The 1990s were a great decade for movies. The ’70s are considered a “golden age,” and the ’80s are the “blockbuster era.” The ’90s, though, legitimately changed the way films were made. Computers allowed for special effects that had never been accomplished so realistically, such as the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. They also made it possible to show things that had never been seen before, like the “bullet time” effect from The Matrix. Suddenly, the sights that could be shown onscreen had no boundaries, and filmmakers started taking full advantage of the technological boom.
So many great pictures came out of the ’90s. While the tech was new, certain factors remained the same, such as the fact that high-risk creative endeavors often bring about drama. It’s just a part of the process, and it has been since the dawn of cinema. There are many players involved and millions of dollars at stake – how could there not be some occasional trouble? We’ve compiled a look at shocking events that occurred during the making of some of the decade’s biggest, most popular hits. They involve sex, drugs, fighting (of both the creative and physical sorts), professional rivalries, and more. Prepare for a wild ride through ten years of backstage scandal.
Here are 15 Shocking Behind-the-Scenes Secrets Of Your Favorite ’90s Movies.
15. Hook – Julia Roberts was nicknamed “Tinkerhell”
Julia Roberts became a household name overnight in 1990, thanks to the massive success of Pretty Woman, which proved to be her breakthrough role. She was portraying Tinkerbell in Steven Spielberg’s Hook during that crazy time, when the media had begun scrutinizing every aspect of her personal life, including (and especially) her relationship with Kiefer Sutherland. The abrupt loss of anonymity, combined with working non-stop, left her exhausted – and apparently, a little cranky. There were also unconfirmed rumors of drug use.
Whatever the reasons, or combination of them, Roberts was reportedly so difficult and unhappy on the set that the crew started referring to her as “Tinker Hell” behind her back. In a TV interview promoting the movie, Spielberg implied that he wouldn’t be willing to work with her again. She may be one of America’s most popular actresses, but she definitely was not popular with the Hook crew.
14. Titanic – Someone spiked the food with PCP
James Cameron’s Titanic was plagued with problems, from complicated effects, to budget overruns, to the fact that leading lady Kate Winslet reportedly feared the director’s quick temper. Those problems all pale in comparison to something that happened in between shots, however. In fact, the incident occurred during a dinner break. Someone, believed to be a disgruntled food service worker, spiked the lobster chowder with PCP.
About fifty cast and crew members fell ill after eating the tainted food, requiring them to seek treatment at a local hospital. At first, everyone thought it was food poisoning. When police were called in to investigate, they discovered the presence of the drug, with Cameron and actor Bill Paxton counting themselves among those who ingested it. Paxton said later that some people laughed, others cried, and a few threw up. It was undoubtedly a night to remember for all involved.
13. Hocus Pocus – Another movie swiped its theme song
Hocus Pocus was not a huge hit when it was released in July of 1993 — only $39 million at the box office — but it’s become a cult classic for a generation of people who were kids at the time. This witchy comedy, starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker, enlisted the then-popular rock group Roxette to write and record a theme song for the movie. Their tune, “Almost Unreal,” even mentions the film’s title throughout. “I love when you do that hocus pocus to me,” is part of the chorus.
The filmmakers decided the song Roxette delivered wasn’t a good fit for the movie, though, so they scrapped it. Disney owned the rights to “Almost Unreal” and didn’t want to let it go to waste, so they assigned it to another movie they had coming out, the widely loathed Super Mario Bros. Roxette was not happy, to say the least. Their song became associated with a box office dud and all-time turkey.
12. Toy Story – It nearly got canceled
Toy Story was the first feature-length movie rendered via computer animation. It became an all-time classic, spawning two sequels that are equally revered, with a fourth entry on its way. Amazingly, the movie was very nearly canceled. In Pixar history, November 19, 1993 is referred to as “Black Friday.” That’s the day the company’s team brought a crudely-animated storyboard reel to the folks at Disney to show what they were working on. The Mouse House executives hated it, finding the story flat and uninspired, and deeming the characters too unlikable.
Realizing that their dream project was in serious jeopardy, Team Pixar went back to the drawing board, tails between their legs. They tweaked a few story elements to give it more of a sense of fun, and softened the characters of Woody and Buzz Lightyear. (Even Tom Hanks expressed at one point that Woody was kind of an egotistical jerk.) The intense pressure obviously brought out the best in their work, as the revamped Toy Story earned Disney’s approval – as well as that of moviegoers, of course.
11. Pulp Fiction – Tarantino was accused of stealing material
Quentin Tarantino is well-known for “paying homage” to his influences. Some people think he’s an outright thief. Reservoir Dogs, for instance, has so many suspicious similarities to a Hong Kong thriller called City on Fire that some journalists flat-out called it plagiarism. Then there’s the case of Pulp Fiction.
