Everyone knows that making a Hollywood movie isn't easy. You have to deal with such ordeals as mega-expensive equipment, life-threatening stunts, and Gary Busey. What you might not realize is that sometimes, it's the simplest things that end up causing the biggest headaches. You know that story about Stanley Kubrick making Tom Cruise walk through a door 95 times? Not only is it completely true, but there are way more stories like it ...
Disney making live-action versions of their animated movies feels like a recent thing, but that's not quite the case. Ever since Snow White, they've been shooting some scenes with real actors first to help out their animators. While making Sleeping Beauty, for instance, they hired actress Jane Fowler to act out scenes while dressed as Maleficent, complete with make-up, costume, and clearly-this-person-is-evil hair horns. For the classic scene in which a guy runs into an unconscious woman and starts macking on her, they had actor Ed Kemmer dress up as Prince Phillip and kiss an actress on the cheek. The animators then amped that up to a full-fledged mouth kiss in the final version, because no one's getting hot and bothered over a chaste peck.
But that's nothing compared to the elaborate, mega-ambitious live-action sequence that Disney created for 1997's Hercules.
Before animating the song "Zero To Hero," the production crew went all-out and cast, choreographed, and filmed a shot-for-shot live-action version of the full number. They made costumes, hired a famed R&B choreographer, took over a warehouse, and used cranes to get fancy angles and everything. Co-director Ron Clements called it "the most elaborate video shoot we've ever done and I think has ever been done for animation."
In addition to providing a live reference for the animators, this also allowed the team to effectively edit the entire sequence before it was even drawn (because spending a week animating a shot that ends up getting cut always sucks). Then they put the result of all their hard work in a drawer, where no one saw it for 19 years. At least they've already got this part down for when they run out of other Disney movies to remake with living human beings.
Before he captured our hearts with his gritty portrayals of Batman, magicians, and reality itself, Chris Nolan gained fame with a little low-budget mindfuck called Memento. We'd give you a spoiler alert about ruining the ending, but the movie starts with the ending, so who cares.
The movie follows a man named Leonard, who is attempting track down his wife's killer. The problem is that Leonard has the memory of a goldfish, so he's constantly writing down reminders on notes, photographs, and his pecs (through tattoos). In order to represent Leonard's unique memory problems, most of the movie is told in reverse order, with some black-and-white chronologically ordered scenes thrown in there to keep you on your toes. Ironically, in a movie with a chronology so jacked up that it requires an actual chart to keep track of, the most difficult part to shoot was in fact this tiny moment:
In the very first scene, we see Leonard shoot a man in the head and take a Polaroid of it, only in reverse, meaning that the bullet casing jumps off the floor and back into the gun. For most of this sequence, this effect was achieved by loading the film into the camera backwards, which makes everything go in rewind. The problem was that every time they would slide the casing across the floor, it would roll out of frame. Which was no good, since it had to start at a standstill. Eventually, Nolan saw no other solution but to "get on [his] hands and knees" and blow the casing out of frame, thus faking the "rewind" effect in real time.
But the ordeal wasn't over yet. In all the confusion, the crew forgot to the load the film normally for this one shot, so it was still running backwards. This means that in order for the shot to be used, Nolan had to reverse it again. The result is a shot that is a reversal of a forward special effect that was designed to look like it's reversed, which had to be played forward (reversed) because it was accidentally filmed in reverse (forwards). Come to think of it, that's a pretty good description of the movie itself, in that we understood none of it.
Terry Gilliam is perhaps best known to audiences as the guy who bangs the coconuts together in Monty Python And The Holy Grail, but he also happens to be a pretty prolific director, being responsible for films such as Brazil and Time Bandits. He also helmed the sci-fi thriller 12 Monkeys, and it was there that he took part in a situation that would have probably been deemed too absurd for a Monty Python sketch.
