6 WTF Stumbling Blocks (That Almost Killed Famous Movies)
Despite being large projects that rely on the work of hundreds or even thousands of people, Hollywood films are always one manic breakdown, drunken mistake, or nervous producer away from shutting down and disappearing into oblivion. Just look at how close some blockbusters came to never existing at all ...
Pixar Accidentally Deleted Toy Story 2 In The Middle of Production
The Toy Story franchise is Pixar's long-running experiment in how many times they can make grown-ass adults cry during a cartoon about children's toys starring the guy from Home Improvement. But the series was almost cut down in its tracks almost 20 years ago by a simple programming error. Two months and hundreds of hours into the production of Toy Story 2, someone's wayward coding caused the movie to delete itself from Pixar's computers.
While one programmer was messing around with Woody's hat (which sounds like he was struggling to pull on a condom, but in reality means he was animating the wardrobe of a delightful cowboy), he began to notice that all the files were disappearing from the server. He had to call up the main office to demand that they unplug the computers until they could figure out what was happening.
It turns out that someone working on the film (who, understandably, will probably never identify themselves and take this particular secret to their grave) had accidentally activated a command on Pixar's main server to clean up unwanted files. But because computers are actually pretty stupid when you get down to it, the server identified the "unwanted files" as the entirety of Toy Story 2. For scale, imagine you're working on a school assignment and, a few thousand words in, you accidentally delete the file. Now imagine that your assignment has a budget of a hundred million dollars and the file you deleted represents the massive collaborative effort of a few hundred people. "Murder via brick" would absolutely be a punishment you'd expect.
"Uh ... my slinky dog ate it ..."
To make things worse, it turned out that all the backup files had also been corrupted for unrelated reasons, so it seemed that the production had been suddenly ripped right back to square one. But miraculously, the supervising technical director, Galyn Susman, had backup copies of most of the lost files on her home computer. She'd been working on the project from home due to recently having a baby, and also presumably sought to pay for her child's college by selling enough pirated copies to fill several commercial refrigerators.
"So I think I heard something about the company extending maternity leave to ... 12 months, was it?"
Pixar was able to recover the movie from Susman's files and push it forward to completion, so the fact that the Toy Story franchise continues to exist can essentially be attributed to an infant.
The 40-Year Old Virgin Was Almost Shut Down Because Steve Carell Looked Like A Serial Killer
Steve Carell is one of America's most popular comedic actors, as evidenced by the 42 Emmy nominations that The Office racked up over its run. But he was still relatively unknown in 2005, when the descriptively titled The 40-Year Old Virgin rocketed him to stardom. Judd Apatow had loved Carell's performance as idiot weatherman Brick Tamland in Anchorman (which Apatow produced), and approached him about playing the lead in Virgin, Apatow's movie about a nerd trying to conquer his sexless existence with the help of terrible advice from his terrible friends.
However, Universal wasn't exactly jazzed with this casting decision, because when they saw the first footage of the film, featuring Carell riding around on a bicycle in a sex-deflecting helmet, they panicked due to the fact that they thought he looked like a serial killer.
You can sort of understand their position, considering this exact observation is made by several characters in the movie. Oh, and there is an entire genre of video on YouTube made up entirely of fans reediting the trailer into a horror movie. It's really as easy as changing the background music:
According to Carell, the studio was afraid that rather than laugh at his awkward hijinks, audiences would spend the entire film wondering whether he was going to murder Catherine Keener and her two children. So they sent out an emergency memo two days into filming saying that they were cancelling the production.
Apatow had to meet with the producers to plead his case, and Universal agreed to let the movie go forward on the condition that they bring in their own special editor, presumably to make sure that Carell was never underlit by a flashlight or something.
"A place for everything and everything in it's place."
In addition, the studio insisted that Paul Rudd was too fat, which is kind of a weird criticism for a movie that also stars Seth Rogen. Rudd agreed to go on a crash diet to lose a few pounds, while Carell decided to take his character in a more "Buster Keaton" direction, with more whimsy and less murder eyes.
Still, Apatow's favorite scenes remain the ones that were shot before the studio's interference, especially the speed dating scene (which Universal wanted to cut completely). It's in this scene that you can see Carell in full-on Ted Bundy mode, as well as the hideously obese Paul Rudd being even more psychotic to his ex-girlfriend.
"Wanna help me get a couch into my van?"
