When you think of The Actor’s Nightmare, you typically think of standing onstage naked, or forgetting your lines, or standing onstage naked while forgetting your lines, but botching dialogue in the buff sounds infinitely preferable to making bloopers that cost producers tens of thousands of dollars.
Even the most seemingly innocuous gaffe can quickly ratchet up a hefty price tag. While filming the classic Billy Wilder farce Some Like It Hot, Marilyn Monroe’s batty behavior caused production costs to skyrocket. If Marlon Brando hadn’t missed his flight from Los Angeles to New York, he could have saved Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather a lot of cash. Kurt Russell was reduced to tears after destroying an expensive prop on the set of Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 Western The Hateful Eight. Once you hear what that prop is, you’ll probably start sobbing, too.
Lights! Camera! Accidents! Let’s look at some actors who made very costly, very awkward mistakes (if you can resist covering your eyes.)
Marlon Brando’s overnight flight oversight
Shooting The Godfather wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. According to Harlan Lebo’s The Godfather Legacy: The Untold Story of the Making of a Classic, actor Al Pacino (right) botched a stunt jump during the scene where Michael Corleone makes a mad leap onto his getaway car’s bumper. Pacino painfully twisted his ankle and strained a ligament, and the injury forced him to alternately use crutches, a wheelchair, and a cane to move around between takes. Several major scenes needed to be rescheduled so Pacino could recuperate from the accident, and the stunt was shot somewhat out of frame, so it couldn’t even be used in the finished film.
But Pacino’s mistake sounds like peanuts compared to Marlon Brando’s (left) scheduling snafu. On his very first day of shooting, the legendary actor was supposed to show up to the New York Eye and Ear Hospital. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Brando missed his overnight flight from Los Angeles to New York, a seemingly small setback that incidentally cost producers plenty of cash. (They lost a full day of shooting, too.) Brando’s scene was rescheduled for the following day, but his flightiness — or lack thereof — cost producers a whopping $40,000.
Eric Stoltz could have been Marty McFly
In one of life’s alternate timelines, Eric Stoltz would’ve played Marty McFly in the Back to the Future trilogy. As CBS News reports, Stoltz was initially cast as the lead in the classic 1985 sci-fi comedy and even played McFly for five weeks. Unfortunately, director Robert Zemeckis didn’t like his performance. Despite being, in Zemeckis’ words, "a magnificent actor," Stoltz reportedly made a major mistake: He couldn’t tackle the comedic beats required for the role. Producer Steven Spielberg agreed, and Universal Pictures brass gave Zemeckis the go-ahead to replace Stoltz with Michael J. Fox, the director’s original choice for the role.
According to Caseen Gaines’ We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy (via Vulture), Stoltz was gutted when Zemeckis fired him, but for cast and crew, his departure may not have been the worst news in the world. Co-star Lea Thompson claimed Stoltz "could be very difficult." He had reportedly driven folks around the bend with his dedication to Stanislavski method acting techniques, provoking eye rolls aplenty.
Between recasting the film and rejiggering the shooting schedule to accommodate Fox, $3 million was added to the budget. These days, a few stray scenes featuring Stoltz in the McFly role are circulating online, giving us all a taste of what might have been.
The Horror of Party Beach: A study in motorcycle mayhem
"Weird atomic beasts who live on human blood!" So goes the promising tagline for 1964’s The Horror of Party Beach, a sandy and slimy B-movie shlock-fest. The film’s legacy was sealed when its messy mix of beach bums, musical interludes, toxic monsters, and motorcycle gangs was subsequently skewered in a 1997 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The silly picture was also included in Michael Medved’s 1978 compendium 50 Worst Films of All Time (via TV Tropes).
According to Thomas Lisanti’s Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969, the production was hampered by a boatload of problems. The most expensive mistake? Hiring members of the Charter Oaks Motorcycle Club to play a motley crew of rough-and-tumble bikers. During a scene depicting a motorcycle and car race, one overly ambitious biker reportedly didn’t want to be stuck at the very back of the pack, so he scooted toward the front, clipping the handlebars of the actor playing the leader of the gang. (Isn’t that a Shangri-Las song?) The poor leader crashed, and a bunch of other bikers swerved to get out of the way and wound up crashing into each other. This traumatizing tableaux culminated in a whole lot of cast members in the hospital, which delayed production. The film went over budget by about $20,000.
A pity — but sacrifices must be made when telling the tale of mutant fish-monsters crashing a kicky beach party.
Marilyn Monroe: Where’s that dialogue?
According to the late director Billy Wilder, filming the classic 1959 farce Some Like it Hot was like being "in mid-flight when we discovered there was a nut on the plane." The nut in this equation is actress Marilyn Monroe. According to film scholar Laurence Maslon, there were days when Monroe was several hours late to work, and plenty of days when she didn’t show up at all. When she did make an appearance, she flubbed countless lines. Co-stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon supposedly made bets every day, trying to guess how many takes she’d need.
As it turned out, she would need a lot. One of Monroe’s three-word lines — "Where’s that bourbon?" — reportedly took an unbelievable 81 takes. At his wit’s end, Wilder wrote and pasted the words "Where’s that bourbon?" into the dresser drawers that Monroe was throwing open for the scene. She still couldn’t get it right. Around the 60th take, Wilder reportedly said, "Don’t worry, we’ll get it," and Monroe responded, "Get what?"
