The making of these movies was marred by strange happenings, catastrophes, weather, tragedy, illness or even death. But most of them managed to do well at the box office.
Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola, 1979
The amount of trouble and drama that surrounded the making of Apocalypse now is shocking. During the shooting of this film in Philippines, several things happened; including a typhoon that destroyed the sets and illness. Coppola was driven to a breaking point and the star, Martin Sheen also had a heart attack and he was just 38.
Fitzcarraldo – Werner Herzog, 1982
A dangerous sequence had to be shot, because Herzog didn’t want to use any special effects. It was the story of a music fanatic who wants to construct an opera house in a jungle and Herzog made his cast and crew haul a steamship over the mountain. He hired local Indians for the feat. The steamship was huge with a 320-ton weight. As if this was not enough, heavy rains, casting problems where lead actor Jason Roberts fell ill and had to be replaced with Klaus Kinski, Mick Jagger had to drop out for a Rolling Stones concert and a border war had to break out at that time between Peru and Ecuador.
The Twilight Zone: The Movie – John Landis, 1983
Lead actor Vic Morrow and two child actors, Renee Chen and My-ca Dinh Le were filming a scene where they had to go back in time to the Vietnam War. In a dangerous special effects explosion for this Vietnam War scene, a helicopter lost control and crashed on them, killing all three. This tragedy saw Landis and other crew members being charged with involuntary manslaughter; although, they were later acquitted after pleading not guilty.
Cleopatra – Joseph Mankiewicz – 1963
We all know how beautiful Elizabeth Taylor looked in this historical epic. But what we don’t know is that the shooting went on for years and years with the production being interrupted several times due to Taylor’s illnesses. Once, severe pneumonia almost killed her and she even underwent an emergency tracheotomy. That’s not all, the affair between Burton and Taylor that mushroomed during the filming was also quiet scandalous. The movie went way over budget and at around $60 million was considered to be one of the most expensive movies ever made. Finally, it was completed in the hands of a new director.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote – Terry Gilliam, Not completed
Terry Gilliam was destined to be doomed from day one of shooting. Jean Rochefort, the lead actor fell ill almost as the shooting began and he had to be admitted to hospital. This was followed by calamities, with a flash flood washing away the complete set in northern Spain. Johnny Depp, who was also in the film could not wait forever for Rochefort to recover because of other commitments, and that led to Gilliam abandoning the film altogether. In 2002, a documentary named, “Lost in La Mancha” was made chronicling the whole shoot. However, the director supposedly said that the shooting will begin soon; although, there is no indication of who would star in the film.
The Crow – Alex Proyas, 1994
It is inevitable that Brandon Lee is mentioned when writing about movie set disasters. He was the lead actor and died during the making of this film. He was doing a shot where he walks in and finds his girlfriend being attacked. One of the attackers was to turn and fire a dummy at Lee. But he was actually shot on the sets by a misloaded prop gun, resulting in his death 12 hours later. The death of the son of Bruce Lee, who himself died in bizarre circumstances, added to the eerie feeling, as the film itself is dark and is about a man who returns from the dead.
Aguirre: The Wrath of God – Werner Herzog, 1972
Herzog is a controversial director and he has encountered several unique and bizarre circumstances during his shootings. While on the location for Aguirre, he threatened to shoot Klaus Kinski, when the actor wanted out of the film. The story goes that Herzog saw Kinski packing his stuff into a speed boat to escape, when he told him that he would have eight bullets in his head before he reached the next bend of the river. Although, Herzog denied at that time that he wielded a gun, he did say he had a gun on the sets.
Dancer in the Dark – Lars von Trier, 2000
This director has the dubious reputation of being not too kind to his actors. This film debus Icelandic singer Bjork, and rumors go that she was so upset that se ate her own cardigan during the shoot. According to Von Trier, Bjork would say every day that she despised him and spat at him. This experience proved to be so traumatic for Bjork that she never wanted to act again.
Million Dollar Mystery –Richard Fleischer, 1987
Dar Robinson, a famous Hollywood stuntman fell over a cliff and died during the filming of an advertisement for Glad Bags, as the movie was co-financed by Glad and DeLaurentiis Entertainment. Dar, who was a stuntman for 19 years and never suffered a broken bone, sailed over the edge of a cliff while filming a motorcycle drive-by.
Heaven’s Gate – Michael Cimino, 1980
This Western proved to be disastrous with the budget of $8 million ballooning to $36 million. The critics had a field day slamming this film and it went on to bomb at the box office too. This paved the way for the sale of United Artists to MGM. This huge failure is considered to be one of the biggest in the history of Hollywood.