There are many kinds of movie marvels, but one type that never fails to impress is an effect that's achieved without any deliberate effort on the part of the filmmakers. Given the considerable financial stakes inherent in the filmmaking process, productions go to exacting lengths to portray exactly what’s in the script - jobs, and occasionally lives, are on the line if something were to go awry. Every so often, however, the camera catches something that simply can’t be repeated, as it was never meant to occur in the first place.
Whether a director aims to capture lightning in a bottle by way of deliberately ignoring the safety of their crew or by putting an actor’s body on the line, a movie's turn to realism can have a marked impact on a final film. These are some notable movie moments that were the real thing.
Michael Cimino’s Vietnam epic The Deer Hunter, winner of an Oscar for best picture, boasts one of the most unforgettable sequences from the many films focusing on that infamous conflict. After Pennsylvania steel-town buddies Mike Vronsky and Nick Chevotarevich ship off to fight, they find themselves imprisoned by a sadistic band of soldiers.
Stranded, Mike and Nick are forced to play Russian Roulette while their captors gamble on their lives. To mimic the tension his character would experience holding a loaded piece to his head, Robert De Niro, who played Vronsky, reportedly insisted on including a live round in the revolver during filming.see more on The Deer Hunter
John DeBello is best known for his tomato-centric features, and his career survives today as a de facto case study in proud B-movie-making. Despite eliciting three follow-ups, DeBello's directorial debut, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, features his most distinguished - albeit accidental - effect.
Once the titular bloodthirsty tomatoes begin their reign of terror, all hell breaks loose across the US. Vehicles go up in flames, beach-goers are summarily taken out, and desperate humans attempt to drive back their assailants. Amidst the chaos, DeBello includes a memorable helicopter crash - the small Hiller UH-12E used in the sequence comes in at too sharp an angle to land safely, resulting in its tail smacking the ground and sending the helicopter into a spin that ends in flames on the landing field.
In a shocking twist, the helicopter’s disintegration was unplanned. The experienced pilot behind the sequence simply miscalculated his landing attempt, and DeBello and his co-writers opted to integrate the mistake into the final cut. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.see more on Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
While filming The Shining, director Stanley Kubrick reportedly put Shelley Duvall through hell on the England set, all for the purpose of eliciting a higher degree of distress on camera. Duvall was subjected to over 100 takes for the sequence where she backs away from the increasingly manic Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson). She was also isolated from her family back in the US for over a year as the production ran long and its budget ballooned.
In a rare piece of behind-the-scenes footage, Kubrick’s daughter, Vivian, caught the director instructing the crew to disregard Duvall’s complaints.see more on The Shining
Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days was filmed in and around the famous Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. There, the action builds to a shootout amid streets clogged with thousands of ravers. To achieve the manic, crowded feeling of the confrontation between Lenny Nero and LAPD officer Burton Steckler, Bigelow and the production opted not to hire extras.
Rather, they threw an actual rave and charged attendees admission. Ten thousand people showed up to see acts such as Aphex Twin and Deee-Lite, giving the climax its desired Y2K energy.see more on Strange Days