9 Wild Stories About Animal Accidents on Movie Sets

Bart The Bear Ate Garlic Pasta And A Whole Chicken Before Scenes And Stunk Up Anthony Hopkins While Filming 'The Edge'

Animals are unpredictable. Movie production is unpredictable. Combine the two and you have hilarity, disaster, or a mixture of both. But it’s not only animals and filmmakers that run wild on set. Animal protection agents often join the chaos. Below is a collection of the wildest clashes between creatures on features.

1. 3,000 Locusts Were Sexed For ‘Exorcist II’

3,000 Locusts Were Sexed For 'Exorcist II'

Steven R. Kutcher’s career in showbuzziness began when he was asked to handle 3,000 African locusts for the 1977 sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic. The then-entomology student accepted the job, which included sexing every bug to make sure all were male and thus unable to reproduce (six female locusts were found and removed). When his wards weren’t annoying the hell out of Linda Blair and Richard Burton, Kutcher contained the patriarchal plague in large cages filled with rye grass. “That was really an interesting experience,” Kutcher put it mildly.

His six months of work on Exorcist II ballooned to 45 years in Hollywood, as Kutcher is still the industry’s premier Bug Wrangler. Another of his notable gigs was staging a spider talent show for Sam Raimi to pick the non-human star of Spider-ManSteatoda grossa (false widow) was the winner.

2. The Tiger In ‘Apocalypse Now’ Got Loose On A Plane And Forced The Pilot To Climb Out His Window

The Tiger In 'Apocalypse Now' Got Loose On A Plane And Forced The Pilot To Climb Out His Window

It was Apocalypse Now for the occupants of a plane transporting a tiger to the film’s set in the Philippines. The trip started in Los Angeles and required a changeover, which is when the mayhem occurred. Director Francis Ford Coppola’s wife, Eleanor, related the story of Tiger on a Plane

…the passengers were in their seats when they put the tiger’s carrying box on the plane. They placed a chicken by the door of the box, but when they walked the tiger on, instead of taking the chicken and going into it, he jumped on top of the box and was staring down at the passengers. Everyone ran into the front compartment and locked the door. The pilot climbed out his window and just sat there, refusing to fly.

The tiger got to its destination but was used in the final cut for only a split-second.

3. A Cinematographer Was Scalped By A Lion On ‘Roar’

A Cinematographer Was Scalped By A Lion On 'Roar'

Roar was a cat-astrophe. The film about human-animal cohabitation employed over 100 big cats and other wild animals, which shredded the cast and crew. Even while counting numerous bites, several broken bones, multiple cases of gangrene, blood poisoning, and the near-loss of an eye, the injury to Jan de Bont stands out as particularly gruesome.

The cinematographer was scalped by a lion and needed 220 stitches to put his skin back onto his skull. He recovered, as did the rest of his mangled co-workers. The only deaths were among the animals; police officers killed three lions when they escaped the set.

4. Tony Todd Got $1,000 For Every Bee Sting He Received On ‘Candyman’

Tony Todd Got $1,000 For Every Bee Sting He Received On 'Candyman'

Over 200,000 real honeybees were used for 1992’s Candyman, many of which covered Tony Todd as he played the titular apparition. Despite numerous on-set safety measures, Todd and his co-workers got stung. At least in Todd’s case, the stings came with a financial reward:

I negotiated a bonus of $1,000 for every sting during the bee scene. And I got stung 23 times. Everything that’s worth making has to involve some sort of pain. Once I realized it was an important part of who Candyman was, I embraced it. It was like putting on a beautiful coat.

That’s $23,000 for just under two dozen bee stings. Would you accept that exchange?

5. Stanley Kubrick’s Daughter Shut Down ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ After Reporting Spielberg For Snake Abuse

Stanley Kubrick's Daughter Shut Down 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' After Reporting Spielberg For Snake Abuse

Steven Spielberg filmed Raiders‘ Well of Souls scene at London’s Elstree Studios with approximately 6,500 real snakes and legless lizards. At the same time and place, another famous director’s daughter, Vivian Kubrick, was editing her behind-the-scenes documentary about her father’s film, The Shining. When Vivian peered into Spielberg’s snakepit, she was appalled. “Vivian came into the cutting room one day crying…” remembered assistant editor on The Shining, Gordon Stainforth. “She was very upset about the way the snakes were being treated. So I was dragged along to this stage to see what was going on.”

They observed snakes that had fallen from the elevated set onto the concrete floor below. Moreover, Vivian believed that snakes were being trampled by the cast and crew. “There were some dead snakes around; no doubt about that,” said Stainforth. He recalled that Vivian actually confronted Spielberg by climbing onto the stage and saying, “Steven, this is so cruel.” Spielberg’s assurance was weak, so Vivian escalated the issue:  

He was quite pleasant about it, but this was not nearly good enough for her. We went back to the cutting room, and Vivian picked up the phone and rang the RSPCA [Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] to complain about the way the snakes were being treated.

