So much behind-the-scenes stuff goes into making blockbuster movies—so much that the average movie-goer will never know about. There are secret movie-making techniques, interesting casting changes, and even on-set accidents that don’t get widely publicized.
While the end result is really what you’re after, your favorite movies are also hiding secrets, Easter eggs, and unknown inspiration that, after you find out about them, make the movie-watching experience so much richer. Here are 25 things you never knew about some of the most popular movies:
1 – Scream was originally titled Scary Movie.
The slasher film from the late 90s (written by Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven) starring Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, and Neve Campbell wasn’t always called Scream.
Williamson wanted a simple name that summed up what the movie was about, hence Scary Movie. But shortly before the cast had finished filming the name was changed to Scream, allegedly because of a love of the Michael Jackson song of the same name. The production company kept the rights to the name Scary Movie and later gave it to the Wayans Brothers to use for their spoof of Scream.
2 – Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’s dog.
The character of Chewbacca (sometimes called “Chewie”) in the hit Star Wars franchise is unforgettable—he’s a super tall, hairy Wookie who speaks in a series of grunts and moans and is Han Solo’s best pal and co-pilot.
As it turns out, the inspiration for Han Solo’s best friend was also George Lucas’s best friend—his dog Indiana. Indiana was also a big, hairy creature—an Alaskan malamute that would ride sitting up in the passenger seat of Lucas’s car. Sound familiar?
Also, the dog’s name, Indiana, was the inspiration for another famous George Lucas creation: Indiana Jones.
3 – The movie Titanic cost more to make than it cost to build the actual Titanic.
Titanic, the 1997 James Cameron film starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, is known as one of the biggest blockbusters in the history of filmmaking. At that time, it was the most expensive movie ever made.
Titanic cost an unbelievable $200 million to produce in 1997, which is more than it cost the actual Titanic ocean liner to be built between 1910-1912. The cost to build the ship was, at the time, $7.5 million, which, adjusted for inflation, is about the equivalent of $120 million – $150 million in 1997 terms.
4 – The charcoal drawing of Kate Winslet’s character in Titanic was drawn by James Cameron himself.
One of the most famous scenes in the movie Titanic was when Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) did a charcoal drawing of a nude Rose (Kate Winslet) after she said, “I want you to draw me like one of your French girls.”
The drawing that resulted was not actually drawn by Leonardo DiCaprio—it was drawn by Titanic’s director James Cameron. Also, it wasn’t drawn during the filming. Cameron had previously taken photographs of Winslet in many different positions in order to get the right one—and she did so in a bikini since they didn’t know each other that well at the time.
5 – There were 10,927 balloons in the movie Up.
The 2009 Disney/Pixar animated film Up was an instant classic. The movie centers around an elderly man who refuses to sell his house and instead ties thousands of balloons to his house and sets off on an adventure in honor of his departed wife.
So how many balloons would it take to lift your house off the ground? For the movie Up, the technical director figured out it would take about 23 million balloons, but visually that just didn’t work. Instead, he used far fewer, larger balloons—20,622 for the initial lift-off scene, 10,927 for shots of the house flying through the air, and other numbers for various scenes.
6 – Ratatouille caused a spike in pet rat sales.
Ratatouille is not only a French vegetable stew, it’s also a hit Disney/Pixar animated filmed from 2007. It revolves around Remy the rat (voiced by Patton Oswalt), a Paris-dwelling rat with an intense desire to become a chef.
After the movie was released in Britain, sales of rats from the British domestic pet shop Pets at Home increased by 50%. As it turns out, rats are one of the cleanest and least-smelly pets someone can own, as well as being extremely intelligent and trainable. So why wouldn’t they make great pets? Don’t count on one cooking you a fancy dinner though.
7 – The same thing happened with clownfish after the release of Finding Nemo.
Finding Nemo (2003) was another massive hit for the Disney/Pixar animation crews. It centers around a clown fish named Marlin and his friend Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) who embark on a journey through the ocean to find Marlin’s son Nemo.
After the release of Finding Nemo, demand for actual clown fish surged. All this despite the fact that the most emotional moment in the film occurs when Nemo, a helpless young clown fish, is plucked from the ocean by a recreational diver and placed in a dentist office fish tank.
8 – Psycho was the first American film to feature a toilet flushing.
The film Psycho, produced by Alfred Hitchcock, was a low-budget, black and white production that initially received mixed reviews by critics. However, it is now considered one of Hitchcock’s best films ever made.
