Sometimes, it's the smallest details that really make the movie. Then again, those same seemingly-insignificant scenes can also be such an immense pain in the balls that even the most hardened Hollywood hotshot would scream "fuck it, we'll do a car chase instead!" Or so you'd think ...
Stanley Kubrick is one of the most punishingly difficult directors to work with. Legend says that during the filming of The Shining, he made Shelley Duvall repeat the same scene 127 times, which is ridiculous. The movie's assistant editor claims it was a mere 35-45 takes -- basically a cakewalk!
On the other hand, there was that time when Kubrick broke Tom Cruise's already wobbly brain on the set of Eyes Wide Shut: He made the actor walk through a door repeatedly, for a total of 95 times. It was such an insignificant scene that no one is 100 percent sure when, exactly, it takes place in the movie. But for whatever reason, Kubrick needed Cruise to repeat it nearly 100 times. That's a level of perfectionism that crosses the line into insanity. Or perhaps we're blaming the wrong person: Maybe Tom Cruise just opens a door like a total asshole.
City Lights (1931) is widely considered Charlie Chaplin's greatest movie. It's the story of a tramp who falls in love with a blind girl, played by Virginia Cherrill; a pretty simple plot by today's standards, but due to technical limitations at the time, it took Chaplin more than two years to shoot. Then again, it might have been completed sooner, if Chaplin wasn't basically the proto-Kubrick: an uncompromising perfectionist who wanted to control every single detail of his films. For example: One scene in which Cherrill asks his character "Flower, sir?" had to be repeated more than 300 bloody times.
Yes, we should point out that it was a silent film.
Hot Fuzz (2007) is a brilliant British satire of action movies. 138 of them, to be precise. The two that arguably had the biggest impact on the film's plot were probably the original Point Break, and Bad Boys II. It wasn't a subtle influence, either: At one point, Simon Pegg's co-star, Nick Frost, holds up both DVDs. Hot Fuzz even goes out of its way to actually show you scenes from Point Break:
20th Century Fox
The PB clip didn't last more than a few seconds, but it turned out to be one of the most time-consuming parts of the shoot. Wright explained that, before they could film it, they had to "get signatures from Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Patrick Swayze's stuntman," and probably Patrick Swayze's stuntman's prostate doctor, judging by how anal-retentive the studio was being. Even though it was clearly satire, Hot Fuzz still had to cover its ass by making sure every little reference was extra nice and legal, and that even includes the time they showed a bunch of discount gas station DVDs on screen.
In order to get this shot, some poor intern had to phone around and find out who owns the rights to every single movie in that display case (every one of which was personally chosen by Wright and Pegg). At least they were good sports about it, and actually credited everyone who secured the rights for the DVD covers in the movie's end credits.
In the original RoboCop movie, police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) gets transformed into a superpowered, unstoppable killer cyborg. But behind the scenes, the suit turned Weller into the exact opposite of RoboCop: dawdling, mostly blind, spasming plastic. The reason you never see RoboCop do anything that requires finesse is because the costume was so restricting that Weller had to spend three days just learning how to walk in it. Even then, the visor obstructed his vision so badly that he had to be led to and from the set each day.
And the first scene he had to film in costume? The one where he strolls past the chief, and casually snatches a set of car keys out of the air like a boss.
According to the director's commentary, that single, half-second clip of RoboCop catching car keys took an entire day to film, because every time they threw them at Weller he'd either miss, or they'd bounce off his gloves (which were made of rubber) and hit an extra right in the eyeball, blinding them forever. We assume that, by the end of it, Weller didn't dare drink anything on set, for fear of it being mostly intern-spit.
20th Century Fox
In Home Alone, young Kevin is accidentally left ... at his house, uh ... without company ... and this affords him the opportunity to eat junk food and watch a bunch of age-inappropriate movies. Specifically, a brutal gangster flick called Angels With Filthy Souls:
20th Century Fox
Now, Angels With Filthy Souls isn't a real movie: Those few-second scenes were filmed just for Home Alone. That's a trick Hollywood uses to avoid a Hot Fuzz situation. Except, in this case, its "director" totally treated it like one. He was on a super tight budget and schedule, yet still he insisted on period accurate props -- even taking the time to find the same Tommy gun that James Cagney used in a 1935 mob movie called G Men.
20th Century Fox
To further sell the authenticity of the movie, they shot it using the same kind of film they'd have used in the '40s. The crew apparently had so much fun filming their period gangster piece that they later tracked down the original AWFS actor for Home Alone 2, and filmed another scene for a fictitious sequel called Angels With Filthier Souls. Wow, they really did things right back in the fake '40s: That's the kind of quality sequel titling we wouldn't see again until Die Harder.
George Lucas might just be the biggest Star Wars hater in history, given the staggering amount of times he went back to "fix" it. By far the most unusual change Lucas made was to a dance scene in Jabba's palace, which was added to the 1997 special edition of Return Of The Jedi. Here's the original:
And now here's the special edition:
We'll give you a minute to contain your joy.
The first thing that catches your eye in the "improved" version is probably the alien-frog harlot, or maybe it's the animated camel testicle performing a number called "Jedi Rocks" (yes, seriously) for the slobbering Jabba.
But pay closer attention to Oola, the green girl with the tentacle dreadlocks. In the original ROTJ, she dies off-screen after being thrown in the Rancor pit. But in the new edition, we actually get to see her a few seconds before her death.
Those few seconds of footage cost Lucas hundreds of thousands of dollars. In order to expand the scene with this Z-list character, Lucas not only got the same actress to reprise her role as Oola -- he spent two days rebuilding the entire Jabba palace set, 14 whole goddamn years after the original Return Of The Jedi.
All for a few throwaway seconds basically nobody noticed. Perhaps Lucas is involved in some sort of Brewster's Millions situation, where he actually has to waste as much money as possible, or risk losing it all?
Karl would like to take this opportunity to clear the air and say that he wrote that stupid fucking Rollercoaster Tycoon joke you saw plastered all over the internet 3 years ago.
For more ways filmmakers lost their damn minds, check out 12 Classic Movie Moments Made Possible by Abuse And Murder and 6 Famous Films (You Had No Idea Were Hell Behind The Scenes).
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