Sunday, June 13, 2010

Urban Myths for the Casual Film Goer

Some of this is the stuff of urban legend, and it tends to be fun and helps boost DVD ratings. Most of the incidents described in the films below can be written off to coincidence ---  the law of probability as opposed to a supernatural influence.

What is a cursed film and when is it considered to be so?

 No fast rule applies to answer that question. Was The Exorcist cursed? What about Poltergeist?

Consider the anecdotal evidence paraded for evidence. The list below is for The Omen.
  • Scriptwriter David Seltzer's plane was struck by lightning.
  • Star Gregory Peck, in a separate incident, had his plane struck by lightning.
  • Director Richard Donner's hotel was bombed by the Provisional IRA .
  • Gregory Peck canceled his reservation on a flight. The plane he had originally chartered crashed, killing all on board (a group of Japanese businessmen).
  • A warden at the safari park used in the "crazy baboon" scene was attacked and killed by a lion the day after the crew left.
  • Rottweilers hired for the film attacked their trainers.
 I haven't researched the veracity of any of these claims. However, does the above, even if true, reflect anything out of the ordinary? A film is made over the course of two years and hundreds of people are often involved in production. Given those figures, isn't the likelihood of something terrible happening fairly hight?

Another old chestnut always cited when this topic is brought up around the digital campfire is Poltergeist (and when we speak of that film for urban legends purposes, we're including the two dreadful sequels). What could possibly happen to a crew doing a film about a family moving into a house over an old cemetery?

First and foremost, the incredibly tragic deaths of 12-year-old Heather Rourke (septic shock) and 22-year-old co-star Dominique Dunne (murder). The usual accidents and rumors pale beside the tragedy of the untimely deaths of these two young people.

Of course, there are some projects so cursed they can't even be made into film. Take a look at the novel A Confederacy of Dunces. This work by John Kennedy Toole was published ten years after the author's suicide. This wonderful piece of black humor is begging for an independent film treatment. Originally Harold Raimis saw the possibilities and cast John Belushi and Richard Pryor in key roles. Hmmm. When that fell through due to those actors' illnesses and subsequent deaths, comedic superstars Chris Farley and John Candy were considered. 

As recently as 2005, the film was recast by another film maker, Steven Soderbergh, with Will Ferrell in the lead role, along with Drew Barrymore, Mos Def, and Lily Tomlin (those who know this book should be salivating at this casting). That was back in 2005, there's been no progress on the production as of this time. Why? According to one source, Will Ferrell's response was "It's a mystery."


Jon said...

You want a cursed film? Birth of a Nation! Every single person involved with the movie has DIED!

Steve Buchheit said...

They've got nothing on the staging of MacBeth. Unless it's a staging of MacBeth with a real mirror on the stage.

Kate S said...

I hate to say this, but I for one am glad Will Ferrell hasn't had the chance to be the lead in CoD.

I think he curses almost every film he's been in for the past couple of decades. Really, think about it. Nothing against him personally, but in the past 20 years, with the exception of Elf, pretty much every film he's been in has tanked - even with a stellar supporting cast. I mean, he even made Emma Thompson look bad.

Anonymous said...

I love Confederacy of Dunces. I wish they would make it into a movie.

And how about Brandon Lee getting fatally shot while filming The Crow? Talk about cursed.