Cinema's Most Troubled Productions
Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer should have smashed its way into theatres this week, but fell victim to a last minute schedule change (it will now open in limited release on July 18). Boasting an impressive cast that includes Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer and John Hurt, the film follows the inhabitants of a train as it hurtles around a post-apocalyptic snow-covered earth.
It’s a mouth-watering set-up. But amazingly the movie almost didn’t make it to theatres at all. Beset by re-writes, studio in-fighting and seemingly endless production delays, it’s fair to say that the sailing has been far from plain. But Snowpiercer isn’t the first film to suffer a troubled production. So in honour of its arrival join us as we look back at eight of the most troubled productions in cinema history.
World War Z (2013)
Released six months late, World War Z was plagued by budget-overspends, on-set squabbles and even the occasional run-in with Hungarian authorities. In fact it was so bad that Brad Pitt himself described the first cut as “just atrocious.” Nevertheless director Marc Forster somehow managed to bring it back from the brink, turning a movie that many had tagged as a potential turkey into one of the most successful blockbusters of 2013.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Just about everything that could have gone wrong on the set of Apocalypse Now did over the course of 16 disastrous months. For starters Francis Ford Coppola sacked his star, Harvey Keitel, just weeks into filming; replacing him with Martin Sheen who then suffered a heart attack on set. The toughest challenge facing the notoriously troubled production however came from the Mother Nature with typhoons, earthquakes and never-ending rain delaying the shoot for months at a time. When you think about it, it’s amazing the movie ever made it to the multiplex at all.
One of the most expensive flops of all time; this post-apocalyptic tale of mankind’s waterlogged future was a damp squib when it hit cinemas in 1995. Made before the advent of today’s CGI-enhanced movie magic, the film’s aquatic setting proved to be a logistical nightmare that saw the production plunge into the red just months after shooting started. That would prove to be the least of Waterworld’s troubles however as Kevin Costner almost died in one of a number of on-set accidents that doomed the movie to failure before it had even made it to the multiplex.
The Crow (1994)
Everyone knows about the death of its star Brandon Lee, but the tragic accident that took the young actor’s life is just one of the disasters that befell this mid-nineties comic book adaptation. So what else happened? Well, just days after filming began a young stagehand suffered severe burns after an accident involving a high voltage power line, he was followed into the ER by a production assistant who got skewered by a screwdriver and as if that wasn’t enough the entire production as shutdown after a hurricane destroyed a number of sets. Talk about troubled.
Its $44 million budget may look meagre by today’s standards, but adjusted for inflation Cleopatra holds the unenviable title as the most expensive movie ever made. Equivalent to the GDP of a small country, the filmmakers spent money like it was going out of fashion; burning through their budget by building lavish sets, sacking staff and eventually moving the entire production from London to Rome on little more than a whim. It was so expensive in fact that the film would have put its studio, Fox, out of business had it not gone on to bust blocks at the box office.
The Exorcist (1973)
You’ve probably heard of The Exorcist curse, a story that’s wormed its way into pop culture infamy. But whilst we can’t confirm whether an evil spirit inhabited the set of William Friedkin’s iconic scare story we can tell you that it’s one of the most troubled productions to ever come out of Tinseltown. Over budget and over schedule the production was beset by all manner of issues. What started with a fire that wiped out sets and delayed production by six months eventually spiraled into a series of on-set accidents that culminated in actress Ellen Burstyn winding up permanently disabled as a result of a harness stunt gone wrong. Ouch.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Much was expected of McG’s Terminator reboot, so much in fact that the pressure during the production became almost unbearable for the cast and crew. That pressure was there for all to see when Christian Bale’s now infamous rant towards a cinematographer who’d inadvertently wandered into shot was leaked online. The disgruntled actor’s tirade was indicative of the mood on-set, which saw cast and crew at odds with each other from day one.
Alien 3 (1992)
You’d like to imagine that major movies are a well-oiled machine; intricately planned affairs where every penny is accounted for and every shot is planned well in advance. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth, especially if you take this notoriously haphazard Alien threequel as an example. It’s a classic case of too many cooks spoiling the box office broth, as a tug of war between the studio, Sigourney Weaver and first-time director David Fincher led to a disastrous shoot where scripts were written and sets built as the scenes themselves were being shot. To make matters worse the studio suits went behind their director’s back, ordering reshoots and cutting his final film to the point where Fincher eventually disowned the project altogether.
Snowpiercer will open in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver on July 18.