Not every film is plain sailing to make. Here are some which nearly came off the rails (and in one case did)…
What didn’t go wrong during the making of this Vietnam classic? A star (Brando) who showed up overweight and underprepared. Sacking your leading man (Harvey Keitel) shortly into filming only to have his replacement suffer a heart attack and almost die, resulting in a production shutdown.
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A typhoon destroyed the set in Manila, the script wasn’t finished and the movie was up to six weeks behind schedule and more than two million dollars over budget. Dennis Hopper was out of his mind on drugs and the crew partied hard. Bizarrely for all this excess, the film was originally supposed to have been directed by George Lucas as a small indie film, but he got the chance to do ‘Star Wars’ instead. In the end, all the chaos was worth it.
Comedian and actor Patton Oswalt has been blisteringly honest about his work in the vampire threequel, especially regarding Wesley Snipes’s behaviour. Not only did Wes never break character on set, he also refused to come out of his trailer for anything other than close-ups. Then when he saw what he perceived to be a racist slight perpetrated by writer/director David S. Goyer (the actor was mistaken), he physically threatened him and demanded he resign. Goyer didn’t back down and clearly sick of his star’s ego suggested they could finish the film without him. Snipes responded by only communicating through Post-it notes, signing them “From Blade”. We assume the rest of the cast, including Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel, had to stop themselves from giggling.
Originally going into production in 1959 and finally released in 1963, this epic about the Egyptian queen is a tale of misfortune, hubris and idiocy. Elizabeth Taylor became the first actor to receive $1million for a role as Cleo, while original co-stars included Peter Finch and Stephen Boyd. But after starting to film in England – with elaborate period sets built from scratch – it soon became clear the intemperate climate wouldn’t look enough like Egypt.
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The sets were thus destroyed and new ones were built in Rome, necessitating a massive delay, during which Finch and Boyd left (to be replaced by Rex Harrison and Richard Burton) and the first director was sacked (his replacement didn’t fare much better, getting fired during the editing process). Of course, what happened between Burton and Taylor has become part of Hollywood lore. The film eventually cost more than £25million to make, which equates to around £480m in today’s money, making it the most expensive film ever made. It almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox, which was only saved by the box office success of ‘The Sound of Music’ two years later.
‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’
The only film on this list not to have actually been made (yet, if director Terry Gilliam has anything to do with it), the hell of making this quirky drama was captured on film in the brilliant 2002 documentary ‘Lost In La Mancha’. Star Jean Rochefort had to leave after suffering a herniated disc, a Spanish flood washed away equipment on the second day of shooting and military jets flying overhead meant sound was unusable. After Rochefort left, Gilliam decided to abandon the project – despite having material in the can with the French actor and co-star Johnny Depp – hoping to resurrect it later. His quest continues.
‘Three Kings/I Heart Huckabees’
David O Russell may be an Oscar-nominated director, but he has his fair share of critics, not least George Clooney, who clashed with him on the set of the Iraq War drama. Literally clashed – the pair traded blows when Clooney thought Russell had been disrespectful to an extra.
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Actress Lily Tomlin will not be surprised to hear of the tiff. On ‘Huckabees’ she and her director got into some heated arguments – most of which involve Russell screaming obscenities at his star at the top of his lungs. You can see one here, but be aware, there are a lot of rude words. Let’s hope he’s chilled out in recent years.
‘The Island Of Dr Moreau’
A cult book, an up-and-coming director and Marlon Brando. Those were the ingredients for this fantastical drama, which is legendary for its backstage carnage. A lot of that was down to Val Kilmer, who was hired to play one part and then decided at the last minute he wanted to swap roles with the already-cast Rob Morrow. Morrow had other ideas and was replaced by David Thewlis. Director Richard Stanley had a breakdown and left/was fired, only to sneak back onto set in full prosthetics to spy on what was going on. The new director John Frankenheimer changed the script and the result is an abstract mess, with one of the strangest performances ever committed to screen by Brando. Don’t believe us – check out the scene where he wears an ice bucket on his head.
‘Town & Country’
Warren Beatty is a Hollywood legend, but he’s also notorious for his indecision. For his Oscar-winning movie ‘Reds’, he demanded hundreds of takes from his actors, reducing Jack Nicholson to tears. For ‘Town & Country’, which was eventually released in 2001, it was his dissatisfaction with the script and desire to do multiple takes himself which essentially derailed the film. Beginning shooting in summer 1998, it was still filming almost a year later. The budget had soared and various actors, including Garry Shandling (who had replaced Gerard Depardieu) and Diane Keaton, had to leave to start work on other films. It took another year to get everyone back together to finish the necessary scenes. By that time, bad word of mouth sunk the $90million production and it took only $6.7million at the box office, becoming one of the biggest flops of all time in the process.
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Photos: Rex/Moviestore/Press Association/Everett Collection