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7 Movies With Backstage Antics That Inspired Other Films

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1. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1957) / Ed Wood (1994)

By any standard, Edward Wood, Jr. was not a particularly good filmmaker. His films had highly noticeable continuity errors, backgrounds that wouldn't stay still, and flying saucers that were clearly made of cardboard. He would have died in obscurity had it not been for the irony that his movies achieved cult status thanks to their sheer awfulness. Film critic siblings Harry and Michael Medved pronounced Plan 9 from Outer Space the worst film of all time, and David Letterman got laughs from his audiences simply by running clips from the film during the early days of his show.

Made with the last remaining footage of his late friend Bela Lugosi, Ed Wood's dogged pursuit to make Plan 9 From Outer Space is the subject of Tim Burton's 1994 movie Ed Wood. Johnny Depp plays the title character and Martin Landau plays Lugosi (he received the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role). Burton paints Wood as not just a sympathetic figure but as the embodiment of a true auteur. Wood's complete obliviousness to his lack of talent, and his unwavering optimism in the face of it, is seen as his biggest strength; it's what wins the hearts of those around him and the audience. In fact, the film never allows Ed Wood to learn the reaction to his film: As Wood is walking out of the premiere of his film, he asks his girlfriend to elope with him instead of sticking around to hear critical opinion (which likely would have been negative). Both Tim Burton and Johnny Depp count Ed Wood among their greatest films.

2. Nosferatu (1922) / Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu, one of the landmark films of the silent era, is the first of a great many films to be based on Bram Stoker's famous novel Dracula. Without Nosferatu demonstrating the popularity of the vampire genre, we wouldn't have Twilight, True Blood, or The Vampire Diaries. The film almost got shut down, however, because Stoker's widow sued the studio over the unauthorized use of her husband's novel (written in 1897). Murnau persisted with different names for his characters.

The most chilling aspect of the film is Max Schreck's portrayal of the Dracula stand-in (dubbed "Count Orlock"). Because audiences in 1922 were so new to the horror genre, Schreck's striking facial features made quite an impression on audiences, and rumors fueled among audiences at the time that Schreck was an actual vampire. It also helped that Schreck didn't do a lot of acting afterwards (although a closer look at his filmography shows he did do a number of less notable films).

In the 2000 film Shadow of a Vampire, director E. Elias Merhige and writer Steven Katz do a backstage film about Nosterafu with a twist: In this fictionalized account, director F.W. Murnau's (John Malkovich) film is such a success because he finds an actual vampire to play the role of the Count.

3. African Queen (1951) / White Hunter Black Heart (1990)

Many of acclaimed director John Huston's films were adventure stories that were shot on location, which was something few studios allowed directors to do at that time. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre was shot in Mexico, Beat the Devil was shot in East Africa, and The Man Who Would Be King was shot in Morocco—but his most extreme location shoot was for the African Queen. The film, about a missionary (Katharine Hepburn) and a disheveled riverboat captain (Humphrey Bogart) travelling down Africa's Zambezi River in World War I, was shot in a previously unmapped location in the Belgian Congo.

Pretty much the entire cast and crew got sick from dysentery, malaria, and snake bites. It didn't help that Huston was a stubborn and strong-willed man who had a penchant for indulging in adventures. "He had a habit of losing interest in a project halfway through, and he indulged his passions for horses, drink, gambling and women as if he had the divine right to be supplied endlessly with same," wrote Roger Ebert. In this particular case, Huston's adventure of choice was shooting an elephant. When Huston first arrived in the Congo, he delayed production so he could go on a safari. When he failed to shoot an elephant on that outing, he refused to continue production until he succeeded in shooting one. Hepburn wrote in her autobiography that Huston convinced her to go hunting and inadvertently led her to a herd of wild animals from which the two were lucky to escape alive. She was among a number of people who theorized that Huston signed on to the movie just so he could go on safari.

Among those who got sick was screenwriter James Agee. A German-born screenwriter named Peter Viertel was sent to Africa as Agee's replacement. Upon witnessing first-hand Huston's mad quest to shoot an elephant, Viertel was inspired to write a semi-biographical novel about Huston centered around that experience. The novel was made into a movie by Clint Eastwood, who directed and starred as stubborn director John Wilson. Despite the name changes, the film sticks pretty close to the novel.

4. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2000) / Lost in La Mancha (2002)

Director Terry Gilliam (originally of Monty Python fame) is no doubt an artistic visionary, but is also known throughout the industry to be pig-headed and immature. Among his more famous battles against studio overlords were refusing to continue production on The Brothers Grimm for two weeks because of disagreements over casting, and taking out a full-page ad attacking Universal Studios after they made unauthorized edits on Brazil. (The resulting director's cut resulted in his only Oscar nomination, so he might have been onto something.)

When Gilliam shot his 1995 film 12 Monkeys in Philadelphia, Temple University film students Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe were given permission to shadow the director. And when he decided to make his next film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Fulton and Pepe set out to shoot a behind-the-scenes observational documentary.

Then disaster struck: Star Jean Rochefort got sick, the crew let production fall behind schedule, and flash floods destroyed the sets. Within the first week, production was seriously in jeopardy, and the movie was eventually canceled. Meanwhile, Pepe and Fulton started to feel that it might be exploitative to continue filming such a doomed situation. Gilliam insisted they continue shooting the film, however.

As Fulton said in an interview with Moviemaker Magazine: "At this point, we called Terry and told him that we were uncomfortable shooting; that it seemed unethical to continue making a documentary about his misery. He replied, 'Screw ethics! Someone's got to get a film out of all this mess, and it doesn't look like it's going to be me. So it had better be you. Keep shooting!' That was pretty much the blessing we needed."

The end-result is an insightful look at the harsh realities of filmmaking.

5. & 6. Psycho (1960) / Hitchcock (2012) and The Birds (1963) / The Girl (2012)

Those wishing to see both the good and the ugly sides of famed director Alfred Hitchcock are in luck this year—two films have just been released that tell drastically different stories about the man.

Hitchcock tells the story of the director's (Anthony Hopkins) struggle to maintain the career high he had just set for himself with North by Northwest with a risky adaptation of Psycho.

The film is based on Stephen Rebello's book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, which argues that Hitchcock's wife of 53 years, Alma Reville (played by Helen Mirren in the film), played a major creative role in his films, and the story centers largely around how the two sustained a loving marriage through their collaboration.

In contrast, the HBO film The Girl showcases Hitchcock's (this time played by Toby Jones) dark side: specifically, the way he became obssessed with his leading ladies. The Girl tells the story of disenfranchised Swedish actress Tippi Hedren (played by Siena Miller), whose experience filming The Birds served as the most extreme example of this abuse.

According to multiple sources, Hitchcock propositioned Hedren and, when she refused his advances, threatened to blackball her from show business. A headstrong woman, Hedren still refused, and Hitchcock responded by making her time on set miserable: He ordered his staff to follow her around at all times, and instead of using mechanical birds during the attack scene, as he told her he would, he hurled live birds at the actress, subjecting her to a barrage of claw marks and bird feces for five days. Even worse, Hitchcock succeeded in ruining Hedren's career by holding her to an ironclad contract that wouldn't let her act in any films not directed by him. When she was finally released from her contract, demand died down to the point where she couldn't recover.

As for the inseparable love between Hitch and his wife? According to Hedren (who attended the premiere of The Girl and gave interviews), Alma knew about Hitchcock's obsession with her the whole time and wouldn't intervene.

7. A Trip to the Moon (1903) / Hugo (2011)

When he was 27, George Méliès sold his share in the family shoe business and used the money to buy a theater where he could put on shows. He created 30 new dramatic illusions for his act—and when he saw the first screening of the legendary first films shot by the Lumiere brothers in Paris in 1895, he became immediately enchanted and decided to use the moving image as a way to enhance his magic. In his attempts to create cinematic illusions, he inadvertently became the first filmmaker to master multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, and dissolves. Because of this, Méliès is sometimes referred to as the "cinemagician."

Méliès' landmark film A Trip to the Moon is considered cinema's first foray into science fiction. Based on two different sources—From the Earth to the Moon and The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells—the film was only 14 minutes long but took four months to make and cost 10,000 francs. Despite being 110 years old, the film holds up surprisingly well today.

When acclaimed director Martin Scorsese isn't making movies, he's busy indulging in his passion for film history, whether serving as a contributor to Turner Classic Movies, aiding in film restoration, or making documentaries on subjects as wide-ranging as director Elia Kazan to film critic Roger Ebert. This made him the perfect candidate to make Hugo.

Scorsese's film (based on Brian_Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret) is set in 1920s Paris, and revolves around the friendship that forms between the orphaned 11-year-old boy (Asa Butterfield) who lives in a train station's clock tower and a jaded George Méliès (played by Ben Kingsley), who is resigned to managing a toy store after his film career declined during the Great War. The idea of Méliès working at a toy store in obscurity was true to life. During World War I, many of his films were burnt for ammunition or lost, and he was discovered working in a toy store, which prompted a film society to give him a retrospective and rent-free apartment.

