7 Famous Movie Props That Were (Somehow) Abandoned
Once a movie is finished, something needs to be done with all of its props -- and for every iconic lightsaber, there are dozens of John Travolta's Battlefield Earth dreadlocks. No studio knows what's going to be valuable in the future, and if they just tried to store everything, Hollywood would end in Nevada. That's why some of pop culture's most beloved treasures have been treated like that novelty singing trout you picked up at a garage sale for 50 cents.
If even the sled from Citizen Kane ended up being given away to some random 12-year-old, then what hope was there for...
The Original Death Star Spent Years In A Country Bar
No one who worked on Star Wars had any idea that everything they touched would one day belong in the goddamn Smithsonian. When the movie was done, the studio stopped paying rent on their storage unit and declared that they couldn't care less about its contents. Anything not kept by crew members was just tossed. Fortunately, one storage employee, an American hero known only as Doug W., decided to save the Death Star model and gained a kickass conversation starter for his living room in the process.
Then, around 1988, Doug moved to Missouri and into a more tasteful era of interior decoration in his life. So, he put the Death Star in his mom's rural antique shop, which sounds like an extremely specific euphemism for an act we can't even begin to imagine.
What a wretched hive of quilts and gently used Thomas Kinkade paintings.
Enter Todd Franklin, a Star Wars collector who just happened to see the Death Star while driving by, probably causing serious damage to his car's upholstery. He spent a few days doing research to verify his ridiculous discovery, but the Force punished him for his doubts -- by the time he was convinced, it had already been sold to the owner of a country music venue called Star World. It was put in the lobby, because what gets someone pumped up for songs about trucks, whiskey, and country livin' more than a planet-murdering spaceship?
Star World went out of business in 1993, to our complete lack of surprise, and Todd rushed to claim the Death Star. When he arrived, it was the only thing in the building that hadn't yet been liquidated, and it was being used as a goddamn garbage bin. It is famous for compacting trash, but come on. Todd bought it and offered it to Lucasfilm, who weren't interested, because the '90s weren't a great era of decision-making for George Lucas. So, Todd became the second person to keep the Death Star in his living room.
Third, if you count obsessive fanboy Kylo Ren.
Todd eventually decided to sell, perhaps remembering that Death Star owners usually come to bad ends. He sold it to another collector, Gus Lopez, who had to keep it in storage until he and his wife -- and we swear this isn't a joke -- could find a house that had adequate Death Star display space. You know, that classic late-century American feature. Lopez has now owned the Death Star for nearly 20 years, although he lent it out to Seattle's EMP Museum, where they restored much of it (but hopefully not the lasers).
Like Han Solo said in The Wrath Of Khan, "It belongs in a museum."
The Spaceship From Alien Spent Two Decades In Some Dude's Driveway
The Nostromo is the most famous spaceship to ever host a series of horrifying murders carried out by a giant walking dildo. Equally horrifying? The prospect of storing this thing -- the prop weighs a quarter of a ton, takes up 80 square feet, and it's not like the studio had a whole lot of use for it now.
This would have looked a little off in All That Jazz.
So in 1979, when LA resident Bob Burns asked Fox for permission to put on an Alien-themed haunted house show, Fox surprised him by sending him the Nostromo and other props. That's like asking your friend if you can make a sandwich with their bread and instead they ship their entire kitchen to your house.
Naturally, the Nostromo was too big for Burns' home, so it had to be lowered onto his driveway with a crane. Burns, being a dedicated film buff who reveres the tools of the craft, uh... left it in his driveway. For two decades. During which it was damaged by heat and rain. But hey, at least he threw a couple of tarps over it, which is really all you can ask for considering Fox dumped a garage sale on him.
It took him a few years to realize Ian Holm was still living in there.
Eventually, Burns was able to get it into a storage locker, and then after another decade it was given to a memorabilia store, who took this...
And restored it into this.
Can they restore Ozzy Osbourne back to his '70s state next?
