Filmmaking is such a chaotic, haphazard process that it's nearly impossible for the people involved to tell if the movie is going to be good or not. Scenes are filmed out of order, much of what you shoot is going to get cut, and you have to trust that whatever effects fill in the big green wall behind you are going to look good.
So maybe it's not all that surprising that some of the stars of your favorite movies had no goddamned idea what film they were even making. For example ...
#6. Carrie (1976) -- Piper Laurie Thought She Was Filming a Comedy
Carrie is the story of a horribly abused high school outcast with supreme telekinetic power who is finally pushed too far by a prank on prom night and decides to use her mutant ability to kill every single person who ever looked at her askance. To prove she isn't wholly evil, she also kills John Travolta as a public service.
If she had just stopped there, the town would have probably been ready to call it even.
Then Carrie stumbles back home and kills the real villain of the movie -- her mother, a cruelly evil Bible-thumping taskmistress who was Carrie's chief tormenter -- before using her mind-flexes to implode their house.
Carrie's mother is so over-the-top evil that she's like a kindergartner's drawing of violent religious insanity. In fact, the character was so broad that Piper Laurie, the actress who plays her, was convinced the movie was a comedy when she first read the script. The mother was so operatic to her that she thought the character was intentionally cartoonish.
She was surprisingly lax about wire hangers.
Director Brian De Palma had to take her aside and explain that he wasn't exactly going for laughs with his film about abuse, rage, and supernatural murder. Still, Laurie couldn't shake the idea that her character was completely ridiculous, and she laughed constantly between takes. This might have something to do with the scene in which she refers to her daughter's breasts as "dirty pillows," completely stone-faced and without a trace of irony, or it could be related to the Phantom of the Opera cape she wears in every scene with a similar lack of elbow-nudging winks.
Whatever the case, Laurie still insists that Carrie is really a black comedy. We are curious to see what constitutes gut-busting hijinks in her mind, because she's fucking terrifying in that movie.
"I'm a horrifying monster! Get it?!"
#5. The Usual Suspects -- Everyone Thought They Were Keyser Soze
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
The Usual Suspects is a critically acclaimed thriller about a team of career criminals working for a legendary supervillain named Keyser Soze, who we only ever see in a series of flashbacks looking like Antonio Banderas' stunt double with his face shrouded by a delumination spell. The story is told through the eyes of Verbal Kint, the weeniest member of Keyser Soze's gang, as he is being interrogated by a police detective in the wake of their botched ultra-heist.
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
"I also want to know who the hell keeps stealing my newspaper!"
However, in one of the most infamous non-Shyamalan twist endings in cinema history, we learn that Verbal Kint was really Keyser Soze all along and had made the entire story up to pin the crime on a guy named Dean Keaton, who was conveniently too dead to offer a compelling rebuttal.
Verbal Kint's story (which, in essence, is the entire movie we just watched) is so convincing that Gabriel Byrne, the actor who played Dean Keaton, really believed he was Keyser Soze. He went right on believing he was Keyser Soze all through the filming of The Usual Suspects and wasn't aware of the twist until he and the rest of the cast were shown a preview screening, at which point he became furiously pissed and dragged director Bryan Singer outside to scream into his face about it. Note: This is not the last time a person would feel compelled to bellow rage gusts at Bryan Singer after watching one of his movies.
Charley Gallay/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"WHY DOESN'T TOM CRUISE EVER SPEAK WITH A GERMAN ACCENT?!"
In fact, according to Kevin Spacey (who played Verbal Kint), Singer had convinced everyone in the main cast that they were Keyser Soze. So Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Stephen Baldwin, and Kevin Pollak all thought they were going to sit in a darkened theater on opening night and watch themselves revealed as the ultimate crime machine. The fact that Singer managed to convince Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Pollak that they were the ultimate anything in his movie is a testament to the strength of his deception.
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
A full three years passed before Baldwin realized that Singer had paid him in expired Popeye's coupons.
One reason the trickery was so successful was that Singer really believed it was the truth -- he told veteran character actor Pete Postlethwaite (who plays the lawyer Kobayashi in the film) that it didn't matter what part Postlethwaite chose to play, because they were all Keyser Soze. Technically that's true -- the entire movie is just a story made up by Kint/Soze, so every character in it is essentially him -- but that's the same kind of pretentiousness that gave us the most boring Superman movie ever created, so we're kind of with Gabriel Byrne on this one.
#4. The Shining -- The Kid Didn't Know It Was a Horror Movie
Stanley Kubrick's hallucinogenic mindfuck bonanza The Shining stars Jack Nicholson as a man named Jack with a tenuous grip on sobriety (needless to say, it was the acting challenge of his career). He takes his family to a haunted hotel where a bunch of ghosts pause long enough in between giving each other phantasmic costumed blow jobs to convince him to kill his son, Danny, who uses his Professor X thought powers to convince Jack to kill an old black man instead and get locked outside in a fatal snowstorm.
The little boy who played Danny, 6-year-old Danny Lloyd, had no idea he was acting in a horror movie. Stanley Kubrick, a man famous for not giving one screaming banshee fart for the comfort and safety of his actors, decided to spare Lloyd from seeing all the terrifying bullshit he was capturing on film while making one of the most famous horror movies of all time (this is the same man who, on the exact same film, tormented the lead actress so badly that her hair began to fall out). Evidently he had a soft spot for children.
"And after this scene, you and the twins go to Disney World and play forever and ever and ever."
Lloyd just thought they were making a movie about a family in a hotel. He wasn't even really sure how much he was getting paid to be there. He was only ever shown severely edited footage that took out all the scary parts, which essentially means he thought he was filming the most boring snoozefest ever created, because without the iconic scenes of terror, The Shining is a movie about three people wandering around in cavernous, brooding silence.
Lloyd didn't see the actual uncut movie until many years later as a teenager, and suddenly everything clicked into place -- those two nice British girls with whom he used to play and share lunch in between takes? They were ax-murdered ghosts who wanted his soul. That nice Jack Nicholson man who did a funny tomahawk dance when Lloyd accidentally wandered on set one day? Jack was slobberingly hacking his way through a bathroom door to murder Lloyd's onscreen mother only moments prior.
"I thought we were just filming a new Tonight Show title sequence."
For all his jimmy-legged, scraggly-bearded lunacy, Stanley Kubrick did his absolute best to make sure Lloyd didn't experience any of the psychological horror he was wielding the boy to create. According to historical record, this is the closest to "doing something nice" that Stanley Kubrick ever got.