A Peek Behind the Curtain

Published on July 15th, 2011

James looks at behind the scenes photos from famous film sets.

Even before TMZ and James Lipton, people have wanted a sneak peek at our favourite movie stars and what happens on a movie set. This list from Total Film gives us 100 glimpses into the production of movies over the past several decades. Because films are so linear and finite, it’s odd to see the characters and settings outside of the canonical context. Some behind-the-scenes shots can be funny or enlightening, while some shatter childhood dreams, sooooo… sorry about that. Here a few examples of the different kinds of candid shots:

Famous Person Overload – The Departed

I’ve seen this movie so I know that these people did all get together at some point; it only makes sense that in the time it takes to shoot a feature length film, these 4 people would be sitting together to get a cup of coffee at least once. Maybe it’s the lighting, or the simple fact that these are 4 of the biggest names in Hollywood, but it still looks like one of those fake drawings that you buy from a guy sitting on the street outside of sports stadiums. He has Bieber pictures, a variety of Scarface pictures, that one of all the most famous rappers together, athletes and actors in poses they’ve never made with people they’ve never been photographed with, and shit like this. Seriously, this picture is weird… is Martin Scorsese giving Matt Damon a handjob under the table and Damon is really turned on by the appearance of a camera? Has Leonardo DiCaprio been Photoshopped in from 1996? Is Jack Nicholson… no, actually he looks like he normally does.

Not So Scary Anymore – Jaws

For the brief moments we see the shark on-screen in Jaws, it’s usually about to kill someone, killing someone, or being killed. For this reason, we are used to being terrified whenever we see it. Pictures like this remind us that it was only a prop, and apparently a pretty terrible one. It’s comforting and humbling to know all those nightmares brought about by scary movie scenes were caused by bits of rubber, metal, and dyed corn syrup.

Almost Perfect Shot – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

The visual style of Wes Anderson is simultaneously simple and enjoyable. His long takes, symmetrical framing and still backgrounds give his films a deliberate, crisp, storybook feeling. That is what makes images from the set so unsettling. I haven’t seen this movie lately, but I would confidently gamble this shot uses those pillars on the right and left to frame the shot, with those lamps adding to the symmetry and the blue tank forming the centre of the background. The table in the foreground is only slightly off horizontal and it looks like the camera would barely have to move the frame this shot perfectly. The fact that this frame is slightly uncomfortable to look at speaks to Anderson’s meticulous and well-honed visual style, as well as reminding us of the diligent work directors and cinematographers perform to turn the haphazard, makeshift world around us into a beautiful, precise construction.

The director/actor dynamic provides a laugh in this photo, too. With Bill Murray in costume, it looks like the fictional Steve Zissou is having a discussion with the real person who created him, like a shot from Charlie Kaufman’s uber-awesome Synecdoche, New York. Beyond that, Bill Murray’s characters are always falling through life, doing things their way; this makes it funny to see him take anyone’s advice as Steve Zissou. And I swear I’m not just saying this to be deliberately inflammatory but doesn’t Wes Anderson look a bit like Michael Bay? Just a bit?

Controlled Chaos – A Clockwork Orange

Some moments in film seem so immediate, emotional, bizarre and personal that we forget that all of this is scripted and shot a number of times in a very controlled environment. This twisted scene from A Clockwork Orange shows the sexually deviant Alex DeLarge attacking this woman in her home with a giant penis. In the film, the scene is fast and frantic, but photos like this one – depicting a man sitting cross-legged, patiently trying to keep the action in frame – remind us of the dozens of bored people just doing their jobs, and what was a mundane day at work for them can be some of the most exciting and bizarre moments in film.

My Childhood was Controlled by Hippies? – Sesame Street

Yeah, this is that dream shattering I was talking about earlier. I guess I’ve known for a long time that they were puppets, but it’s something else to actually see an arm shoved up where a kid would expect Ernie’s legs to be. And from what I know about it hippies, it must suck to have to be the guy who has to work right next to that armpit all day.

Wookie… Umm… Hearts Boob – Star Wars

I’ll be honest, this one doesn’t really fit into a category but I couldn’t resist showing this picture. Carrie Fischer probably let this happen in exchange for a line of blow.

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