The Last Remaining Shark From Jaws Lived In An Auto Yard
The mechanical sharks created for Jaws shaped movie history by being so notoriously terrible that Steven Spielberg went out of his way to avoid showing them, accidentally inventing modern suspense. They were all destroyed after filming, presumably by a gleeful Spielberg as revenge for all the stress and anxiety their shittiness caused him. But as the 18 terrible sequels to Jaws proved, you can't keep a killer shark down.
Especially when it's up on a pole.
That's Junkyard Bruce, which sounds like how a train-hopping hobo introduces himself shortly before he shanks you, but is actually a fourth shark made out of the same mold. Unlike his brothers, Bruce wasn't meant for the silver screen, instead serving as a prop for tours of Universal Studios so countless film buffs could take ingenious "Oh no, the shark is eating me!" vacation photos.
By around 1990, Jaws was no longer in vogue, and Universal wanted to unload their shark. They sold it to Sam Adlen, a junkyard owner whose marketing strategy was apparently "Hey, look at all the cool shit I have here!"
"If it's good enough for Spielberg's garbage, it's good enough for yours."
And so, for over two decades, the shark sat in a place usually reserved for piles of scrap or mob victims. Despite numerous offers, Adlen refused to part with it. After Adlen's death, his son foolishly passed up the opportunity to bury him with (or in) the shark and donated it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Bruce is going to spend a few years in climate-controlled storage while the Academy restores him and decides how the hell to display a 25-foot long, eight-foot-tall piece of memorabilia.
They're also trying to track down all props from Jaws: The Revenge so their shame can be destroyed in a ritual cleansing.
James Bond and Mad Max's Cars Keep Turning Up In Weird-Ass Places
Hollywood misplaces legendary movie cars more often than we misplace our remote control. For starters, one of the two green '68 Mustangs used in Bullitt -- the classic crime drama about Steve McQueen doing cool, sexy Steve McQueen things -- vanished pretty much immediately after filming ended. Forty-nine years later, the car turned up in a Mexican junkyard, with no one having any idea how it got there.
"Long story short: I just left the house one day and kept driving."
The car was going to be turned into a replica of Nicolas Cage's ride from Gone In 60 Seconds by a body shop, but first they Googled the VIN and discovered how much they almost messed up a million-dollar movie replica. And this happens all the goddamn time! Bond fans will remember the ridiculous(ly awesome) Lotus submarine car from The Spy Who Loved Me:
Seen here suspended in James Bond's ejaculate.
One of the cars made for the movie was discovered by a Long Island contractor when he bought a storage container blind for less than 100 bucks. It had been in paid storage until 1987, but then the rent stopped arriving and no one came to claim it. After being restored, it was auctioned off for $997,000 to none other than Tesla CEO Elon Musk, so don't act surprised when Musk announces his world domination plans from an underwater lair.
It still works as a submarine and as a tiny motel.
Meanwhile, the Interceptor from the first three Mad Max movies has covered more ground in the real world than it did driving around the post-apocalypse. After the filmmakers went through the trouble of burning up a duplicate on film, the original still ended up in a scrap heap, because junkyards are apparently 75 percent beloved movie artifacts. That's where a fan spotted and saved it. Since then, it has been bought and sold a bunch of times, being kicked around museums in Australia, England, and the nuclear wastelands of Florida.
Go check it out before it somehow ends up in a museum in rural Turkmenistan.
Finally, there's the Malibu from Pulp Fiction. You know, this one:
The perfect date car (as long as you don't mind needles).
The car was actually Tarantino's ride, but it was stolen during production. Nineteen years later, a California cop got a call about suspicious activity in a parking lot and went to check it out, although he probably would have declined had he known he was a cop in a Tarantino story. He arrested two men stripping down a car and, after some research, discovered that he had rescued the Pulp Fiction Malibu from an inglourious demise. For going above and beyond in his investigation, he was rewarded by not having to talk to Quentin Tarantino.
The Whole Damn Set From Gone With The Wind Was Rotting Away In A Barn
As a refresher for those of you who only know Gone With The Wind as a movie about fancy staircases and not giving a damn: It's set on a cotton plantation called Tara, because plantations were apparently named like children to make slavery more whimsical. Well, Tara still exists nearly 80 years later, albeit in far more pieces than what could generally be considered to constitute a building:
At least it's aged better than the movie's depiction of black people.
