Above is a shot of Gerard Butler looking worried. So he should be, for his latest movie Geostorm is blowing into cinemas. If reports are anything to go by, he has more than the weather to be concerned about. The release is accompanied by more intrigue than your typical blockbuster, due to much-reported difficulties during production.

The epic sci-fi actioner sees Butler play a rugged satellite designer (yep), who has to tackle the mother of all storms whipped up by malfunctioning climate control technology. Geostorm went through two producers and two directors, as well as losing actress Katheryn Winnick in the resulting turbulence.

Having a troubled journey from conception to premiere can be hazardous to a film’s health. On the other hand it can create impressive results. I’m pulling my hood up and clinging on for dear life as I venture out to explore some major movies that got a buffeting on their way to the big screen…

 

FITZCARRALDO (1982) 

Maverick German director Werner Herzog bit off more than he could chew with this ambitious historical odyssey, inspired by the exploits of rubber supremo Carlos Fitzcarrald. Klaus Kinski (above) played the title character, whose quest for the bouncy stuff led him to haul a steamship up the slopes of the Amazon. Herzog tested peoples’ limits to breaking point by using an actual 320-ton vessel.

The movie had a massive false start when original star Jason Robards contracted dysentry, leading to delays and the departure of co-star Mick Jagger. The mercurial Kinski was not a popular replacement and had some legendary arguments with the helmer. A tribal chief suggested killing Herzog’s leading man. Herzog reluctantly declined the offer. The shoot was even attacked by Amahuaca tribespeople. Beset by peril, Fitzcarraldo eventually took five years to complete.

Despite these trials, the film was a success with critics but those involved had been through a truly harrowing experience to match the real thing. A fuller account can be read here.

 

SUPERNOVA (2000)

It was hoped that Supernova would be a thrilling sci-fi horror to rank alongside Alien. Indeed, xenomorph creator H.R. Giger was recruited early on to produce concepts for the film. Unfortunately this tale of a deep space rescue hitting the skids became more notable for its production rather than its narrative quality. The heavyweight acting team of James Spader and Angela Bassett were left weightless by the calamitous voyage.

Director Geoffrey Wright and star Vincent D’Onofrio left the project. Veteran shot-caller Walter Hill jumped aboard and tried to tailor an already-overwritten script to his vision. When Hill’s efforts went down like a fart in a spacesuit, Jack Sholder took the reins. He then got the astronaut’s boot to be succeeded by none other than Francis Ford Coppola (who’d had his own catastrophe years earlier with Apocalypse Now).

If things weren’t eclectic enough behind the lens, you should have seen what was happening in front of it – a sex scene between Peter Facinelli and Robin Tunney was digitally altered so Spader and Bassett were horizontally entwined! The fact Bassett is black was paid no heed, with Tunney’s skin darkened by computer. Supernova quite rightly imploded at the box office and was panned by audiences.

 

TITANIC (1997)

It’s one of those movies you either love or hate. Titanic‘s depiction of a syrupy romance against the backdrop of arguably the worst maritime disaster of all time isn’t high on my list of greats. Yet it’s one of the most-loved and profitable mega-productions in screen history. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet passed into celluloid mythology as lovers Jack and Rose, whose canoodling was about to receive the ultimate icy interruption.

If advance word was anything to go by, Titanic could have become a sopping wet turkey.  Stories of director James Cameron‘s aggressive behaviour, combined with the logistical nightmare inherent in mounting a shoot of such an enormous scale, made the film’s path to the multiplex a talking point among Hollywood insiders. Working inside a huge water tank led to numerous injuries, as well as conditions like kidney infections.

The most extreme situation however had to be the spiking of the caterer’s soup with a hallucinogenic drug, a move which sent fifty people to the emergency room. Whoever exacted that revenge was never caught. Unsurprisingly, Winslet didn’t want to work with Cameron again, though the matter has been resolved now she’s joined the cast of his Avatar sequels.

 

CASABLANCA (1942)

If you’re after an undisputed classic with a patchy production history, then look no further than one of Tinseltown’s biggest hitters. Casablanca brought intoxicated audiences a heady tale of wartime espionage and locked lips, as Humphrey Bogart‘s bar owner Rick found himself in a danger-laden romantic triangle, at the corner of which was Ingrid Bergman‘s Ilsa. The film is forever remembered for its lines, such as “Here’s looking at you kid”, and the song As Time Goes By.

All the more surprising then that the script was up in the air, to the extent that Bergman asked who out of Bogart and screen husband Paul Henreid she should be more interested in. Writer Howard Koch advised her to “play them both evenly”, owing to the ending not being decided yet! In addition, Henreid reportedly clashed with his co-stars. Casablanca‘s high regard came out of the blue for its participants. No-one watching would be any the wiser as to the ructions beneath the story’s black and white surface.

It can take a superhuman effort to make a bad movie as well as a good one. Similarly, a strife-heavy shoot can wind up in an enduring treat that people will love for years to come. On which side of the fence will Geostorm fall? You’ll have to wait till Friday before being brave enough to find out…

 

Watch the trailer for Geostorm below: