The Long Road To The Silver Screen

Caption: It’s not always an easy ride from film shoot to the big screen

We recently shared the news that the troubled DC superhero film, Justice League, was to get a fresh release as the Snyder Cut. Problems during production meant that Zack Snyder had to be replaced by Joss Whedon, who created a completely different film to the one that Snyder had intended. Of course, it’s not the first film to experience a rocky road to release, so let’s take a look back at some of the classic cinema catastrophes.

Changing director mid-film is, of course, nothing new. Recent Marvel movie, Ant Man, was the brainchild of Edgar Wright for many years before he left the project due to creative differences, leaving Peyton Reed to complete the film. Fellow Marvel director James Gunn was sacked from the third installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise before fan and cast pressure got him reinstated.

Over the rainbow

Production problems aren’t always related to the director, and often, they’re caused by elements beyond the production crew’s control. Perhaps the most famous troubled production was The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Despite going on to become a cinema legend, and spawning endless songs, sequels and even wizard of oz slots games, the film was initially a commercial flop, recording a $1,145,000 loss against its $2,777,000 budget. Endless production problems plagued the innovative film, ranging from poisoning the Tin Man with aluminum paint to accidentally setting fire to the Wicked Witch. 

Even the fake snow was made of asbestos, exposing both cast and crew to carcinogens. Worse still, 16year-old Judy Garland’s treatment as Dorothy (the second-lowest paid character on set after Toto, the dog) has spawned countless movies of its own, including last year’s Oscar-winning Judy, starring Renee Zellweger.

Caption: The Wizard of Oz costumes caused endless production problems

Battling the elements

Working around the weather and the elements is never easy on a movie set. Filming in Manila for Apocalypse Now was fraught with problems and had to be halted for over a month when a typhoon hit, tearing the movie set apart. The film crew also had to work around Martin Sheen’s heart attack and Marlon Brando’s weight, amongst many other trials and tribulations. 

The resulting problems became a film of their own, with Heart of Darkness chronicling the painful process. Like Justice League, there are numerous different cuts of the final film, ranging from the 147min official release to the 196min Redux and last year’s 182min Final Cut.

It’s no surprise that James Cameron’s multi-Oscar winning epic, Titanic, also faced water problems. Many members of the cast and crew became ill with kidney infections after shooting scenes in a giant tank in Nova Scotia, while lead actress, Kate Winslet, said later that she feared she might drown during some of the shots. Not that filming at sea is any easier. Steven Spielberg’s decision to shoot Jaws in open water delayed the film significantly and extended the shoot from a planned 55 days to a mammoth 159 days. 

Madness leads to genius

Problems with production and directors don’t always negatively impact a film. In fact, sometimes they can make all the difference. Problems with the mechanical shark in the open sea meant that it could not be used as much as originally scripted in Jaws. These issues led to much of the suspense that builds throughout the film as we wait to finally set eyes on the creature. 

Stanley Kubrick’s abrasive directing style and drive for perfection are part of what made The Shining such a success. Despite both being experienced actors, Kubrick drove Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall more than a little crazy during shooting at the Overlook Hotel, and this comes through in their deranged performances, giving the film an authentic edge. It is said that Duvall got so stressed with Kubrick that her hair started to fall out, and she became physically ill

We can also thank Robert Zemeckis’s perfectionism for giving us one of the iconic leading roles of 1980s. Despite having shot over a month of footage for Back to the Future with Eric Stoltz, Zemeckis decided he was not happy with how the film was working out and reshot the lot with Michael J. Fox, mostly working at night around his TV commitments. Today, after three epic adventures, it’s hard to picture anyone else in the Marty McFly role.

Check back through the list above, and you’ll see that most of the biggest problem productions went on to become the biggest hits with both the critics and the box office. It seems that to claim your place amongst the very best, you have to suffer that little bit more for your art. This gives us high hopes that the Snyder Cut of Justice League will turn the average into the truly awesome. 

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