Scream Had Major Setbacks Because The Studio Hated The Mask
Back when Wes Craven, one of the pioneers of the slasher genre, was being courted to direct Scream, he turned it down twice. Originally, the film was supposed to be a comedy spoof, and you can probably imagine how you'd feel if you were a legendary filmmaker being asked to direct a script that was taking a giant dump on your career and the genre you co-founded. But Craven really liked the idea of a meta-horror film in which the killer has an encyclopedic knowledge of real-world slasher movies, so he eventually agreed to direct, as long as he could do it his way -- a horror movie with some comedy elements, rather than the other way around. (The Wayans brothers would gallantly pick up that torch several years later.)
And try to keep it lit long after it had burned out.
Studio head Bob Weinstein enthusiastically agreed with Craven's direction, but once the film was being shot, he started to get cold feet. Weinstein would call Craven in the middle of filming in order to complain about everything from the shooting budget to Drew Barrymore's wig (it is a well-known industry secret that Weinstein will complain about every actor's wig, whether or not they are wearing one). The point is, Weinstein immediately regretted his decision to support Craven, and was looking for things to hate about Scream. What really stuck in his craw was the mask worn by the killer, nicknamed "Ghostface." Reportedly, the mask was found in someone's attic by a location scout, and Craven loved it because it looked like Edvard Munch's famous painting The Scream, which was too goddamned serendipitous to ignore.
"It's as if the Universe is speaking to me in the creepiest way possible."
Weinstein, however, thought the mask looked about as bone-chilling as a cat's anus, and told Craven to reshoot every scene featuring Ghostface four times -- each one with a different mask, so that the producers could make up their own minds after seeing the various takes. It was at this point that Craven told Weinstein to go fuck himself as hard as possible. He argued that it didn't make any sense to film the movie four freaking times just because the producers were worried that the mask looked cheap, especially since neighborhood costume party budget masks had been a staple of the genre they were specifically commenting on ever since Halloween's Michael Myers carved up a bunch of teenagers while wearing a repainted William Shatner mask.
"*pbbbff* Nice hockey mask. Go scare some Canadians, dipshit." -- Bob Weinstein
Eventually, Cathy Konrad, the production supervisor, convinced Weinstein to let Wes Craven, the well-regarded master of the goddamn genre, to make a few decisions on his own. They even let Drew Barrymore wear the stupid wig.
A Matthew McConaughey Action Movie Bombed Because Of Its Creator's Insane Demands
Remember the 2005 action-adventure movie Sahara? Haha, neither do we! It was a giant flop, but it starred Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz, and Hollywood wanted to establish it as the first in a new Indiana Jones-style franchise based on Clive Cussler's best-selling novels, featuring the hilariously named action-archaeologist Dirk Pitt. Ironically, Cussler was so protective of his intellectual property that his massive interference directly caused the film to fail.
"Strike one: Forcing me to keep my shirt on."
To start, Cussler demanded an unprecedented $20 million to option Sahara for film. That's nuts, but apparently the production company, Crusader Entertainment, felt really confident that Matthew McConaughey alright-alright-alrighting his way through a modern-day treasure hunt adventure franchise would be a license to print money, so they agreed.
But then Cussler demanded that he be given final approval on the script. On the surface, that might not seem too unreasonable (what author wouldn't want some input on how their work is adapted?), but Cussler turned out to be impossible to impress. He bounced back so many drafts that the filmmakers started to feel like they were playing an expensive game of tennis against a concrete wall. In all, they hired ten different screenwriters in increasingly desperate attempts to produce something that Cussler would approve. Reportedly, he eventually tried to veto McConaughey's involvement because he suspected that the actor might be gay, which you may recognize as the behavior of a kingly shithead.
But of course that didn't stop him from promoting it on his book covers.
Eventually, the producers, who began to realize that they might as well be throwing millions of dollars into a volcano at this point, went rogue and started making the movie without Cussler's permission. Cussler immediately sued Crusader for breach of contract. Crusader responded by counter-suing, arguing that Cussler had lied about the success of his own novels, which was the most legally acceptable wording of "We're suing you for being a fucking hack."
The movie was finally released to bad reviews, and might have disappeared into history as another mediocre Hollywood flop if not for the additional millions they had to pour into fighting Cussler's lawsuits, which rocketed Sahara from "run-of-the-mill failure" into "legendary Hollywood financial black hole" territory.
This scene is a great visual metaphor.
In the end, the legal battles between Cussler and Crusader Entertainment went on for eight more years past the movie's release, and even then, nobody won. Reportedly, the worst thing about the entire trial was that the jury was forced to watch Sahara.
