7 Famous Props That Were A Huge Pain Behind The Scenes
When you're watching a movie, one's mind tends to linger on the nudity or the explosions, rather than the provenance of every single random prop. But the truth is that there are some crazy tales behind all that assorted background crap. So as part of our ongoing effort to prove that every single person working in Hollywood has a more interesting life than you, here are the insane difficulties people had to go through to get some iconic props. Learn how ...
Marvel Had To Build Replica Walkmans For Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
Guardians Of The Galaxy's soundtrack did such a good job at making us nostalgic for 1970s dad rock jams that people started buying up stuff they didn't realize they were nostalgic for. Like these bulky atrocities:
After the release of the first Guardians, people started buying up old-school Sony Walkmans (Walkmen?) en masse. These suckers are going for thousands on sites like eBay now. (We'll pause the article as you all go check your closets.) This became a real problem when the Guardians props team needed a bunch of Walkmans for the sequel. Director James Gunn went on eBay himself and found the model they needed ... for around $8,000.
As it turns out, when you've got a movie as CGI-heavy as Guardians 2, your props budget doesn't exactly include room to spend thousands of dollars on crappy old technology whose price has been artificially inflated by the general populace. Making matters worse was that a fire at Sony's warehouses had burned up a bunch of the retro Walkmans they'd been hoarding.
So the next-best thing they could do was make some replicas. They didn't have to work; they just had to look right. Altogether, the crew constructed six of them from scratch for the movie. Hopefully the inevitable wave of buyer's regret has hit eBay by the time they start work on the third movie.
Carl's Hat On The Walking Dead Has Been Secretly Growing Larger
One of the most difficult aspects of casting child actors is the fact that they keep growing. For example, live-action shows on Disney Channel can only last a few years, as the stress of the gig inevitably turns all of the teenage actors into desiccated husks. The Walking Dead, however, has done a really good job of keeping pace with the growth of its young star Carl, portrayed by Chandler "I Just Want A Haircut" Riggs.
But Carl isn't the only one who's gotten bigger -- his hat has too.
Fairly early on in the show, Rick gets a little sentimental and gifts his sheriff's hat to Carl. According to the actor himself, they started with a smaller-than-normal hat in Season 2 so it would fit his tiny head. But as Riggs grew, so did Carl, and so did his hat size. Further complicating things is the fact that they've made the decision to prevent anyone in the show from finding a pair of scissors for Carl. All that hair has to go somewhere.
This wouldn't be such a problem if that hat company still made that hat. Since it's discontinued, the props department has to keep custom-making Carl Hats for Riggs to wear. Riggs, for his part, is happy to get new hats, noting that "it'd be so disgusting if we had the same one" from the beginning.
Disgusting, sure, but can you imagine how great it'd be if an adult, zombie-slaying Carl refused to take off a delightfully minuscule cowboy hat? That'd be, like, nine more seasons worth of arcs.
The Wilson Company Was Reluctant To Fork Over Balls To Play Wilson In Cast Away
For the eight people out there without a proficient knowledge of Tom Hanks' filmography, Cast Away is a movie in which Hanks gets stranded on a deserted island with only a volleyball named Wilson for company. By the end of the film, you're kind of upset that Hanks' character survives and the volleyball doesn't. And if you're athletics equipment company Wilson, you're kind of upset that this movie got made in the first place.
The name "Wilson" was written into the script from the beginning. This wasn't a cry for product placement; they weren't going to name the ball "Adidas" if there was suddenly a better offer from them. It was always Wilson the Volleyball. The writers had consulted with psychologists, who told them that someone stranded on an island would seriously become pals with an inanimate object to cope with the loneliness. And so props master Robin Miller went up to Wilson the company hoping to get them to provide blank balls for the production to use. They said no.
Luckily, having Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis attached to the film really impressed some woman in the PR department at Wilson, so she pulled some strings and was able to get Miller some balls. Twenty of them, to be precise. Imagine how many balls a standard eighth-grade volleyball team goes through in a season, and now imagine they're playing on an island.
According to Miller, conserving volleyballs on set was like going through war rations. Each hand print took forever to apply to each Wilson, all the "hair" had to be hand-stitched in, and the island weather wasn't exactly kind to the volleyballs, either. The crew also had to make sure that the balls didn't meet Wilson's heartbreaking end and float away while they were shooting the raft scenes.
It's a miracle that even one ball made it all the way through filming, but somehow, all 20 did. Today, Wilson sells blood-painted Wilson Balls for like $20, and Miller probably audibly groans every time he walks past the sporting goods aisle in Target.
Working With Gremlins' Gizmo Puppet Was A Living Hell
If you're a puppeteer and not Jim Henson, your work is probably wildly underappreciated, given how difficult it is. The reason we now know this is because of how pissed off the puppet people were following the movie Gremlins. It's a movie wherein the main stars are the not-so-distant ancestors of Furbies, and it was a nightmare for all involved.
