5 Absolutely Bonkers On-set Problems That Almost Derailed Films
Sure, films are a slog to make. But at least they're a well-known slog: you have to deal with actor tantrums, budget issues, studio meddling, and so on. Usually. Sometimes, filmmaking is such a bizarre craft that movies can be stopped in their tracks by the strangest of on-set problems. Like the time ...
Stuart Little Had To Stop Filming Because A Cat's Butthole Fell Out
As the entry title states, yes, a cat's butthole can, indeed, fall out. It's called rectal prolapse (well, a producer on the movie called it "protruding asshole"), and it apparently happens when cats stress the shit out. A part of the rectum falls through the anus, and a cylinder-like mass hangs from the back of the cat like it's furry little Play-Doh squeezer. Anyway, the condition is very treatable, and the kitty should recover, but(t), obviously, you have to stop stressing it out right away and take it to the vet. And when that cat is an actor on a movie set, that means filming stops.
Which is exactly what happened one day on the Stuart Little set. They had to film a scene with the cat, the cat's butthole fell out, and no other cat actors were available that day. So they had to close up shop and start over the next day (with a healthy cat, presumably), meaning that thousands of dollars were lost due to a feline rectal ailment.
Anyway, the whole experience of working with cats is extremely hard on movie sets, because they're cats, and that problem grows exponentially when you have multiple cats interacting, as Stuart Little did. They had eight cats played by 23 different cat actors, to be exact. Which, honestly, means that only having only one jutting butthole for the entire shoot is kind of remarkable.
A Warehouse Used By The World War Z Production Got Raided By A Hungarian Anti-Terrorism Unit
Movie sets are rarely known to double as terrorist havens, but Hungarian authorities weren't convinced that was the case with World War Z. You see, while the film was shooting in Hungary, they had a shipment of rifles delivered to a warehouse at a Budapest airport. But it was just a movie getting a bunch of prop rifles, right? Nothing the authorities would have to take a look at? Apparently not. They turned out to be 100% real, functioning rifles, which are incredibly illegal to transport into the country. That led to Hungary's Anti-Terrorism Unit raiding the warehouse and confiscating all the guns.
So how exactly does a movie set order a bunch of real rifles, anyway? It looks like the problem came down to the fact that the rifles' paperwork described them as non-functional -- in other words, whoever ordered them knew they were the real thing, just no longer usable -- but they turned out to be non-non-functional instead. The Anti-Terrorism Unit took them all and started interrogating everyone connected to them.
This would have been a setback in any situation, but it was particularly bad considering World War Z was already wading through a bunch of other crap when special forces busted into its warehouse. The project was over budget and behind schedule as it was, getting on its host country's bad side and having to suddenly order a bunch of new props didn't help. Brad Pitt was apparently furious (according to a single source on the set, anyway, so take that with a grain of salt), lucky there were no rifles around.
Robocop Almost Fell Through Because Peter Weller Wasn't Walking Right
One of the biggest obstacles in making RoboCop turned out not to be the graphic violence or building ED-209, but instead the way Peter Weller moved his body. It seems deceptively simple, but coming up with a robotic walk that doesn't look like failed breakdancing is actually kind of hard. So hard that Weller found a movement teacher to train with -- Moni Yakim, a big-shot coach who worked with lots of Hollywood stars. Yakim was super, super serious about their work: he and Weller trained for four hours a day over four months, just to make sure RoboCop's walk was precisely the right kind of badass.
Annnd, like Dick Jones, all that hard work came crashing down to Earth when the movie started shooting. Unfortunately, it turned out that Yakim didn't account for the bulk of Weller's suit, and all of Weller's movements looked totally different when he was wearing it. RoboCop's walk was so ridiculous, they stopped shooting. They felt that they had no movie, to the point that even director Paul Verhoeven fell into a depression over the burgeoning failure. They were hemorrhaging money every day because they didn't have a main character and no clear idea of what to do next.
So Weller called up Yakim and basically begged him to come to the set and re-train him. Yakim had other obligations and wasn't too eager, but finally broke down because Weller had become a pretty good friend. When he got to the set, Yakim asked Weller to suit up and busted up laughing when he saw him, saying he looked like a "huge toad." Yakim then asked everyone to clear the set so he and Weller could work. He soon realized that the suit was the issue, which meant they'd have to throw out four months' work on walking rhythm.
