olga in May 1976, combined with constant rainfall, destroyed most of the sets and totally ground production to a halt for six weeks. The United States military refused to lend Coppola any military equipment, due to the order to "Kill Colonel Kurtz" (Coppola refused to change it to a Deadly Euphemism). Coppola instead had to borrow local military equipment, and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos disrupted production by recalling the equipment he lent to Coppola to fight against the Communist insurgents in the South.
There were also many problems with the various cast members. Marlon Brando was cast as Colonel Kurtz, being his usual prima donna self. He showed up to the set morbidly obese rather than the muscular physique that was called for, leading to the decision to film Kurtz solely from the shoulders up. Worse, when he arrived on set he had read neither the script nor Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness like he had been told to. Meanwhile, Martin Sheen, cast as main character Captain Willard, drunkenly cut his hand open shattering a mirror and, in an unrelated incident, later suffered a heart attack and had to struggle a quarter-mile to get help. The latter of these two meant that some of his scenes had to filmed from the back, using his brother, Joe Estevez, as a body double. And many cast and crew members were drunk or stoned while filming; Dennis Hopper got a teenaged Laurence Fishburne addicted to heroin.
The ending had to be re-written on the fly and the script was frequently discarded for improvisation. Most notably, the ending (in which Willard cuts an unresisting Kurtz to pieces, then emerges from the hut to find the natives revere him now) had to be changed from its action-heavy original due to neither Sheen nor Brando being in any sort of state to film it.
Even post-production was no walk in the park. For one thing, the Philippines had no professional film laboratories at the time, meaning the raw camera negatives had to be shipped to the US to be processed. Coppola never saw a shot on film until after returning to California. The entire movie was shot blind. For another thing, Coppola had to edit through several miles of film to create the final cut. The set piece on the French plantation, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to film, was thrown out.note It did later show up in the extended Redux cut, though. On top of that, Sheen was unavailable to provide the voice-over narration, so, once again, Coppola had to turn to Joe Estevez. All told, post-production took two years.
To put the film's disastrous shoot in perspective, Laurence Fishburne lied about his age to get cast as a 17-year old in the movie when he was actually 14. By the time the movie was released, he actually was 17 years old. The film took the heaviest toll on Coppola himself; he lost 100 pounds, threatened suicide several times, and attempted it once.
One from the Heart was initially meant to be a small $2 million movie for Coppola to chillax after the sheer hell of Apocalypse Now. It wound up ballooning to $25 million due to his insistence on shooting on sound stages exclusively, and failed so badly, only making $600,000, that it led him to declare bankruptcy, (fitting the detractor nickname at the time, "One Through the Heart") had to shut down his production company American Zoetrope and spend the rest of The Eighties and The Nineties making movies just to recover the debts he incurred from this, such as The Godfather Part III and Jack. To quote Cracked, "Yes, One from the Heart was responsible for freakin' Jack."
Though numerous troubled productions have resulted in body counts, few are as infamous in this respect as The Cotton Club - and a gangland-style execution is just the tip of the iceberg of the shoot's problems.
Former Paramount studio chief Robert Evans (who, as mentioned earlier, was a nemesis of Coppola during filming of The Godfather) had the idea of producing and directing a film about the 1920s Harlem speakeasy in 1980, but struggled to spark interest among backers in Mario Puzo's script (early donors included Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, whose money Evans had to return after rejecting his suggested script changes). Through Miami drug dealer Lanie Jacobs, he was introduced to New York impresario Roy Radin, who offered to help raise the necessary funds. However, Jacobs expected a share of the profits and a production credit for her efforts, which Radin refused. In June 1983, Radin's bullet-riddled corpse was found in the desert outside Los Angeles, and Jacobs was later convicted of ordering his murder and sentenced to life without parole. Though suspicions also fell on Evans, his involvement was never proven. In his memoir The Kid Stays In the Picture, Evans says that experience made the early years of the '80s, in which he was arrested for trying to smuggle a large quantity of cocaine into the country and required to organize antidrug events with the big stars he knew as community service, the "good half" of the 1980s for him.
Radin's murder alone would render The Cotton Club a troubled production, but as efforts to tweak the script continued to founder, Evans brought in his former foe Francis Ford Coppola to work on the script, and ultimately gave him the reins of director. Coppola, already reeling from the troubled productions and financial failures of Rumble Fish and One from the Heart, saw the film as an opportunity to get his career as a director back on track, just as Evans hoped to do the same for his career as a producer following the troubled productions of Popeye and Urban Cowboy. This inevitably set the stage for an epic battle of egos between the old enemies, who had drastically different creative visions for the story, characters, and visuals of the film.
Enticed by a script by Mario Puzo and the promise of funding from Las Vegas casino-owning brothers Edward and Fred Doumani, Paramount offered Evans the talents of Richard Gere as leading man and access to their studio facilities along with further production funds. However, determined to re-establish his reputation as a major player in Hollywood, Evans turned down the latter offer in favour of the services of Orion Pictures - who were in the business of marketing and distributing films rather than producing them, meaning that Evans would need to raise more production money and find a studio in which to shoot the film, causing further delays and adding to the already bloated budget.
Upon being appointed director, Coppola added to the budgetary woes by firing the film crew Evans had assembled en masse (in some cases requiring large payoffs) and hiring his own crew members, including a music arranger who commuted via Concorde between the shoot in New York and a regular engagement in Switzerland. His quasi-improvisational approach to directing the actors meant the script was in a constant state of flux, and actors would frequently spend all day on set without shooting a single frame of film. There were frequent clashes between Coppola and Richard Gere, who insisted on showing off his (modest) skills on the cornet in the film, and seemed more concerned about possible damage to his reputation than about the film itself.
Filming finished in March 1984 with a final budget of $47 million (nearly three times initial estimates), and the battle between Evans and Coppola continued during post-production. A lawsuit filed by Evans against Coppola, the Doumani brothers, and Orion resulted in Evans being given a flat fee and a producer credit, but yielding complete creative control over the film to Coppola. The film was released in December 1984, and although Siskel And Ebert both named it one of the year's ten best films, most critics were more muted in their enthusiasm, and its final domestic gross was just $25.9 million. Although Evans and Coppola continued to produce and/or direct films, their careers as major players in Hollywood were over.
The Exorcist film series
The Exorcist went over budget and schedule ($4.5 million and 105 days to $12 million and over 200 days plus 6 months of post-production!), and William Friedkin proved to be a Prima Donna Director who didn't care much for the cast and crew (for instance, Ellen Burstyn complained that for the scene Chris is telekinetically thrown against a wall, the stuntmen were pulling her too hard... and Friedkin's response was a take so strong Burstyn injured herself!).To make it worse, there were strange events (such as the interior sets of the MacNeil residence getting burned) that led people to consider the film cursed.
Exorcist II: The Heretic had it even worse:
Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty were repeatedly asked for ideas for a sequel, but turned the studio down on finding out that the producer assigned the project, Richard Lederer, wanted them to just make a quick-and-dirty sequel to exploit the first film's success. Instead, a screenplay was commissioned from William Goodhart, whose only other screenplay credit was the obscure 1969 film Generation; the exact contents of Goodhart's screenplay have never been made publicly known, but apparently mixed in the first film's themes with a lot of odd metaphysical symbolism.
The studio then hired John Boorman to direct the film — an odd choice when you consider that he actually disliked the first film, and was more interested in the metaphysical aspects of Goodhart's script than any of the actual Christian themes. Boorman and co-writer Rospo Pallenberg then pretty much scrubbed all the remaining Christian elements from the script, leaving it barely recognisable as an Exorcist sequel. They then hard to perform further last-minute rewrites which swapped out Regan's mother Chris for Sharon, the nanny from the first film, after Ellen Burstyn refused any notion of appearing as Chris again.
Filming was where things really started to go wrong. The production was refused permission to film at just about every location they asked for (including the house from the first film), leading to them having to recreate everything on the studio backlot and inflating the $9,000,000 budget all the way up to $14,000,000. Linda Blair was already in the midst of her drug habits and constantly turned up late to shooting, to the point where she actually considered it an achievement that she was only 20 minutes late one day. Co-star Richard Burton had his own substance issues, as he was constantly drunk on-set and frequently lashed out at Boorman and his co-stars. Boorman was laid low by a serious lung infection for a month, resulting in Pallenberg — who had never directed a film before — taking over as director for many key sequences. The crew also had no idea how to realize the swarms of locusts that were required for the climax, resulting in them using a combination of styrofoam "packing peanuts" fired from an air cannon, and actual locusts with their legs clipped, with mixed results. On top of that, the locusts could only survive for a day or two in the American climes, resulting in them having to be constantly replaced at considerable cost.
When the film was finally released it was laughed off the screen during its premiere, leading to Boorman hastily producing a re-edited version, which was no better received. The studio had granted Boorman to do the final cut of the movie without any kind of studio oversight. The result was considered such a disaster that no major studio has allowed that since for any movie.
The Exorcist III had probably the smoothest production of the franchise, though even then there was a lot of friction between writer-director William Peter Blatty and the studio, who forced him to reshoot large sections of the film, scrapping all the footage showing Brad Dourif as Father Karras and recasting his original actor, Jason Miller in the role, and adding a completely new character called Father Morning, who is rather clumsily inserted into the climax to provide an actual exorcism attempt and a somewhat pointless gore shot. Blatty also didn't get along too well with star George C. Scott, though for the most part they were able to put their differences aside and work together without too much trouble.
Exorcist: The Beginning may have had the most troubled production of the entire franchise:
The screenplay had a long and painful gestation process; Blatty refused to get involved, resulting in over a decade being spent trying to get a screenplay together, with the producers eventually settling on a draft by Caleb Carr, which incorporated elements from an earlier screenplay by William Wisher Jr.
John Frankenheimer was initially hired as director, but suddenly died just a few weeks before shooting was due to start. This led to Paul Schrader taking over the project, and significantly rewriting Carr's script, which he heavily disliked, leading to a public spat between the two, and Carr going so far as to endorse the eventual reshot version over Schrader's.
Filming was relatively smooth, though the studio pushed Schrader into adding more gore than he really wanted to. Matters came to a head after Schrader turned in his first edit however — the studio promptly fired him, as they thought the finished product was too slow, too talky and still wasn't gory enough for their liking.
Renny Harlin was then brought in and asked to film a few new scenes and re-edit the movie to make it closer to what they wanted. Harlin told them that Schrader's version was complete crap and unsalvageable, and without any intention of actually signing onto the project, said that they'd be better of reshooting the project from scratch. Much to his shock, the producers agreed to this and offered Harlin an even bigger budget and paycheck than they had given Schrader. Harlin accepted the offer, and rewrote the screenplay alongside new writer Alexi Hawley.
Immediately, Harlin ran into the problem of nearly the entire cast (barring only lead actor Stellan Skarsgard) either being unavailable for the reshoots, or refusing to return out of loyalty to Schrader. Filming again went relatively smoothly, though this time there was a lot more press attention, leading to the studio having to step up security.
Eventually, Harlin's version was released in the summer of 2004... and got torn apart by critics and barely broke even at the box-office. This led to the studio eventually releasing Schrader's version (now called Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist) the following year, without any real effort at marketing it, though it did at least get some positive reviews, in particular from Roger Ebert, and was even endorsed by William Peter Blatty himself.
The Bridge on the River Kwai famously climaxes with a train wreck on a collapsing bridge. Fittingly, the production of the film was itself a train wreck almost from the start.
The script was initially adapted by Carl Foreman from the book by French author Pierre Boulle. After David Lean was chosen to direct, producer Sam Spiegel brought Lean and Foreman together to work on the script, and was delighted to see the men take an almost instant dislike to each other, feeling that many great films were born from such animosity. Unfortunately, they hated each other so much that Foreman eventually resigned and was replaced by Michael Wilson. Since both Foreman and Wilson were on the Hollywood blacklist, the screenwriting credit (and Oscar) went to Boulle, who did not even speak English.note Foreman and Wilson were awarded retroactive - and posthumous - Oscars for their work on the script in 1984. When Columbia executives read the script, they objected to the lack of any romantic subplots, and Lean was forced to shoehorn in an affair between Commander Shears and a British nurse at the military hospital.
The role of Colonel Nicholson was offered to several actors, including Spencer Tracy and Laurence Olivier, before Alec Guinness was cast after a "summit meeting" with Spiegel and Lean. Guinness, at the time known more as a comic actor, was dismayed by the dull characterisation of Nicholson in the script and wanted to play the role as more light-hearted and sympathetic, while Lean insisted that he play Nicholson as written; the two men fought constantly over how the character should be portrayed. In the scene in which Nicholson reflects on his military career, Guinness felt that his face should be shot in closeup, and when he asked Lean why he decided instead to film Nicholson from behind, Lean exploded in anger.note Guinness did, however, ultimately regard his performance in the film as the best of his career; the Academy agreed and gave him the Oscar for Best Actor.
Location scouts found that the actual River Kwai was a mere trickle, so, at Jack Hawkins' suggestion, production was set up near Kitulgala in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The remote location required special construction of a bungalow complex to house the cast and crew. Though Lean was right at home in the tropical climate, most of the other personnel suffered in the intense heat and humidity. They were frequently forced to call in sick, and had to share the area with snakes, leeches,note though the swamps through which the demo squad treks were specially constructed - the local swamps were too dangerous to use for filming - the leeches were real and other wildlife. The slow pace of filming resulting from Lean's rampant perfectionism did not help. Furthermore, Spiegel did not allocate money for extras, so the British soldiers were mostly played by crew members and Ceylon natives wearing Caucasian makeup.
Although the river posing as the Kwai in the film may have made for a more photogenic location, the strong currents nearly claimed several lives. During shooting of a scene in which a Japanese soldier falls from the bridge, stuntman Frankie Howard was swept away by the strong current, as was prop technician Tommy Early when he dove in after Howard. Though both men were rescued, Howard contracted a stomach illness during the shoot and had to be flown to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London; sadly, he did not recover. Lean himself was also nearly swept away by a current during a break in filming and was rescued by actor Geoffrey Horne (who played Lieutenant Joyce).
The spectacle of the construction and destruction of the bridge itself provided some of the film's most memorable images, as well as some of the production's most troublesome moments. In the film, the bridge is built in two months; the actual construction took eight months and required 500 men and 35 elephants. The elephants would take breaks every four hours to lie in the water, whatever the wishes of the construction crew. When the cameras were set up to film the bridge's destruction - with an audience including the Prime Minister of Ceylon - a cameraman was unable to get out of the way of the intended path of the explosion in time, and Lean halted filming. The train crossed the bridge safely, but crashed into a generator on the far side. The cameras were set up again the following day for the take that went into the finished film...
... but it very nearly didn't make it into the film at all. Filming took place during the Suez Crisis in 1956, so equipment that would normally have been transported by sea instead had to be transported by air.note As Ceylon had no film processing facilities, each day's footage had to be flown to London to be processed and then back to Ceylon for viewing. The film of the bridge's destruction failed to arrive in London as scheduled, and a worldwide search was undertaken. To the crew's horror, the cans of film were eventually found in Cairo, where they had been sitting on the airport tarmac in the hot sun for a week. The prints should have been ruined, leaving the film without its climactic scene, but somehow they had survived undamaged.
Finally, Spiegel was determined to release the film before the end of 1957 to make it eligible for the year's Academy Awards. However, because of the chaotic production, by early December 1957, the film still had no music score - no-one had even been hired to compose it. The composer ultimately hired by Spiegel, Malcolm Arnold, had to write and record the score in just ten days.note His compressed time limit did pay off. Arnold's efforts were rewarded with a Best Score Oscar. Spiegel and Lean also won awards for Best Picture and Best Director at the 1957 Oscars.
First, it's worth noting that filmmakers had been trying to make a Lawrence movie since the mid-'20s. Two of the better known examples were an Alexander Korda epic in the '30s with Laurence Olivier as Lawrence, and a '50s Rank Organisation picture starring Dirk Bogarde. Both films fell apart due to political pressure: the former because of fear of alienating Turkey in the run-up to World War II; the latter because of a coup d'etat in Iraq, where the film was set to shoot. Lean and Spiegel narrowly beat a competing project, an adaptation of Terence Rattigan's play Ross, to the screen.
The production started without a script. Michael Wilson worked on the screenplay for over a year, then was summarily dismissed by Lean for unsatisfactory work. Unfortunately the cast and crew were already in Jordan and waited for weeks before a new writer was hired. Robert Bolt's tenure as screenwriter got off to a rocky start when he was arrested for taking part in a CND demonstration in London, forcing Sam Spiegel to bail him out of jail. Eventually Spiegel invited Bolt to live on his private yacht in Aqaba, mostly to keep an eye on him.
Logistics filming in Jordan were a nightmare. For a start, gaining rights to film there required intense negotiation: Spiegel brought in Anthony Nutting, a former British Foreign Office official, note Nutting had resigned over the Suez Crisis, earning him wide respect in the Arab world. He also was friends with King Hussein to secure King Hussein's approval. The crew commandeered tanker trucks full of fresh water from Aqaba and airlifted frozen food to the location every day. Lean and crew had to meticulously sweep the desert sands free of footprints and tire tracks between takes. Outbreaks of illness laid many crew members low. Peter O'Toole's on-set drinking caused tension with Arab extras. The Jordanian government initially cooperated with the production but proved leery about filming in cities like Aqaba and Maan.
Sam Spiegel and David Lean's already testy relationship soon reached the breaking point. For a start, Spiegel adamantly opposed Peter O'Toole's casting as Lawrence due to an unpleasant past encounter. note O'Toole had auditioned for Suddenly, Last Summer and irritated Spiegel with flippant ad-libbing. Spiegel also wanted Marlon Brando to play Lawrence. Spiegel rarely visited the set, but constantly complained long-distance about Lean's "wasting" money and allegedly poor footage. On one visit he showed up with William Wyler in tow, threatening to replace Lean if he didn't work faster. Lean eventually got back at Spiegel by sneaking into the dailies a shot of him flipping Spiegel off... in 70mm. Unsurprisingly, Lawrence marked their last collaboration.
Eventually shooting in Jordan got so expensive that the production moved to Spain. More difficulties arose: production designer John Box had to build the Aqaba set from scratch. The crew had difficulty finding camels and camel riders. O'Toole nearly died filming a battle scene when he fell off his camel, and injured himself on another occasion. Edmond O'Brien (playing Bentley) had an onset heart attack and Arthur Kennedy was flown direct from New York to replace him. Flash floods in Almeria delayed filming. Lean and his actors grew increasingly tense; Lean once exploded at Jack Hawkins for trying to lighten the mood on-set. Finally, Lean couldn't find suitable locations for the climactic battle and there was a final move to...
Morocco. The crew took up residence at an old Foreign Legion encampment in Ouarzazate, with no air conditioning in 100-plus degree F temperatures. Lean argued with his second unit directors on how to film the battle, firing one (Andre de Toth). note Lean set the tone earlier in the production, explicitly telling his crew "I loathe second unit directors." More diseases broke out among crew-members. Procuring camels again proved a problem. The main difficulty however came with the extras. Soldiers from the Moroccan army were employed without pay, which they understandably resented. During off-hours they actually took potshots at cast and crew, Lean included. Others deserted between takes and never came back.
Having survived an arduous production, Lawrence encountered several PR disasters up to its release. Professor A.W. Lawrence, the title character's brother, threatened to sue the filmmakers, then tried to discredit the movie through interviews and editorials. An ugly scandal arose when Spiegel again refused to credit Michael Wilson. A Writers' Guild arbitration found in Wilson's favor, but Robert Bolt still received sole credit.note This wasn't rectified until a '90s video release; Lean and Bolt adamantly opposed adding Wilson's name to the 1989 restoration. Peter O'Toole attended press interviews drunk, drawing more bad attention. Finally, Lawrence received its American premiere during a newspaper strike in New York, and the few critics who saw it gave overwhelmingly negative reviews note notably Bosley Crowther, who dismissed it as a "camel opera". For all that Lawrence became a smash hit, but it overcame a lot getting there.
David Lean followed his jungle and desert epics with a winter epic in Doctor Zhivago, and its production provided more of the same chaos as the previous two films.
The relationship between David Lean and Alec Guinness had become certifiably toxic; Lean frequently insulted not only Guinness' performance as Yevgraf Zhivago but also Guinness personally, creating a rift between the two men that would last nearly twenty years.note And even that reconciliation was short-lived; when most of Guinness' performance in Lean's final film as director, A Passage to India, ended up on the cutting room floor, the duo fell out once and for all.
Producer Carlo Ponti wanted location shooting to take place in the Soviet Union, but was refused permission to film there. Scandinavia was deemed too cold for a lengthy film shoot, while Yugoslavia was ruled out for both the cold weather and the obstructive bureaucracy; the location shooting was mostly done in Spain. Construction of the Moscow set in a suburb of Madrid took nearly eighteen months, while filming itself fell behind schedule as Lean hoped to shoot scenes during each of the various seasons as depicted in Boris Pasternak's novel. Unfortunately, the winter scenes did not go as planned due to the unusually mild winter, and they were instead mostly filmed in summer in temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with marble dust and plastic snow standing in for actual snow and the actors' profuse sweating requiring frequent makeup touchups.note Some of the winter scenes were filmed in more appropriate weather in Finland and Canada.
The political climate in Spain (under Fascist leader Francisco Franco) made it a risky country in which to shoot a film about the Russian Revolution. The scene in which the crowd chants the Marxist anthem, "The Internationale", was filmed at 3am; the police, thinking an actual Marxist revolution was taking place, descended on the shoot and insisted on staying until the scene had been filmed. The mostly Spanish extras, fearful that the police would arrest them as Communist subversives, had to pretend not to know the words to "The Internationale".
