In this day and age, movies typically use computers to bring our favorite, most action-packed scenes to life. What appears to be a fire-breathing dragon to us, is actually just a hobby horse-type object used during filming.
But before technology reigned supreme, props had to be crafted and picked out by hand in order to trick audiences into believing the unbelievable. Below are the 20 most unique and iconic background stories of the biggest props in Hollywood – before CGI!
1. Director Steven Spielberg ran into many issues trying to portray the massive shark in Jaws. One of the three mechanical props sank and another’s motor stopped due to salt corrosion. After filming they celebrated by destroying them all!
2. In 1939, Dorothy clicked her one pair of red heels to return home in The Wizard of Oz. However, there were several pairs always ready on set. Why? Well, in order to keep that magical sparkle, the shoes always had to be in tip-top shape!
3. Probably one of the most famous volleyballs of all time was Wilson from Cast Away. When it floated into the ocean, it really felt like the death of a character. Multiple Wilsons were used in the making of this film, but the original was sold for $18,400.
20th Century Fox
4. The famous leg lamp in A Christmas Story was actually inspired by a Nehi Soda advertisement. Sadly, none of the original three props exist anymore, as they all had to be broken for the infamous scene in the movie.
5. After the first Back To The Future movie was made, the sole Toyota SR5 used in filming perished in a crash. For the next film, the studio had to buy a duplicate and remake the custom trimmings all over again. Thankfully, no one noticed.
6. The One Ring from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was actually multiple rings of multiple sizes. They even made this extra large version for close-up detailed shots. It also had a heavy magnetic ring so when it dropped it wouldn’t bounce.
7. Countless identical spidey suits were handmade for the first Spider-Man movie in 2002. With each one costing about $50,000, Columbia Pictures wasn’t happy when four were stolen off the set. The thievery didn’t disrupt the shooting schedule though, as there were additional suits off-site.
Sony Picture Studios
8. The newspaper in No Country for Old Men is actually a printed prop from Earl Hays Press – a source most production companies use in order to avoid needing legal clearance. Who knew?
9. The Maltese Falcon statue from the 1941 film Maltese Falcon, is one of the world’s most expensive movie props. It’s still considered very valuable, not due to its high cost, but the fact that only one was ever made.
10. The hamburger phone from Juno was perhaps one of the hardest obtained props in movie history. After finding it on a Japanese website, the phone was impounded at customs due to a toy ban in Vancouver – where they were filming. Producers then reordered one to Seattle and had a crew member drive to pick it up, eventually smuggling it into Canada.
Fox Searchlight Pictures
11. The most famous prop in Citizen Kane was the sled nicknamed Rosebud. There were several original sleds used during filming, and all but one was burned during the filming of the final scene. In 1982, Steven Spielberg bought the original one for $60,500 and now keeps it in his office.
RKO Radio Pictures
12. The Aston Martin D85 is the most famous spy car thanks to James Bond. It has bulletproof windows, front fender weapons, and an ejector seat. It’s estimated worth is about $4 million! Unfortunately, the car has been missing since 1997 when it was stolen from an airport hangar.
13. The boiled boot that lead actor Charlie Chaplin had to eat in the 1925 movie Gold Rush, was actually made of licorice. It took 63 takes to satisfy Chaplin, and he was actually sent to the hospital from insulin shock afterward. How’s that for prop woes?
14. The Wonder Boy bat from the movie The Natural is actually hundreds of handmade bats. Producers had a little boy onset write the words “Wonder Boy” on the original and then created a stencil so that every bat was identical. Stencil or not, that’s a lot of work!
15. The infamous scene where Marilyn Monroe’s dress is blown up by a subway grate breeze is known by everyone, even if you haven’t seen The Seven Year Itch. It took more than twenty takes to get this infamous shot, because the dress “wouldn’t cooperate”…
20th Century Fox
16. Once production of The Spy Who Loved Me was done, The Lotus Esprit, an actual submarine car, went to storage. Once the lease ended, the ‘unknown contents’ were auctioned off for a mere $100. The new owner then turned around and sold it to Elon Musk for a cool $1 million.
17. The putter used by Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore was another custom-made prop in movie history. They started with a hockey stick for visuals and then continued to build upon that. The catch? It actually had to work! Talk about a headache.
18. Arguably one of the most frightening props of all time is the original Halloween Michael Myer’s mask. This mask is actually a replica of William Shatner’s face used in the 1975 horror film The Devil’s Rain during the ‘melting’ scenes.
Compass International Pictures
19. Another case of props getting a second starring role? A replica of Gwyneth Paltrow’s head was made for the movie Se7en but never used since co-star, Brad Pitt, refused to do the film unless the head “stayed in the box.” Sixteen years later, it finally got its debut in Contagion during an autopsy scene.
Warner Bros. Pictures
20. In the movie Fargo, crew members were worried about finding a wood chipper that could handle destroying props limbs. Oddly enough, they found one without much trouble. Talk about good luck… unless you’re the prop.