On-Set Arguments That Almost Derailed Classic Films
If you want to gain a whole new appreciation for film as an art form, just go out and try to complete any minor project with a group of strangers. Get 10 people together. Of the ones who bother to show up, at least two will be the type who would rather die than compromise. So, now imagine trying to get several hundred people on the same page, and doing it under a tight deadline, with millions of dollars at stake. We're thinking these examples will actually make you feel better about the shit people argue about at your job ...
The Shawshank Redemption Was Delayed Due To Controversy About Killing A Maggot
Every movie that involves animals in any way is required to hire some people to monitor the production to ensure that the animals aren't mistreated. This is a pretty good rule -- it's what ensures that filmmakers aren't hitting a sedated bear with a Taser every time it fails to bite Leo DiCaprio's skull in exactly the right way.
"NO, NOT THE FACE, GODDAMMIT!"
But then, you have what happened behind the scenes of The Shawshank Redemption. According to the DVD commentary, the filmmakers hired a representative of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to monitor the filming because one of the characters keeps a baby bird in his shirt pocket. This was back in the day when it was still cheaper to shove an actual baby bird in there instead of later constructing one out of CGI.
Fortunately, the ASPCA representative was fine with the bird, but, after being brought on to monitor the production, she had one other major issue that nobody could have predicted: In one scene, the character finds a maggot in his food and feeds it to the bird in his pocket. The ASPCA forbade them from shooting this scene because it technically involved cruelty to an "animal" -- the animal in question being the maggot that they bought from a bait shop.
Pictured: an unconscionable manifestation of intolerable evil. Almost.
According to the representative, the only way that they were permitted to shoot this scene as intended was if they used a maggot that had died of natural causes. So, the filmmakers were forced to delay production, standing around a bucket full of live maggots, waiting for one of them to have a heart attack or something before they could legally feed it to a bird on camera. But, what if the bird would have preferred to eat a live maggot, dammit? Did you even ask?
Gone Girl Was Delayed Over A Logo On A Baseball Cap
Gone Girl was the inspirational tale of a dumb guy marrying a psychotic woman and how they overcome their differences to avoid going to prison. It features Ben Affleck's extra-mopey performance as Nick Dunne, a man who suffers the double tragedy of being falsely accused of his wife's murder and then finding out his lawyer is Tyler Perry. But, the production ran into serious trouble when Affleck and director David Fincher got into a stalemate argument -- over baseball team loyalty.
In a scene around halfway through the film, Affleck's character is in an airport when he sees a picture of himself in the news and then pulls a baseball cap over his eyes to hide his face.
An act he was very familiar with from 2003 to 2005.
The thing was, the cap he was supposed to wear was a New York Yankees cap. Affleck is a massive Red Sox fan, to the point where putting the Yankees logo anywhere on his body would apparently cause him to burst into spectacular flames, like a vampire that put on a hat made of crosses.
So, Affleck refused to do the scene with that hat. And if he really felt that strongly about it, you would think it would be a simple enough thing for some intern to run across the road to Sears and pick up a cheap Red Sox cap. But, Fincher wasn't about to take any of Affleck's team loyalty bullshit -- he was adamant that the character Affleck was portraying was a Yankees fan. Goddammit, he had a vision, and he wasn't about to compromise on it.
"Wait, isn't his character from Missouri?"
"Shut up, Tyler."
Affleck's argument was that being seen wearing a Yankees cap, even in character, would pretty much ruin his life, as his Red Sox-loving friends would never let him hear the end of it. Fincher called Affleck's behavior "unprofessional," but, considering his own refusal to back down over such a nonissue was equally ridiculous, it isn't easy to take sides here.
This is obviously the most important shot in the entire film.
As neither of them were willing to back down, filming ground to a halt on a very important scene until someone eventually figured out the absurdly obvious solution to everyone's problems -- they gave him a Mets cap. The Mets were close enough to the Yankees for Fincher to be happy, and they didn't fill Ben Affleck with incomprehensible rage. Thus, the production on this approximately $60 million film could continue.
