May 13, 2024 | Sammy Tran

These 15 Films Were Behind-The-Scenes Disasters


Hollywood Is No Fairy Tale

From Toy Story 2 to Apocalypse Now to Titanic, some of the greatest films of all time have been behind-the-scenes disasters.

Behind-The-Scenes-Msn

The Wizard Of Oz

Behind the scenes, The Wizard of Oz was downright dangerous. Margaret Hamilton—who starred as the Wicked Witch of the West—was a victim of a stunt gone so wrong. She sustained terrible burns on her face and hand. Hamilton had to be rushed to the hospital, but she wasn't the only one.

Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz (1939)Insomnia Cured Here, Flickr

The Tin Man's Woes

Buddy Ebsen was the first actor cast as the Tin Man, and there was pure aluminum in his makeup. Unfortunately the pure aluminum he inhaled led to a near-fatal disaster. One night, he began struggling to breathe. To recover, he had to spend two weeks in an oxygen tent.

The Wizard Of OzNBC, Wikimedia Commons

Toy Story 2 

Toy Story 2 was almost lost forever. You see, one of the animators made a mistake, pressing a command that erased about 90% of the film. It shouldn't have been a problem because there were backups—but in a horrifying twist, the backup system malfunctioned.

Toy Story 2Walt Disney, Toy Story 2 (1999)

To Infinity And Beyond

If not for one saving grace, Toy Story 2 would have had to be remade from scratch. The supervising technical director, Galyn Susman, had all the files because she'd been working from home. Using Susman's files, the crew managed to piece the movie back together.

Galyn Susman at eventFred Duval, Shutterstock

Predator

Everything went wrong during the filming of 1987's Predator. First, there was the initial Predator suit which "looked like a guy in a lizard suit with the head of a duck". 

This stalled production for weeks while the crew waited for a better suit to be made. And that wasn't all.

 PredatorTwentieth Century, Predator (1987)

Suffering In The Jungle

The cast had to face the jungle's extreme conditions while performing rigorous training drills. As well, due to contaminated water and food, many members of the crew got sick.

Even Arnold Schwarzenegger ate some street food that made him so ill—he had to wear an IV bottle while filming.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in PredatorTwentieth Century, Predator (1987)

Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now was such a disaster, the production inspired the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. 

Apocalypse NowZoetrope, Apocalypse Now (1979)

The Problem With Brando

Marlon Brando may be considered one of history's best actors—but when it came to Apocalypse Now, he was dreadfully unprepared. Not only did he not known his lines, but he was also overweight. 

Apocalypse NowZoetrope, Apocalypse Now (1979)

Halting Production

Everything was put on hold for nine days so that Coppola could work with Brando, reading the script out loud to him. But he wasn't the only struggling actor on set.

Apocalypse NowZoetrope, Apocalypse Now (1979)

An Actor On The Edge

Struggling with his mental health, Martin Sheen asserted that he wanted to take his own life three times. He also suffered a serious heart attack and a nervous breakdown.

Apocalypse NowZoetrope, Apocalypse Now (1979)

He Risked It All

The director of Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola used millions of his own money to back the film. His mounting stress led to an epileptic seizure. He later confessed, "We had access to too much money and little by little we went insane".

Francis Ford Coppola in blue shirtBernard Gotfryd, Wikimedia Commons

Deliverance

During the filming of 1972's Deliverance, director John Boorman put his actors in serious danger because he wanted the scenes to look as authentic as possible. Instead of using stuntment, the actors faced the perilous rapids themselves.

Deliverance (1972)Warner Bros., Deliverance (1972)

Real Danger

Actor Burt Reynolds claimed that John Boorman filmed Deliverance in chronological order for a reason. The director supposedly said, "If one of you drowns, I can write that into the script".

Nobody drowned, but there were some terrible injuries.

Deliverance (1972)Warner Bros., Deliverance (1972)

No Escape

The actors in Deliverance had a miserable time. Burt Reynolds injured his tailbone on a rock, Ned Beatty got trapped in a current, Jon Voight almost tumbled off a cliff, and Ronny Cox got thrown out of his canoe and had to be saved.

Deliverance (1972)Warner Bros., Deliverance (1972)

The Abyss

James Cameron has a reputation for being "the scariest man in Hollywood"—and 1989's The Abyss might explain why. Nearly the entire film took place underwater, and some have even referred to it as "the toughest movie shoot in movie history".

