Nine Hollywood Films Fraught with Risk
Moviemaking is exciting and lucrative, but beneath the glitz and glamour lies unique risk. In our April 2013 cover story, Ted Tefaro of Exceptional Risk Advisors, LLC, breaks down many of the threats to turning an idea into a film on the big screen.
The tales of following nine movies also show that death, injury, weather and crooked financiers are just some issues that have set back high-profile Hollywood productions.
An entire documentary, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, was made about the production of Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic, which was shot primarily in the Philippines. “We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane,” says Coppola in an on-screen interview. While the problems are too numerous to list, the largest came when Typhoon Olga wrecked sets and halted production for weeks as most of the actors and crew returned to the United States.
While filming, a low-flying helicopter was unable to avoid pyrotechnic explosions, which destroyed the tail rotor. As it crashed, the aircraft decapitated actor Vic Morrow and Myca Dinh Le, who was seven years old. Renee Shin-Yi Chen, age six, was crushed by the helicopter. The accident during the making of this Steven Spielberg-produced film is arguably Hollywood’s worst tragedy.
Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon, was fatally shot by a prop revolver while shooting a scene that called for the firing of a blank towards the 28-year-old actor. But a bullet had inadvertently been lodged into the barrel due to careless procedures by those working the set, and the resulting gunshot took Lee’s life despite an emergency surgery in a nearby hospital in North Carolina.
This post-apocalyptic picture that imagined a world without land after the polar ice caps melted was reportedly the most expensive movie ever made upon its release. A large cause of the cost overruns came when a hurricane destroyed a multi-million-dollar set off the coast of Hawaii that was being used to film key scenes. Kevin Costner also reportedly almost died in a jet ski accident, and his stunt double was lost at sea for hours before being rescued by the Coast Guard.
Production delays pushed back filming so far on one the biggest flops in history that Dharma & Greg star Jenna Elfman, who appeared alongside stars Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn, was forced to repeatedly dye her hair back and forth from platinum blonde to the strawberry blonde she was known for on the hit television show. “I bleached my hair so many times that chunks were starting to fall out,” Elfman told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Alec Baldwin gave the New York Post a simple reason you’ve never heard of his directorial debut: “Some of the film’s investors are being investigated for bank fraud. They claimed they had the money to make the movie but it turned out they didn’t, so while we were making the movie they were bouncing checks all over New York.” The movie was seized by a federal bankruptcy court, purchased by Crash producer Bob Vari, and re-cut against Baldwin’s wishes. The $25 million production went straight to television with the director credited as “Harry Kirkpatrick,” a Baldwin pseudonym.
George Camilleri, a bodybuilder and extra, broke his leg during filming. He was operated on the following day but died two weeks later of a heart attack related to a blood clot. Ironically, Brad Pitt, who played Achilles in the blockbuster version of Homer’s Illiad, also tore his left Achilles tendon during production.
A major action sequence had to be re-imagined and re-shot due to the 2012 movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado. One scene in Robert Fleischer’s mobster movie featured gangsters shooting up a cinema audience. “Many conversations followed that,” Fleischer told the Associated Press, “and we talked about it, and very quickly decided that the appropriate action would be to take the scene out of the movie out of respect for the families who suffered that loss in the tragedy.”
This Brad Pitt zombie movie was rife with script and finance issues, but its strangest setback came when a Hungarian anti-terrorism unit raided a Budapest warehouse to seize 85 weapons and assault rifles the filmmakers were storing. The guns, which were supposed to be non-functional, were instead operational. “Guns like these are highly illegal to transport even if they were to be used as stage guns,” said a representative of the anti-terrorism unit, according to Us Weekly.