Tarantino bought the rights to his friend Roger Avery’s script Pandemonium Reigned, about a boxer who refuses to take a fall. Together, they wove it into Pulp. The director, in a case of artistic egotism, wanted to end the movie with the words “written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.” He therefore strong-armed Avery into taking a “story by” credit on the film, consequently making it seem like his work was Tarantino’s. Avery, who desperately needed money, at least got some back-end residuals for signing a formal agreement. QT, meanwhile, has spent years downplaying his former friend’s contributions to this cinematic masterpiece.
10. Wayne’s World – Mike Myers feuded with his co-star and director
Wayne’s World was, of course, inspired by a popular sketch on Saturday Night Live. The entire bit worked thanks to the comic chemistry between Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey). Myers apparently lost sight of that. When the offer came to turn the skit into a feature-length film, he allegedly didn’t want to include Garth, fearing that he would be upstaged by his co-star. His preference was vetoed, but it kick-started some long-standing resentment between the two comedians.
Myers was even less enamored with director Penelope Spheeris. He created Wayne’s World and co-wrote the screenplay, so he felt he knew better than she did about what was funny and how things should be presented. They subsequently clashed heavily during the editing phase of the movie. So upset was Myers that he had Spheeris replaced as director on the sequel. Happily, everyone agreed to bury the hatchet years later.
9. Twister – The camera crew staged a mutiny
There is a lot of destruction on the screen in Twister, but there was a fair amount of it off-screen, as well. For starters, leads Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt were repeatedly injured. Wind machines would occasionally blow debris at them that inflicted cuts and scratches, and a high-powered light used to simulate intense lightning literally burned their retinas. This was definitely not a case where the stars were being pampered.
Director Jan de Bont, meanwhile, had problems getting along with the camera crew. After one unlucky camera assistant got in the way of a complicated shot, the filmmaker pushed him into the mud. He later called the crew “incompetent,” which raised the ire of cinematographer Don Burgess. The director of photography grew so tired of de Bont blaming his crew for everything that went wrong that he walked off the set for good, taking about twenty of his team members with him. Burgess was replaced with Jack N. Green for the remainder of the shoot.
8. Dazed and Confused – Milla Jovovich became an underage bride
Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused featured a cast of unknown actors, many of whom went on to achieve significant fame, including Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey. It also marked an early role for 16-year-old Milla Jovovich. During production, she started a real-life relationship with her onscreen boyfriend, Shawn Andrews, who was twenty-one. They ran off to Las Vegas and got married because, as the actress told a British newspaper, “I wanted to establish myself as an adult.” Her mother was not happy, forcing her to file for an annulment two months later.
Incidentally, Andrews wasn’t very well-liked on set anyway. He clashed with his co-stars, most notably Jason London. Linklater wasn’t impressed by him, either. The director cut down Andrews’ scenes, deciding to give more screen time to McConaughey’s character. And as we all know, that decision turned out to be alright, alright, alright.
7. A Bug’s Life – A spiteful studio head tried to sink it
If you’ve ever seen the animated movie Antz, you might be surprised to learn that it exists purely out of spite. In 1994, Disney president Frank Wells was killed in a helicopter crash. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chairman of the studio’s film division, expected to be promoted to the now-vacant position. CEO Michael Eisner didn’t give him that promotion, so he left to co-found DreamWorks SKG with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.
Katzenberg knew that Disney was planning to release Pixar’s A Bug’s Life for the holidays, so he commissioned a very similar animated project, Antz. And, in a naked attempt at stealing the other’s movie’s thunder, he scheduled it to open one month before, knowing that when two films with identical subject matter come out around the same time, the one that hits theaters first almost always does better. The revenge plan backfired, however, as Antz made $90 million in North America, while A Bug’s Life brought in $162 million.
6. What About Bob? – Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss hated each other
What About Bob? is a 1991 comedy about a tightly-wound psychiatrist (Richard Dreyfuss) whose family vacation is intruded upon by a neurotic patient (Bill Murray). The humor comes from the interplay between the two characters. The psychiatrist becomes increasingly frustrated with his persistent client. It’s very funny, and part of the reason why is because a similar dynamic played out between the two stars off-camera.
By all accounts, Dreyfuss and Murray didn’t get along at all. “I drove him nuts, and he encouraged me to drive him nuts” admitted Murray to Entertainment Weekly magazine. While both men acknowledge that hostility worked for the movie, Dreyfuss called making What About Bob? a “terribly unpleasant experience.” The animosity continues to this day. In an interview with the Telegraph U.K. in August 2017, the actor was asked about Murray, whom he called “a pig,” adding “I loathe him.”
