6 Famous Movies That Were Shockingly Hard to Make

With all the advanced technology available to Hollywood today, it's easy to assume that they have a shortcut for everything. Today's lazy filmmakers can sit down at a MacBook and achieve the same kinds of effects that used to cost a million dollars and a couple of exploded BMWs. But it turns out that Hollywood magic isn't dead, and many of the scenes that had you screaming "Fake!" at the screen took way, way more effort than you realized ...

#6. Pacific Rim Built Fully Functioning Giant Robot Heads

Warner Bros.

Pacific Rim was director Guillermo del Toro's love song to Japanese monster movies, and if you're making a movie about giant robots punching monsters, you pretty much expect to be doing it all in front of a green screen. That's what the actors thought, anyway, until they turned up at the studio and saw this:

Warner Bros.
"Wait, is this whole kaiju invasion real? I need to call my family ..."

That's the "Conn-pod" rig. And yes, it's a four-story re-creation of a giant robot head that has been mechanically designed to mimic the effects of being inside said robot as it wrestles with huge monsters. Kind of like the anti-George Lucas, del Toro wanted his big, goofy robot extravaganza to rely as little upon digital effects as possible.

So rather than simulate actors getting thrown around like rag dolls, he actually had them whip around a big metallic body sling while hosing them down with gallons of water, which was more than a little risky, considering that they were surrounded with real electrical devices.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.
"Oh, you'll drown before electrocution sets it."

If that seems unnerving, it gets worse -- along with being on some kind of waterboarding fun house ride, the actors had to be built into the rig and physically controlled by puppeteers. That meant they not only could feel the terrifying sensation of metal rods turning them into a living Pinocchio, but knew that something as simple as taking a leak required an hour of laborious disconnections.

Warner Bros.
They were using yellow screen by the end of production.

#5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Trained Actual Squirrels

Warner Bros.

While most of us vaguely remember Tim Burton's Willy Wonka remake as nothing more than a cinematic fart, that doesn't mean the people behind the scenes didn't put a shitload of tedious work into making it. For example, there's a scene that you've probably long forgotten in which Wonka Depp reveals that he's trained a bunch of squirrels to put nuts on a conveyor belt. You might think this was the work of a bunch of people in a CGI sweatshop rendering it on workstations, but those were real squirrels, and training them to do this took fucking months.

Warner Bros.
They hired the finest park hobos to learn their secrets.

In other words, while it's easy to believe that Willy Wonka would be crazy enough to try to train real squirrels to do his work, the only person crazier than Willy Wonka is Tim Burton, who actually did it.

Warner Bros.
When they weren't shooting, they all lived in his hair.

There were some CGI shots thrown in (if you watch the scene, it gets pretty silly toward the end), but for the most part those are real squirrels doing real tricks -- and no, squirrels are absolutely not really animals you can train (if you want to see what we mean, go out right now and try to catch one). They don't have the generations of domestication that make it easy for you to teach your dog how to shake after a couple of weeks of practice. This horde of rescue squirrels needed several months of careful, incredibly frustrating training just to master the task of cracking and discarding nuts.

Warner Bros.

The process not only took thousands of training repetitions per animal, but also required specially made metal nut props (any material of lesser strength got chewed to shit).

Warner Bros.
Like faces.

Eventually, the script called for the squirrels to brutally attack a young girl, because that's just what happens when you get Tim Burton to helm a Roald Dahl movie. And they trained them to do that as well:

Warner Bros.
He named them all Ben.

Rather than put a real child actress at the mercy of a dozen razor-clawed and frustrated rodents, they used a stunt double wearing the actress's face as a mask, which served as a way to make her look like the girl, as well as to protect her from having her eyes clawed out.

Warner Bros.
"Helena Bonham Carter actually died in '03. I've been using this process ever since."

#4. Iron Man 3's Skydive Rescue Was Done With Real Skydivers

Marvel Studios

Iron Man 3 predictably made use of a lot of digital effects to portray a man in a rocket suit fighting soldiers made of lava, so you probably assumed that the biggest action scene -- in which Iron Man has to save a bunch of people after they get sucked out of a plane -- was also CGI, if only because you can't just throw a bunch of actors out of a plane without parachutes (they have union rules against that kind of thing).

According to executive producer Louis D'Esposito, the original plan was to do it in front of a green screen, until a second unit director mentioned that he happened to know the Red Bull Skydiving Team, somehow. So they decided to go ahead and do it live with a bunch of adrenaline junkies hopped up on energy drinks.

Marvel Studios

Of course, the problem with shooting this scene for real was that even professional skydivers prefer to have parachutes when they jump out of an aircraft. Grudgingly acknowledging this, the film crew rigged up special costumes that would hide parachutes underneath their clothing. Then they spent eight days and 600 jumps practicing the scene, which to the people down below must have looked like the government was just throwing hundreds of people in business suits and military uniforms out of a plane for some reason.

Marvel Studios
"So do I look fat?"

Along with proving that skydiving is way harder to learn than acting, the team also had to double as Iron Man himself, as well as operate the camera. That means the entire action sequence of a multimillion-dollar blockbuster hinged on a group of people sponsored by a drink that makes urine look like Tang.

Marvel Studios
"Taste too."

By the time they got to the water-landing sequence, it's almost disappointing to learn that they zip-lined 14 actors down a 160-foot-tall crane into an actual body of water like some kind of demented homemade Six Flags ride.

Marvel Studios



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