Ever since the Biography company moved to the West Coast in 1910, Hollywood has been known as the home of glitz and glamor. From the golden era of the silver screen to modern cinema, Hollywood has always had a certain mysterious allure that wannabe stars would die to be a part of.
However, Hollywood is also known for having a dark side; for chewing up and spitting out those who get too close to showbiz’s seedy underbelly. It is for this reason perhaps, that people are apt to believe some pretty silly things when it comes to Hollywood, and why these famous movie myths have endured for so long, despite most of them being debunked long ago.
Whether or not you buy into the hype, here are 15 Famous Hollywood Myths That Just Won’t Die. We’d bet money that you’ve heard at least a couple of these myths before, but remember: sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction!
15. The Ghost Boy in Three Men and a Baby
For decades there’s been a rumor about a ghost in the background of ’80s comedy Three Men and a Baby.
As legend has it, the figure of a young boy can be seen in the window of the New York City loft where Ted Danson, Tom Selleck, and Steve Guttenberg live. As Danson’s character Jack and his mother are walking through the apartment, what looks like a human figure can be glimpsed to the left behind them.
Urban legend claims that a young boy was killed in the apartment used for the movie and his ghost can be seen in the background. A more detailed version of this rumor says that the boy’s mother sued the studio after they refused to cut the scene from the film. There is an even wilder version of the story that includes the mother spotting her dead son in the scene wearing his burial clothes, going insane, and spending the rest of her life in a mental institution. Pretty dark, huh?
Admittedly, if you look at a still of the scene it’s pretty damn creepy, but it turns out that the “ghost boy” is actually just a cut-out of Danson that someone left on set. Oops!
Originally, there was a scene in the film where Danson’s character (who is an actor) films a dog food commercial dressed in a tux, but it was cut from the finished version. However, the ghost rumor did help to promote VHS sales, as well as the sequel Three Men and a Little Lady.
14. Steven Spielberg got his start after sneaking into Universal Studios
This myth was actually started by the man himself. Spielberg’s first exposure to the inner-workings of Hollywood came from unpaid summer internships as a teenager. However, in an attempt to make his background more exciting, the wunderkind director embellished in an interview. Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in 1969, Spielberg claimed: “Every day, for three months in a row, I walked through the gates dressed in a sincere black suit and carrying a briefcase. I visited every set I could, got to know people, observed techniques, and just generally absorbed the atmosphere.”
Two years later, the Hollywood Reporter published another account, in which Spielberg had improved upon his original story: “One day in 1969, when I was twenty-one, I put on a suit and tie and sneaked past the guard at Universal, found an empty bungalow, and set up an office. I then went to the main switchboard and introduced myself and gave them my extension so I could get calls. It took Universal two years to discover I was on the lot.”
By 1985, he’d added further details, pushing the timing of the story back by four years, and saying his first time on the lot was when he snuck away from a studio tour aged 17.
This would have been a great Hollywood legend if it was true, but the real story is less exciting. In reality, Spielberg’s first trip to Universal Studios was arranged by his father, and his internship was mostly clerical work. But we must admit, the man is a damn good storyteller.
13. Actress Shirley Eaton actually suffocated during the famous paint scene in Goldfinger
Perhaps one of the most memorable Bond deaths ever (and that’s saying something), Shirley Eaton’s character in Goldfinger is murdered via “epidermal suffocation.” Supposedly, she died because her skin couldn’t breathe, or as 007 puts it: “It’s been known to happen to cabaret dancers. It’s all right so long as you leave a small bare patch at the base of the spine to allow the skin to breathe.” Seriously, this is the best spy England has to offer?
Anyway, despite the ridiculousness of it all (in case you didn’t already know: you breathe through your nose and mouth, not your epidermis), a rumor began that Eaton actually did die from skin suffocation while filming the scene. It probably wasn’t helped by the fact that the filmmakers really did believe that Ian Fleming’s death-by-paint situation was a real risk, and had the make-up removed the second the scene was finished. “It took an hour, with a lot of help and scrubbing from the makeup artist and wardrobe mistress,” Eaton said. The Brit actress is now in her 70s, and is very much alive and well.
