6 Famous Films That Were Hell Behind The Scenes
We've been conditioned to expect the biggest and brightest stars of the entertainment world to have one or two screws loose. After all, you can't be Hollywood royalty for long before you start to lose touch with reality. But you rarely read any news stories about crazy directors, which is strange.
Because, generally speaking, the director is the craziest person on set, possessed with the sort of creative tunnel vision that allows them to completely disregard human life and the mental health and safety of the cast and crew for the sake of completing the film. Here are six reckless visionaries responsible for film productions that could arguably be considered crimes against humanity.
The Director Of Dr. Moreau Gets Fired, Shows Up In An Animal Costume After Living In The Jungle For Two Months
The Island Of Dr. Moreau is a legendarily terrible film about two egotistical dickfarts who try to turn animals into people until everything explodes. The story of the making of the 1996 version of The Island Of Dr. Moreau is somehow more insane than that last sentence.
Before filming had even begun, director Richard Stanley was in danger of being thrown off the movie, because New Line Cinema didn't have faith in his ability to direct a big-budget studio film. So he enlisted the help of a warlock to perform a good-vibes blood magic ritual in order to guarantee that the movie got made. That is not a joke. Stanley got his wish -- New Line went ahead with the production, with him as director and Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer as his two stars. However, the magic turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing, sort of like a monkey's paw wish or an episode of The Twilight Zone.
We didn't say a good episode.
First of all, the movie required a ton of live animals to be shipped out to the coast of Australia, where filming was to take place. Naturally, the animals were caught in a hurricane in transit, and Stanley refused to leave the ship until all of the animals were safely removed. This is another way of saying that a terrified puma, suspended in its cage in mid-air as they tried to ferry it from one ship to another, pissed all over Stanley and the crew, thus setting the tone for the rest of the film.
Brando's arrival on set was severely delayed for personal reasons (Brando's daughter had suddenly committed suicide), and Brando had been one of Stanley's most vocal (and only) supporters. So Stanley was forced to try to film around Brando's absence, which meant trying to get all of Kilmer's scenes done. This proved to be difficult, because Kilmer, who was an actual movie star back in 1995 and not the confusing punchline he is today, was fighting the director at every turn, issuing an endless list of movie-star demands. One such demand was the construction of a treehouse, which Kilmer felt was the only natural place his character would want to stay. Stanley pointed out that there was no treehouse in the script, and that they were not about to build a treehouse just to accommodate him. Kilmer responded by making sure Stanley got fired from the film.
Kilmer eventually got his treehouse, complete with "No Richard Stanleys Allowed" sign.
Stanley, however, did not go quietly. He trashed all his notes, storyboards, and production art so that whoever was brought on as his replacement would not be able to use any of his ideas. New Line had him escorted to the airport to fly him far away from the production before he caused any more damage, to which Stanley heroically responded by not getting on the plane and instead scurrying off into the Australian rainforest, where he hid for several months. (Actual quote: "I lived for two months underneath a tree with two dingo pups, figuring out what the heck to do.")
Eventually, a few members of the production still loyal to Stanley found him in his jungle retreat and took him back to set disguised as one of the film's many animal extras. You can actually see him in the finished film, shambling around in a giant dog mask mere feet from Val "I want my treehouse" Kilmer. Only a few people had any idea Stanley was there; the rest, including Kilmer, Brando, and the studio heads, thought he had simply disappeared into the ether. And so, beneath a rubber dog mask, Richard Stanley got a front row seat to watch the movie he got fired from become one of the most famous disasters in cinema history.
The mask looks like how watching the movie makes your brain feel.
Brigitte Bardot Is Tricked Into Poisoning Herself By "The French Hitchcock"
During his directorial career, Henri-Georges Clouzot earned himself the title of "the French Hitchcock." That appears to be quite an accolade, but it's only partially because of his masterful use of suspense; he earned the other part of that nickname by being a goddamned lunatic. Like Hitchcock, what he did to his actors behind the scenes was as much a part of his reputation for terror as what occurred on-screen.
You see, Clouzot had a very loose understanding of the term "acting." He believed that the only way to elicit genuine emotions from his actors was to subject them to intense mental and physical harm and then film their reactions for money. Everybody who worked with Clouzot became a method actor, since they were always in genuine terror. For instance, in his film Les Diaboliques, one scene required the characters to eat putrid fish. So, rather than substitute in some namby-pamby fake fish (or real fish that wasn't actually rotten), Clouzot forced the actors to eat mouthfuls of raw, putrefying fish.
Note: The actress in the scene was his fucking wife.
In another film, The Wages Of Fear, Clouzot forced star Charles Vanel to be submerged up to his neck in a barrel of crude oil, which is typically a punishment reserved for the villain in a Steven Seagal movie. But, Clouzot's most famous and horrific act involved superstar Brigitte Bardot.
Not a line from the script.
