Video Digest: March 23, 2007

Meltdowns on movie sets: Lily Tomlin, Klaus Kinski, Francis Ford Coppola, Terry Gilliam, Shelley Duvall, Bob Dylan.

If you haven’t seen the video clips of Lily Tomlin and David O. Russell having respective meltdowns on the set of I Heart Huckabees, you owe it to yourself to watch. Consider it your spa day, your mental health vacation, except instead of soothing it’s traumatic and shriekish, filled with more fighting, cussing, and prop-throwing than a Jerry Springer episode. This was not the ideal set to cut your teeth on as a PA.

Hollywood is filled with such tales of outrageous behind-the-scenes behavior, though it’s rare when the hissy fits are leaked to the public. Usually, it’s after the film has become either an artistic triumph or utter failure—as opposed to Huckabees, which was just weird and maybe-kinda okay. But Russell and Tomlin’s shit-fits got me thinking about other infamous on-set breakdowns.

We’ll start with perhaps the biggest nutjob to ever sit behind the viewfinder, Klaus Kinski. Originally known as a German actor who appeared in more than 180 films, Kinski became better known for his violent outbursts (and for fathering Nastassja Kinski). The following flip-out comes from his doomed collaboration with Werner Herzog, Fitzcarraldo, which Herzog documents in his film My Best Fiend.

Perhaps the most famous film set gone haywire is Apocalypse Now, as shown in the amazing documentary Hearts of Darkness. “My film is not about Vietnam; it is Vietnam,” Francis Ford Coppola said in one of his eloquent, egomaniacal, cocaine-fueled rants. Everyone lost their minds, Harvey Keitel lost his job, Martin Sheen almost lost his life, and Marlon Brando is just losing everything, all at once. Man, this is good cinema. Sorry there’s no better clips than this one, but it’s a taste.

A film just as cursed—but somehow not nearly as lucky—is Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Everything goes wrong: floods, sickness, airplanes overhead. And though the movie never got made, Gilliam did have documentarians onhand to turn the debacle into a cautionary tale, Lost in La Mancha, whose trailer is below. The first six minutes of Gilliam’s movie is also available on YouTube.

I emailed a colleague, Nerve film blogger Bilge Ebiri, to see if he could drum up any more Hollywood meltdowns. He reminded me of the making-of The Shining documentary, available on the Shining DVD, which shows Stanley Kubrick berating an addled Shelley Duvall. This clip also contains one of my favorite quotes about Kubrick. Says Jack Nicholson, “You can go for years saying, ‘I’m gonna get it real.’ You go mad with realism. And then you come up against someone like Stanley, who says, ‘Yeah, it’s real. But it’s not interesting.’”

The following clip isn’t a behind-the-scenes movie moment, but I can’t do a roundup of on-camera catastrophes without including the classic, cringe-inducing Bob Dylan Time magazine interview from Don’t Look Back, recently released on DVD. Dude, Bob never would’ve pulled this with the kids from Pitchfork.

blog comments powered by Disqus