12. Brandon Lee’s real-life death was actually featured in The Crow
In 1993, Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, was fatally shot on the set of The Crow. The adaption of the popular underground comic books series was the film everyone thought would make Lee a household name. Instead, the movie has come to be a source of fascination for fans of urban legends.
While filming a scene in which his character Eric Draven comes home to find a group of thugs assaulting his fiancée, Lee was shot in the abdomen with what was thought to be a blank but was actually a real bullet. The crew didn’t realize anything had gone wrong until the 28-year-old fell backwards from the blast, rather than forwards as planned, and although Lee was rushed to hospital, he died as a result of his injuries.
For years after the film’s release, a rumor circulated that the actual footage of Lee’s death was incorporated into the final cut. Of course, this is garbage. Instead stunt doubles were used to film the crucial scene, which was shot from Eric’s point of view to avoid the need for close-up shots. The actual video footage was used as evidence into an investigation of Lee’s death, but was later destroyed as part of a law suit settlement.
11. A munchkin committed suicide on the Wizard of Oz set
Perhaps the most famous movie myth ever, the so-called munchkin suicide scene takes place at the end of the Tin Man sequence in The Wizard of Oz. Supposedly, as Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and their new tin friend set off down the Yellow Brick Road, a small figure can be seen hanging from a tree behind them.
Legend has it that the shadowy shape is the body of a munchkin who hanged himself during production after being rejected by the object of his affections. The reality is less gruesome. To create a more outdoorsy feel, filmmakers let a group of wild birds loose on the set. The shadow is not a hanging body but is in an actually one of the bigger, most likely to be an emu or crane.
The avian excuse may seem rather flimsy, but there is very little evidence for the munchkin suicide. The Yellow Brick Road scene was filmed before the ones set in Munchkinland, so none of the munchkin actors would have been around MGM at the time. Plus, it’s hard to believe that several actors, crew members, and post-production staff that were present at a suicide would have ignored it and carried on filming…
10. Bill Cosby purchased the rights to the Little Rascals with the intent of destroying them
Rumor has it that in the late 1980s The Cosby Show bought the rights to the Little Rascals with the sole purpose of destroying them. According to legend Cosby, who at the time was well-known for his civil rights activism and not for being a sex fiend, felt the depiction of Buckwheat was offensive to African-Americans and didn’t want repeats of the classic show on TV. The comedy shorts originally aired between 1922 and 1944, and although its depiction of black people is questionable by today’s standards, it was normal for the time. Supposedly, Cosby got his hands on all of the negatives and disposed of the films, but this is false. On the other hand, the actor did take part in a campaign in the ’60s to stop old episodes of Amos and Andy from airing. Charles King, who actually bought the rights in the ’70s, did make significant edits to the Little Rascals‘s racially insensitive content but the shorts have since been restored.
9. Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen
Beloved animator and theme park-founder Walt Disney passed away in 1966, at the age of 65. The movie legend had been a heavy smoker all of his life, and eventually contracted lung cancer, dying in hospital of circulatory collapse only a month after his diagnosis. His remains were cremated two days later, and his ashes scattered at Forest Lawn Memorial Lake in Glendale, California.
Although that’s the official story, there is a persistent rumor that Disney decided to try and extend his life by having his body cryogenically frozen, in the hope that he could be revived sometime in the future. However, this rumor is definitely false.
The urban legend came about because Bob Nelson, head of the California Cryogenics Society, said that Disney wanted to be frozen, but as he didn’t state it in writing his family opted to cremate him instead.
The first instance of a corpse being cryogenically frozen was performed in 1967, after a year after Disney’s death, meaning if he had gone ahead with it he would have been the first person to ever do so.
8. Poltergeist is cursed
By today’s standards, ’80s horror Poltergeist isn’t exactly terrifying. Still, the supposed stories from behind the scenes are seriously spooky. The original Steven Spielberg-produced trilogy focuses on the Freeling family, who move into a new house to discover it’s haunted by ghosts obsessed with their youngest daughter.
Poltergeist was released in June 1982, and within months of the film’s debut a cast member was murdered. 22-year-old Dominique Dunne, who played the oldest daughter Dana, was strangled in her driveway by an abusive ex-boyfriend, and was sadly taken off life support five days later.