The Sound Of Music Was Repeatedly Sabotaged By A Crazy Farmer
The Sound Of Music is about how an Austrian family remains optimistic in spite of the looming threat of Nazi invasion, due to the fact that the hills are apparently alive with the sound of the titular music. If you haven't seen it, you probably can only bring one scene to mind: the bit where Julie Andrews goes into a gorgeous meadow, throws out her arms, and sings the famous song that the movie is named for.
But, that scene was riddled with problems from the get-go. For one thing, Andrews had to travel to the location in a smelly ox-cart, cramped with filming equipment, while wearing a huge fur coat (Andrews would later go on to say that the mink coat was probably a bad idea for an expedition to cow country, but fashion is fashion). The biggest problem was that -- when they reached the meadow, set up the equipment, and began to shoot one of the most iconic scenes in film history -- Andrews' song was interrupted by a furious German farmer. He ran into the scene, screamed in a language none of them could understand, and waved a pitchfork. He was presumably not asking them if they needed to borrow the pitchfork to use as a prop.
The shiiiiit we had to put up with was thiiiiiis big!
It turned out the filmmakers had paid this farmer an exorbitant amount of money to film the scene on his land, but they didn't account for the fact that he was actually kind of nuts. The guy was screaming that all of the noise was upsetting his cows and that they were refusing to produce milk.
When they were finally able to get back to shooting, they noticed something else: Their stream was gone. After acquiring the use of the meadow, the filmmakers had gone to the effort of manufacturing a fake stream, lined with rubber tubing, so that the lines in the song that referenced a babbling brook would actually make contextual sense. But, at some point between then and the actual shooting date, they discovered that Farmer McCrazy had come out and stabbed the shit out of their brook with his trusty pitchfork and then cut down the long grass that they had specifically paid him not to cut down. It took two days to rebuild the stream and get back to shooting.
At this point, we're just going to assume he would sneak back at night to piss in it.
There's no word on whether or not the cows ever recovered; we have to think they just saw the actors in costume and worried that the Nazis were back in power.
Airplane! Was Nearly Canceled Due To A Dispute Over The Type Of Airplane
Airplane! is the all-time classic comedy that cemented Leslie Nielsen and trio directors David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams as comedy legends (and paved the way for them to collaborate on The Naked Gun series). It was the first mainstream feature from a young group of guys who were coming from the world of sketch comedy (their debut being the cult favorite The Kentucky Fried Movie), so you'd think they would have been thrilled that it was getting made at all. Yet, the whole project was almost sunk due to an argument over what kind of plane should be involved.
"Nothing is more important in comedy than the integrity of inconsequential establishing shots."
The directors were adamant in their vision of Airplane! taking place in the 1950s, since it was supposed to be a parody of the '50s film Zero Hour!, which nobody has seen except the Zuckers and Abrahams. Nevertheless, doing a parody of a 20-year-old B movie nobody has heard of apparently seemed like a good enough idea to the studio that they got the green light for it. The filmmakers thus assumed that the story would take place on an old-fashioned propeller-driven plane. It was recurring Hollywood villain Michael Eisner, the boss of Paramount, who said no way to the propeller. Eisner loved the script, but insisted that the setting should be a modern commercial airliner, an issue that he wasn't willing to budge on.
Eisner, seen here during production.
Even though the writer-directors were otherwise given the go-ahead to make the movie pretty much exactly the way they wanted, it's revealed on the commentary track that they were still very close to abandoning the whole project because of this one issue -- what type of engines would be on the plane. If that titular airplane didn't have spinny things on the front of it, they were prepared to walk away from their big Hollywood break.
According to the directors, Eisner told them, "You may well go on to make this movie on a prop plane, and you may be right, but it won't be at this studio." So, incredibly, the directors did shop the movie around to other studios, only to discover that nobody but Paramount was crazy enough to give a bunch of amateurs a huge budget to make a parody of a movie that was likely long out of print by that point. Even though they may eat crow now that Airplane! exists, that decision still sounds completely reasonable. So, they went back to Paramount, agreed to the no-propellers stipulation, and film history is all the better for it.
The Original Casino Royale Was Rewritten Because Peter Sellers Was Offended At A Party
Quick, what's the worst James Bond movie? Die Another Day? Oh wait, no, it's Moonraker, right? Definitely Moonraker.
