Want to dazzle your mates with some of the coolest cinematic knowledge? Here’s the strangest stuff from behind-the-scenes of your favourite films.
‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ - Comedian Ronnie Corbett nearly played one of the apes
Legendary make-up artist Stuart Freeborn used the smaller of the two Ronnies as a make-up model during the development of the iconic opening sequence.
Unfortunately, the 1968 end product didn’t include a short chimp with chunky black glasses.
Roger Moore played James Bond in a BBC sketch show seven years before ‘Live and Let Die’
As well as pretending to be 007 in an episode of ‘The Saint’, Moore actually starred as the spy in a March 1964 episode of BBC show ‘Mainly Millicent’.
In the sketch, he goes for lunch with a Russian agent played by the show’s star Millicent Martin and punches a waiter. Luckily for him, Cubby Broccoli still thought he was the perfect man for the big-screen job.
‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ – the Death Star model became a bin
Most of the special effects in ‘A New Hope’ were done with miniatures and the Empire’s planet-sized weapon was no exception. After filming it was put in storage, but 20th Century Fox eventually decided to throw everything in the unit away. An employee grabbed the Death Star before it was trashed and it ended up sold to a Missouri musician clearly unaware of its true origins. He removed the radar dish and turned it into his bin.
It was eventually rescued by ‘Star Wars’ collector Gus Lopez who restored it to its former glory. It went on display in a Seattle museum for five years, but now it resides in Gus’ home.
‘The Avengers’ – Conspiracy theorist David Icke inspired the baddies
Former sports presenter Icke has long argued that Earth is controlled by alien lizards masquerading as humans. Comic book writer Mark Millar, whose stories were used as the launchpad for the movie franchise, created the evil Chitauri invaders inspired by Icke’s belief system. The word chitauri is based on Zulu myth and means ‘children of the serpent’.
‘Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones’ - *NSYNC made cameos in the film
George Lucas’s kids were keen for their favourite boyband to make an appearance in their dad’s movie, which is how the band (minus Lance Bass and Justin Timberlake) ended up as Jedi extras in two scenes – in the background of a chat between Obi-Wan and Yoda and fighting droids in the battle on Geonosis.
Both scenes are said to have been cut from the finished film – BUT, there is potential evidence that at least Joey Fatone survived. Having explained he had a Mohawk and blue lightsabre and knowing the singer’s, er, heft, it’s possible this is him during the big fight.
And if you look closely at how rubbish his swordplay is, it’s even better odds.
‘Up’ – The filmmakers know EXACTLY how many balloons there are
According to the director of the Pixar movie, Carl uses 10,297 balloons to help his house fly. But so thorough are they that the filmmakers researched exactly how many it would actually take to allow the building to take flight. The answer? More than 26.5 million.
‘Superman’ – Neil Diamond was in contention for the part
Keen to become an actor, the ‘Sweet Caroline’ singer met producer Ilya Salkind about the part (“don’t ask me why”, Salkind said later). Diamond apparently told people he didn’t want to commit to the months and years the role would entail. Actor Jack O’Halloran, who played villain Non, said that when he came out of the audition, “people were laughing like hell”. Either way, he was not to be forever in blue tights.
‘Home Alone’ – Buzz’s ugly girlfriend is actually a boy
Remember that bit where Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) recoils in horror at brother Buzz’s less-than-attractive belle?
Director Chris Columbus was so worried about how treating a real girl like that would affect her that he dressed the art director’s son up in female clothes and used pictures of him instead.
‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ – TV presenter Peter Snow could have been 007
Now best known as the guy in charge of the Swingometer during general elections, political reporter Snow was asked to audition for the role that eventually went to George Lazenby in 1968. But Snow as James never happened because of his 6’5” height. He has since explained the producers were worried he would dwarf the Bond girls.
‘The Big Lebowski’ – Julianne Moore wore a prosthetic bottom
The Oscar-winning actress didn’t want to be naked in the comedy, but her body double resigned just before filming the scene. The person you see in the buff from behind is Moore, but she’s wearing a fake derriere.
‘Psycho’ – Anthony Perkins wasn’t even on set for the shower scene
In Hitchcock’s 1960 classic, Janet Leigh is famously offed while washing by ‘Mother’, aka Norman Bates. But Perkins didn’t don his mum’s garb to keep it authentic. In fact, he was 3000 miles away in New York rehearsing for a play when they shot the sequence, his place taken by stuntwoman Margo Epper.
Meanwhile, the hand we see is actually Hitch’s, in a slightly more surreptitious cameo than usual. How can you tell? The knife is held in Mother’s right hand – Perkins is left-handed.
'Titanic’ - the ship’s engine room had a big mirror in it to make it look larger
Part of the magic of the mega-grosser is its epic scale, but James Cameron often used clever trickery to achieve it.
For example, near the beginning of the film, we see the cavernous engine room - in fact it’s a comparatively small set with a mirror in it, which makes it seem a whole lot bigger. Not only that, but most of the actors in shot are only about 5-foot tall, making the machinery seem much larger than it really is.