These mistakes proved costly. According to Ed Sikov’s On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder, the film went half a million dollars over budget "for a total negative cost of $2,883,848." Wilder later vowed to never work with Monroe again: "I have discussed this with my doctor and my psychiatrist and my accountant, and they tell me I am too old and too rich to go through this again."
Kurt Russell is no guitar hero
Veteran actor Kurt Russell could be accused of chewing scenery in classic ’80s schlock such as Big Trouble in Little China, and after his colossal mistake on the set of Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 Western The Hateful Eight, he can also be accused of smashing up extraordinarily expensive props. To set the scene: Actress Jennifer Jason Leigh portrays outlaw Daisy Domergue, who strums a guitar at one point in the film — but not just any guitar. The instrument was a vintage Martin guitar from the 19th century, loaned out by the Martin Guitar Museum.
While shooting his scene alongside Leigh, an unfortunate misunderstanding on Russell’s part led to an expensive catastrophe. As reported by SSN Insider (via Reverb,) the intention was to swap out the instrument, replacing the Martin with a shoddy prop guitar, which Russell would subsequently pry from Leigh’s hands. Apparently, Russell didn’t get the memo: As cameras rolled, he grabbed the Martin, shouted "Music time’s over!" and smashed the instrument to bits.
This cut wound up in the final film, and Leigh’s exclamation of "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" is a genuine reaction to the gaffe. Russell destroyed a guitar worth roughly $40,000. Leigh told Billboard he was so distraught upon realizing his mistake that "his eyes literally welled up."
Dick Boak, the equally distraught director of the Martin Guitar Museum, told Reverb: "As a result of the incident, the company will no longer loan guitars to movies under any circumstances."
Mad props: Edward James Olmos’ method mayhem
If Edward James Olmos ever meets Kurt Russell, these two will have an instant icebreaker: Both men broke exceedingly expensive props that weren’t meant to be destroyed. In Olmos’ case, the gaffe occurred while filming a 2007 episode of the epic reboot of sci-fi classic Battlestar Galactica, a series glossily shot at Vancouver Film Studios on film and HD. Entitled "Maelstrom," the episode features Olmos’ character Admiral Adama tinkering with an intricate model ship. While cameras rolled, the actor was apparently bitten by the improvisation bug and went for broke — literally. In a fit of fury, he ramped up the pathos by smashing the model ship to pieces.
As an actor, it’s important to take risks, but maybe not a risk that involves destroying expensive props. It turns out the model was "a genuine museum-quality ship that we were renting," according to executive producer Ronald D. Moore (via Battlestar Wikiclone). "This isn’t a prop! This was hundreds of dollars!"
"Hundreds of dollars" might be putting it mildly. During a panel discussion at the 2012 Planet Comicon, Olmos suggested the "one-of-a-kind" piece was, in fact, worth roughly $200,000. In other news, Tor reported the trashed toy was included in a January 2009 auction, so perhaps some ravenous Battlestar Galactica fan is dutifully gluing it all back together this very minute.
Roar: A savage mistake from start to finish
You know what’s a bad idea? Casting yourself and your family alongside 150 lions, leopards, tigers, jaguars, and elephants, and capturing every scream on film as everyone is mauled. That’s how filmmaker Noel Marshall created the 1981 stinker Roar, which is generally considered "the most dangerous movie ever made." As reported by the Associated Press (via The Hollywood Reporter), the trailer for Alamo Drafthouse’s 2015 theatrical rerelease glibly claimed, "No animals were harmed in the making of this film. 70 members of the cast and crew were." Hitfix said Roar was "like Walt Disney went insane and shot a snuff version of Swiss Family Robinson."
The film stars Noel Marshall, his two sons John and Jerry, his then-wife Tippi Hedren, and her daughter Melanie Griffin. While filming, the whole cast was routinely savaged by lions, who charged at the actors and occasionally clawed at their faces. Noel reportedly wouldn’t always yell "Cut!" as his family begged for help because he didn’t want to lose a take. Hedren suffered multiple scalp wounds. Griffith temporarily quit, fearing she’d wind up with only "half a face." Ringmaster Noel Marshall was bitten so many times that he wound up hospitalized with gangrene. The production went wildly over budget and cost $17 million, making it one seriously lavish Hollywood clunker.
Taraji P. Henson’s Maserati mishap
A stunt gone wrong during production of Babak Najafi’s 2018 thriller Proud Mary cost the filmmakers a hefty chunk of change. The scene involved Empire actress Taraji P. Henson at the wheel of a deliriously expensive silver Maserati and maniacally speeding through the streets of Lawrence, Mass. Henson was quite keen on performing all the required stunt driving herself. Prior to the incident, she’d reportedly pulled off all the skids and swerves with ease — for four solid takes. But according to TMZ, the fifth take went very badly, indeed.
Henson botched this spectacular bit of daredevilry and plowed right into a fire hydrant. "I just miscalculated the turn, and I forgot the fire hydrant was there … and water was all in the car," she told LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan. "But I got out, I’m fine! I made it out okay!" The car was decidedly worse for the wear. A professional Maserati fetishist told TMZ the repairs would likely cost around $12,000. Henson flipped: "As an executive producer, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is going to cost us! I’m putting myself on Time Out!’"
Meanwhile, TMZ felt the need to report that the fire hydrant had been recently slapped with "a fresh coat of paint." Whew.