16 Iconic Movies That Almost Didn’t Happen Because Of Terrible Productions

So many people are involved in making movies, that usually they run fairly smoothly from beginning to end. However, sometimes everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. From directors walking off set, to screaming matches between actors, some of the best movies of all time had some of the most tumultuous productions.  Here are 16 iconic movies that almost didn’t happen, because of major setbacks and disagreements.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Judy Garland, Billie Burke, The Wizard of Oz, MGM, 020416
It's hard to believe that MGM's stunning classic only came to be after a horrific production. Things were a hot-mess before filming even got started. Though Victor Fleming is credited as the film's director, there were actually at least five other directors involved at one point or another in the film. The writing room wasn't any better. Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolff are credited as the scriptwriters, but no less than 17 other writers who remain uncredited to this day, had a hand in the masterpiece. Once filming eventually did get underway, the original Tin Man, Buddy Ebsen had to be replaced by Jack Haley because, it turns out, Ebsen was deathly allergic to aluminum. The dog who played Toto was so naughty, that he ruined take after take, and Margaret Hamilton who played the Wicked Witch of the West was severely burned on set. Once production was finally complete, various scenes had to be re-shot, and MGM got many complaints that the film's 2-hour run time was entirely too long (It was 1939 after all). Somehow, despite this terribly tedious and nightmarish production, The Wizard of Oz remains an epic classic today.
Cleopatra (1963)
Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Cleopatra, 20th Century Fox, 020416
20th Century Fox
Everything about Cleopatra was massive. The stars, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were huge, the sets were glamorous, and the budget was on a whole other level.  Originally 20th Century Fox was set to make the film for $2 million dollars, but that number quickly spiraled out of control. Before production even began, the film cost Fox $4 million dollars with, $1 million going to Liz Taylor. Rouben Mamoulian was replaced by director Joseph L Mankievitz shortly after filming began, which of course resulted in delays and various actors quitting and walking off set. The film was initially set to be shot in London, so elaborate sets were built there. However, all of that time, money and effort was wasted when the production was moved to Rome. During this time, Elizabeth Taylor fell seriously ill which resulted in even more delays. By the time filming wrapped, Cleopatra was six hours long, though Fox quickly hacked it down to three. When the film was finally released, it cost the studio $31.1 million dollars (which is $240 million dollars today if we factor in inflation) making it one of the most expensive films ever made. Though the film was a huge hit, it really only made back its budget and Fox was nearly destroyed because of it.
American Graffiti (1973)
Richard Dreyfuss, American Graffiti, Universal Pictures, Everett, 020416
Unviersal Pictures/Everett
You would think that a coming-of-age story set in the 1960's would be a fairly straightforward film to produce. However, American Graffiti proved to be just the opposite. Shooting fell behind schedule almost immediately, and continued to lag when a major crew member was arrested and jailed for growing marijuana. San Rafael City was so annoyed by the production wreaking havoc on their town, that the council withdrew the film's shooting permits two days before the film was set to begin shooting. Once the cameras did get rolling, things only got worse, and this time it was with the actors.  Paul Le Mat ended up in the hospital after a near fatal allergic reaction to a walnut, Richard Dreyfuss busted his head open when Le Mat threw him in a swimming pool, and Harrison Ford was arrested after his involvement in a bar fight. And no, that's not all. A scene on race escalated extremely quickly, and several people were nearly killed. Then, someone set fire to George Lucas' hotel room. After all of this, Universal was not very impressed with the film, and considered making it a TV movie. Luckily, they changed their minds. Somehow, despite its traumatizing and violent production, American Graffitti, Lucas' second feature film is still one of the most acclaimed films of all time. Unfortunately however, this would not be the first Lucas' films plagued by a troubled production.
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Chinatown (1974)
Faye Dunaway, Jack Nicholson, Chinatown, Paramount Pictures, 020416
Paramount Pictures
Conflicts between actors and directors on set are not exactly few and far between. However, what went down between actress Faye Dunaway and director Roman Polanski on the set of Chinatown was beyond the pale. Polanski treated Dunaway like garbage telling her, "Say the fu*king words. Your salary is your motivation!". The final straw came when the notorious director refused her a bathroom break, so Dunaway retaliated by throwing a cup of urine in his face. Still, the tension on set produced one of the greatest films of the noire genre.
