Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made

20 Nov 2019 (PT)

Robert Eggers' “The Lighthouse” opened in October and has proven to be a box office hit for A24, grossing just under $10 million and counting. That's good news for Eggers and his cast members Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, who more or less went through hell to successfully pull off the psychological drama. “The Lighthouse” is the latest in a long tradition of hellish film productions. Like “Jaws,” “Apocalypse Now,” and “Titanic” before it, “The Lighthouse” overcame filming hardships to earn rave reviews. Film history is full of similar examples. Even filmmaking legends like Martin Scorsese are not immune to a grueling film production.

Here are 20 of the most taxing, miserable film productions ever mounted.

Photo : 20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock

“The Abyss” 1989

Making a James Cameron movie often means putting yourself through torture. For “The Abyss,” a giant water tank was created to film the underwater sequences and it required actors Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Michael Biehn to endure long and arduous filming days the movie's production reportedly had 70-hour weeks. Decompression sickness was always a risk for the actors, and Mastrantonio is said to have suffered a physical and emotional breakdown on set. During one take, Harris' helmet was flooded with water and fluid rushed up his nose. Cameron has famously admitted,“I knew this was going to be a hard shoot, but even I had no idea just how hard. I don't ever want to go through this again.”

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Zoetrope/United Artists/Kobal/Shutterstock

“Apocalypse Now” 1979

The hellish production of Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam war epic “Apocalypse Now” was so grueling that it got its own documentary, “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse” 1991. Coppola shot the movie in the Philippines, where severe weather destroyed sets and forced the budget to skyrocket. The director notoriously clashed with Marlon Brando, who often struggled to remember his lines. Brando's weight gain became an infamous point of controversy after Coppola wanted him fired because he got too fat for the role. Leading actor Martin Sheen suffered a breakdown during production and nearly shut the entire film down after suffering a near-fatal heart attack.

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : 20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock

“Alien 3” 1992

The making of “Alien 3” was so grueling for director David Fincher that he has long wanted to remove his name from the critically-panned science-fiction actioner. Fincher was a first-time director brought on to replace exitingfilmmakerVincent Ward. Fincher clashed with the studio as his personal touches for the film were impossible to execute since the script was being written and rewritten while production was happening. The studio kept a close eye on the “Alien 3” shoot to ensure the entry would fit in tonally with the previous installments, Ridley Scott's “Alien” and James Cameron's “Aliens,” resulting in many of Fincher's ideas being shot down.Fincher would famously say about the film, “No one hated it more than me; to this day, no one hates it more than me.”

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

“Deliverance” 1972

The making of John Boorman's “Deliverance” is full of horrific production stories, one of which includes an alleged fistfight that broke out between the director and screenwriter James Dickey. Even more worrisome was Boorman's decision to have his leading actors perform all of their own stunts in the movie, which was dangerous since the plot follows the characters as they head out on a perilous canoe trip. Burt Reynolds once said Boorman was adamant about filming the movie in chronologicalorder in case an actor died. In one scene, Reynolds was in a canoe when it went barreling over a waterfall and he cracked his tailbone. Jon Voight, meanwhile, put his life on the line to film a rock climbing sequence without a harness or any wires. Boorman wanted the scene to be shot in a close-up, preventing Voight from using a stunt double.

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : 20th Century Fox/Marvel/Kobal/Shutterstock

“Fantastic Four” 2015

Josh Trank's “Fantastic Four” reboot proved grueling emotionally as 20th Century Fox battled him over the creative vision of the film. Trank's pitch for “Fantastic Four” was to create a superhero movie influenced by David Cronenberg's body horror movies, but sources say that led to an overtly bleak tone and boring performances from the cast on set. Fox intervened to reshape the script, which reportedly led to chaos between the studio and the filmmaker. Trank is said to have isolated himself from the cast and crew, pitching a tent around his monitors so that he would not have to interact with others on set. The director was also accused of causing damage to his rental home near the set estimated around the $100,000 mark.

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Moviestore/Shutterstock

“Fitzcarraldo” 1982

Werner Herzog's“Fitzcarraldo” is based on the true story of Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fermín Fitzcarrald, who once transported a ship across land from one river to another. Herzog was hellbent on recreating this feat as authentically as possible for his movie. The production purchased a 320-ton steamship to manually transport over a hill because Herzog wanted no special effects involved in making the film. The decision led to a grueling film shoot in which six crew members were injured during one scene in which the ship experiences turbulence while sailing through violent rapids. Several indigenous extras who worked on the film were either injured or killed, and aPeruvian logger was bit by a venomous snake on set and cut off his own foot with a chainsaw to stop the poison from spreading. Throw in two plane crashes that occurred near the production and what you get is one of the most infamously grueling films ever made.

