Getting the perfect shot can be tough. Directors need to think about lighting, camera angles, CGI enhancements, the script, the performance of the actors, camera cuts, and probably a hundred other things that we’re not even aware of. That being said, sometimes one short scene can consume a ridiculous amount of time, forcing cast and crew member to remain on the set for long hours, day after day, until the director thinks it’s finally perfect.
The following scenes all took an extraordinary amount of time to film, for a variety of reasons. As you’ll see, the people most passionate about filmmaking consider their work an art form, and will stop at nothing to make sure the final product is exactly the way they want.
Spider-Man – Lunch Tray Scene
Long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe found so much success that there was a new superhero movie every month, Sony Pictures and Sam Raimi brought us the original Spider-Man movie and really showed audiences what was possible with a film based on a comic book. Like most movies in that genre, Spider-Man featured a bunch of fancy CGI graphics, but for whatever reason, they choose not to use computer effects for one of the most difficult scenes in the entire film.
As Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is discovering his new powers, there is a scene where Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) slips in the school cafeteria, prompting our hero to not only catch her in mid-air, but also effortlessly rescue her lunch before it hits the ground. As explained in the DVD commentary, Maguire actually caught all of the falling food in real life. It makes for a great looking scene, but apparently took a ton of takes before they managed to get it right.
The Shining – What is the Shining?
Legendary director Stanley Kubrick was renowned for his tedious attention to detail. As a result, he would often shoot the same scene over and over (and over and over) until he thought it was perfect. During the filming of The Shining, the big screen adaptation of the Stephen King novel, Kubrick took his painstaking filmmaking to new heights.
During the scene where Halloran is trying to explain to young Danny what the shining really is, Kubrick was constantly unhappy with the way it turned out. The scene took roughly 150 takes, according to a few members of the crew. And it’s not the only scene from The Shining that dragged out. The iconic scene of an enraged Jack Nickolson busting through the bathroom door with an axe kept having to be re-shot because Nicholson (an ex-volunteer firefighter) was turning the wood into splinters far too quickly. Also, the creepy scene that had blood pouring out the elevator doors had to be shot three times — which doesn’t seem like a lot, until you realize it took nine days to set up a single take.
Oldboy – The Corridor Fight
You’ll be forgiven if you haven’t seen the 2003 South Korean film Oldboy (no, not the 2013 English remake by Spike Lee). After all, it’s a foreign film featuring English subtitles and a bunch of actors that no one in America has ever really heard of. But Oldboy is worth the effort, as the dark-themed mystery thriller has much to offer audiences.
For the sake of this list, keep an eye out for the corridor fight. Actually, you can’t miss it. It’s a three-minute long battle between the main character (Choi Min-sik, played by Oh Dae-su) and 25 dangerous looking gangsters. The difficult part is that the scene was shot as a single long take (something that would be borrowed by Netflix’s Daredevil in its first two seasons). That takes a ton of planning and choreography. The scene took 17 different takes spanning over days to finish. The end result was worth it though!
The Incredible Hulk – Blood Drop Scene
It was just one tiny scene, featuring a drop of Dr. Bruce Banner’s (Edward Norton) contaminated blood falling multiple stories and landing in an open bottle. Most of the scene itself was computer generated, but the legit shots somehow took 16 hours to film. If you think that’s bad, consider that the Visual Effects Team for The Incredible Hulk then spent roughly an entire year tinkering with the CGI to get the scene exactly how they wanted.
The studio apparently wanted to cut the entire scene from the final edit, but director Louis Leterrier insisted on keeping it, considering how much time and money they spent on it. Unfortunately, the movie itself (just the second entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe when it was released 2008), is largely forgettable. Bruce Banner was eventually recast with Eric Bana for his reappearance in The Avengers.
Home Alone – Movie Within a Movie
“Keep the change, ya filthy animal!”
The iconic line from Home Alone actually came from a different movie. With his family gone, young Kevin McCallister decides to enjoy a viewing of the decidedly adult-rated Angels with Filthy Souls. No, the scene of Kevin watching an inappropriate movie and pigging out on junk food didn’t take that long to film. Filming Angels with Filthy Souls, however, is a different story.