James CameronGage Skidmore, Flickr

No Stuntmen Allowed

For The Abyss, the actors did the dangerous stunts themselves, even getting scuba diving certifications. But tragically, all the time spent in underwater—up to 12 hours a day—led to some chilling experiences for the cast.

The AbyssTwentieth Century, The Abyss (1989)

A Nasty Turn Of Events

During filming, both Ed Harris and James Cameron almost drowned, while Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio completely broke down. As well, the working conditions got downright nasty.

Sometimes the dives were so deep—the actors had no choice but to use their wetsuits as toilets. 

The AbyssTwentieth Century, The Abyss (1989)

A Different Title

The six months spent working on The Abyss was such a nightmare for the crew that they began giving it alternative titles, like Life's Abyss and Then You Dive.

1989's The AbyssTwentieth Century, The Abyss (1989)

Monty Python And The Holy Grail

Monty Python and the Holy Grail may be a romp, but this low-budget comedy was a terrible experience for everyone involved. Due to Scotland's dismal weather, the actors were soaked and cold for most of the time—and John Cleese called it a "miserable, miserable time!" 

Even the first day of production was a bad omen.

Monty Python and the Holy GrailPython (Monty) Pictures, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Off To A Bad Start

Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam were first-time directors on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. While trying to get the very first shot, their camera broke. Though they managed to wrangle up a second one, they didn't have any sound for their first day.

Monty Python and the Holy GrailPython (Monty) Pictures, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

As a standalone prequel to the original Star Wars films, Rogue One gave Disney a terrible headache. After reviewing the first cut of the film, they were not satisfied—so they went back to the drawing board.

Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryLucasfilm, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

A Different Ending

Disney hired Tony Gilroy to rework Rogue One's script. It took months for the crew to reshoot scenes with brand new dialogue. According to rumors, this changed about 40% of the original material—especially the ending.

Tony Gilroy in suitEva Rinaldi, Flickr

The Crow

The Crow might be considered one of the most cursed productions in movie history. It could have been the foundation for Brandon Lee's promising career—but instead, it ended in tragedy.

The Crow (1994)Miramax, The Crow (1994)

Gone Too Soon

During filming, a prop revolver accidentally ended Bruce Lee's life, which was determined as "negligence on the part of the film's crew, not foul play". But that wasn't all.

The Crow (1994)Miramax, The Crow (1994)

Mistakes Galore

In addition to Lee's sad end, a stuntman sustained injuries from a terrible fall and a screwdriver went through a carpenter's hand. The abysmal weather conditions also led to delays, and on one occasion, a crane interfered with a live power line.

The Crow (1994)Miramax, The Crow (1994)

He Didn't Finish His Scenes

After Lee's passing, Paramount gave up on The Crow. Luckily, Miramax decided to take the project on. Lee had already filmed most of his scenes, so the studio just had to fill in the blanks with computer effects.

The Crow (1994)Miramax, The Crow (1994)

Three Kings

On the set of 1999's Three Kings, director David O Russell and George Clooney had a bitter rivalry. Clooney claimed that Russell often berated the crew members: "He yelled and screamed at people all day, from day one".

Three Kings (1999)Warner Bros., Three Kings (1999)

Clooney's Worst Experience

Though Russell does have a reputation for being a difficult director, his intimidation tactics on the set of Three Kings made Clooney see red. According to Clooney, their working relationship even got physical at one point.

The actor later called it, "the worst experience of my life".

Three Kings (1999)Warner Bros., Three Kings (1999)

Titanic

James Cameron's The Abyss may have been a trying experience, but the director wasn't about to change his ways anytime soon. Titanic, with a shocking budget of $100 million—and which grew to over $200 million—was also an ordeal for its cast and crew.

Jack and Rose on TitanicParamount , Titanic (1997)

So Much Work

With a massive budget behind him, Cameron didn't hold back. He had a set that stretched six acres, built a replica of the original Titanic, as well as a water tank that could hold 17 million gallons of water. 

On top of that, the filming conditions were horrendous.

Titanic post sinkingParamount , Titanic (1997)

Chilled To The Bone

The lengthy amount of time the actors had to spent submerged in frigid water took its toll. Many crew member ended up coming down with the flu. But it was Cameron's wild temper that made things even more difficult.

Titanic - Jack sees Rose for the First TimeParamount , Titanic (1997)

Too Much Rage

Kate Winslet, who played the lead character Rose, later confessed, "You would have to pay me a lot of money to work with Jim again. If anything was the slightest bit wrong, he would totally lose it. It was hard to concentrate when he was shouting and screaming".