Leading the most famous scene from the movie is a toilet getting flushed on screen—a completely taboo thing in the film-making business of the 1960s. In fact, the bathroom as a whole was thought of as distasteful and private, a rarely depicted element in the movies back then. The toilet being flushed by Janet Leigh, the star of the film, was the first time in a mainstream American film that that had been shown.
9 – Live birds were thrown at Tippi Hendren during the filming of The Birds.
Speaking of Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds was another major hit for him—the 1963 horror film about a series of violent bird attacks on the citizens of a California city. It starred Tippi Hendren as the main character in her film debut.
During the filming of the movie, mechanical birds were “supposed” to be used, but on the day of filming, they didn’t appear to be working so live birds were used instead. To simulate a violent bird attack, live ravens, pigeons, and doves were hurled at her by bird handlers in addition to them being tied to her clothing. The experience left her traumatized.
10 – The Terminator almost wasn’t played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The 1984 classic, The Terminator, is a science fiction movie directed by James Cameron that set off an entire franchise. In it, the Terminator, a cyborg assassin, goes back in time to fulfill a mission that will save the future. However, Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t always intended to be the Terminator.
At first, the production company, Orion Pictures, pitched O.J. Simpson to James Cameron for the role of the Terminator. It was Simpson’s athletic abilities as a former NFL running back that the producers thought would make him great for the part. Eventually, they passed on the idea of casting O.J. Simpson because he was too pleasant and likable.
11 – The cast of Saving Private Ryan actually went through boot camp.
Saving Private Ryan is the epic World War II film, from 1998 and directed by Steven Spielberg, in which a crew of American soldiers fights to save the last of four brothers, the three others having already been killed in the war.
To make the movie as realistic as possible, a feat for which the popular film is known, the entire cast of Saving Private Ryan attended boot camp led by retired U.S. marines. All except one star that is. Matt Damon did not have to attend boot camp, all so the real life actors would be as resentful of him as their characters were supposed to be.
12 – Ryan Gosling really plays the piano in La La Land.
La La Land is a 2016 romantic musical starring Emma Stone as an aspiring actress and Ryan Gosling as a jazz pianist. It was chosen as one of the top films of 2016 in addition to winning six Academy Awards and seven Golden Globe awards.
For the film in which he played a jazz pianist, Ryan Gosling actually spent three months prior to filming learning how to play the piano—a talent he didn’t already possess. This role earned him a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination.
13 – Steven Spielberg turned down a paycheck for Schindler’s List.
Schindler’s List, directed by Steven Spielberg, is an epic historical drama based on the life of Oscar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand Jewish refugees from the horrors of the Holocaust during World War II.
Because of the nature of the film, Steven Spielberg felt that taking a salary for it would be akin to “blood money” and turned down any kind of paycheck or profits. In fact, with the profits he would have made from the film, he founded the USC Shoah Foundation to honor Holocaust survivors.
14 – The most profitable film ever is Paranormal Activity.
Paranormal Activity, the science fiction horror film (and ensuing series) was written, directed, photographed, and edited by one man, Oren Peli. Still today, this simple yet jittery movie remains the most profitable movie ever made.
The movie that revolves around a couple who feel they’re being haunted by supernatural forces was fully produced at just $15,000 yet earned a mind-blowing $193 million. With the resulting three sequels, the Paranormal Activity franchise has spent a total of $13 million on production, but have collectively earned over $570 million.
15 – However, adjusted for inflation, that distinction goes to Gone With the Wind.
Almost eighty years ago the epic Civil War film Gone With the Wind debuted. The almost four-hour film starring Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler was the biggest thing to hit the screens back in 1939.
The film cost $3.9 million to make which was, at the time, one of the biggest film budgets of all time. Over the years the movie has made quite a profit to say the least, but, when adjusted for inflation, its total earnings amount to $1.7 billion making it the top-grossing film of all time.
16 – The velociraptors in Jurassic Park had an usual sound source.
The 1993 science fiction film Jurassic Park, also directed by Steven Spielberg, used groundbreaking technology and life-sized animatronics to scare the pants off people. Of those animatronic dinosaurs were the terrifying and deadly velociraptors.
Everyone remembers the high-pitched shrieks and vocalizations of the killer velociraptors, but not many people know where that signature sound came from. Turns out, the velociraptor’s barking sound (in the kitchen scene) comes from a mating tortoise. Apparently the process is lengthy as well as loud.
17 – The snow in the Wizard of Oz was asbestos.
The other huge hit film to be released in 1939 was the Wizard of Oz, widely considered to be one of the greatest movies in history. The film is famous for its Technicolor, memorable characters, and timeless songs.
