While the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly caused many delays in the film industry, troubled productions are nothing new and truly nightmarish shoots stretch back to the dawn of cinema.
When a film struggles on set, many observers’ first instinct is to predict that it will fail, but many of the best films of all time have had a rocky road to the big screen. These films were plagued by budget overruns, conflicting egos, and even fatal accidents, but thrived against the odds.
Jaw Steven Spielberg may have become a household name and created the modern summer blockbuster, but his production was enough to give the young director nightmares. Ironically, for a film based on a book, production began without a finished script, requiring writer Carl Gottlieb to turn in scenes the night before shooting was scheduled.
Many of the most serious problems occurred during open water filming, with shark props frequently malfunctioning and the boat sinking at one point with the actors on board. All of this left the film more than 100 days behind schedule and cost more than double its original budget, meaning Paramount breathed a sigh of relief when the film was a smash hit.
Star Wars (1977)
George Lucas’ science fantasy tale may have spawned a hugely successful franchise loved by legions of fans, but there was a long list of things that went wrong during filming war of stars, from the beginning. From Tunisia’s desert heat to actors who don’t understand the material, war of stars was a nightmare shoot that resulted in Lucas staying away from directing for nearly two decades.
Editing was also a major headache, as the rough cut was such a disaster that a new team of editors (including George’s then-wife Marcia) were brought in to dramatically restructure much of the film and restructure it into something watchable. Thank God, war of stars became the biggest hit of the ’70s, but Lucas can be forgiven for handing the reins of the next two films to other directors.
The Bigger the Movie, the More Opportunities for Trouble, and William Wyler’s religious epic, Ben Hur, was not immune to this principle. These included budget overruns, making it the most expensive film ever produced at over $15 million, and the pace of filming was so slow that many of the cast and crew needed vitamin shots just to get through the day.
To make matters worse, producer Sam Zimbalist died suddenly during production, forcing Wyler to take on the de facto co-producing role. It is a miracle that despite the countless obstacles Ben Hur When it needs finishing, it still has the grandeur that old-school Hollywood epics are known for.
Proof that it’s not just epic movies that have to contend with mountains of problems, Caddyshack is a comedy classic that apparently wasn’t fun to work on. It is telling that although the film was a commercial success and found increasing love as time went on, director Harold Ramis always gave it poor reviews.
A hurricane hitting the set was bad enough, but a lot of the trouble came from the cast, with Chevy Chase and Ted Knight in particular having a hard time getting along with anyone. It came as a pleasant surprise to everyone involved that Chase and Bill Murray were so shamefully at odds SNLwere professional enough to get their scene up and running.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
At $27.5 million The Blues Brothers was one of the most expensive comedies of its time, and knowing its many problems could change the way one watches it. Dan Aykroyd proved his inexperience as a screenwriter when he submitted a first draft of over 300 pages, and John Belushi’s drug use was reportedly so bad that he was often late for set after late-night binges.
Universal Pictures was also concerned about the skyrocketing budget and hoped to save money by replacing the film’s black R&B and soul artists with younger, hipper acts. Thankfully, director John Landis fought to keep them, and the music is one of the reasons The Blues Brothers is often considered one of the best SNL-related movies.
When James Cameron embarked on his nautical romantic drama, he was well acquainted with hellish filming, but Titanic is arguably the one where everything went wrong in the worst possible way. Cameron’s allegedly controlling behavior was at its worst, leading to him holding the cast in cold water for hours and verbally berating the crew for the slightest mistake.
As well as Jaw showed the film industry that films set at sea tend to be incredibly expensive, and indeed, Cameron’s meticulous attention to detail quickly exceeded the film’s budget. It’s a good thing the film was the highest-grossing of its time, as its $200 million budget also made it the most expensive.
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
A purveyor of lush, grand historical epics, David Lean has often been at the forefront of troubled productions, with The Bridge on the River Kwai set the trend. Lean was frequently at odds with the actors, particularly Alec Guinness, with the two men at odds over how Colonel Nicholson should be played.
The Bridge on the River Kwai also had to deal with political problems, such as B. the fact that screenwriters Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson went uncredited due to the Hollywood blacklist, and the Suez Crisis, which meant that all equipment that would normally have been transported by water had to be transported by air . Luckily, the film was a huge hit, and the difficulty of making the film arguably contributes to its large scale.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
During The Wizard of Oz is a popular film that appeals to all ages, the staging was anything but child friendly. Each day of filming was long and tiring, with call times at 4 am and often well into the night, and young Judy Garland in particular had to put up with abuse ounce Set that would not fly today.
Other common causes of disaster were makeup and special effects, with Margaret Hamilton suffering burns while filming the Wicked Witch of the West’s exit from Munchkinland, and Bert Lahr’s (Cowardly Lion) costume, which restricted him to a liquid diet. Years later, Jack Haley (Tin Man) certainly spoke for everyone involved when he said, “How the hell was it [fun]! It was work!”
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
David Lean’s sequel to That Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, was even more epic in scope, and with that came an even bigger headache. Production hopped from Jordan and Spain to Morocco, and illness and injury plagued the cast and crew wherever they went, to the point where star Peter O’Toole was reportedly nearly killed when he fell off a camel.
In addition, Lean and his crew have had to deal with several public relations nightmares, such as the arrest of screenwriter Robert Bolt during a protest shortly after he was hired, forcing producer Sam Spiegel to ransom him. Prior to the film’s release, the real TE Lawrence’s brother also attempted to discredit the film, which may have contributed to some initial negative reviews.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Francis Ford Coppolas’ Nam masterpiece is still considered an excellent film today, but not even the notoriously difficult production of The Godfather could prepare him for the troubles that lurk on the island apocalypse now shoot. From a typhoon that destroyed most of the sets and the Philippine military recalling equipment to Martin Sheen suffering a heart attack that required his absence for a long time, everything that could have gone wrong happened.
apocalypse nowThe troubles took a toll on everyone involved, but no more than on Coppola himself, who lost over 100 pounds and allegedly attempted suicide due to the stress of making the film. Viewers can find out more about this truly legendary shoot in the excellent documentary heart of darknesswhich shows the process of shooting, which was hardly less intense than the actual film.
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