When it comes to film production, the classic adage of “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” — better known as Murphy’s Law — is often the most crucial way to approach the project. That is because while most art forms consist of only a few central creators, movie productions can include hundreds, if not thousands, of positions essential for a film to move forward before uncontrollable factors like weather are added to the equation. To put it simply, there’s a lot that can go wrong on a film set.
But if Murphy’s Law is an essential guideline for any film’s production, there are some examples that prove even careful consideration of all that can go wrong is not always enough. Check out seven movie productions in which seemingly everything that could go wrong did, sometimes with the help of the director.
7. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (Unreleased)
Starting off the list is director Terry Gilliam’s failed production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, the only film here to never have been completed. Adding to the legendary failings of this production is the fact that behind-the-scenes footage was captured by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, who would later go on to turn the recordings into a critically acclaimed documentary called Lost in La Mancha, which is currently available on Netflix.
Many of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’s disastrous events were beyond the control of its filmmakers, even if the film certainly feels as if it were too ambitious to begin with, given its budget. On the first day of shooting, the filmmakers find that the shooting location in Bardenas Reales, Spain, renders sound nearly unusable due to constant noise from a nearby NATO aircraft target practice area. Then, on the second day of shooting, the same area was hit hard by a storm. The resulting flash flood damaged a majority of the production’s equipment while casting the entire appearance of the location in a different color, an issue that conflicted both with the first day’s shooting and Gilliam’s initial reason to shoot in the area to begin with.
As if that wasn’t enough, the film’s lead, Jean Rochefort, soon afterward became ill and was later diagnosed with a herniated disc, effectively shutting down the production. All in all, the production resulted in a record $15 million insurance claim that put the rights to the screenplay in the hands of the insurance company for several years before being transferred back to Gilliam.
However, Gilliam has still not given up on his dream. In June 2015, the director told Indiewire that making a movie about Don Quixote is part of his recently signed deal with Amazon Studios. “It’s my madness!” Gilliam told Indiewire.