During shooting of a scene in which Zhivago pulls a young mother onto a train after first pulling her baby onto the train, the actress playing the young mother, Lili Murati, panicked when Omar Sharif (as Zhivago) grabbed her hand; a miscommunication between the two ultimately resulted in Murati falling under the train's wheels. Fortunately, she had bunched up and thus avoided having her limbs severed, while her thick clothing also protected her from serious injury.
David Lean simply couldn't escape this trope after the mid-1950s; the Irish love story Ryan's Daughter should have been a breather film after the more ambitious trio of The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago, but it still managed to turn into a severely troubled production.
The weather was so uncooperative that many of the beach scenes in the film were shot near Cape Town in South Africa rather than near the specially constructed village on Ireland's Dingle Peninsula. Ironically, Lean had to wait for a year for a suitably dramatic storm to strike the Irish coast for a pivotal scene in which the villagers wade into the sea to retrieve a shipment of weapons intended for the IRA. Actor Leo McKern, who played the title character's father, nearly drowned and nearly lost his glass eye to the rough seas, and was so frustrated by the slow pace of filming that he swore he would never act again (his "retirement" ultimately only lasted a few years).
Lean also had trouble casting most of the film's major roles (except for Sarah Miles as Rosy Ryan and John Mills as mute village idiot Michael). He initially offered the role of Catholic priest Father Collins to Alec Guinness, but Guinness, himself a devout Catholic, sent the script back with a long list of objections to the character's portrayal (Guinness was also still angry at Lean for how he had been treated during filming of Doctor Zhivago). Lean thanked him for his suggestions and offered the role instead to Trevor Howard. The role of Rosy's husband, schoolteacher Charles Shaughnessy, was intended for Paul Scofield, but he was in the middle of a theatre contract; the role went instead to Robert Mitchum, who was undergoing a personal crisis at the time (he had even been contemplating suicide) and described working with David Lean as "like constructing the Taj Mahal out of toothpicks". Mitchum planted marijuana trees behind the hotel accommodating the cast, giving many cast and crew members (and locals) their first experience of the drug.
But the most troublesome role proved to be that of Rosy's lover, Shell-Shocked Veteran Major Randolph Doryan. The role was originally offered to Marlon Brando, but he was forced to drop out when production of Burn! lagged behind schedule. Lean finally cast American actor Christopher Jones on the strength of his performance in The Looking-Glass War... not realising until production began that the film had been shot to hide Jones' diminutive stature and that his high-pitched voice had been dubbed; Jones was also emotionally distraught by the murder of his close friend Sharon Tate during production, so his mind was not entirely on his work. Jones and Lean clashed frequently, with Lean finding Jones' voice and performance so unsuited to the square-jawed soldier he had envisioned that he had Doryan re-written as traumatised into near silence by his trench experiences, with his aide-de-camp, Captain Smith (Gerald Sim), given the extra lines. Jones' voice was ultimately dubbed by Julian Holloway. Jones and Sarah Miles also grew to dislike each other, making filming of their love scenes awkward for all involved. A combination of grief over Tate's death and his negative experience working on the film prompted Jones to retire from acting; he only made one other film.note Said film is 1996's Mad Dog Time, which Roger Ebert notoriously described as the first film he had seen which didn't improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same amount of time.
Then came its release. MGM was expecting Ryan's Daughter to repeat the huge success of Zhivago, and unveiled it with a suitably lavish publicity campaign and roadshow release. Unfortunately, the movie was roundly savaged by critics, who typically complained it was too big a scale for its modest love story. Lean took this criticism extremely personally; at a meeting of New York film critics he was confronted by Pauline Kael, Richard Schickel and others who seemingly took delight in insulting Ryan. The movie earned several Oscar nominationsnote It won two: Best Supporting Actor for John Mills as Michael, and Best Cinematography for Freddie Young, his third Oscar in a row for a David Lean film. and eventually turned a profit, but fell short of MGM's hopes for a massive blockbuster. Lean wouldn't make another film for 14 years, which was...
A Passage to India (1984). Compared to the others, Lean's final film was a breeze, with even the Indian location shooting going smoothly. Except for one thing: Lean and his stars were constantly at each others' throats. Alec Guinness testified in his diaries to the toxic atmosphere on set, resulting in cast and crew insulting Lean behind his back, and occasionally to his face. Judy Davis told Lean "You can't fucking well direct" and claimed he didn't understand women. Victor Banerjee argued with Lean over Aziz's accent, calling him "obnoxious" and a hack compared to Satyajit Ray. Peggy Ashcroft disliked Lean's altering the novel and "lack of respect" for her co-stars. Finally, of course, was Guinness himself: playing the Indian mystic Godbole, he spent weeks learning an intricate Hindu dance, only to have Lean cut the entire scene in post-production.
Like fellow Alien franchise director James Cameron, Sir Ridley Scott has run into a fair amount of clunky productions himself.
The original Alien had a smoother production than most of its sequels, but not an entirely trouble-free one. Most of the problems that did occur were in pre-production, firstly when the producers were having trouble finding a studio to back the film, and then when looking for a director. They were initially keen to hire Robert Aldrich, but when they actually met him, they were dismayed to find that he didn't give a shit at all about their vision and was just looking for a quick paycheck. Several more directors passed on the project, and producer Walter Hill considered directing it himself before a sample of Ridley Scott's work just happened to pass his desk.
Production itself was relatively smooth, the main problems being friction between the producers and screenwriter Dan O'Bannon (who didn't like that Hill had rewritten the screenplay to have more gritty and realistic dialogue), and the visual effects team being sorely under-funded and under-equipped, which resulted in cinematographer Derek Vanlint having to gather up all his lighting equipment and lend it to the VFX team at the end of each day. Additionally, Jerry Goldsmith composed a substantial amount of music for the film, only for Scott to throw most of it out and have the finished product largely unscored while replacing some of the music with a Howard Hanson composition and tracking in Goldsmith's music from Freud, enraging Goldsmith and resulting in the two not working together again until Legend (where the music was also screwed with).
His next film, Blade Runner, was a victim of this. Scott's drive for perfection often led to double-digit takes of a single scene, eating up film in the process. This, coupled with his confrontational relationship with the film crew (which at one point had them wearing anti-Scott T-shirts on set), time constraints caused by filming at night and expensive, time-consuming effects shots quickly caused the shoot to run behind schedule and over budget. The final scene was shot literally hours before the producers were due to take creative control away from Scott.
At the start of the project, it originally began as a Russell Crowe vehicle called Tripoli, Screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) had a script written, Scott signed on to direct, 20th Century Fox greenlit it, sets and art assets were being made and then things went nowhere. After two tries of getting it off the ground, Monahan began writing Heaven after Tripoli fell apart and Scott always wanted to do a movie about the Crusades.
The film was pretty much it with Executive Meddling from the start, with the execs being very uncomfortable with the length of the script and the subplot of Eva Green’s Princess Sybilla’s son, who briefly ruled Jerusalem after King Baldwin (Edward Norton) dies. In Scott’s words on the 4 disc DVD set, he mentioned that studio heads said that the plot “went off on a tangent”. The studio demanded Monahan to write two different versions of the script: One with and without the kid. Scott and co. shot the former.
Filming was actually pretty smooth, save for an instance in which Orlando Bloom came down with the flu and suffered some hand injuries.
When filming wrapped up, Fox was bothered by the length of the cut that Scott had presented them (around 186 minutes) and forced him to cut the film down to a measly 145 running time, exercising the plot about Sybilla’s kid, among many other scenes. Their reasoning was that audiences couldn't handle a three hour film, disregarding successful long movies such as the studio’s own Titanic and The Lord of the Rings. They also mismarketed the film, making it seem more like Gladiatorset in the Crusades, rather than the Drama that was made. This backfired, resulting in poor box office returns and mediocre reviews (though it did fare better in international markets).
Luckily, the film found new life on video in the form of the Director's Cut, which restored the original running time and as a result, received much better reviews than its theatrical version.
As noted in this interview, the script for the 2010 version of Robin Hood got hit with extensive re-writes, turning it from a Sympathetic P.O.V. story of the Sheriff of Nottingham, to a Fight Club-esque story, to an origins story of the title character. Also, common collaborator Russell Crowe and Scott weren't getting along well on set, which eventually soured their relationship. In addition to that, the film's budget had ballooned from 155 million to around 200 million according to some sources and around 16 minutes were cut before its theatrical release (which were latter reinserted into the home video release).
Like previous installments in Alien franchise, Prometheus ran into a lot of this:
The film was originally envisioned to be a straight-up prequel to Alien, via a script written by Jon Spaihts (who was in-demand at the time due to his previous script being on the unofficial Hollywood "black list" of best screenplays) called "Alien: Engineers". Ridley Scott then contacted Damon Lindelof for advice on the script, and was told to rein in many of the parts that made it an identifiable Alien film (including the fact that it was originally set on LV-426, the site of the Derelict Ship from the first two films) and make it an original creation. This, coupled with Spaihts supposedly constraining Scott's vision, led to Lindelof being hired to rewrite the screenplay. It took another four drafts (and more than a year of pre-production time) to get the script to a point where everyone was happy with it, and even then the cast and crew (as evidenced by their remarks in the Blu-Ray materials) seemed convinced that they were shooting a prequel that led into the original film.
The character of Elizabeth Shaw was originally named Elizabeth Watts, but was renamed due to fear of confusion for Fox's President of Production, Emma Watts. It took the CEO of the company, Tom Rothman, to name the film Prometheus because the filmmakers couldn't decide on what title to use (with their previous suggestion being "Paradise").
Following this, the film ran into trouble in the editing room, with a behind-the-scenes tug-of-war between Scott and Fox executives over various aspects of the film. There was much confusion on set and in public forums over whether the film was intended to be PG-13 or R-rated, with Scott stoking the fires for months by apparently submitting to FOX's demand to make a PG-13 cut for theatrical release. The main hangup was Noomi Rapace's "surgery scene", where she removes an alien embryo via self-surgery. Although the film was eventually released in an R-rated cut, chunks of the plot were taken out in the editing room - notably, a much longer final confrontation between Shaw and the Engineer, and an entirely different Fifield attack sequence that took place just as Weyland and the Mercenaries were leaving for the Engineer ship.
Charlize Theron had significant trouble running in the Icelandic shooting location, during the sequence where she and Rapace run from the rolling Engineer ship.
The 2013 film 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves, was beset by continuous production woes, as evidenced by thesearticles. Director Carl Erik Rinsch had never made a feature film before, and furthermore, he and the studio, Universal, clashed on the final vision of the film. Universal wanted to make an effects-driven fantasy blockbuster akin to Avatar or The Lord of the Rings, while Rinsch envisioned the film as more of a drama. As such, the film was subject to numerousdelays, reshoots, and a budget running from $175 million to a whopping $225 million. Finally, despite denials from the studio, there are rumors that Rinsch was kicked off the project due to the numerous production woes.
Roughly speaking, between the costs of production and advertising, it needed to gross $500 million to break even... a figure that it did not even come close to. Before it even came out in the USnote It had been released in Japan — to an acidic reception — three weeks prior., Universal, taking one look at the hurricane of bad buzz surrounding the project, took an unspecified writedown on it. It was met with scathing reviews upon release, and audiences largely agreed with the critics and ignored the film. Having grossed only $150 million — not even a third of what it needed to — it currently ranks as one of the biggest box office bombs of all time.
The African Queen was shot on location in Africa, a rarity in those days. The results weren't pretty: handling the heavy Technicolor cameras was hard, the cast and crew got sick (Katharine Hepburn had to keep a bucket beside her while filming the organ scene that opens the film so she could vomit between takes; only Humphrey Bogart and director John Huston escaped illness, due to consuming nothing but canned goods and whiskey) and had several close brushes with wild animals and poisonous snakes (specially because Bogart got interested in hunting - which even became a Clint Eastwoodmovie), the title boat sunk and had to be raised twice, the ship's boiler nearly fell on Hepburn, army ants infested the set...
Altered States: Arthur Penn, the original director, quit early on after a dispute with Paddy Chayefsky, who was upset with some of the changes he'd wanted to make. John Dykstra quit as well, and Bran Ferren had to do the special effects on a lower budget (it shows). Once Ken Russell was hired to actually finish the film, he was in a situation where, if he changed so much as one word of the script, he would have been sued, so he resolved it by having the actors deliver some of the more pretentious dialogue very rapid fire. Chayefsky didn't sue, but was still pissed enough to petition the Writers' Guild to use his given name, Sidney Aaron, in the credits as his pseudonym. The experience of shooting some of the scenes was very trying physically for the actors. Columbia, who had started the film, washed their hands of it and Warner Brothers picked it up. The producer was nonetheless upset that they decided to shove it into the Christmas season rush rather than wait until the spring when he there would be less competition for that kind of film.
American Graffiti: Although the shoot finished on time and on budget, it was no small miracle that it managed to do so:
The day before shooting was due to begin, a key crew member was arrested for growing marijuana, and setting the cameras up for location shooting on the first day took so long that they did not start shooting until 2am, putting them half a night behind before a single scene had been shot.
After a single night of outdoor filming in San Rafael, the city revoked their filming permit after a local bar owner complained that the road closures were costing him business, forcing them to move filming twenty miles away to Petaluma. On the second night, a local restaurant caught fire, and the noise of the fire engine sirens and the resulting traffic jams made filming impossible.
Inevitably for a film featuring so many driving scenes, the cars and equipment required to film them in motion seldom behaved as planned. An assistant cameraman was run over after he fell off the back of the camera truck during filming of a road scene, while filming of the climactic drag race was hampered when one of the cars broke an axle, then broke the replacement axle, and then nearly ran over two cameramen lying in the road to film its approach.
Among non-technical problems, Paul LeMat (who played John Milner) had to be rushed to hospital after suffering a walnut allergy flare-up, and Richard Dreyfuss had his forehead gashed after LeMat threw him into a swimming pool the day before his closeups were to be filmed.
And when the film was screened for a test audience, Universal Studios representative Ned Tanen told Lucas the film was unreleaseable, prompting an outraged Francis Ford Coppola (the film's producer) to offer to buy the film from Universal and release it himself while Lucas, burned out from the chaotic film shoot, could only watch in shock. Instead, Universal offered a compromise whereby they could suggest modifications to the film before release. It was not until 1978, after the success of Star Wars, that Lucas was able to re-edit and release the film as he originally intended.
Babylon A.D. took 5 years to get greenlit. French director, Mathieu Kassovitz, originally intended the film to be highly ambitious. However, Twentieth Centry Fox interfered with production all the way through, preventing Kassovitz from shooting scenes as he intended, sometimes even going against the script. Fox forced him to hire Vin Diesel into the lead role against Kassovitz' wishes, which limited him even further. Early in the production, uncooperative weather caused a 2-week-long hiatus. A scene which was supposed to be shot in Eastern Europe ended up getting delayed and moved to Sweden due to a lack of snow. Actor Adam Lambert was thrown into the movie late in production. By the time the whole ordeal was over, the film was allegedly over-budget and ruined to the point where it was virtually guaranteed to fail at the box office. Kassovitz ended up releasing a documentary in 2011 covering the whole experience.
Battlefield Earth took almost 20 years to finally get to the big screen. L. Ron Hubbard intended for the book to be turned into a movie from the moment he had it finished. When Hubbard died, John Travolta started trying to get it made into a film. It wouldn't be until he had a Career Resurrection in Pulp Fiction that he had enough star power to convince anyone to touch it. He started putting even more effort in 1995 and it took another 4 years for the film to be greenlit. When filming began, the production team had to move from the U.S. to Canada in order to keep costs down. Even then, the budget ended up ballooning to the point where it became the most expensive film to ever be shot in Canada. Travolta's makeup proved to be challenging for the actor. Production ended up taking so long that Travolta had to cancel 2 other roles in order to finish Battlefield. Right before the film was set to release, a version of the screenplay was leaked and retitled online. Reviews for the screenplay were scathing, pretty much ensuring the film to be the complete commercial disaster that it was. Travolta's career arguably hasn't recovered since.
1976's The Blue Bird was a much-ballyhooed family musical, the first-ever cinematic co-production between the United States and the U.S.S.R. An All-Star Cast of mostly American actors had the lead roles while respected director George Cukor helmed the project, shooting in Russia. The first problem was that the U.S. side originally promised the participation of Marlon Brando (in what role, it isn't known), but he backed out. This was resolved amicably when Elizabeth Taylor was brought in to play four parts, though her attempt to get David Bowie in the cast (probably as Fire) didn't pan out once he read the script; for that matter, Katherine Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine also backed out of the film by the time it was set to go.
The real trouble started in Russia. The Russian studio and crew were far behind the curve of the American talent (they had to replace the cinematographer because he'd never shot a film in color) and the on-set translators weren't up to the task of making sure both sides could communicate clearly. Leading ladies Taylor, Jane Fonda and Cicely Tyson all caused unique sets of problems: Taylor fell ill with amoebic dysentery, Fonda wouldn't stop chatting up the crew about politics, and Tyson warred with the director (among other things, she couldn't get proper lighting with a Caucasian woman serving as her stand-in). The American and Russian composers argued over the direction the score should take, James Coco (cast as Tylo the dog) dropped out in mid-shoot when he suffered a gallbladder attack, the filmmakers couldn't find real bluebirds to use or import for the title figure and resorted to dyeing pigeons (and their handlers were actually accused of eating some of them), etc. The resultant $12 million film was so bad that it tanked instantly; in the U.S. it still hasn't had a legit video release after 35+ years, and the financial figures related to it were rendered a state secret in Russia.
George Cukor told the Soviet studio head how honored he was to be filming in the same studio where Sergei Eisenstein had filmed The Battleship Potemkin in 1925. "Yes," said the studio head, "and with the very same equipment."
The Palme d'Or winner Blue Is The Warmest Color was, by all accounts, a nightmare of a shoot. Between the five and a half month shoot (that was supposed to be two months), what was described as a "hostile work environment" by the crew, and was bluntly described as being horrible by the two lead actresses, Lea Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. The two have both stated very emphatically that they never wish to work with the director, Abdellatif Kechiche, ever again.
While it's obvious from all the on-screen mayhem why The Blues Brothers cost so much to make (they actually dropped the Ford Pinto from a mile up, requiring a special FAA permit), there were a lot of other issues that aren't obvious on screen, as this ''Vanity Fair'' article showed:
Universal won a close bidding war with Paramount for the project, and of course they were overjoyed to have John Belushi, coming off a year when he'd starred in both a top-grossing film and a top-rated TV showandhad a number one single. But they didn't have a script. After an experienced writing partner was unable to help him, Aykroyd, who'd never even read a movie screenplay before, much less written one, took his time writing it. He delivered a 324-page monstrosity formatted more like free verse. Landis spent two weeks just cutting it down and converting it to something filmable.
The script was finished but the studio and the creative people hadn't settled on a budget. After the first month of filming in Chicago, where Landis kept Belushi under control and things went well, they finally saw it: $17.5 million. "I think we've spent that much already," Landis half-joked.
And then things went to hell. Belushi went everywhere in Chicago when he wasn't on set—and when he did, everybody was slipping him vials and packets of coke. That was in addition to what he could procure, or have procured for, himself, often consumed in his trailer or at the private bar on set he had built for himself, his longtime friends, the cast and any visiting celebrities. Carrie Fisher, who Landis had warned to keep Belushi away from drugs if she could, said almost everyone who had a job there also dealt, and the patrons could (and did) score almost anything there. Dan Aykroyd, who unlike Belushi or Fisher kept his use under control, says there was money in the budget set aside for coke for night shoots.
After Belushi's late nights partying, he'd either be really late for unit calls, tanking almost a whole day's worth of shooting, or only an hour or two late ... but then he'd go back to his trailer and sleep it off. One night, he wandered away from the set to a nearby house, where Aykroyd found him conked out on the couch after he'd raided the owner's fridge. On another, Landis went in to Belushi's trailer and found a gigantic pile of coke on a table inside, which he flushed down the toilet. Belushi attacked him when he came back, Landis knocked him down with a single punch and Belushi collapsed into tears.
Meanwhile, there was Executive Meddling to deal with. Fuming about the skyrocketing cost of the movie, Universal kept trying to get the filmmakers to replace the blues and soul stars like Aretha Franklin and Cab Calloway with more contemporary, successful acts like Rose Royce. Landis stuck to his guns, but because he did, some large theater chains refused to book it into theaters in white neighborhoods.
The production returned to Los Angeles for the last month of shooting, already way behind schedule and over budget. Fortunately Belushi calmed down and got it done. But right before shooting the final scene, which required him to do all sorts of onstage acrobatics while performing at the LA Palladium in front of an audience of hundreds of extras, he tried out some kid's skateboard...and fell off and seriously injured his knee. Lew Wasserman, the studio head, called the top orthopedist in LA and made him postpone his weekend until he could shoot Belushi up with enough anesthetics to get him through filming
Fortunately the movie was a box-office smash that has since become a Cult Classic.
Brainstorm became this following the death of co-star Natalie Wood. According to director Douglas Trumbull, MGM wanted to cancel the production of the film and collect the insurance money, despite the fact that most of Wood's scenes were already finished prior to her death.
Shortly after it was optioned, McInerney wrote a script, and while it wasn't perfect it was enough to get Joel Schumacher to commit to the project as director, with Jerry Weintraub producing. After it was shopped around to many of the early '80s Brat Packers like Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise signed on for the lead.
Weintraub became production chief at MGM/UA, and took the project with him. Since that meant he couldn't/wouldn't be able to produce it, he looked around for another producer. Sydney Pollack and Mark Rosenberg agreed to do it, but wanted a rewrite of the script. A new writer began working on it, but Cruise and Schumacher couldn't wait any longer, and left for other projects.
Then Weintraub left UA. The film went from Development Purgatory to Development Hell for months while all the legal issues were worked out. For a long time it wasn't clear whether the film would stay with UA or Weintraub.
