Sometimes, the only way to capture a truly horrifying and brutal moment on film is to horrify and brutalize the actors, as happens surprisingly often.
Yes, even in the age of computer effects and entire sequences shot in front of a green screen with tennis balls, there is still no substitute for gross neglect of human safety.
5 Inglourious Basterds: The Actors Almost Burn in the Theater Fire
SPOILERS: In the climax of Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino's narrative veers off course from historical fiction and gives the audience a more cathartic and hyper-violent Hitler death than the boring old suicide in a bunker we're all used to. Specifically, some Nazi-killing Jews shoot him in the face hundreds of times with machine guns while a theater burns to the ground around them.
"Thank God we shot him before the fire killed him!"
Ironically, shooting the assassination of Hitler nearly killed the two actors (Eli Roth and Omar Doom) who were supposed to be doing the assassinating. Who could have predicted that actually lighting the set on fire around them would be so dangerous?
That's right -- while it's possible to use CGI to make a building look like it's on fire, it's far more convincing to actually set it ablaze and yell "ACTION!" So the flames that were roaring in the background during the Basterds' murder spree were very much real, and those actors were actually inside -- that wasn't no goddamned green screen effect. The controlled blaze was supposed to never get closer than 20 feet from the actors, but fire rarely does exactly what it's told.
So, predictably, the flames roared across the theater almost immediately, and the fire was right on top of both actors within 30 seconds.
"Feel free to cut, Quentin. Whenever you're ready. Any time now."
Of course, that's the expensive set that's burning down around them, so this was their only chance to shoot the scene without rebuilding the whole damned thing. So everyone was forced to hurry and grab the shot before the out-of-control hellblaze overtook them.
The temperature of the fire quickly reached 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and, while Tarantino and the crew were wearing fire suits, Roth and Doom were only coated in a jelly meant to protect their skin. The heat was so unbearable that Eli Roth passed out once the scene was over, and had to spend the next day with his head and hands in ice. But he still got off lucky.
The platform they were shooting on was about 10 seconds away from collapse when Tarantino called cut and everyone fled. Had they shot even a few seconds longer, Eli Roth and Omar Doom would have burned to death. Or almost to death -- it would have been awful either way.
But it might have been worth a handful of sympathy-Oscars.
The only indication in the movie of how out of control everything got is that giant swastika over the stage behind Roth and Doom. It collapses and crashes to the ground during the fire, but it was never supposed to fall. In fact, it was supported by massive steel cables precisely so it wouldn't fall, but those cables promptly melted in the unbearable heat of the fire.
So as you watch that scene, remember that the two actors are standing in a room that's so hot it's melting steel. We can only hope the guy who played Hitler was OK, because at this point we're assuming they really shot him in the face.