Did I say, "your" favorite movies? My deepest apologies: I meant, "my" favorite movies--amazing (by my standards) photographs from behind the scenes of some of my favorite films. Still, my taste in movies is mostly based on a nostalgia that must be shared by some in my generation, and some of the cinema referenced here is universally acclaimed and beloved. None of these images come from behind the scenes of any particularly obscure movies either, but they do come to you from pretty deep into the light web.
The moments pictured here come from behind the scenes of twelve verifiably popular films or "cult classics" that presumably have small but fervently loyal followings. Yes, there is always the chance that I just call some of these films cult classics to delude myself into thinking there is a hoard of like-minded secret fans somewhere out there, sharing in my singular movie preferences. I could also be fooling myself thinking that these movies are on anybody else's “favorites” list but my own. Regardless, enjoy these 12 shots from behind the scenes of some damn good films if I do say so myself... and I do.
The Neverending Story is one of the myriad tween-friendly, live action fantasy films that were released in the 80s to pacify and entertain the kids who became Generation X. Labyrinth, starring David Bowie as a glam rock goblin king, The Princess Bride, with its classic quotables and comedic edge, The Dark Crystal, and Return to Oz, are just a handful of other such films, most of which eventually earned the title cult classic and almost all which made use of Jim Henson's puppets. The 25-person team it took to control the hand-crafted, Falcor the Luck Dragon, from The Neverending Story, pictured above.
Before Super 8 rebooted the outcast –kids -befriend-misunderstood –alien -or- robot genre, angsty and undamaged preteens alike had E.T. The Extraterrestrial; another in the aforementioned slew of 80s fantasy/sci-fi films that used puppets and kicked off at least one starlet's career (7-year old Drew Barrymore won Best Young Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture for her part). Much of the movie was filmed on studio soundstages or in and around Los Angeles proper, which begs the question, what prevented cast and crew from hauling the full-scale alien puppet, seen miniaturized here, up to the Hollywood hills, and filming this sequence in live action?
Even if a picture is worth a thousand words, there is no way to deduce from this candid photograph what director Francis Ford Coppola is trying to get across to established method actor Marlon Brando, and relatively green method actor Al Pacino; all we can really tell is that Brando finds whatever Coppola is saying much more amusing than Pacino does. Both men were intense, as actors and as their characters in 1972's The Godfather. This image made the list as it is one of the few from in front or behind the scenes of this film showing the title character (actor) catching a laugh with (the man playing) his son.
This may be one of the first times that the actors playing on-screen rivals-then-friends Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) spent time together discussing the script for A New Hope, the movie that kicked off the Star Wars cinematic universe like a Big Bang in 1977. Back then, the movie was just called Star Wars and studio executives and the talking heads of Hollywood were doubtful it would be anything but a dud. For the uninitiated who are just joining in on the third trilogy, this is what the murdered guy (left) and the old guy (right) at the end of The Force Awakens used to look like.
You may be wondering at this point why there are so many pictures from behind the scenes of films made before 1990. The answer to that question is mainly that, thanks to social media and the Internet, there is no such thing as an obscure backstage photo; everybody has seen every production shot months before films are released now. So, we have to look to the past for pictures you, the lucky reader, might not have seen before. As a fan of the Halloween franchise in its entirety, one might expect the actor behind the mask pictured here to be drinking a can of Dr. Loomis soda.
Back before Tom Cruise proved to be an emotionally volatile Scientologist with opinions about psychiatry and a Napoleon complex, this silver-screen mainstay could get away with tongue-in-cheek gestures like those pictured above. Based on the aviator sunglasses, I would venture to guess that this possibly-Polaroid was snapped on the set of 1986's runaway hit, Top Gun, which helped launch Cruise and co-star Val Kilmer, to stardom. Through the 90s, Cruise's reputation and clout grew, but around the turn of the millennium, his sense of humor and humility had disintegrated. Tom's cameo in 2008's Tropic Thunder proved to some he can now make fun of himself.
Usually looking behind the curtain ruins that sense of movie magic, but in films where central character after central character is brutalized, it is almost a relief to see the fake dead come back to real life; to learn about the squibs and cornstarch behind all the bullet holes, broken/bruised limbs, and gushing wounds that punctuate every modern gangster movie or television show. Here we see James Caan as Sonny Corleone, post-mortem, with camera-invisible wiring leading to once and future wounds in Caan's face. Hopefully director Copolla, did not have to reset this scene too many times before wrapping.
Here we see the late, great Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalist, rifle owner, and hallucinogen + stimulant enthusiast, making sure that the actor playing him, Johnny Depp's, prosthetic bald pate is as authentic. The two intensely creative and often reclusive men became friends on the set of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, and Depp can be seen/heard reading some of Thompson's prose to narrate one of several films made about that mythical man. Having taken on Hunter's physical appearance and mannerisms for some time while filming Fear And Loathing, including his trademark erratic mumbling speech pattern, it is no surprise these two grew close.
The two sides of Tyler Durden (played, respectively, by Edward Norton on the left and Brad Pitt on the right) boxing in Fight Club director, David Fincher, as all three laugh at what most likely is a particularly funny take being or daily reel being played back. Then again, it is easy to imagine the trio could be laughing at just about anything if they are on set, given the twisted black comedy that the three ended up putting out to the world. Speaking of humor, Pitt and Fincher have both gone on record to say the film's debut at the Venice Film Festival was met with dead silence, save Pitt and Norton's cracking up.
The most recent behind the scenes photo on the list comes to us from the set of Guillermo del Toro's foray into magical realism, Pan's Labyrinth. You may also not recognize the actor pictured here, Doug Jones, as Abe Sapien from the Hell Boy series. In a synthesis of old and new, the antagonist of the film's lower half is pictured here half-armoured in tangible, fabricated costume parts but his lower right leg is covered in blue screen material that will be CGI'd away. This is pure speculation, but it appears that this backstage shot of El Fauno is one of the few taken before his lower half had been fully constructed.
Cross-referencing this image with pictures of acclaimed filmmaking duo, the Coen Brothers, and taking into account the eighteen years that have passed since this cult classic was released, I would venture to guess that is older brother, Joel, standing next to Jeff Bridges on set. Seeing The Dude himself in full makeup/costume juxtaposed against the director's muted look is one thing, but seeing him calm and composed while standing in one of the backdrops for the 'trippiest' sequence in the movie is at once confusing and comical, a quality shared by and that endeared a generation to The Big Lebowski.
It would be interesting to know if George Lucas planned on using this model or the concept of a moon-sized military base that doubles as a weapon capable of destroying planets as a plot point in every Star Wars Universe story ever told. Chances are Lucas did not expect Star Wars to launch a franchise that would be lucrative for the rest of his life, let alone did he think he was creating something that would be incorporated into popular culture and our collective consciousness. The half-made "deathstar" pictured here is just one of many nouns from "...a galaxy far, far away" that are now known in this galaxy.