In Oscar Wilde’s 1889 essay The Decay of Lying, he suggested that “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” While Wilde wasn’t necessarily saying that life instinctually imitates art, he certainly felt that life found a way to express itself through imitation. Life is imitative of art. Of course it is. It’s no different with the movies. People imitate things they see in the movies all the time. It’s only natural. Most of us copy the way a character acts or maybe something they say, but there are some people who take it to the extreme. With or without film, there will always be people who take it to the extreme.
On the other side of the coin, movies attempt to recreate life and reality as well. The closer to reality a movie can get, the more it can impact the audience. The same goes for movie violence. The more realistic violence is, the more it shocks us. Sometimes, however, movies get uncomfortably close to reality, close enough that it can be a little too jarring for the audience. Filmmakers want their movies to have an impact on the audience, but most of them want it done in good taste. Likewise, the audience wants movies that discuss realistic events, we want them to be as realistic as possible, but we usually want there to have been a fair amount of time in between the real incident and the fictional account, otherwise it can look like someone is trying to capitalize on “blood money.” When the movie comes out too soon after a tragic event, it runs the risk of feeling too real. After all, movies are supposed to be an escape from the ugliness of reality, not a shocking reminder of it.
The movies on this list were a little too close to reality. Their events were reminders of real world tragedies that had just occurred and the filmmakers felt it was best to delay, cancel or change the films. Here are 15 Movies Postponed Due to Real World Tragedies.
15. Gangster Squad
In one of the early trailers for Gangster Squad, a scene that shows people being shot and killed in the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre was the cause of some potential controversy. During this time, before the film was released, the horrific, real life mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater took place causing the filmmakers to scramble. Anticipating the public outcry, the filmmakers decided to pull the trailer that showed the theater scene and called the cast back in to reshoot a replacement scene, delaying the movie into the next year, 2013. For the filmmakers, the scene would be far too uncomfortable for movie-goers, who are sitting in a theater watching a scene about a mass shooting in a theater that reminds them of the recent real life shooting in a theater. Here’s what lead actor, Josh Brolin had to say: “The movie theatre sequence was too exact. It’s not like you change the scenes because you let [the murderer] win by manipulating everything and letting him control all this other stuff because of the psychotic decision and manifestation of himself. It was too similar. It was gross it was so familiar. There was no decision to be made.”
14. The Good Son
The British release of The Good Son, starring Macaulay Culkin, was canceled outright after the real life murder of the child James Bulger, was too similar to the events in the movie and potentially too distressing for British audiences. The Good Son focuses in on Culkin’s obsession with death and his general creepiness. The entire movie revolves around Culkin’s character trying to kill Elijah Wood, and whether or not he killed his own brother earlier. The real life murder of Bulger was committed by two 10-year old boys, so the Brits were not having any of that movie. Child on child violence makes pretty much everyone uncomfortable, which is what makes Child’s Play so good. It’s less shocking when one of the children is a doll. When you really break it down, Culkin was playing a psychotic child in Home Alone as well. This kid was definitely trying to murder the home invaders, which I guess is self defense, but still. He’s always had some issues.
13. Men In Black II
The release date for Men in Black II was pushed back after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Not only does the film deal with terrorism in part, albeit from aliens, the final scene involved an alien swarm coming out of the World Trade Center and needed to be reshot. The filmmakers decided to take out any shot of the towers to avoid unwanted reminders for the audience, though there is still a sign on the highway for the World Trade Center exit. If the original ending was left in, think of all the alien conspiracy theories that would have been started.
12. Gone Baby Gone
Ben Affleck‘s directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone centers around the disappearance and media craze of an abducted little girl in Boston. Though the movie was met with early successes in the box offices everywhere it was released, Disney UK pulled the film from theatres because of its eerie resemblance to the real life abduction of Madeleine McCann. McCann was a little girl from the UK that was abducted from a resort in Portugal while the family and friends were on vacation. The big focus surrounding proper parenting in both the film and the case and just the general details of the crime, were all too similar. While it was not Affleck’s decision to pull the film, he did go on record afterward saying that he agreed with the decision and it was “in good taste.” Even though the film’s concept predated the real crime, it does run the risk of looking opportunistic.
11. Phone Booth
Originally set for a release in November of 2002, Phone Booth, starring Colin Farrell, was delayed until April 2003 because of the real world events that took place in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC in October 2002. Phone Booth, a movie about a man held down in phone booth by a sniper, looked far too similar to the very real Beltway sniper attacks, a series of attacks that took place over three weeks and resulted in the deaths of 10 people. Both the movie and the attacks involved unseen snipers shooting at innocent people, so the filmmakers thought it was best not to draw those comparisons so close to such a tragedy. It’s very likely that the randomness of the events would be interpreted as too similar to be purely coincidental, even though they most definitely were.
On the day of Michael Jackson‘s death, Sacha Baron-Cohen‘s film, Bruno, was set to debut in theatres across the United States. In the original cut, there was a scene in which Bruno and La Toya Jackson, Michael’s sister, enjoy some sushi off of a very husky naked man. While there were no jokes directly at the expense of Michael, it is obviously a large enough statement that Jackson would willingly eat sushi off of a naked person. Baron-Cohen must have felt that the family had suffered enough and the joke would be in bad taste to release as is, so he had the scene cut from the theatrical release, mere hours before it was set to show. Not only is that impressive work by the theatre crews and the Bruno team, but it also speaks to Sacha Baron-Cohen as a person, someone who people often criticize for having no ethical or moral boundaries.