In 1959, after serving as a tourist attraction on the studio lot for 20 years, the facade was moved from LA to Atlanta and purchased by a Senator's wife... who promptly stuck all of the pieces in her barn like it was a bunch of firewood she might need one chilly winter. And then the set was just forgotten, with its owner apparently not bothering to inform future generations that she had one of the most iconic buildings in film history stored round back with her lawnmower and 12 pieces of mismatched patio furniture.
Where else can you see cinema history and some cow shit?
So it sat there for decades until Peter Bonner, a local historical tour company owner, stumbled upon the barn around 2013 and found the facade buried under a pile of junk. He's since headed a restoration project to display the set in its dignified historical context instead of as a bunch of rotting old boards that horny truants know to avoid for fear of splinters.
A Giant Head From A '90s Rap Video Was Left In A Parking Garage
In 1993, the rap group Digital Underground was riding high. After all, Tupac had cut his teeth as one of their background dancers and they'd written a hit song about having sex in Burger King bathrooms. Naturally, this level of success warranted building a giant model of Digital Underground rapper Shock G's head so he could jump out of the nose. This was back when MTV still remembered what it's all about: the drugs.
We'd say it makes sense in context, but that would be a lie.
The head also went on tour with the group, because you don't build a gigantic nose to jump out of and only use it once. It then dropped off the radar, as giant heads with limited skill-sets so often do -- only to resurface in an Oakland parking garage in 2003, with all of those years spent out of work really showing.
It was arrested for offering to blow an Easter Island head for $5.
The building's owner, Francis Rush, bought the place in 2003 and the head was just sitting there, like when you buy a house and the owners throw in some furniture. Rush wants the head preserved but doesn't want it sitting around his garage, despite the awesome novelty of residents being able to greet guests by emerging from a schnoz womb. First he tried giving it away on Craigslist but couldn't find a taker, because "giant nose" isn't such a common fetish after all. He then offered it to the Los Angeles Hip-Hop Museum, but since music museums are built with microphones and gold records in mind, they didn't have room for it. Even Shock G turned it down, no doubt recognizing the potential psychological horror of stumbling upon a giant version of himself while going to the kitchen at night.
"I got busy in a Burger King bathroom. I have too much dignity for that."
So, in 2012, the owner took his plea online. Tragically, the trail ended in 2013 with the head still unclaimed. Still, we hope that someone, somewhere convinced their spouse that putting a giant head in their backyard was not only the right thing to do in terms of cultural preservation, but that it would give their children the greatest play set on the block. Shock G said that if he ever needs it again he'll reimburse any eventual owner for transport, storage, and cleaning expenses, so it pays for itself both financially and in precious memories.
The Puppets From Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Became Children's Toys For 40 Years
Antiques Roadshow mostly involves people discovering that their masterfully handcrafted Revolutionary War-era armoire that they were banking their retirement on was actually bought from Sears in the mid '90s. But in 2005, someone brought a couple of historically significant figures, looking like they had spent a few Christmases replacing the North Pole's snow with a different powder:
Rudolph snorted his nose off.
Yes, it was the original puppets from the Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special that all Americans are legally required to watch at least once. After the special was made, an employee on the show gave them to her children, because no one thought they'd become so iconic, and purloining office supplies is an American tradition. The kids "fed Rudolph crayons and red Play-Doh," which is generally bad for reindeer, while Sam the Snowman met a fitting end when he "melted in attic."
That was in 1964. Over 40 years later, the nephew of that employee found Santa and Rudolph and took the pair to the Antiques Roadshow, where they were valued at eight to 10 thousand dollars. The nephew sold them to a less Sid-from-Toy Story-esque owner who had them restored, and now they look as healthy and hale as the day they were made.
It's almost like a miracle of some kind, although we can't think of the exact phrasing.
Mark is on Twitter and has a book that you could lose somewhere stupid.
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