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13 Movie Hoaxes That Completely Fooled Everyone –

 

Artisan Entertainment

Though the worldwide adoption of the Internet over the last two decades has made it increasingly easy to weed out bulls*** hoaxes and loony urban legends, the current political climate of “fake news” is nevertheless perfect proof of how easily the general public can be tricked and misled.

Far away from the political arena, this has manifested in less-harmful ways in the entertainment industry, and especially Hollywood. Ever since filmmaking has existed, there have been rumours, myths and conspiracy theories that have cast a darkly fascinating pall over classic movies.

While these hoaxes have since been easily debunked online, at the time of their creation – most of them pre-dating the Internet – they were widely believed by many.

Though it’s easy to look back and scoff at the simpletons of decades past buying into these “blatant” hoaxes, without the tools we have at our disposal nowadays, it’s at least understandable why most of these claims actually gained traction.

And on the plus side, most of these hoaxes at least add some ominous intrigue to their respective films, so there’s that…

13. The Actress Painted Gold In Goldfinger Died For Real

MGM

We begin with one of the most pervasive movie myths of all time, and one that was popularly accepted to be true for several decades.

1964’s classic Bond flick Goldfinger features a sequence in which 007 (Sean Connery) discovers the corpse of Bond girl Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) covered in gold paint. In the movie, painting her entire body gold resulted in her dying from “skin suffocation”, with the implication being that the body needs to “breathe” by leaving at least a small portion of the skin unpainted.

This led to a rumour shortly after the film’s release that Eaton actually died for real, compounded by her sparse film credits post-Goldfinger and eventual retirement in 1970.

The legend held strong well into the late 1990s, when worldwide Internet adoption confirmed to the masses that this wasn’t the case. While Eaton was shooting her scenes for the movie, a doctor was reportedly on standby to ensure her safety, and you can at least appreciate the logic of the myth, especially 50 years ago, even if it’s ultimately total nonsense.

12. The Word “Sex” Is Spelled Out In The Lion King

Disney

Shortly after Disney’s iconic The Lion King hit VHS in 1995, many viewers began to notice a visual peculiarity in the sequence where adult Simba (Matthew Broderick) collapses on a rock while some dust shoots into the sky.

Concerned parents complained that the dust spelled out the word “sex”, causing family values do-gooders to blame Disney for inserting an inappropriate message into a movie aimed at children.

As it turned out, one of the film’s animators, Tom Sito, eventually confirmed that though the dust does indeed spell out a word, the word is in fact “SFX”, serving as a tribute to the movie’s special effects team.

On one hand it’s easy to see how the letter F could be mistaken for an E – hence why the claim continues to be so widely believed – but even then, did these “activists” really not have anything better to do?

11. Brandon Lee’s Death Was Kept In The Crow

Miramax

No matter how terrifically entertaining Alex Proyas’ gothic thriller The Crow is, it’s always going to be best-remembered for the tragic fate of its star, Brandon Lee, who was killed near the end of production when a prop gun misfired, fatally wounding him.

This quickly prompted rumours that the fateful take of Lee being shot was actually used in the movie itself, even though common sense basically dictates that there’s no way for this to be correct.

For starters, Miramax would’ve opened themselves up to potential legal action by including the footage, to say nothing of the sheer tastelessness of doing so.

Conflicting reports indicate the footage was either destroyed without being developed or confiscated by the police, while descriptions of the scene Lee was filming when he died – where he was carrying a bag of groceries – make it clear that the take was not included in the final film.

10. The Blair Witch Project Is A Real Documentary

Haxan Films

The Blair Witch Project was one of the first movies to use viral marketing techniques to sell itself to audiences, and that it did incredibly well with a highly plausible online campaign, claiming that the film’s three “stars”, Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard, had genuinely gone missing in the Burkittsville woods while shooting the “documentary”.

The Blair Witch was a fictional legend conceived by writer-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez for the movie, and they used the website BlairWitch.com to convincingly present it as a centuries-old myth. This, combined with their fabricated missing persons posters, caused many to believe the film was real.

Of course, to contemporary audiences it may seem ridiculous that a clearly fictional found footage horror film was ever thought to be legit, but back in 1999, with both found footage and viral marketing being new, edgy concepts, plenty of people were fooled.

9. A Dead Munchkin Is Visible In The Wizard of Oz

MGM

The Wizard of Oz has been subject to a number of baffling urban legends over the decades, the most disturbing being the claim that a heartbroken, suicidal dwarf can be seen hanging in the background when Dorothy (Judy Garland), Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) and the Tin Man (Jack Haley) are skipping along the Yellow Brick Road and singing “We’re Off to See the Wizard”.