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Warner Bros.
10 Hush-Hush Facts About L.A. Confidential
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Warner Bros.

On this day 20 years ago, a rising star director, a writer who thought he’d never get the gig, and a remarkable cast got together to make a film about the corrupt underbelly of 1950s Los Angeles, and the men and women who littered its landscape. This was L.A. Confidential, a film so complex that its creator (legendary crime writer James Ellroy) thought it was “unadaptable.” In the end, it was one of the most acclaimed movies of the 1990s, a film noir classic that made its leading actors into even bigger stars, and which remains an instantly watchable masterpiece to this day. Here are 10 facts about how it got made.


Writer-director Curtis Hanson had been a longtime James Ellroy fan when he finally read L.A. Confidential, and the characters in that particular Ellroy novel really spoke to him, so he began working on a script. Meanwhile, Brian Helgeland—originally contracted to write an unproduced Viking film for Warner Bros.—was also a huge Ellroy fan, and lobbied hard for the studio to give him the scripting job. When he learned that Hanson already had it, the two met, and bonded over their mutual admiration of Ellroy’s prose. Their passion for the material was clear, but it took two years to get the script done, with a number of obstacles.

"He would turn down other jobs; I would be doing drafts for free,” Helgeland said. “Whenever there was a day when I didn't want to get up anymore, Curtis tipped the bed and rolled me out on the floor."


When executive producer David Wolper first read Ellroy’s novel, he saw the dense, complex story as the perfect fodder for a television miniseries, and was promptly turned down by all the major networks at the time.


Though Wolper was intrigued by the idea of telling the story onscreen, Ellroy and his agent laughed at the thought. The author felt his massive book would never fit on any screen.

“It was big, it was bad, it was bereft of sympathetic characters,” Ellroy said. “It was unconstrainable, uncontainable, and unadaptable.”


To get the film made, Hanson had to convince New Regency Pictures head Arnon Milchan that it was worth producing. To do this, he essentially put together a collage of classic Los Angeles imagery, from memorable locations to movie stars, including the famous image of Robert Mitchum leaving jail after his arrest for using marijuana.

"Now you've seen the image of L.A. that was sold to get everybody to come here. Let's peel back the image and see where our characters live,” Hanson said.

Milchan was sold.


Though the other stars of the film were largely discoveries of the moment, Kevin Spacey was apparently someone Hanson wanted to work with for years. Spacey described Hanson as a director “who’d been trying for years and years and years to get me cast in films he made, and the studio always rejected me.” After Spacey won an Oscar for The Usual Suspects, Hanson called the actor and said, “I think I’ve got the role, and I think they’re not gonna say no this time.”


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Though he cast relative unknowns in Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, Hanson wanted an American movie star for the role of Jack Vincennes, and decided on Kevin Spacey. In an effort to convince Spacey to take the role, Hanson invited him to dine at L.A.’s famous Formosa Cafe (where scenes in the film are actually set). While at the cafe, Spacey asked a vital question:

“If it was really 1952, and you were really making this movie, who would you cast as Jack Vincennes?” Hanson said “Dean Martin.”

At that point, Spacey looked up at the gallery of movie star photos which line the cafe, and realized Martin’s photo was right above him.

“To this day, I don’t know whether he sat us in that booth on purpose, but there was Dino looking down at me,” Spacey said.

After his meeting with Hanson, Spacey watched Martin’s performances in Some Came Running (1958) and Rio Bravo (1959), and realized that both films featured characters who mask vulnerability with a layer of cool. That was the genesis of Jack Vincennes.


To help set the tone for his period drama, Hanson began selecting music of the early 1950s even before filming began, so he could play it on set as the actors went to work. Among his most interesting choices: When Jack Vincennes sits in a bar, staring at the money he’s just been bribed with, Dean Martin’s “Powder Your Face With Sunshine (Smile! Smile! Smile!)” plays, a reference to both the character’s melancholy, and to Spacey and Hanson’s decision to base the character on Martin.


To emphasize realism and period accuracy, cinematographer Dante Spinotti thought less about the moving image, and more about still photographs. In particular, he used photographer Robert Frank’s 1958 collection "The Americans" as a tool, and relied less on artificial light and more on environmental light sources like desk lamps.

