So many people are involved in creating the perfect scene. When they come together and get it right, the results stand the test of time. But sometimes things happen during production that can’t be foreseen. Filmmakers just have to roll with the punches, and hope it makes an even better story later.
Here is our look at How It Was Shot: 10 Iconic Movie Scenes.
Jurassic Park has been scaring and thrilling fans ever since it was released in 1993. In the most iconic scene, a T-Rex terrorizes a brother and sister trapped in a flipped jeep. Designed and developed by a team at Industrial Light and Magic, the dinosaur model weighed 12,000 pounds and packed enough power to pose a serious threat to the crew. To be safe, an alarm would sound when the dinosaur went live. But the heavy rain on set took the real toll on the beast, eventually causing it to malfunction, coming alive all on its own, further terrifying crew members. In an effort to ease tension on set during the T-Rex’s scenes, director Steven Spielberg would give his best dinosaur roar into his megaphone, keeping the cast and crew too busy laughing to be worried.
Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller is the definition of a hands-on director. So when it came time to make his vision for a modern Mad Max a reality, he was glad his 150-person stunt team felt the same way. Fury Road was years in the making, but the constant delays were a blessing in disguise for stunt co- ordinator Guy Norris. With so much time to prepare, the team figured out how to execute the stunts safely and flawlessly. Never one to cut corners, Miller also had the safety team for the Olympic Opening Ceremony on hand, erasing enough danger to let the actual actors perform some of their own stunts. While the entire end chase is is visually stunning, it’s the “Polecats” who stand out, swinging like pendulums and plucking victims out of their seats. It’s not CGI trickery either: the Polecat team trained for 8 weeks with former members of Cirque du Soleil, becoming experts by the time the cameras started rolling.
The Shining is famous for its slow, building tension and suspense, taking a turn when Jack Torrance spirals into madness after months holed up with his family at The Overlook Hotel. Discovering his wife and son have barricaded themselves in the bathroom, Jack tears down the door between them in one of the film’s most iconic scenes. Tensions were high on set, with Jack Nicholson and co-star Shelly Duvall at the mercy of the unpredictable director, Stanley Kubrick. Nicholson, an ex-volunteer firefighter, was so efficient at breaking down the doors, the props department was forced to build thicker ones. Add Kubrick’s love of retakes, and a total of sixty doors were destroyed.
One of the scariest films ever made, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws terrified audiences when it was released in 1975. A giant shark terrorizing Amity Island was a nightmare on and off-screen, going far beyond its schedule and budget. The biggest problem: three animatronic sharks named Bruce. Despite being designed by some of the best in the business, the sharks often sank, required nightly repainting, and their internal mechanisms needed weekly replacement thanks to the saltwater. It wasn’t all bad, since the delays forced Spielberg to get creative. The shots from the shark’s point of view were the solution, but ended up so integral to the suspense it’s hard to imagine what kind of movie Jaws would have been if everything went smoothly.
Sometimes even a great scene can end up on the cutting-room floor, and that’s exactly what happened in 1973’s The Exorcist. After a young girl is demonically possessed, her mother enlists two priests to perform an exorcism, and the results are traumatizing. The possessed, named Regan (Linda Blair) can rotate her head a full 360 degrees and projectile vomit with astonishing aim, but her best trick was only revealed to audiences when the film was re-released in 2000 for it’s 25th anniversary. The scene shows Regan arched backward and skittering down a flight of stairs, a technique referred to as “spider-walking.” The stunt was performed by contortionist Linda R. Hager, who was clipped into a harness suspended by wires and lowered down the stairs. The wires proved difficult to remove in post-production, and the scene was cut from the original release. After being cleaned up with some modern day CGI, it was returned to the movie.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
There are plenty of reasons to stay alert in the tub, and this scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street reminds us of two: drowning, and Freddy Krueger. The movie has too many gruesome scenes to count, thanks to writer and director Wes Craven. One of the most unforgettable kills comes when a young girl falls asleep in the bath and is pulled underwater by a clawed hand from below, with the audience watching her grasp for something solid. The creepy stunt was pulled off by placing a bottomless bath tub over a swimming pool, and then building the set around it. Luckily for the actress, her stuntwoman was called in to do the really scary stuff, giving her one less thing to have nightmares about after seeing the finished movie.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now is considered one of the greatest films ever made, but it didn’t come easy. The production ran into too many problems to count, but Martin Sheen being struck with a heart attack from the grueling schedule was easily the worst. The director kept it quiet, and flew Sheen’s brother to the set to act as his stand-in until the star could recover. To see the toll it took, audiences just have to watch the opening scene, where Martin Sheen isn’t acting – he really was drunk, really did slice his hand open on a broken mirror, and really did collapse in tears, later attacking the director off camera.
The Indiana Jones series has featured plenty of movie magic, but not all of it is glamorous special effects or stunt work. In the Last Crusade, Indy and his father take a wintery trip on a German zeppelin. Since the scene was actually filmed in the summer, the extras covered in fur coats and hats were dripping sweat. Sean Connery made a veteran decision, and removed his pants, making sure that his lower half wouldn’t be visible on screen. Harrison Ford followed suit, and their entire scene – filmed with them in their underwear below the table – made it into the finished cut.
You can’t have a Superman story without a trip to Smallville Kansas, but when Superman Returns was set to be filmed in Australia, director Bryan Singer was faced with a serious problem. To show the Kent farm with a full field of corn as a young Clark learned his superpowers, the filmmakers had to build one from scratch. That meant building a road in the middle of nowhere, and planting and growing an entire field of corn for four months before shooting could start. Since most of the footage using the set was cut from the movie, only one scene remains. Probably not the best use of the film’s budget.
No fan of science fiction will ever forget watching as the cast of Alien first stumbled their way onto the dark, deserted spaceship that started all the madness. The remains of the fan-titled Space Jockey steal the show, but to make sure that the corpse carried enough weight on film, director Ridley Scott replaced the actors with children for the longer shots – specifically, his and cinematographer Derek Vanlint’s kids. Their faces are hidden, but the movements are clearly those of younger astronauts. In fact, it was only when the kids began passing out from the overheating spacesuits that the director decided to make them a bit more comfortable – something his adult cast members had been demanding since the start of the film.
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