9. The Time Machine
Before the release of the film The Time Machine (2002), the horrible events of September 11, 2001 took place. The filmmakers recognized that in one of the scenes, New York 2037, bits of the Moon start to break off and crash onto some buildings. As this moon and building debris come down, it looked too familiar to the camcorder footage of 9/11. Rather than postpone and the release of the film, the filmmakers were able to digitally edit the shot, adding in lava from the ground and eliminating the falling debris, avoiding any potential shock it could have given to viewers. It’s interesting to note that when Guy Pearce is running down the street, seemingly avoiding the lava, he’s actually dodging falling debris (that has since been taken out). His actions from the original scene were not reshot after the moon and building debris were digitally taken out.
8. Teaching Mrs. Tingle
Originally titled Killing Mrs. Tingle, the film Teaching Mrs. Tingle altered its title and pushed back its initial release date to distance itself from the Columbine High School Massacre. Largely due to the public outcry about violence in the media, the filmmakers were also pressured to adjust the title to something more suitable. The release date was pushed back because of the content of the film, a plot centered around high school students trying to kill a teacher and a teacher trying to kill the students. The whole thing was a little too close for comfort for the American public who were still reeling from the gross attacks at Columbine High School. The delay definitely hurt the marketing strategy for the film, but it has picked up a small cult following in recent years.
7. Big Trouble
At first glance, the film Big Trouble, which was set for release in late September, 2001, has nothing to do with the real world attacks of September 11, 2001. Yet, because of one scene that involves sneaking a weapon of mass destruction and a gun on an airplane, the movie was delayed until April of 2002. Even in a comedy like this, any reference that makes light of airport security was deemed far too risky to show to American audiences. The delayed release allowed for some much needed distance between movie and reality, though it didn’t help with the overall numbers. The film was delayed because of a bomb, but, in the end, it was itself a box-office bomb.
6. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
After the star of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Heath Ledger, died, filming for the movie was halted indefinitely. Thought to be completely done and over with, the film was picked up about a month later after Colin Farrell, Jude Law and Johnny Depp offered to step in and fill in Hedger’s role. In what turned out to be quite an interesting shoot, the film was completed with the work that Ledger had already shot, plus the work of the other three film giants. It is also interesting to note that the salaries for Law, Depp and Farrell were all donated to Ledger’s young daughter. How sweet.
5. A Clockwork Orange
In perhaps the most startling case of life imitating art, the UK really took to Stanley Kubrick‘s A Clockwork Orange. People took to the film so much so that they started imitating some of the violence in it. Teens dressed up as Alex and his posse to beat up another young boy like Alex and his droogs do in the film; a homeless man was murdered, copying the attacks from the movie’s misguided youths; and a young girl was r*ped by a group of boys singing “singing in the rain,” just as they do in Kubrick’s film. All these scenes that were imitated by some idiots in the UK led to some serious questions asked of the filmmaker. While the police did apply some pressure, the film was eventually pulled from the UK entirely by Kubrick and not reinstated until after his death in 1999. Talk about a few ruining it for many.
4. The Movie O
With an original release date of April 1999, the film O, based on Shakespeare’s Othello, was shelved until 2001 after the Columbine High School Massacre took place in April of 1999. Because the film’s events all take place in and around a high school and involve high school violence, it was decided to try and distance the film as far from the real world tragedy as much as possible. It went through a complete ownership change in the time in between as well. Not many were banking on it having much success after the heated discussions of violence in the media started catching fire.
3. V for Vendetta
Even though the filmmakers have since denied the cause of the delayed release for V for Vendetta, it is still worthy of discussion. Originally, the film was meant to be released on November 4th, 2005, the day before the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Well, the release was pushed back until March 17, 2006— just a random day the following year. The filmmakers suggest that they needed this time to finish up some visual effects, but in 2005, the 7/7 attacks in London had the UK audience on edge about terrorism and the film’s central plot is, in a way, glorifying terrorism—not really the best timing to generate sympathy for an antihero like that of V in V for Vendetta. So, it’s either that or the visual effects thing. I know where my vote would go.
2. Collateral Damage
Set to release in October 2001, Collateral Damage starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was delayed until February 2002 after the attacks of September 11, 2001. In the film, a terrorist bomb kills a few American citizens, including the Arnold’s wife and kid, but the U.S. refuses to do anything about it. This leaves Arnold to go over there and take care of the matter by himself, something Arnold tends to do quite well. This plotline, while potentially satisfying for some American audience members, was too much of a reminder of the real life terrorism which had just taken place. The delay was just one of many that resulted from the 9/11 attacks.
1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
On the day of the first screen test for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. Because Kubrick’s film contained two jokes that involved the president, the film needed to be edited and delayed. The first scene involved a mention of Dallas, which was changed to Vegas. The second scene was at the ending and involved a pie fight. During the pie fight, the President is hit in the face with a pie and someone yells, “Gentlemen! Our gallant young president has been struck down in his prime!” This entire scene was taken out of the final cut to avoid hurting the Kennedy family and the American people any worse than they already were.
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