The Island Of Dr Moreau (1996)
The Movie: A dark, modern take on HG Wells’ classic sci-fi story.
The Madness: Val Kilmer – a handful at the best of times – was going through a divorce, and decided at the last moment he wanted his role to be 40% smaller . The script couldn’t be altered, so instead he swapped roles, handing his heroic part to the ill-fitting David Thewlis.
Original director Richard Stanley was fired days into shooting (Kilmer’s influence is suspected) and with the hiring of John Frankenheimer the script evaporated and was rewritten during production. After production Frankenheimer said there were two things he would never do: climb Mount Everest or work with Val Kilmer again.
The Movie: Robert Altman’s live action musical version of the spinach-popping sailor stories.
The Madness: Huge amounts of money were spent building the fictional seaside town of Sweethaven in Malta, which took 165 workers seven months to complete and required the additional construction of a 250-foot breakwater to prevent it from flooding at high tide.
Rumour has it the delay-struck production was all but bankrupt by the end of filming, which explains the dreadful special effects during a scene in which Popeye punches an octopus.
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
The Movie: Herzog’s twisted adventure about a conquistador searching for El Dorado in South America.
The Madness: Herzog clashed violently with his star Klaus Kinski over the portrayal of Aguirre. Like, really violently.
At one point Kinski fired a gun at a hut where members of the crew were playing cards, shooting the top off one extra’s finger, while Herzog once found Kinski attempting to escape the production by boat and threatened to shot him unless he returned.
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
The Movie: A film version of the long-running TV freakout, made up of four individual stories.
The Madness: During the filming of John Landis’ segment, called Time Out, exploding special effects squibs caused a helicopter to crash on-set, decapitating star Vic Morrow and killing child actors Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen.
The horrific accident led to a change in the laws regarding the conditions surrounding child actors.
Town & Country (2001)
The Movie: A New York-set romantic comedy starring Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton.
The Madness: Beatty’s perfectionist streak meant what should have been a simple suburban charmer turned into a distended nightmare. Although not directing, Beatty demanded a huge number of takes, meaning the film was still shooting in April 1999, months after its scheduled end.
Keaton and co-star Garry Shandling left to do other films, before returning a full year later to film Town & Country’s ending. It was another year before it was ready for release, by which time the film had cost $90 million – of which it earned back just $10 million.
The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen (1987)
The Movie: Sprawling self-reflexive fantasy epic about a dashing teller of tall tales and his young companion.
The Madness: A hellish runaway production. Gilliam partnered with German producer Thomas Schühly, who insisted the film could be made at Rome’s Cinecittà studios for $23 million.
But that was fantasy – the production was poorly organised and regularly fleeced by local tradesman and companies, eventually topping $35 million, while Gilliam had to contend with an unfriendly foreign crew, and a new regime at Columbia who didn’t believe in the movie.
The Movie: Norman Mailer’s largely improvised avant garde film about a filmmaker running for president, co-starring himself and Rip Torn.
The Madness: Torn apparently hated Mailer’s direction, and in a semi-improvised scene (the pair call each other by their real names) he attacks Mailer with a hammer and the pair have a brutal punch-up, only stopped when Mailer’s clearly very worried wife intervenes (opens in new tab) .
I Heart Huckabees (2004)
The Movie: An existential deconstruction of corporatism, dreams, and the American dream.
The Madness: Infamously pushy director David O. Russell came to blows with George Clooney during production on Three Kings.
On free-thinking oddity Huckabees, Lily Tomlin reacted badly to Russell’s creative manipulation, resulting in a series of blazing arguments that were secretly filmed and put on youtube (opens in new tab) .
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)
The Movie: A dark psychological horror starring golden-era greats Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, about two aging screen stars.
The Madness: The film’s story centres on a pair of acting sisters who hate each other – Davis and Crawford, long-time Hollywood rivals, fit their roles perfectly.
Among various bits of niggly in-fighting, Davis kicked Crawford in the head (the injury needed stitches), while Crawford wore weights during a scene in which Davis drags her body across the floor, putting Davis’ back out.
The Movie: Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman star as a loungey double-act who run into political trouble during a tour of Morocco. .
The Madness: Beatty made the film mostly as a favour to director Elaine May, but she argued with him (and just about everybody else) throughout production. The shoot was so divisive that at one time three groups of editors – one each for Beatty, Hoffman and May – were all working on a final version of the film.
In an added twist, during production David Puttnam took over as Columbia studio boss. Puttnam disliked both Hoffman (who he’d worked with on Agatha) and Beatty, and reportedly leaked stories of the on-set feuding to the press, killing the film’s chances.
The Movie: Kevin Costner stars in a flooded post-apocalyptic wasteland as the gilled saviour of humanity.
The Madness: Filming on water, it turns out, is stupid. Various delays and set-backs inflated an initial $100 million budget to $175.
Sets were wiped out by a hurricane, the script was re-written throughout the shoot (Joss Whedon called his time on set as ‘seven weeks of hell’) and at one point Costner’s stunt-double, who commuted to set on a jet-ski, ran out of fuel, and drifted in the Pacific for several hours before being rescued.
