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  #1  
Old 12-06-2012, 02:03 PM
well he's back well he's back is offline
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Most Ambitious Film Project?

If you were to name to the most ambitious film project ever undertaken, what would you pick?

I'd choose Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies. My opinions about them notwithstanding, it's amazing that such critically acclaimed, financially successful movies were made at all considering -- making 3 movies at once; filming an 'unfilmable' book which had both rabid fans & rabid haters; no huge name stars; special effects that were still being created while the movies were being made; Director who was mainly known for low-budget horror movies; pressure from studio to condense story to one or two movies, Etc.

However, others of you might think James Cameron took on bigger movie challenges with either Titanic or Avatar. Or a documentarian had the hardest job (the "Up" films come to mind). Perhaps an early Hollywood project that DeMille created is seen as most ambitious, or the early hand drawn (!) Disney animations.

Any thoughts?
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  #2  
Old 12-06-2012, 02:13 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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Harry Potter films. 8 films based on a series of children's book shot over a decade with the same cast.
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Old 12-06-2012, 03:18 PM
Max Torque Max Torque is offline
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No doubt someone will suggest this one: Russian Ark. A grand movie covering 300 years of history, using 2,000 actors and three orchestras....all filmed in one, 96-minute-long steadicam shot.
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Old 12-06-2012, 03:34 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Apocalypse Now -- using whole armies and air forces, drugged out actors, the star having a heart attack mid shoot, though to be fair, the drugs and heart attack weren't among the "ambitions" of Francis Coppola, just remarkable stuff he had to deal with.

Along those same lines, I think older films that couldn't rely heavily on CGI, fit the bill better. Spartacus and Ben Hur come to mind. Armies of extras, huge scenes with live action, etc.

And I've read tons of stories about the difficulties encountered filming Jaws.
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Old 12-06-2012, 03:57 PM
TV time TV time is offline
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The 1927 production of Napoleon

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Napoléon is a 1927 epic silent French film directed by Abel Gance that tells the story of Napoleon's early years. On screen, the title is Napoléon vu par Abel Gance, meaning "Napoleon as seen by Abel Gance". The film is recognised as a masterwork of fluid camera motion, produced in a time when most camera shots were static. Many innovative techniques were used to make the film, including fast cutting, extensive close-ups, a wide variety of hand-held camera shots, location shooting, point of view shots, multiple-camera setups, multiple exposure, superimposition, underwater camera, kaleidoscopic images, film tinting, split screen and mosaic shots, multi-screen projection, and other visual effects.
It was 5 1/2 hours long, it used three projectors, and it had a live 48 piece orchestra accompany it when it was shown. That was one heck of an ambitious film project.
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Old 12-06-2012, 04:00 PM
Alka Seltzer Alka Seltzer is offline
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Does the OP mean ambitious artistically or financially?

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Originally Posted by msmith537 View Post
Harry Potter films. 8 films based on a series of children's book shot over a decade with the same cast.
Sorry, but I think that's the very definition of unambitious. It was somewhat brave to give the first film a budget of $125 million. However, the first three Harry Potter books had been on the bestseller lists for about a year and a half prior to the beginning of filming. Philosopher's Stone took almost $1 billion at the box-office, so commissioning the next 7 films was a no-brainer.
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Old 12-06-2012, 04:38 PM
TV time TV time is offline
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I might also suggest The Longest Day. Eighty-six "name" featured players. Thousands of extras. Shot at the locations of the the actual battles. Shot in three different languages.
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  #8  
Old 12-06-2012, 04:47 PM
bienville bienville is online now
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Do ambitious projects that failed count? Or only ambitious projects that succeeded?

Can any Doper refresh my half-memory of an Arabian Nights themed animated film that was in production for about 30 years before the filmmaker was finally fired and replaced, to have the final stages of production rushed and shoddily slapped together, ultimately to be unfairly charged as a rip-off of Aladdin since it finally ended up being released after Aladdin despite having been in production 30 years prior?

I never actually saw it, but read about it somewhere.
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  #9  
Old 12-06-2012, 04:50 PM
mcgato mcgato is online now
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Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo should get a mention. Herzog tried to make a realistic film about pulling a steam ship over a mountain in South America. He did it by trying to pull a steam ship over a mountain in South America.