'E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial’ - the people in the hospital scene are actually real-life medics
So as to make the scene where E.T. ‘dies’ as authentic as possible, director Steven Spielberg hired real medical personnel and told them to treat the moment like a genuine emergency.
The realistic result has caused boxes of hankies to run out all over the world.
‘The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring’ – Sean Bean walked up a mountain to set every day
When the cast were shooting on a large Kiwi mountain, everyone was transported to the location via helicopter.
Not so for Sean Bean, aka Boromir. Scared of flying, he took to walking uphill for hours to the set – in full armour.
‘The Beach’ – Leonardo DiCaprio was a real-life hero during a storm while filming
Filming in Thailand in 1999, a then-24-year-old DiCaprio was filming a fishing canoe with Tilda Swinton off Phi Phi Island when a storm hit and the boat capsized.
According to local guides, the Leo calmed panicking crew members while they spent ten minutes in the water and was described as a “hero” and “very cool”. Initially, there were rumours of nearby sharks, but they were just that, rumours.
‘The Theory Of Everything’ – the film starred a World Cup winner
Good pub quiz question, who is the only person to have won a football World Cup and starred in a film nominated for Best Picture?
The answer is Frank Leboeuf, who played a Swiss doctor in the Eddie Redmayne-starrer.
‘Stand By Me’ – Vern, aka actor Jerry O’Connell, accidentally got high on pot during production
In an interview, Kiefer Sutherland said a fair was being held near where they were filming the coming-of-age movie and some of the cast went and bought some cookies.
Unfortunately, according to Sutherland, unbeknownst to anyone the biscuits had been laced with marijuana and O’Connell (who was only 12 at the time) was later found stoned and crying.
‘The Princess Bride’ – Mark Knopfler demanded a ‘Spinal Tap’ prop appear in the film
Fans of ‘The Princess Bride’ will recognise Dire Straits’ songwriter Knopfler’s score as one of the elements which makes the film such a timeless piece of genius, but it might never have happened had director Rob Reiner not cow-towed to the musician’s demands.
Luckily, Knopfler didn’t want more money or his name above the poster. Instead, he insisted that the cap Reiner wore in ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ appear somewhere in the movie. Reiner obliged and you can see it hanging in Fred Savage’s room.
‘Mary Poppins’ – the woman who feeds the birds is actually an amazing Oscar-winning actress
The 15th woman to win an Oscar (for 1940′s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’), Jane Darwell was happily retired in the Motion Picture Country Home when Walt Disney personally visited her to beg her to appear in the 1964 classic.
Aged 85, she agreed and her affecting performance was the last time she was seen on-screen. She died three years later.
‘Die Hard With A Vengeance’ – the script started as a ‘Lethal Weapon’ sequel
Originally called ‘Simon Says’ with Zeus a female character, it was written by newbie scribe Jonathan Hensleigh and considered by producer Joel Silver to be ‘Lethal Weapon IV’.
And if anyone needed convincing that lots of those 90s action movies are interchangeable, Silver decided instead to make John McClane the hero and baddie Simon became Hans Gruber’s angry brother. Add Samuel L. Jackson and you’ve got yourself a ‘Die Hard’.
‘Aliens’ – you can see the Alien nest set in Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’
Unlike most sets, after filming was finished on James Cameron’s 1986 actioner the nest set was left standing.
A couple of years later, the crew of Burton’s ‘Batman’ showed up at Acton Lane Power Station in London and found it all still there, turning it into the Axis Chemicals set you see in the 1989 superhero film.
‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ – the set was so big it had its own microclimate
Large parts of Steven Spielberg’s alien contact film were shot in former air force hangars in Mobile, Alabama – the site where the mothership lands was at the time the largest indoor set ever built.
In fact, it was so big that it had its own microclimate and the humidity was so great that the crew were told it might rain. Indoors.
‘Doctor Who’ – Peter Capaldi has won an Oscar
The current doctor is not just a great Gallifreyan.
The 57-year-old Scot won the Best Live Action Shot Academy Award in 1995 for writing and directing comedy biopic ‘Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life’.
The 23-minute film starred Richard E. Grant and Ken Stott.
'Avatar’ – the noises made by the animals on Pandora were actually dinosaur sounds from ‘Jurassic Park’
At the time of ‘Jurassic Park’ filming, there weren’t a good database of potential dinosaur sounds for cinematic use, so the audio team set about recording their own.
Once shooting finished, they became part of the Hollywood sound database, which is why if you listen carefully during ‘Avatar’, you can hear the strange Pandoran beasties sounding extremely similar to a 1993 velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus Rex.
‘Forrest Gump’ - a local security guard is the only actual person to own the famous bench from the movie
Five benches were made for the Oscar-winning film and when shooting finished, two were taken by Paramount, one by the Smithsonian and one by the city of Savannah.
One was also given to a local security guard, who has since been offered hundreds of thousands of pounds to sell it. So far, he’s refused.
Image credits: Rex_Shutterstock, PA, Getty, Vic Armstrong, Columbia, Lucasfilm, Disney, Vestron, BBC, 20th Century Fox, New Line Cinema, Universal