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : New Line/Kobal/Shutterstock

“The Island of Dr. Moreau” 1996

Tensions were sky high during the making of John Frankenheimer's “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” adapted from H.G. Wells' 1896 novel of the same name. Val Kilmer proved to be a bully during the first days of filming, openly criticizing Richard Stanley's screenplay and replacing his scripted dialogue with his own improvisation. The majority of Kilmer footage was said to be unusable for the film's theatrical cut. Supporting actor Rob Morrow begged to be let go of the film because of the rough production, while original director Stanley was fired from production and replaced by Frankenheimer. The new director did not solve the movie's production troubles. Similar to “Apocalypse Now,” Brando proved unpredictable on set and would fail to show up to shoot his scenes when scheduled. Brando and Kilmer grew to hate one another. The film would go on to become a box office bomb.

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

“Jaws” 1975

Steven Spielberg wanted to shoot “Jaws” out on the open ocean, a decision that resulted in a grueling film shoot and a production that went way over budget. Filming at sea forced the crew to deal with the unpredictable, including boats sailing into the frame and ruining takes, water getting on and damaging the equipment, and various actors and crew members getting seasick. The giant mechanical sharks created for the film also malfunctioned several times during production, resulting in numerous reshoots and filming delays.

Spielberg once told Entertainment Weekly about making “Jaws,” “I was naive about the ocean, basically. I was pretty naive about mother nature and the hubris of a filmmaker who thinks he can conquer the elements was foolhardy, but I was too young to know I was being foolhardy when I demanded that we shoot the film in the Atlantic Ocean and not in a North Hollywood tank. But had I to do it all over again I would have gone back to the sea because it was the only way for the audience to feel that these three men were cast adrift with a great white shark hunting them.”

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : A24

“The Lighthouse” 2019

The filming of Robert Eggers' “The Lighthouse” in Nova Scotia was so intense and physically demanding that co-stars Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson hardly talked outside of filming scenes together. The production was grueling to the point that Pattinson nearly punched Eggers in the face. As the actor told Interview magazine, “That's the closest I've come to punching a director. However much I love Robert [Eggers], there was a point where I did five takes walking across the beach, and after a while I was like, 'What the fuck is going on? I feel like you're just spraying a fire hose in my face.' And he was like, 'I am spraying a fire hose in your face.'”

Pattinson is not a diehard method actor, but he went to some peculiar extremes in order to stay in character during the film's production. The actor told Esquire he would sit on the floor and drink mud off the ground in order to help him go a little mad. Pattinson also got blackout drunk and pissed himself on multiple occasions in order to match the inebriated state of his character.

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Village Roadshow/Kobal/Shutterstock

“Mad Max: Fury Road” 2015

“Mad Max: Fury Road” was a pain in the ass for George Miller long before cameras started rolling in June 2012. The sequel spent several years in development hell and failed to get off the ground twice before filming started on location in the Namibia desert. Brutally hot temperatures and complicated action choreography created tension between the cast and crew. Leading actors Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron famously feuded on set. As co-star Zoe Kravitz explained, “They didn't get along. We were also in the desert for so long. I think everyone was tired, and confused, and homesick. We saw nothing but sand for six months. You go crazy, you do. I actually don't know if there was one issue. I just think it was like they weren't vibing.”

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Neon

“Monos” 2019

Alejandro Landes decided to film his war drama “Monos”on location in Colombia on the Chingaza páramo and in the jungle of the Samaná river canyon, two locations never used for a film production before because of their severe conditions. A behind-the-scenes profile on the film published by The Guardian reported that “there was no electricity, no running water, no refrigerated food and torrential downpours all night every night. There were food rations. The shoot took its toll.”

“People were dropping like flies, including me,” Landes said “Everyone had their day. Everyone cried on this movie. You're working six-day weeks, very high-intensity scenarios.” At one point in production, Landes woke up and couldn't move. The filmmaker had to be put on a stretcher and carried up a canyon in order to receive medical attention at a local center. Production went on hold for 20 hours. Landes said the stress of the production and his rationed food diet led to extreme exhaustion.

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Zade Rosenthal/20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock

“Predator” 1987

FilmmakerJohn McTiernan and his “Predator” cast shot the movie in the jungles of Palenque, Mexico, which led to several production troubles. The temperature in the jungle was so cold that heat lamps were required to be on set at all times, while the location's terrain was so rough it forced filmmaking delays. Many of the cast and crew got sick with travelers' diarrhea because of the unpurified water at the hotel they were staying at.Kevin Peter Hall, who starred in the film as the title character, famously said that making “Predator” “wasn't a movie, it was a survival story for all of us.”

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Kimberley French/20th Century Fox/Regency Enterprises/Kobal/Shutterstock

“The Revenant” 2015

Alejandro González Iñárritu insisted on shooting “The Revenant” in chronological order and with as much natural light as possible, resulting in an arduous production schedule that was continually stalled and delayed in order for the film to maintain continuity in weather, lighting, and more. Weather turned out to be excruciating. On the film's Calgary set, the temperature often dropped to subzero temperatures. “Sometimes the weather would change seven times a day in Calgary,” Iñárritu said during a 2015 interview. “It's the worst place for any producer to shoot a film. But it's an incredible landscape, so we didn't have a choice.” Iñárritu later admitted both he and his cast and crew went “a little crazy” making “The Revenant.”