Jaws (1975)
Jaws, Universal, Everett, 020416
If you think that shooting a film at sea sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, then you would be correct. However, it wasn't just the sea that plagued Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. The film which was eventually nicknamed "Flaws", had a ton of woes which were pretty much all Bruce's fault. Bruce was the name given to the three mechanical sharks used on set. They were heinously difficult to work with, and ended up causing the production a ridiculous amount of extra money and time. However, Bruce was only the beginning of all the things that went wrong. Richard Dreyfuss later spoke out saying, "We started the film without a script, without a cast, and without a shark." Jaws was Spielberg's first major film, and the cast and crew had little confidence in him. It didn't help that the shooting days spiraled from a manageable 55 to 159. Meanwhile Dreyfuss and his co-star Robert Shaw were embattled in a heinous feud during the production. Perhaps the worst of it came when shooting the final scene of the film. The boat began to sink and in a panic, Spielberg told the crew to get the actors off the boat, to which the sound engineer replied, "F*ck the actors. Save the sound department!" Somehow all of this worked in Spielberg's favor, the tension and the fact that the film was shot on location in Martha's Vineyard made it look way more authentic. Though Spielberg initially thought his days as a filmmaker were over, Universal quickly forgave him when the $9 million dollars he'd spent was made back during the film's opening weekend. Jaws also helped define the summer blockbuster.
Star Wars (1977)
Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Star Wars, 20th Century Fox, Everett, 020416-
20th Century Fox/Everett
It's hard to believe that the greatest space opera of all time didn't have an epic production. In fact, it was full of trials and tribulations. Storms delayed the beginning of shooting and the cast and crew were making fun of the production from the beginning calling it a children’s film". Luckily, George Lucas, being the icon that he is pressed forward. After all, he dealt with disasters four years prior on the set of American Graffiti. Lucas' special effects department was inexperienced and struggled desperately to do all of the various special effects that Star Wars required. It didn't help that Lucas rejected a ton of effects initially, which meant half of the special effects budget was trashed. It also didn't help the shooting schedule which continued to fall behind. Towards the end of filming, Lucas was forced to divide his crew up into three groups to get things finished. An initial screening of the film also proved to be disastrous. Luckily, things turned around in the editing room, meaning Fox and Lucas were delighted to wind up with one of the greatest films of all time.
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Apocalypse Now (1979)
Dennis Hopper, Martin Sheen, Scott Glenn, Frederic Forrest, Apocolpsye Now, United Artists, Everett, 020416
United Artists/Everett
Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is essentially the prototype of film productions from hell. Things were so disastrous and hellish that a documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse was made about it. After his epic success with The Godfather, Coppola decided to use his own money to fund the Vietnam War movie. Coppola wanted the film to be as realistic as possible, so he decided to shoot the film in the Philippines. From the beginning, weather proved to be a major issue, it rained so much that sets were destroyed and Copploa had to stop shooting. This extended the initial five months of shooting past a year. Unfortunately, the woes of the production extended far beyond the set. Martin Sheen had a heart attack during shooting (after he'd replaced Harvey Keitel) and, Marlon Brando arrived on set severely overweight, and with his own ideas about how his character Colonel Kurtz should be played. This led to some massive rewrites before the film was completed. Despite all of this, the film was somehow finished and is called one of the greatest films of all time. Coppola said of the production later, "We were in the jungle. We had too much money. We had too much equipment. And little by little, we went insane."
The Shining (1980)
Jack Nicholson, The Shining, Warner Bros, Everett, 020416
Warner Bros./Everett
Director Stanley Kubrick nearly drove Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall insane while making the iconic film,The Shining. Kubrick was a known perfectionist, and though that has resulted in some epic films like Eyes Wide Shut and A Clockwork Orange it was often at the expense of his actors' sanity. While filming The Shining, Nicholson began throwing out shooting scripts as soon as he received them, because he knew that Kurbick would change everything and he didn't want to waste his time. Poor Shelley Duvall was so stressed during shooting, that she fell very ill and her hair began falling out. The film is obviously a masterpiece, but the production like the plot, was a nightmare.
Blade Runner (1982)
Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, Warner Bros, Everett, 020416
Warner Bros./Everett
Before Ridley Scott even signed on to Blade Runner back in 1980, the script had gone through some massive rewrites and sat on the shelf for a bit. Prior to this project, Scott had made Alien in the UK, so there was a learning curve for him when it came to making a film in Los Angeles. It didn't help that Scott made some strange comments about his preference for working with UK crews to a UK paper, which led to further tension (pretty much near mutiny) on the set. The US cast and crew weren't used to Scott's exacting style of film making, and after his comments were published they began wearing shirts to set that said, "Yes gov’nor my ass.”  The clashes between Scott and nearly everyone else involved in Blade Runner is well documented in the documentary Dangerous Days. In the film, you can even see Harrison Ford looking visibly irritated and bored on set. Things got so bad that the last shot was actually captured just as producers arrived on set to shut down production. To make matters worse, the film did not receive a warm welcome by audiences or critics when it was first released. Luckily, the film is now seen as one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time.
