9 Famous Movies That Almost Didn’t Make It to the Big Screen

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Most of us can think of at least a few movies that we wish hadn't made it into theaters: Gigli, Glitter, basically anything starring a pop singer. Some of the most well known films, however, almost didn't make it onto the movie reels across the country. They appear on critics' lists of top movies again and again, but their strengths were almost what kept them out of film history. Production problems normally involve clashing egos, burning through funding, and lots of unforeseen disasters. Luckily for us, these films somehow beat the odds, even if it was just barely.

  1. Apocalypse Now

    The Vietnam War-era film by Francis Ford Coppola is notorious for the number of production problems it had. Casting was an issue, and Coppola was so fed up at one point because so many actors had turned down his offer to star in the film that he threw his five Oscars out of his window. After finally hiring a lead, Harvey Keitel, Coppola changed his mind, fired him, and had to start the search all over. Martin Sheen eventually landed the part, but he had a heart attack, postponing filming even longer. Nature wasn't on the movie's side, either, as a typhoon ripped apart the first set, a fire destroyed important props, and a tiger stalked the production. After facing bankruptcy and the possibility of never finishing the film, Coppola finally saw his work come to fruition and he found a place in movie-making history.

  2. Citizen Kane

    If you've ever taken a film class, you've undoubtedly heard some of the praise for Citizen Kane, one of the best movies of all time, according to many film buffs. Director Orson Welles was highly acclaimed for his writing, cinematography, and acting as the movie's leading man. The main character is based on the business mogul and newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst, and this obvious characterization led to some trouble keeping the film's release out of the scope of Hearst's power. Hearst's people threatened to sue the production company, RKO Pictures, and banned it from Hearst newspapers. Hearst also manipulated other Hollywood companies to pressure RKO Pictures to destroy the project. When the film was released, most theaters refused to show it out of fear of retaliation from the big, bad Hearst. Citizen Kane eventually found its way onto some big screens, but its box office numbers were terrible.

  3. Breakfast at Tiffany's

    The idea of going to Tiffany in New York and window-shopping with a pastry and coffee is still a dream of many girls, even 50 years after this iconic movie was released. But this film ran into problems largely stemming from the artistic differences between the novella's author, Truman Capote, and the movie executives. Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the starring role of Holly Golightly, a character so charming and naive that we almost don't realize she's a call-girl. But Monroe knew it and refused to play a lady of the night. Capote reportedly was furious about the casting of Audrey Hepburn instead. When you take into account that directors and scriptwriters were fired from the project, the infamous song was almost nixed, and Capote himself wanted to play the leading man, it's amazing the film ended up being made at all, let alone becoming such a success.

  4. The Princess Bride

    To most of us, it seems inconceivable that The Princess Bride could easily have never existed, but the classic film of love and bravery faced more than its share of hurdles during the production process. William Goldman, the author of the book that the movie is based on, wanted the film made and was looking for interested production companies. He found plenty, but something always happened to keep the deals from going through. Before 20th Century Fox picked up the project, the head of the studios was fired. The next interested studio closed. The executive of the one after that was fired just before finalizing the details for production to start. After facing money problems and 15 years of shopping the story around, Goldman finally teamed up with Rob Reiner to create the movie we now know and love.

  5. Toy Story

    One infamous day at Pixar known as Black Friday could've been the end of the smash animated hit Toy Story. On Nov. 19, 1993, animators presented a short, rough cut to Disney higher-ups of what they hoped would be made into a successful feature-length movie. But the executives didn't like what they saw. The characters of Woody and Buzz Lightyear were more like the sarcastic jerks you might find in an indie film rather than relatable children's characters. Disney basically gave the writers and animators a few months to go back to the proverbial drawing board and if the idea still wasn't right, the film (and likely the whole future of computer-animated movies) would be scrapped. Luckily, the Pixar team figured out how to create characters that would be loved by both kids and adults, and a new wave of animation was born.

  6. Batman

    Movies based on comic books are now some of the biggest successes at the box office, and the newest installations in the Batman franchise reign supreme among them. But there was a time when producers thought Batman couldn't be anything but a comedic, cheeseball superhero. The TV show and early movies were associated with the corny fight scenes and Robin's signature "Holy catchphrase, Batman!" When Michael Uslan bought the rights to the Batman movie in 1979, he couldn't find any company that wanted to produce it. The idea of Batman as a serious character was so foreign at the time that no one thought it could work and studio executives were coming up with every excuse possible not to take on the project. It took a decade for Uslan to finally find a backer and distributor for the 1989 Michael Keaton version of Batman; without it, we wouldn't be sitting here today contemplating whether Anne Hathaway will be the worst Catwoman ever.

  7. Star Wars

    The first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, seemed like a huge gamble in the strange world that existed before Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker were household names. The script was a tough sell to the studios, and Lucas had some trouble finding anyone to back the expensive project. Twentieth Century Fox was only able to produce it with the unwavering support of Fox's head of production. Even the actors were horrified by the script, which they felt was only suited for a bad children's movie. With a budget busted by several millions of dollars and a freak rainstorm in the middle of the Tunisian desert where large parts of the movie were being shot, it's a wonder that Star Wars ever saw the inside of a theater. Luckily for audiences, the force of the first movie's success convinced the studio to produce the rest of the classic franchise.

  8. Chinatown

    Unlike many other nearly nixed movies, Chinatown didn't involve a struggle between the writers, producers, and director. Director Roman Polanski had the full support of the studio and actors throughout the whole process, he's said. But Polanski had misgivings on a personal level about starting the film. Jack Nicholson had given him the script to look over, saying it would be a really good project for them to work on, but filming would require him to return to Los Angeles. Polanski was hesitant to go back because his wife, Sharon Tate, and some of his close friends had been murdered there a few years before by Charles Manson and his followers. After reading the script, though, he reconsidered the possibility of coming to LA and ended up producing one of his most memorable works.

  9. The Wizard of Oz

    We've all heard the rumor of the munchkin hanging himself on set, which happens to be false, but The Wizard of Oz had some very real production problems that could have kept it from the silver screen and kept Judy Garland's star from rising so quickly. The script went through dozens of rewrites and the movie actually filtered through 16 writers. Even worse, the film had four directors by the time it was finished, one of them only staying on for a week. The actors didn't fare much better. The first man set to play the Tin Man had to be hospitalized because the silver make-up got into his lungs, and the Wicked Witch received serious burns when she was supposed to disappear into a cloud of smoke.

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