Gilliam has a bit of a reputation of being a perfectionist, and we don't just mean "alphabetizing his pantry" kind of perfectionist. In the movie, there's a scene wherein Bruce Willis is sitting naked in a dingy, dystopian sci-fi lab, drawing his own blood with a terrifying, H.R. Giger-esque apparatus. You would think that a scene with ominous ambiance, medical horrors, and Willis' dong would be enough to keep the audience riveted, but Gilliam also decided to add a hamster on a wheel. The problem was that the goddamn hamster wasn't running. Gilliam therefore proceeded to consume almost an entire day of shooting just getting this hamster to run. And it, uh, totally paid off?
Gilliam's tendency to fixate on details no one else gave a shit about was thus dubbed "The Hamster Factor," which also served as the title for the movie's "making of" documentary. While certainly odd, compared to the association that certain other celebrities have with hamsters and gerbils, maybe being known as "The Hamster Factor" guy isn't so bad after all.
One of the most famous actors, directors, and mustache-owners of all time, Charlie Chaplin had a talent for comedy that was as prolific as his fondness for sexually harassing women with pies. One of his best non-Hitler-related works is The Gold Rush, in which his character goes prospecting for gold in the far North. Chaplin had been inspired by photos and stories from the real Klondike Gold Rush, as well as the Donner Party, and incorporated those cheerful tales of despair and starvation into this wacky comedy. This led to a famous scene in which Chaplin and his partner, cold and penniless, celebrate Thanksgiving by literally eating a shoe:
Naturally, Chaplin and the other actor didn't eat a real shoe for this scene ... but by the end of it, they might have wished they had. The shoe prop was made of black licorice, but after 63 retakes spread out over three days, both actors began to feel the effects. Fun fact: Eating a shitload of black licorice acts as a laxative, something that "significantly hit both Chaplin and [his co-star]." Reportedly, the aftermath was so powerful that Chaplin had to miss a few days of shooting. That's all the detail the history books go into, but let's hope that set was well-ventilated.
Why so many reshoots in the first place, though? Because this was in the early days of filmmaking, when things weren't as structured as they are now, which meant that Chaplin was effectively the writer, director, producer, composer, etc. There wasn't a formal script, so Chaplin would get ideas and then go try them out. Since he couldn't see his performance, he'd do a billion takes and then watch them later, make notes, and then do it again the next day. Thankfully, the process is a bit more organized now, and George Clooney doesn't have to endure bouts of diarrhea whenever he wants to act and direct a movie.
Wayne's World is one of the best movies to ever be based on an SNL sketch, which is ... not really saying much. But still, it's pretty fun. One of the movie's more iconic moments, which resonates with beleaguered music store employees everywhere, is when Wayne is about to play "Stairway To Heaven" in a guitar store, only to be shown a sign which specifically forbids the playing of said song. The weird thing is, while the scene originally included the first few notes from the famous riff, if you watch the movie now, the notes Wayne plays are decidedly un-Zeppelin-esque.
The reason for that change could serve as the basis for a whole other movie. According to director Penelope Spheeris, Led Zeppelin and Warner Music Group told the producers that they could only play two notes from "Stairway" before they'd have to pay $100,000 for the rights. However, in order for the gag to work, they needed people to recognize what song is being played, and it's pretty hard to do that with only two notes -- Wayne could be trying to play "Baby Got Back" for all we know. So in the theatrical release, Wayne ended up playing three notes. WMG wasn't amused, because it's not like this silly little comedy could lead to a classic rock band's chart-topping revival or something. And so, when the movie went to home video, WMG refused to license the song, leading to a hasty do-over that made the joke about 2,000 percent more nonsensical.
There's another layer of irony here, of course. While Zep is notoriously tightfisted with the rights to their songs, they tend to take a much more light-fingered approach to other artists' music. In 2016, the band was sued by members of the band Spirit, whose song "Taurus" contains a riff which sounds shockingly similar to the intro of "Stairway." Led Zeppelin ultimately won the lawsuit, but if we were Spirit, here's what we'd do: License "Taurus" to Wayne's World (25 years after it came out) for free. After all, it sounds nothing like "Stairway To Heaven," so we're sure Robert Plant and Jimmy Page won't mind at all if they put it in this scene.
When he's not playing "Sweet Home Alabama" in guitar stores, Chris can be found on Twitter.
You don't have to permanently mark important reminders onto your skin with this crazy temporary tattoo thermoprinter.
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