The death of one cast member doesn’t amount to a curse, no matter how tragic it may be, but Dunne’s passing was followed by others. Julian Beck, who played Kane in the Poltergeist II, died from stomach cancer aged 60. He had been diagnosed before accepting the role, so his death was hardly a shock, but in 1987 Will Sampson, who played Taylor, also passed away from a degenerative condition.
However, the most famous death linked to the Poltergeist was that of Heather O’Rourke, who played the family’s youngest child Carol Anne. Famous for the creepy-as-hell line “They’re heeere!” O’Rourke was only 12-years-old when she died from cardiac arrest and septic shock caused by an incorrectly diagnosed intestinal issue. Still, she wasn’t the last to go. In 2009 Lou Perryman, who had a small role in the first instalment, was murdered in his own home by an ex-convict with an axe. Not so tame now, is it?
7. The Omen is cursed
Like the Poltergeist, classic ’70s horror The Omen is said to be cursed. This film about the Antichrist is iconic in its own right, but the addition of the supposed curse definitely gave it an extra something.
Film began shooting in 1975, and was riddled with problems from the very beginning. While travelling for filming, the planes of actor Gregory Peck and producer Mace Neufeld were struck by lightning, while Harvey Bernhard’s flight had a near miss. If that wasn’t creepy enough, another plane was chartered to the studio for aerial shots, but was replaced at the last minute. The aerial shots were filmed successfully with the replacement plane, while the original crashed, killing everyone on board.
But that wasn’t all. A restaurant that Neufeld and Peck booked for dinner was bombed by the IRA, before Neufeld’s hotel was bombed by the same terrorist group. More strange things occurred, including an on-set animal handler being eaten by lions. However, most of these hellish manifestations are pretty easy to explain away. Planes are actually hit by lightning all the time, with no harm done, and the IRA would have bombed both establishments whether Peck or Neufeld were there or not.
One incident is more difficult to pass off as coincidence. Shortly after the US premiere, special effects artist John Richardson was travelling through the Netherlands with his companion Liz Moore. Richardson was responsible for the film’s myriad of death scenes, including the particularly memorable one where David Warner is decapitated behind a truck. While driving, they crashed, and Richardson was decapitated right in front of Moore.
6. Stanley Kubrick helped NASA fake the moon landing
Remember when Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landing? No, us neither. But that is what some conspiracy theorists seriously believe. The idea that the US Government faked the moon landing is as old as the event itself, and despite the fact it has been scientifically proven, it just won’t go away. Still, adding the possibility that sci-fi director Stanley Kubrick helped them out adds a whole new dimension to the concept.
Last year a video was released in which Kubrick “confesses” that he assisted in faking the moon landing. Supposedly shot ahead of his death in 1999, and hidden away for 15 years, the web documentary was created by someone called T. Patrick Murray.
In the video, Murray claims he had been attempting to interview the acclaimed director for years, eventually obtaining this shocking revelation. In the footage, “Kubrick” explains how the US Government bribed him to make the film after watching 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that he considers the footage his masterpiece.
“I perpetrated a huge fraud on the American public, which I am now about to detail, involving the United States government and NASA, that the moon landings were faked, that the moon landings all were faked, and that I was the person who filmed it,” he says.
However, eagle-eyed (and not-so-eagle-eyed) viewers quickly noticed that the man in the tape was obviously not Kubrick. That and an unedited version of the documentary somehow made its way onto YouTube, in which Murray clearly refers to Kubrick look-alike as “Tom.” Epic fail.
5. The word “SEX” is hidden in a scene from the Lion King
Rumors that Disney places sexual hidden messages in its animated features are as old as time itself. However, on several occasions this has actually turned out to be true. For example, if you pause at the right time you can spot a topless woman in the background of The Rescuers, or a shot of Jessica Rabbit’s lady bits in the original version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
However, there is one subliminal message in a Disney movie that isn’t as naughty was people seem to believe. About two-thirds of the way through The Lion King, there is a scene where Simba flops down dejectedly on a pile of dust, which floats into the sky and appears to spell out the word “SEX.” Cue outrage from eagle-eyed parents and ruined childhoods for those who were old enough to have sat through sex-ed class. However, it tends out that its actually just the studio giving a shout out to the special effects department “SFX.”
4. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre murders actually happened
Like many horror movies, the original version of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was marketed as a true story. Although Leatherface and his teenage victims were the stuff of fiction, the story was based on real-life murderer Ed Gein, who also inspired psychological thrillers Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs.
A resident of Plainfield, Wisconsin, Gein murdered two local women – tavern owner Mary Hogan on December 8th, 1954, and Bernice Woven on November 16, 1957 — with a shotgun. Like Leatherface, Gein really did wear his victims’ scalps and faces as a masks, and also liked to exhume corpses from nearby graveyards and make trophies from their bones and skin. However, his motivations, as well as his murder weapon, were very different from his movie counterpart. Gein supposedly sported his victim’s skin because of his desire to be a woman, in a style similar to The Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill, rather than a skin disease like in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Gein was the suspect in several other missing person cases and, after being found guilty of killing Hogan and Woven, spent the remainder of his life in a mental institution.
3. The Atuk Curse
Atuk is the story of a naive Inuit who moves to New York City. The screenplay, written by Tod Carroll of National Lampoon fame, has been passed around Hollywood since the ’70s, and has almost been made several times– but every single actor assigned to play the lead has died. This has been dubbed “The Atuk Curse.”
John Belushi was supposedly the first victim of the Atuk curse. In 1982, not long after reading the script and agreeing to play Atuk, the 33-year-old actor died of a drug overdose.
Next up was Sam Kinison. The stand-up comedian and actor filmed one scene before dying in a car crash in 1992, almost exactly a decade after Belushi.
The third actor attached to Atuk to die was John Candy, who had a heart attack in his sleep and passed away, aged just 43. This is especially strange, as Candy’s heart attack took place on March 4th, a day before the 12th anniversary of Belushi’s death.
The final big death related to the film was Chris Farley in 1997. A huge fan of Belushi’s, Farley was about to accept the role when he also died of an overdose, also aged 33. The script has been in developmental hell ever since, and even though most of these deaths can be explained away as bad lifestyle choices by the actors chosen for the role (Candy had struggled for years with weight-related health issues, Farley and Belushi had established drug problems), it’s still pretty fricking creepy.
2. A Stuntman was killed during the chariot race scene in Ben-Hur
It is frequently cited that a stuntman doubling for Stephen Boyd was killed during the taping of the chariot race scene in the 1959 William Wyler directed epic Ben-Hur. An addendum to this rumor also claims that the clip of the death was used in the final cut, against the wishes of the stuntman’s grieving widow. Life-like dummies were used to simulate civilians being run over, which seems to have added fuel to the myth.
However, in leading man Charleston Heston’s 1995 biography In the Arena, the veteran actor stated that no one was seriously hurt during the making of the iconic scene. On the other hand, stuntman Joe Canutt was thrown from the chariot, flying 30 feet in the air. Miraculously, he escaped serious injury, needing only four stitches to his chin. In fact, much was made of the care and extensive safety procedures put into creating the scene, which took five weeks and $1 million to make.
1. There is an alternate ending to King Kong VS Godzilla
The third film in the Godzilla franchise, King Kong vs. Godzilla, sounds like the 1960s version of Sharknado. But believe it or not, in its time the movie was a big hit, drawing in the crowds and racking up ¥350,000,000 in grosses in its origin country of Japan. In case you didn’t get it from the title, the film is about a battle between Godzilla and King Kong, who is bought to Japan from his home of Faro Island to star in a Japanese TV show.
In 1963, an American production team heavily dubbed and released an English language version of the movie. Apparently unhappy with the fact that a giant monkey beat a fire-breathing dinosaur in a fight to the death, a rumor began in the US that the ending had been altered for the English version, and that if you watched the film in its original Japanese form, Godzilla would be victorious. However, this is completely false. King Kong won all along, whether fans like it or not. Sorry folks.
What other Holly wood myths have you had enough of? Sound off in the comments.
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