Skip To Content

    21 Shocking Events In Movie History That Are All But Forgotten Today

    You: "Hollywood is weird." This list: "Hold my cosmo."

    1. A young Melanie Griffith was clawed across the face by a lion and nearly lost an eye while filming Roar, a movie costarring 70+ untrained lions that injured nearly 100 cast and crew members.

    Blood drips down a young Melanie Griffith's face
    Atlas Media Corporation / Animal Planet

    Tippi Hedren is famous for starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, but it wasn’t the wildest animal attack movie of her career...that’d be Roar.

    In 1969, Hedren was filming in Africa when she and her husband, Noel Marshall, became enchanted by the lions there and hatched an idea to make a film starring them. Back in Los Angeles, the couple started acquiring young lions from zoos and circuses and kept them in their Sherman Oaks home. This was illegal, so when the authorities ordered them to get rid of the animals, they built a home/movie set in the more rural Soledad Canyon where they kept the animals and planned to shoot their film. Oh, and they kept acquiring exotic animals, eventually totaling (in part) 71 lions, 26 tigers, nine black panthers, 10 cougars, two jaguars, four leopards, and two elephants. None of this was cheap, so they were forced to sell their other homes and some of Hedren’s film memorabilia. However, the couple's challenges only multiplied when production began.

    Working with the animals proved difficult — and dangerous — and the planned five-month shoot stretched to five years. The lions mainly did two things: A) NOT what the filmmakers wanted, and B) injured the cast and crew. Hedren’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, needed plastic surgery after her run-in with a lion, cinematographer Jan de Bont (who would go on to direct Speed) got scalped and needed 220 stitches, and 70–100 others were injured.

    Marshall and Hedren didn’t escape unscathed — Marshall was diagnosed with gangrene after being bitten so many times, and Hedren was hospitalized after a lion attack and later had her ankle shattered by an elephant.

    So what was the result of all this? A hit movie? Nope. Roar was a box office bomb, and Hedren and Marshall divorced shortly after its release.

    2. An 18-year-old screenwriting “wunderkind” signed a six-figure writing deal before it was discovered she was actually a 32-year-old actor masquerading as a teen.

    Riley Weston posing as teen on the set of Felicity

    From the late-'80s through the mid-'90s, an actor named Kimberlee Kramer appeared in a number of films and TV shows, like Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit and Growing Pains. However, when she entered her thirties and acting roles became harder to get, she changed her name to Riley Weston and claimed she was born in 1979 instead of her actual birth year of 1966. A big difference, but she was able to pull it off thanks to her youthful appearance and diminutive size.

    It was as a writer and not an actor, though, that the "teenager" found success. She signed with the powerful United Talent Agency and was hired as a staff writer on the hit WB show Felicity. She was even given a small role on an episode of Felicity that she wrote. All came crashing down, though, when Entertainment Tonight, in preparing a segment on the teen phenom, discovered her true age. She soon was let go from Felicity.

    Kristi Kaylor, an executive who worked with Weston, told Variety she felt "conned," saying, “She told me she was 18. I thought she was this little genius. In negotiations, her attorney said, ‘Please don’t stand in the way of this poor 18-year-old’s career.’ She conned everybody.”

    3. Disney originally pressured Pixar to make Toy Story 2 a direct-to-video release.

    The posters of all four toy story movies

    Disney had previously made successful direct-to-video sequels to their hit animated films (like Aladdin 2: Return of Jafar), but downgrading the Toy Story franchise to direct-to-video would have been a colossal mistake considering its three big-screen sequels would go on to make more than $2.6 BILLION worldwide!

    4. Divine Rapture, a film about miracles in a small 1950s Irish community starring Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, and Debra Winger, filmed for two weeks before production shut down when it was revealed the financiers had a nonexistent escrow account.

    Marlon Brando and Johnny Depp side-by-side in the doomed production

    In the summer of 1995, the production rolled into Ballycotton, Ireland, and locals were hopeful it'd bring money into the community. Unfortunately, two weeks into filming, checks started bouncing, and CineFin, the financiers who claimed to have access to $300 million, turned out to have a nonexistent escrow account. Filming abruptly halted with just 24 minutes in the can, and the locals never got paid.