When the classic musical hit VHS, the rumour spread like wildfire, no doubt aided by the fairly low fidelity of VHS recordings, which made it difficult to conclusively distinguish the swinging black object in the background.

Once the film was released on DVD, though, the myth was debunked once and for all: the object was revealed to be a prop bird moving around. That’s to say nothing of the fact that a Munchkin suicide on the movie’s set, during shooting no less, would’ve surely been widely reported, and the scene would’ve consequently been re-shot.

8. The Shining Was Stanley Kubrick’s Confession To Faking The Moon Landings

Warner Bros.

Perhaps no film in cinema history has been subject to as many hoaxes, fan theories and outlandish legends as Stanley Kubrick’s masterful 1980 horror classic The Shining, to the extent that a documentary film, Room 237, was even released in 2012, detailing the most popular conspiracy theories.

The most elaborate theory claims that The Shining is effectively Kubrick’s veiled confession to and apology for helping fake the Apollo 11 moon landings. It’s been a long-standing claim that the 2001: A Space Odyssey director helped create the “hoax” moon landing footage, and many believe that The Shining contains key clues to “confirm” that.

First off there’s the fact that Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) wears an Apollo 11 sweater, the carpet pattern of the Overlook Hotel resembles a launch pad, the fruit drink Tang is visible in the hotel’s pantry (a drink commonly consumed by astronauts), a Native American mural on one of the hotel’s walls resembles rockets taking off, and the iconic room 237 refers to the mean distance of the Earth to the moon (it’s actually 238,856 miles, not 237,000).

Is it a crackpot theory with no factual basis whatsoever? Absolutely, but that didn’t stop many latching onto it. Even many smart, educated people are still sceptical of the moon landings’ authenticity, which combined with the obsessive fandom surrounding The Shining makes for one hell of a wacky hoax-within-a-hoax.

7. Jared Leto Sent Used Condoms To His Suicide Squad Co-Stars

Entertainment Weekly

In the months before Suicide Squad hit cinemas, there were increasingly peculiar reports of Jared Leto’s erratic on-set behaviour while trying to get into character as The Joker, including sending a live rat to co-star Margot Robbie’s trailer.

The most shocking incident saw Leto’s cast-mate Joel Kinnaman claim that the actor sent him and other cast members used condoms, something backed up by Leto himself. This prompted much audience disgust online, with many fans committing to boycotting the film as a result.

However, Leto later admitted to be joking (ha!) about this, while director David Ayer confirmed that though the condoms were removed from their packaging, they didn’t contain any seminal deposits.

Clearly it was in the interest of the movie to sell Leto’s twisted method of getting into character as the Clown Prince of Crime, though once the stunt backfired spectacularly, it was basically too late to put it back in the box. People still believe it, even though it flatly wasn’t the case.

6. Ben-Hur Features Real Death In Its Chariot Race Sequence

Loew’s Inc

William Wyler’s classic 1959 biblical epic is fondly remembered for its mind-bogglingly complex chariot race sequence, which without the benefit of modern optical effects was executed practically at a cost of $1 million, taking five weeks to shoot after over a year of preparation.

The brilliance of the staggeringly brutal scene speaks for itself, and its violence is still so believable today that a myth has persisted that one of the chariot-driving stuntmen was actually killed while shooting the race.

Stuntman Nosher Powell is widely credited with circulating the rumour, claiming in his autobiography that, “We had a stuntman killed in the third week, and it happened right in front of me. You saw it, too, because the cameras kept turning and it’s in the movie.”

There’s no substantial evidence to bolster Powell’s claim, and it was directly refuted by Charlton Heston in his own autobiography. Given Powell’s vested interest in drawing attention to his book, it’s easy to believe he pulled this out of thin air for business reasons.

5. A Woman Died While Searching For The Fargo Money

Gramercy Pictures

Unlike most of the hoaxes on this list, this isn’t concerned with the production of a movie, but rather a real-life story that followed it. First off, note that the Coen Brothers’ 1996 neo-noir masterpiece Fargo features a sequence in which Steve Buscemi’s character, Carl, buries almost $1 million in the snow.

In November 2001, more than five years after the film’s release, a 28-year-old Japanese woman named Takako Konishi was found dead in some icy woodlands 50 miles from Fargo, with the authorities initially believing that she had been attempting to track down the fictional fortune.

The media naturally ran with this, and the legend still endures today, to the extent that the 2014 indie hit Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter even dramatises it.

