We've covered Stanley Kubrick's torture tactics in a previous article, but the guy did so many horrible things to actors throughout his career that we have to wonder if he just decided on directing because it offered a legal loophole for abuse. While shooting A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick did all of his signature crazy shit, like shooting simple scenes 40 or 50 times, but he also practiced a more personal brand of cruelty, focusing it almost exclusively on Malcolm McDowell.
"Once I finish my coffee, I'm going to pee in this cup. And then you get to drink."
Sure, there were the usual Kubrick head games, like insisting that McDowell's character, Alex, have a pet snake despite the fact that McDowell was terrified of snakes (it wasn't in the script). But really, you haven't gotten the full Kubrick treatment until you've suffered some kind of real, medical damage.
So, for instance, during the scene in which a man forces Alex to the ground and stomps on him, the man insisted on selling the realism by actually stomping on McDowell's chest, cracking his ribs.
That's how you know you're doing it right. Acting is a lot like CPR that way.
But hands down the most torturous scene for McDowell was the most famous: the "rehabilitation" scene.
That's when Alex is forced to watch hours of rape and violence with his eyes pried open with what looks like tiny barbecue tongs attached to orthodontia headgear. During that scene, the doctor you see sitting there next to him, applying eye drops to keep Alex's eyes from drying out, was in fact an actual doctor who needed to be there applying those drops or McDowell risked becoming permanently blinded.
"Surprise! The drops are actually Tabasco sauce."
Still, even with those precautions, the apparatus scratched McDowell's cornea so severely that he wanted to stop the shoot. Instead of halting production until it healed, Kubrick told him, "Let's go on with the scene, I'll favor your other eye."
So when you see Alex sitting there in the straitjacket with his eyes pried open by the lid locks, screaming for them to stop it, we have no idea how much of that was acting. We're guessing neither did Kubrick.
"Now, Malcolm, I'm going to show you a slideshow of nude photos I took of myself. DO YOU SEE?"
The reason you have heard of Bruce Campbell, and the reason director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man) has a career, is that in 1981 Raimi and producer Rob Tapert decided to make a zero-budget horror film called The Evil Dead.
They went into the project without a really solid understanding of how to make movies, and certainly didn't know how to make one full of crazy stunts and gore in a way that was safe at all. For one, all of that fancy safety shit is expensive -- it costs a lot more to create the illusion that actors are in danger than to put them in actual danger and just film that. For another, they seemed to think the danger was a necessary element. Josh Becker, who worked on the crew, explained in an interview that Sam Raimi would tell his cast, "If everyone was in extreme pain and misery, that would translate into a horror." No one bothered to correct him on this or to explain what "acting" and "fiction" are, so The Evil Dead shot for over a year in which Raimi and Tapert deliberately tortured the cast. How else would the film capture its gritty sense of slice-of-life realism?
"Would you stop screaming? I know how to carve a damn turkey!"
So, for a take that required the camera to smash through a window pane toward one of the lead actresses, they saw no other way of doing it than to just smash an actual window. When you see the actress shielding her head in that shot, it's because she doesn't want it to be sliced open by the actual shards of glass flying at her face.
Thankfully, they just sliced harmlessly into her wrists.
Keep in mind, all of this was happening in a rented a cabin out in the woods with no running water and no heat (they had to wash their hands with scalding hot water from the coffee maker) over the course of 15 months. At one point Bruce Campbell sprained his ankle, and for the next two weeks, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert would poke at it with sticks to ensure that he kept limping in every scene.
But arguably the most dangerous moment of the entire shoot was the scene in which Bruce Campbell had to fight off a possessed woman who was trying to stab him with a dagger. The trouble was that the contact lenses they used for that iconic possessed look were completely opaque.
So the actress who was supposed to attack him was effectively blind. Oh, and the dagger? It was real. So while the actress' job was to run in Bruce Campbell's general direction, swinging the dagger out in front of her, his job was to not die. If that scene in the movie seems more real than any others, it's because he is legitimately trying to avoid being stabbed.
It's not entirely clear why they were so insistent on using a real blade, but Rob Tapert has a very telling quote on how he feels about actors. After one of the actresses cut her feet to shreds during a bare-footed running scene in the woods, he noticed the blood tracks and said, "I like it when an actor bleeds. It makes me feel like I got my money's worth."
Granted, the budget of that entire movie was less than $400,000, so the actors were probably getting paid in Sizzler coupons, but hey, that's worth bleeding for, right?
For more hell-on-earth acting conditions, check out 6 Beloved TV Shows (That Traumatized Cast Members For Life) and The 5 Most Horrifyingly Wasteful Film Shoots.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The Most Screwed Over Man in the History of Movies.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn how to get that ringing out of your ears (with more fireworks).
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