The Original Doctor Dolittle Was Postponed By A Terrorist Who Later Became A Famous Explorer
Decades before Eddie Murphy was speaking to guinea pigs voiced by Chris Rock, the original Doctor Dolittle, the story of a doctor who can speak to animals, was being filmed in Wiltshire, England. It was already a troubled production -- the trained animals were a goddamned nightmare, frequently biting and pissing all over star Rex Harrison, destroying sets, and creatively endangering their own lives by doing things like drinking entire quarts of paint.
Not to mention the sheer amount of crap that had to be cleaned up each day.
Additionally, the script called for a racist caricature of a black African man who was originally to be played by either Sammy Davis Jr. or Sidney Poitier before the character was cut entirely out of the film for reasons that nobody should have ever had to explain. But all of this pales in comparison to the opposition 20th Century Fox experienced when trying to construct the Doctor's home village.
You see, Doctor Dolittle was supposed to live in a fishing village, so the production built a dam on a stream in Wiltshire in order to increase the size of a pond. This angered the local residents, who had already been asked to remove all the TV antennae from their houses to better depict the film's Victorian time period, and were dealing with all the traffic and general landscape uglification that goes with filmmaking. This dam thing was one pile of bullshit too much.
"I won't stand for it, Reginald! Not for all fizzlebloops in Barkingham!"
So one local resident decided to take action. That resident happened to be Ranulph Fiennes, one of the world's greatest living explorers, who was the first man to cross Antarctica by foot. He fought in the SAS (British special forces), has written half a dozen books, and is currently, at the age of 65, climbing the highest mountains on each continent and crossing both poles in a bid to break a new record (we assume that record is "Earth's most grizzled man").
However, way back when Doctor Dolittle was being filmed, Fiennes was a young man in the neighborhood who was just beginning his service in the SAS. Fiennes elected to take action by gathering up a bunch of explosives from one of his training exercises and blowing the film set's dam right the fuck up. Keep in mind, this is all because of a two-and-a-half-hour musical about a whimsical country doctor who can speak to animals.
Which evidently takes place on nuclear waste dump.
Fiennes' act of civil disobedience set the production of Doctor Dolittle back an entire year, but he managed to avoid prison and got off with a 500-pound fine (although in fairness, that's almost 9,000 pounds in today-money).
The Godfather Was Almost Canceled Due To Threats From The Mafia
Here's a piece of trivia even your most avid movie buff friends will get wrong: How many times is the word "mafia" uttered in The Godfather?
Wait patiently as they mumble something about oranges and death.
The answer is zero. Sure, they talk about the "mob" and the "family," but never once does a character say "mafia" in the single most important mafia film ever made. Why? Mostly because the people who worked on the film were sent death threats from the actual Mafia.
Back in the '70s, the Mafia tried to exploit all kinds of loopholes in order to prove that they were upstanding, law-abiding, freedom-loving American citizens. The crime boss Joseph Colombo went so far as to establish the Italian-American Civil Rights League, which argued that law enforcement's persecution of the Mafia was racist, even as he was personally breaking people's kneecaps as a goddamn Mafia leader. According to him, that wasn't crime -- that was Italian culture. Why was the FBI so prejudiced against Italians?
Colombo would eventually be shot in a mob hit during one of the League's rallies.
As Colombo stated, "There is not a Mafia. Am I the head of a family? Yes. My wife, and my four sons and a daughter. That's my family." Colombo's totally-normal-and-not-criminal associates exploited every method, legal and otherwise, to prevent The Godfather from being made. When suing the production didn't work, they began to intimidate the crew directly, calling in bomb threats, stalking the producers, and eventually threatening the lives of the families of those associated with the film. Even Frank Sinatra got in on the action, because the character of Johnny Fontane was clearly based on him, and as you may recall, Johnny Fontane's primary role in the film is to get slapped by a rage-bellowing Marlon Brando.
Eventually, the filmmakers were able to placate the "Italian-American Civil Rights League" by promising that the word "mafia" would never be used once, in the film. In addition, Albert Ruddy, the producer, met personally with Colombo and showed him the script and pointing out how the movie also included racist caricatures of Irish and Jewish Americans, demonstrating that it wasn't some targeted hit piece against Italians. That isn't a joke.
Three wrongs make a Best Picture winner!
Columbo agreed after reading exactly two words of the script, and the movie was finally given the official Mafia go-ahead, with nobody waking up to find an animal's head on their pillow.
For more movies that were kind of a shit show, read 6 Famous Films (You Had No Idea Were Hell Behind The Scenes) and 6 True Stories That Explain Why Famously Bad Movies Sucked.
And be sure to check out 9 Types Of Coworkers To Make You Want Your Head To Explode, and let us know about other headsplosion-worthy employees we may have missed.
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