Disturbing Facts About The Film Industry

September 30, 2023 | Scott Steehn

Disturbing Facts About The Film Industry

Whether it’s rom-coms or horror, comedy or action, or even documentaries, almost everyone loves movies.

But as many people in the “business” will attest, what goes on behind the scenes is often even more interesting and scandalous than the finished product you see on the screen. So grab some popcorn and get comfortable as we reveal 42 disturbing facts about the movie industry.

1. The More Things Change…

Just in case you think naughty scandals in Hollywood are something new, consider the case of Errol Flynn. The swashbuckling mega-star from the early days of cinema once stood trial for statutory assault for sleeping with two 17-year-olds. He was acquitted, and as a bonus, during the trial he met a 19-year-old whom he later married.


2. Boys In The Hoods

Generally regarded as the first American full-length movie, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation premiered in 1915 and was seen by over a million people within a year of its release.

A story about the Civil War and the formation of the Ku Klux Klan, the film is credited for the rebirth of the KKK and its ensuing popularity in the 20s and 30s.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

3. Fake News

The Birth of a Nation became the first film to be screened in the White House. After viewing it, President Woodrow Wilson is rumored to have said, “It’s like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it’s all so terribly true". As the controversy grew due to its heroic portrayal of the Klan, Wilson sought to distance himself from the film, saying he had no idea of the nature of it before screening and disavowing his comments. Sounds oddly familiar.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

4. Spoiler Alert

Widely regarded as the best movie of all time, Citizen Kane examines the complicated relationship between a rich, dying man and his…sled. That’s right, Rosebud is his SLED. Sorry if I spoiled that for you, but you really need to get out more.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

5. No College = Riches

Three of the top four highest-grossing directors of all time never went to (or initially completed) film school. Steven Spielberg (who dropped out and then finished his degree later), Peter Jackson, and James Cameron all began making movies when they were just kids and taught themselves the craft through trial and error. Not only were they not saddled with massive student loans, they didn’t have to sit through hundreds of hours of boring black-and-white French movies. That’s a win-win.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

6. Be Prepared…For Greatness

Spielberg’s first movie was made when he was just 12-years-old to fulfill the requirement for his Boy Scout photography merit badge. It was a nine-minute, 8mm film entitled The Last Gunfight.

Movie Industry factsPixabay

7. Probably Has His Own Trailer

If you were to guess who has appeared in the most Spielberg movies, you almost certainly would be wrong. That’s because it’s his very own dog, Elmer. They would later part ways due to “creative differences".

Movie Industry factsPixabay

8. His Favorite Hockey Team Is San Jose

Before directing Jaws, Spielberg read Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name and found himself rooting for the shark because the human characters were so unlikable.

Movie Industry factsWikipedia

9. It’s An Honor Just To Be Nominated

British director Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar. Despite being nominated five times for Best Director, more or less inventing the thriller and horror film genres, and directing countless groundbreaking movies, he was never able to take home the golden statue. Hopefully he made up for it by making millions of dollars, having adoring fans across the globe, and being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

10. Good Director, Bad Judge Of Character

OJ Simpson was slated to play the title character in The Terminator, but director James Cameron thought he was “too pleasant” to portray such a dark character.

Movie Industry facts

11. No Second Take

The famous scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta stabs Uma Thurman in the heart with a needle was shot in reverse.

Movie Industry factsFlickr

12. “Heeeere’s...Line, Please”

Illicit substances in Hollywood is certainly no big story, but it was rumored that the budget for 1980’s The Shining included money to supply Jack Nicholson with his daily dose of coke. I bet he was very excited to learn he would be buried in snow at the end of the movie.

Movie Industry factsThe Shining, Warner Bros.

Looks excited !

13. Hey, A Job’s A Job

Many of Hollywood’s biggest stars got their start in the adult movie industry. Sylvester Stallone, Marilyn Monroe, and Kevin Costner dared to be bare before their “legitimate” film career took off. Even Jackie Chan starred in a 1970s XXX film called All In The Family. True to form, he did all his own stunts.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

14. Ask The Wizard For A Union Card

There are many rumors and stories surrounding the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz. Something that isn’t a rumor? Buddy Ebsen, who played the Tin Man, was rushed to the hospital after having his lungs fail due to the aluminum dust in the silver makeup that covered his body. Ebsen had to leave the production for his health and was replaced by Jack Haley.

