At some point in life, everyone dreams of being in the movie business, whether behind the camera or in front. The glitz, glamour and fame present a dream-like environment where creative professionals work together in a fun, collaborative manner to produce cinema magic for all to see. Sure, every movie set has its difficulties and for many collaborators, hardships result in stronger films and closer friendships. This is not always the case.
Certain films are an absolute nightmare to produce thanks to inflated egos, harsh shooting conditions, rivalries between cast and crew, and downright irresponsible activities on set. That’s right - hidden behind forced smiles and awkward hugs at press junkets, a less magical side of the industry lays dormant. A side that reveals a fundamental truth about human beings: Sometimes people just don’t get along.
Several entries on this list managed to survive their production issues and emerge on other side as critically acclaimed films. For others, the bad blood behind the scenes became so insurmountable it affected the work itself, resulting in final products impossible to watch without noticing the on-set tension.
Here are 15 films with serious tension behind the scenes.
15 Mad Max – Fury Road
Nominated for 10 academy awards, this masterpiece of practical action filmmaking didn’t go without a hitch. In an interview with Esquire magazine, star Charlize Theron explained that she and co-star Tom Hardy “f*****’ went at it” on set whilst “on other days, [Hardy] and George went at it. It was the isolation, and the fact that we were stuck in a rig for the entire shoot.”
Before it was Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man, it was Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man for eight long years of development hell. Up until the release of The Avengers, Wright’s version of the story was a sure-fire winner with a script that Joss Whedon called “the best script that Marvel ever had”. Unfortunately for Wright and his writing partner Joe Cornish, The Avengers made over a billion at the box office, which kick-started a new approach for Marvel Studios Inc.
12 Cop Out
11 The Notebook
The Notebook is a story of lifelong love but stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams were constantly at each other’s throats during the shoot, with Gosling demanding director Nick Cassavetes remove McAdams from the set during a heated argument: “Take her out of here and bring in another actress to read off camera with me?...I can't do it with her. I'm just not getting anything from this.”
10 Fifty Shades of Grey
Despite its underwhelming reception from critics, Fifty Shades of Grey made a killing at the box office and spawned two sequels. This certainly did not mean the film was trouble free. With a controlling author at the helm of a controversial franchise, and a director striving for her own vision of the film, conflict was bound to arise.
9 Terminator Salvation
8 Three Kings
7 The Shining
6 World War Z
A global scale, action-horror film with a director on board known mostly for dramas had a potential for chaos that almost didn’t pay off. The issues started in the writing stage. Marc Forster, the director, wanted more action in the movie but the initial screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski was heavily opposed to the idea and was eventually let go. Forster claimed he had no knowledge of the animosity with Straczynski.
5 Star Wars
When the original Star Wars film was green lit for production, the studio and actors all failed to realise the significance of the movie they were making. In a 2004 documentary titled Empire of Dreams, director George Lucas also revealed that working with the British film crew was no walk in the park. The shoot had to stop at 5:30pm every day because of strict union rules, unless Lucas could win over the crew to keep shooting, which he never could. Lucas also clashed with Gill Taylor the lead cameraman, who took offence to the idea of the young maverick director giving him suggestions.
4 The Island of Dr. Moreau
The events that took place during the making of The Island of Dr. Moreau was director Richard Stanley’s dream project. He secured Marlon Brando for the lead role of Dr. Moreau and Bruce Willis for Edward Douglas, a UN negotiator stranded on the island. Suddenly tragedy struck. Brando’s daughter Cheyenne hanged herself, forcing him to initially drop out. Stanley also lost Wlliis and had to replace him with Val Kilmer, who proved to be a menace, reducing his workload, changing roles and refusing to cooperate with the director during scenes, including one incident where he refused to get up off the floor.
3 The Revenant
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu won Oscars for Writing, Directing and Best Picture at the 87th Academy Awards, before taking on a brutal story of survival and revenge that earned him multiple nominations at the 88th Academy Awards. Iñárritu may have earned respect from every major player in Hollywood, but more than a few members of his crew became disgruntled working with him on The Revenant. The shoot was long and arduous thanks to a combination of hellish weather conditions, treacherous terrain and long hours waiting for the perfect natural light before cameras could even roll on a given day. Several crewmembers dropped off the production during shooting and described the experience as a “living hell”.
2 Fantastic Four (2015)
Now here is a film that definitely suffered from the tension behind the scenes. Director Josh Trank was adopted by 20th Century Fox to be the next J.J. Abrams - a young filmmaker with a unique voice able to inject new life into a stale franchise. For a while this plan had serious traction. The studio welcomed Trank’s pitch for a new Fantastic Four movie with very little micro-management, at least at first. Fox were desperate to hold on to the rights of the Fantastic Four characters so they green lit the production and allowed Trank to cast his controversial first choice for the lead role, Miles Teller. Then filming started, and cracks began to appear.
Trank was a maverick and a loner on set and his focus on a bleak acting style made the performances flat. Kate Mara became Trank’s emotional punching bag, and Miles Teller nearly became Trank’s literal punching bag with the two engaged in an aggressive stand off during one scene. Off set, an article in the Hollywood Reporter suggested Trank had “caused more than $100,000 worth of damage to his rented house in Baton Rouge.”
1 Apocalypse Now
It’s all in the title. Apocalypse Now is the granddaddy of movies with tension behind the scenes. Unlike the previous entry on the list, this masterpiece of practical filmmaking was a certified hit but the disastrous road the cast and crew had to take to make the film make it a wonder they managed to survive the journey at all. Most of all, director Francis Ford Coppola suffered under the mammoth task of controlling a film plagued by misfortune. The set was destroyed by a typhoon, Marlon Brando showed up overweight and underprepared, Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack on set, and Dennis Hopper had a monstrous cocaine habit to satisfy.
Meanwhile Coppola’s recreation of filthy war conditions, made worse by the inclusion of real human corpses to fill out the scenes with dead bodies, led to disease spreading through the cast and crew during shooting. The anxiety of a $30 million personal investment ate away at Coppola as problems increasingly grew on set. At one point he fell victim to an epileptic seizure and also threatened to commit suicide several times but managed to fight through to piece together something spectacular.
There will always be a certain degree of tension on the set of any film. Whether that tension will affect the outcome of the movie – or even add to its creative intensity - is entirely up to the filmmakers, and a source of fascination for film enthusiasts.
Sources: esquire.com, hollywoodreporter.com, cinemablend.com, dailymail.co.uk
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