Who’s looking forward to the young Han Solo spin-off movie? We definitely were, at least until we started hearing the stories from set.
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller fired for deviating from the script... Producers apparently unhappy with Alden Ehrenreich’s performance... Though it’s of course possible that new helmsman Ron Howard will pull the movie back from the brink, this apparent chaos doesn’t exactly fill us with confidence.
It’s no new story. All through the history of Hollywood, films have struggled with directors who can’t handle the heat, egotistic stars, and those pesky meddling execs.
And all of these problems have seriously ruined films that could have been great. Here are fifteen examples of such tragically troubled productions...
15 Fantastic Four (2015)
Rushed into production so Fox could retain the rights to its characters, Fantastic Four was directed by Josh Trank, who’d enjoyed indie success with Chronicle but had never helmed a big studio project before.
And unfortunately, it seems that Trank couldn’t cope with the scale of it all. His behavior was erratic, shutting himself off in a private tent and getting into arguments with stars Miles Teller and Kate Mara, whose casting he reportedly disapproved of. At one point, he almost got into a fistfight with Teller.
Fox wrestled control away from Trank, hiring another team to rewrite the script and conducting reshoots without him. This is evident in the film, as Mara is clearly wearing a wig for the reshoots, having cut her hair since filming originally wrapped. But that’s far from the biggest problem with Fantastic Four, which is an unintelligible, unentertaining mess - thanks in no small part to the back and forth between the studio and the out of his depth director.
14 Alien 3 (1992)
The first two Alien movies are undeniable classics, but the third did not fare as well. Its problems begun long before shooting, with the studio (Fox) unable to decide on a direction. Many different script drafts were written and disposed of, and several directors were hired and dropped.
When production finally began with director David Fincher in charge, the studio still wasn’t happy with the story, and the incomplete script was constantly being rewritten throughout production. Fox didn’t agree with aspects of Fincher’s vision and tried to prevent him from shooting certain important scenes, but he went ahead and shot them with a skeleton crew anyway.
It was a tense production, and even after the shoot, Fincher reportedly found himself locked out of the editing suite by controlling execs. It all resulted in a movie that was vastly inferior to the two that came before, and Fincher remained bitter about the experience for years to come.
13 Suicide Squad (2016)
You can’t blame DC for trying to replicate Marvel’s success by spinning a combined cinematic universe out of their superhero characters. You can blame them for making a complete mess of it, as epitomized in Suicide Squad.
Rushed into production to meet its release date, writer/director David Ayer had just six weeks to pen the script – hardly long enough to write a coherent movie, never mind a masterpiece. And then, during production, the negative reaction to Batman v Superman made Warner Brothers worried that Suicide Squad wouldn’t live up to ite edgy, fun trailers.
So according to several sources, they hired the company behind the trailers to re-edit the whole movie. This lighter Suicide Squad was shown to test audiences alongside Ayer’s darker version. They didn’t like either. So WB did some reshoots, added more jokes, and put together a final movie in the middle ground – i.e. tonally all over the place.
12 Quantum of Solace (2008)
The Daniel Craig-headed reboot of the James Bond series began strongly with Casino Royale, but how long could they keep up this quality? As it turned out, for one film.
The problems with Quantum of Solace were down to the writers’ strike that occurred during its production. Screenwriter Paul Haggis had to rush himself to frantically finish the script mere hours before the strike began, meaning cameras had to begin rolling with the bare bones of a screenplay. MGM was unable to employ any writers to fix script issues during production either, meaning Craig and director Marc Forster had to work on the script themselves during shooting.
Their best efforts, however, couldn’t save the movie, which ended up with a pretty incoherent plot – it’s, erm, something to do with a guy trying to steal a lot of water.
11 Caligula (1979)
This historical epic, starring Malcolm McDowell as the Roman emperor, was a notorious catastrophe, mostly due to tension between writer Gore Vidal, director Tinto Brass, and producer Bob Guccione, who was famous for founding Penthouse magazine but completely inexperienced as a movie producer.