Months later it was settled, with the studio retaining the film. Pollack and Rosenberg hired Joyce Chopra, who had recently gone from documentaries to features with the well-received Smooth Talk, to direct. She and her husband began work on yet another draft of the script, one that departed significantly from the novel. The plan was to shoot the film in Toronto and cast an unknown in the lead. But Michael J. Fox responded positively to Chopra's requests, and agreed to play the part, also recommending his friend and countryman Kiefer Sutherland for the supporting role of Tad Allagash. So the budget went up, and filming could take place in New York where the novel had been set, albeit only within a ten-week window before Fox had to return to LA for the next season of Family Ties.
Things quickly went to hell on location. Chopra spent lots of time planning her shots and quickly fell behind schedule. She also reportedly freaked out one day when Fox's fans began congregating around the set, and the producers began to wonder if she was up to the job, causing friction between her and them. Friction with McInerney over her script led her to ban him from the set as well.
The studio didn't like the dailies it was seeing, not in the least because that was how the executives learned how Chopra and her husband had made so many changes to the story, such as writing the main character's drug use out. While there is still disagreement on whether Chopra and her husband did that on their own initiative or at the producers' behest, everyone agreed that it was done with the same motive—protecting Fox's public image.
A possible directors' strike was in the offing, complicating things even more. UA made the rare decision to fire Chopra. James Bridges took the call on a Friday, saw Chopra's footage, and agreed to take over and finish the film on an abbreviated schedule. He wrote another draft of the script and recast all but two of the supporting roles. Those actors took the part based on a reading of the novel, since there was no script at the time. Eventually Bridges and McInerney wrote the version, basically a rewrite of the novelist's first draft, that finally became the shooting script. They had agreed to share credit but the WGA awarded it all to McInerney. They were still nervous enough about Fox's image that they wrote and shot an alternate ending, in which the main character, in recovery, shows his girlfriend the eponymous novel he just wrote.
The final film received lukewarm reviews from critics, whose complaints reflected the by-then-well-known production difficulties. Fox seemed too young for the part, but Phoebe Cates was even more miscast as his ex-wife, whom one critic described as "the least convincing fashion model, ever." Donald Fagen's music seemed to be filler. Richard Schickel said, perceptively, that " [it looks] like something that has been kicking around too long in the dead-letter office."
As of 2010, Gossip Girl creator Josh Schwartz has been trying to remake the film.
Caddyshack may now be considered a cult classic, but it had a hell of a time getting there:
The film was originally supposed to be a simple coming-of-age story about kids working at a golf course. It slowly morphed into a showcase featuring comedy veterans like Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray (whose parts were originally supposed to be much smaller), and Ted Knight. Much of the dialogue was improvised on the spot, and production was extremely disorganized.
On the first day of shooting, Hurricane Dave came through, and production had to wait to begin filming until the storm passed and the flooding cleared. The Florida weather proved intense for the cast/crew, who were often unwilling to film, and there were frequent no-shows on set.
Cindy Morgan had to be persuaded to do nude scenes, and when she finally agreed, execs invited Playboy to the set to photograph her, which angered her greatly, and she again refused to do the scene until Playboy photographers (who told her that her career would be over if she refused) were sent home.
In addition, few co-stars got along. Chevy Chase and Cindy Morgan got into a scuffle, and almost refused to do their scene, and Ted Knight didn't get along with his younger co-stars or Chevy Chase. Bill Murray, who was only available for six days, also didn't get along with Chevy Chasenote The two had nearly come to blows right before the show the week Chevy hosted SNL during its second season, and when execs insisted on them having a scene together, everyone in the production feared what would happen, but fortunately the scene turned out beautifully. Also, the cast/crew partied hard every night, getting stoned out of their minds, wrecking the golf carts and ruining the golf course on a regular basis.
After the filming ended and the rough-cut came in, it was too long, and over two hours had to be cut. This also included key parts of the main plot, and the film made no sense, so more money had to be spent on a mechanical gopher to add extra comic relief and to tie the picture together, and an ending had to be filmed (with an explosion!).
The film was not a critical success when it came out, and co-writer/producer Douglas Kenney, who verbally abused reporters while drunk at a press conference for the film, fell thirty feet from a clifftop viewpoint in Hawaii to his death a month later (there is some question as to whether his death was suicide or an accident; in the weeks leading up to his death, he had begun joking about his past suicide attempts, leading friends to urge him to seek professional help).
To the end of his life, even though the film became better appreciated over time, Harold Ramis was dissatisfied with his directorial debut. "All I see are compromises and things we could have done better," he told GQ magazine in the late 2000s. His greatest complaint was that no one in the film other than Chris O'Donnell was able to swing their golf clubs properly.
A whole mess of this led to the utter disaster that was the notorious 1979 historical epic/porn film Caligula. To make a very long story short:
Most of the problems stemmed from the endless feuding between writer Gore Vidal, director Tinto Brass, and producer Bob Guccione (of Penthouse magazine fame). Vidal wanted the film to stay true to his script, to the point of claiming in a Time magazine interview that directors were "parasites" living off writers, and that the director need only follow the directions as provided by the writer of the screenplay. Brass, not amused in the slightest, threw Vidal out of the studio. Guccione, meanwhile, wanted to incorporate hardcore sex into the film in order to promote his magazine, which caused female lead Maria Schneider to withdraw from the film (she was replaced by Teresa Ann Savoy) and no shortage of disagreements with Brass.
The aggressive shooting schedule developed by the inexperienced producers Guccione and Franco Rossellini was unrealistic for a film of such scope. Art director Danilo Donati had to scrap some of his more elaborate original ideas for the sets and replace them with such surreal imagery as bizarre matte paintings, blacked-out areas, silk backdrops and curtains. This resulted in significant script changes, with Brass and the actors improvising scenes written to take place in entirely different locations, and sometimes shooting entirely new scenes (such as the frolicking scene that opens the film) in order to show progress while the incomplete or redone sets were unavailable.
As the film entered post-production, Guccione took control of the film footage and fired Brass for running up huge costs (Guccione claims Brass shot enough film to "make the original version of Ben Hur about 50 times over"), casting actual criminals as Roman senators, and using what Guccione considered "fat, ugly, and wrinkled old women" in the sex scenes instead of his Penthouse Pets. Guccione hired his friend Giancarlo Lui to reedit the film. Lui was instructed to refashion the film into something more in keeping with what Vidal had first scripted, while delivering the sexual content demanded by Guccione; they shot and added hardcore scenes. With much footage improvised and rewritten from the original draft of the film, Lui further scrambled, re-cut, and deleted scenes altogether. Many of the disturbing sexual images shot by Brass were removed, replaced by approximately six minutes of hardcore sex shot by Guccione and Lui. In the end, the final cut of the film had strayed far afield from what Brass had intended. Ironically, perhaps, it bore little resemblance to what Vidal had scripted as well.
In the unpleasant aftermath, both Brass and Vidal launched independent tirades against the film and lawsuits against Guccione, delaying the release of Caligula. Vidal, who was paid $200,000 for his script, agreed to drop his contractual claim for 10% of the film profits in exchange for having his name removed from the title of the film (original billing was to have been Gore Vidal's Caligula). In 1981, Anneka Di Lorenzo, who played Messalina, sued Guccione, claiming that he damaged her career by using hardcore sexual scenes in the final cut of Caligula without her knowledge, thereby associating her with a pornographic film. After a protracted litigation, in 1990 a New York state court awarded her $60,000 in compensatory damages and $4,000,000 in punitive damages, but on appeal, the punitive damages were determined to be not recoverable and the court vacated the award.
According to this New York Times article, The Canyons (a collaboration between Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis starring Lindsay Lohan) was fully subject to this. Lindsay - notoriously rather troubled herself - was hired based on starpower, and was supposedly fired before the production due to completely vanishing during a key meeting. When production started, she was in a constant struggle with Schrader, had to be persuaded to do nude scenes, and often showed up late after partying all night (one night staying out until 5:30 AM with Lady Gaga - when she had a 6 AM call time). She wasn't the only problem with the production, as star James Deen (yes, porn star James Deen) left town to pursue his... other career during filming, and several attempts to shoot covertly without permits were thwarted. The film was also rejected by both Sundance and SXSW before eventually being picked up by IFC films.
Casino Royale (1967). Casino Royale was the only Ian Fleming novel EON Productions failed to secure the rights to due to a bunch of legal issues, and it ended up with Charles Feldman. Unable to get EON on board and do a straight movie, he turned it into an insane, psychedelic parody of spy films with an All-Star Cast. There were multiple directors, none of them working with a finished script but all working independently, and there were also numerous screenwriters. Peter Sellers argued with Orson Welles, and the former was eventually fired despite playing the lead character. Many of the other actors were brought in to make up for this, many of whom assume the 007 moniker at some point. The editor seemed to be instructed to put the film together in the most disjointed, nonsensical fashion possible. And The Agony Booth has recapped it here.
Tony Richardson's The Charge Of The Light Brigade (1968) took almost four years to make. First, actor Laurence Harvey sued Richardson and screenwriter John Osborne for using Cecil Woodham-Smith's The Reason Why as a source; Harvey owned rights to the book. The lawsuit dragged out for years until the parties reached a settlement; one of the terms was finding Harvey a role in the movie - a cameo excised from the finished film. Richardson sacked Osborne for refusing to rewrite his script, leading to an acrimonious falling out between the longtime partners. Charles Wood took over the screenplay, only to produce a 300+ page work that had to be painstakingly whittled down. Richardson then spent years negotiating with the Turkish government to allow filming in Turkey and use of military extras, relying on the help of American and French diplomats.
Actually shooting the film wasn't any easier. Richardson fired a stunt coordinator whose manic swordplay killed several horses; an earthquake destroyed the hotel used by the production; star David Hemmings proved extremely temperamental on set; the crew and especially the soldier-extras fought (both verbally and physically) with local villagers who resented their incursion into the area. Richardson's strange mixture of perfectionism and historical flippancy grated on both his crew and advisers. While filming the final battle, the soldiers were called away for a NATO war exercise, forcing Richardson to shoot the scene with only a few dozen stuntmen. Richardson's refusal to screen the movie for critics (a rarity in that time) helped ensure a poor reception. Charge became a notorious flop, damaging Richardson's career (and ruining Hemmings'), though it's gained in critical stature over time. The problems with filming might explain why there are a lot of animated segments in the film.
Writer and producer Karen Lee Wolf was given the money to fund it as a present from her father. The budget was $500,000. Karen stayed on set and threatened to fire anyone who questioned her script. When actors protested that the lines didn't make sense and wanted to work through their scenes, Karen refused to allow any changes to be made.
They had only two lenses - an 18 mm and 25:250. When Ramsey requested two more, he was yelled at for beefing up the budget with 'unreasonable' demands.
The cinematography team rolled two expensive days' worth of footage backwards and shot without realizing it, rendering it worthless. Ramsey had intended to get an acquaintance of his - an award winning DOP who had worked with MTV - to come aboard. But he was told he had to use Russo's friend Bill Hinzman, who had shot a number of George A. Romero's early films, but had only worked on two films since then. The director was also pressured into hiring only Karen Wolf and John Russo's friends who were paid ridiculously high salaries.
The actors were all from Pittsburgh and Karen Wolf refused to let them cast the film with SAG actors.
A workable Director's Cut was created which cut down the long dialogue scenes and emphasised the action scenes. However Karen Lee Wolf fired everyone in Pittsburgh, hired a new editor and re-cut the film. She reinserted long dialogue scenes and looped even more dialogue without the director, resulting in robotic delivery of many of the lines. She also cut and dubbed over the original ending to turn it into a first date scene between Michael and Laurie.
During production, Chaplin's mother died. And then wife Lita Grey filed for divorce, dragging his sex life into the media with sensational claims in the court documents that severely tarnished Chaplin's image. Then the IRS got involved, claiming Chaplin owed a million in back taxes. He spent a good deal of time in New York and/or London with the print of what had been completed, trying to stave off a nervous breakdown. The stress was so great that his hair, graying when production began, went completely white by the time filming resumed and had be dyed to matchnote A difference that can be seen on film.
Sadly, this was a hallmark of most of the films of Orson Welles after Citizen Kane, mostly due to his difficulties in raising funds and sometimes simple crappy luck (a film called The Deep was shelved after star Laurence Harvey died). The Deep would later be remade (and completed) as Dead Calm (which didn't suffer through a troubled production).
Kane itself just managed to avoid this, as Welles' co-writer Herman Mankiewicz was known as a drunk and a compulsive gambler who had been kicked out of almost every studio for insulting whoever stood in his way. Who knows what he might have done - had he not broken his leg in a drunken fall, giving Welles and producer John Houseman the excuse to board him up in a guest ranch and keep constant watch over him as he completed the screenplay.
After Joan Collins bowed out of the lead role in 1958, Elizabeth Taylor sarcastically offered to take it for a million dollars - and to her surprise, 20th Century Fox agreed. The weekly costs that were included in Taylor's fee ballooned out of control when she became gravely ill with pneumonia during initial shooting at Pinewood Studios in England in 1960, putting a halt to filming for many months, and leading her to be paid over $2 million before any usable footage had been shot. Taylor's illness and the resulting delays led to the resignation of the original director (Rouben Mamoulian) and the actors cast as Caesar (Peter Finch) and Antony (Stephen Boyd).
Even leaving aside Taylor's extended sick leave, few things went as planned during the abortive Pinewood shoot. The producers had frequent clashes with the studio's labor unions, the film crew did not realize until after settling on Pinewood as the venue for indoor filming that there were fewer available soundstages than anticipated and the ceilings were too low to accommodate the sets as originally planned, and the outdoor sets deteriorated rapidly in the cold, wet English weather. The footage shot at Pinewood ended up being discarded as the filming moved to Cinecittà Studios in Rome so the English weather would not impair Taylor's recovery. (The sets were still used by the producers of the Carry On films in 1964's Carry On Cleo.)
Production in Italy was just as problematic. The costumes and sets had to be completely re-designed and re-built, leading to a shortage of lumber and other building materials throughout Italy. Millions of dollars' worth of props and other equipment were stolen by studio employees, while a group of female extras went on strike as a result of being constantly groped by lecherous male extras. Two construction workers building the Alexandria set were killed by an unexploded World War II land mine. The constant delays and reshoots in filming the epic-scale scene of Cleopatra's entrance on a barge into Rome (started in October 1961, finished the following March) required the recasting of Cleopatra's son as the original child actor had grown significantly taller during the delay.
When Joseph L. Mankiewicz was brought on board to direct at Taylor's insistence, the film was already nearly a year behind schedule, $5 million over budget, and had not a single frame of usable footage to show for it. The script was only half completed, and Mankiewicz had to write the rest as filming went along, shooting the script as new scenes were written and editing the resulting footage later rather than editing the script first and then shooting the resulting scenes. The catastrophic budget overruns meant the climactic Battle of Actium sequence had to be re-written to take place almost entirely off camera. So great was the strain of writing and directing that Mankiewicz required injections to both get through each day and sleep at night.
To complicate matters, the film marked the beginning of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's tempestuous relationship and eventual marriage (and subsequent divorce, re-marriage, and re-divorce); as both were already married, the resulting scandal and moral outrage added bad publicity to the already toxic combination of massive delays and cost inflation. However, the affair created enough fascination with the public that Fox decided to assemble a publicity campaign that focused almost entirely on Taylor and Burton, with scant attention at best devoted to Rex Harrison as Caesar.note Harrison arguably got the last laugh when he became the only one of the film's three stars to receive an Oscar nomination for his performance.
Things didn't improve during post production. Mankiewicz initially planned to assemble two three-hour films, Caesar and Cleopatra and Antony and Cleopatra, but Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck believed that the public interest in seeing Taylor and Burton on screen together might fade if the second film were released later, while interest in the first film (in which Burton would only appear in a few scenes) would be minimal, so he ordered the films edited into a single four-hour film - requiring more reshoots to smooth over the changes. Mankiewicz was eventually fired during editing, but had to be re-hired when it became obvious that he was the only person who could make sense of the raw footage.note Some of the cut footage has been recovered in recent years; the film's fans continue to harbor hope that all of the cut footage may someday be restored and the film released as Mankiewicz originally intended.
The film finally staggered into cinemas in June 1963, with a final production cost of $44 million (over $300 million adjusted for inflation) - money Fox knew it had little chance of recovering. Despite lukewarm reviews from critics and audiences, the film had the highest box office take of 1963 and was nominated for ten Oscars (including Best Picture), winning four, but it would not break even until ABC paid $5 million for two television screenings in 1966 (at the time, a record fee for film broadcasting rights). The already financially troubled 20th Century Fox almost went bankrupt, selling parts of its studio lot and needing the successes of films such as The Longest Daynote in which Roddy McDowall (who played Octavian in Cleopatra) requested, and received, a small role to alleviate boredom during the endless delays to Cleopatra in 1962 and The Sound of Music in 1965 to offset their losses. Cleopatra also killed interest in the sword and sandal epic genre for nearly a generation, and was a key factor in the disintegration of the old "studio system", as studios passed responsibility for production costs to independent production companies instead of handling said costs themselves.
The 1989 horror film Clownhouse became one of the nastier examples on this list when it was discovered that director Victor Salva had been molesting the film's 12-year-old star, Nathan Forrest Winters, during production. Despite the film winning the Grand Jury Prize in the dramatic category at Sundance that year, Salva wouldn't direct again until 1995 - and his next film, Powder, was hit with an attempted boycott led by Winters.
Kevin Smith and his crew had, according to their own statements, a horrible experience filming Cop Out due to the behavior of his lead actor, Bruce Willis. Although Smith has supposedly kept some parts of his experience private, he devoted a whole chapter in his book Tough Shit to his experiences making the movie, as well as told stories at speaking engagements about Willis' behavior (calling him "the unhappiest, most bitter, and meanest emo-bitch I’ve ever met at any job I’ve held down"). Among the few incidents that are known, Willis:
Supposedly made Smith feel like crap on the second day of shooting, when (after Smith stopped by and told him he was a huge fan, and after seeing a group of people recognize him) say, "Those are the worst ones."
Intentionally flubbed his lines and mannerisms in order to waste time during filming, starting from the first day of filming.
Openly refused to stand on his lighting mark in outdoor scenes, then ignored Smith's orders during filming and walked off to the catering table constantly.
Said to Smith on one occasion: "I'm Bruce Willis! I've been Bruce Willis successfully for 25 years! How long have you been Silent Bob, motherfucker?"
Lectured Smith and his crew on their choice of camera lenses during a sequence shot in front of a green-screen.
Supposedly threatened to punch Smith during a break from shooting a scene in a hotel room, then denied it when Smith called him on it.
The little-known Sam Raimi/Coen Brothers collaboration Crimewave suffered from heavy Executive Meddling (starting from them denying Raimi to cast his friend Bruce Campbell as the protagonist; he retaliated by expanding a minor role so Campbell would be there for most of production), going over budget despite being a minor production, and other difficulties such as stars Louise Lasser and Biron James' cocaine addictions (at times, Lasser refused to leave her trailer, while James destroyed the lights in his hotel room because he thought the ghost of his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend was coming to haunt him!). Sam Raimi had particular difficulty working with Paul L. Smith; according to Scott Spiegel, Smith wasn't very co-operative, and his entire dialogue was dubbed in post production. And to add insult to injury, the studio forbid Raimi to edit the film, which he has since disowned. Bruce Campbell provides a DVD commentary on the film explaining what went wrong. Because of this film's troubled production and box office failure, Evil Dead 2 was made.
The Crow had an incredibly troubled shoot, so much so it would have been an infamous example of this trope before its defining behind-the-scenes accident:
Series creator James O'Barr's first meeting with Paramount executives led to him discovering that they wanted to make the film a musical starring Michael Jackson, and when he laughed thinking it was a joke, they told him they were absolutely serious. Later on, they refused director Alex Proyas' request to shoot the film entirely in black and white.
With eight days of filming left, lead actor Brandon Lee was accidentally shot and killed due to a prop gun that discharged a piece of blank cartridge that was left in the barrel. The resulting shot punctured Lee's chest and impacted his spine, and he eventually died from serious blood loss. The footage showing Lee being shot was destroyed, and the incident caused so much anguish for supporting actor Michael Massee (who pulled the trigger on the gun, and was cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident) that he took a year off from his career to recuperate.
As a result of Lee's death, and Paramount Pictures writing the project off as a result, Miramax finished production of the film via reshot sequences that used a stand-in for Lee. The FX studio Dream Quest Images (which was already trying to make effects for the entire film on a budget of $15,000) was forced to jury-rig handheld footage of Lee shot earlier in production to finish several effects shots.
There were several more accidents that befell the production crew, leading to a widespread belief that the film was cursed. A carpenter suffered serious burns on his upper body during the first day of filming. A manual worker had a screwdriver get embedded in his hand. An equipment truck burst into flames. A stuntman broke several ribs after falling through a roof, a rigger was horribly electrocuted, and a hurricane destroyed several of the sets. Just prior to his fatal shooting, Lee cut himself on a piece of breakaway glass (which isn't supposed to be sharp).
A lot of the trouble was due to cost-and-corner-cutting; one of the crew recalled "they were trying to make a 30 million dollar movie for 18 million dollars". The film was filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, because North Carolina was a "right-to-work" state. This allowed the producers to get away with pay, conditions, and, crucially, production schedules that would have been nuked by unionized Hollywood. They began filming at night outdoors, but the aforementioned hurricane destroyed the sets, so they moved the production indoors - without changing the schedule, as switching a production from nights to days requires a 24-hour turnaround, time the harried production team didn't have. Moreover, it was still so cold that the camera rails had to be de-iced during filming by riggers with blowtorches hiding out of shot.