    Pretty much the only person who got paid something was Brando, who had been given an advance. Winger not only was paid nothing, but took money out of her own bank account to pay the locals who had helped her with childcare and other services during the two weeks.

    5. A Chinese billionaire spent $140 million making a 3D action-adventure fantasy film, but things went so poorly it was never released.

    The film's poster
    Jiang Prod.

    Empires of the Deep — a vanity project of Chinese billionaire Jon Jiang about a human and mermaid who fall in love — was originally conceived in 2006 as the first film in a trilogy that would also launch an animated series, video game, and even Chinese theme park...but things didn't go so smoothly. At all.

    The screenplay went through 40 drafts and 10 screenwriters, actors (like Sharon Stone and Monica Bellucci) signed on and then ran for the hills, directors came and went, and the movie spent years mired in post-production hell. It's now 2021 and — other than an uninspiring trailer released in 2010 — there are no signs it is any closer to a release than it was 11 years ago.

    6. Writer/director John Hughes wrote the screenplay for Home Alone in just nine days — and the last 44 pages in just eight hours — after a stressful family trip to Europe that left him thinking, "What if one of my kids has been accidentally left behind at home?"

    John Hughes with very '80s hair and glasses
    MTV / Via

    Hughes was infamous for how quickly he wrote his screenplays, and even completed Ferris Bueller's Day Off in less than a week.

    7. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial almost had a sequel entitled E.T.: Nocturnal Fears.

    A photo of ET
    Universal, Warner Bros.

    Shortly after E.T. became a worldwide phenomenon in 1982, director Steven Spielberg, despite being famously averse to making sequels, teamed with E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison to cook up an idea for a sequel.

    The result of their collaboration was a nine-page film treatment entitled E.T. 2: Nocturnal Fears. In it, Elliot, Gertie, and Michael cross paths with evil carnivorous aliens who have come to Earth looking for E.T. The evil aliens hold the kids captive on their ship, where they interrogate them about E.T.'s whereabouts — and nearly kill Elliot with their razor-sharp teeth! In the end, E.T. returns to Earth to save the kids and banish the aliens. (You can read the treatment here.)

    Though the treatment is short and not fleshed out, it doesn't sound...great. Perhaps that's why Spielberg declined to pursue it any further.

    8. Adrienne Shelly had just made the jump from actor to A-list writer/director thanks to her hit comedy Waitress when she was assumed to have committed suicide — but, in fact, was tragically murdered.

    Shelly playing a Waitress in her film Waitress
    Fox Searchlight/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Adrienne Shelly made her name in the early ‘90s as an actor in acclaimed independent films like The Unbelievable Truth and Trust. She went on to act on television before shifting toward writing and directing. Waitress, starring Keri Russell, her third film as a writer/director/actor, became a critical darling and box office success. It was later adapted into the smash Broadway musical Waitress, with music by Sara Bareilles.

    There was much anticipation of what this talented filmmaker would do next, but on Nov. 1, 2006, she was found dead in her bathroom of an apparent suicide. However, when her husband protested, saying she was happy and wouldn’t leave their daughter behind, further investigation discovered a footprint in the bathroom belonging to a construction worker who had been working in her apartment building. The construction worker, it turned out, had killed her during a robbery and staged the scene to make it appear like a suicide. Shelly was just 40.

    9. Sonic the Hedgehog made $5 million dollars worth of revisions after the first online trailer for the film was met with absolutely scathing feedback.

    Side-by-side photos of Sonic before and after revisions

    When Paramount dropped the first trailer for the film in April 2019, fans totally rejected the appearance of Sonic (especially his teeth!). This caught Paramount and the filmmakers off guard. As director Jeff Fowler told the Los Angeles Times, “I allowed myself an hour or two where I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. But then it was like, ‘You know what? You’ve got to get everybody excited about doing the revision, as crazy as that sounds.’ There was definitely a bit of a pep talk, but it was all genuine because I really believed it was a problem that could be solved.” It was worth it — the released film, featuring a redesigned Sonic, was a hit.