Ambitious perhaps, or maybe just crazy. Herzog kind of blurs the line between ambitious and crazy.
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  #10  
Old 12-06-2012, 05:00 PM
Sam Lowry Sam Lowry is online now
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It's not yet finished, but I would have to vote for Dau. I remember reading the GQ article about it last year and finding it hard to believe. It's like collective madness.
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  #11  
Old 12-06-2012, 05:35 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TV time View Post
The 1927 production of Napoleon



It was 5 1/2 hours long, it used three projectors, and it had a live 48 piece orchestra accompany it when it was shown. That was one heck of an ambitious film project.
I'd forgotten all about that one. I can certainly testify that just playing it in a theater was really ambitious. I worked as a projectionist and AV tech at the National Gallery of Art when they played a reconstructed version of the film. We had to rent or buy all kinds of special gear, including an extra projector (we only had two in the booth, and yes, we did the three projector version), special lenses for all three projectors, and IIRC some special gearing for the projectors to run them at the right speed. Oh, and then there was the orchestra, I can't even remember where they came from, and of course a sound system to record the orchestra, etc.
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  #12  
Old 12-06-2012, 05:45 PM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is online now
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Originally Posted by bienville View Post
Can any Doper refresh my half-memory of an Arabian Nights themed animated film...
The Thief and the Cobbler.
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  #13  
Old 12-06-2012, 06:19 PM
bienville bienville is online now
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Originally Posted by GuanoLad View Post
Thank you!
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  #14  
Old 12-06-2012, 06:32 PM
Monkey Chews Monkey Chews is offline
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Originally Posted by well he's back View Post
...pressure from studio to condense story to one or two movies...
I thought Peter Jackson pitched two movies and that it was New Line Cinema that suggested three? If my hazy memories of watching 56,000 hours of DVD special features are in any way correct...

But even so, I totally agree. Also agree with Max Torque's suggestion of Russian Ark and mcgato's suggestion of Fitzcarraldo, which is what I came in to suggest.
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  #15  
Old 12-06-2012, 07:40 PM
MovieMogul MovieMogul is offline
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In 1964, a group of British 7-year olds were extensively interviewed about their views on life for the film SEVEN UP.

Since then, every 7 years without fail, Michael Apted has gone back to re-interview the same group of children and release another film about that next stage of their lives.

This year, 56 UP came out. That's over a half-century-long commitment to a single film project (and because they're documentaries, the budgets are usually next to nothing)
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  #16  
Old 12-06-2012, 08:01 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
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Originally Posted by mcgato View Post
Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo should get a mention. Herzog tried to make a realistic film about pulling a steam ship over a mountain in South America. He did it by trying to pull a steam ship over a mountain in South America.

Ambitious perhaps, or maybe just crazy. Herzog kind of blurs the line between ambitious and crazy.
Except the actual ship that the movie was based on was smaller, moved a shorter distance, and in pieces, whereas Herzog moved a much larger vessel further without dismantling it...and almost killed a significant portion of his crew in the process.

He's not the biggest, flashiest, or most complex, but in terms of sheer unmitigated lunacy, he puts De Mille, Howard Hughes, Orson Welles, James Cameron, and Stanley Kubrick in their places. The only director that comes close in obsessiveness and complete disregard for the personal safety of his cast and crew was Akira Kurosawa, who had archers firing actual arrows at his cast in numerous movies and had actors burning in the wooden keep in Ran as the structure was literally burning to the ground.

Stranger

Last edited by Stranger On A Train; 12-06-2012 at 08:02 PM..
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  #17  
Old 12-06-2012, 10:06 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is online now
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Originally Posted by Boyo Jim View Post
Apocalypse Now -- using whole armies and air forces, drugged out actors, the star having a heart attack mid shoot, though to be fair, the drugs and heart attack weren't among the "ambitions" of Francis Coppola, just remarkable stuff he had to deal with.

Along those same lines, I think older films that couldn't rely heavily on CGI, fit the bill better. Spartacus and Ben Hur come to mind. Armies of extras, huge scenes with live action, etc.

And I've read tons of stories about the difficulties encountered filming Jaws.
Anybody who thinks the Charlton Heston Ben-Hur is ambitious hasn't seen the silent version.

I'd have to agree with the Up Documentaries for a certain value of "ambitious".
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  #18  
Old 12-06-2012, 10:21 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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D.W. Griffith's Intolerance
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  #19  
Old 12-07-2012, 10:38 AM
mbh mbh is offline
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How about the 1967 Soviet version of War and Peace?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063794/trivia

imdb claims that it took 7 years to film, had 300 speaking roles, 120,000 extras, and 1500 horses.
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  #20  
Old 12-07-2012, 11:04 AM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alka Seltzer View Post
Does the OP mean ambitious artistically or financially?

Sorry, but I think that's the very definition of unambitious. It was somewhat brave to give the first film a budget of $125 million. However, the first three Harry Potter books had been on the bestseller lists for about a year and a half prior to the beginning of filming. Philosopher's Stone took almost $1 billion at the box-office, so commissioning the next 7 films was a no-brainer.
Fair enough.