However, Konishi’s death was ultimately ruled a suicide and is supported by plenty of evidence: she was depressed having recently lost her job in Tokyo, so travelled to Minnesota, drank two bottles of champagne and lied down in the snow, quickly succumbing to the harsh elements.

Kinoshi also made a 40-minute phone call to her estranged lover the night prior, sent a suicide note to her parents and disposed of most of her belongings before heading to Minnesota. As fascinating as the Fargo theory is, logic points to it being complete bunk.

4. The Ghost Of A Young Boy Is Visible In Three Men & A Baby

Buena Vista

Now, this one’s an absolute classic. Three Men and a Baby is a hit 1987 comedy co-starring Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson as three bachelors forced to care for a baby.

Much like The Wizard of Oz, the movie’s VHS release led to the wide circulation of a theory that it features a “cameo” appearance by the ghost of a boy who killed himself with a shotgun in the house where the sequence was filmed (visible on the left of the frame).

Though the steep angle of the shot does indeed make the figure resemble a young boy, this was ultimately solved incredibly easily: the object is in fact a cardboard cutout of Ted Danson’s character, which was intended to be used in a subplot eventually discarded from the film.

Furthermore, the movie was filmed on bespoke sets and not any existing residences. Even though it was debunked without much fuss, the urban legend still endures among many younger viewers.

3. Cannibal Holocaust Is A Snuff Film

United Productions Europa

Almost two decades before The Blair Witch project fooled audiences, Ruggero Deodato’s classic 1980 cannibal horror flick tricked many with its unflinchingly realistic violence and extremely convincing faux-documentary style.

Cannibal Holocaust remains controversial for its numerous sequences of real violence against animals – with six animals being killed on-screen in the movie – but at the time of its release many media outlets claimed that many of the film’s human deaths were also real.

Deodato was eventually arrested and charged with murder, and Deodato’s protestations of innocence were further clouded by many of the film’s actors signing contracts preventing them from making media appearances until a year after its release. This seems utterly ludicrous in the age of social media, but it was a very different time.

Eventually the actors were convinced to appear on an Italian TV show while Deodato extensively detailed the film’s impressive special effects to the court, leading to the charges eventually being dropped.

Without the benefit of contemporary savviness, though, it’s easy to see how the media could manipulate people into believing these shockingly realistic death scenes were legit.

2. Heath Ledger Was “Killed” By Playing The Joker

Warner Bros. Pictures

Heath Ledger’s untimely death at the age of just 28 shocked the world, all the more so as it occurred mere months before the release of The Dark Knight, in which he of course played The Joker.

Speculation quickly swirled that Ledger’s prescription drug overdose was the result of his elaborate attempts to “become” the Joker, including writing a journal in-character, not leaving his apartment for weeks on end and spiralling into a depression as a result. In typically sensationalist fashion, many news outlets rushed to claim that Ledger was effectively “killed” by the Joker.

As it turned out, Ledger’s death was ruled an accidental overdose, with those close to him confirming that he had trouble sleeping, and in this instance his abuse of powerful sleep medications were ultimately too much for his body to accept.

His rendition of the Joker will forever be intertwined with the eerie nature of his demise, though to claim the character had a direct impact on his fate is both ridiculous and crass.

1. The Omen Was A Cursed Production

20th Century Fox

There are several instances of classic horror movies being claimed to be “cursed”, though none are quite as pervasive and infamous as the eerie happenings surrounding Richard Donner’s 1976 genre classic The Omen.

For starters, star Gregory Peck’s son committed suicide two months before shooting began. Once production actually started, separate planes carrying Peck, producer Mace Neufeld and writer David Seltzer were almost downed by lightning strikes, and Peck cancelled a flight reservation last-minute which ended up crashing and killing everyone on-board.

From there, Donner’s hotel was bombed by the IRA, he was hit by a car, and an on-set car accident injured a number of crew members. Dog trainers were mauled by their canine pals, and an animal handler even ended up eaten by a lion two weeks after shooting wrapped. Yikes.

And the most haunting aspect of the “curse”? The year after shooting The Omen, set designer John Richardson was involved in a car crash which led to the decapitation of his assistant, Liz Moore, in a fashion eerily similar to David Warner’s famous decapitation death in The Omen, which was designed by Richardson himself.

A horrible and ridiculously coincidental set of circumstances? Absolutely, and though those who retain a belief in the Devil still swear blind he had some involvement in these incidents, to anyone with a sensible belief system, they’re clearly nothing more than an improbable confluence of tragic events.

 

 

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