Special Feature: Cinema’s most torturous shoots

If you find moving flat/house stressful, spare a thought for those film production companies who choose to lug their equipment, cast and crew thousands of miles to the other side of the world. Here, Damian Hellowell of removal specialists John Mason International takes a look at some of the industry’s most torturous productions. Though the average family has roughly four members, some films can have thousands; whereas the average family can fit all their possessions into one or two containers, sometimes one film can take a ship-load of space to transport equipment to a desired location. Here are a few nightmare productions that decided to flaunt their individuality and cast off from the luxury of filming domestically.

Waterworld (1995): On paper, Waterworld might have looked like a relatively straightforward production. After all, Kevin Costner and director Kevin Reynolds had a colossal $100 million to play with ($162,810,000 in today’s money). What hadn’t been taken into account, however, is the fact that filming anything on water is notoriously hard work. Almost immediately the production found itself behind schedule on its floating Pacific Ocean set. Things were made just that little bit more difficult after some of it unceremoniously sank during early days of production. To add to this, numerous members of the crew were badly injured during filming, including nine-year-old Tina Majorino, who was stung no less than three times by jellyfish (what price glory?). Although the budget seemed like a fat $100 million in the bank, a additional $75 million had to be arranged to complete the film and a further $60 million to market it; making it the most expensive film ever made at the time.

Cleopatra (1963): Adjusted for inflation, Cleopatra took a gigantic $320 million to produce; a hunk of money that very nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox in the process. This particular nightmare started when the film’s vastly detailed, complex and expensive sets had to be moved from London to Rome after a series of botched shoots and the illness of lead star Elizabeth Taylor. The prelude to this was the fact that Taylor had landed a record $1 million contract for the film, rising to a huge $7 million thanks to delays in production. Taylor still holds the World Record for most costume changes in a single film (65), and Cleopatra did eventually make a profit – but not until 1966, when ABC paid a whopping $5 million for just two showings.

Fitzcarraldo (1983): It could be argued that before production had even started, Fitzcarraldo sailed into some very rough seas. Lead actor Klaus Kinski and director Werner Herzog already had an explosive, volatile, yet surprisingly close relationship after making a string of previous films together. One famous, ‘mild’ argument with Kinski and a production manager can even be viewed on YouTube. The logistical nightmare in this instance was the film’s central narrative; the pulling of a three-storey ship over a muddy 40° hill to a river on the other side, deep in the Amazon rainforest. The problem, of course, is that in order to shoot the film a three-story ship had to be pulled over a muddy Amazonian hill to a river on the other side, deep in the Amazon rainforest. Today, Fitzcarraldo is recognised as one of Herzog’s greatest endeavours – though the Amazon, its tribes and the increasingly troubled Kinski arguably never fully recovered from the ordeal.

Damian Hellowell