On top of all of this, cocaine abuse was rampant on set, according to Empire magazine, with cameramen shooting whilst high, crew going into the toilets to snort between shots, and people cutting around looking like the Got Milk? ads. One crewmember recalls hearing the sound of a sneeze on the set one day, and an annoyed Brandon Lee quipping "someone just lost $50".
Everything eventually got so bad that one of the neighbouring productions in the EUE studios began taking bets on mishaps...until a fire destroyed several of their sets as well.
The Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson werewolf film Cursed turned out to have a rather fitting title. Production was halted in the middle of filming in order to do studio-mandated rewrites, which delayed the film's expected completion by over a year. Mandy Moore dropped out and was replaced by Mya due to the delays, Skeet Ulrich dropped out when he saw the changes to the script (leading to his character being removed), and several actors (Illeana Douglas, Heather Langenkamp, Scott Foley, Omar Epps, Robert Forster, James Brolin, and Corey Feldman) all saw the scenes they shot removed entirely from the film. The result was a critical and box office dud that is often cited as Wes Craven's worst film.
Renny Harlin and Geena Davis, who had a reasonably successful marriage and creative partnership at the time, began to explore the possibility that she might be able to expand from the light comedies she'd made her name with (including an Oscar for The Accidental Tourist) to action movies. A pirate movie seemed like a good place to try to start.
Michael Douglas conditioned his appearance on getting an equal amount of screen time as Davis. After be began to suspect the filmmakers were adding scenes for her without letting him know, he quit. Many other prominent male stars turned it down before Matthew Modine took the part. While it was partially a boon to the producers in that he actually knows how to fence, he was also not the first or even the 17th person you'd think of for an action-adventure swashbuckling male lead at the time.
Due to the casting distractions, Harlin hadn't really been able to pay attention to the sets and production design. When he finally did, he didn't like any of it. It all had to be redesigned and rebuilt in a rather short time frame—and then the script had to be rewritten to accommodate the changes. Both had a lot to do with driving the film's budget way up.
Oliver Reed had been cast in a minor role but had to be replaced after (surprise!) he got drunk and flashed Davis on the set. By that time Davis and Harlin had lost any enthusiasm they had originally had for the project and were strictly in it because they were contractually obligated. And they were getting paid.
Albert Pyun's 1989 film Cyborg was actually born out of it rather than suffering from this. A Spider-Man movie and a sequel to Masters of the Universe were about to begin shooting simultaneously, when Cannon's licensing deals with Mattel and Marvel suddenly went bad, causing both projects to collapse under their own weight. With $2 million already invested by Cannon on pre-production and very early production, Pyun took it upon himself to, literally, make something out of the two miscarried projects. He came up with the story for Cyborg in a single weekend, and the film was completed on a budget of less than $500,000 and 24 days of hectic and rushed filming. Cyborg made a little more than $10,000,000 on the box office, becoming one of Pyun's most commercially successful films.
Days Of Thunder, per this old ''Spy'' article. Everyone thought getting the producers of Top Gun (Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer), its director (the late Tony Scott) and star (Tom Cruise) together, with a script by the legendary Robert Towne about a trendy sport (stock-car racing) couldn't miss. It was a commercial success indeed, despite bad reviews, but none of them ever worked all together again, because:
Simpson, Bruckheimer and sometimes Towne (a sometime director himself) often started their days on set having arguments with Scott (sometimes ganging up on him, sometimes three-way) over how to shoot scenes. Meanwhile, the crew sat around getting paid, sometimes for 20 hours a day. Some later said that they had made so much overtime on the film that they could have gone on vacation for four full months after the wrap date.
However, the effect of all that sitting around watching the producers, director and writer fight with each other was that the said wrap date kept getting pushed back. At one point the production schedule was revised three times in a single day, leading the unit production manager (the studio's on-set financial liaison) to have a "What the Hell, Producers?" moment with Simpson and Bruckheimer. In response, they told him "Screw the schedule." It went from February 1990 to the end of May, severely jeopardizing its chances of making its expected summer release date (it came out a month later). Unsurprisingly, the budget almost doubled over this wasted time too, requiring that the movie make a then-astronomical $100 million merely to break even.
Robert Towne (the writer, mind you) had a barn built to his specifications while the production was filming outside Charlotte. He didn't like it and they didn't use it. When the crew moved down to Daytona for scenes there, another barn was built. Towne didn't like it either, and most of the barn scenes he had envisioned were thus dropped from the script.
The cars being assembled in a barn were just one of many inaccurate depictions of NASCAR in the film. Why this happened given the official cooperation of NASCAR and several racing teams, Tom Cruise's personal interest in racing as a hobby and the research he and Towne did is a matter of some artistic license, almost lampshaded in the movie itself by Cole Trickle's constant expressions of surprise that he's gotten this far in the sport despite limited experience. But it seemed on the set as if Scott and a lot of the actual crew just didn't care. So much so that, reportedly, only after principal photography wrapped did someone review the footage and find that they had neglected to shoot Cole Trickle's car crossing the finish line ... only the climactic shot of the entire movie.
One reason why Simpson and Bruckheimer may not have cared about the accuracy (as if they ever did): they were too busy realizing the potential of the movie to get chicks. They spent $400,000 of the studio's money having an empty storefront in their hotel building converted into their private gym. And then putting up a huge eight-foot-high neon sign with the name of the movie in the window. They threw a special welcome party for the crew at a local nightclub with minimal food and drink and no music ... but plenty of hookers they flew in, most of whom they limited to a roped-off VIP area with themselves and Cruise.
Dersu Uzala, due to Akira Kurosawa having to work in the USSR as no Japanese studio wanted to fund him at the time. The resulting studio, Mosfilm, clashed with Kurosawa as his perfectionism did not fit the "deliver a certain amount of shot film per day" the company wanted. Union fights were recurrent, and cameramen were changed every week. There was only one interpreter - to a crew of mostly Russians! To make the tiger attack more realistic, a wild one was used instead of a domesticated animal - and needless to say, it wasn't collaborative. No wonder the film took 3 years to get ready.
Following years of legal battles with Hugh Lofting's family, work on a Dolittle film finally began in 1964 with Alan Jay Lerner employed as scriptwriter and composer. When a year passed and Lerner had nothing to show for it, producer Arthur Jacobs fired him and tried unsuccessfully to entice The Sherman Brothers away from Disney before settling on English composer Leslie Bricusse, who took just two months to provide a full treatment complete with song ideas and tempering the racist content in a way that met with the Lofting family's approval. However, Bricusse unwittingly included an original scene from a rejected script by producer Helen Winston (assuming it was from the book), who sued Fox for $4.5 million.note The case settled out of court, and the scene, in which Britain's animals go on strike in support of Dolittle, was only alluded to in the finished film.
Rex Harrison, fresh from his star turn as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, was contracted to play the title character, but tried to back out after Lerner's dismissal. To do that, Harrison made ridiculous demands to piss off the producers like demanding that Sammy Davis Jr be replaced with the non-singing actor Sidney Poitier, because he didn't want to work with an "entertainer" (Read: sing better than himself). He also demanded contradictory rewrites from Bricusse, made pointless explorations for other songwriters, new shooting locations and wanted to record his songs live as opposed to standard sound recording in studio. Christopher Plummer, fresh from his star turn as Baron von Trapp in The Sound of Music, was paid $300,000 to stand by as Harrison's replacement during production. Harrison eventually returned, but was extremely difficult to work with during production, suffering various personal crises and constantly insulting and arguing with castmates, such as Anthony Newely for being Jewish, and crew members (Bricusse was a particular target for Harrison's venom; at one point, he secretly looked into replacing him with Michael Flanders and Donald Swann).
Hundreds of animals were trained for the film... in California. Because of British animal quarantine laws, they were unusable for location shooting at Castle Combe in Wiltshire, and another set of animals had to be trained at great expense. The animals proved almost as difficult to work with as Rex Harrison; a fawn drank from an open can of paint and had to have her stomach pumped, a goat ate director Richard Fleischer's script, squirrels chewed through several key pieces of scenery, Rex Harrison was frequently urinated on by sheep while filming a field scene, a flock of ducks sank when placed in the water as the scene was shot at a time of year when their feathers were not water-repellent, several animal roles had to be repeatedly recast when the "actors" grew too large, and the unexpected co-operation of the animals during the first take of "The Reluctant Vegetarian" was rendered irrelevant when Polynesia the Parrot shouted "Cut!" - and Harrison assumed it had been Fleischer who spoke.
The location shoot in Castle Combe, posing as Dolittle's home village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, had other unexpected problems. Just as the weather reports the studio ignored warned, the rain fell in torrents all summer - except when the crew tried to film scenes set on rainy days. The film crew clashed with local residents when they insisted on the removal of their anachronistic television aerials, and an artificial dam built to enlarge the local lake was almost blown up by future explorer-adventurer Ranulph Fiennes, then a demolitions expert in the SAS, who saw the dam as an act of vandalism.note Fiennes was dishonourably discharged from the SAS for improper use of explosives and fined a considerable sum for his act of "countervandalism".
Filming moved to Marigot Bay in St. Lucia for the Sea-Star Island scenes, and the problems continued apace. The weather remained unco-operative, and there were frequent problems with swarms of local insects. A key scene in which Dolittle's companions leave the island on the Great Pink Sea Snail enraged the locals, the children among whom had just endured a food poisoning epidemic caused by freshwater snails, and they pelted the prop Snail with stones. Harrison deliberately ruined filming of a beach scene in which he was not involved by sailing his yacht into the shot and refusing to move. Studio sets had to be built in California for costly reshoots of the village and island scenes.
As well as ending Rex Harrison's career as a leading man, Dolittle is often credited, alongside Warner Bros.' Camelot (which came out two months earlier), with killing the family musical, as both opened to a negative critical reception and general lack of interest. Fox, already committed to releasing the similarly disappointing musicals Star! in 1968 and Hello, Dolly! in 1969, almost went bankrupt again, only making one film in 1970 and not recouping their losses until a 1973 re-release of The Sound of Music. The only good thing to come out of Doctor Dolittle was that Arthur Jacobs was able to make Fox greenlight, under promise of not exceeding a $5 million budget, a discredited Pierre Boulle-penned sci-fi story that he had been seeking to adapt for years... called Planet of the Apes.
Plans to adapt Frank Herbert's 1965 novel to film went back over fifteen years, with the aforementioned Arthur Jacobs being the first to buy the rights to it not long after it came out... at which point he sat on them, consistently holding out for more money, until he died several years later.
In 1975, Chilean director Alexandro Jodorowsky, with backing from the Seydoux brothers (a pair of French producers), picked up the rights for $100,000. He invested more than $2 million into pre-production, writing a script for a 10-20 hour miniseries starring Salvador Dali and Mick Jagger with music by Pink Floyd, before running out of money, with the rights going to the Seydoux brothers.
Italian independent mega-producer Dino de Laurentiis was the next to get involved, buying the rights from the Seydoux brothers for $2 million and turning to Herbert himself to write the script. When that didn't work out, he turned to Ridley Scott, fresh off the success of Alien. That, too, didn't work out — Scott's vision for the film's aesthetic was similar to that of Alien, which de Laurentiis felt would've made the film feel too derivative, and there was also an argument over Scott and his co-writer Rudolph Wurlitzer writing an incest scene that wasn't in the book, which Herbert himself stepped in over. (Scott denies that the latter part happened.) Finally, just when it was looking like the film might actually enter production, Scott's older brother, Frank, died unexpectedly, forcing the emotionally devastated Scott to withdraw from the project entirely. Scott opted not to return after recovering, deciding instead to make Blade Runner.
Finally, de Laurentiis found David Lynch, who had just made The Elephant Man, and hired him as writer and director. The first argument was over casting; Lynch wanted to cast Freddie Jones, who he had worked with on The Elephant Man, and had to go against much resistance from de Laurentiis to do so. De Laurentiis planned to fire Jones, but changed his mind upon seeing the first dailies and went so far as to apologize to Jones for being skeptical of him.
Churubusco Studios in Mexico City was selected as the shooting location, due to the nearby desert and the devaluation of the peso making it possible to shoot the film for a quarter of what it would've cost in the US. Unfortunately, with that cut-rate cost came cockroach infestations, Mexico's byzantine bureaucracy, brownouts that necessitated having backup generators on hand at all times, a primitive phone network with only one direct line to the production office, worse smog than Los Angeles, and Montezuma's Revenge afflicting half the Europeans on the crew. In addition, Francesca Annis accidentally blew herself up with a gas oven and was hospitalized for several weeks. Production began in March 1983 and took six months to complete due to all the problems the production faced, coming in $4-7 million over its planned $38 million budget.
Problems didn't end with the production. The film was taken out of Lynch's hands in post-production, and diverged so greatly from his vision that he refuses to have his name attached to certain cuts of the film.
Easy Rider. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda were constantly at odds with each other, the bikes were stolen (Fonda's declared motivation for his delivery of "We blew it") and Hopper proved to be a Prima Donna Director, eventually leading to the studio sending him on a paid vacation while they recut the film in his absence to a more manageable length (Hopper's original cut was 220 minutes long).
Terry Southern had written the George Hanson part for his friend Rip Torn. However, after Torn and Hopper nearly came to blows one night before production at a restaurant in New York, Jack Nicholson got cast instead, and the rest is history.
Eraserhead suffered from this — no studio would fund it due to its unusual plot and David Lynch's lack of experience, so he had to rely on funds from the AFI, as well as friends and family. Because of these financial troubles, filming was intermittent — it took five years, and sets had to be repeatedly assembled and disassembled. While its critical reception was initially mixed, the film was praised by several other filmmakers (including, but not limited to Mel Brooks, Stanley Kubrick and John Waters), which kickstarted Lynch's career.
In his autobiography, Bruce Campbell described production on The Evil Dead as a "comedy of errors" and "twelve weeks of mirthless exercise in agony." Sam Raimi and the cast and crew had done some shorts before, but a feature proved to be much harder.
The cabin used as the film's set was also used as lodging for the thirteen crew members. Living conditions were terrible, and the crew frequently argued. The actors went days without showering or bathing (the cabin did not have plumbing), and fell ill frequently in the freezing weather. Things got so bad that, by the end of production, they were burning furniture to stay warm.
On the very first day of shooting, the crew got lost in the woods.
Several people were injured during the shoot and couldn't get medical help due to how isolated the cabin was. In one particularly gruesome instance, Betsy Baker's eyelashes were ripped off during the removal of her face mask.
The special effect used to create the Deadites' possessed-looking eyes was done with contact lenses as thick as glass that could only be worn for fifteen minutes at once because they prevented the actors' eyes from breathing. Campbell compared the effect to putting Tupperware over the eyes. (Perhaps it's not for nothing that the remake dropped this particular effect.)
Sam Raimi takes pride in how he "tortured" his actors on set, feeling that it made it easier for them to capture the characters' pain and misery. When Bruce Campbell tripped and injured his leg during one scene, Raimi poked the injured area with a stick.
Pretty much any collaboration between Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski was guaranteed to be this; most notably Fitzcarraldo, which took the problems of Apocalypse Now and turned them Up to Eleven. Among the many problems with the production was that, instead of using special effects to replicate the feat of towing a huge boat up and over the side of a mountain, Herzog insisted in doing it for real. Numerous serious injuries and at least one death resulted. Aguirre, the Wrath of God was almost as troubled; though not as fatal.
Herzog and Kinski's highly tempestuous relationship was chronicled in Herzog's documentary on Kinski — My Best Fiend (yes, that's spelled correctly). Although the story of Werner forcing Klaus to perform his scenes at the point of a gun is apocryphal, he freely admits they both threatened on numerous occasions to kill each other; and actually attempted it at least once each.
And, like Apocalypse, Fitzcarraldo's trouble production is the subject of its own documentary film, Burden of Dreams. Near the end, Herzog speculates that he should give up filmmaking and go into a mental asylum.
Not only was Freddy vs. Jason stuck in Development Hell for over a decade, but when production finally got underway, it wasn't exactly smooth sailing. The biggest problem that occurred on set was a fight between director Ronny Yu and actress Katharine Isabelle, who had signed onto the film on the promise that she would not have to do nude scenes; during the shoot, Yu went back on this promise and repeatedly tried to pressure her to get naked. (They eventually settled on using a body double.)
Gigli wasn't as troubled as some of the other productions here, at least not during the early stages. The script was rewritten from a straightforward mob movie to a romantic comedy in order to take advantage of the "Bennifer" media circus surrounding the Romance on the Set between the film's leads, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Martin Brest, the director, had no problem with this — after all, he'd made Beverly Hills Cop a hit under similar circumstances. And there were no reports of strife on the set. Things blew up between Brest and the studio during post-production, though, as they fought for a long time over the final film. It was roundly panned as one of the worst films ever when finally releasednote Let's put it this way. The DVD box had no quotes from reviews on it. None at all. Even most bad movies have at least one blurb from some middle-of-nowhere TV station or newspaper that the studio paid for. The fact that they couldn't even get that says something., and Brest, a fine comic director with Going In Style and Midnight Run also to his credit, has not made another film since.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation: The movie's highly-anticipated release was delayed, almost at the last moment, by nine months, for reshoots, ostensibly to make a 3-D version possible and boost interest in international markets (and, unofficially, to avoid competing with Magic Mike, also starring Tatum). However, advance word had it been that it had tested very poorly and the studio was trying to adjust by increasing Tatum's part.
This wouldn't have been so much of a problem had Paramount not been heavily promoting the original June release date up to the point they put it off, leaving them with just two movies on their summer calendar. Left in the lurch in the meantime was an entire line of toys based on the movie that Hasbro was bringing out.
The effort to "boost interest in international markets" notwithstanding, the film was still banned in Pakistan due to its negative portrayal of that country.
Oh, and a crew member got killed on set in New Orleans.
The 1997 comedy Gone Fishin had a couple of problems from the beginning. It was originally intended as a vehicle for both John Candy and Rick Moranis in the early 1990s, but both turned it down. It went into turnaround until 1995 when Joe Pesci and Danny Glover, who had worked together in the second and third Lethal Weapon films signed on. The movie was originally directed by John G. Avildsen, but he was fired after just two weeks of filming, which he immediately paid his $2 million salary, and was replaced by Christopher Cain. In the middle of the shoot, a stuntwoman died when a boat that was made to jump a ramp in one of the film's scenes landed on top of her, while her husband and father-in-law were also injured. It went overbudget to a total of $53 million and was delayed for over a year when Disney, which was the original distributor for the film, had it switched to their Hollywood Pictures label. The film was released in late May 1997, where it died a quick death at the box office and earned a savaging from critics.
The Alfonso Cuaron sci-fi thriller Gravity, as discussed in this article. Cuarón hoped to jump right into the film after wrapping work on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but it took him four and a half years just to begin work, as the technology required to make the film didn't exist yet and had to be developed specifically for this film. Lead actors George Clooney and Sandra Bullock spent long days locked inside a 9'-by-9' cube filled with cameras and LED screens giving them instructions, and while significant problems didn't occur, just the planned experience was, by all accounts, hellish. Needless to say, things turned out well, as the film opened to positive reviews and became a box office smash, breaking records for the highest weekend debut for the month of October and the entire fall season.
Series producer Moustapha Akkad had been intending to make a sixth Halloween film despite the tepid reception of Revenge, meeting with screenwriter and series super-fan Daniel Farrands in 1990. Farrands' ideas stoked Akkad's interest; he had compiled a notebook filled with research on the series, including a timeline, bios for every character, a "family tree" of the Myers and Strode families, and research on the runic symbol of Thorn that had appeared in Revenge. His intent was to bridge the first two films with the fourth and fifthnote For those wondering where the third film fits in: that film, Season of the Witch, was a non-canon spinoff that featured none of the series' characters and was subsequently ignored, viewed as something of a Black Sheep in the series today., and also to explain why series villain Michael Myers keeps coming back: he had been put under an ancient Celtic curse that compelled him to murder his entire family, one that would be passed on to another young child after he completed his task.
Farrands was brought on to write the film, but a series of complicated legal battles held up production for years until Miramax Films (via Dimension Films) bought the rights to Halloween. Writing finally began in 1994; several screenplays by different writers were gone through and deemed insufficient until Farrands' final draft, dubbed Halloween 666, was finalized after eleven drafts. From there came casting; while Donald Pleasance reprised his role as Dr. Loomis, Danielle Harris did not return as Jamie Lloyd, due to both salary disagreements and Creative Differences; Harris resented the fact that Jamie was to be killed off in the opening, feeling that her character was no longer important to the series, and so Jamie was recast. Fred Walton was tapped to direct, but dropped out and was replaced with Joe Chappelle.
Then production began, and the real problems hit. Shooting in Salt Lake City proved challenging due to an early winter that frequently interrupted production, and Chappelle and producer Paul Freeman had to rewrite the ending on the fly to meet deadlines. Furthermore, Freeman frequently inserted himself into production, rewriting dialogue and action scenes, removing a number of scenes from the script, taking it upon himself to direct second-unit shots, and sending the crew home when important scenes needed to be shot. Freeman's handling of the production was so inept that Miramax eventually stepped in, kicked him off the film, and ordered reshoots.
Post-production went no better. Lead actress Marianne Hagan described the test screenings in early 1995 as "consist[ing] primarily of 14-year-old boys" who disliked the ending and the Cult of Thorn storyline. This led to another round of reshoots to craft a new ending, but there was a big problem: Donald Pleasance could not be present for them on account of having died in February. Not only was a new ending shot anyway, but over twenty minutes of other footage was changed as well, leaving gaping plot holes that rendered the film nearly incomprehensible.
