4John Woo Almost Made Chow Yun-Fat Explode for Hard Boiled
In the '90s, John Woo was handed millions of dollars and allowed to make movies like Broken Arrow, Face/Off, and Mission: Impossible II, simply on the strength of the awesome action films he had directed in his native Hong Kong. However, some say that Hollywood forced Woo to water down his style: For instance, he hasn't even tried to burn a famous actor alive in 20 years now.
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"You have no idea how hard it was to resist that urge during Face/Off."
By his own admittance, Woo tended to overdo it a little with the explosions during his Hong Kong days, and his actors suffered the consequences. His last movie before going to work for Hollywood was a particularly over-the-top action film called Hard Boiled starring Chow Yun-Fat, who of course went on to appear in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and exactly zero John Woo films, for reasons that will soon become obvious.
There's a sequence at the end of Hard Boiled where a hospital gets blown up as Chow runs down a hallway carrying a baby, in a classic "outrunning the explosion" moment. On the first take, Woo was dissatisfied with how it didn't look like his actor was on the verge of death, so he decided to give him a little help -- Woo took over the pyrotechnics button-pushing duty and made sure to trigger the explosions before Chow was ready. The "oh shit" face you see here is completely real:
Chow was really running for his life. Woo admits in the DVD commentary that he may have gotten a little carried away here and "didn't play by the rules." We're surprised that he didn't demand that a real baby be put inside that bundle, or like a dog or something, just to raise the stakes. As for Chow Yun-Fat, he simply asked Woo if they'd gotten the take and then walked away saying "that motherfucker."
He then came back and asked if he could borrow some pants.
Considering what we know about Nicolas Cage and his fire fetish, he was probably extremely disappointed when Woo didn't so much as try to blow him up in Face/Off.
3The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Almost Featured a Real Decapitation
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is probably the most respected Western of all time, and now that we've said the name of the movie, you can't get the theme song out of your head (nor should you want to, it's awesome). There's a scene at some point during the 80 hours this thing lasts where Eli Wallach's character, Tuco (aka the Ugly), leaps from a train, bringing a guard he's handcuffed to with him.
"I can't pee if you're watching, or if I haven't murdered someone."
Tuco kills the guard when they land, but since he can't go around the desert dragging behind a uniformed corpse, he lies down near the railroad tracks and lets an oncoming train break the handcuff's chain for him.
This was also how they opened walnuts in the Old West.
Today, they would have added the train digitally and just told the actor to use his imagination, but since this was before CGI or giving a shit if actors died, they really had Wallach lie down next to a speeding train. What Wallach didn't notice (because he was too busy hugging the ground and trying not to cry) was that this particular train had iron steps that were just inches away from the ground ... meaning that if he had decided to get up before it had finished passing, he would have been decapitated.
You can actually see the potentially head-cutting steps in another shot:
The Good and the Bad just doesn't have the same ring to it.
Director Sergio Leone either didn't know about the steps or didn't bother to mention them to Wallach. Considering that this wasn't the only time Wallach could have died during this shoot, we're going with the second option. The other came in this scene, where Tuco was going to be hanged but was saved at the last second by Clint Eastwood's character shooting the rope. For the scene, Wallach was sitting on a horse with a noose around his neck and his hands tied behind his back. There was a small charge of dynamite on the rope to make sure it split when Eastwood fired his prop gun.
"Can't I just pretend to have my hands tied?"
The problem was that the horse was so immersed in its part that it really got spooked by the noise and took off -- it galloped for about a mile with Wallach on its back, arms still tied, totally unable to control the horse, or stop it. And of course, no one thought to secure the actor to the horse or anything like that: Wallach says he had to hold on to the animal with his knees and hope he wasn't thrown to the ground, snapping his neck or worse in the process.
"Shit, someone go find his corpse so we can at least reshoot the hanging."