    10. Tupac Shakur — who had been a Star Wars fan since childhood — auditioned with George Lucas for a role as a Jedi in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace before his death.

    Tupac side by side with Sam Jackson in Star Wars
    Columbia, 20th Century Fox

    According to Rolling Stone, Tupac was up for the role that eventually went to Samuel L. Jackson.

    11. Jean-Claude Van Damme played the title character in Predator — briefly — before being replaced by Kevin Peter Hall.

    Jean Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport next to a photo of The Predator
    Warner Bros/20th Century Fox

    Before Jean-Claude Van Damme was an action star in the '90s famous for his acrobatic martial arts skills in hits like Time Cop and Universal Soldier, he was a hungry, aspiring action star in the '80s with one measly credit to his name. That seemed about to change when he was cast as the title character in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Predator.

    Things quickly descended into a comedy of errors. What exactly happened isn’t clear (this Hollywood Reporter deep dive is the closest we may ever get to the truth), but it seems Van Damme arrived on set expecting to show off his martial skills as the deadly alien but was instead fitted with a gigantic alien mask that limited his mobility and restricted his air so much that he kept passing out. Van Damme either quit, was angrily fired by producer Joel Silver, or was no longer the right fit for the role when the costume was redesigned for a 7-foot man.

    Whatever the truth, the disappointment was short-lived for Van Damme. Eight months after the release of Predator, the Muscles from Brussels scored a hit as the star of Bloodsport, which allowed him to show off his moves and not wear a poorly designed, potentially suffocating mask.

    12. When Bruce Lee died before the completion of Game of Death, the producers scrambled to finish the film using stand-ins for Lee's character obscured by large sunglasses and, appallingly, even incorporated newsreel footage of Lee in his casket from his funeral.

    Bruce Lee fighting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in blood sport
    Golden Harvest

    In the fall of 1972, Bruce Lee began filming Game of Death and completed a fight scene with 7-foot-2 basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Soon, however, he was offered the chance to star in Enter the Dragon, a Warner Bros. film, and Game of Death went on hiatus to allow him to film the latter.

    Six days before the release of Enter the Dragon, a 32-year-old Lee was discussing the resumption of filming of Game of Death when he fell ill. He later died at the hospital (likely from a cerebral edema).

    Enter the Dragon became a huge success upon its release, so the Game of Death producers sought to complete the movie. It took a while, but in 1978, they hired director Robert Clouse to finish the film. To do this, he enlisted two stand-ins to play Lee’s role. Since they looked nothing like Lee, they spent much of the film wearing disguises, like large beards or sunglasses. Clouse also occasionally spliced archival fight footage of Lee into fight scenes, and, shockingly, even included footage of a dead Bruce Lee in his open casket at his funeral in a scene where Lee’s character fakes his death.

    While some found this completed version of Game of Death distasteful, it was generally successful, both at the box office and with critics.

    13. Grace Kelly was one of the world's biggest movie stars (and an Academy Award winner) when she walked away from it all at age 26 to marry Monaco's Prince Rainier III and become a princess.

    Grace Kelly at her wedding to Prince Rainer
    MGM, AFP / Getty Images

    In the early '50s, Grace became a huge star thanks to a remarkable run appearing in critical and box office successes including High Noon, The Country Girl (for which she won Best Actress at the Academy Awards), and three Alfred Hitchcock classics: Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, and To Catch a Thief.

    She seemed poised to remain a Hollywood star for decades to come, but that all changed when she attended the Cannes Film Festival in 1955 and met Monaco's Prince Rainier III. A year later, the 26-year-old star retired as an actor, married the prince, and spent the rest of her life fulfilling her duties as the princess of Monaco.

    14. Steven Seagal attacked costar John Leguizamo during a rehearsal for their film Executive Decision and instigated some serious bad blood between the two.