When it was released that September, Curse had the largest opening weekend out of the entire series but was ravaged by critics and fans, and plunged fast. One of its fiercest critics was Farrands, who hated the final film's deviations from his script. The series would be partially rebooted three years later in 1998 with Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, which took only the first two films as canon. Eventually, when the film was shown on TV, someone unearthed the original Producer's Cut from before the reshoots; while it cuts the violence and profanity, it otherwise retains most of the original content, and Farrands has given it his tepid (if still disappointed) approval.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ran into a problem with rain. While filming on location in Scotland, the rain was so bad that they had to have helicopters fly in gravel to stop the sets from washing away. Fortunately, Alfonso Cuaron and the cinematographer liked the overcast look they ended up with as a result.
Another movie affected by the Screen Actors Guild strike of 1980 was Heartbeeps, due to the strike causing production to go on hiatus for over two months mid-shoot. But even when it was shooting, the sci-fi Romantic Comedy that was intended both as a big-screen vehicle for Andy Kaufman and Universal's big Christmas release for 1981 was troubled: The weather at the Colorado shooting location caused Stan Winston's elaborate robot makeups — which took several hours to apply — to gradually wilt in the heat, limiting how much footage could be shot in a day. Director Allan Arkush, who had never helmed a big-budget project, staged scenes at a glacial pace that frustrated everyone but him. Kaufman, increasingly bored with the proceedings and having no friends to goof off with between takes (his friend/co-conspirator Bob Zmuda was specifically prohibited from the shoot), began acting out. Universal executives were horrified by the cut the director presented them with, and their final cut was a mere 79 minutes with credits. The movie grossed only a fifth of its budget, proving to be both Kaufman's Star-Derailing Role and an Old Shame.
Heaven's Gate is practically synonymous with "ambitious films gone horribly wrong", to the point that it inspired an entire book, Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven's Gatenote later re-subtitled Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate by Steven Bach, the only studio executive to be involved with the film from start to finish. According to Bach:
Director Michael Cimino had wanted to make a film about the Johnson County War, an 1892 battle between rich Wyoming landowners and European immigrant settlers, since 1971; the good press surrounding his 1978 film The Deer Hunter and its dual Oscar wins for Best Director and Best Picture finally gave Cimino the industry clout to get United Artists to agree to finance the film, with initial budget estimates starting at $7.5 million but rising to $11.6 million by the time production began.
The first signs of trouble appeared during casting of the female lead. The male leads - Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, and John Hurt - fell more under Hey, It's That Guy! than box office stars when casting began in 1979, and UA hoped that they could bolster the cast's marquee power with a high profile lead actress, but after Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton rejected the role, Cimino insisted on little-known French actress Isabelle Huppert, whose English was hesitant and heavily-accented. United Artists insisted that another actress be found; Cimino threatened (not for the last time) to take the film to Warner Bros., and UA capitulated (even afterwards, Bach at one point told Cimino to his face that his leading lady was so unappealing that the audience was going to wonder why Kristofferson and Walken "[weren't] fucking each other instead of her").
Filming began at Glacier National Park in Montana in April 1979 and was expected to finish in June, with a projected release date of December 1979. However, Cimino's almost fanatical dedication to his artistic vision for the film meant the shoot was five days behind schedule after just six days, and the delays and inflated costs grew from there. Getting to the filming site from the cast and crew's hotel in Kalispell took two hours each way. Many cast and crew members were on site (and on the payroll) for months just to complete a few hours of shooting. Cimino insisted on taking full advantage of the location's natural beauty by shooting many scenes at twilight, scenes which could thus only be shot during a time window of a few minutes each day. Cimino also insisted on countless retakes; a single-second shot of Kristofferson cracking a whip took an entire day and 52 takes to film.
The glacial pace of filming was not the only factor in the skyrocketing costs. Upon deciding that the spacing of buildings either side of a street on an outdoor set "didn't look right", Cimino ordered both sides torn down and re-built.note A crew member even pointed out, to no avail, that it would be easier and cheaper to just tear one side down and build it twice as far back. A 19th-century locomotive was shipped on flatbed rail trucks from Colorado; as it was too big to fit into the modern tunnels, it had to take a longer and more expensive route to Montana. Cimino put an irrigation system in the rocky field in which the climactic battle sequence was shot so that it would be green with grass at the beginning of the battle, and red with blood at the end of it. And of the masses of footage shot by Cimino, an unusually high fraction was printed for possible inclusion in the finished film (far exceeding the part of the budget devoted to printing); ultimately, of over 1.5 million feet of exposed film, 1.3 million feet were printed, amounting to 220 hours of raw footage.
To make matters worse, Cimino's contract stated that he would not be penalized for any cost overruns incurred in completing and delivering the film for its December 1979 release date, so while costs spiralled, he was protected from breach of contract lawsuits. He clashed repeatedly with UA executives, who at several points considered simply scrapping the film, unloading it on another studio (unsurprisingly, they couldn't find any takers), or firing Cimino and replacing him.note Bach mentions approaching "A Famous Director", widely believed to be David Lean, who refused to replace Cimino out of concern at incurring the wrath of the DGA (even his conversation with Bach was against DGA regulations, hence Bach does not name him in Final Cut); Norman Jewison was also approached but declined.
Location shooting in Montana finally wrapped in October 1979,note By this point, local cars sported bumper stickers reading "To Hell with Heaven's Gate", and Cimino had a very public falling out with production manager and longtime friend Charlie Okun at the wrap party. with only a Harvard-set prologue and Rhode Island-set epilogue to film. However, Harvard refused permission to film on campus, so the prologue was instead shot at Mansfield College, Oxford.note John Hurt had returned to England in a hurry after filming wrapped in Montana to honour his commitment to The Elephant Man, and took a few days off to film his scenes in the Harvard segment. Though this was the only part of the shoot to finish on time and on budget, Cimino was refused permission to film near Christ Church on Sunday, and had to prepare and shoot the scene in secret just after dawn before the Sunday morning services. The final production budget came to nearly $40 million, over three times the original figure.
Despite Cimino's attempts at press secrecy, the film was already beginning to draw negative publicity during shooting. A freelance journalist landed a job as an extra, then sold the story about the catastrophic time and budget overruns. With similar problems on UA's Apocalypse Now fresh in the press' memories, they began dubbing Heaven's Gate "Apocalypse Next". The shoot also attracted controversy for (mostly, but not wholly, exaggerated) claims of animal cruelty, with live cockfights being filmed, livestock entrails being used for some of the gorier scenes, and a horse being killed during the filming of a special effects scene for the climactic battle sequence. The film is still on the American Humane Association's "unacceptable" list.
The sheer volume of raw footage meant that the Christmas 1979 release date had long since become unfeasible, and the date was pushed back to Christmas 1980. Cimino changed the locks on the editing suite to ensure that he could cut the film his way. His work print of the film, screened for UA executives in June 1980, was a staggering 325 minutes long; under threat of dismissal as director, Cimino agreed to cut the film down to 219 minutes for a trio of premieres in New York, Toronto, and Los Angeles in November 1980.
The New York premiere was a disaster, with the audience reacting with indifference to the story and struggling to hear the dialogue, and critics, led by Vincent Canby of The New York Times (who, in a much-quoted review, called the film "an unqualified disaster"), tearing it to shreds. A humiliated Cimino withdrew the film before its Los Angeles premiere, announcing that he wanted to edit it further.note Contrary to rumour, Cimino made this decision himself, not at UA's command. He finally trimmed it down to 149 minutes for general release in April 1981; this time, the critics were not so much merciless as disappointed, and the film, the final production and promotion budget of which came to $44 million, made just $1.3 million in its opening weekend and was quickly forgotten by audiences. Although it received a more positive response in France (particularly at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival) and the UK, its worldwide gross was just under $3.5 million.
The film left a veritable bloodbath of dead or dying careers in its wake. Michael Cimino is the most noted victim; he has only made four films since, all largely ignored by critics and audiences. Kris Kristofferson's leading man potential withered, and he turned his attention back to his music career. Although the film's effect on United Artists is sometimes overstated,note The studio had already been on unsteady financial footing for much of the late 1970s, and many employees had already jumped ship to form Orion Pictures; Heaven's Gate was not even UA's most expensive film, an "honour" that goes to Moonraker. it was an influential factor in its parent company, Transamerica, deciding to sell UA to MGM in 1981, ending its 62-year existence as an independent studio.note The cost overruns are also sometimes blamed for UA being unable to fund an Oscar campaign for Raging Bull, which lost Best Director and Best Picture to Robert Redford's Ordinary People. Heaven's Gate itself managed just one Oscar nomination in 1981, for Art Direction (which it lost to Raiders of the Lost Ark).Interest in Westerns also declined for most of the 1980s, and the film is generally credited with hastening the demise of New Hollywood and the auteur director movement.
The reputation of Heaven's Gate has, however, improved in the years since its initial release. Cimino assembled a 216-minute "director's cut" of the film which won acclaim at film festivals in 2012, and Kris Kristofferson and supporting cast member Jeff Bridges still speak fondly of their experiences making and seeing the film.
Highlander II: The Quickening was plagued by the bonding company's interference with the script (the original script covered several plotholes raised by the reveal that the immortals were aliens from the planet Zeist), Christopher Lambert insisting on the resurrection of Ramirez, as he and Sean Connery had become good friends on the set of the first movie, as well as disastrous inflation in Argentina, where the film was being made. In addition, Lambert and Michael Ironside both injured each other. When the film was released, the public hated it, and over time, the original version has gotten lost to history in favour of a re-edited version, and is now no longer considered a part of the series' continuity.
Infamous flop Hudson Hawk gathered bad reaction before its release due to a disastrous production - egos running rampant, constant rewrites, clashes between director and star, you name it. Richard E. Grant even dedicated a chapter about the nightmare that was making the movie in his book With Nails.
No film qualifying for this trope could have had a more apt name than the 1994 Meyers-Shyer rom-com I Love Trouble. Or a more telling plot McGuffin ... a train wreck.
Actually, the writing and casting went well. Especially when they landed Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts as leads. They must have thought they could practically print the money ... until they began actually shooting, and very quickly their two stars began to dislike each other (Roberts reportedly could have completely done without Nolte's macho act, and was not shy or polite about letting him know; he, in turn, began deliberately engaging in it to piss her off). The reviews would later say they had no chemistry onscreen.
Which was actually a testament to their acting skills, because the two of them did have chemistry—the volatile, explosive throw-things-at-each-other-and-scream kind. Not what you want to show on screen in a romantic comedy. The antipathy deepened over the course of filming to the point that they refused to shoot their later scenes together, necessitating some quick rewriting and clever editing and camera tricks. By some accounts they did more scenes with stand-ins then with each other.
Some accounts from the set, though, suggest that they did occasionally get along—when they were both fed up with Meyers and Shyer insisting on things like endless improvisations on a single line.
The bad taste has stayed in their mouths. Nolte says his attitude on the set was a result of only doing it for the money, that he was selling his soul by doing it and that it's his worst film. Roberts has in turn said he was the worst actor she's ever worked with. In some interviews she's described the petulance and childishness of "a former costar" of hers; it's widely assumed that when she does so she's talking about Nolte.
It didn't end when they wrapped. Due to all the strife between the two leads and the ways the production had had to accommodate it, Disney's marketing department scrambled to recast the film, which it had been teasing as the romantic comedy originally intended, into something more like a conventional suspense thriller. "It's gone from a Hepburn-Tracy Woman Of The Year' to The Pelican Brief in a very short time span," one competing studio marketing person noted before it was released.
Elmer Bernstein had written the score, but with barely two weeks to go before the film hit theaters Meyers and Shyer decided they didn't like it and hired David Newman to write and record a new one. He had to hire other composers to help out, something he didn't normally do, and work almost nonstop to finish it in time. When the film hit theaters, some of the onesheets still listed Bernstein as the composer, and even the soundtrack album failed to credit all the composers involved (the movie credits eleven orchestrators, while the album only lists two).
Inchon, the Sun Myung Moon-produced Korean War epic, was as problematic as you'd expect a Moonie movie to be. The producers had trouble securing a director - supposedly psychic Jeane Dixon advised Moon to pick Terence Young after the original director, Andrew V. McLaglen, dropped out. Laurence Olivier agreed to play Douglas MacArthur for a $1.25 million salary plus overtime pay (it's no surprise the movie was his inspiration for the famous Money, Dear Boy quote), later refusing to return to Korea for re-shoots. Months of shooting time were wasted trying to import equipment to Korea. The worst blow came when production was delayed by two typhoons followed by an earthquake. Ultimately the budget ballooned from $18,000,000 USD to $48,000,000. Along with critical thrashings (including many Razzie Awards), the movie made only $2,000,000 in theaters and has never been released on video, rivaling Cutthroat Island and John Carter as an all-time box office bomb.
Ishtar. Where to begin? They decided to shoot the desert scenes in Morocco instead of the Southwest because the studio had money in banks there it couldn't repatriate. Filming began in the midst of unrest across the Middle East, adding security costs to the movie (they actually had to have some locations checked for land mines). And no one in Morocco had experience supporting a big-budget studio production, so logistics got really screwy.
The lore from this one is great. There was the production assistant who went looking for a blue-eyed camel in the market. Not realizing how rare they were, and that he should have just bought it right then and there, he went looking for another one so he'd have a price to bargain with the first guy. By the time he figured that out, the first guy had eaten the camel. Then, of course, there was the time Elaine May, the director, supposedly suddenly changed her mind about wanting dunes in a scene and instead the production had to spend $75,000 and ten days having a square mile of desert bulldozed flat.
May was sick with toothaches most of the time, and spent a lot of time arguing with Warren Beatty, her producer and star. She got pissed at him for constantly taking the side of Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro in disputes, and didn't get along much with Isabelle Adjani, the female lead, who also happened to be Beatty's girlfriend at the time. Dustin Hoffman says there were periods when Beatty and May wouldn't talk to each other. Some of the crew said that any other director would have been fired for pulling the attitude she pulled on him. Eventually they compromised by shooting every scene twice, one her way and one his. "This was the kind of film where nobody would say 'Sorry, we can't afford that,'" said the guy in charge of the budget.
May liked to shoot lots of film. She supposedly demanded 50 retakes of a scene where some vultures landed next to Beatty and Hoffman. Ultimately she shot 108 hours of raw footage.
When they returned from Morocco to shoot scenes in New York, under union rules, an American cinematographer and crew had to sit around on paid standby for Storaro and his crew. During postproduction, May and Beatty fought frequently in the editing room, and May often left it to Beatty to direct the actors during looping sessions. The joke was (and some people say it was not a joke) that Bert Fields, their mutual agent, was the one with the real final cut on the film. And editing took so long (release was planned for Christmas 1986, but the film only hit theaters 6 months later), that May only turned in a print of the film when the studio threatened legal action.
The 1996 The Island of Doctor Moreau had two directors because dealing with prima donnas Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando (who were both going through bad days: the former, a divorce; the latter, a daughter killing herself) proved too much for Richard Stanley, who left for John Frankenheimer to take over (he faced the two on the same coin: apparently once he replied to Kilmer with "I don't give a fuck. Get off my set!"). Stanley's script was also discarded, and the new one was being rewritten in a daily basis. Brando eventually stopped trying to memorize lines and would hear from a radio receiver instead; according to co-star David Thewlis, the receiver also picked up other transmissions like police scanners, meaning Brando would randomly announce things like "There's been a robbery at Woolworth's" in the middle of a scene. Co-star Fairuza Balk was so fed up and on edge from the constant sniping that she actually tried to escape the shoot, and had to be stopped at the airport from leaving the country! The final result shows how bad it was.
From Russia with Love had to undergo a Ridiculously Fast Construction because the producers had already set a release date, and they had to face problems such a boat of cameras sinking into the Bosphorus and a helicopter falling into a lake (with the director inside!) while location scouting.
The Spy Who Loved Me was fraught with problems, being developed and released in the midst of a falling-out between producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltsman, and EON Productions nearly going into liquidation. Spy was rushed into production after another producer, Kevin McClory, decided to create a rival Bond film (which would eventually become Never Say Never Again). The original script treatment for Spy was rejected, and a new screenplay was commissioned that prominently featured Bond's archnemesis Blofeld. Unfortunately, McClory still held the rights to the Blofeld character, forcing the screenwriters to pop in a Suspiciously Similar Substitute in the form of Stromberg. Thankfully, the film was critically well-received.
According to an interview with Michael G. Wilson, Tomorrow Never Dies (like From Russia With Love) was given a release date with no pre-production work completed (and intended to coincide with the release of the company's public stock offering), and things went downhill from there. The script wasn't ready to shoot on the first day of filming, actors supposedly weren't speaking with each other, verbal sparring between director Roger Spottiswoode and writer Bruce Feirstein persisted and the entire production (from the first day of shooting to its release) took a scant six months.
Quantum of Solace was stalled in pre-production by a writer's strike. Based on various accounts, screenwriter Paul Haggis was frantically finishing a first draft hours before the strike deadline and/or Daniel Craig and director Marc Forster rewrote script pages themselves during production. In addition, the fragmented nature of the production (due to the strike) led to a rushed and nearly-incoherent plot.
The film was set to go in early 2013, with Natalie Portman starring in and producing the film, Lynne Ramsay (maker of the film adaptation of We Need to Talk About Kevin) directing, Michael Fassbender playing the ex-lover of Portman's character, and Joel Edgerton as the villain. Before production began, Fassbender dropped out, causing Edgerton to take his role and Jude Law to take the role that Edgerton had vacated.
The real problems started on what was to be the first day of filming, when Ramsay dropped out for reasons unknown. Accounts as to why she did so vary wildly; while she has cited Creative Differences and contract issues, the studio claims that she was drunk, disruptive, and abusive to the cast and crew, and had slacked off on some of the duties in her contract. As of this writing, the studio is suing Ramsay.
Jude Law dropped out the day after Ramsay left, as he had signed on to the film mainly to work with her. Law and Ramsay were subsequently replaced with Gavin O'Connor (director of Warrior) and Bradley Cooper, respectively. Not long after, Cooper himself was forced to drop out, as his film American Hustle had been delayed by the Boston Marathon bombings, jamming up his schedule; Cooper was subsequently replaced by Ewan McGregor.
Jaws. Richard Dreyfuss basically summed it up as follows: "We started the film without a script, without a cast and without a shark." The full model mechanical shark sank to the bottom of the ocean on its first day, forcing a team of divers to retrieve it, and all three models frequently malfunctioned due to exposure to salt water. Add to that the occasionally soaked cameras, ruined takes because unwanted sailboats drifted into frame, and that one time the ship began sinking with the actors aboard. While these disasters did force Steven Spielberg to be creative and contributed to the film's success (famously, he only hinted at the shark's presence for most of the film), Jaws still wound up $5 million over budget (that was a lot back in 1974) and behind schedule - what was initially meant to be a 55-day shoot ended up at 159 days. Spielberg even thought he would never work again because of how screwed the thing was!
Jaws 2 proved just as bad, if not worse. Besides further difficulties with weather and malfunctioning sharks, there was considerable behind-the-scenes turmoil. Original director John Hancock was fired early into the production; the studio then considered bringing Steven Spielberg back. Spielberg waffled, eventually deciding to make Close Encounters of the Third Kind instead. Jeannot Szwarc ultimately took over. Roy Scheider reprised his role as Brody only to fulfill a contract obligation with Universal. He demanded a $500,000 base salary plus overtime pay, constantly feuding with Szwarc and threatening to walk off the set. The script was revised several times during filming. Protests by locals over unwelcome publicity forced the production to move from Martha's Vineyard to Navarre Beach, Florida. Ironically, several actors were menaced by real sharks while filming the climactic boat scenes. It ended up costing $30,000,000, making it Universal's most expensive film up to then.
John Carter: There were reservations at Disney about letting Andrew Stanton direct the film, despite his strong sentimental attachment to the material, because he'd never directed a live-action feature before. But, since he'd made WALL•E and Finding Nemo into hits, they let him do it even though he warned them, "I'm not gonna get it right the first time, I'll tell you that right now." Indeed, the film required extensive double reshoots. Throughout production, he ignored the advice of the crewmembers who were live-action veterans in favor of his Pixar friends, back in their offices. Rich Ross (fired over this) and the other studio executives at Disney likewise had little experience with feature films, since most had come from television.
Then, it came time to market the film, which was already handicapped in that department by having no big stars in the cast. A trailer shown at a Disney con did not go over well, and Stanton refused to take any advice from the studio's marketing department. He insisted on using Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" in the trailer even after it was pointed out to him that a 30-year-old classic-rock song was not likely to resonate with the younger male audience the film was intended for. The movie also went through last-minute retitling, dropping "Princess" and "Mars" from the title because those were thought to turn off the male and female segments of the youth audience respectively — leaving only "John Carter," a name that didn't exactly resound with the modern public the way James Bond would.
Kin-Dza-Dza!, a late 80s Soviet surrealist Sci-Fi comedy by the renowned comedy director Georgi Danelia was this from the start. Between filming in the desert with no infrastructure to speak of (and this being the 80s Soviet Union, that really is saying something), the railway losing all prepared sets (they were eventually found after the filming on the other end of the country) in shipping, which forced the team to cobble them together from scrap in-place,note Wef's cap is actually the codpiece from the discarded fighter pilot's suit, and Pepelats was just thrown together from scrap iron from the nearest dump welded together by a local plumber. the relentless Executive Meddling from the authorities, script changes due to Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign, and half of the film actually being ad-libbed, it's a major miracle that it was just completed, much less becoming the instant cult classic that it is.