The movie is entirely fictional, which means that a handful of people working on Home Alone were also tasked with shooting a scene for the black and white gangster flick. The person in charge of that reportedly was very particular, insisting on using authentic props from the 1940s. Going even further, they shot Angels with Filthy Souls on the same type of film available in 1940, which took even longer to track down and then work with. It paid off, though, as the fake film was a memorable part of Home Alone. They even filmed a fake sequel (Angels With Filthier Souls) for Home Alone 2.
V For Vendetta – Dominos
We love V For Vendetta, and we try to watch it every year on November 5th (remember, remember). But there’s one scene that’s always bothered us. As the masked hero V makes plans to lead the English people into a glorious revolution against their totalitarian government, he apparently takes the time to set-up a massive dominoes display. We guess it’s supposed to symbolize the people finally working together, or the toppling of the elite, or something like that. It’s always seemed out of place to us. And even more so when we learned the logistics of the scene.
The shot involved 22,000 dominoes, and took four professional domino assemblers (is that a real profession?) over 200 hours to assemble. So how long would it take a single man like V, with horribly burnt hands, to assemble the same thing? Realism ruined! Anyway, you can understand why the director decided to include the scene in the final cut of the film, since it took such an incredible effort to produce in the first place.
The Usual Suspects – Line-Up Scene
There’s actually no reason this scene should have taken this long. It was a simple line-up scene, with no special effects and no complicated CGI tricks. Actors Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio del Toro, and Kevin Pollak were simply supposed to stand in a mock police line-up and each say one simple line (which we won’t repeat, because language).
However, the problem with shooting the scene is what we technically refer to as “contagious laughter.” You see, one of the actors was feeling a little gassy that day, and his constant flatulence caused the entire cast to break out with a bad case of the giggles. They couldn’t stop. Eventually, after numerous tries, director Bryan Singer reportedly gave up and just pieced together the scene with whatever footage he had. You can even see that some of the giggling made the final cut.
Eyes Wide Shut – Tom Cruise Walks Through a Door
Again with Stanley Kubrick and his ridiculous, even torturous, process of filming scenes. While filming his final movie Eyes Wide Shut, a dark tale of twisted relationships and sexual encounters, Kubrick reportedly made star Tom Cruise walk through the same door a grand total of 95 times. Ninety. Five. Times!
The crazy thing about this scene taking forever to film, is that no one really knows where it is in the film. Cruise walks through many doors during Eyes Wide Shut, so it could be any of them! For such an insignificant part of the movie, we can’t imagine why Kubrick thought it was necessary to film so many takes. Then again, maybe that’s why he was a famous movie director and we just write articles about his idiosyncrasies.
RoboCop – Can’t Catch Keys
RoboCop is a the ultimate law enforcement officer. He’s basically an invincible, high powered, police cyborg. However, after Officer Alex J. Murphy gets turned into the iconic RoboCop, actor Peter Weller obviously had to spend the rest of filming in a bulky super suit. Sure, it looked cool on camera, but the RoboCop suit was heavy and hard to maneuver in. It reportedly took Weller three days of practice just to learn how to walk in it. Oh, and the helmet basically blinded him.
The first scene they filmed with Weller in the suit seemed simple enough, at first. RoboCop casually walks by the police chief and grabs the car keys in mid-air. Unfortunately for the cast and crew, his impaired vision meant that the otherwise easy scene took all damn day to get right.
Return of the Jedi – Jabba’s Palace
George Lucas is what is technically known in the movie business as “a tinkerer.” That is, he never seems to be fully satisfied with the final cut of his movies, and often goes back to change things for re-releases or DVD editions. Things like Han shooting first (it’s still cannon to us, dammit!).
In Return of the Jedi, Lucas made a number of changes to the dance scene in Jabba the Hut’s palace. Most notably, we get a few extra seconds of Oola, a green female alien. In the original cut of the film, she is thrown into the Rancor pit off-screen. In the remaster, she gets more screen time. But that extra screen time took a truck load of time. Here’s why: Lucas had the entire set re-built (and re-hired the same actress) a full 14 years later after the original firm was shot, just to add in this scene — which is still completely pointless!