"I tried to compose shots as if I were using a still camera,” Spinotti said. “I was constantly asking myself, 'Where would I be if I were holding a Leica?' This is one reason I suggested shooting in the Super 35 widescreen format; I wanted to use spherical lenses, which for me have a look and feel similar to still-photo work.”


Warner Bros.

[SPOILER ALERT] In the film, Jack Vincennes, Ed Exley, and Bud White are all chasing a mysterious crime lord known as “Rollo Tomasi,” who turns out to be their own LAPD colleague, Dudley Smith (James Cromwell). Though Vincennes, Exley, and White are all native to Ellroy’s novel, the Tomasi name is entirely an invention of the film.


To adapt L.A. Confidential for the screen, Hanson and Helgeland condensed Ellroy’s original novel, boiling the story down to a three-person narrative and ditching other subplots so they could get to the heart of the three cops at the center of the movie. Ellroy, in the end, was pleased with their choices.

“They preserved the basic integrity of the book and its main theme, which is that everything in Los Angeles during this era of boosterism and yahooism was two-sided and two-faced and put out for cosmetic purposes,” Ellroy said. “The script is very much about the [characters'] evolution as men and their lives of duress. Brian and Curtis took a work of fiction that had eight plotlines, reduced those to three, and retained the dramatic force of three men working out their destiny. I've long held that hard-boiled crime fiction is the history of bad white men doing bad things in the name of authority. They stated that case plain.”

Additional Sources:
Inside the Actors Studio: Kevin Spacey (2000)

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Image Entertainment
12 Sharp Facts About Hellraiser
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Image Entertainment

Thirty years ago, on September 18, 1987, New World Pictures released Hellraiser, a horror film about a family who opens a puzzle box and invites hell in their lives in the form of pleasure-pain creatures known as Cenobites, who are lead by Pinhead (played by Doug Bradley). Unlike many other horror films at the time, Hellraiser wasn’t a slasher film, and Pinhead wasn’t a boogeyman.

British novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Clive Barker wanted to direct a feature film, so he adapted his 1986 horror novella, The Hellbound Heart, into Hellraiser. Despite the graphic nature of the film, it’s really a love story between Julia Cotton and her demented—and skinless—lover Frank ... whose relationship just so happens to revolve around sadistic torture.

Hellraiser was produced for around $1 million and grossed $14 million, making it lucrative enough to spawn nine sequels, including this year’s Hellraiser: Judgment. (Bradley hasn’t starred in a Hellraiser film since 2011’s Hellraiser: Revelations, and Barker didn’t direct or write any of the sequels, most of which were direct-to-DVD releases.) On the 30th anniversary of its release, let's take a look back at this horror classic.


Before Doug Bradley uttered the catchphrase “We’ll tear your soul apart,” Clive Barker directed him in a 1973 play called Hunters in the Snow, in which Bradley played the Dutchman, a torturer who would become the basis for Pinhead.

“The character I played in Hunters, the Dutchman, I can see echoes of later... Pinhead in Hellraiser," Bradley said. "This strange, strange character whose head was kind of empty but who conveyed all kinds of things.”

Barker’s mid-1980s short story “The Forbidden”—which was adapted into Candyman—from his "Books of Blood" series, featured the first incarnation of Pinhead’s nails. “One image I remember very strongly from 'The Forbidden' was that Clive had built what he called his nail-board, which was basically a block of wood which he’d squared off and then he’d banged six-inch nails in at the intersections of the squares,” Bradley said. “Of course, when I saw the first illustrations for [Pinhead], it rang a bell with me that here was Clive putting the ideas that he’d been playing around with the nail-board in 'The Forbidden,' now 10, 15 years later. He’d now put the image all over a human being’s face.”


Unlike many other horror movies of the time, which were more concerned with gore than great acting, Barker insisted that they look for real talent in the casting. “I’m not just taking the 12 most beautiful youths in California and murdering them,” Barker told The Washington Post in 1987. “I’ve got real actors, real performers—and then I’m murdering them.” The “real” refers to British theater actors like Bradley, Clare Higgins, and Andrew Robinson.


New World Pictures

Bradley said the filmmakers wanted skinned Frank to be on the poster, but the studio said no to the grotesque imagery, so Pinhead was used on the poster instead. “Maybe that came from Clive, because what we get in that image of Pinhead with the box is the heart of the Hellraiser mythology,” Bradley said. “If you put The Engineer or the skinned man on the poster, it’s an amazing image but it’s just an image, and it could come from any movie.” Bradley thought using Pinhead’s face made more sense. “The big success of Pinhead is because the image is so original, so startling. It is just an incredible image to look at, and that made a big difference in terms of the public's perception of the movie.”