Actually, no. The worst James Bond movie -- and we're speaking pretty objectively here -- is Casino Royale. No, not that one. That one's pretty damn good. We're talking about the original 1967 version of Casino Royale, an incomprehensible, non-canon, rival studio knockoff of the popular Sean Connery series starring Peter Sellers (as Bond), Orson Welles, and Woody Allen, which has gained a cult following due to its badness that has begrudgingly cemented its place in American film history. The plot involved flying saucers. It was pretty out there.
See? Moonraker isn't even the worst one with a spaceship.
But, the unmitigated disaster that was the original Casino Royale might not have been such a bad movie if not for Peter Sellers' notorious penchant for throwing massive tantrums over the most inconsequential things. Sellers had been pissing off the crew for a while with his behavior and had already been offended by Orson Welles, who accused him of making the film go over budget. However, the real clincher for Sellers happened during a party in which he met Leo Jaffe, the chairman of Columbia Pictures.
Jaffe mistook Sellers for Woody Allen, and Sellers, a talented impressionist, decided to go along with it for shits and giggles and pretended to be Allen. Unfortunately, the joke went south when Jaffe went on a rant to him about what an asshole this Peter Sellers guy was. Yes, some people's real lives are bad sitcom plots.
"In my defense ..."
The next day, Sellers had disappeared. When the panicking studio was finally able to contact him, they found out that he was in Sweden. That's right, Sellers wasn't just insulted, he was "skip the country and move to Sweden" insulted, which, for anyone who knew him, was kind of just your average every day Peter Sellers tantrum. But, Casino Royale was already way over budget and couldn't just cancel production, even if their leading man had taken his ball and gone to Scandinavia. The necessity of finishing the movie at all costs required massive rewrites, leading to the movie's notoriously insane conceit of having multiple actors play James Bond.
Sellers eventually calmed down after breathing into a paper bag and punching a few pillows and then flew back to America to film a few final scenes to finish the project. We like to think that the moment he walked onto the set, at least one person shouted, "HOLY SHIT, IT'S WOODY ALLEN!"
Napoleon Dynamite's Title Sequence Was Re-Shot Because The Star Had A Hangnail
Napoleon Dynamite is the low-budget cult film that launched the career of Jon Heder as well as a whole bunch of internet memes. The whole movie was shot in only 22 days, and when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, nobody really knew what the hell they just watched. Nevertheless, the filmmakers found a distributor, Fox Searchlight, who were willing to deliver the film to theaters as long as they did something to make it just a little less goddamn confusing.
One of the major complaints was that nobody knew what era this movie was supposed to be set in, because the characters, who live somewhere in rural Idaho, were wearing a mix of clothing that looked like it could have taken place anywhere between now and the early '80s.
"No one hassles Wes Anderson about this ..."
The solution they came up with was to include a title sequence (the original cut didn't have one) that clarified the timeline by showing various objects such as ID cards that alluded to the film taking place in 2004. And this 2-and-a-half-minute title sequence, featuring nothing but a pair of hands fiddling with a bunch of plates and cards with credits scribbled on them, took almost as long to finish as the entire movie had, because the company wasn't comfortable with Jon Heder's nail hygiene.
The original title sequence that they shot actually used Heder's hands, but when they presented the sequence to Searchlight for approval, a board member, who director Jared Hess identifies only as "some lady," was grossed out because Heder's hands had "some hangnails, or something."
Of course, the fact that Napoleon Dynamite doesn't have impeccable hygiene is kind of half the point of the entire movie, but the filmmakers were forced to film the whole title sequence again with a hand model, who took two weeks to hire and fly out just for the shoot, because some bureaucrats were afraid audiences might be too disturbed by seeing uneven fingernails ... in Napoleon Freakin' Dynamite.
Deep inside us all, behind our political leanings, our moral codes, and our private biases, there is a cause so colossally stupid, we surprise ourselves with how much we care. Whether it's toilet paper position, fedoras on men, or Oxford commas, we each harbor a preference so powerful we can't help but proselytize to the world. In this episode of the Cracked podcast, guest host Soren Bowie is joined by Cody Johnston, Michael Swaim, and special guests to discuss the most trivial things we will argue about until the day we die. Get your tickets here!
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