It’s often said that practice makes perfect. And, regarding movies, that statement is never more true then when multiple takes are needed to complete one single scene. Here are ten that went above and beyond what’s normally expected of a film crew, and took damn near forever to get right.
10. Young Master: Fan Fight Scene
Jackie Chan has spent so long re-shooting scenes, that you could easily make entire movies out of the cut content of his many, many films.
During the filming of Young Master, Chan needed to beat someone half to death with a fan, like you do. Now, seeing as this was one of Chan’s first films as actor/director, things didn’t exactly go smoothly. The end result was that it took 329 takes to get this one simple scene down pat. Well, not simple, per se. Jackie Chan’s version of simple is still a lifetime of work for the rest of us.
9. Oldboy: The Corridor Fight
Oldboy is a South Korean film you need to go watch right the Hell now. Even if you’ve already seen it, go watch it again. Seriously, you won’t regret it.
Of every scene in the film, there’s one that people always talk about when Oldboy is mentioned: the corridor fight scene, in which Choi Min-sik (the main character) fights an entire corridor full of gangsters with a claw hammer, like a boss.
The scene has been praised both for its brutality and the fact that the entire thing was filmed in a single take. This was after 17 failed takes over the course of 2 days, which may not seem like a lot, but only if you don’t watch the YouTube clip below. If you do, then you’ll realize that 17 takes of being punched in the face by about 20 guys is 16 takes too many. And yet Choi persevered, because he clearly enjoyed fighting, as well as things that fight back.
8. Some Like it Hot: Anytime Marilyn Monroe Spoke
Marilyn Monroe is one of the most famous women to have ever lived, and reigns supreme as one of the sexiest women in history, if her fans are to be believed.
Although Monroe arguably defined the dumb blonde stereotype, she must have been pretty smart to get where she was. It’s not like she was so hare-brained that she couldn’t remember three damn words in a row or anything. Yeah, you know where this is going. The line, “It’s me, Sugar,” took 47 takes to get right, because Monroe kept messing up the order of the words. But wait, there’s more! She also took 59 takes to ask “Where’s the bourbon?” It got so bad that the director had to resort to writing the line down in front of Monroe, and she still messed up, because she forgot where to look.
You can’t help but feel that people probably wouldn’t have put up with this crap, if Monroe were ugly. But let that be a lesson for you kids; if you’re good-looking, you can be dumb as a bag of rocks, and people will still think you’re great!
7. Tom-Yum-Goong: The Staircase Fight Scene
Tom-Yung-Goong, AKA The Protector AKA Warrior King AKA Home Alone (just seeing if you were paying attention,) is a film that stars martial arts legend Tony Jaa on his quest to punch everyone in Australia, to get back his pet elephant.
During his adventures, Jaa fights a gang of skateboarders, a 7-foot-tall wrestler, and a transsexual ballerina. In short, the movie’s all about the realism. However, despite all this, the most memorable scene comes midway through the film, in which Jaa fights his way up a flight of stairs. Like with Oldboy, this scene is a single shot. However it contains far more people and a lot more action, and was so physically exhausting and time-consuming that the crew could only do two takes per day. And the guy filming it had to be flown in, and spent a month preparing just so he could keep up with Jaa as he punched his way through dozens of stuntmen.
The Thai cameraman they hired had to spend a month physically preparing for the shoot as well, as the guy who they had before him gave up after two flights of stairs. When the scene you’re filming tires out the cameraman, you know that scene is ridiculous.
6. The Shining: A Conversation About The Shining
The Shining is famous for using multiple takes. It’s an oft-repeated fact that the famous door scene took dozens of takes because Jack Nicholson (an ex-volunteer fireman) kept tearing through the door like it was made of paper.