Movie Industry factsFlickr

15. Not Fit For Man Or Beast…Especially Beast

Hollywood has a dismal record when it comes to animal cruelty on set, starting with the demise of 100 horses during the filming of 1925’s Ben Hur. Even after writing a set of guidelines in 1988 for animal treatment, the harm hasn’t stopped completely. Most recently, the tiger from Life of Pi, a movie that was made in 2012, allegedly almost perished .

Movie Industry factsFlickr

16. Bueller…Bueller…Bueller

Actor Matthew Broderick fatally crashed into a mother and daughter while on vacation in Ireland with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off co-star Jennifer Grey. Their rented BMW crossed the center line, colliding head-on with an on-coming vehicle. He was convicted of “careless driving” and had to pay $175 fine. Doesn’t sound like such a righteous dude now, does he?

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

17. Say It Ain’t So, Marky Mark

Actor Mark Wahlberg had a bit of rough youth. He was a small-time drug dealer and spent time in prison for an unprovoked attack of two Vietnamese men. He hit one with a stick and punched the other, causing the victim to go blind in one eye. He was originally charged with attempted murder, but was able to plead to a lesser charge of contempt. He was sentenced to two years in prison but served only 45 days.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

18. Don’t Forget The Free Backrubs

Women have been notoriously underpaid throughout the history of Hollywood, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better any time soon. Most recently, it was reported that co-stars Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams made two points less than their male counterparts for the film American Hustle on the backend agreements. And who were those two male co-stars, anyway? You don’t remember? Exactly the point.

Movie Industry factsFlickr

19. That’s Why The DVR Was Invented

In 1974, The Godfather premiered on NBC over two nights from 9-11pm. Both nights at 11pm, New York City’s Water Authorities had serious overflow problems from all the toilets flushing at the same time.

Movie Industry factsFlickr

20. A Floor You Can’t Refuse

Speaking of The Godfather, star Marlon Brando worked as an elevator operator at a department store before he became an actor. Reportedly, he quit because he was so embarrassed at having to call out the lingerie floor.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

21. Bet You Give A Darn Now

Adjusted for inflation, the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind would be the top-grossing movie of all time in domestic profit. In current dollars, it would have grossed $1,685,052,200. Which, you know, is probably like a cent per minute of the four hour film.

Movie Industry factsWikimedia Commons

22. All That Italian Food

To portray boxer Jake LaMotta later in life in Raging Bull, actor Robert De Niro gained 60 pounds. Not to brag or anything, but I did the same exact thing last year between Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

23. Brothers Share

In a town synonymous with scandalous rumors and affairs, one stands above the rest. Blonde beauty Marilyn Monroe was rumored to be involved romantically with both Bobby and John Kennedy. In fact, legendary Hollywood private eye Fred Otash claimed to have an audio tape of Marilyn and JFK doing the deed. Happy birthday, Mr. President indeed.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

24. I’ll Be Back…To Finish Cleaning The Bathroom

Celebrities often have rocky marriages, but few last for over three decades. That’s why so many people were surprised when Maria Shriver filed for divorce from the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The most shocking news that came out during the proceedings was the fact that Schwarzenegger had fathered a child with the couples’ housekeeper.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

25. Honest, Sir, I’m Really 17

The summer of 1999 reportedly saw the highest number of underaged fans attempt to get into a movie. Teens and tweens were turned away from American Pie and South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut at a record clip.

Movie Industry factsFlickr

26. Can I Get Those Two Hours Back?

Widely regarded as one of the most expensive flops in movie history, The 13th Warrior lost somewhere between $70 and 130 million. That includes not just production costs, but the marketing budget as well.

Here's betting that the marketing team conveniently leaves that particular job off of their resumes.

Movie Industry factsShutterstock

27. That’s A Lot Of Booty

The most expensive movie ever made was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. This gem cost $378.5 million to make.

