6 Classic Movies (That Narrowly Avoided Disaster)

6 Classic Movies (That Narrowly Avoided Disaster)

Nothing good in life comes easy, not even in Hollywood. The truth is if you go behind the scenes of some of your favorite movies you'll find fuck-ups, failures and bleeding ulcers.

If you needed any further proof that perseverance can lead to great things (or at least, a shitload of money), check out the stories behind...

Star Wars

Ah, Star Wars (we're talking about the first film - and don't give us any of that "Episode IV" shit, either). It's the age old tale of a boy, his two gay droids and a confusing intergalactic struggle that should have ended after the third movie.

The film served as a coming out party for such stars as bearded, nerdy director George Lucas, ruggedly handsome actor Harrison Ford and... and...

Harrison Ford and...friends.

Well, it worked wonders for Ford and Lucas, anyway. The film became an instant phenomenon, shattering box office records and pretty much inventing the concept of the big-budget special effects blockbuster. For better or worse.

Why We Almost Never Got to See it

This production was pretty much a disaster from the first step. The script was bad, on paper (Ford famously hated the dialogue, saying, "You can type this shit George, but you can't say it."). The crew grumbled, openly unhappy to be working on what they deemed a "kid's film," and a retarded one at that. Kenny Baker, who squeezed into a garbage can to play R2-D2, admitted he thought the movie would be a steaming pile of shit.

We can't imagine why Ford thought this was weird.

Over the course of filming, the budget ballooned from $8 million to $11 million (big money back then, especially for a film the studio didn't think could earn it back). Props malfunctioned, costumes malfunctioned, wardrobe malfunctioned (with those last two words did you just picture C-3PO's chest plate opening and a boob popping out? Because we did).

And just in case you weren't picturing it...

How cursed was this production? At one point a freak rainstorm in Tunisia delayed the filming of the Tatooine scenes, which as you may recall were all in the desert. You read that right: freak rainstorms. In the desert.

As they were finishing filming, Mark Hamill got into a car accident, smashing his face (he was supposedly in surgery for seven hours to put the bones back together).

So it wasn't just the cast and crew, God apparently hated Star Wars too.


In 1975, a 27-year-old director that no one had ever heard of named Steven Spielberg unleashed Jaws on the world, at once creating both the summer blockbuster and shark phobia. The film starred Jonathan Brandis's Seaquest co-star Roy Scheider.

Why We Almost Never Got to See it

Mechanical sharks suck. At least, that's what Spielberg learned while filming Jaws on Martha's Vineyard. Originally, the plan was to feature the shark prominently throughout the film; devouring people, destroying boats and getting jumped by the Fonz. However, to do those things the sharks would have needed to, you know, work.

Not intentional.

The salt water wreaked havoc with the mechamism--the first time one was placed in the water it promptly plummeted to the bottom of the ocean. Even when the mechanical sharks did stay afloat, they were met by mechanical malfunctions that ultimately led to Spielberg's decision to keep the great beast hidden for almost the entire movie, forcing him to do all of this "suspense" and "character reaction" stuff that established the film as a classic and launched his career.

Stupid lucky bastard.

The production stretched from a planned 55 days to a whopping 159, with the budget ballooning to over $12 million (again, a lot of cash in 70s Hollywood). Spielberg wondered if he'd be fired from the project, and a demoralized crew nicknamed the film "Flaws." Really? That's the best they could come up with?

On top of everything else, actor Robert Shaw (the shark hunter Quint) proved to be a bit of a handful on the set, including getting completely shitfaced to film the legendary USS Indianapolis scene. In addition, Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss (the other star of the movie) openly hated one another, bitching and arguing back and forth throughout the production, just as their respective characters Quint and Hooper did in the movie.

"Cut! Robert! We said cut! Noooo!"

Raiders of the Lost Ark

After they narrowly avoided disaster and achieved stunning successes with Jaws and Star Wars, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas decided to team up to make what would either be the most glorious adventure film of all time or, given their track records, the largest fuck up.

Luckily for us, all the pieces fell into place and Raiders of the Lost Ark was the product, introducing the world to Indiana Jones long before Shia LeBeouf came into the world dead set on destroying him.

Ouch! Right in the childhood.

Why We Almost Never Got to See it

With reputations for going well over budget, it's pretty understandable that studios would be a little hesitant to fund a joint venture between Spielberg and Lucas. So it's of little surprise that when they initially took their idea about professor by day; religious artifact-saving, Nazi-fighting, super-archeologist by night Indiana Jones to studio heads, most balked and told them to piss off. Finally, the duo convinced Paramount to fund their film, though at a potentially tremendous cost. The contract stated that, if they went over budget, Lucas and Spielberg would have to foot the bill themselves.