The Crow (1994)
The Movie: Cult comic-book adaptation starring the smudge-faced, leather bound Brandon Lee.
The Madness: Whether through cost-cutting or inexperience or lack or lack of resources, the mishandling of a prop revolver on the set of The Crow ended with the death of the film’s star, Brandon Lee, after an accidental gunshot wound to the abdomen.
An empty bullet casing had accidentally become lodged in the gun – when the gun was reloaded with blank rounds and fired, the casing was propelled like a real bullet. The set’s firearms specialist had gone home early that day.
Dancer In The Dark (2000)
The Movie: A bi-polar art-house musical, with Bjork the downtrodden factory working sparking into life during fantasy dancing sequences.
The Madness: Difficult director Lars Von Trier pushed Bjork so hard that she would reportedly greet him every day by spitting and telling him, “I despise you”.
Rumour has it the star was also so traumatised by the experience that she ate her own cardigan which, even if it’s not true, is an amazing lie. She vowed never to act again.
The Movie: A big-budget historical epic starring Hollywood it-couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
The Madness: Cleopatra went more than twenty times over its initial budget, thanks to changes of director, cast and location.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz took over after $5 million had been spent without producing a single usable frame of footage. Delays meant Stephen Boyd was replaced by Burton – who promptly started a scandalous affair with co-star Taylor, who in turn was taken seriously ill, resulting in more delays and a relocation from London to Rome.
Doctor Doolittle (1967)
The Movie: A lavish musical version of Hugh Lofting’s animal chat children’s stories.
The Madness: Star Rex Harrison used his clout to demand miniscule rewrites, and a location shoot in the idyllic Wiltshire village of Castle Combe was spoiled by constant rain and cut short when Sir Ranulph Fiennes – then a demolitions expert in the SAS – attempted to blow up a dam which the production had constructed.
On top of all this there were the animals, who extended shooting by weeks and stank – one set was constructed with wipe-clean floors for all the muck.
Heavens Gate (1980)
The Movie: The ambitious Western epic by Michael Cimino that changed the face of Hollywood.
The Madness: New Hollywood successes of the ‘70s had put strong directors on the front foot.
Cimino’s film was initially budgeted for $11 million, but his contract was shaky and United Artists execs somehow failed to reign in the helmer as he took the shoot months over schedule and ending up spending $40 million. Cimino’s first edit – from 220 hours of shot footage – came in at five and half hours…
The Abyss (1989)
The Movie: James Cameron’s ambitious, special effects-driven underwater sci-fi.
The Madness: The strains of filming underwater – for a taskmaster as unforgiving as Cameron – took a heavy toll.
Six day, 70-hour weeks were the norm, with decompression tanks standing by for anyone submerged too deep for too long. His cast broke down – Ed Harris remembers sobbing uncontrollably during one drive home, while Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio stormed off-set when Cameron suggested the actors relieve themselves in their wet suits to save time.
The Movie: David Lynch’s post-Star Wars adaptation of the phenomenally successful sci-fi novel.
The Madness: Putting king of abstraction Lynch – who’d then made two poetic black and white movies – in charge of a huge international blockbuster.
The director was clearly incaable of organisation necessary to reign in such a huge production. Lynch says he felt ‘dead inside’, swept away by the year-long Mexico shoot, and driven near-insane by watching his own flawed footage in the editing room. “I really don’t even remember finishing the film,” he says.
The Movie: A flawed Orwellian masterpiece about British totalitarianism, a polite hell of receipts and bureaucracy in which desperate everyman Sam Lowry is drowning.
The Madness: The shoot itself went fine – it was in the editing room that things kicked off.
Universal boss Sid Sheinberg insisted on an upbeat ending, but director Terry Gilliam fought a guerrilla war against the studio, holding secret screenings of the long version and taking out a full-age ad in variety which simply said ‘Dear Sid Sheinberg, when are you going to release my movie, Brazil?’
The Movie: Werner Herzog’s man-against-the-odds story of a European businessman pulling a steamship up a mountain in Peru.
The Madness: The shoot was insane for two main reasons. Firstly, becuase the steamship was real, weighed 320 tons, and Herzog really did make his crew pull it up a mountain.
And secondly, because the movie starred Klaus Kinski, who ranted so often and so violently on set (opens in new tab) that Herzog claims one of the Indian extras offered to kill the actor. He declined, as he needed him to complete the film.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Movie: Coppola's operatic, 'Nam-set take on Conrad's Heart Of Darkness.
The Madness: An insane tropical nightmare. Filming began on March 1, 1976 and, scheduled to last for five months, finished in May 1977.
In between Coppola fired original leading man Harvey Keitel, saw his sets destroyed by Typhoon Olga, had to re-write the film’s ending because Marlon Brando was too fat to play his intended version, and saw replacement leading man Martin Sheen suffer a heart attack.
The superb doc Hearts Of Darkness tells the whole sordid story.