Movie Industry factsPirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Walt Disney Pictures

28. Rated “R” For “Really?”

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is a board who rates every movie with one of five designations, G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17. Since getting a certain rating can often means a loss of millions of dollars, reports run rampant of payoffs and outright bribery to lower ratings for mature movies.

Movie Industry factsShutterstock

29. Hollywood Accounting

Author Winston Groom’s book Forrest Gump was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster, and earned over $677 million. Groom didn’t see any of that money for almost as decade; the studio claimed it actually lost money on the film.

Movie Industry factsForrest Gump, Paramount Pictures

30. Something Stinks

Directed by Ed Wood, Plan 9 From Outer Space has been named on several lists as the worst movie of all time. It starred Bela Lugosi, who passed on shortly after it was completed, I can only assume from embarrassment.

Movie Industry factsWikimedia Commons

31. Bah Humbug

The iconic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life was a flop at the box office. Made for $3.7 million, it made only $3.3 million in its initial release. It only gained popularity when it started being shown on TV.

Movie Industry factsWikimedia Commons

32. Christmas Sweater

Speaking of It’s a Wonderful Life, the iconic scene of Jimmy Stewart running down the street in Bedford Falls was actually filmed on a scorching California day. No wonder George Bailey jumped into that icy river.

Movie Industry factsPixabay

33. Still Lost The Oscar

The first “moving picture” was created in 1878... just to settle a bet.

Racehorse owners were divided as to whether a galloping horse ever got all four feet off the ground at the same time. After making his short film The Horse In Motion, Eadweard Muybridge proved conclusively that racehorses do indeed run with all four feet off the ground. He also proved that rich guys have way too much time and money on their hands.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

34. Have You Met My Daughter?

Screen legend Lana Turner’s 14-year-old daughter admitted to fatally stabbing her mom’s mob-connected lover. She said she did it to protect Lana from his temper, and it was ruled a justifiable homicide. Nowadays, it's hard to get teenagers to even wash the knives.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

35. Got A Light?

Judy Garland was pressured constantly by studio chief Louis B. Mayer to lose weight. When she was 18, Mayer put her on a daily regimen of black coffee, chicken soup, 80 smokes a day, and diet pills every four hours.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

36. Red Western

Called by many “The Greatest Western of All Time,” High Noon was an allegory about the practice of “blacklisting” in Hollywood. Writer Carl Foreman was put on the list shortly after the movie came out, but by that time he’d already fled to England.

Movie Industry factsWikimedia Commons

37. It’s In The Genes

Many people know actress Drew Barrymore comes from a long line of actors. But it goes back further than you think. In fact, it goes back over 300 years to her great-great-great-great grandfather Thomas Haycraft Lane. Wonder what would have happened if she told the family she wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

38. Keeping Up With The Times

Angelina Jolie and husband Billy Bob Thornton adopted a child from Cambodia. Soon after, she divorced Billy Bob, and then fell in love with Brad Pitt while making Mr. and Mrs. Smith; he was married to Jennifer Aniston at the time. That’s pretty cold, even for Maleficent.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

39. Rocket Man, Is That You?

In November of 2014, the computers at Sony Pictures were hacked in response to the studio's film The Interview, which was about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The group released an immense amount of sensitive information, including salaries, home addresses, and intimate e-mails.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

40. Red Foreman Would Not Be Impressed

Ashton Kutcher found an unusual way to celebrate his anniversary with his then-wife Demi Moore. Instead of flowers or chocolate, Kutcher chose instead to consummate his relationship with Sara Leal, a young administrative assistant. I can never remember—which year’s anniversary is infidelity?

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

41. The Kat Is Out Of The Bag

America’s Sweetheart Sandra Bullock made news when she married bad boy biker dude Jesse James. James soon lived up to his rep by having affairs with tattoo artist Kat Von D. and a host of other women. Sandy, if you’re listening, I’m available, and I don’t even LIKE tattoos.

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

42. How Do You Really Feel?

In 2006, Malibu officers pulled Mel Gibson over on suspicion of DWI. He proceeded to go on an anti-Semitic rant against one of the officers. At the station he called a female booking officer “Sugar T*ts". But he made a movie about Jesus, so apparently everything is cool.

Movie Industry factsGetty ImagesSources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32

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