The Island of Dr. Moreau will top any list of total nightmare film productions and magnificent Hollywood fails. The shoot was doomed from the start with an inexperienced film director and insane behind-the-scenes drama. These true The Island of Dr. Moreau stories paint a tale even more bizarre than the weirdness of the film itself.
In 2014, director David Gregory released a documentary called Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau. The doc predominately depicts the sordid tale of newbie director Richard Stanley and his dream project of adapting one of his favorite childhood books, H.G. Wells’s 1896 science fiction novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau. Despite spending years writing the script and working on pre-production for the film, Stanley was fired just three days into the movie’s shoot.
Apart from being in way over his head - the director had never helmed a big budget movie before - there were two prima donna actors to contend with. One was famed method actor Marlon Brando, the other was egomaniac Val Kilmer, who, although young, had already garnered a reputation for being hard to work with.
Once Stanley was fired, John Frankenheimer was brought in to try to bring order to the chaos. Even though Frankenheimer was able to wrap the film, the end results were almost as big a mess as the production. The disastrous making of The Island of Dr. Moreau makes for a cautionary tale around passion projects and filmmaking - not to mention provides some crazy Marlon Brando stories. It’s an epic tale that resulted in one of the biggest box office bombs in film history.
Frankenheimer Gave In To Brando's Ridiculous Script Changes
Was Brando just as crazy as the titular mad scientist he was playing? Every day before shooting, the actor and director would meet. Brando would offer up some script changes that he felt would make the film better. Frankenheimer would often submit to the almost daily revisions.
One of the changes offered up by Brando was that his entire face be covered up in white make-up. Another was that Moreau would sometimes put an ice bucket on his head - for no apparent reason other than his eccentricity. By far Brando's oddest contribution to the film was his request that his character always appear onscreen with a little person dressed exactly like him.
Val Kilmer Was A Total Nightmare
By the mid 1990s, Val Kilmer was one of the most popular actors in Hollywood. He had played Batman in Batman Forever with strong reviews, but was unfortunately already earning a reputation in Hollywood for being difficult to work with. Kilmer was intent on acting like a baby from day one of shooting.
It should be noted that Kilmer's wife served him divorce papers prior to the start of filming and the actor tried to get out of the project. However, he was under contract and a huge star at the time, the producers wouldn't let him leave. He retaliated by arriving to the set two days late. Kilmer also immediately began to bully the unexperienced director, Richard Stanley. He would alter his dialogue in scenes and negotiated to have German actor Marco Hofschneider’s role severely slashed because he thought the actor was taking attention away from him.
To top everything off, Kilmer, a usually talented actor, delivers a poor performance in the movie. His mumbled dialogue is often hard to understand. When production wrapped, Frankenheimer ordered the crew to, “Get that bastard (Kilmer) off my set!” He also said, "I don’t like Val Kilmer, I don’t like his work ethic, and I don’t want to be associated with him ever again.”
Val Kilmer Reportedly Put A Cigarette Out On A Cameraman's Face
Val Kilmer requested the crew call him, "Mr. Kilmer" and he was referred to as a "prep school bully" by one crew member. However, that was nothing compared to Kilmer putting out a cigarette out on the face of an unsuspecting cameraman. The producers tried to explain the incident away, saying that it was an accident.
However one witness recalled, "He burned that cameraman right on his face, and no, he wasn't fooling around. It was intentional."
Brando Did Not Bother To Learn His Lines
Brando is often regarded as one of the greatest films actors in the history of Hollywood, but by the time that he was cast in The Island of Dr. Moreau in 1996, those days were long behind him. The production was constantly revising the script, so Brando did not bother to learn his lines. The thespian received his dialogue through an earpiece, which was read to him word for word by his assistant.
Sometimes the signal would get crossed with a local police scanner. David Thewlis related a funny story later about one such mix-up when Brando reportedly said during a scene, "There's a robbery at Woolworths."