While there is a plethora of superstitions about the theatre stage, such as lighting a trio of candles whilst saying Macbeth, which will probably result in a painful death – or perhaps just a bad performance, film set superstitions are less common. Possibly because there is less chance for irreversible doom on a film set, as opposed to a live, judging audience, or maybe actors and film crews are just less gullible. That being said, there are certain films with strange occurrences and weird incidents that leave people to believe that these films might just be cursed!
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
This fantasy musical that has shaped all of our collective childhoods is hiding some dark and twisted secrets beneath the yellow brick road. The makeup used on many actors was actually poisonous; The Tin Man’s aluminium paint hospitalised the first actor, Buddy Ebsen, nearly killing him, meaning the studio instead cast Jack Haley, who still suffered an eye infection because of the aluminium paste. The Wicked Witch of the West’s copper makeup also burned her face – the crew had to rush to wash off the burning makeup before it gave her a more severe injury! If you thought that was bad, many of the Flying Monkeys also were injured, the wires holding them up often snapping, as well as a stunt broom exploding, hospitalising the actor riding it. It wasn’t just the human actors that got hurt – someone even accidentally stepped on Toto! One explanation for this apparent curse could be that many of these stunts had not been tested before; clearly the majority of them were quite unsafe.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
With multiple different failings leading to expensive production costs, Apocalypse Now is said to be cursed. Deciding to film in the Philippines, which was plagued by bad weather and an uncooperative government, filming was a disaster the entire way through. Martin Sheen had a heart attack and Francis Ford Coppola, who had spent a lot of his own money on this sinking production, is reported to have suffered with suicidal thoughts. Despite its chaotic production, Apocalypse Now is regarded as a masterpiece in modern cinema, despite the gruelling work took to make it.
The Crow (1994)
Whilst the events surrounding The Crow are more of a fatal error than a curse, they are still devastatingly tragic. Protagonist Eric Draven was played by Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, who was fatally shot whilst performing a scene, only a few days before they were set to finish filming. In the scene, the prop gun was supposed to be firing a blank, however the dummy round had not been removed. Brandon was taken to hospital where he later died during surgery. To make his death even more tragic, Lee was set to marry his fiancé, Eliza Hutton, in just a few weeks.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
With a film as controversial as The Passion of the Christ, it might not be surprising that there are rumours that this film is cursed, as Mel Gibson and his controversies are far from the most explosive thing about this film. Not just one, but two people on set of The Passion of the Christ were struck by lightning. The first was Jesus, actor Jim Caviezel, who also dislocated his shoulder whilst carrying the heavy crucifix, got hypothermia and nearly died, and even got flogged by accident, leaving him with a scar on his back. The second person to be struck by lightning on set was assistant director, Jon Mikalini, which was the second time he had been struck by lightning in his life. Unlucky, right!
The script of Atuk was so cursed that it was never even made! Adapted from a novel, director Norman Jewison wanted John Belushi to play the lead role, who expressed an interest after reading the script. However, a few months later, he was found dead in his hotel room. Four years later, Atuk seemed set to be made, again, with Sam Kinison to play the lead. But, unhappy with the studio’s involvement, Kinison filed a lawsuit, and unfortunately died during these negotiations in a car crash. A decade after the initial production, in 1994, John Candy was approached to be the lead, however he died of a heart attack the same year. The final invite for the lead role went to Chris Farley, who was also immediately interested, but died a few months after reading the script. Whether it was because they believed the curse of the film script, or because they didn’t want to bother with the hassle of finding an actor for the lead role again, Atuk sits untouched for the next brave (or stupid) person to try and revive it.
Let us know in the comments any other film set curses you have heard of!
Caitlin Hall is a freelance writer who is currently studying for an English Literature degree at the University of York. A film enthusiast whose favourite film is Zodiac (2007), primarily because she loves Jake Gyllenhaal. More of her reviews can be found at https://caitsfilms.wordpress.com and her twitter account is @caitonfilm.