    Seagal and Leguizamo side by side
    Warner Bros., CBS

    At the time of filming 1996's action/thriller Executive Decision, aikido expert Steven Seagal was a huge action star. According to costar John Leguizamo, Seagal was also a huge something else, and in an interview with the A.V. Club, said that when Seagal arrived at rehearsal "he told everyone, 'I’m in command. What I say is law.' So I started, like, laughing. I mean, who the fuck talks like that? Who comes into rehearsal and says that shit? So I started laughing and he slammed me with an aikido elbow against a brick wall and knocked all the air out of me. I dropped to the ground, and all I could say was, 'Why? Why?'”

    Leguizamo went on to say, "On the day when we shot the scene where his character died, I showed up so early. I wanted to see him die."

    15. So many cast members of the Poltergeist films died that rumors spread that the production was cursed.

    The image of Carol Anne touching a TV playing static from the film's poster

    Poltergeist, about a family who discovers their home is haunted by angry ghosts, was a hit in 1982 and spawned two sequels. Sadly, a number of cast members — including two very young ones — died during the period this trilogy was made.

    Just five months after the release of the first film, 22-year-old Dominique Dunne, who played the family’s teenage daughter, was tragically murdered by an abusive boyfriend.

    Then, only a few months after the release of Poltergeist II, 60-year-old Julian Beck, who played Kane in the film, died. His costar in the film, Will Sampson, 53, died less than 18 months later.

    Finally, after filming was completed on Poltergeist III, 12-year-old Heather O’Rourke, who played the family’s youngest daughter, Carol Anne, unexpectedly died of cardiac arrest caused by a bowel defect.

    Because of these high-profile deaths, and the films' focus on supernatural entities who mean to do harm to the living, the idea the production was cursed spread far and wide in the '80s, often with embellishments. For example, as Snopes points out, one version of the rumor claimed that Oliver Robbins, who played the family’s other child, also died. He, however, is still alive and working in the business.

    16. Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas had to be re-cut after people angrily stormed out of a test screening.

    Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci in the film
    Warner Bros.

    The problem? It was way too violent. In this version, for example, the infamous opening scene showed Joe Pesci's character stabbing the man in the trunk 10 times instead of the four seen in the final version.

    Scorsese told Entertainment Weekly this was a lesson in what an audience can tolerate. He re-cut the film, softening the violence (relatively, this is Goodfellas after all), and leaned into the scenes with Joe Pesci and his mother, which audiences enjoyed and felt humanized Pesci’s character. The changes worked — Goodfellas was nominated for six Academy Awards.

    17. The executive who bought The Sixth Sense screenplay for Disney ended up losing his job over the purchase.

    Bruce Willis and Hayley Joel Osmond in the sixth sense
    Disney / Getty Images

    David Vogel, the president of Disney's Buena Vista Motion Picture Group, was so blown away by M. Night Shyamalan's screenplay for The Sixth Sense that he bought it the same day he read it — for a whopping $2.25 million and with a commitment to let Shyamalan direct. He also neglected to get the purchase cleared by his bosses, but figured after eight years in his position he'd earned the right to do so. This set off a series of events that led to Vogel leaving the company.

    In the end, this all blew up on Disney which, perhaps in a fit of anger at Vogel, arranged for another company to finance the film. As a result, Disney only ended up keeping 12.5% of the profits of the most successful live-action film in their history.

    18. John Candy filmed one of his most iconic scenes in Splash drunk after a run-in with Jack Nicholson.

    John Candy in splash's famous racquetball scene

    One of the nice things to come out of 2020 was Josh Gad's Reunited Apart, which reunited over Zoom the cast and crew of famous films. On the episode featuring the alumni of Splash, the film's director, Ron Howard, told a story about how John Candy arrived late and drunk to shoot the famous racquetball court scene.