Production was shut down. “The guy in charge of the snakes was so angry, if Vivian had been a bloke, she’d have been killed. But the fact that she was a girl, and Kubrick’s daughter…” 

Stainforth revisited the set a couple days later and noticed that conditions had improved: “There was this row of plastic dustbins almost as far as the eye could see around the stage, and in the bottom of each one there was a little bit of straw and a leaf of lettuce, and each one had about three garter snakes.”

Even father Kubrick got involved. “Of course he took Vivian’s side,” said Stainforth, “and then there was a definite clash between Spielberg and Kubrick. And I remember Stanley puffing on his cigar, and saying with a grin, ‘Steve’s a jerk.’”

6. A Lumberman Sawed Off His Own Foot After Suffering A Snake Bite On ‘Fitzcarraldo’

A Lumberman Sawed Off His Own Foot After Suffering A Snake Bite On 'Fitzcarraldo'

You know a film set is cursed when a snakebite-caused self-amputation barely cracks the top five craziest events. Amid multiple plane crashes, inter-tribal warfare, role-ending dysentery, and a proposed assassination of the lead actor, production of Fitzcarraldo was disrupted by a lumberman’s envenomation and hasty response in the Peruvian jungle. Recalled director Werner Herzog:

He was bitten by a snake which is the most dangerous of all of them [likely a fer-de-lance]. And he had dropped his chainsaw and he looked at his foot, where he was bitten, and within seconds he started the chainsaw again and cut off his own foot, which actually saved his life.

More of these chaotic events are chronicled in the making-of documentary Burden of Dreams.

7. A Monkey Masturbated Near Daniel Radcliffe And A Bat Peed On Rupert Grint On ‘Harry Potter’

A Monkey Masturbated Near Daniel Radcliffe And A Bat Peed On Rupert Grint On 'Harry Potter'

Daniel Radcliffe stumbled on a chamber he wished were a secret on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. “There was a monkey of some kind in a cage that did just start jerking off relentlessly,” he recalled of filming in Professor McGonagall’s animal-filled classroom.

No fluids landed on him, thankfully, but the same can’t be said for his co-star. “I think Rupert [Grint] maybe got peed on by a bat at one point,” Radcliffe revealed.

8. The ASPCA Demanded That ‘Shawshank Redemption’ Use A ‘Maggot’ That Died Of Natural Causes

The ASPCA Demanded That 'Shawshank Redemption' Use A 'Maggot' That Died Of Natural Causes

Although animal protection agencies had long struggled to assert their authority in the movie industry, by the early ‘90s they had the power to demand that a worm fed to a crow in The Shawshank Redemption had died of natural causes. Here’s the story told by director Frank Darabont while he was recording a commentary track (as transcribed by Philip Concannon):

This was a waxworm my prop guys purchased a local bait store. We had the ASPCA [more likely the AH] lady come on this day because we had that little baby crow in Jim Whitmore’s vest pocket, and I figured they were there to make sure nobody mistreated the baby crow, right? No. This woman was also there to protect the rights of the ‘maggot’ in the scene, and was insistent that we do not feed a live maggot to the baby crow. I was trying to reason with this lady by pointing out that it was from a bait shop and anyone in the country could walk in, buy a box of worms, ram a hook through them and drop them in a river to be eaten by bass, but for some reason a filmmaker with $100,000+ a day pouring out the door is not allowed to feed a live waxworm to a baby crow? I laud the ASPCA because there were a lot of filmmaking abuses back in the day, when filmmakers used to trip horses with wires and do a lot of very cruel things, and the ASPCA has put a stop to that. However, when you can’t kill bait because of the bureaucracy I think it has gotten a little bit silly. It had to be a dead worm and it had to have died of natural causes, according to her. I said, ‘Do we have the autopsy to determine cause of death? Can we be sure there was no foul play?’ I’ll get off my soapbox now because it was supposed to be a funny anecdote but I find myself being annoyed by it because I just couldn’t reason with this woman.

9. Bart The Bear Ate Garlic Pasta And A Whole Chicken Before Scenes And Stunk Up Anthony Hopkins While Filming ‘The Edge’

Bart The Bear Ate Garlic Pasta And A Whole Chicken Before Scenes And Stunk Up Anthony Hopkins While Filming 'The Edge'

Bart was an 1,800-pound Kodiak bear who acted in over 20 projects. In two of them, he starred alongside Anthony Hopkins, who explained in graphic detail how he could smell Bart’s lunch while filming a bear attack scene on The Edge

It was still terrifying because I could feel the heat of his breath and smell it… He smelt of garlic because he eats pasta and a whole chicken before each scene.

Despite his understandable fear at sharing scenes with a Kodiak, Hopkins was reportedly a big admirer of his omnivorous co-star.