Legendary Movie Myths: True or False?

We’ve all heard those famous stories about movies – the ones regarding sex, drugs, and curses – but are they actually real, or have they remained scurrilous rumours? We sort the fact from the fiction and determine which well-known movie myths are true and which have been debunked by experts…

The myth: You can see a dead Munchkin in ‘The Wizard Of Oz’

The story goes that an actor playing a Munchkin during production of 'The Wizard Of Oz’ was suffering from unrequited love, and depressed, hung himself on the set – not only that, but you can see his lifeless little body swinging in the scene where Dorothy and pals are picking fruit from the talking trees. 

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A popular myth spread at the time (tales of Munchkin debauchery were spun from cast and crew members), it didn’t prove difficult to debunk in the age of DVD: though there is a strange figure behind the trees in the scene stated, it turned out to be nothing more than a large bird, most likely a heron, roaming around the set for extra outdoorsy authenticity.

True or false: FALSE

The myth: Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie had unsimulated sex 'Don’t Look Now’

Did they or didn’t they? It’s a sex scene that caused no small amount of controversy at the time, but even today, people still discuss the rumour that stars Sutherland and Christie engaged in sex for real during the shooting of Nic Roeg’s seminal horror film, 'Don’t Look Now’. 

Former Variety editor Peter Bart claimed in a book that he was on set and saw first-hand evidence they were doing the horizontal mambo for realsies, but Donald Sutherland shot down those mendacious claims in a statement in 2011: “Not true. None of it. Not the sex. Not him witnessing it. From beginning to end there were four people in that room. No one else. Wires under the locked door led out side and this was twenty years before video monitors.” Sounds like someone was telling porky pies, eh Peter?

True or false: FALSE

The myth: You can see a ghost in 'Three Men And A Baby’

It remains one of the most persistent movie-related myths to this day, but the supernatural connection with 'Three Men And A Baby’ is ludicrous – more of a mystery is how this movie ever got made, let alone how it spawned a sequel. 

Again, in an era just getting used to home video, it’s perhaps understandable how claims you can see a ghost of a young boy in the window of a scene could have stuck. But minimal research puts the kibosh on this poltergeist – a deleted scene shows the shadowy figure is actually a cardboard cut-out of Ted Danson’s actor character, not, as the urban legend suggested, the ghost of a child killed in the house during filming. Don’t be afraid of no ghost.

True or false: FALSE

The myth: One Bond girl was actually a Bond guy

It’s the kind of myth that’d have Roger Moore raising his eyebrow, but it is true – although that depends on how far you’re willing to stretch your definition of the term 'Bond girl’. Caroline Cossey, working under her stage name Tula, did appear in 'For Your Eyes Only’ and was born a man, having undergone full sex reassignment surgery seven years prior to shooting. 

However, she was little more than eye candy, credited only as 'Girl At Pool’ (along with nine other 'Girl At Pool’s) and can only be seen for a few seconds. It wasn’t the progressive move it seems, either; Tula hid her secret from producers and was 'outed’ by the tabloids shortly after the film’s release.

True or false: TRUE

The myth: The actress covered in gold paint in 'Goldfinger’ died of asphyxiation

The 60s were simpler times – we didn’t have quite the knowledge of biology that we do now, and it was widely thought that humans 'breathed’ through their skin, meaning that if all the pores are closed, the body shuts down. That’s flagrantly false, as is the myth that actress Shirley Eaton – playing 'Goldfinger’’s secretary Jill Masterson – died for real after she was coated in gold paint for her character’s death scene. 

We know some Hollywood productions could be irresponsible back then, but you couldn’t just suffocate an actress and bung her nude, lifeless body on screen for all to enjoy. Remember, they didn’t have Google back then.