5. Boogie Nights – Burt Reynolds fought with everybody
Burt Reynolds was a seriously unhappy camper on the set of Boogie Nights, and let his displeasure be known. The veteran actor felt that director Paul Thomas Anderson wasn’t giving him enough respect on set. Specifically, he griped that he wasn’t getting as many “free takes” to improvise as his co-stars were. This ended with a confrontation, during which Reynolds took a swing at his director and had to be restrained by a producer.
That wasn’t the only conflict. The actor also came close to getting into fisticuffs with co-star Thomas Jane at one point, and seethed at William H. Macy after the latter made a wisecrack about Smokey and the Bandit. Macy told Grantland, “I thought he was going to come across the bed and knock my teeth out.” Fellow Boogie Nights star Philip Baker Hall told the same website, “everyone had to kind of walk carefully around Burt because he seemed ready to explode.”
4. Groundhog Day – Bill Murray and Harold Ramis ended their longtime friendship
Bill Murray and Harold Ramis enjoyed a long, fruitful collaboration. They co-starred together in Stripes and Ghostbusters, and Ramis directed Murray in Caddyshack. They also shared roots at the famed Second City comedy troupe. Whenever the two worked together, magic happened. That was certainly true with Groundhog Day, which has gone on to become a bonafide classic. It is, however, the movie that ended their friendship.
Murray was going through a painful divorce at the time, and that made his behavior even more unpredictable than normal. Aside from some creative disagreements he had with Ramis over the movie’s tone, Murray was said to show up late, throw tantrums, and resist any effort his director made to hone the screenplay during shooting. All of this put a strain on their relationship, and the one-time pals didn’t speak for more than twenty years after wrapping.
3. Tommy Boy – Chris Farley chewed out the studio head
For many comedy fans, Tommy Boy ranks as one of the funniest movies ever made. The film exploited the real-life chemistry and friendship of its stars, Chris Farley and David Spade. During breaks in shooting, Farley liked to take uninterrupted naps in his trailer, which inspired Spade to prank him when Sherry Lansing — the head of Paramount, which was producing the comedy — made a set visit.
According to Spade’s autobiography Almost Interesting, Lansing wanted to say hi to Farley, so he told her to go knock on the snoozing comedian’s trailer door. She did, asking if he was in there. He responded by yelling in a booming voice, “I’m sleeping and don’t you wake me up you [expletive] [profane, misogynist word]!” Upon identifying herself, Lansing got a much different response. Farley’s mood abruptly changed, and he emerged to greet her warmly. Clearly, he recognized that it wasn’t smart to chew out the boss.
2. She’s All That – M. Night Shyamalan claims to have written it
She’s All That is the teen comedy that offers up a fairy tale romance involving a shy girl who finds love after taking off her glasses and letting down her hair. Adults scoffed at the picture, but the adolescent audience at which it was aimed ate it right up. Interestingly, a very well-known filmmaker — one who typically works in a genre that sitsnon the ooposite end of the movie spectrum — claims to have written the movie. His name is M. Night Shyamalan.
No one disputes that the Split director did a re-write, but in a 2013 interview with Movies.com, he flat out claimed, “I ghost-wrote the movie She’s All That.” The credited screenwriter, R. Lee Fleming Jr., strongly disputes that assertion, saying Shyamalan’s work was nothing more than a touch-up of his own screenplay. Who’s right? Likely both. Former Miramax head of development Jack Lechner has publicly stated that the studio bought Fleming’s script, but Shyamalan’s re-write is what ultimately earned the picture a green light from the studio.
1. Mrs. Doubtfire – Robin Williams visited sex shops in character
The late, great Robin Williams gave so many brilliant performances over the course of his career, but the one he delivered in Mrs. Doubtfire remains one of his most beloved. In it, of course, he plays a divorced dad who puts on a wig and a dress, then gets a job as a housekeeper, caring for his own children, none of whom are in on the ruse. Williams’ turn is as touching as it is hilarious.
The actor knew the comedy would only work if he was completely convincing as a woman. To test out the costume, the Margaret Thatcher-inspired voice, and the character’s savvy attitude, he opted to go out in public dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire to see if he could fool people. On an appearance at CBS’s The Late Show, he told host David Letterman that he visited a sex shop near one of the San Francisco shooting locations and inquired about purchasing numerous adult items while in this get-up. Imagine how shocked the employee on duty that day must have been!
What do you think about these behind-the-scenes stories? Which one took you most by surprise? Give us your thoughts in the comments.
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