The first problems came when Vidal objected to Brass’s changes to his screenplay, calling the director a parasite and consequently being kicked out of the studio. And then Guccione’s intense shooting schedule proved impossible to stick to, leading to elaborate sets being replaced by silk curtains and surreal matte paintings.
But the real conflict came over Guccione’s insistence that the film featured hardcore sex. Not only did this cause the female lead to quit in outrage, but it ended up with Guccione taking control of the film and shooting these scenes himself. The result is a confused and over-indulgent movie with more porn than plot.
10 Jane Got A Gun (2016)
This Natalie Portman-starring Western was all ready to begin shooting in early 2013, with Lynne Ramsay directing and Jude Law featuring as the villain.
The first day of filming couldn’t have gone much worse. Ramsey left the film, claiming her early departure was due to "creative differences". The studio, however, claimed she was drunk and abusive to cast and crew. Law, who’d only taken the job because he wanted to work with Ramsey, left too. Ramsey was replaced by Gavin O’Connor, and Law with Bradley Cooper. And then Cooper left and was replaced by Ewan McGregor.
After several further delays, it took until 2016 for the film to be finished – and it wasn’t worth the effort. Showing its troubled production, Jane Got A Gun jumps between being a hard-hitting revisionist Western and camp silliness, and it didn’t come close to making its money back.
9 X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
After two successful X-Men films, Bryan Singer was all set to return for a third, but left to take on Superman Returns instead. He was replaced by Matthew Vaughn, who soon quit, unhappy with the schedule imposed by Fox, before Brett Ratner finally took the job.
Concurrently, execs at Fox decided that they wanted to milk as much money out of this mutant cow as possible, and so demanded that an insane amount of characters be included – the more X-Men in the movie, the more action figures they can make!
Ironically, though, because of the rushed production, merchandise company ToyBiz didn’t actually have time to put together any Last Stand tie-in figures, so the film was released with characters appearing, disappearing, and getting abruptly killed off left, right, and center for no actual reason.
8 Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
The first Star Trek movie was rushed into production to capitalize on the success of Star Wars, which meant that rather than developing a film from scratch, Paramount decided to adapt a TV sequel series that Gene Roddenberry had proposed.
Unfortunately for them, this meant Roddenberry had to be fully on board, despite being completely inexperienced with film and being insistent on getting everything he wanted. Roddenberry endlessly feuded with co-writer Harold Livingston, leading to constant rewrites throughout production.
Add to this the fact that director Robert Wise was over budget and running behind schedule, and the fact that the crew had to use the sets designed for the TV series (which weren’t suited at all for film lighting, as it turned out), and Star Trek made for one rocky production. The film that ended up being sent to theaters was not much more than a rough cut.
7 Sahara (2005)
Author Clive Cussler was reluctant to sign away the rights to his books after the chaos behind the scenes of Raise the Titanic back in 1980, so when he was approached about a film based on his Dirk Pitt Adventures, he insisted on retaining creative control.
Unfortunately, this was the cause of many of Sahara’s problems. Cussler rejected several drafts of the script, and before long, $4 million had been spent on ten writers, none of whom had come up with something Cussler would allow to be shot.
When filming finally got underway, he still wasn’t happy, and he ended up blasted the movie, severely damaging its marketing. The money wasted during the writing process, meanwhile, meant big action sequences could no longer be afforded and had to be dropped.
6 The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)
The Island of Dr. Moreau was based on a H.G. Wells classic, so how did it become one of the worst films of the 1990s? Well, the boat bringing exotic animals to location being hit by a hurricane was only an omen of the chaos to come.
Val Kilmer was reportedly a complete prima donna on set, constantly arguing with director Richard Stanley. In turn, Stanley shifted him into a smaller role, leaving piles of unusable footage behind. Marlon Brando, as Moreau, was worse. He refused to learn his lines, so they had them fed to him through an in-ear radio; unfortunately, it also picked up police signals, meaning Brando would spontaneously announce nearby robberies during takes.