However, there’s another scene that took even longer to film: the one where Halloran explains what the Shining actually is. This took 148 takes, because Kubrick was insane and hated children (probably.) To truly appreciate just how much effort went into this film you only need one fact: Kubric shot 1.3 million feet of film for it. Almost all of it went to waste. Somewhere out there is a pile of film with hundreds upon hundreds of takes of the same speech over and over again, not to mention a man with an ax becoming increasingly more irate as a lady breaks down. And it’s not a porno!
5. Ronin: Skipp Sudduth’s Car Chase Scenes
The car chase scenes in Ronin are legendary, mainly because they were all filmed without special effects. Everything you see on screen, a stunt driver actually did. Or, in the case of Skip Sudduth, the actor did.
During filming, Sudduth requested to do his own stunt driving. John Frankenheimer agreed, but on one condition: that he didn’t see any brake lights. Which, as you can imagine, is kind of hard when you’re trying to avoid, well, dying. This led to multiple takes of scenes, simply because Skipp kept slapping on the brakes. The coward.
4. The Goldrush: Charlie Chaplain Eats A Boot
Chaplin was a master of the silver screen, a God among men, and one of the last guys to get away with rocking a Hitler mustache, because he was just that damn lovable. However, despite his goofy demeanor Chaplin was a notorious perfectionist, and thought nothing of using multiple takes to get something exactly right. Even at the expense of his own health.
In The Goldrush, there’s a scene where Chaplin’s character eats a boot. This boot was actually made of licorice, and Chaplin re-did the scene so many times, that his body went into meltdown, and he had to go to the hospital for insulin shock. Simply put, the man ate so much sugar that his body nearly killed him. That’s dedication, folks.
3. The Usual Suspects: The Line-Up Scene
The Usual Suspects is all about criminals committing, unsurprisingly, a whole heap of crime. One of its most iconic scenes is the lineup scene. This was supposed to be a serious and tense moment, but it ended up taking an absolute age to film, because none of the actors would take it seriously. One of them would constantly fart and, as a result, they kept cracking up.
After Lord knows how many attempts at conveying seriousness, the director finally gave up and left the stupid version in the film. That’s right; the scene was such a pain-in-the-butt to film, the director threw in the towel and settled for an impromptu case of the giggles. Professionalism!
2. Spider-Man: Lunch Tray Scene
The original live-action Spider-Man movie was awesome, mainly because it helped prove that superheroes could be cool, and paved the way for the dozens of superhero movies that followed suit. So thanks for the Avengers movie, Spidey.
Of all the scenes in the film, the lunch tray scene, in which we see Spidey’s Spider-Sense for the first time, took the longest to film. This is because the scene actually contains no CGI at all. Tobey Maguire actually caught everything by himself, as Kirsten Dunst gleefully explains in the DVD commentary. This all but confirms that Tobey Maguire really IS Spider-Man, and was the best person to portray him on film as well. Screw you, Andrew Garfield.
1. Dragon Lord: The Final Fight Scene
This list started with Jackie Chan, and it shall end with him, because he really is the king of movie re-takes. If you’ve ever seen one of his movies all the way through, you’ll know that his outtakes are as numerous as they are painful-looking. However, it was in Dragon Lord where this was taken to the literal extreme.
Now, there are many films out there that claim to have a scene that took the most takes, and a lot of them have been listed here. But Dragon Lord beats out all of those by a friggin’ mile. That’s not an overstatement; the final fight scene took an astounding, World Record-setting, 2900 takes to film. 2900! If he did one take a day that would have taken 8 years to film. Obviously it didn’t take that long, which only stands as a testament to how damn hard Jackie Chan works on his movies.
It’s really a shame that Dragon Lord if not Chan’s most famous movie. If you got kicked in the face 2900 times, you’d at least want people to know about it. So if you have a few minutes to spare, do him a favor and watch the scene that took him nearly 3000 tries to get right. Even in reverse (the best we could do thanks to copyright crackdowns,) you’ll be able to appreciate what he went through. And he’ll thank you for your time, by not kicking you in the face.