Making movies is hard. It takes hours to film one decent scene, and despite what your buddies with Vine accounts and YouTube channels probably think, there's more to editing than just adding a star wipe to an iMovie that you shot on your spiffy new tablet.
And, as we've discussed before, it's not just the crappy, straight-to-DVD movies that face hardships during production. On the contrary; we're actually fortunate to have some of our most indelible films, because, frankly, some of them came extraordinarily close to careening completely off the rails.
One of the transcendent science-fiction films in motion picture history, Blade Runner kicked off the long-standing Hollywood tradition of taking a novel by Philip K. Dick and more or less bastardizing it to try to maximize box office profits.
Still, the story of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford, before his grimace was permanent) pretty much flawlessly intertwines the noir genre with sci-fi, with Deckard standing in as the futuristic version of a Sam Spade as he tries to track down rogue androids within a futuristic sci-fi Los Angeles that's so rainy the flick would be better categorized as fantasy.
Why We Almost Never Got To See It ...
At this point, it isn't much of a secret that director Ridley Scott and the studio never exactly saw eye-to-eye on how the final cut of the movie should look. It's also well known that, over the years, Sean Young developed a reputation as being difficult to work with, which was likely only exacerbated by the presence of the notoriously prickly Ford. Add in the fact that Scott was reportedly exceptionally demanding of his cast and Young's claims that he would often degrade her during takes, and you can see why it may not have been all sunshine and roses on the set.
But the electric lamb chops were to die for.
According to Young, Scott would manipulate her from day-to-day in order to coax the kind of performance he wanted, being friendly as could be one day and humiliating her in front of the rest of the cast and crew the next. Likewise, Ford apparently completely dismissed the actress whenever the cameras were not rolling, ignoring her and refusing to actually rehearse any of their scenes. Of course, considering this is a woman who was once arrested trying to crash an Oscars party and was also sued by James Woods for stalking him, maybe Ford just smelled the crazy before everyone else did.
There was also the small problem of the studio absolutely hating whatever they were sent.
"Is it physically possible to make Harrison frown less? If not, can we use puppetry?"
In fact, some of the notes Scott received included super-supportive, constructive notes of encouragement like, "This movie gets worse every screening," and, "Were they all on drugs when they did this?" And when they didn't like something, the studio folks always knew the perfect fix for a scene that wasn't working, making such wonderful suggestions as, "They have to put more tits ..."
Hollywood: If it's broke, add tits.
Viewed by many as one of the most deeply disturbing and terrifying films ever made, The Exorcist boasts the distinction of being one of the few movies that didn't employ either excessive shaky cam or Johnny Knoxville that actually had people vomiting in theaters. It was an unprecedented horror film, dealing with demonic possession, crab-walking adolescents, and the oral fixations of eternally damned mothers.
In 2015, Regan would be a YouTube sensation.
The movie was based on a novel by William Peter Blatty, who also adapted it for the big screen, and he claimed that it was based on actual events that took place in Maryland while he was a student at Georgetown University. Naturally, a film that involved such heavy religious themes created a lot of controversy, but we suppose that's bound to happen in a movie that uses a crucifix in some ... creative ways. The content was so horrifying that EMTs were often on hand at showings in case viewers suffered heart attacks, but it turns out the medical experts would have been better off hanging around the set during filming, since that's where people were just about tearing each other's heads off.
Why We Almost Never Got To See It ...
We won't go so far as to say that The Exorcist was a cursed set, but there were certainly some troubling -- and life-threatening -- ordeals people faced both before and during the production. For instance, Jack MacGowran, who played a character named Burke Dennings, died shortly after completing his role. In the film, the Dennings character is a film director who gets brutally killed by Linda Blair's possessed character, and when you realize how much strife there was between Exorcist director William Friedkin and members of the crew, you'd understand why some of them were probably wishing life would imitate art.
Patrick Riviere/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
William Friedkin, director and notorious dickhead.
Among the director's transgressions, Friedkin fired famed composer Lalo Schifrin just as Schifrin was finishing up his score, and that was just the beginning when it comes to how much people involved with the sounds of the film wound up detesting him. Friedkin found himself getting sued for refusing to pay for sound effects and voiceovers provided by a man named Ken Nordine. Originally, he also refused to give a credit to actress Mercedes McCambridge, who made one of the biggest contributions to the film: She was the voice of the demon itself, and she created the sound of Regan vomiting pea soup.
Appendages were lost on the set, including the thumb of a carpenter and the toe of a gaffer -- which sounds like the first two ingredients in some bizarre Hollywood good luck spell ... and maybe it was, because in spite of it all, the film went on to become a massive box office hit and one of the all-time great horror movies. Without the enormous success of The Exorcist, fans would never have been given the opportunity to debate which of its four prequels/sequels sucks the hardest.
It was Dominion.