In one iconic scene, Dorothy and company are frolicking through a field of poppies when the Wicked Witch casts a spell that causes it to snow and the crew to fall asleep. As it turns out, the substance used as the fake snow for that scene was actually asbestos—the carcinogen and now banned substance.
18 – Toto earned more than the Munchkins.
The Wizard of Oz’s most famous characters include a young girl named Dorothy, a tin man, a scarecrow, a cowardly lion, and a wicked witch, among many, many others. However, one non-human character got paid more than many of the human actors.
The Cairn Terrier that played Toto (whose real name was Terry) was actually paid a higher salary than the actors who played the Munchkins–$125 per week. In comparison, the three members of the Lollipop Guild only earned between $50 – $100 per week. In Terry’s defense, she was already a movie star, having already appeared in other feature films.
19 – The Tin Man’s makeup almost killed him.
The role of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz originally went to Ray Bolger (who actually ended up playing the Scarecrow) and then to an actor named Buddy Ebsen. Ebsen had already completed four weeks of rehearsals and recorded all of the Tin Man’s songs when there was an issue with his makeup.
In an attempt to make the Tin Man as shiny and silvery as possible, they ended up using white face paint coated with aluminum dust. However, just nine days into filming, Ebsen began to experience cramps and shortness of breath and was eventually hospitalized for two weeks after his lungs failed. The part of the Tin Man then went to Jack Haley.
20 – Boo from the movie Monsters, Inc. was actually voiced by a toddler.
Monsters, Inc. is another hit Disney/Pixar film from 2001 and features the voice work of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi, among others. One of the main characters, the little girl Boo, also has a unique voice source.
Instead of hiring an adult to do a child’s voice, they decided to go straight to the source. The voice of Boo comes from an actual 3-year-old, Mary Gibbs. Mary’s father Roy was a storyboard artist for the movie. Because she was too young to recite lines, producers simply followed her around with a microphone and recorded the appropriate toddler sounds.
21 – Buzz’s girlfriend in Home Alone was actually a boy.
Home Alone is the runaway holiday hit about a child (Macaulay Culkin) being left home by himself during the holidays and highest-grossing family comedy of all time. In the movie, Kevin McAllister (played by Culkin) has a bully of an older brother whose girlfriend is apparently “woof!”
Feeling that insulting a young girl for the sake of the joke would be insensitive, the producers instead went in a different direction. Instead, the art director’s son volunteered to dress up as a girl for the portrait that would serve as Buzz’s girlfriend.
22 – There’s a Starbucks cup in every single scene of Fight Club.
Fight Club—the 1999 film starring Helena Bonham Carter, Brad Pitt, and Edward Norton—was a monumental success and has since established a cult following. The film follows a white-collar worker in a disappointing job who starts a fight club with a soap salesman.
Having absolutely nothing to do with Starbucks, director David Fincher placed a Starbucks coffee hidden in every scene of the movie. He found it funny how successful Starbucks had become at the time—two or three on every block it seemed—and just thought it would be an entertaining little hidden movie secret.
23 – Actor Jim Caviezel was struck by lightning while filming The Passion of the Christ.
The Passion of the Christ is a 2004 biblical drama written and directed by Mel Gibson and starring Jim Caviezel as Jesus of Nazareth. The film mostly covers the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life and has been named by Entertainment Weekly as the most controversial movie of all time.
While filming the movie, in a remote location a few hours outside Rome, Italy, Caviezel was hit by a lightning bolt but was not badly hurt. The bolt also hit Jan Michelini, the film’s assistant director. Michelini, unlike Caviezel, was actually struck twice during the filming of the movie.
24 – Harry Potter’s stunt double was paralyzed after an accident while filming.
Daniel Radcliffe, who portrayed teen wizard Harry Potter in eight films, had a stunt double named David Holmes who was with him for the first six movies. However, while filming movie number 7—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One—he suffered an accident during rehearsal.
While rehearsing a scene involving an aerial explosion, Holmes, who was 25 at the time, suffered an injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Since his work on Harry Potter, he’s gone on to start his own production company.
25 – In fact, many actors and stunt doubles have died during filming.
Like David Holmes, many other actors and stunt doubles have died tragically while filming. It’s expected that a few small injuries every now and then can occur when filming scenes involving explosions, hand-to-hand combat, high speeds, and more, but sometimes the injuries are much more serious.
For instance, stunt doubles or members of film crews have been accidentally killed or seriously injured while filming movies such as: The Hangover Part II, The Expendables 2, The Dark Knight, XXX, Top Gun, and more. However, while filming The Crow, the main character, Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee), was killed when a projectile from a prop gun actually shot him in the abdomen.