    Howard says the normally very professional Candy apologized, bellowing, "Here's what happened, I'm telling you the truth. I'm at the bar and Jack Nicholson is at the bar. Jack Nicholson knew my name, Ron! And he starts buying me drinks. I said, ‘But I've got to go shoot.’ And he said, ‘You're going to be all right, kid. Don't worry about it.’ And he kept buying me drinks. I never went to bed, Ron. I never went to bed.”

    19. 1972's Pink Flamingos had the tagline "An exercise in bad taste," and it wasn't kidding. The film featured Divine performing oral sex on the actor portraying her son in the movie.

    Divine pulling at the pants of her character's son in the film
    New Line Cinema

    John Waters, in a bit of comic irony I imagine he finds highly amusing, is best known these days for his contribution to the wonderfully wholesome musical Hairspray. But for the majority of his career — and especially early in it — he was known for making some of the raunchiest, most offensive cult films ever.

    The most famous of these films is Pink Flamingos, which stars Waters' longtime collaborator, drag queen Divine, as — oh boy, how to synopsize this movie — a woman named the "filthiest person alive" and her rivals who try to steal the title from her. If you're familiar with this movie, you probably know it ends with Divine picking up real dog poop off the ground and eating it.

    Equally unsettling is the scene where Divine, excited by defiling her rivals' home, performs oral sex on the actor portraying her son, Crackers. Understanding what Waters was going for from the vantage point of 2020 may be hard, but he told the Washington Post on the film's 25th anniversary that the film was thumbing its nose at middle-class and suburban values. "We wanted to do cultural terrorism in a funny way," he said.

    The film became a hit across America in underground theaters, although it was declared illegal in Hicksville, New York and Switzerland.

    20. Alec Baldwin — the original Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October — claims Harrison Ford stole the role in the sequels out from under him, and he is still red hot about it today.

    Baldwin and Ford each as Jack Ryan

    If you’re under 40, you probably think of Alec Baldwin as a comic actor, thanks to his work on 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live. However, he became a star playing CIA analyst Jack Ryan in the 1990 spy thriller The Hunt for Red October, which grossed over $200 million.

    Everyone expected the young star to headline the sequel, Patriot Games, but when the film hit theaters, Ryan was played by Harrison Ford. If you ask Baldwin what happened, he'll say he got screwed by Ford. In his book Nevertheless, Baldwin claims that he was in the middle of negotiating with the studio for the sequel when Ford approached them about taking over the role. He goes on to allege that The Hunt for Red October director John McTiernan asked Ford if he felt bad for snatching the role from Baldwin, and Ford replied, “Fuck him.” Baldwin later described Ford as “a little man, short, scrawny, and wiry, whose soft voice sounds as if it’s coming from behind a door." Let it out, Alec. Let it out.

    In Ford’s defense, Baldwin was starring in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway when negotiating for the sequel, and the studio was frustrated with his unwillingness to say when exactly he’d be done with the play and available to film Patriot Games. So the studio's move to Ford wasn’t totally unwarranted.

    Ford played Ryan a second time in A Clear and Present Danger, which usurped The Hunt for Red October as the highest-grossing film in the Jack Ryan franchise (a fact that must pain Baldwin to no end).

    21. Stanley Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut, had the longest continuous film shoot on record, lasting 400 days — or more than five times longer than the average Hollywood production.

    Kidman and Cruise embracing naked in the film
    Warner Bros.

    Kubrick was infamous for his long film shoots, so the film's stars, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, arrived in England prepared to film the movie for six months. In the end, though, they were there 15 long months. What took so long? Kubrick's perfectionism combined with his tendency to shoot take after take. Even a simple scene of Cruise walking through a door was filmed 95 times. Vinessa Shaw, who had a small role that was expected to take two weeks to film, was on set for two months. The production went on so long that Harvey Keitel eventually left the film, replaced by Sydney Pollack.

    Kubrick continued his methodical ways in post-production and took almost a year to deliver a first cut of the film. Sadly, Kubrick died six days later, leaving his film almost, but not totally, finished.

    TV and Movies

    Get all the best moments in pop culture & entertainment delivered to your inbox.

    Newsletter signup form