Casting proved to be a bitch, as Spielberg and Lucas wanted Tom Selleck's mustache in the role, but his conflicting schedule on Magnum P.I. led to Harrison Ford getting his second swashbuckling role under Lucas. And he was totally the shit.

Oh, what might have been...

Then, Spielberg wanted to cast his girlfriend Amy Irving as the female lead, but found that would have been extremely awkward once she dumped his ass. Debra Winger and Barbara Hershey, who have since disappeared from the face of the earth, were next in line before the role went to Karen Allen.

And speaking of shit, John Rhys Davies, who would later go on to play an angry, drunken midget in Lord of the Rings, shit himself in full costume. Sadly, this cannot be found on the DVD's deleted scenes.

"Bad dates. Also, I shit myself."

But as bad as shitting yourself in front of your peers while wearing a costume can be (and we know from experience), Ford may have actually suffered the most throughout the production.

On top of having a giant plane roll over his leg, tearing a ligament in his knee, the crusty star suffered from dysentery for more than a month while filming in the 130 degree heat of Tunisia, a location Spielberg hated so much that he cut the production schedule in the area by more than a week.

Ford's bout with dysentery got so bad that at one point, he begged Spielberg to alter a fight scene for fear that the sight of feces running down Indiana's leg might not strike the right tone. Instead of fighting a swordsman, he suggested that he just pull a gun out and shoot the fucker.

Spielberg agreed, understanding that sometimes just shooting a guy in the face is the best solution. Once again, the threat from a spray of rancid feces makes film history.

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is the story of a girl, her dog, a tornado and the band of rejected circus freaks she meets on her way to meet the titular Wizard, who she is told will help her get back to dreary Kansas, rather than stay in the awesome wonderland of magic.

Released in 1939, the film was nominated for Best Picture, introduced the world to the song "Over the Rainbow" and somehow turned Judy Garland into an icon in the gay community.

Exactly what L. Frank Baum had in mind.

Why We Almost Never Got to See it

Usually you can tell how bad a movie is by how many people they had write it. Tons of writers usually means tons of rewrites due to horrible drafts.

The Wizard of Oz had 16 writers.

Even more amazing, it went through four directors. The film's original director, Richard Thorpe, was fired after a few weeks and replaced by George Cukor. Unfortunately, Cukor was on his way to directing Gone with the Wind, and despite having full knowledge that he would be bailing on the film soon, the studio brought him on anyway - for a whopping seven days.

After Cukor hustled off to burn down Atlanta all over again, Victor Fleming was brought in and ended up filming the bulk of the movie. Toward the end of the shoot, Fleming (who clearly enjoyed Cukor's sloppy seconds) left the production to finish off Gone with the Wind, and the awesomely named King Vidor, who probably ruled a small island nation somewhere, came on as the film's closer.

King Vidor. What a disappointment.

An actress named Gale Sondergaard was originally cast as the Wicked Witch, but quit due to the decision to make the witch into a hag. Presumably on her way out the door the producers gave her a dictionary and told her to look up the definition of "witch."

Along with Sondergaard leaving production, the film also famously needed to replace Buddy "Uncle Jed" Ebsen in the role of the Tin Man after nearly killing him. Ironically, he wasn't even cast as the Tin Man in the first place, only swapping from the role of the Scarecrow to the Tin Man because Ray Bolger bitched about playing an aluminum can with legs.

After swapping roles, Ebsen was hospitalized after the makeup being used to make him look like Silver Surfer coated his lungs from breathing. Naturally, they failed to mention that little side effect to Jack Haley, Ebsen's replacement (though they did slightly alter the makeup, not wanting to have a pesky manslaughter trial on their hands).

"Oxygen tank...oxygen tank!"

But that wasn't the only near death on set. Perhaps in an attempt to keep up with the good people of Salem, Margaret Hamilton, who replaced Sondergaard as the witch, was very nearly burned to death in a scene in which she disappears in a puff of smoke.

Upon returning to the production, Hamilton refused to do another similar scene, and, quite predictably, her stand in was quickly injured thanks to a malfunction on the set. There may not have been an actual death like the myth about the munchkin hanging himself on set, but we can never say it wasn't because the filmmakers didn't try.


Titanic, if you're one of the three people who have not yet seen it, is the story of a wealthy discontented young woman who only wants to mix it up with the impoverished, and the rascally street urchin who helps her accomplish that goal. He draws her naked, they have sweaty monkey sex in the back of a car and the giant luxury ocean liner they are on (SPOILER!) very inconveniently sinks when it strikes an iceberg.

