50 Behind-The-Scenes Photos That’ll Change The Way You Look At Famous Movies

Published February 8, 2020

From Jaws to Psycho, movie sets can be exhausting, tragic, and beautiful all at once — and these photos prove it.

Marlon Brando And Vivien Leigh
Bruce The Shark And Steven Spielberg
Taxi Driver Set With Robert Deniro And Martin Scorcese
Boris Karloff On Bride Of Frankenstein
50 Behind-The-Scenes Photos That’ll Change The Way You Look At Famous Movies
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When filmmakers speak of movie magic, they're not exactly joking. For some successful directors, their final products often seemed like impossible goals to reach at first. This is especially true for productions that were plagued with difficulties during the filming process.

Some of the most revered movies, from Apocalypse Now to The Shining to Jaws, are often linked to the brilliance of their directors. However, filmmaking is a collective process. Every single movie set experience chronicled below makes that abundantly clear, for better or for worse.

According to The Roanoake Times, for instance, Steven Spielberg believed he was finished as a director upon concluding the seemingly disastrous Jaws.

"I thought my career as a filmmaker was over," he said. "I heard rumors...that I would never work again because no one had ever taken a film 100 days over schedule."

Of course, Jaws later turned out to be a massive success. But it's not the only movie that seemed like it was doomed before it hit the theaters.

From The Wizard of Oz to The Avengers, mundanity on set turned to magic on the screen. It just goes to show that sometimes a challenging journey can lead to a glorious destination — and one hell of a story.

Steven Spielberg Wrangles Jaws

Before Spielberg's horror classic hit the scene, summers without major blockbusters were commonplace. Jaws changed that for good.

It was the first movie to cross the $100 million box-office mark — though it nearly sank before production had even wrapped.

Centered around a seaside community plagued by a vengeful shark, it was vital for the fake great white to seem like a real animal. The then-27-year-old director quickly found that his mechanical terror — named Bruce after Spielberg's real-life lawyer — didn't even work properly.

"Every single day the shark was put in the water, something went wrong," said line producer Bill Gilmore. "Our own crew sarcastically referred to the title of the movie as Flaws."

The young filmmaker knew he had to adapt or drown. So that's exactly what he and his crew did.

"We shot anything and everything in the movie that didn't have a shark in it," Gilmore said.

Steven Spielberg on the set of Jaws.

With the original 55-day schedule extending to a whopping 159 days, it's no surprise that Spielberg thought his career was over. The budget, too, spiked from $3.5 to $10 million, which certainly didn't boost anyone's confidence.

Ultimately, no one could've predicted that the new minimalistic approach would improve, rather than ruin the film. With John Williams' terrifying score underpinning the tension, the director had a hit on his hands.

"The film went from a Japanese Saturday matinee horror flick to more of a Hitchcock, the less-you-see-the-more-you-get thriller," Spielberg said.

After an audience member at a Jaws test screening ran out of the theater to vomit — before ultimately returning to his seat, Spielberg finally knew for sure that his film hadn't failed.

The Hearts Of Darkness: The War Of Apocalypse Now, One Battle At A Time

According to Peter Cowie's Coppola, the renowned director Francis Coppola told screenwriter John Milius to "write every scene you ever wanted to go into that movie." The result was 10 drafts and over a thousand pages.

Though based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness about the imperialist horrors in the Congo, Milius wanted to use the source material as "a sort of allegory. It would have been too simple to have followed the book completely."

With simplicity out the window, Apocalypse Now became a Vietnam War movie that ran six weeks behind schedule and $2 million over budget.

"My greatest fear is to make a really sh-tty, embarrassing, pompous film on an important subject, and I am doing it," he said in the making-of documentary, Hearts of Darkness. "And I confront it. I acknowledge, I will tell you right straight from... the most sincere depths of my heart, the film will not be good."

An excerpt from the Hearts of Darkness documentary.

Filming in the Philippines — with a typhoon wrecking an entire set — the production became infamous for being disastrous. Coppola was forced to personally cover some $16 million of the film's $30.5 million budget, in the end offering all that his Godfather successes had purchased as collateral.

Realizing that a lead character isn't working, of course, only complicated matters. Martin Sheen replaced Harvey Keitel as the star, only to suffer a heart attack during the shoot. When Marlon Brando showed up on set an estimated 90 pounds overweight, Coppola was at the end of his wits.

"There is only about a 20 percent chance I can pull the film off," Coppola reportedly told his wife.

While initial screenings seemed to confirm his fears, post-production on the audio, tinkering with the voiceover, and substantially editing large portions of the film turned it into a masterpiece. Only perseverance and fighting the right battles led Coppola to glory.

His efforts on that set inspire filmmakers to this day.

The Shining: An Overlooked Production Hell

Stanley Kubrick was arguably the most notorious perfectionist in the history of American cinema. According to a ZFOnline interview with Joe Turkel, the seemingly simple "bar scene" wherein Jack Nicholson's character meets Lloyd the bartender took a whopping six weeks — to rehearse.

He then claimed that the same scene took nearly half a day to actually shoot, leaving him drenched in sweat by the time all was said and done. He also admitted that it was his favorite scene in the movie — lending some credence to Kubrick's methods.

Not unlike Apocalypse Now, the arduous production of this movie was later chronicled in a documentary. Perhaps most indicative of the stress on set were the scenes starring Shelley Duvall, who was routinely berated for her acting and eventually fell ill from stress for months.

The famous baseball bat scene between a crazed Nicholson and a hysterical Duvall, for instance, took a reported 127 takes, according to Rolling Stone.

"Going through day after day of excruciating work was almost unbearable," Duvall said. "Jack Nicholson's character had to be crazy and angry all the time. And in my character I had to cry 12 hours a day, all day long, the last nine months straight, five or six days a week."

An excerpt from Vivian Kubrick's Making The Shining.

She added, "I was there a year and a month, and there must be something to Primal Scream therapy, because after the day was over and I'd cried for my 12 hours... After all that work, hardly anyone even criticized my performance in it, even to mention it, it seemed like. The reviews were all about Kubrick, like I wasn't there."

On top of all this was Kubrick's insistence on using the Steadicam, which had only been developed a few years earlier and was relatively new technology at the time.

In the end, however, all the work and no play involved in the filming resulted in one of the greatest movies of all time.

After checking out these 50 mesmerizing photos from movie sets, learn the harsh truth behind 11 historical movies. Then, check out these 13 true stories behind Hollywood's scariest horror movies.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.