6 Hit Movies That Almost Weren't Made - Dangerously Genocidal


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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

6 Hit Movies That Almost Weren't Made

Hollywood is not merciful on its faithful. There are thousands of films that never make it to the holy grail of the silver screen; those who do make it aren’t always the ones deserving of drinking from the cup of ever-lasting life (Battlefield Earth, anyone?). This is an industry interested in money, money, money, after all, and there are only so many risks a studio will take. Unfortunately, this often leaves potentially great scripts drifting from studio to studio, and we’re left wondering how many future classics were left in the dust. Thankfully the promised land does still have its heroes - the producers who are willing to take the leap and back the underdog – for whom the world cheers when their risks make it big. Here are:

6 Hit Movies That Almost Weren't Made

1. Pulp Fiction, 1994 – Quentin Tarantino, Miramax Films

One of the biggest cult classics of all time – and bona fide National Film Registry protected film – is definitely the place to start. Let’s get money out of the way right off the bat; this little Tarantino beauty had a budget of around $8.5 million, and drew in an estimated $213.9 million at the box office. If that’s your only definition of a film being great, consider the requirement met.

The script had more than just a rocky start. Columbia Tristar went so far as to say that “This is the worst thing ever written. It makes no sense. Someone’s dead and then they're alive. It’s too long, violent, and unfilmable.”. Mike Medavoy, the big boss, the film was just “too demented”, and was all the happy to sell if off to another studio – may he suffer terminal case of the green gills for the rest of time.

Enter our hero, Harvey Weinstein from Miramax. He wasn’t so easily cowed, and stepped forward to take the risk on dearly demented Tarantino’s work. The result was nothing less than extraordinary, with the film taking home several awards and accolades from critics. The studio made a hefty profit, and actors and actresses like John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis’s careers all received a nice little boost (or revitalization) – and it definitely cemented Tarantino’s place in history.

But it was the fans who scored big, and Pulp Fiction was quickly elevated to the status of cult classic; a “national phenomenon”, as one critic put it. We can’t help but agree that the Library of Congress had its head screwed on right when it voted to include Pulp Fiction in the National Film Registry. And we will never, ever forget just how unhinged hitman Jules Winnfield looked while reciting from the Bible. Lay that vengeance, man. Lay it right on.

2. Star Wars, 1977 to Present – George Lucas, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox & Walt Disney

If this needs any kind of explanation, you’ve been living under a rock for a good forty years. Not only is Star Wars one of the top three highest grossing film franchises – only beaten by much more recent franchises MCU and Harry Potter, mind you – but it’s also the second highest grossing media franchise of all time, and Guinness Records Title holder for the most successful film merchandising franchise. Again, if money spoke, you’ve got the entire works of Shakespeare laid out here.

To the millions of Star Wars fans around the world, the very idea that Star Wars might never have been made is unimaginable. Regardless, it’s undeniable fact that one of the most extensive fictional space universes very nearly got the chop. It wasn’t that there was a problem somewhere in the script that could be rewritten and fixed; the problem was the concept. The very idea that something like it could be made in space was, to many studios, a laughable idea, and an unnecessary risk.

We thank our lucky stars that 20th Century Fox picked it up (shame on you, Universal), but production wasn’t without it’s hiccups. There were storms, technical problems… hell, even the actors didn’t take the movie seriously, thinking that it would probably be a flop. But Star Wars got its day, and the fans received a fantastical film franchise that will probably last out another forty years – and more, we hope.

3. Back to the Future, 1985 to 1990 – Robert Zemeckis, Amblin Entertainment & Universal

Only two short years ago the world celebrated both the 20th anniversary of a brilliant film franchise, but also the fact that reality had finally caught up with its time travelling universe. That’s right, we’re talking about Back to the Future. Like both the previous entries, Back to the Future made significant profit – but no real fan cares about the money. What we do care about is that we were lucky enough to get yet another timeless classic to feast our eyes on. And lucky is just about the right way to put it, too.

First Columbia Pictures tossed it. Why? It wasn’t “sexual” enough – because who doesn’t want to see a time travelling teenager (Michael J. Fox!) getting it on? Studio after studio turned the script away – even Disney politely declined due to that whole painfully awkward Marty & Mom disaster. But luckily Robert Zemeckis happened to be buddies with Steven Spielberg (although he made sure to make a name for himself first with Romancing the Stone before going to his friend), and luckily Spielberg had a few friends of his own who were willing to take a risk.