"Oh, nice boat, assholes."

Partly thanks to millions of teenybopper girls who just could not get enough of Leo and his feminine good looks, it became the highest grossing film of all time and won the Best Picture award for 1997.

Why We Almost Never Got to See it

When he stepped on stage to accept his Best Director award and proclaimed himself king of the world, we probably should have guessed that James Cameron might be kind of a douche.

More like king of the dicks

On the set of Titanic, Cameron would often force the cast and crew to work 20 hour days to meet his very particular vision for every single frame. Three stuntmen suffered broken bones, several crew members quit due to the rigorous demands and many of the cast members came down with colds, the flu and even suffered kidney infections from logging so many hours floating around in the dirty ol' Pacific down Mexico way. Who would have guessed the water in Mexico would cause illness?

Star Kate Winslet found the experience so off putting, having been one of the cast members to come down with the flu in addition to chipping a bone and, oh yeah, almost drowning, that she famously announced she would never work with Cameron again unless she first got a giant bag of money with a big dollar sign on the side.

We like to think she made this announcement while being drawn naked.

But the near disaster that became Titanic was not entirely Cameron's fault. In one incident that no doubt would have been hilarious to witness, someone sprinkled PCP into a batch of lobster chowder that was then consumed by most of the crew, including Cameron, sending numerous cast and crew to the hospital. It was still reportedly the best damn chowder the crew had ever tasted.

The movie was also very nearly the ruin of Fox. Titanic was originally budgeted for $100 million, but due to the production running more than a month longer than originally slated, coming in at just about half a year in total, the budget ended up doubling. The $200 million final budget (which some say is itself a conservative estimate) made it, at the time, far and away the most expensive film production in history, and nearly bankrupted Fox.

The release date was pushed back from July to December, causing journalists everywhere to salivate at the chance to wittily remark about how, ironically, Fox was sunk by Titanic. Get it?!?

"My god, what a headline! Pulitzer here I come!"

Apocalypse Now

Considered by many to be one of the finest war movies ever made and based on Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece Apocalypse Now starred Joe Estevez's brother Martin Sheen in a star making role as a disillusioned soldier in Vietnam.

The movie was a smash success with critics, winning the Cannes Palme d'Or, which is French for "Fucking Sweet Movie," and earning a nomination for Best Picture. It also taught us that napalm, while one of the most terrifying substances known to man, smells positively delightful.

Why We Almost Never Got to See it

In all of Hollywood history, there are only a handful of movies that can claim to be as famous for their disastrous productions as for the actual end product, but such is the case with Apocalypse Now. Surprisingly, not all of that had to do with Marlon Brando being a complete douche (and what a douche he was, hurling coconuts at Coppola while discussing the script and being shot almost entirely in shadow to hide his ungodly weight gain).

"I hope the moon really is made of cheese, because I want to eat it."

The film's budget swelled from $12 million to $31 million, more than half of which came directly out of Coppola's own pocket, and the shoot dragged on for over 14 months. Some of that was due to the decidedly inconvenient typhoon that came through the Philippines and completely destroyed the films sets, causing massive delays as many of the cast and crew returned to the States for close to two months. Even after the long and arduous shoot, it took a whopping 26 months on top of that to edit and finally complete.

Photos of the slightly over-enthusiastic wrap party.

While Martin Sheen made the role of Willard famous, the role was also famously difficult to cast. Steve McQueen, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford and James Caan all passed, leading to Harvey Keitel (who you might remember as the guy who is apparently contractually obligated to show off his dong in every movie he's in) being given the role.

Less than a month into shooting, Coppola realized that Keitel and his penis were all wrong for Willard, and the pair were fired and replaced with Sheen... who subsequently had a massive, near fatal heart attack on set. Even Brando must have been shocked that it was Sheen, and not himself, who had the coronary.

"Sheen had the heart attack? Well, I just lost a bet."

Fortunately for the production, Martin's brother Joe was doing the same thing he's doing now (not having a legitimate acting career), and was available to stand in on some scenes, making Apocalypse Now officially the only quality film to ever involve Joe Estevez. Well, unless you count Werewolf.

Best. Tagline. EVER.

For movies that came out shittier than expected, check out 5 Awesome Movies Ruined By Last-Minute Changes. Or find out how we wish some classic movies really came out in 9 Foreign Rip-Offs Cooler Than The Hollywood Originals.

And be sure to check out Cracked.com's Top Picks because they're the only things left that Lucas hasn't CGI'd.

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