Top 10 Production Nightmares

Script written by Tiffany Ezuma. Shooting a movie is everyone’s dream; but what happens when that dream goes horribly wrong? Whether it’s just a bunch of random occurrences, a demanding or overzealous director, or even an onset death, some movie sets just seem cursed. In this video, counts down our picks for the top 10 production nightmares. For this list, we’ve picked movies that had epic onset problems, ranging from personality clashes, studio interference and budget issues to more serious troubles like injuries and even deaths. Special thanks to our users Jake Fraser, Moses Delira, Emma Willemsen and SiriusDude666 for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Tiffany Ezuma.

Top 10 Production Nightmares

Shooting a movie is everyone’s dream but what happens when that dream goes horribly wrong? Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 production nightmares.

For this list, we’ve picked movies that had epic onset problems, ranging from personality clashes, studio interference and budget issues to more serious troubles like injuries and even deaths.

#10: “Waterworld” (1995)

Filming in water is notoriously difficult, so a post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick set entirely in water might have problems. “Waterworld” was plagued from day one: a hurricane wrecked the set, Kevin Costner almost died in a storm, jellyfish kept stinging one of the actresses, one stunt-double was lost-at-sea when his jet-ski ran outta gas, and another almost died filming underwater. Director Kevin Reynolds was either fired or quit before production was done, leaving Costner to finish “Waterworld” himself – a whopping $75-million over its $100-million budget. And it bombed, big-time.

#9: “The Exorcist” (1973)

Rumor has it this movie was “cursed.” Sure, the original set burned down; but director William Friedkin may’ve been the bigger nuisance. He kept the set at frigid temperatures to create atmosphere and used unconventional techniques to get the performances he wanted; he slapped one actor, and shot a gun to startle another. Ellen Burstyn suffered permanent damage to her coccyx after her harness was pulled too hard, and Jack MacGowran died of the flu shortly after filming. Say what you will about curses; this one seems true.

#8: “Cleopatra” (1963)

At twenty-times over its initial budget, “Cleopatra” was one of the most expensive films ever. The first producer bailed at $5-mil over-budget, with nothing to show for it. Elizabeth Taylor required a life-saving tracheotomy during filming, delaying things further and forcing a move from London to Rome – meaning all sets were rebuilt. She also started a torrid and public affair with costar Richard Burton, which caused much unwanted publicity. “Cleopatra” was finally finished after two-and-a-half years; but it had no hope of earning back its exorbitant production costs.

#7: “The Island of Dr. Moreau” (1996)

After being served divorce papers onset, star Val Kilmer fought with everyone, leading to the dismissal of director Richard Stanley in favor of John Frankenheimer. They didn’t get along much better. Then actor Rob Morrow quit cause of script rewrites. And true to form, Marlon Brando didn’t feel like learning his lines, so he got them through an earpiece. But he was also dealing with personal issues after learning that his daughter had committed suicide. Not a great experience for anyone involved.

#6: “Fitzcarraldo” (1982)

Screenwriter-director Werner Herzog had a particular vision for this film, and moving a 320-ton steamship wasn’t going to stop him. He forced his crew to manually haul the ship up a steep hill, leading to three injuries. The film’s original star Jason Robards got sick halfway through filming, so Herzog hired Klaus Kinski, an actor with whom he had previously clashed violently during production of “Aguirre: The Wrath of God.” Their second partnership fared no better and an extra even offered to kill Kinski. Herzog reluctantly declined.

#5: “Jaws” (1975)

Filming a movie without a finished script usually doesn’t bode well for the rest of the production. Spielberg wanted the script to diverge from Peter Benchley’s novel, which led to multiple re-writes. He also had trouble casting the film as it was turned down by Hollywood heavyweights like Robert Duvall and Jon Voight. On top of that, the crew couldn’t get the shark to work, Robert Shaw disliked Richard Dreyfuss, and the shoot went 100 days over schedule and at least $5-million over budget!

#4: “Titanic” (1997)

James Cameron has a reputation for perfectionism – in fact he was nicknamed “the scariest man in Hollywood – so it’s no surprise that this shoot was no day at the beach. Besides being grossly over-budget, Cameron was tough on the crew as they moved around his Titanic replica in cold-water temperatures, an issue he also had on “The Abyss.” Team morale got so bad; one crewmember spiked a dinner with PCP, sending 50 to the hospital. Injuries and illnesses aside, “Titanic” made Cameron “king of the world.” So, worth it.

#3: “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

Originally scheduled to shoot in five-months, production wrapped after 16 grueling months that skyrocketed the film’s budget. Making “Apocalypse Now” was an uphill battle in which Francis Ford Coppola dealt with unpredictable weather like hurricanes and typhoons that destroyed his set. His cast was no picnic either; he replaced Harvey Keitel with Martin Sheen, who later had a heart attack on-set. Veteran actor Marlon Brando showed up overweight and under-prepared, forcing Coppola to re-write much of his dialogue and threaten suicide several times.

#2: “The Crow” (1994)

Unlike the other productions on our list, filming for this movie went relatively smoothly until a fatal accident lead to the death of star Brandon Lee. Due to mishandling of the props and improper gun safety knowledge, Lee was shot in the stomach by a prop gun with basically the same force as a real bullet, was mortally wounded and died hours later. The film was only a week away from wrapping at that point, so a CGI version of Lee was created to finish his scenes.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Alien 3” (1992)
- “Brazil” (1985)
- “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” (1977)
- “The Shining” (1980)

#1: “Twilight Zone: The Movie” (1983)

In one of the more horrific on-set accidents to date, issues with the pyrotechnics used for special effects caused a real-life helicopter crash to occur during John Landis’ “Time Out” segment. And unfortunately, the crash was fatal for actor Vic Morrow, as well as two illegally hired child extras. For ten years afterwards, the filmmakers were involved in civil and criminal cases connected to the tragedy, but ultimately Landis and his team were found not guilty of manslaughter.

Do you agree with our list? Which sets sounded like the biggest nightmare to you? For more unbelievable Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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