Luckily, the other stuff they had worked on was still useful, so all it took was an hour of re-training, and Weller's walk was fine again. When Yakim called back Verhoeven and everyone else, they all agreed this looked good, and, hey, they could finally start shooting again. Which means that Moni Yakim is the unsung savior of the whole RoboCop franchise: according to Weller, if Yakim hadn't come to the set that day, the movie would have fallen apart.
On an amusing note, though, RoboCop still can't run. At some point, someone decided all he could do was walk and officially made that canon. As a result, when comics artist Walter Simonson submitted a cover for a RoboCop comic with Robo running, the powers that be rejected it -- because Robo can't do that.
Platoon Was Almost Sunk By A Civil War
In early 1986, Oliver Stone was getting ready to shoot his Vietnam war movie Platoon in the Philippines. At around the same time, however, the country was close to falling apart. Its dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, had lost an election but had no plans to leave, despite louder and louder (and totally justified) demands that he do just that. The military broke up into two camps, meaning that two heavily armed groups were ready to start fighting each other. The Philippines were on the brink of civil war.
That created massive pressure on Stone back home. Platoon's finance people, the actors' agents, and the actors' parents started calling him -- the parents were especially anxious about their "babies" going to a country that looked like it could blow at any moment. So, pretty much everything was collapsing around him -- and the natural solution would be to just shoot somewhere else, right? Well, that would not only cost a huge amount of money, but it would probably kill the movie's chances of being made. So the Philippines it had to be, and Stone, facing a lack of options, decided to just stall and delay the start of filming by several weeks, hoping that things turned around.
That cost a lot of money too, and even made some actors drop out, forcing Stone to recast their roles. His decision didn't look terribly wise for a short while, since the people already in the Philippines (including Willem Dafoe and Bob Richardson) reported that the streets were "intermittently chaotic." Luckily, though, a few days later, things did turn around: on February 24, Ferdinand Marcos hightailed it out of the country, resolving the whole situation, and Stone got to shoot his damn movie.
1,200 Badly Trained Animals Ruined 1967's Doctor Dolittle Shoot
You probably haven't seen the 1967 Doctor Dolittle movie (or any of the others, for that matter). It may not be a classic, but it does have a couple of claims to fame: 1) this insane scene ...
... and 2) the people who made it inadvertently pioneering new methods of physically and psychologically torturing animals. The root of the situation (the animal harm, not the seal scene) lies in a training screwup. They had trained hundreds of animals in California and were planning to import them from the U.K., where the movie was being shot, but the U.K. had strict quarantine laws at the time that made it impossible to import those animals. Meaning they had to take hundreds of British animals and start training them from scratch. And so they took over 1,200 animals and did just that.
Results ... weren't great. They were so far from great, in fact, that the accounts of how the movie was made sound like a bunch of people doing their best to film scenes in the middle of a zoo with no cages. Also, the animals ate everything -- Squirrels would chew through scenery, forcing the crew to replace it over and over; they had to pump a fawn's stomach after it ate paint; one goat even ate the director's script. Apparently, the sheep really didn't like the lead actor, Rex Harrison, and kept biting him and peeing on him.
One musical number that involved Harrison and a bunch of animals that were supposed to sit still was, as you might expect, a nightmare to shoot. They had to calm down one very excited squirrel, so they fed it gin -- but it worked too well, and the animal passed out like a frat pledge. They soldiered on through this somehow and started doing the first take, which was seemingly going well until a parrot yelled, "Cut!" and Harrison stopped because he thought that was the director talking (it's not clear if they fed the parrot gin after that).
The animals also had some severe problems. The studio filmed in crappy weather, which made a lot of them ill. Plus, a giraffe and a bunch of other animals died during filming. Anyway, this movie was probably single-handedly responsible for the introduction of the "No animals were harmed during the making of this film" disclaimer, and if it wasn't, we don't want to know what more was necessary.
Top image: Paramount Pictures