As detailed in this article, 1981's The Legend of The Lone Ranger. For starters, the producers hired Klinton Spilsbury, a male model with minimal acting experience, for the lead, hoping that casting an unknown would pay off like it had with Christopher Reeve. But even before filming began the production became a PR disaster when the producers sued Clayton Moore, the star of the 1950s TV adaptation, for making in-character personal appearances. Once filming started, Spilsbury exhibited Small Name, Big Ego tendencies, stunt man Terry Leonard suffered a near-fatal injury, respected cinematographer William Fraker proved to be too inexperienced as a director, post-production issues pushed the film's release date back six months, and concern over Spilsbury's lackluster performance led the studio to hire James Keach to dub all of his dialogue. The film died at the box office in a summer dominated by Raiders of the Lost Ark, gaining a reputation as Franchise Killer. Spilsbury left Hollywood and has never appeared in another movie.
The 2013 The Lone Ranger didn't fare much better than its predecessor. Originally pitched in 2007, it changed hands several times and had the script rewritten at least twice. Then in 2011 Disney delayed the start of production due to concerns about the budget and greatly frustrated director Gore Verbinski, though in the end Disney's concerns turned out to be quite founded. Once filming actually began in 2012, it was delayed repeatedly by inclement weather, wildfires, a chickenpox outbreak and the death of a crew member who was working in a water tank, and at one point Johnny Depp was nearly trampled to death by a horse. And to top it off it lost between 95 and 120 million dollars putting it in ninth place in the list of the biggest box office flops ever.
Coming right off his best film, Ride The High Country, Sam Peckinpah reworked the script of Major Dundee from a basic Western adventure story to a Moby-Dick-esque study of the title character, an officer who would do anything for glory. Everyone who read the final version thought he had another masterpiece in the pipeline—including Charlton Heston, who eagerly accepted the title role. With him attached, filming began in Mexico.
And that's where things began to fall apart. Columbia kept changing things—the shooting schedule, the budget, the film's final running time—much to Peckinpah's chagrin. So he started drinking. Heavily, even by his standards. And then showing up this way on set. He began firing people for the most insignificant things, and threatening everyone else to the point that Heston frequently had to pull his costume's cavalry sabre on the director repeatedly.
Word of this got back to the studio, which aggravated matters by moving the wrap date up a full month. They were reportedly going to fire Peckinpah as well until Heston saved his friend's job by making the ultimate sacrifice—he said he would forego his salary and do the whole film for free. Even so, Peckinpah's drinking got even worse. This time he often wandered away from the set, and Heston reportedly directed much of the later scenes.
When principal photography was finally over, Columbia broke its contract with Peckinpah and hired editors itself to put the film together. Critics regarded the finished film as an interesting failure; Peckinpah recovered enough to make The Wild Bunch, which is sort of a semi-remake of this film. For years there was a debate as to how much the released version represented what Peckinpah had really wanted to do, and only in 2005, two decades after his death, was a version released that tried to be true to his original vision.
Terry Gilliam's intended Magnum OpusThe Man Who Killed Don Quixote faced this problem, without anyone in the cast or crew being difficult at all - the production was faced by nothing but disasters, from the weather (as in the Star Wars example, it freakishly rained in a desert location, ruining several days of filming). The actor who played Don Quixote faced several health problems, and was told by doctors to stop filming. In the end, the film stopped production completely, ruining Gilliam's dream project. At least we got a good documentary about it.
The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1975) is an unremarkable Western featuring Burt Reynolds and Sarah Miles. It's best-remembered for the onset death of David Whiting, Miles's press agent and ex-lover. While later ruled a suicide (Whiting suffered from depression and drug abuse), the circumstances surrounding Whiting's death (he had violently argued with Reynolds the night before, and was found with a star-shaped gash on his forehead) led to an intensive police investigation and extensive media coverage. The film flopped and Miles' career was destroyed by the attendant controversy.
"Manos" The Hands of Fate was made when fertilizer salesman Hal Warren befriended and later made a bet with famous screenwriter Stirling Silliphant that he could make a horror film with a low budget. And it shows. The problems included:
The camera they used was a 16mm Bell and Howell that not only didn't record sound, but only could record 32 seconds of film. The sound was later dubbed in in post-production by four members of the crew, Hal included. This explains a number of things, including the bad editing, the long pauses and why a few characters, such as Torgo and the little girl, sound horrible.
The crew found themselves bemused by how amateur Hal was that they mocked the title of the movie (which was once called "Lodge of Sins") as Mangos: The Cans of Fruit.
Tom Neyman created a special rigging to give Torgo the illusion that he was a satyr. However, the actor, John Reynolds, set it up wrong and it damaged his knees so badly that he was reportedly taking medication that would lead to an addiction and later suicide.
Instead of the technique of shooting "day for night", Hal opted to film night scenes at night. Thanks to poor lighting, it gave the accidental illusion of the cops getting out of their car to investigate a gunshot, but decide otherwise.
The modeling agency that loaned Hal the women to be the Master's wives proved to be a bit of a prima donna, refusing to let the women to be "too skimpy" (that red sash they wear? They were supposed to be tails) and when one of the women broke her leg, Hal was forced to recast her as the other half of the makeout couple that has no real effect to the plot!
Lonergan's original script had worked out to about a three-hour film, and that's what he expected his finished film to be. But Fox Searchlight and Gary Gilbert, the co-producers, insisted that it be no longer than two and a half, since three-hour movies that aren't big-budget tentpole Summer Blockbusters just don't happen these days.
He didn't find it easy to cut it down. Gilbert, initially tolerant because he was convinced that the film was a masterpiece in the making, paid out of his own pocket for additional time in the editing suite. But he also began to show up in person and look over everyone's shoulders, in which capacity he began to be described as "toxic." For his part, Gilbert says Lonergan never lived up to his obligation to finish the film.
Two years after shooting wrapped, with no final cut in sight, Gilbert hired Dylan Tichenor, who'd edited Brokeback Mountain, to make a two-hour cut. He was satsified, but Lonergan wasn't. He finished his own two-and-a-half-hour cut in 2008, a year after the Tichenor version and three years after principal photography had ended.
That should have ended things. But then Gilbert refused to pay his half of the budget, so Searchlight sued him. He sued them right back. And then sued Lonergan.
Someone came up with the perfect idea to get out of the mess: Hire Martin Scorsese, who was still friends with Lonergan and everyone else involved, to edit the film. Gilbert took a year and a half to agree to the idea, however. Scorsese, despite being busy with Hugo and some other projects, agreed to do it for free.
His edit was a little longer than Lonergan's. Everyone expected they'd at least be able to slap "Presented by Martin Scorsese" on the posters and submit it to the 2011 Toronto film festival. But then Gilbert refused to sign off on it.
The film was released, instead, at the end of September of that year ... almost six years after it was shot. About the promotion, "[It] could not have debuted with less fanfare had the film prints been thrown from the back of a speeding van," Sam Adams wrote in Slate a year later. Only two theaters showed the movie, it received no Oscar notice. Critics were mixed, with some seeing it as indeed a work of genius, while others saw it as an interesting failure due to its tangled history.
A year later, the movie was released on disc. In addition to the theatrical release, it included Lonergan's original three-hours-and-change cut. However, even he now admits he can't say which of the four versions is the best.
Metropolis suffered this in spades. Filming lasted over a year (considered a long production these days, but almost unthinkable back in the 1920s). Most of the actors had no prior film experience, not even lead actress Brigitte Helm. The film ran drastically over-budget, almost bankrupting UFA in the process. The demanding special effects required frustrated crew members to work around the clock. Reportedly over 30,000 extras were used, most of whom were difficult to keep track of. The worst part was director Fritz Lang's insane antics: he forced actor Gustav Fröhlich to spend three full days doing retakes of a single scene that was nothing more than him falling to his knees. He also used real fire in the scene in which False Maria is burned. As chaotic as all this was, post-production was worse! The film had a large amount of footage cut without Lang's approval. After its failed Berlin premiere, the film was cut even more for its international release. A near-complete version of the film would not be discovered until 2008 (in Argentina, of all places). Regardless, the film is widely regarded as a masterpiece.
Between when he was cast and the start of production, Jamie Foxx won an Oscar, greatly increasing his ego and his demands. He got way more money, so much that Farrell had to take a slight pay cut and causing a great deal of tension between the two (who, remember, are supposed to be playing partners). He then began refusing to fly commercial, making the studio pay for a private jet for him (sometimes flying him as far as Uruguay). Then he wouldn't do scenes on boats or planes.
Not all the trouble was caused by human frailties. Shooting in and around the Caribbean during the now-legendary 2005 hurricane season led to a week of delays by the end of production. This is blamed for driving the film's final budget over $100 million; exactly how much is disputed.
A week, all told, may not have been as bad as a delay as what could have happened—since many crew members complained that Mann insisted on shooting in unsafe weather. And shooting in dangerous, crime-ridden areas. At one location it was so bad the police wouldn't go there, so the production hired local gang members as security.
On top of all this Mann would often make major rewrites of the script without advance notice. Cast and crew had to scramble to keep up and adapt.
All these things came to a head late in filming when, at one rough location in the Dominican Republic, shots, real shots, were exchanged on set. Foxx immediately went to his plane and flew back to the U.S. He told the studio he was not going to any more overseas locations for the production. Mann had to rewrite the ending as a result, reportedly making it less dramatic than he had wanted.
The upcoming biopic about Gregg Allman, Midnight Rider has been put on indefinite hiatus after a crew member, Sarah Jones, was tragically struck and killed by an oncoming freight train during a shoot on a bridge with open train tracks, in addition to several other injured crew members. The incident was widely publicized, and raised awareness for safety on movie sets, with a successful petition to give Jones a tribute at the Academy Awards. The studio behind the film has now found themselves in intense hot water, and possibly facing many lawsuits, especially after the suspicion that the crew may not have had permission to film on that particular location. The film's star, William Hurt, has now officially dropped out of the film, leaving the film's production very uncertain at this point.
Producer-director Moustapha Akkad, himself a Muslim, bent over backwards to present a religiously acceptable portrayal of Islam's founding. Akkad consulted imams in Egypt and Saudi Arabia to ensure accuracy and allowed their input on the script. Notably, Mohammad was not depicted onscreen in accordance with Islamic tradition. The production proved arduous and expensive, with extensive location shooting in Morocco and Libya. Akkad complicated matters by shooting Arabic and English-language versions simultaneously, with completely different casts.
The film's adverse media coverage hurt it more than the actual production. One media outlet claimed that Charlton Heston had been cast as Mohammad. Akkad and Heston quickly issued a denial but the announcement caused an uproar in the Muslim world regardless. The resulting furor led to widespread protests and riots, notably in Pakistan, where several people were actually killed. Meanwhile, Western interest in the film soured when reporters learned that Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddaffi helped bankroll the production. Akkad noted in his own defense that lack of Hollywood interest in the movie required him to seek funds elsewhere.
The movie gained considerable infamy as well for its connection to the July 1977 Hanafi Siege, when Islamic militants held 149 people hostage (and killing two) in three Washington, D.C. buildings. One of their demands? Destruction of Mohammad: Messenger of God for being "sacrilegious."
Despite these controversies, Mohammad actually turned a modest profit. In contrast, Akkad's follow-up movie, Lion of the Desert (1981) proved a monumental bomb, making just $1,000,000 USD on an alleged $35,000,000 budget.
The 1962 remake of Mutiny on the Bounty went overtime and budget primarily due to Marlon Brando's off-screen antics. He constantly undermined the authority of director Lewis Milestone, and got the crew to obey his every whim. His behavior irritated his co-stars, including Trevor Howard and Richard Harris, and eventually damaged his career. One problem not related to Brando was co-star Hugh Griffith, who had to be fired when his alcoholism became unmanageable.
Myra Breckinridge had a notoriously fraught production, due to director Michael Sarne obtaining Protection from Editors in his contract and then by all accounts deliberately trying to make the worst film he possibly could. Examples of his behavior include:
Bizarre casting decisions such as casting film critic Rex Reed as Myra's pre-op counterpart Myron, and bringing Mae West, who was 77 years old and hadn't acted in a film for the better part of three decades, out of retirement.
Repeatedly insulting and belittling the cast, in particular calling star Raquel Welch "old raccoon" and constantly telling her to her face that she was so ugly he could barely stand to look at her. John Huston didn't fare much better, as Sarne called him a "decrepit old hack" among other things, and slammed his entire career in a magazine interview conducted during filming.
Ending the day's filming eight hours early so that he could spend the rest of the day "thinking."
Spending the better part of a week shooting hours of footage featuring plates of food and nothing else. Needless to say, this footage didn't get into the finished product.
Constantly rewriting the script, adding bizarre and completely irrelevant scenes and deviating further and further from Gore Vidal's original novel.
The movie version of Mystery Science Theater 3000 was rife with problems. The original plan was for them to reveal how Joel got tossed onto the Satellite of Love and built his robot friends — Crow, Tom, Gypsy and Cambot. The executive liked it, but he didn't want the series' main catch — the riffing — to be prominent. This, along with a few other problems, led Joel Hodgson to leave the series halfway through Season 5.
When the movie idea was picked back up, more problems came about - Universal would only let them use movies that they chose and they were stuck with This Island Earth. They were forced to not only cut out movie scenes — which meant the entirety of the movie was shorter than your normal MST3K episode — but lop one host segment and modify the last one, killing a Brick Joke set up from the very beginning. And the killing blow? The company producing this had the option of fully backing either this or Barb Wire. Guess what they chose? (and considering how high the theater averages were, who knows how much it would have grossed without Invisible Advertising?)
Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid filmed almost entirely on location in Durango, Mexico. Dust storms, hot weather and defective cameras delayed shooting from the start. Much of the cast and crew came down with influenza. Peckinpah's severe alcohol problems created tensions with coworkers. In this case though, Executive Meddling proved the most persistent issue: penny-pinching MGM honcho James Aubrey repeatedly slashed the budget and refused to sanction re-shoots for several key scenes. After which the movie was cut from 124 minutes to 106 minutes, smuggled quietly into theaters and flopped. The film sunk into ignominy until the preview cut resurfaced in the '90s.
The Pirates of the Caribbeansequels — more specifically, the second. Writing wasn't finished by the time it started, ships had to be built, the small island where it was filmed wasn't ready to receive the huge crew, and Hurricane Wilma devastated the Bahamas set.
Jacques Tati envisioned Playtime as his Magnum Opus, and for that the film had to be somewhat more than ordinary. This grand social satire and ode to classic slapstick could not be done on any ordinary set. Rather, it required a set for which two full-size modernistic buildings had to be constructed on the outskirts of Paris, along with several smaller models, a full-size road, and its own working electrical system powered by a small plant. The development of the film would then necessitate numerous script rewrites and continuous maintenance of the set. Filming in itself lasted three years, during which Tati had to take out numerous loans in order to continue production. In order to further accommodate his immense vision, the film was shot on 70mm film and edited for a stereophonic sound setup. These decisions would eventually cause difficulties in finding theatres that could properly screen the film. When the project was finally completed and released in 1967, it flopped pitifully. The official budget has gone unreported, but the failure of Playtime led Tati to file for bankruptcy and pay off the film's debts for the rest of his life. Fortunately the film's reputation has improved since its release and is now considered Tati's masterpiece.
The directors of the movie, not having seen the actual series, pretty much did a quick "fast-fowarding" run of the series, ensuing things would go wrong.
When the Ranger suits were developed, the helmets were designed without visors or mouth pieces, intending on the heroes showing fear or worry. It wasn't until a little while later that they realized that they were meant to be a fearless force to be reckoned with and they remolded the helmets to include those missing pieces.
Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, the original and final choice for Dulcea, was replaced partway by Mariska Hargitay. However, after filming her scenes, which included a training sequence, they felt she wasn't the right one for the job and they rehired Gabrielle, dumping all of those scenes.
The filming for the final scene where the team is thanked turned into a disaster area when local radio shows caught wind of it and tried to turn it into a "Meet the Power Rangers" contest.
Originally, Ivan Ooze was meant to mutate a bunch of rats for the Rangers to fight. However, the rat costumes proved to be too low budget even for the actual series, leading to the creation of the Ooze Men. However, the suits were spared and used in "The Return of the Green Ranger" three-parter.
Delays in the series forced the cast to remain in Australia for filming, forcing Saban to make the aforementioned "The Return of the Green Ranger" episode.
Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie was just as bad. Initially envisioned as a reunion of the original MMPR cast teaming up with the new Turbo team, it fell apart when Walter Jones and Thuy Trang refused to give up their Guild membership cards to film. The explanation of the Turbo powers was dropped when David Yost left near the end of Power Rangers Zeo. The original cut was actually over three hours long and they were forced to trim it down to under two. Beyond all of that, it was no wonder the movie flopped!
Predator was shot in the Mexican jungle on a rough terrain, cold temperatures, and had every member of the cast and crew but Arnold Schwarzenegger(ofcourse) and director John McTiernan getting Montezuma's Revenge due to unclean hotel water. The shoot was further delayed due to the creature's original design not working well enough and having to be scrapped and replaced - and the actor found the suit difficult to wear because it was heavy and off-balance, and he could not see outside the mask.
This trope just seems to follow films about a certain wrecked ocean liner around. Consider Raise the Titanic!:
Most of the trouble was in pre-production. Producer Lew Grade read Clive Cussler's script and saw the potential for a Dirk Pitt franchise. The legendary Stanley Kramer had already been set to direct, and when Grade bought the rights he made Kramer the producer as well. However, he quit when Grade kept complaining that the models of the ships to be used were two or three times bigger than they should have been.
The real trouble was with the script. Ultimately 17 writers worked on it. All of them, except for Larry Mc Murtry, who disliked the novel to begin with, petitioned the Writers' Guild for credit on the released film. Between the writing clusterfuck and the efforts to find a ship that could be dressed to look like the Titanic, $15 million (an amount that could have paid for a few modestly budgeted films at the time) had been spent without shooting a single frame.
It didn't help that they didn't have a cast after Elliot Gould turned down the part of Pitt. Eventually an all-star cast including Jason Robards and Alec Guinness was hired at yet more considerable expense.
The film had to deliver on its title promise, and in order to do so a 50-foot (15-meter) model of the Titanic was built. It turned out to be too large for any existing water tank, so a special 10-million-gallon "horizon tank"note one of the film's few positive legacies, in concept anyway was built off the coast of Malta. As if they hadn't already spent enough money they never expected to, it took 50 takes to get the shot of the ship rising they way they wanted it.
Thus finished, the film sat on the shelf for two years. Its 1980 release made just barely $7 million, nowhere near the final budget of $40 million (again, almost astronomical for the time—Grade famously quipped that it would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic) and video rentals weren't much help. The failure is crediting with ending Grade's career in film. Cussler was so disappointed in the result he not only refused to sell the film rights to any more of the Pitt books, leaving it a Stillborn Franchise for a quarter-centurynote and ''that'' attempt also failed miserably, he refused to sell the film rights to any of his books.
Radio Flyer, the story of two brothers who escape an abusive stepfather with a homemade flying machine, was a red-hot script when it was picked up by Columbia Pictures and initially was directed by its screenwriter, David Mickey Evans (who later did The Sandlot). But after a week of shooting, he was fired and production was shut down until Richard Donner was brought in to replace him. In the process, the production budget more than doubled from $15 million to $35 million. While it was intended as Columbia's big movie for the summer of 1991 — odd in hindsight given its B-level cast, lack of big special effects, and grim subject matter for a family film — the release date was constantly shuffled due to reshoots, production delays, and finally bad test screenings. Eventually, the film was quietly released in February 1992 and was a critically-savaged Box Office Bomb.
The Rage: Carrie 2. To begin with, the film was supposed to start production in 1996 as an original project titled The Curse, with no relation to Carrie beyond a similar plot. However, production got stalled for two years, during which time it was rewritten into a sequel to Carrie. A few weeks into production, director Robert Mandel quit, citing Creative Differences, leaving Katt Shea (maker of Poison Ivy) to take over the production with less than a week to prepare. This also forced two weeks of reshoots.
The remake of Red Dawn (2012) was originally meant to be released in 2010. MGM was hit with financial difficulties which halted production for a while. Distributors refused to pick up the film for fear that the Chinese antagonists would anger the Chinese government, which has the power to censor films in China and cut a film's box office take. After resuming production MGM spent an additional one million dollars to turn the Chinese villains into North Koreans by digitally altering images and dubbing dialogue. The film was finally released in November 2012, and only then with Film District, a surprisingly small distributor for such a big film... and it flopped big-time.
When the cast of Red Planet went on location in the Australian desert, Tom Sizemore apparently had an exercise machine shipped out to him. That flipped out Val Kilmer, and the two escalated into throwing weights at each other until Sizemore knocked out Kilmer with a punch to the chestnote At a crewmember's request, he avoided Kilmer's face. Kilmer then refused to do any of his remaining scenes with Sizemore, locking himself in his trailer while Sizemore did his lines and forcing the crew to work around him. By the end of production, however, he wasn't even saying Sizemore's character's name, further crimping things. Antony Hoffman has never directed another film.
RoboCop (1987) was shot during a very hot summer in Dallas, and Peter Weller's costume not only came in late, but he could barely move in it, rendering his previous mime training useless. In addition, it ran behind schedule and over budget, actors Kurtwood Smith and Ray Wise stole the crew's golf carts during the shooting of one scene and executives kept trying to interfere with the production while it was still going on.
A fair portion of the scheduling delays were caused by difficulties in lighting the Robocop suit properly — originally, they tried to light it as actors were normally lit, which didn't work because the suit reflected too much light. Eventually, they hit on the solution of lighting it like a car.
Verhoeven mentions a minor adversity on the commentary track of the Criterion Collection release: Dallas was chosen as the shooting location in part because of the futuristic look it has downtown. Verhoeven especially liked the look of one particular building when it was lit up by external lights at night. Unfortunately, that building was being renovated during the shooting and the lights were shut off. As they were finished in Dallas and were leaving, they literally saw the lights come on through the plane's window...