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Gremlins (1984)
Gremlins, Warner Bros, Everett, 020416
Warner Bros/Everett
Pre-CGI (computer-generated imagery) days were not fun, especially when it came to making films that used a ton of fantasy creatures like Gremlins. Before technology  advanced to what it is today, director Joe Dante was forced to use rubber, wire and puppets in order to bring the creatures to life. A small army of puppeteers had to live underneath each set controlling every little movement while watching themselves on video screens.  It was so frustrating, that the scene in which Gizmo is pelted with darts was added as a bit of revenge for the crew who had grown disgusted by the puppets primitiveness. Dante eventually said of the film, "The last three months of shooting was only Gremlins {effects shots}. It really did get maddening after a while. And as I said, the studio wasn't especially supportive." Luckily, technology advanced at the speed of light so a few more Gremlins films were made.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Bill Murray, Groundhog Day, Columbia Pictures, 020416
Columbia Pictures
Late director Harold Ramis and comedian Bill Murray had struck comedic gold with their collaborations Ghostbusters, Stripes, and Caddyshack. Unfortunately, the production of 1993's Groundhog Day left their friendship in shambles for over a decade after. Murray was going through a divorce while the film was in production, which added to tension on the set. However, things were further exasperated when the two men could not decide on what the film should actually be about. Murray was aiming for a more serious film, while Ramis wanted to stick with traditional comedy. This conflict led to Murray calling Ramis continuously at all hours of the day and night, and screenwriter Danny Rubin had to step in as a mediator. Groundhog Day ended up being a major success, but it was also sadly the final collaboration between Ramis and Murray.
Waterworld (1995)
Tina Majorino, Kevin Costner, Waterworld, Universal, 020416
As we've stated previously, water is usually not an asset on film sets. With sets and various pieces of water equipment, including a man-made island being built in Hawaii, Waterworld quickly ran through its $100 million budget. Getting all of the extras, the cast and crew to the island proved to be harrowing and time-consuming. Things didn't fare well for the main cast either. Kevin Costner was nearly killed in a storm, his young co-star Tina Majorino was stung three times by a jellyfish, and two stuntmen were severely injured. The script was also in disarray, so writer Joss Whedon was flown out to fix various issues. By the time filming ended, director Kevin Reynolds had walked away, leaving Costner to finish the film himself, and the production had cost a whopping $175 million. The film wasn't exactly a disaster critically, but it certainly wasn't the sucess that Reynolds had hoped. He probably should have listened to Steven Spielberg when he told him about his harrowing experience with Jaws. Sound stages aren't always a bad thing!!
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Titanic (1997)
Leonardo Di Caprio, Kate Winslet, Titanic, Paramount, 020416
The production of Titanic was nearly sinkable, just like the ill-fated 1912 cruise-liner. Once again one of the major culprits of the film's productions was all of that pesky water. To say that the shoot did not go well would be a mild understatement. Director James Cameron was a force all on his own, New York Times journalist Christopher Godwin, described seeing Cameron on set as, " a 300-decibel screamer... with a megaphone and walkie-talkie, swooping down into people’s faces on a 162ft crane.” Cameron also cared little about the actors' comfort, subjecting them to water with freezing temperatures. Things went from bad to worse when an angry crew member spiked the lobster soup with a hallucinogenic drug. Cameron along with with 50 other people were rushed to the hospital. Things go so bad that the press assumed the film would be a horrendous flop. How wrong they were.
The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
The Emperors New Groove, Disney, 020416
The production of animated features can be just as harrowing as live-action films. Disney's hilarious 2000 film The Emperor's New Groove had a crap ton of problems. Initially, the film was named Kingdom Of The Sun, and the score was supposed to be handled by recording artist Sting. However, after initial screenings, Sting, the film's name and the original director were scrapped. Mark Dindal stepped in as the director and the film became The Emperor’s New GrooveThe film was received well both critically and financially.
World War Z (2013)
Brad Pitt, World War Z, Paramount Pictures, Everett, 02016
Paramount Pictures/Everett
Even with incredible technological advances, CGI can only get you so far. The cast and crew on the set of World War Z learned that lesson the hard way. In order to achieve the sea of zombies, the production team needed an excessive 900 extras. Along with the crew, the number of people onset ballooned to a whopping 1,500 which is frankly obscene. This just added to the financial woes of the film. The numerous locations across the globe also proved to be extremely problematic. When the team got to Budapest, a huge cache of weapons was seized because they were not properly disarmed. Clearly someone didn't know how to do their job! The original ending was also scrapped in favor of a new one which cost about $20 million. This pushed World War Z’s total budget $190 million. Thankfully, the film was a financial hit when it was released and a sequel is slated for release in 2017.
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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Tom Hardy, Mad Max Fury Road, Warner Bros, Everett, 020416
Warner Bros./Everett
Though Mad Max: Fury Road is now nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, it was riddled with production drama. Production got started way back in 2009, but after mix of financial and weather concerns, the film sat on the shelf for quite some time. Things eventually did get moving but director George Miller's refusal to work from a script greatly frustrated actors Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. The duo not got only upset with the process, but with one another as well. Miller also insisted on shooting the movie with as many practical effects and real vehicles as he could. This meant that the cast and crew spent eight grueling months in the blazing heat of the Namibian desert. Luckily, things all worked out. The film was a major success and Hardy even publicly apologized to both Miller and Theron. It seems that sometimes, risks pay off.