True or false: FALSE

The myth: Sylvester Stallone starred in a porn movie

In the days before the sex tape became the ultimate celebrity commodity, news that Sylvester Stallone had starred in a porno movie spread like wildfire. We can report that the legend is true – but Stallone didn’t flash his own Italian Stallion. Sly did appear in 1970 softcore grot flick 'Party at Kitty And Stud’s’ and was paid $200 for the privilege but didn’t actually partake in any sex – who does he think he is, Donald Sutherland? 

The film has since been brutally edited into something that probably resembles Stallone’s own private nightmare, complete with wonderful lines of dialogue like: “I’ll be velvet-mouthed on your shank of love!” Six years later, however, he’d win an Oscar for 'Rocky’. Stay the course, porn newbies – it could happen to you.

True or false: TRUE

The myth: A stuntman was killed during the chariot race in 'Ben Hur’

The life of a stuntman in the 1950s was indeed far more dangerous than it is today, thanks to lax safety regulations and equipment checks. However, the myth that a stuntman died during the filming of 'Ben Hur’’s astounding chariot race scene simply isn’t true – no fatalities were reported on set. 

It’s understandable, however, given that it’s likely there was at least one fatality on the set of the 1926 MGM version of 'Ben Hur’. That was still prescient in the minds of reporters during shooting of the 1959 movie, leading sequence director Andrew Marton to explode at reporters, exclaiming that 100 horses and 20 men had perished during filming (“That’s what you want to hear, isn’t it?” he added, to no avail). It’s still an incredible feat of filmmaking and thankfully one that passed without loss.

True or false: FALSE

The myth: Annoyed animators snuck nudity into Disney animation 'The Rescuers’

Disney’s reputation is so squeaky clean, it seems conspiracy theorists are forever trying to sully their image with naughtiness – see the dust forming the word 'SEX’ in 'The Lion King’ (it actually says 'SFX’) and the priest’s erection (or, you know, his knee) in 'The Little Mermaid’. However, in this instance, claims of lewdness were accurate – there was indeed two frames of a topless woman inserted into a window in a flight sequence 38 minutes in to the 1977 animated adventure. 

It would have been almost imperceptible to the naked eye (fnar) and it wasn’t actually revealed until Disney announced a video recall in 1999 – they claimed the offending frames were added by a post-production house, not in-house, and the boobs in question were obviously removed from all subsequent versions. Booo.

True or false: TRUE

The myth: Marisa Tomei won an Oscar by accident

It’s a story that’s so good you almost want it to be true, but the fact is, Marisa Tomei’s Oscar victory for 'My Cousin Vinnie’ was legitimate. Jack Palance, a little doddery, read aloud the winner of the Best Actress Academy Award on stage at the 1992 Oscars, but rumours persisted he’d accidentally read the name of the final nominee instead, because it hadn’t scrolled off the teleprompter yet. 

By the time Tomei had taken to the stage, all involved were too red-faced to intervene and agreed to let the Oscar stand. Granted, Tomei’s win came as a surprise (most of all to Vanessa Redgrave, who probably should have won for 'Howard’s End’), but it’s all bull. For starters, Palance read Tomei’s name from the envelope in his hand, and believe it or not, the Academy aren’t in the business of letting people have undeserved Oscars out of sheer awkwardness.

True or false: FALSE

The myth: One of the asteroids in 'Return Of The Jedi’ is a shoe

Don’t rush to stick on your special edition DVDs to check, because spoilsport George Lucas edited it out during the 1997 remasters, but the original version of the 1983 'Star Wars’ trilogy closer did feature a tennis shoe in an asteroid field. 

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Said trainer belonged to VFX supervisor Ken Ralston, who chucked it into shot as an act of petty rebellion at the ceaseless demands of perfectionist George Lucas. Also in the scene? A yoghurt container. Oh, and if you squint, you can see a potato spinning through space in 'The Empire Strikes Back’. You can also see a turd in 'The Phantom Menace’, but upon closer inspection, it turns out to be Jar-Jar Binks.

True or false: TRUE

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Image credits: REX Features/20th Century Fox/YouTube/Disney/Warner Bros/Touchstone/EON/MGM