4Raiders of the Lost Ark
After they narrowly avoided disaster and achieved stunning successes with Jaws and Star Wars, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas decided to team up to make what would either be the most glorious adventure film of all time or, given their track records, the largest fuck up.
Luckily for us, all the pieces fell into place and Raiders of the Lost Ark was the product, introducing the world to Indiana Jones long before Shia LeBeouf came into the world dead set on destroying him.
Ouch! Right in the childhood.
Why We Almost Never Got to See it
With reputations for going well over budget, it's pretty understandable that studios would be a little hesitant to fund a joint venture between Spielberg and Lucas. So it's of little surprise that when they initially took their idea about professor by day; religious artifact-saving, Nazi-fighting, super-archeologist by night Indiana Jones to studio heads, most balked and told them to piss off. Finally, the duo convinced Paramount to fund their film, though at a potentially tremendous cost. The contract stated that, if they went over budget, Lucas and Spielberg would have to foot the bill themselves.
Casting proved to be a bitch, as Spielberg and Lucas wanted Tom Selleck's mustache in the role, but his conflicting schedule on Magnum P.I. led to Harrison Ford getting his second swashbuckling role under Lucas. And he was totally the shit.
Oh, what might have been...
Then, Spielberg wanted to cast his girlfriend Amy Irving as the female lead, but found that would have been extremely awkward once she dumped his ass. Debra Winger and Barbara Hershey, who have since disappeared from the face of the earth, were next in line before the role went to Karen Allen.
And speaking of shit, John Rhys Davies, who would later go on to play an angry, drunken midget in Lord of the Rings, shit himself in full costume. Sadly, this cannot be found on the DVD's deleted scenes.
"Bad dates. Also, I shit myself."
But as bad as shitting yourself in front of your peers while wearing a costume can be (and we know from experience), Ford may have actually suffered the most throughout the production.
On top of having a giant plane roll over his leg, tearing a ligament in his knee, the crusty star suffered from dysentery for more than a month while filming in the 130 degree heat of Tunisia, a location Spielberg hated so much that he cut the production schedule in the area by more than a week.
Ford's bout with dysentery got so bad that at one point, he begged Spielberg to alter a fight scene for fear that the sight of feces running down Indiana's leg might not strike the right tone. Instead of fighting a swordsman, he suggested that he just pull a gun out and shoot the fucker.
Spielberg agreed, understanding that sometimes just shooting a guy in the face is the best solution. Once again, the threat from a spray of rancid feces makes film history.
3The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz is the story of a girl, her dog, a tornado and the band of rejected circus freaks she meets on her way to meet the titular Wizard, who she is told will help her get back to dreary Kansas, rather than stay in the awesome wonderland of magic.
Released in 1939, the film was nominated for Best Picture, introduced the world to the song "Over the Rainbow" and somehow turned Judy Garland into an icon in the gay community.
Exactly what L. Frank Baum had in mind.
Why We Almost Never Got to See it
Usually you can tell how bad a movie is by how many people they had write it. Tons of writers usually means tons of rewrites due to horrible drafts.
The Wizard of Oz had 16 writers.
Even more amazing, it went through four directors. The film's original director, Richard Thorpe, was fired after a few weeks and replaced by George Cukor. Unfortunately, Cukor was on his way to directing Gone with the Wind, and despite having full knowledge that he would be bailing on the film soon, the studio brought him on anyway - for a whopping seven days.
After Cukor hustled off to burn down Atlanta all over again, Victor Fleming was brought in and ended up filming the bulk of the movie. Toward the end of the shoot, Fleming (who clearly enjoyed Cukor's sloppy seconds) left the production to finish off Gone with the Wind, and the awesomely named King Vidor, who probably ruled a small island nation somewhere, came on as the film's closer.
King Vidor. What a disappointment.
An actress named Gale Sondergaard was originally cast as the Wicked Witch, but quit due to the decision to make the witch into a hag. Presumably on her way out the door the producers gave her a dictionary and told her to look up the definition of "witch."
Along with Sondergaard leaving production, the film also famously needed to replace Buddy "Uncle Jed" Ebsen in the role of the Tin Man after nearly killing him. Ironically, he wasn't even cast as the Tin Man in the first place, only swapping from the role of the Scarecrow to the Tin Man because Ray Bolger bitched about playing an aluminum can with legs.
After swapping roles, Ebsen was hospitalized after the makeup being used to make him look like Silver Surfer coated his lungs from breathing. Naturally, they failed to mention that little side effect to Jack Haley, Ebsen's replacement (though they did slightly alter the makeup, not wanting to have a pesky manslaughter trial on their hands).
"Oxygen tank...oxygen tank!"
But that wasn't the only near death on set. Perhaps in an attempt to keep up with the good people of Salem, Margaret Hamilton, who replaced Sondergaard as the witch, was very nearly burned to death in a scene in which she disappears in a puff of smoke.
Upon returning to the production, Hamilton refused to do another similar scene, and, quite predictably, her stand in was quickly injured thanks to a malfunction on the set. There may not have been an actual death like the myth about the munchkin hanging himself on set, but we can never say it wasn't because the filmmakers didn't try.