Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Most Expensive Things Accidentally Destroyed While Filming Movies

"[My job is] putting props in people's hands and really hoping that they don't get lost, broken or damaged," Anna Butwell, assistant prop master on The Affair, told Mental Floss. Of course, something will get lost, broken or damaged. That's a rule as reliable as the sun rising in the east, or Christopher Nolan finding innovative new ways to break yet another IMAX camera. "Hope" is the only weapon a prop master has against the tide.

Everyone expects some props to be destroyed during a film shoot. It's an inevitable cost — one among many inevitable costs, in fact, of making a movie. Every once in a while, though, something breaks that no one expected ... or budgeted for. Whether it's a one-of-a-kind artifact loaned to a production or an entire building, when something like that breaks, it's more than awkward: It's very, very costly.

Let's take a look at some of the most expensive things that were accidentally destroyed while filming movies.

The Hateful Eight: 145-year-old Martin guitar

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" cries Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight, watching in horror as Kurt Russell smashes a replica of an authentic 1870s Martin guitar. Her reaction is entirely real: Russell really destroyed the actual Martin. Someone forgot to swap the real guitar for the prop. "Kurt felt terrible," Leigh said. "He had no idea. When he found out, his eyes literally welled up."

Leigh was heartbroken: She'd just learned to play guitar on that Martin, and had even been allowed to take it home to practice. Before she learned it was a museum piece, Leigh had even inquired about the price — she was interested in taking it home once production was done.

Museum director Dick Boak was initially only informed that the guitar had been broken — the circumstances went unmentioned. Boak assumed it was the result of a freak set accident, and offered to loan out another. Only after the movie was released and the incident was recounted in interviews did Boak learn the truth. He wasn't happy.

"All this about the guitar being smashed being written into the script and that somebody just didn't tell the actor, this is all new information to us. We didn't know anything about the script or Kurt Russell not being told that it was a priceless, irreplaceable artifact from the Martin Museum."

The Museum "will no longer loan guitars to movies under any circumstances."

Battlestar Galactica: $200,000 model ship

Actor Edward James Olmos has revealed that while filming "Maelstrom," an episode from the third season of Battlestar Galactica, he broke a model ship in an emotionally charged fit of improvisation. It's a powerful, unexpected moment — especially to the production crew, left reeling in its wake. As Olmos recounted, the moment filming stopped, the crew informed him that he had destroyed the original model ship rather than one of the cheap replicas they had made.

"Oh, this is, oh, this is one-of-a-kind? Oh shoot," Olmos said with a laugh, mimicking his reaction at the time. "Guess it's kind of like, ruined, huh?"

The much-cheaper replicas were used for most scenes featuring the ship, but since this was to be a close-up shot, they brought out the original ship. No one told Olmos. "I said, 'What did you put it in the scene for? I've just been told my [character's] daughter is dead! What did you expect?'"

Unfortunately, the model ship Olmos destroyed had been loaned to the production by a museum. You break it, you buy it, and in this case, that cost them $200,000.

Skyfall: 330-year-old Grand Bazaar shop

Skyfall, the third James Bond movie to be filmed in Istanbul, might be the last after a stuntman crashed a motorcycle into a 330-year-old jewelry shop.

This opening chase sees Bond pursuing the villainous Patrice across the rooftops of Istanbul. It culminates in a dramatic crash through a breakable prop window into the tight, vibrant corridors of the Grand Bazaar. What you don't see is the immediate aftermath: Swerving to avoid packed throngs of extras, the stuntman lost control of his bike and smashed right through the real crystal glass window of a historic jewelry shop.

It's incredible how much preparation went into this scene — and how things went awry anyway. Production manager Menderes Demir described the process: "Before shooting, we had to negotiate and convince 1,650 shop owners in the area of Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar, and in between." The crew also had to secure countless permits from Turkey's Ministry of Culture, Transportation Commission, and Istanbul's police department. Finally, the stunt was rehearsed several times to ensure it would go off without a hitch.

Mete Boybeyi, the shop's owner, said repairs were costly, complicated, and resulted in lost revenue. "This place is regulated by the Council of Monuments. We can't even change our window without their permission." Worse, he explained, was the response from Skyfall's production.

"No one from the movie crew came to ask 'what are your losses?' We filed a complaint at the police station."

