The story of how Mario Puzo’s epic crime novel, The Godfather, was made into one of the most acclaimed movies of all time is as captivating as the film itself. Such is why producer Albert S. Ruddy’s experiences making the 1973 Best Picture Oscar winner have been made into a 10-part limited series called The Offer, which premiered exclusively on Paramount+ on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Of course, the mob movie masterpiece is just one of many films that are famous (or infamous) for their notably controversial or even downright disastrous productions, including one that also comes from director Francis Ford Coppola. In fact, let’s start our list of movies that we believe deserve to have their stories told in a behind-the-scenes miniseries like The Offer with that classic.
The torrid production of the 1979 Vietnam War drama Apocalypse Now faced pretty much every problem you could ever imagine happening on a film set (budget constraints, last minute casting changes, constant script rewrites, etc.) and even more that seem unimaginable today. For instance, star Martin Sheen had a heart attack that he opted to keep secret and also suffered bloody injury while filming a chaotic scene that he urged to have left in. All the bizarre details were later chronicled in the 1991 documentary, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, which I would like to see dramatized one day in a series that could see The Offer cast’s Don Fogler reprise his role as a Francis Ford Coppola at the end of his rope.
The Island Of Dr. Moreau
Another film whose notorious behind-the-scenes issues (some of which were also caused by star Marlon Brando) later inspired a documentary is the 1996 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau - director Richard Stanley’s dream project that quickly became a nightmare. The filmmaker was forcibly replaced with John Frankenheimer after just days - mostly due to his reported clashes with Val Kilmer - and later snuck onto the set disguised as one of the movie’s half-human, half-animals hybrids just out of spite. It also led him step away from filmmaking completely until finally returning with his adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Color Out of Space in 2020.
Gone With The Wind
There was also a director shake-up on the set of 1939’s Oscar-winning, blockbuster period epic, Gone with the Wind, that actually led to more heated arguments after the fact. Star Vivian Leigh apparently could not stand working with Victor Fleming, who replaced original director George Cukor because (as rumors suggest) his homosexuality made Clark Gable uncomfortable. However, similarly to The Offer, I think a series based on this years-long and often chaotic production should be told from the perspective of its producer, David O. Selznick, who was constantly at odds with almost everyone involved as he struggled to see his own vision of Margaret Mitchell’s novel brought to life.
The Wizard Of Oz
When Victor Fleming was brought on to helm Gone with the Wind, he was already in the middle of making another soon-to-be classic that was littered with problems of a more disturbing sort. Shudder’s original docuseries, Cursed Films, debuted its second season with an episode on The Wizard of Oz, which covers infamous behind-the-scenes facts like the abuse inflicted on young Judy Garland, the use of asbestos for fake snow, two near-death accidents, and plenty more that could easily fit a 10-episode series. I think a drama unveiling all the bizarre and upsetting events that happened while making an otherwise iconic, family-friendly fantasy would make quite an impression on audiences.
Twilight Zone: The Movie
Production on Twilight Zone: The Movie, a horror anthology film inspired by Rod Serling’s TV series, was beset by tragedy when a helicopter crash occurred while filming, resulting in the deaths of Vic Morrow and two child actors. Director John Landis was later put on trial and more details about the situation were exposed, including claims of recklessness and laws related to regulations for working conditions and hours for child actors allegedly being violated. A TV series could explore what went wrong before the tragedy, and what fully happened during the investigations and trials afterwards.
Steven Spielberg became well versed in production troubles from working on his soon-to-be classic thriller, Jaws. The reason why the 1975 creature feature goes for long stretches without showing its centerpiece creature on camera is because the mechanical shark (nicknamed “Bruce”) was constantly malfunctioning, which is just one of the many behind-the-scenes stories about Hollywood’s first blockbuster worth noting. In fact, I would watch a making-of drama just see a recreations of the famous feud between Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw.
Luckily, Jaws can claim to not have been plagued by any on-set injuries, but the same can certainly not be said about another creature feature, this one made in the early 1980s, called Roar. The film is about a group of people terrorized by a swarm of wild lions - a horror that 70 cast and crew members were also subjected to in reality, suffering countless attacks and injuries caused by the animals on set. The movie itself, which was marketed by its dangerous reputation when it was finally released in the United States in 2015, is not really considered horror, but I am sure fans of the genre would devour a show about the production.
The Evil Dead
Fans of the Evil Dead movies are just as entertained by stories of the painful and exhausting low-budget production of the 1981 original (which star Bruce Campbell is always game to share) as the frightening content of the film itself. However, more fascinating is how horrifying some of the on-set tension was (somewhat by design) - such as when director Sam Raimi repeatedly poked Campbell’s sprained ankle with a stick at one point. If a behind-the-scenes series was made, I would especially hope to see it cover how Raimi had to defend the cult classic in court after it was initially banned in the U.K.
I never shy away from the chance to learn more about what filmmakers can go through, and seeing some of these situations recreated as a drama can be just as intriguing. However, finding an actor with the right chin to play Bruce Campbell in a biographical Evil Dead series would be one tough challenge.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.