Bradley’s Pinhead mug was everywhere—on the cover of magazines and on the movie’s poster—but no one mentioned his name. “It was great to be so heavily featured, but there was no way to prove to anyone that it was actually me,” Bradley said. “Those who were following Hellraiser at the time were wondering where the guy with the pins was! Well I can tell you where I was—I was sitting at home in England, watching it all happen from the sidelines.”


In the box set’s liner notes, Barker wrote that the Cenobites' “design was influenced amongst other things by punk, by Catholicism, and by the visits I would take to S&M clubs in New York and Amsterdam.” Costume designer Jane Wildgoose created the costumes, based on Barker’s instruction of “repulsive glamour.”

“The other notes that I made about what he wanted was that they should be ‘magnificent super-butchers,’” Wildgoose said.

As for Pinhead, Barker said he “had seen a book containing photographs of African fetishes: sculptures of human heads crudely carved from wood and then pierced with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of nails and spikes. They were images of rage, the text instructed.”


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Julia is forced to bring men back to her house and murder them for Frank so that he can replenish his flesh. Barker looked at Hellraiser as more of a love story, with Julia committing these heinous acts in the name of love, not just to be brutal for no reason.

“She’s not committing murder in the way that Jason in the Friday the 13th films commits murder—just for the sake of blood-letting —she’s doing it for love,” Barker told Samhain. “So there is a sympathetic quality about her, enhanced hugely in my estimation by the fact that Clare Higgins does it so well.”


When a person twists the box, known as the Lament Configuration, it summons the Cenobites from the gates of hell into the individual's world. “I wanted to have access to hell in the book and in the first movie, explored by something rather different than drawing a circle on the floor with magical symbols around it,” Barker told WIRED. “That seemed rather stale and rather old.”

Barker explained his grandfather was a cook on a ship and brought back a puzzle box from the Far East. “So when I went back to the problem of how to open the doors of hell, the idea of [using] a puzzle box seemed interesting to me. You know, the image of a cube is everywhere in world culture, whether it’s the Rubik’s Cube or the idea of the [Tesseract] in The Avengers movies. There’s a lot of places where the image of a cube as a thing of power is pertinent. I don’t know why that is, I don’t have any mythic explanation for it, but it seems to work for people.”


Roger Ebert gave Hellraiser just a half star when he reviewed it in 1987. “Who goes to see movies like this? This is a movie without wit, style, or reason,” he wrote, adding that, “I have seen the future of implausible plotting, and his name is Clive Barker.”


In England, there was a law in which cockroaches of both sexes weren’t allowed on set, because they could have mated and caused an infestation. So Barker had to hire someone to oversee the situation. “The wrangler, this is the honest truth, had to sex the roaches,” Barker told an audience at a Hellraiser screening. “They were all male. And we had a fridge. They move very fast, so the only way to slow them down was to chill them. We chilled the maggots and the roaches. We'd open it up and it was all reassuring. It was fun.”


In The Hellbound Heart, the Cenobite with pins sticking out of his head is called The Hell Priest. One of the special effects guys who worked on the movie gave the character his nickname. “I thought it was a rather undignified thing to call the monster, but once it stuck, it stuck,” Barker told Grantland.

In 2015, Barker published a sequel to The Hellbound Heart, The Scarlet Gospels, which features Pinhead getting annoyed when people call him that—as well as Pinhead’s demise. “He will not be coming back, by the way," Barker said. "That I promise you."


In an interview with Game Radar, Bradley said the success of Freddy vs. Jason led Hellraiser distributor Dimension Films to flirt with a Hellraiser vs. Halloween film. “I was actually getting excited by the prospect of this because Clive said he would write it and John Carpenter said he would direct it,” Bradley said. “I actually spoke to Clive about it a couple of times and he was interested in finding the places where the Halloween and Hellraiser worlds intermeshed.” But Moustapha Akkad, who owned the rights to Halloween, extinguished the idea.


While the MPAA requested that a spanking scene be cut for its American release, England's BBFC agreed to release the movie as it was, if they were assured that the rats used in the film weren’t hurt. “I had to bring three remote-control rats into the censor’s office and make them wriggle about on the floor,” producer Christopher Figg told The Telegraph. “They wanted to be sure we hadn’t been cruel to them.”


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