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Alpha/Kobal/Shutterstock

“Roar” 1981

Often described as the most dangerous movie ever made, Noel Marshall's “Roar” had such a grueling production that it infamously left 70 cast and crew members injured. The movie stars Marshall, Tippi Hedren, and Melanie Griffith as a family that lives alongside lions, tigers, and other animals in Africa. Marshall was adamant about using real animals, and it turns out acting opposite lions is not the safest decision. Marshall was bit by a lion through the hand on the first day of production, while Griffith was attacked by a lion and was left with 50 stitches. Griffith was forced to undergo facial reconstruction surgery. Hedren fractured her leg and hand after being tossed off an elephant, while a lion attack forced her to get 38 stitches in her scalp. Many of the crew experienced similar trauma.

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Warner Bros/Hawk Films/Kobal/Shutterstock

“The Shining” 1980

When it comes to psychologically grueling film shoots, few films are as extreme as Stanley Kubrick's “The Shining.” The director's affinity for doing multiple takes of the same scene proved punishing for actors Jack Nicholson and especially Shelley Duvall. The latter clashed with Kubrick over her acting style and the constantly-changing screenplay. Duvall became so overwhelmed by the demands of the Wendy Torrance role and working with Kubrick that she became sick for months. Stories from the set allege Duvall's hair began falling out because she was so stressed from the production.

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Kerry Brown/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

“Silence” 2016

Martin Scorsese's “Silence” was shot in Taiwan and the weather proved so unpredictable that the production often had to wait or move the filming of scenes to dusk or dawn so that there would not be inconsistencies in lighting in each shot. Driver famously lost 51 pounds for his role in the movie. By the end of the production, Driver's starvation led him to hallucinate. “I don't think I've ever taken it to the extreme before,” Driver said of making the film. “You're so hungry and so tired at some points that there's nothing you can do — you're not adding anything on top of what you're doing. You only have enough energy to convey what you're doing, so it's great. There are other times where a scene's not working and you don't have the energy to figure out why it's not working.”

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Moviestore/Shutterstock

“Suicide Squad” 2016

Production on “Suicide Squad” was more or less doomed from the start when Warner Bros. rushed director David Ayer into production because the studio had already set a theatrical date for the comic book tentpole. Ayer filmed the movie with a dark tone, but the box office bomb of the overtly bleak “Batman v Superman” resulted in Warner Bros. forcing “Suicide Squad” to become more lighthearted. Several editors were brought on during post-production to Frankenstein together a different tone for the movie, but reshoots were needed to redo action scenes so that witty banter among the characters could be added. “Suicide Squad” opened to some of the worst reviews of 2016 and Ayer was phased out for the sequel, which is currently being directed by James Gunn.

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

“Team America: World Police” 2004

Trey Parker and Matt Stone's “Team America: World Police” required a crew of nearly 200 people to successfully pull off the puppeteering that was central to the film's concept. The film featured 270 puppet characters, but the limited capabilities of the puppets' movements forced Parker and Stone to make changes to the script on the spot. “It was the worst time of my entire life — I never want to see a puppet again,” Stone memorably told The Guardian after the movie's release. “You work 20 hours a day, take sleeping pills to go to bed and drink coffee to stay up. You feel like a piece of shit, none of your friends like you, your parents don't like you, but you have a movie at the end.”

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : 20th Century Fox/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

“Titanic” 1997

Pulling off the biggest movie of all time meant going a little mad. Similar to Cameron's “The Abyss,” the actors were forced to spend days on end in water tanks full of cold water and many of them ended up with the flu. Cameron battled the studio as the film's budget continued to skyrocket and the production went over schedule by 138 days, leading to explosive ercations between the filmmaker and studio heads. The Times writer Christopher Godwin described the director on set as being a “300-decibel screamer, a modern-day Captain Bligh with a megaphone and walkie-talkie, swooping down into people's faces on a 162-foot crane” via Dan of Geek. At one point during production, a crew member spiked soup the crew was eating with the hallucinogenic drug PCP. As a result, nearly 50 crew members were rushed to the hospital.

Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
Photo : Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

“World War Z” 2013

The production of “World War Z” was not easy for leading man Brad Pitt or director Mark Forster. The team discovered in the editing room the third act they shot for the movie was not working, so Damon Lindelof was brought on to overhaul the script of the entire last act of the film. Reshoots were ordered to film at least 30 minutes of new footage so that “World War Z” would have a coherent ending. Some reports say the decision lifted the movie's budget to just under the $200 million mark. Things got more complicated when the studio mandated a zombie battle set in Moscow, Russia be removed from the film so as to not stoke political controversy.

Source: Indiewire

Weekend of September 18 - 20, 2020 (IMDb)
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Nightmare Film Shoots: 20 of the Most Grueling Films Ever Made
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