There’s no denying that the result was a big hit that proved its popularity through multiple generations. But let’s not forget that it made a few other contributions, too. What real Back to the Future fan can deny that they’re itching to get their hands on a hoverboard?

4. Blade Runner, 1982 – Ridley Scot, The Ladd Company, Shaw Brothers, Blade Runner Partnership & Warner Brothers

Blade Runner is far from one of the most profitable films on this list, true. But let’s be honest, money is not the be all and end all dictator of what really makes a fantastic film – and there’s a lot about Blade Runner to love. It’s become a cult favourite, is thought to be the example of the neo-noir genre, and is still considered by many to be one of the best science fiction films ever made. It was awarded a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, and has also been inducted in the National Film Registry. Ridley Scott himself considers Blade Runner as his most complete and personal film.

This particular fan could wax poetic about Blade Runner and the complexities of who is good and who is bad for hours on end, but this isn’t a review.

This cultural classic almost never made it to the big screen. It was inspired by a novel called “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick, and the author held understandably high standards to any script that was proposed to him. Ridley Scott and David Peoples managed to get a thumbs up from him, and Scott also managed to get an increased budget…

And then Filmways backed out, taking their money with them. But Michael Deeley wasn’t about to give up so easily, and managed to convince three companies to jointly finance the film – giving us one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made.

5. Jaws, 1975 – Steven Spielberg, Zanuck/Brown & Universal

Once you’ve seen Jaws, ‘realism’ quality of the older film notwithstanding, you just can’t look at the ocean the same way again. That, and you’ll be forever cursed to use the eerie two-note “Daa-dum…” in just about any suspenseful moment.

At first, Jaws was set upon very eagerly by the producers Zanuck and Brown, and even Steven Spielberg fell into the trap. The entire idea was based on a book that all three of them loved. They would later say that, if they had just read the book a second time, they would have decided against tackling a movie that would need to have some really complicated scenes – and really complicated scenes out to sea.

There were so many problems during filming that it was nicknamed “Flaws” at one point. Most of the problems were linked to the mechanical shark, Bruce, that was used. But that was only one of their troubles – Richard Dreyfuss confessed that "We started the film without a script, without a cast, and without a shark.". In the end, the script for the next day’s filming was usually written the night before, after the scriptwriter had dinner with the cast and crew to get their input. Dreyfuss, who plays the shark expert Hooper, and Shaw, the shark hunter Quint, also had quite the feud going – which became really heated on the last day of shooting when the boat began to sink.

But it all worked out in the end. And, even though Steven Spielberg went quite a bit over budget and lamented that his career might be ended by the film, it was a huge success. It’s still considered to be one of the greatest films ever made, and was inducted into the film registry in 2001 – ensuring that many future generations will enjoy the pleasures of severe Selachophobia.

6. The Shining, 1980 – Stanley Kubrick, Peregrine, Hawk & Warner Brothers

When it comes to horror, just about every fan of the genre knows about The Shining. The movie, although not a particular favourite of author Stephen King’s, still stands as one of the greatest horror films ever made. Even so, the chilling film almost never made it to the glory of the big screen.

The biggest threat that faced the making of the legendary psychological horror that was The Shining was… the psychological horror that is Stanley Kubrick. There’s no denying that Kubrick was a fantastic director when it came to the final visual results that moviegoers get to enjoy, often described as an absolute perfectionist. Unfortunately, Kubrick was also just as well-known as being one of the hardest directors to work with.

Jack Nicholson threw out the scripts that Kubrick sent him, knowing that things were bound to change with Kubrick’s whims. At least the actor had a thick skin to protect him. Shelley Duvall, the female lead, wasn’t so lucky. She was so stressed out during shooting that she reportedly became extremely ill and even started losing her hair. It’s a miracle that everyone managed to tough it out but we’re thankful that they did – and the result was nothing short of being a masterpiece.

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  1. Hi,

    Wow! So many classics here. I knew of a few but not all of them. Proof once again how we all have genius in us and to never allow skeptics or critics to drown out our inner fire. Your time will come. Keep being passionate about what you do and things yield.

    Neat note on The Shining too. I had read how Kubrick was rough on actors.

    Thanks for sharing.



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