Much-hyped musical feature Burlesque, starring divas Christina Aguilera and Cher, has been surrounded by disaster, following the breakdown of Aguilera’s marriage during filming and the murder of a Hollywood publicist on her way home from the premiere’s after-party. As a result, superstitious industry employees are whispering in corners about the film being cursed – but it’s far from the first time Hollywood has seen something like this.
It is thought by some that certain subject matters generate negative energy, which manifests itself in a variety of different ways. Curiously (or not, as the sceptical case may be), it seems horror movies are where the main concentration of curses turn up, where it never rains, but it pours. Consider the case of the ’80s Poltergeist franchise, which saw four cast members meet an untimely death between the first and third films – it would be difficult for the staunchest non-believer to write all those off as carelessness. Deaths included those of Dominique Dunne, who played Dana in the first film and who was murdered by her boyfriend at just 22 years old, and Heather O’Rourke, who, aged just 12, died of septic shock.
A decade earlier, The Exorcist had it even worse – so bad that TV channel E! devoted a two-hour True Hollywood Story documentary ‘investigation’ to it in 2004. During and after filming for the 1973 Oscar winner, the set burned down without reason and several people died (between four and nine, depending on the reports you read), including one of the actors, a night watchman and an assistant cameraman’s baby. Despite all of this, it is still widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time.
Casualties on films such as Apocalypse Now and The Passion of the Christ prove that bad things don’t just happen to those who mess with Beelzebub. Though there were no untimely demises, things ran less than smoothly for director Francis Ford Coppola on the Apocalypse set, with star Marlon Brando arriving for filming overweight and refusing to learn his lines, Martin Sheen suffering a breakdown and a number of sets being ruined due to monsoons on location in the Philippines. Coppola is also said to have struggled so much with the film’s ending (and his certainty that the project would ruin his career) that he threatened to kill himself on several occasions. More recently, Mel Gibson’s 2004 biblical drama The Passion of the Christ, which chronicles the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life and the suffering he endured, saw the cast share a bit of that pain. Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Christ, was struck by lightning, moments before he shot the Sermon on the Mount scene. Luckily, he survived, but his career never really took off.
His director, on the other hand, is well on his way to an early retirement. If entertainment press reports are anything to go by, Gibson himself has become an increasingly unsavoury character since the film. So much so that the cast and crew of The Hangover 2 revolted when he was cast as a tattoo artist in the sequel, due out in the summer of 2011. The matter was swiftly resolved, with Gibson given the elbow and replaced with Liam Neeson.
These are really only a handful of examples of films Hollywood has deemed ‘cursed’, but there are dozens more: The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, Rebel Without A Cause, Superman… the list goes on. Whether Burlesque really is subject to a curse, or whether it’s all just an unfortunate coincidence, will probably never be determined. Feeling superstitious? Head to the cinema this week and check it out for yourself – if you dare.
Burlesque is in cinemas now. Click here for our review.