Hollywood Woes: Tales of Brawling Actors, Swapped Directors and Puritanical Censors

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More movies mired in scandal and disaster, now streaming into your home.

Two weeks ago, we took a look at some notable movies you can watch right now that had overcome scandals and production pitfalls that would have sent most people throwing up their hands in defeat. Now it’s time for another batch of 10 titles from Hollywood history, all of which managed to survive ordeals that would have driven many of us insane.

Apocalypse Now (1979) (Hulu, HBO Max, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play)

One of the longest and most cursed productions in movie history, Francis Ford Coppola’s sprawling hallucinatory Vietnam epic spent a full year in production. During that time, it had to overcome a typhoon, the recasting of its leading man with Martin Sheen — who had a heart attack during shooting — and a wildly uncooperative Marlon Brando, but the result was an Oscar-winning classic now regarded as one of the best American films ever made.

Boogie Nights (1997) (Hulu, Showtime, Sling TV, Vudu, iTunes, Amazon Prime)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s second feature film was an ambitious snapshot of the adult film industry in the San Fernando Valley featuring a colorful tapestry of characters more or less inspired by real-life figures from the period. Anderson locked horns during the shoot with star Burt Reynolds, who, nevertheless, earned some of the best reviews of his career. At the time, the studio dug in its heels over both the necessary R rating and a running time of fewer than three hours. If that weren’t enough, Mark Wahlberg later expressed regret over his involvement in the movie. However, the film shocked audiences and established Anderson as a major voice in modern filmmaking.

Chinatown (1974) (Starz, Sling TV, Hulu, Vudu, iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, YouTube)

The wild stories from the set of this film have since become legendary thanks to multiple books, with the most recent, “The Big Goodbye,” just announced as a feature film starring Ben Affleck — in the director’s chair. From the fiery tension between star Faye Dunaway and director Roman Polanski to a raucous public brawl between the director and Jack Nicholson, this film proves once again that even the stormiest sets can produce bona fide masterpieces.

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) (Disney+, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime)

Few animated films have had a more turbulent birth than this rollicking comedy-fantasy, which began as a serious epic called “Kingdom of the Sun” with a full song score by Sting. The work in progress tested so poorly it was given a complete and costly overhaul, with a massive personnel merry-go-round chronicled in the Disney documentary “The Sweatbox,” which has never been officially released.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) (Hulu, Showtime, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube, Sling TV)

The rumor mill went into overdrive during the making of what would prove to be the final film from director Stanley Kubrick, who passed away just after finishing his final cut. The film ended up making its way into the Guinness Book of World Records with its 400-day nonstop shooting schedule. Stories of sex therapists and abrupt recastings — mostly around Sydney Pollack’s character — as well as a battle with the MPAA resulting in some absurd visual censorship during one key scene barely made a dent in a film that people are still arguing about and discussing intently to this day.

Gladiator (2000) (Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube, Sling TV)

Though it went on to win five Oscars, including best picture and best actor for Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott’s Roman epic hit a few bumps on the road to theaters including major last-minute script rewrites, the death of actor Oliver Reed before his part had finished filming, Crowe’s vocal issues with his dialogue and various cast switches — but we all saw how it turned out in the end.

Psycho (1960) (iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play)

As we celebrate the birthday of the Master of Suspense this week, let’s talk about one of his most famous and influential films, which was also the biggest pain to bring to life thanks to ongoing wrangling with the film censors from script to screen over everything from bras to flushing toilets to body doubles to the number of knife stabs. Though Hitchcock ultimately got away with murder, relatively speaking, and changed the horror genre forever, only Germany got the completely uncensored version of the film featuring three extra shots — but it’ll be coming to America next month.

Snake Eyes (1998) (Hulu, Tubi, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu)

Director Brian De Palma was no stranger to controversy or challenging productions when he made this twisty crime film set in the world of Las Vegas wheeling and dealing starring Nicolas Cage. “Snake Eyes” faced a sea of bad press surrounding its intended climax involving a hurricane and a massive wave of water. Through test screenings, the film was heavily reworked with an awkwardly reshot ending. But if you can overlook that unavoidable problem, the film still features some of the director’s most audacious visual feats, including a long, loooooong opening shot that can still make your jaw drop.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) (Disney+, Hulu, YouTube, Sling TV, Vudu, iTunes, Amazon Prime)

This fateful entry in the Disney-era Star Wars cycle was shredded in the press before anyone saw a frame of it. The film, showing the origins of Han Solo, had such a rocky creative process — including the replacement of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller with Ron Howard — that it ended up killing the idea of standalone films for the foreseeable future. Time is already starting to vindicate this film as superior to some of the official saga entries surrounding it, with both Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover delivering performances that deserve a lot more credit.

Waterworld (1995) (Hulu, Starz, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Vudu)

Though it’s become a bona fide cult classic — especially in its improved extended cut “Waterworld” was synonymous with cinematic disaster for years due to its wildly bloated budget, which broke records at the time. This post-apocalyptic depiction of a world radically changed by melted polar ice caps proved to be a colossal challenge in every possible way, with director Kevin Reynolds and star Kevin Costner’s friendship and professional relationship temporarily demolished in the process.

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