‘Apocalypse on the Set’ Author Offers 9 Bizarre Tales of Movie Making

Published 3 years ago by , Updated September 18th, 2012 at 8:33 am,

Screen Rant: Are YOU interested or involved at all in filmmaking?  If so, are you STILL interested in and/or involved with filmmaking after writing this book and seeing how wrong it can all go?

Ben Taylor (pictured above): I always loved filmmaking – but on a much smaller scale. After writing this book my interest hasn’t diminished so long as I can do things like write a spec script from the safety of my desk.

What is the worst Hollywood “Crash and burn” story you know? (I.e. – a troubled production that DIDN’T make it to completion.)

Terry Gilliam’s ‘The Man who Killed Don Quixote’ sadly never saw the light of day. The lead actor became ill, the set was washed away by a flood early in the production, and things unraveled quickly. There has been some talk recently that the picture may resume but the cast would change completely and with the original attempt taking place in 2000, it seems to be an uphill battle. [NOTE: Visit our archives for an extensive recap on the troubles plaguing The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.]

SR: How do you see the challenge of making films today, as opposed to the Hollywood eras covered in the book, which are now decades old? Have these higher stakes (i.e., more money on the table) changed the game, or is the challenge of filmmaking the same as ever?

Without question the advent of digital technology has made it easier for a director to see their vision realized. Much of the magic now lies in the post-production phase. The challenges today may be those of speed and competition. Films have less time to perform and are often up against greater competition in their opening weekend. Marketing must be more pervasive and aggressive as the audiences are presented with a greater choice of mediums.

James Cameron has traded water tanks for green screens.

There seems to be a resounding opinion these days that money woes and/or fears have led to a seemingly institutionalized “lack of originality” in Hollywood. With big budgets mostly being thrown behind adaptations, sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes, do you think Hollywood is truly hedging its bets on the risks of filmmaking right now? Or is “original” filmmaking still going strong?

Originality is still very much alive though you may have to dig a bit more to find it. The unexpectedly original film is likely to be found in an unexpected place. Foreign releases often offer new ideas. The financial bet in filmmaking is big and therefore a big opening is required. As a result, these brands become more crucial given the phenomenon of a built-in auduence. I believe action Director Renny Harlin (who helmed the failed ‘Cutthroat Island’) once said, “In Europe, filmmaking is perceived as an art form with marginal business possibilities, and in the US, filmmaking is a business with marginal artistic possibilities.

Are established brands truly a safety net, or are those productions just as ripe for disaster as any other film?

As directors change, often so does the brand. Additionally, brands can fade as the films within become rote. The Bond franchise - for all it’s longevity – has seen numerous incarnations of the hero ranging from humorous (Roger Moore) to farcical (Pierce Bronson) to brutal (Daniel Craig). This fresh take on familiar material keeps the franchise alive. Ironically, it is these changes that keep the audience coming back, not necessarily the similarities.




If this book (a production in and of itself) turns out to be a success, we will see a sequel? One where you possibly look into more modern cases of troubled film productions?

I think these really are the most intriguing disastrous productions. A non-fiction follow up would likely follow the strange-but-true nature of these stories, but perhaps with a different focus, such as notable historical blunders.

What would you title your sequel book?

Any sequel to a book on disastrous films would have to include ‘Human Centipede’ in the title.


Apocalypse on the Set is currently on sale and can be ordered by visiting the Overlook Press Website or clicking the image above. Having read the book, I can say that it is a very interesting page-turner that film fans will not only enjoy, but find useful for some great anecdotal storytelling at parties ;-).

Check out the official trailer for Apocalypse on the Set below:

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  1. I’ll definitely be reading this. As much as I love movies I love learning about the way they are made and the behind the scenes stories.
    I remember when DVD started to overtake VHS what I loved the most were the extras. From the commentaries to the making off segments I ate it up. And to this day if a DVD or Blu-ray comes out and the extras are lacking I won’t buy it.

    • How refreshing to find an interview where the questions give clear insight into the author’s final product and process while managing to avoid fluff and obscure arty-talk. ScreenRant nails it once again. Why can’t more interviews be like this?

  2. I see a new series on History coming out of this

  3. The documentary about Gilliam’s failed Don Quixote movie is a fascinating study in Murphy’s Law or, for those who are so inclined, schadenfraude. Even the stories about Baron Munchausen, which actually saw theatrical release after its own share of development hell, are pretty interesting. There was a great book called Gilliam on Gilliam some years ago that was a series of detailed, in-depth interviews on each point of his career, and it’s a great read for those interested in hearing about all these trials and tribulations from the director’s perspective, in his own words. (The Lynch on Lynch and Burton on Burton entries in the series are equally satisfying.)

  4. Good one Kofi.

    Most people who are not in the “biz” have no idea how much effort and blood, sweat and tears goes into a film sometimes. It takes years off a life, but worth it in the end… yes? yes. What matters is how the disaster is handled. Who picks up the reigns and gets the film finished? despite the unpredictable catastrophe along the way.