The Room had one, mostly due to Tommy Wiseau's... eccentricities. He refused to take any advice from the cast or crew, insisted that they deliver their lines exactly as written (which were apparently even more nonsensical than they were in the finished film), was verbally abusive towards the cast (Juliette Danielle in particular), and often threw temper tantrums to get his way. Cast and crew were replaced constantly, mostly due to walking off the set. Numerous illogical decisions were made that inflated the film's budget unnecessarily, including purchasing half a million dollars' worth of equipment, filming on 35 mm film and high-definition video simultaneously, and filming scenes that could have been done on location on sets. Due to Wiseau's inability to remember his lines or move to the appropriate place, minutes-long dialogue sequences often took days to shoot. By the end of the shoot, nobody was even trying to be professional about it, and most of the actors admitted to phoning in their performances.
The Roots of Heaven, a "save the African elephant" film from 1958 directed by John Huston for Twentieth Century Fox, is a lesser known but brutal example of a troubled production.
William Holden was initially cast in the lead role, attracting a supporting cast that included Orson Welles, Errol Flynn, Paul Lukas, Herbert Lom, Eddie Albert, and Fox studio boss Darryl Zanuck's then-girlfriend Juliette Greco. However, with location shooting about to begin (on an inflexible schedule), Holden was informed that he was still under contract to Paramount, and in a desperate scramble to fill the role, Huston cast British character actor Trevor Howard. Howard's lack of marquee power prompted the promotion of Errol Flynn to the top of the bill, despite his character's secondary role.
Location shooting was done in Fort Lamy, French Equatorial Africa (now N'Djamena, Chad). As Darryl Zanuck (who was present for the shoot, perhaps out of concern at leaving Greco unsupervised on a shoot with noted womanisers Huston and Flynn) recalled when appearing as a mystery guest on What's My Line?, temperatures soared to over 130 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and only cooled to 95 degrees at night. Moreover, as had happened during shooting of The African Queen, almost every person involved contracted amoebic dysentery except for Huston and Flynn, who had brought copious amounts of alcohol which kept the sickness at bay. Eddie Albert also developed an almost fatal case of sunstroke. A total of 920 sick calls were made by the 130-person cast and crew. During the lengthy delays, Huston would often disappear on big game hunts.
Errol Flynn's alcoholism had become a round-the-clock problem, and he was frequently at odds with John Huston. At one point, he provoked Huston into a fight; while Flynn was a former amateur boxer, the years of fast living had taken a heavy toll on him, and Huston, himself a former professional boxer, flattened Flynn with a single punch. The film was Flynn's last major Hollywood project; he died the following year. Huston, meanwhile, cited the film, which was a hit with neither critics nor audiences, as an example of how some of the worst shoots can result in the worst films.
After the mess that had been Raise the Titanic! 20 years earlier, Cussler had refused to sell the movie rights to any of his books, not just the Pitt ones. Until he was approached, just as he had been for that film, by a very rich outsider, in this case Philip Anschutz. A Denver billionaire who had parlayed his oil and gas fortune into a broad range of investments, he was also a strongly conservative Christian. One of his investments had been the Regal theater chain, the largest in the country, and like many successful film exhibitors he decided to put some of his money into productions. The Anschutz Film group sought to produce films that weren't R-rated and delivered a strong moral message. Like Lew Grade in the 1970s, he saw the possibility for a film series in the Pitt books.
Cussler, remembering the earlier experience, not only got Anschutz to shell out $10 million for the rights to his 1992 Pitt novel Sahara, about a search for lost Confederate gold in Africa, he also got final approval for the script, cast and director—a highly unusual provision for the author of a novel being adapted into a film.
And just as it had during Raise the Titanic, that provision led to a huge and expensive revolving door of writers and directors. Cussler had written his own script, but clashed bitterly with every professional screenwriter brought in to polish or rework it, deriding them as hacks (the feeling was apparently mutual). Before long, 10 different writers had been paid almost $4 million for their services, without getting any closer to a script everyone was happy enough with to start filming (much less casting—Cussler actually bragged that he turned down Tom Cruise for the part as "too short").
Finally (or so they thought) a draft that the studio and the producers liked met with the approval of Rob Bowman, who had agreed to direct. But when the producers, whom he said never told him the extent of Cussler's creative authority, kept telling him Cussler disliked that versionnote because it dispensed with some of his favorite scenes, he quit. Breck Eisner, son of Disney head Michael, replaced him. Despite his parentage and the familiarity it gave him with this kind of moviemaking, he had never directed a big-budget film himself. Strife over the script and casting continued, with Cussler later alleged to have used racist and antisemitic slurs to refer to some of the counterparties during arguments.
There were other pressures on the script. Anschutz would not fund any film with even a possibility of getting an R rating, which meant that some scenes Cussler wanted in the film, such as the brutal revenge murder of a slave boss, were not likely to be shot no matter how much the novelist complained. The studio was also securing Product Placement deals, resulting in scenes being added that had little purpose save for making Jeep look good or having the characters drink certain brands of liquor.
After three years of this, filming finally got underway in London with a script credited to four writers. Cussler had had it by this point, and blasted the film on his latest Pitt book tour. Before it was even released he filed suit, alleging Anschutz and the other producers had never intended to honor their promise to give him creative control and deceived him all along. They, in turn, countersued, alleging he had promised to sabotage the film if they didn't use his script. Cussler lost, but some theater chains grew leery about booking the film (and that wouldn't be the end of the damage from that one—see below).
Meanwhile, on set, the costs of the tortured writing process were becoming apparent. Expensive action sequences, such as a $2 million plane crash, ultimately had to be cut from the finished film so that contracts with advertisers who had paid millions to have their products featured could be honored. The budget ballooned to twice its original size, well over $100 million. That meant despite winning its opening weekend and doing well otherwise despite poor reviews, the film would still lose money. Just as had happened with Raise the Titanic, the Dirk Pitt franchise was again dead after one film (a sequel was canceled). Eisner has only directed one feature film since then, 2010's remake of George Romero's The Crazies.
The coup de grâce came two years later—when the film's full, 151-page line-item budget, entered as evidence in the lawsuits and supposedly confidential, was leaked to the ''Los Angeles Times''. This rare look into the detailed finances of a film, especially a notoriously expensive bomb, showed the production benefiting from cheap Moroccan labor and European tax credits on one hand, but wasting the money on a plane crash that was cut and paying Penelope Cruz's hairstylist and dialect coach over a quarter of a million dollars. More seriously though, it even included expenses for what were explicitly labeled as bribes to Moroccan officials. some of which may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Shock Treatment underwent a long and tumultuous process between its initial conception as a direct sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show to a musical about television with little connection to its predecessor. Originally, Richard O'Brien's script for Curse of the Baby (later Rocky Horror Shows His Heels) started with Janet finding herself pregnant after the sex-filled night at Frank's castle. Meanwhile, Brad decides he is gay, and joins Rocky (who somehow escaped the castle alive) and also-gay Dr. Scott in finding virgin blood to revive Frank, who proceeds to turn the town of Denton into transsexuals while requiring further transfusions. Eventually, Janet has her baby, but it's promptly kidnapped by Riff Raff and Magenta while Frank meets his demise again. Fox and his RHPS collaborators rejected the script because it was just plain terrible.
O'Brien tossed the script but kept the songs for a new script provisionally titled The Brad and Janet Show and only featuring them and Dr. Scott as returning characters. Production was to take place in Denton, Texas - an idea which never progressed beyond location scouting due to the 1980 Screen Actors Guild strike.
In a last-ditch attempt to get a second movie to the Rocky fanbase, Richard rewrote the new script as Shock Treatment, which drastically simplified the story to take place inside a television studio, with the citizens of Denton as a brain-dead studio audience entertained by whatever on-set activities occur in front of them. The role of "fake cripple" now went to sleazy game show host Bert Schnick, with Dr. Scott written out. Production was scaled down as much as possible, but then casting proved difficult.
Susan Sarandon, now a genuine movie star, would only reprise her role as Janet for a fee far beyond what the film's miniscule budget would allow. Cult actress Jessica Harper's version of Janet seemed to be an exact carbon copy of Phoenix, her character from Phantom of the Paradise, rather than Susan's take. (Allegedly, Susan has never actually seen Shock Treatment to this day.)
Barry Bostwick was involved in other projects and could not reprise his role as Brad. The next potential actor was Tim Curry (no kidding), who felt that he couldn't pull off an American accent. In the end, Cliff de Young played both Brad and his evil twin brother Farley; and like Janet, Cliff's version of Brad bears no resemblance to Barry's, leaving some fans to question if they're even meant to be the same characters. In the end, Shock Treatment was a complete box office failure, and despite gaining a small cult following over time has been disowned by Richard O'Brien and most of the RHPS fanbase.
Things started smoothly enough. Douglas purchased the rights to Howard Fast's novel for just $100, and cast most of the key roles without difficulty: Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis and Peter Ustinov all eagerly signed on. Jean Simmons was cast as Varinia after Douglas auditioned a young German actress, Sabina Bethman, who proved unsuitable. The production cleared its first hurdle when a rival project titled The Gladiators, directed by Martin Ritt and starring Yul Brynner, fell apart in pre-production.
Problems began when shooting started. The original director, Anthony Mann, shot some early scenes with Peter Ustinov but dropped out after a few days. Douglas offered David Lean, Joseph Mankiewicz and others the chance to direct; he even considered letting Olivier take over direction. All declined. Then Douglas remembered Stanley Kubrick, whom he'd worked with on Paths of Glory, and offered him the job. Ominously, Kubrick had just dropped out of One-Eyed Jacks, another film with a temperamental producer-star (Marlon Brando).
Though Douglas and Kubrick had collaborated amicably on Paths, Spartacus proved another story. Kubrick's notoriously prickly, perfectionist personality led to endless rows with Douglas, arguing over script content, editing, the staging of scenes and even Kubrick's wardrobe. When Douglas asked Kubrick his opinion of the "I Am Spartacus" scene, Kubrick (in front of cast and crew) called it "a stupid idea." Douglas promptly chewed the director out. When Kubrick removed close-ups of Spartacus's crucifixion during the finale, Douglas (by his own account) grew so angry he attacked Kubrick with a folding chair.
Douglas and Kubrick weren't the only ones feuding on set. Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton, longtime rivals, were barely on speaking terms; Laughton's prima donna behavior aggravated everyone, storming off the set and threatening to sue Douglas for trimming his part. Olivier was distracted by his dissolving marriage with Vivien Leigh and exasperated Douglas by insisting that he play Spartacus. And both Laughton and Peter Ustinov were dissatisfied with Dalton Trumbo's script, rewriting scenes on set or else ad-libbing dialogue.
After filming ran way too long and extremely over budget, Kubrick delivered a disastrous rough cut - a formless mess with little coherent story. Hoping to salvage the picture, Kubrick insisted on filming Spartacus's final battle with Crassus (at this point, the movie only showed its aftermath). Universal reluctantly relocated to Spain (having previously shot in Hollywood and Death Valley) for an expensive battle employing thousands of Spanish soldiers as extras. Along with other last-minute reshoots, this swelled the budget to a then-staggering $11,000,000.
During post-production, Douglas received detailed memos from Universal Studios and Production Code offices demanding heavy cuts. Having received the instruction "Any implication that Crassus is a sex pervert is unacceptable," the producers excised the notorious "snails and oysters" scene between Olivier and Tony Curtis. More seriously, Universal trimmed several action scenes, along with political content that was deemed subversive. Apparently the studio feared that if Spartacus had a chance of winning, viewers would perceive the film as Communist! Nearly 30 minutes were cut, most of which was restored to the 1991 re-release.
Douglas hired blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to write Spartacus, under his alias Sam Jackson. At some point during production, journalist Hedda Hopper discovered the identity of "Jackson" and demanded Douglas fire the screenwriter. In this case, Douglas stood his ground; he not only retained Trumbo but credited him in the finished film, hence breaking the Hollywood blacklist. Douglas's decision was vindicated as Spartacus became a smash hit.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Paramount, trying to cash in on the success of Star Wars, decided to convert a proposed Star TrekSequel Series into a movie. Unfortunately, this left them in the unenviable position of assigning Gene Roddenberry as producer, because of the godlike cult of personality he'd built up among Trekkies/ers, despite the fact that he'd never produced a feature film before. Their concern was justified.
Even when it was still supposed to have been the pilot episode for the series, Roddenberry and his cowriter, Harold Livingston, had been feuding. His replacement, Dennis Clark (Comes A Horseman) got along even worse with the Great Bird, and Livingston was back in three months. But despite Livingston having it in his new contract that Roddenberry couldn't do any more work on it than he already had, Roddenberry would do rewrites on the sly and then send them to the studio head.
Paramount's original budget was $8 million. The original director and producer were let go once Roddenberry realized just how much the kind of special effects audiences would be expecting after Star Wars and Close Encounters would cost... that much, and possibly more. Robert Wise was hired as director and the film's budget doubled. He put shooting on hold while he had the sets and (yes) the costumes redesigned. But the cast, already under contract for the now-abandoned series, was still getting paid every week under regularly extended contracts, and finally Paramount said in late summer 1978 that principal photography had to start.
Wise didn't want to shoot for more than 12 hours a day, resulting in the production getting behind schedule after the first two days.
The feuding between Roddenberry and Livingston continued, at the expense of the script. William Shatner, who titled his chapter on this in Movie Memories "Star Trek: The Emotional Picture", said the cast was getting revisions every two hours. And they hadn't even settled the question of what was going to happen in the third act, until two months had gone by and Leonard Nimoy began mediating between Roddenberry and Livingston at night after shooting.
Only after the wrap did Wise check on the special effects, of which he hadn't even seen a demo shot (which concerned him). It soon became apparent that the first special effects house couldn't get the job done. Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey) and his former assistant John Dykstra (a founding member of Industrial Light and Magic) had been the original choices, and as their previous commitments had since been completed (!!) they were brought onboard with only months to go. They had to work around the clock to get the job done. By now the film was so over-budget that Paramount executives were keeping a running tab each day of how much it was such.
According to Wise and Jon Povill, the associate producer, the released film was essentially a rough cut that no one had seen in its entirety before shipping. Wise completed the final cut a day before the premiere and had to take it with him to the premiere in Washington. The reels were still wet when they were loaded onto the projector.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was almost as troubled. After Leonard Nimoy had directed two successful films in the franchise, he suggested that William Shatner ask to direct the next one, since Paramount had an informal agreement with them that anything one got had to be offered to the other eventually, as well.
Shatner originally wanted to direct a film about Kirk saving his crewmates from hell, but he was met with opposition from the studio (who wanted a lighthearted comedic piece like the last film, as it had done so well), and cast (Nimoy and De Forest Kelley objected to their characters betraying Kirk), leading to rewrites. Gene Roddenberry, who had essentially been shut out of the creative process for the movies since the first one, but was still consulted, was none too happy with Shatner for the eventual plot, which is a loose remake of "The God Thing", the never-filmed script Roddenberry had wanted to film as the pilot of the aborted TV series reboot. He dropped hints for the remaining years of his life that the film was to be considered non-canonical by fans.
At the beginning of the production, the Teamsters went on strike. The crew had to hire non-union truck drivers and take precautions against sabotage. After one of the camera trucks mysteriously exploded in the parking lot at one location, police escorts were hired for all the truck convoys.
The film also met with troubles with the budget and special effects, since ILM already had their hands full with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Ghostbusters 2. So they had to hire Bran Ferren, who worked on the aforementioned Altered States leading to Special Effects Failure in this film as well.
The film opened well, but quickly faded after a few weeks. It made money, but less than the other films had. It's true that that summer had a very crowded slate of sequels and potential blockbusters... but still. More importantly however, critics eviscerated the film, and this combined with the underwhelming box office proved the death knell for both Shatner's career as a film director, and the career in general of Harve Bennett, who produced and co-wrote all four 1980s Trek films, but whose only subsequent work was on Time Trax. On top of that, Gene Roddenberry instructed the writing staff on Star Trek: The Next Generation that they were to treat the film as non-canon, a directive they were only too happy to follow.
Just like Jaws, the other daddy of Summer Blockbusters, the original Star Wars (AKA: "Episode IV: A New Hope") made George Lucas suffer as much as his friend Spielberg. They had the bad luck of starting filming in the Tunisian desert just as it rained. The props and equipment had their obligatory malfunctions and breakdowns. The crew didn't really care about or understand the movie. Lucas clashed with cinematographer Gilbert Taylor and the movie ended up so badly behind schedule the crew had to split into three units and meet deadlines or else face shutdown. Post-production fared little better despite a delayed release date, as Lucas had to call in two editors (including his then-wife, Marcia Lucas) to salvage the movie after his first cut was a complete disaster, and his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits turned visual effects team was forced to complete a year's work in six months. And did we mention how ILM initially spent half their budget on four shots that turned out to be completely worthless? When the studio asked for a teaser trailer, this was basically slammed together from the footage available at the time. Lucas was forced to supervise his effects team personally, and nearly got a heart attack from exhaustion. No wonder he took 22 years to direct again.
The Empire Strikes Back, while less brutal, did run into troubles too. New director Irvin Kershner spent a lot more time setting up takes, and producer Gary Kurtz allowed production to go way over budget (triple that of the original in fact). Lucas wanted to keep the film out of any studios hands and financed it himself, but he was forced to take out a loan with 20th Century Fox as his security. The crew arrived in Norway to film the Hoth scenes to be greeted by the worst winter storm in years. (How bad? The scene where Luke escapes from the Wampa lair was achieved by opening the door to their hotel and filming Mark Hamill running outside.) And the various locations used, knowing it was a Star Wars film, overcharged the production for their services. This was the reason Kurtz was changed for the next film.
As for the final part of the Original Trilogy, Return of the Jedi, it may not have been as contentious as A New Hope or Empire, but the production crew certainly faced their own problems according to J.W. Rinzler's "Making of Return of the Jedi" book:
During pre-production, Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan would constantly argue over story beats and setpieces, with both of them getting into heated discussions over whether to scrap Endor entirely in favor of setting the climactic battle on Had Abbadon, the supposed Imperial "home planet".
Richard Marquand was brought on as director after several of Lucas' planned choices didn't pan out, and they ran into frequent conflicts during filming. Not only was Lucas constantly on-set when Marquand directed, but the former would often give the actors advice contrary to Marquand's direction.
Likewise, Marquand alienated several of the actors, with both Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill accusing the director of treating them terribly while simultaneously fawning over Harrison Ford's performance.
Principal photography was beset with numerous delays and clashes between Lucas and Marquand, with the former wanting to use multiple cameras during each take so he could have more material in the editing room, and the latter wanting only one or two cameras with no fallback option. The filmmakers inadvertantly used old film stock that caused many shots to have a bizarre blue tint, which forced ILM to fix the color timing on many shots in post-production. At a certain point, Lucas essentially took over the majority of directing duties from Marquand.
Lucas also ran into budget problems as a result of ensuring his loan with 20th Century Fox after the release of Empire, to the point of interfering with filming. Marquand had to beg Lucas for a Rancor hand prop to be constructed so that close-ups of Hamill could be filmed.
The infamous "Black Friday" incident, where 100,000 feet of film stock containing effects shots that couldn't be read in an optical printer were unceremoniously dumped by Lucas himself. The crew at ILM were forced to go back to the drawing board and start again from scratch, with many getting drunk when they heard the news.
Ralph McQuarrie became burned out because of his constant work on the film and his hatred of the Ewok concept, and walked away from the production.
Cinematographer Alan Hume, who was angered over Lucas' treatment of Marquand, informally stepped away from his duties, leaving camera operator Alec Mills to finish filming in the last month of production.
The first screening of the film (using an early cut) was reportedly a disaster, with Lucas deriding the editing and the fact that it didn't feel like a Star Wars film. Eventually, one of the film editors, Sean Barton, did his own cut that Lucas preferred a lot more, and it was this cut that the final version was crafted from.
The 2004 parody remake of The Stepford Wives underwent massive reshoots, script rewrites that created gaping plot holes, John and Joan Cusack pulling out of the film (and Nicole Kidman, who played the main character, considering it after she saw the changes to the script), and fighting on set between director Frank Oz and his stars. It all built to an utterly incoherent final product that bombed at the box office and was savaged by critics.
Superman had a few problems, mainly producer-director clashes (which generally involved the director rejecting the campy, slapstick parts the producers wanted), casting for the title role took a long time to settle on Christopher Reeve (although he was definitely worthy the effort), special effects problems (not that many breakdowns, but a lot of money to make them work), and getting way behind schedule - they filmed both Superman and its sequel simultaneously without much of a clear schedule in the first place. The film was a hit, but the lost profits to the producers over this led to Richard Donner being fired before the second movie was completed and replaced by Richard Lester.
The production of the fifth Superman movie definitely qualifies, especially if one considers all the different versions it went through on the road to becoming Superman Returns (which actually had a calm production). The Other Wiki has a very exhaustive listing, but the best-known facet is that later stages were essentially a battle between two sides. On one hand we had writers like Kevin Smith (who wittily recounts his experiences on the project here) who wanted to produce a faithful, respectful treatment of Superman's mythos. On the other we had producer Jon Peters, who said Supes's red-and-blues looked "too faggy", wanted to give Brainiac a robot sidekick described as "a gay R2-D2 with attitude" (??), and demanded that Superman battle a giant robot spider. All of this has become a Running Gag among Superman fans, with Peters himself a symbol for incompetent Executive Meddling.
The infamous Super Mario Bros. suffered from Executive Meddling, conflicts between the studio and the Control Freak directors, constant rewrites (apparently so much that the actors stopped paying attention), going over budget and schedule (Dennis Hopper stated he "was supposed to go down there for five weeks, and I was there for 17")... John Leguizamo declared that he and Bob Hoskins were having such a bad time that they would frequently get drunk to make it through the experience.