Bardot was cast in Clouzot's film La Verite, and one scene required her to fall asleep and drool. Clouzot did not have enough faith in Bardot's ability to pretend to be asleep and slobber all over everything, so he did what any true champion of the craft would do -- he slipped her some sleeping pills and told her they were aspirin. Bardot passed out and drooled perfectly, preserving Clouzot's vision. The only problem was, she then immediately had to get her stomach pumped, because Clouzot had given her an overdose.
The most genuine method actor to work for Clouzot was his first wife, Vera.
Oh, it gets worse than the fish.
She suffered from a weak heart, but that didn't bother her husband. In one film, he made her perform a taxing mental breakdown 48 times (she died two years later of a heart attack). We doubt that she was acting.
The Deer Hunter Director Blows The Budget Of His Next Film Four Times Over, Disappears For Two Decades
In 1978, director Michael Cimino's film The Deer Hunter won five Oscars and introduced the world at large to Christopher Walken. Understandably, Cimino's follow-up film was hotly anticipated, and Hollywood was only too happy to give the man everything he asked for, including an enormous budget, complete autonomy, and even more Christopher Walken, to make 1980's Heaven's Gate.
If you're wondering why you've never heard of Heaven's Gate, it's because that movie turned out to be one of the biggest critical and commercial failures of all time, due in no small part to the fact that Cimino is apparently a bizarre spaceman trying unsuccessfully to masquerade as a human Earthling.
Yep, that's a Men In Black extra if we've ever seen one.
Things were getting weird before the cameras were even switched on. The actors had to spend hours each day learning how to roller skate, forward and backward, because for some reason the film (which is a Western loosely based on true-life events) features a giant roller skating rink called Heaven's Gate. Subtlety is hard.
But not as hard as learning basic roller skating, apparently.
Cimino wound up going almost four times over budget for many reasons, one of which was his insistence that they stage the final action scene of the movie (a big shootout involving most of the principal cast) in a location three hours away from the production's home base. He also had an entire irrigation system built underneath the battlefield to ensure that the grass would be the proper shade of green for every take.
"I said shamrock green! That is clearly harvest pear, you hack!"
When Cimino's four-hour cut of Heaven's Gate finally hit theaters, the resounding wall of boos was enough to nearly bankrupt United Artists and turn him into a hermit for the next two decades. When Joe D'Augustine, the editor on Cimino's 1996 film The Sunchaser, finally got to meet the director, he described the experience as "eerie" and "freaky," with Cimino himself wearing a handkerchief over his face at all times like Michael Jackson and Cimino's entire entourage speaking in hushed tones as if a sudden loud noise would send him scurrying back into his burrow beneath a gnarled tree root. On top of all that, nobody was allowed to take a picture of Cimino, despite the fact that nobody remembers what he looks like anyway.
The Director Of Steel Magnolias Tries To Destroy Julia Roberts For No Apparent Reason
One year before delighting the world as Richard Gere's live-in prostitute, Julia Roberts caught her big break in 1989's Steel Magnolias. If director Herbert Ross had his way, however, she never would have acted again.
All successful directors have a little bit of control freak in them. It's that kind of demanding and perfectionist nature that drives a classic film. Ross had more than a little control freak. In the case of Roberts, he treated her as if he was playing The Sims and she was one of his emotionless automatons. According to Roberts' co-star Shirley MacLaine, Ross wanted Roberts to dye her hair and have her beauty marks removed, either by a surgeon or simply clawed off her face in between takes. He also demanded she eat less than 1,000 calories a day, insisting he could instantly spot the weight gain caused by a single cracker, because Herbert Ross apparently has the eyes of a douchebag mystic.
Don't even get him started on Eat Pray Love.
MacLaine said Roberts was at her house every night, understandably distraught over the way Ross was treating her. Some of the more veteran members of the cast, like MacLaine and Dolly Parton, would push back against Ross when he got out of line, but that didn't stop him from insisting that Parton go take acting lessons, which, while an undeniable zinger, is something he probably should have suggested before casting her in his movie. He apparently afforded similar treatment to Joan Cusack on the set of My Blue Heaven, and if you are the type of person who habitually reduces Joan Cusack to tears, you are truly history's greatest monster.
Crying and despair, the perfect atmosphere for filming a Steve Martin comedy.
When Neil Simon, who worked with Ross on Broadway, pointed out that Ross was needlessly cruel to his actresses, the man could only shrug and reply, "I am really tough, and I don't realize it. Would you point it out to me sometimes?" Apparently Simon never successfully managed to point out when Ross was being a dickhead, because when the director passed away in 2001, MacLaine and her fellow Steel Magnolias stars made it a point not to attend his funeral.
Terrence Malick Cuts Big Roles Entirely Out Of Films, Gives Theaters Detailed Instructions On How To Screen His Movies
Terrence Malick has a reputation for creating long-winded movies with very little in the way of a coherent story, which is how one Italian theater managed to play his recent film The Tree Of Life in the complete wrong order without a single member of the audience noticing. Chances are, if nobody can tell your movie is essentially playing on shuffle, it might be time to tighten things up a bit.