The Master: A historic toilet

Joaquin Phoenix has never been afraid to go well beyond what's written in the script. Sometimes that results in an injury to himself, as in Joker, where the actor so embodied his role he dislocated his knee while filming a scene. But sometimes that results in, uh, the destruction of a historical toilet.

In The Master, Phoenix's character Freddie Quell is thrown into a jail cell adjacent to Philip Seymour Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd, sending Quell into a rage. Hands cuffed behind his back, Phoenix thrashes wildly in his cell. He violently throws himself repeatedly into the top bunk bed, kicks at the door and finally stomps the toilet. The first stomp dislodges it, but the second sends it into the ground where it shatters instantly.

"That unfortunately was a real porcelain toilet, a historic toilet," director Paul Thomas Anderson told IndieWire. "We could only do it once."

Phoenix told the New York Times he drew inspiration from wild animals in captivity that react so viscerally they often end up hurting themselves. "I didn't intend to break the thing," Phoenix said. The scene didn't call for it, either. "I didn't know that was possible."

The Dark Knight: $500,000 IMAX camera

Christopher Nolan has a troubled history with IMAX cameras. It starts with his legendary 2008 movie, The Dark Knight.

In a thrilling scene, the Joker and his gang divert and trap a S.W.A.T. escort in a tight underpass. They manage to destroy several vans and even a police helicopter before Batman enters the fray in his Batmobile, having just taken out a few parked cars himself. It's a chaotic, exciting sequence, captured with close, kinetic camera movements. Unfortunately, those camera movements also resulted in the destruction of an IMAX camera.

Breaking a camera during production happens. IMAX cameras are in another league, though. IMAX, the manufacturer, typically just rents out their cameras — they're so expensive, most movie productions wouldn't be able to afford them otherwise. How expensive are they? A single IMAX camera costs $500,000. That's right — half a million dollars for one camera.

Half a million is nothing to sneeze at, but given how profitable the movie was, that's a cost easily written off. But there was another wrinkle: In 2008, IMAX cameras were very rare. We're talking "count on one hand and have a finger left over" rare. Yep — Nolan broke one of just four IMAX cameras in the world at the time. Oof.

The Dark Knight Rises: Another $500,000 IMAX camera

Christopher Nolan doesn't just have one destroyed IMAX camera to his name — during production on 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, another IMAX camera was destroyed.

The movie centers around a conflict between Batman and Bane, a criminal mastermind who imposes martial law on Gotham City. This fracas culminates in a massive fight on the steps of Gotham City Hall. Catwoman rides the Batpod motorcycle out of the building, down the steps ... and directly into an IMAX camera.

The entire debacle was captured in behind-the-scenes cell phone footage, and it's a heartbreaker. The motorcycle isn't moving particularly fast, but the stuntwoman and the cameraman didn't realize they were on a collision course and the IMAX camera gets knocked right out of his hands. Another $500,000 down the drain. Whoops. At least this time the number of IMAX cameras in the world had finally climbed to double digits.

Yet still Nolan's bloodlust for these cameras was not quenched. For 2017's Dunkirk, Nolan put an IMAX camera in a crashing plane, assuming it would float long enough to allow them a chance to recover it ... but it sank instantly. After an hour, divers managed to recover the camera, which — along with the footage — shockingly survived. So Nolan narrowly avoided earning a third spot on this list. Maybe next time.

The Sacrifice: A whole house

Destroying an antique guitar or model ship because you thought it was just a replica is one thing. Shattering a historic toilet because you didn't think it would break is another. Breaking multiple IMAX cameras ... well, OK, that one is a little weird, but at least it's easy enough to replace and resume filming. But Andrei Tarkovsky's 1986 film The Sacrifice takes the cake for accidental destruction: That film burned down a whole house.

To be fair, burning down the house was intentional. Less intentional was the camera jamming.

A behind-the-scenes video captures the moment. The crew films from a distance as flames rip viciously through the house. People hustle about shouting orders before it becomes abundantly clear what has happened. Frustration sets in immediately: Tarkovsky covers his face with both hands and moans before asking, "Why didn't you tell me?" Next comes the awkward silence as everyone stares intently at the ground. "The last thing I expected was for the camera crew to screw up," Tarkovsky says as the house burns uselessly.

The house was rebuilt, albeit at great expense, and the movie lives on as a classic. But it's unlikely anyone forgot the moment the awful truth of the first house's destruction was revealed.