Bob Hoskins, quoted in an otherwise pretty congenial interview with The Guardian in 2011:
What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.
What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.
The Stunt Man. Richard Rush suffered two heart attacks during the production. The film was completed in 1978 but it took two years to find a distributor. The studio had no idea how to market it because it didn't fit easily into one particular genre.
The little-seen and less-remembered 1988 film The Telephone owes its obscurity to this trope.
It was written and produced by veteran screenwriter Terry Southern and ... Harry Nilsson. Yup, the singer. By the mid-80s his career had slowed down, partially because of the effect of his smoking and drinking on his voice and partly because he was depressed by the deaths of longtime friends Cass Elliott, Keith Moon and John Lennon. He told people he was retired from music and began looking at a career in TV or film, writing songs for Robert Altman's Popeye that were in some cases better than the film deserved. So he formed Hawkeye Productions with Southern.
Of several projects they got behind, only The Telephone would actually be produced. It had been written with Popeye star Robin Williams in mind for the lead role of an unemployed, unhinged actor who sets the plot in motion with a series of prank calls. After he turned it down, Whoopi Goldberg signed on, and it was greenlighted.
Nilsson and Southern got another aging '60s survivor and friend, Rip Torn, to make his directorial debut. However, he had to deal with Goldberg during her coke phase, and she constantly ignored the script and improvised (supposedly at the behest of New World Pictures, which was financing the film). It got to the point where he was begging and pleading with her to do at least one take of each of her scenes as written. She was also able to use her clout to force the replacement of the cinematographer, John Alonzo, Torn's friend and a veteran who had shot Chinatown and Scarface, with her then-husband David Claessen.
After production ended early in 1987, the film was set for a summer release. But then Whoopi sued to try and block the film's release, arguing that its law quality would hurt her career. She lost, but by then it was almost Christmas.
The failure of the film, unsurprisingly, sank Hawkeye by 1990. Just afterwards Nilsson discovered his assistant had embezzled all but $300 of the remaining money from his music royalties. With neither a film nor music career left, Nilsson made only one more public appearance and died of his second heart attack in a year in 1994.
Southern, too, who had been in shakier financial circumstances before Hawkeye, went into both a literal and figurative death spiral. He was never able to get another screenplay produced, and survived mainly through journalism and teaching jobs. In 1995, on the way to one of them, suffering from stomach cancer, he collapsed, dying four days later.
Torn has never directed again, and Goldberg and Claessen got divorced afterwards, as well.
Twilight Zone: the Movie with the fatal accident while shooting in which long running television actor Vic Morrow and two child actors named My-Ca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (both working illegally, without proper work permits and at 2AM, far later than the times allowed for child actors), were killed when a stunt helicopter crashed near them during the filming. This led to nearly a decade's worth of lawsuits, changes in the law about child actors doing stunts, and fewer helicopter scenes in movies thereafter until CGI made it possible to put them in digitally. Director John Landis was acquitted of manslaughter charges but his career went into decline after this.
Leni Riefenstahl's longtime passion project was adapting the opera Tiefland. She first mooted the project in 1934, but the Nazi government commissioned her to make the propaganda films Triumph of the Will and Olympia instead. Riefenstahl didn't start production until 1940. Filming such a large epic in the midst of World War II proved problematic, to say the least: Riefenstahl started shooting in Spain, but logistical difficulties and the ongoing conflict forced her to relocate to Germany. Riefenstahl rebuilt an entire village near Mittelberg, Germany, where poor weather and problems retaining cast and crew repeatedly delayed filming. Riefenstahl's ongoing rivalry with Joseph Goebbels didn't help matters; Goebbels felt Tiefland a waste of time and wanted funds diverted to more prestigious projects like Kolberg.
Tiefland generated a controversy which lasted decades after the war. Riefenstahl employed dozens of Roma extras for the movie. Unfortunately, these extras had been interned by the German government, and there are accusations Riefenstahl procured them from concentration camps. It didn't help that most of these Roma were later sent to Auschwitz. As late as 2002, Riefenstahl was still being sued for complicity and Holocaust denial, charges for which she was legally cleared but further damaged her already checkered reputation.
The movie's final days were especially chaotic. Allied bombers destroyed Bamberg Studios, where the film's interior scenes were being filmed. Riefenstahl was forced to decamp to Prague, and later Kitzbuhel, Austria to finish production, narrowly avoiding Allied troops which by then were entering Germany and Austria. Riefenstahl wrapped editing Tiefland just weeks before Germany's surrender. But her difficulties were hardly over.
Riefenstahl was arrested, first by American and later French troops. The French Army confiscated the Tiefland negative. Riefenstahl was tried and acquitted of Nazi collaboration, but it took her years to locate the film footage. Even then four reels of footage remained missing and were never recovered. And Riefenstahl's Nazi connections made studios reluctant to release it. She finally reedited and released Tiefland in 1954, but its distribution was suppressed in several countries and the movie received lukewarm reviews.
The film, commissioned by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, was intended as a wartime propaganda film, depicting the sinking of the Titanic as the result of a plot by British capitalists Gone Horribly Wrong, with a heroic German officer saving the day and rescuing many people from the sinking ship. It was filmed in the occupied Polish port of Gdynia on board the SS Cap Arcona, which was later used as a prison ship before being sunk a few days before Germany's surrender.
Just one week into the shoot, writer/director Herbert Selpin loudly criticized the Kriegsmarine officers who served as marine consultants for the film over their propensity for molesting the female cast members. Co-writer Walter Zerlett-Olfenius reported Selpin to the Gestapo, who arrested him and brought him to be questioned by Goebbels personally, who had hand-picked Selpin for the project and was furious about his comments. Selpin stood by his criticisms of the officers' behavior, and was found twenty-four hours later hanged in his jail cell — a death that was ruled a suicide at the time, but which everybody with common sense was able to quickly figure out had been an assassination, carried out on Goebbels' orders.
Selpin's "suicide" rendered Zerlett-Olfenius a pariah in the German film community, and most of the cast and crew of Titanic almost revolted over what happened. Goebbels' response was to tell them that anybody who continued to shun Zerlett-Olfenius would have to answer to him personally, and presumably meet the same fate as Selpin. The film was completed by an uncredited Werner Klingler, having gone badly over-budget.
The film was set to premiere in Paris in early 1943, but the theater that had the finished print was bombed by the RAF the night before. While it was ultimately released in the occupied countries, Goebbels blocked it from release in Germany proper, as by that point Germany was undergoing nightly bombing raids and he felt it was Too Soon to release an epic about death and destruction. It was rediscovered in 1949 and, like most Nazi propaganda films, quickly banned in most Western countries (except West Germany itself, oddly enough, where it could occasionally be found on television), while in the Eastern Bloc a version dubbed into Russian was screened as a "trophy film". It wouldn't receive an uncensored releasenote There had been a VHS release in 1992, but with most of the strongest propaganda portions edited out. until 2005.
Tootsie was frequently referred to this way during shooting. Dustin Hoffman and Sydney Pollack feuded so intensely that Hoffman finally resolved it by suggesting Pollack play his agent and get that tension into the actual film. The script was still being rewritten as filming began (so many writers appeared before the Writers' Guild panel seeking to be credited that the arbitration over it delayed the release), and it took Elaine May to come up with Bill Murray's character as a much-needed foil for Michael. In the end, it actually worked out well, becoming one of the best comedies of the 1980s.
Warren Beatty was at the centre of another troubled production and financial disaster in 2001's Town & Country.
The script was first brought to Beatty's attention in 1998, with a planned budget of $19 million. However, Beatty commanded a salary of $8 million and demanded numerous script changes. Over $40 million had been spent on actor and writer salaries even before the cameras began rolling.
British director Peter Chelsom's previous credits consisted mostly of low budget, whimsical comedies, meaning he was ill-suited to direct the big-budget, all-star film and deal with the resulting egos. He and Beatty clashed frequently over various details in the script and the visuals.
Filming began in 1998 but had to be shut down after five months so that cast members Diane Keaton, Garry Shandling, and Jenna Elfman could honour prior commitments. The shoot did not resume until April 2000 (requiring further increases in the actors' salaries), with the final act of the film still being constantly re-written. A sequence in Sun Valley in which artificial snow was created to make up for the absence of real snow on the ski slopes was re-shot after over a foot of natural snow fell on the resort.
The final production budget for the film was estimated at around $90 million; it was clear to all involved that it had no hope of breaking even, and just $15-20 million was spent on marketing and distribution for the film's release in April 2001, leading to a paltry domestic box office take of $6.7 million and a worldwide take of $10.4 million. Warren Beatty has not made another film since.
The film was originally titled Goblins, but distributors in the US felt the film would not succeed on its own as a stand-alone project, so they insisted it be named Troll 2, despite not having anything at all to do with the first movie. The film was more or less a way for Claudio's wife, who was irritated with her friends becoming vegetarians, to give them a thinly-veiled Take That.
Claudio, an Italian director, brought over his all-Italian crew to the United States to begin filming at Morgan, Utah. However, only the costume designer spoke any English. This communication barrier led to much confusion between the English-speaking cast and the Italian-speaking crew. Compounding this problem was the fact that Fragasso refused any kind of assistance from any English speaking crew or cast. The cast would later state that they had no idea what was going on. This was further compounded by...
The fact that none of the cast were aware they were getting lead roles and had no experience as actors. The casting call from nearby towns was specifically stated to be for extras alone, only for Claudio to declare that the people who had showed up were going to be playing lead roles. One of the most ridiculous examples of this was Don Packard, who played the store owner at the start of the film. He stated later that he was on a day trip after being released from treatment at a local hospital, and had—in his words—smoked an enormous amount of marijuana prior to showing up on set. His disturbed demeanor is evidently not acting.
Claudio wrote the script himself, but only had a tentative grasp of the English language. This created a script that has been repeatedly described as "written in pidgin English". This was further compounded by the fact that Claudio insisted that the script be read verbatim. He later claimed that he "knew how Americans spoke better than they did" and would repeatedly deny the cast members attempts to make what they said more grammatically correct and sensible. On top of that, they were only given parts of their script on a scene-by-scene basis, so rarely did they get any kind of context as to what was supposed to be happening.
The Wages of Fear was beset by a series of misfortunes as life imitated art. Where to begin?...
It all started well. The director, Henri-Georges Clouzot, managed to secure the rights for the novel's adaptation and then-rising star, Yves Montand, in the leading role. Next, Clouzot started scouting appropriate locations in Spain. Just when he found one, after a few months of searching, Montand refused to go there (his then-wife, Simone Signoret, was strongly opposed to Francisco Franco's politics). The crew managed to make an exhaustive photodocumentation and the small town was meticulously rebuilt in southern France. Then, Jean Gabin suddenly pulled out (he thought that his fans would dislike his part as a 'coward'); Charles Vanel was hired at the last minute.
The shooting started in late August of 1951. And the troubles came en masse. The September of 1951 was particularly capricious: many days were lost due to rain, and sometimes a sunny day could turn into a heavily rainy one within a few minutes, endangering the equipment and electrics. The two trucks, playing a central role in the movie, were initially quite solid and dependable, but after some raining they started bogging down. The rains made the ground wet, causing camera cranes to suddenly collapse and damage the sets several times. Just when the crew managed to get some control over everything, lead actress Vera Clouzot was admitted into the ICU (she suffered from major heart problems which, unfortunately, claimed her life in 1960). Just as she was released from the hospital, Henri-Georges Clouzot broke his ankle. Adding Clouzot's trademark perfectionist attitude and multiple retakes, it is no surprise that the production already was 50 million francs over budget and way over schedule when they had to quit shooting as the autumn rains set in. During the next few months, Clouzot managed to secure some funds and the shooting continued in the summer of 1952. This time, the only major accident occurred when both Montand and Vanel ended up in the hospital due to conjunctivitis after a few days of filming in the pool of crude oil.
It all paid off when the movie, finally released after months of editing in the spring of 1953, turned out to be a major hit both critically and commercially (it was the first picture to win both the Golden Bear in Berlin and the Palme d'Or in Cannes). It was initially less enthusiastically received in the US due to the movie being re-cut (some key plot points were eliminated because they were considered 'anti-American'), but the complete version was one of the most critically acclaimed pictures of the 1950s.
Bette Davis' last film, Wicked Stepmother, became troubled very early on. A week into principal photography, Davis, the star of the movie, took a leave of absence for a dental appointment...and never came back. note Filmmaker Larry Cohen perceived her exit as a result of her never fully appreciating his directing style; the fact that she was dying didn't help, either. Now without its leading lady, the part was nearly recast with Lucille Ball, but her illness led her to back out. Then the director came up with a plan. In the script, Davis magically turns her cat into a human played by Barbara Carrera. Instead, the finished product has Davis turning herself into Carrera. Now all the footage of Bette could be salvaged, for a film that was ultimately buried in its theatrical release.
Concepts for the film dated all the way back to the 70s when several animators took a whack at it, but failed to stir up any interest.
In the 80s, the first serious production was started, backed by Disney. While a test animation was completed, as well as a few other story elements, John Lasseter was ordered to halt production and the film proceeded no further with the company.
In the early 2000s, Universal picked up the project and attempted to make it a CGI animated film. This idea got canned and got switched to a live action film.
Finding a director that had the talent necessary to adapt such a difficult book was a challenge. When Spike Jonze was finally put behind it, he made several demands that made the film too costly in Universal's eyes. Eventually Universal gave up and let the rights go.
Jonze brought the idea to Warner Bros. and got the film greenlit. When actual production began, the troubles only got even worse. The costumes for the wild things arrived and were heavy, bulky, and awkward for the actors wearing them. The faces were entirely blank, leaving freedom for CGI faces to be added later, but proved to be a challenge for child actor Max Records to work around, as he was basically talking to a faceless object with an actor uttering the lines behind him. To make things less awkward for Max, Jonze had some of the crew members invite their children onto the set.
Michelle Williams was originally supposed to do the voice to one of the wild things, but ended up leaving after only a few days in production, as Jonze felt her voice didn't fit the role.
Getting the scene where Max runs and barks at the dog proved to be quite difficult, as getting him and the dog to move in rhythm proved to be much more of a challenge. Jonze had to resort to shooting the two separately.
Rumors of Arcade Fire doing the soundtrack spurred much fanfare for fans of the band. It has never been confirmed, but Arcade Fire apparently worked on a partial score and then decided to abandon it. Karen O. from Yeah Yeah Yeahs was called in to record the soundtrack instead, which was allegedly rushed.
The film, while debuting at number 1 in the box office, was so over-budget that it didn't break even. Had it not run over, it probably could have been a smashing success. The film was also met with mixed to positive critical reception, but many are seeing it getting vindicated by history as one of Jonze's masterpieces.
The trouble began with the script. Three writers were ultimately created (Florence Ryderson, Edgar Allen Woolf, and Noel Langley); however, these were merely the three who did the most work on it, as the laundry list below the three credited writers will show.. And Langley, the studio's favored writer, took a massive step away from the story, introducing slews of new characters (including Prince Florizel, a handsome prince given a Baleful Polymorph into the Cowardly Lion), pushing Dorothy completely to the periphery of the plot, and turning Auntie Em into a cruel, heartless caretaker that was, in the first drafts, the one trying to get rid of Toto. Woolf and Ryderson mostly applied damage control, cutting away the more bizarre elements of Langley's scripts while keeping the majority of his dialogue.
Casting was another problem. Margaret Hamilton, a single mother, got into an argument with the studio over guaranteed time to work, only agreeing to take the role of the Wicked Witch three days before filming. Ironically, although she finally got an agreement for five weeks of work, she ended up working on the film for three months. Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Scarecrow, while Ray Bolger was the Tin Man; Bolger, whose childhood hero was Fred Stone (who had played the Scarecrow in a 1902 stage adaptation of the story), worked out a deal with Ebsen and switched roles with him. During filming, Ebsen suffered a severe allergic reaction to his Tin Man makeup and was forced to quit, being replaced by Jack Haley.
The film went through no fewer than five directors. One, George Cukor, only worked on the film for three days. Credit was ultimately given to Victor Fleming, who filmed the majority of the finished work.
The elaborate nature of the makeup caused a great deal of agony for all actors involved, but particularly Bert Lahr (the Cowardly Lion) and Hamilton. Lahr could only eat through a straw (if he decided to eat anything more elaborate, he had to spend an extra hour in makeup to repair his face appliances), and due to the massive amounts of hot stage lighting needed for Technicolor, had to remove his entire costume and stand in front of a fan between shots to avoid heat stroke. Hamilton, meanwhile, couldn't eat at all due to the copper in her makeup! Ray Bolger was at least able to eat with his Scarecrow makeup on, but the rubber mask cut off air and moisture to his face; his skin would regularly crack and bleed when he removed the mask. When filming finished, the mask had left a pattern of lines on his face that took over a year to fade.
Hamilton suffered a serious burn during the filming of her exit from Munchkinland, which was aggravated by her makeup making treatment difficult. Once she recovered, she refused to film the "SURRENDER DOROTHY" scene on hearing they'd made her a fireproof costume, despite the studio's insistence that the scene involved no pyrotechnics; her stand-in did the scene... and was seriously burned herself!
Filming in general was a struggle uphill, with the cast's call time being four AM and their departure being at seven or eight at the earliest.
The only element that went relatively peacefully was the music... and even then several songs were conceived and dropped, and one, the famous "Jitterbug" sequence, was cut entirely after early test screenings found the audience unreceptive.
Brad Pitt, the film's producer and star, was most intrigued by the book's geopolitical aspects (what with his partner being a UN Goodwill Ambassador and all), and his production company Plan B, together with Paramount, spent $1 million on the film rights. However, it soon became clear that much of the geopolitics that Pitt was interested in would have to be dropped if they wanted the story to come together on screen. Furthermore, Pitt's production company, Plan B, had never taken on a project of this size, its experience limited to eclectic, low-budget dramas; their biggest film before this was the Julia Roberts rom-com Eat, Pray, Love.
The real problems started with director Marc Forster, Pitt's personal choice to direct the film — and a man whose whose background (not unlike Plan B) was in making smaller, dramatic films like Finding Neverland and Monsters Ball. His only experience making big-budget tentpole films was the much-criticized Bond film Quantum of Solace (mentioned earlier on this page). It was hoped that he would be able to focus on story and characters while his crew could guide him on action and effects, but not only was he unable to bring his usual team with him, the lack of a strong leader at the head of the project produced a muddled vision for what the film would be like. As late as three weeks before shooting was to begin in June 2011, Forster hadn't even decided yet on what the zombies would look like or how they would behave.
Forster and screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski clashed throughout the writing process. Forster wanted to focus on the action, which Straczynski felt detracted from the story's main themes; he was more interested in remaining faithful to the book, focusing on the characters and the global reaction to the Zombie Apocalypse. Straczynski was eventually fired and replaced with Michael Carnahan (writer of The Kingdom and Lions for Lambs), who made the film an action-adventure focused on a UN field specialist named Gerry Lane, dropping the book's first-person accounts. It was at this point that Pitt was cast as Gerry.
And then production began. From the start, it was clear that Pitt, Plan B, and Forster were in way over their heads. Shooting in Malta for the Jerusalem scenes was a nightmare, with two film crews working side-by-side, hundreds of extras, and all sorts of minor costs dealing the budget a Death of a Thousand Cuts. One day, shooting had to be delayed for several hours because the caterer hadn't prepared enough food. When work in Malta finished, the wrap-up crew found a stack of purchase orders related to the cast and extras that had been casually tossed into a desk drawer and forgotten; the amount totaled in the millions of dollars. And all the while, the script still wasn't finished, with work still being done on the third act.
Things got no better when production moved to Glasgow for the Philadelphia scenes. Forster began to fight with both Pitt and the head of the SFX team; the latter was dismissed after principal filming ended. Cinematographer Richard Richardson asked more than once to leave the project, and struggled to keep the crew under control, often antagonizing them in the process. He ended up leaving by the end of production (to shoot Django Unchained) and being replaced by Ben Seresin for the reshoots (who received sole credit). Furthermore, Pitt's schedule conflicted with his commitment to starring in Killing Them Softly, and he also took time off to spend time with his family, pushing production back even further.
During shooting in Budapest in October for the climax in Russia, the crew found out the hard way that their 85 "prop" assault rifles were in fact fully-functional weapons when a Hungarian anti-terrorism unit raided their warehouse and seized the guns. Furthermore, Paramount, after seeing how out-of-control production had gotten in Malta, ordered a scaling back of the budget, forcing the production to scrap a number of scenes. Members of the production criticized the third act as "Rambo vs. zombies", losing the character-driven drama of the rest of the film, and production wrapped with the knowledge that rewrites and reshoots were inevitable.
In June 2012, Paramount ordered, depending on the source, anywhere from five to seven weeks of reshoots totaling forty minutes' worth of the film. They also hired Damon Lindelof to do a third-act rewrite; he later brought in his old LOST buddy Drew Goddard to help him give the script a thorough overhaul after determining that it had much deeper problems. A climatic twelve-minute battle sequence was dropped entirely. This pushed the film's release from December of that year to June 2013. By this point, the budget had ballooned to anywhere from $170 to $250 million depending on who you ask, and the filmmakers had only 72 minutes' worth of largely incoherent footage to show to the studio.
During reshoots, Forster and Pitt reportedly weren't on speaking terms — Forster's notes for Pitt had to be relayed through an intermediary.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine was delayed by weather and Hugh Jackman's commitments with Australia, begun with an unfinished screenplay - director Gavin Hood detailed that during shooting in Australia, script pages would be sent from LA, at times in the night prior to them being filmed - and saw director Gavin Hood entering conflicts with studio 20th Century Fox, with Richard Donner (husband of producer Lauren Shuler Donner) being forced to join production to mellow out things. And an incomplete version with missing special effects leaked online one month before the film's premiere.