What's even crazier is the fact that Malick sent out a list of instructions to every theater that heroically decided to screen The Tree Of Life detailing the correct way to project his work, including the exact color temperature the projector lamps should be kept at (5400 Kelvin) and the exact fader setting for the speakers. But Malick forgot to include the one piece of instruction that might have actually benefited his movie -- the correct order in which to play the reels.
The look of every projectionist.
Malick has a habit of becoming so lost in his movies that they end up six hours long, like when you kick back to watch some Netflix on a Thursday evening and then suddenly the morning light starts to cut into your dank viewing dungeon. So, he has to cut them down. Hours and hours of footage ends up being cut out, which leaves his films disconnected and causes some actors' parts to be cut entirely. We're not talking extras, either. Malick is an equal opportunity editor -- he'll cut anybody, no matter their stature or acclaim, as if he's Freddy Krueger let loose on the Walk of Fame. His parents never taught him to not run with scissors, so now he runs them through anything, be they Academy Award winners or big box office draws.
In 1998's The Thin Red Line, Gary Oldman, Mickey Rourke, Viggo Mortensen, Bill Pullman, Martin Sheen, and Billy Bob Thornton were all cast in prominent roles -- Malick cut every single one of them out when he had to trim his six-hour film to a more manageably boring three-hour runtime.
Not to mention cutting Adrien Brody, who thought this was his big break, since his character is the main character of the book.
He does this all the time -- Golden Globe nominee Michael Sheen, Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain, and Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz all filmed roles for Malick's To The Wonder, only to find themselves completely omitted once Malick was forced to edit the film down to a length that other human beings can actually watch. For reasons we have yet to decipher, he left Ben Affleck's performance in that film intact.
This actually counts as a GIF of a Malick scene.
Legendary actor Christopher Plummer, who worked with Malick on The New World, pointed out that Malick tends to get "terribly involved in poetic shots. ... He gets lost in that, and the stories get diffused." In other words, Malick gets so wrapped up in filming ponderously moody shots of scenery that he forgets to actually film anything from the script. Plummer also admitted that, "I love some of his movies very much ... he edits his films in such a way that he cuts everyone out of them," before insisting that he would never work with Malick again. That's some harsh criticism from the evil one-eyed Klingon from Star Trek VI.
The best one.
Werner Herzog Tries To Murder One Of His Regular Actors
As we have previously discussed, Werner Herzog is in a class of existence occupied by only himself and fictional characters. He is one of the most delightfully baffling human beings to have ever existed, a superlative that owes a significant debt to his solemn vow to destroy actor and frequent collaborator Klaus Kinski. This is not entirely an exaggeration -- Herzog literally tried to kill Kinski more than once, for the sake of filmmaking. This is totally fine, though, because Herzog insists that Kinski wanted to kill him as well. Basically, they were locked in the German version of a prank war, because Germans do not understand practical jokes.
"The look in their eyes. Like a newborn engulfed by the confusing cacophony of the world they now inhabit. The knowledge that a puppet master has tugged their strings causing this all to unfurl. Their spirit deflates, like the whoopee cushion which they have sat upon."
Herzog retells one such whimsical incident, when he crept up to Kinski's house in the middle of the night to burn the building down as he slept. Admittedly, this would have been hilarious. However, one of Kinski's dogs began barking furiously, sparing the actor from Herzog's firebombing hijinks.
In Herzog's mind, this was all fun and games. He refers to the dueling murder attempts as "beautiful plots, like in a detective story." Despite the fact he went to Kinski's house fully intending to burn him to death, Herzog says, most of the schemes were "pure fantasy." We would call bullshit were it not for the fact that Herzog is a documented lunatic cartoon character.
The closest Herzog got to actually killing his star was during the filming of Aguirre, The Wrath Of God. After many grueling, torturous days filming in the harsh Peruvian jungle, Kinski announced that he'd had enough and was going to abandon the project (to give you an idea of the mood of the set, this took place after an enraged Kinski shot an extra's finger off because their poker game was irritating him). Herzog pulled Kinski aside, and showcasing a great deal of generosity, told Kinski that, if Kinski left, he would shoot him eight times and then kill himself. Kinski, demonstrating sage-like wisdom, decided to stay and finish the film, because he could tell that Herzog was in no way joking. Even looking back on the film today, decades later, Herzog insists that he absolutely would have shot Kinski dead and left him in the fucking jungle.
Where he would have been found by Richard Stanley.
Kinski has since passed away (of natural causes), but Herzog maintains that their ongoing murder game was born of civic duty. "Klaus was one of the greatest actors of the century, but he was also a monster and a great pestilence," he said in an interview. "Every single day I had to think of new ways of domesticating the beast." Considering Kinski essentially admitted to molesting his own daughter in his autobiography, we're not entirely sure Herzog was wrong.
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You know who else is a total dickhead on set? Gene Hackman. See what we mean in 6 Insane Meltdowns by Actors On Set Of Their Greatest Movies. Also check out 12 Classic Movie Moments Made Possible By Abuse And Murder and learn what a monster Alfred Hitchcock was.
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