According to director Joe Dante, "A small army of puppeteers was living beneath each set, controlling rods and levers and staring into video monitors with the picture flipped as in a mirror." That meant that there were a ton of people sitting down there moving bits and pieces of the little mogwai around, glancing at a screen to make sure they were even close to being on the right track.
Gizmo, in particular, was the hardest to operate. The team had designed Gizmo thinking they'd only have to work with the puppet for the first 25 minutes of the movie, because he was supposed to turn evil after that. But then, weeks before shooting started, producer Steven Spielberg decided he loved this barely functional, constantly breaking little fuzzball, and that he should be the hero of the film. So the crew had to improvise. As they toyed around with various rods and levers, they had to make an ongoing list of things that could and could not be done with the Gizmo puppet -- basic stuff like making it walk, or moving its face at all (close-ups were done with a giant animatronic Gizmo head straight out of Hades).
Finally, as they were wrapping up filming, someone made a small suggestion about something they could do with Gizmo, and it actually ended up in the final cut:
Masters Of Sex Had To Go To Ridiculous Lengths To Obtain Vintage Birth Control
Sex Ed has come a long way, but still has a long way to go. And a lot of that is due to the tireless efforts and studies of the researchers Masters and Johnson, who were the primary subjects of the TV show Masters Of Sex. See? It's possible to combine academia and puns.
Because of the subject matter, and because this was a cable show (mostly the second thing), there are a number of sex-related scenes in it. For one sex scene, the crew had to get vintage condoms, but it turned out that little penis-sized tubes were constructed differently 60 years ago. In the '50s, condoms didn't have reservoir tips, which are a pretty important part of their anatomy today. We'll go out on a limb and call it more important than chocolate and fruit flavors and such.
Luckily, the props team was able to find a few boxes of dangerously old condoms at an old drugstore that was closing down, and were able to use them for their vintage sex scene. Not literally use them, mind you; they'd probably disintegrate once applied.
Even harder was the retro diaphragm kit. It's apparently hard to get one without a prescription (preferably from a 120-year-old gynecologist), so the props team was only able to get two from a manufacturer, along with a sizing kit from Planned Parenthood.
Notice the little holes in there? That's a Planned Parenthood trick. They poke holes in their kits so that nobody will steal them. That's smart -- these people probably deserve, just a thought, some funding or something.
The Orange Trash Couch From The Wire Cost $5,000
The Wire is perhaps the greatest series in television history, with ideas reverberating through its five seasons like the themes of a great novel. And so when the first episode had the Pit Boys hanging out on their orange couch in the middle of the projects, the crew knew it was an iconic locale that was sure to be revisited.
Just kidding, they tossed it in the garbage as soon as the pilot was done.
Ironically, the couch had been a dumpster find in the first place. However, rather than go dumpster diving yet again and praying to the ghost of Oscar the Grouch that they could find a new one, they decided to start from scratch. This was a whole process in itself. The couch was made from orange crushed velvet -- words that you'll notice are rarely put together in such a manner. Flava Flav himself would not buy furniture that looked like that. They finally managed to find someone who had a bunch of it in bloody London, and were able to have them ship that over for a replica couch to get made. Then they had to further damage it by "aging" it and pulling out bits of stuffing to match the original. All in all, it cost them a cool five grand, which is more than most people will spend on any one piece of furniture in their lifetimes.
Twilight's Uncanny Valley Baby Was Even More Horrifying In Person
The Twilight movies had a surprising amount of action and plot, given that they were based on books that were 80 percent adjectives and similes. But by the time they got to Breaking Dawn, the films were running on fumes, and nowhere was that more evident than with the infant Renesmee (yes, that's a character's name), the half-human, half-vampire spawn of Edward and Bella. Renesmee was eventually portrayed as a child by actress Mackenzie Foy, but for the scenes wherein she's a super-smart baby, she's played by a mass of unnerving CGI.
Believe it or not, this was the least creepy option available. When they shot the scene, the "baby" present on set looked like this:
Rather than trying to get a real baby to act, the props department tried to create an animatronic doll for the part, and ended up with that ... thing. If an actual woman had birthed that, she'd have demanded a refund from the hospital and speedy divorce. The crew went so far as to rename the doll "Chuckesmee," an affront to both Chucky and the concept of names in general.
What makes this even sadder is that the crew had to decide between CGI and animatronics, and ended up having to CGI over it anyway, so it's more or less a circle of life that nobody wants to sing about. Since Twilight is basically the first full series about vampires and werewolves to not be at least kind of scary, maybe it's some sort of lesson. Is the real "monster" the terrible life lessons we hand down to our children? Who's to say?
Isaac now thinks puppets are infinitely more terrifying than clowns. Follow him on Twitter.
Real talk though, the Twilight novels are just fascinating reads.
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