Titanic (1997)Paramount , Titanic (1997)

The African Queen

Back in 1951, Hollywood productions usually didn't travel to distant filming locations like the Congo or Uganda. However, this was not the case for John Huston's The African Queen. Unfortunately, the entire experience was a downright horror story.

The African Queen (1951)Romulus Films, The African Queen (1951)

Everyone Was Sick

Almost everyone fell ill dysentery or malaria during the production. Drinking the contaminated water was likely one of the biggest roots of the problem. Due to the sickness going around, production halted on multiple occasions—but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

 Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen (1951)Romulus Films, The African Queen (1951)

The Locals Didn't Trust Them

Director John Huston later confessed that he'd tried to involve the locals—but they were reportedly terrified of the film crew because they believed they might be cannibals. 

However, it was the actress Katharine Hepburn who summed up the experience best.

Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen (1951)Romulus Films, The African Queen (1951)

Hepburn Never Forgot It

The African Queen certainly left an impression on Katharine Hepburn, because she wrote a memoir about the whole fiasco: The Making of the African Queen: Or, How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind.

Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen (1951)Romulus Films, The African Queen (1951)

Sorcerer

Director William Friedkin called the production of 1977's Sorcerer "life-threatening" and "irresponsible". Due to the lack of CGI at the time, so many of the scenes required rigorous work. It didn't help that that filming took place in the heart of the South American jungle.

Sorcerer (1977)Universal, Sorcerer (1977)

The Dangers Of Disease

Filming in the jungle for 10 months was a hazard to the cast and crew's health. Not only did Friedkin get malaria, but a whopping 50 members of his team fell ill with a number of diseases and even gangrene. So many of them had to be replaced.

Sorcerer (1977)Universal, Sorcerer (1977)

A Hard Learning Experience

Down the road, director William Friedkin admitted, "The conditions were literally horrible, but to me it was an adventure and an education. I had kind of a sleepwalker's security that I could pull it off. I would never attempt anything like that today. No way. I was too dumb to realize how dangerous it was".

Filmmaker William Friedkin, photographed during the 2017 Sitges Film FestivalGuillemMedina, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Emperor's New Groove

The Emperor's New Groove was originally going to be called Kingdom of the Sun. Disney had also intended it to be a full-blown musical, led by the work of Sting himself. So why did the whole plan change?

The Emperor's New GrooveWalt Disney, The Emperor's New Groove (2000)

To Sing Or Not To Sing

Unfortunately, during the mid-90s, animated musicals weren't doing so so hot—and so, the Emperor's New Groove got pushed to the side. So many of the original cast lost their jobs.

When the film finally came out in 2000, most of Sting's musical stylings had been cut.

The Emperor's New GrooveWalt Disney, The Emperor's New Groove (2000)

Creative Differences

Two years after the release of The Emperor's New Groove, Sting's wife made an eye-opening documentary called The Sweatbox. It illustrated the all of the turmoil behind the scenes—and the creative differences that transformed the trajectory of the movie.

Trudie Styler  Sting's wifeGabboT, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Bourne Identity

The Bourne Identity might be one of the most successful franchises in Hollywood—but getting it off the ground was a nightmare. Firstly, there was the director.

The Bourne Identity (2002)Universal, The Bourne Identity (2002)

A Flawed Script

Director Doug Liman reportedly feuded with almost everyone—and he and the screenplay writer Tony Gilroy were at each other's throats throughout the process. Liman went so far as to hire a new writer, William Blake Herron, to start the script from scratch. But this only caused more trouble.

Doug LimanGage Skidmore, Flickr

An Angry Actor

Matt Damon was not pleased with the script changes, and allegedly wanted to walk out on the project because he despised it so much. Thankfully, there was a silver lining.

The Bourne Identity (2002)Universal, The Bourne Identity (2002)

Feuding Directors

Universal Studios stepped in and brought Frank Marshall on board. Reportedly, Marshall took command of most of the filming, clashing with Liman at every turn. 

In the end, The Bourne Identity exceeded its budget. It also came out a year late after requiring four series of reshoots. 

Frank Marshall in suit looking at the cameralev radin, Shutterstock

Frank Marshall Saved The Day

Years later, in 2018, Matt Damon praised Frank Marshall's work: "Had it not been for Frank, we never would have had a franchise. It would have been just one and done. Instead, it became a 15-year project for all of us".

Matt Damon on the red carpetAlex Millauer, Shutterstock


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