I guess I also have the questions whether we are talking "ambitous" artistically, financially, logistically or some other criteria.

I keep hearing Cloud Atlas referred to as an "ambitious" film. I haven't seen it, but I presume it's "ambituous" because of the sheer scope of what I've heard is a fairly convoluted story.


How about TV series like Game of Thrones? Basically taking 7(?) pretty thick books that most people have never heard of, where there are no definable "heroes" or "villains", any character can die at any time, of which the final books haven't been finished and turning it into mutiple ten episode seasons of television with feature film production values?
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  #21  
Old 12-07-2012, 11:13 AM
well he's back well he's back is offline
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You guys can use any criteria for "ambitious" that you want. Failure or success, it's all interesting. There are some very interesting projects that have been mentioned.
I'm sticking with my original answer (LOTR films) whether you choose finances, logistics, or artistic goals as criteria. It's easy to forget after 10 years what a risky project it was, in many ways. Agreed that older spectacles had more extras, but LOTR had quite a few. Dozens or real horses and riders in the Ride of the Rohirimm scene, along with the computer generated ones.

Last edited by well he's back; 12-07-2012 at 11:15 AM..
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  #22  
Old 12-07-2012, 03:18 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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How about Pirates of the Carribean? Making what ended up as 4 mega-blockbuster films based off a a goofy Disney theme park ride. Especially given that the last attempt at a big budget pirate film in decades had been the disasterous Cutthroat Island.
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  #23  
Old 12-07-2012, 05:00 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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Titanic was really ambiguous financially, artistically, and logistically. It was so expensive to make at $300 million that financial success was far from assured and it could have easily been one of the biggest flops in history if audiences didn't like real-life history overlaid with a romance story. The story of Jack and Rose had to be woven in with real life details and people carefully to achieve the right balance of realism and fiction. It had to appeal to history buffs and teenage girls but not just those groups because that would not have been enough for long-term financial success of a movie that expensive. The ending was also risky because although everyone knew what happened to the real ship, the Jack and Rose story gave no indication that it would also end tragically.

James Cameron had to build a model of the Titanic at 90% scale (1 sided only) to use as a gigantic set with every detail carefully researched and as true to the original as possible. Massive water tanks were required to shoot the water scenes.

It may not be the most ambitious movie in every category but it is near the top in many of them and certainly had the most success despite the huge risks.
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  #24  
Old 12-07-2012, 05:22 PM
Gangster Octopus Gangster Octopus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty View Post
Titanic was really ambiguous financially, artistically, and logistically. It was so expensive to make at $300 million that financial success was far from assured and it could have easily been one of the biggest flops in history if audiences didn't like real-life history overlaid with a romance story. The story of Jack and Rose had to be woven in with real life details and people carefully to achieve the right balance of realism and fiction. It had to appeal to history buffs and teenage girls but not just those groups because that would not have been enough for long-term financial success of a movie that expensive. The ending was also risky because although everyone knew what happened to the real ship, the Jack and Rose story gave no indication that it would also end tragically.

James Cameron had to build a model of the Titanic at 90% scale (1 sided only) to use as a gigantic set with every detail carefully researched and as true to the original as possible. Massive water tanks were required to shoot the water scenes.

It may not be the most ambitious movie in every category but it is near the top in many of them and certainly had the most success despite the huge risks.
This was what I was going to say.

Lest we forget, Star Wars was also very ambitious, especially with respect to its special effects.
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  #25  
Old 12-08-2012, 03:41 AM
JKellyMap JKellyMap is offline
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Originally Posted by Gangster Octopus View Post
This was what I was going to say.

Lest we forget, Star Wars was also very ambitious, especially with respect to its special effects.
True, but 2001: A Space Odyssey is just as visually realistic and stunning, and it was done nine years before Star Wars. (Star Wars did innovate with fx for things other than simply "spaceships" -- space weaponry effects, etc.).

Fascinating thread, and I agree with it all. I'd never heard of Dau, but wow! It's like that Jim Carrey/Peter Weir film IRL! (I'd only heard of Kharkov before as the likely epicenter of the region where Proto-Indo-European was spoken).

To the list of "ambitious failures" we could add Terry Gilliam's Don Quixote. Not quite as massive as some others in this thread, but worthy of a passing mention.

Last edited by JKellyMap; 12-08-2012 at 03:44 AM..
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  #26  
Old 12-08-2012, 06:09 AM
voguevixen voguevixen is offline
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Oh God. This like asking "What is the fattiest food?"
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  #27  
Old 12-08-2012, 07:18 AM
John DiFool John DiFool is offline
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Originally Posted by Shagnasty View Post
Titanic was really ambiguous financially, artistically, and logistically.
Ambiguous?
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