After three days of shooting, director Stanley was fired and replaced by the tyrannical John Frankenheimer, who constantly sparred with cast and crew. Stanley, meanwhile, ran away to live in the jungle – which at least must have been a more tolerable experience than watching the film!
5 Prometheus (2012)
The second film in the Alien universe to make this list, Ridley Scott’s prequel was just as troubled as David Fincher’s aforementioned sequel.
One of the main problems was that no one was sure whether it was indeed a prequel or not. Scott’s draft of the script was criticized for being too heavily connected to the previous Alien films, leading to a major rewrite. Even after that, it took several drafts to get the screenplay ready to shoot.
But the troubles carried on, even into post-production. Fox demanded the film be suitable for a PG-13 rating, whereas Scott wanted to make something more adult, and this conflict led to several key sequences being butchered – the final confrontation between Elizabeth Shaw and the Engineer should have been much longer. Prometheus ultimately failed to impress most viewers.
4 Superman II (1980)
The Christopher Reeve-starring Superman movies may be pure escapist fun, but Superman II is a little more uneven than its predecessor – and have you ever wondered why characters sometimes change hairstyles, and even hair color, between scenes?
That’s because director Richard Donner was actually fired during filming - over disagreements about tone - and replaced by Richard Lester. Due to DGA rules, some of what Donner had filmed had to be reshot by Lester, and subsequently, some scenes ended up being filmed two years apart from each other, leading to such continuity issues.
Making it worse, stars Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando refused to work with Lester. Warner Brothers somehow put together a cut of the film using both Lester and Donner’s footage, though Brando had to be cut out entirely.
3 The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
Adapted from Tom Wolfe’s bestselling novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities could have been a sharp and insightful satire of Wall Street trading, but it was sunk by a notoriously troubled production.
For one part, there was the studio making significant changes to the source material, believing that Tom Hanks’ character had to be made sympathetic in order for audiences to enjoy the movie. And then there were the ego clashes on set; Bruce Willis, his self-opinion at a high due to the success of Die Hard, at one point angrily challenged the crew to work harder, while Melanie Griffith disappeared from set for two weeks and came back with a boob job.
The movie was a flop, with the novel’s pointedness entirely blunted. In fact, all the controversies behind the scenes were documented in a book, The Devil’s Candy, which is much more entertaining than the film.
2 Heaven’s Gate (1980)
United Artists was one of Hollywood’s best studios, originally founded in 1919 by a group of legendary actors and directors. And in 1980, Heaven’s Gate caused it to collapse.
This was down to the massive over-ambition of its director, Michael Cimino. He would order sets be torn down if they weren’t perfect, and he shot at a glacial pace, leading to the film being five days behind schedule... after a total of six days. Initial budget estimates had been around $7.5 million, but it ended up costing $40 million.
Cimino also refused to cut down the story, locking the doors on the editing suite so that nobody could interfere with his vision. When he emerged, his finished cut was 325 minutes long. Though he was eventually forced to cut this to 149 minutes, Heaven’s Gate was no masterpiece. In fact, it destroyed several careers and lost UA so much money that it had to be sold to MGM.
1 The Dark Tower (2017)
Stephen King’s many fans had been waiting over 30 years to see a movie version of his seminal Dark Tower series, and the idea of an adaptation spent some time being thrown around Hollywood. JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof optioned the rights in 2007, but their version came to nothing.
In 2010, Ron Howard took on the project, though it took until 2015 for it to finally get going, with Howard producing and the less experienced Nikolaj Arcel directing. Though fans were happy with the casting of Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, rumors began circulating that the studio wasn't impressed with Arcel’s handling of the production, and that clashing visions were causing trouble behind the scenes.
Resultantly, test screenings confused rather than entertained audiences, and Sony ordered reshoots to clarify the backstory of Elba’s character. But this couldn’t save the movie, which unfortunately turned out to be a muddled, unexciting mess.
Are there other movies which you reckon would have been much better had everyone behind the scenes just gotten along? Let us know in the comments!