ByAlisha Grauso, writer at
Editor-at-large here at Movie Pilot. Nerd out with me on Twitter, comrades: @alishagrauso
Alisha Grauso

BBC and everyone involved with [Doctor Who](series:200668) must be breathing a sigh of relief that the episode titled "Robot of Sherwood" just aired this week, and not the week before. The timing of the episode allowed for BBC to edit out a potentially disastrous scene from a PR perspective. The climactic battle between Robin Hood and the Sheriff features a decapitation - fairly gruesome at the best of times, but an even more horribly mistimed scene right now in the wake of the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff at the hands of militant Islam group ISIS, and threats of another beheading of an unnamed British journalist.

Said a spokesperson for BBC:

In light of recent news events, we have made an edit to episode three out of respect.

Good on ya, BBC. PR firms and movie studios have had a history of putting their foot in it, appearing completely oblivious and insensitive to real world tragedies, whether deliberate or accidental. Look no further than earlier this week when the PR firm behind Fox's [Sleepy Hollow](series:839489) ran a long-planned "Headless Day" PR campaign... unfortunately on the very same day that Sotloff was beheaded. Though their debacle was the product of truly unfortunate timing, it's still nice to see the times that movie studios have been smart and considerate enough to self-censor in the wake of human tragedy.



A year before the original Spider-Man movie hit theaters, Sony released the first trailer for the film and it debuted to an overwhelmingly positive response. It featured an incredible scene in which a helicopter piloted by escaping bank robbers suddenly finds itself stuck mid-air between the World Trade Towers, trapped like a fly in the giant spiderweb Spider-Man had strung between the two skyscrapers.

And then 9/11 happened a few months later. Sony went on a desperate dash to yank the trailer from theaters and TV, along with pulling the companion teaser poster that featured the Twin Towers reflected in Spidey's left eye from every outlet it could find. The movie opened the following spring and became something of a rallying point for New Yorkers still struggling to cope with the grief. For a time, Spider-Man, so intertwined with his beloved NYC, became a symbol of hope to the real city he cinematically protected. But had Sony not been so quick and thorough about dealing with its mistimed promotional material, it may have been a somewhat different story.



If you've seen last year's [Gangster Squad](movie:46964) then you know that the final shootout scene between the cops and the crooked goes down in the middle of an open air market in LA's Chinatown. It was visceral and violent and a fitting climax to the story.

It also wasn't the original ending. The original ending was supposed to have had the shootout happening inside a movie theater, with the gang jumping through the movie screen and shooting up the audience. But two and a half months later in Aurora, Colorado, James Holmes opened fire in a midnight showing of [The Dark Knight Rises](movie:39011), killing 12 civilians and injuring countless others. Warner Bros. immediately pulled the trailer down, but they had a bigger problem than that.

Gangster Squad was set to open just two weeks after the events in Colorado, with the theater shooting scene being one of the major pivot points of the film. So the release date was pushed back by four months to January 11, 2013, with the script undergoing an extensive rewrite of the gunfight scene along with lengthy reshoots and a scramble to get everything through post-production in time for its new release.



The Weinstein Company has always been known more for the ways in which it angers the public than the ways in which it placates it. But even the famously litigious company exercised some restraint in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting when it canceled its Hollywood premiere of Quentin Tarantino's [Django Unchained](movie:202587), opting instead for a private screening of the film.

Tarantino was not exactly a prince about it, saying at the junket held later that week, "I just think there's violence in the world. Tragedies happen." and that "[Django] is a Western. Give me a break." Classy move there.

It's pretty clear there's a reason no one's ever accused Tarantino of being a swell guy, only an iconic director. Still, it was good that the production company behind him had the sense to know that a week after dozens of children were gunned down for no reason was not the best time to trumpet a movie glorifying ultraviolence.



There's no way that a Ben Stiller movie about a bunch of bumbling idiots who form a half-assed neighborhood watch to get away from their wives and families could be offensive in any way (save maybe for the plot itself). Especially not when those bumbling idiots are Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn, and Richard Ayoade.

But that was before overzealous neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed, black teenager Trayvon Martin during an altercation. The shooting set off a wave of protests, outrage, and media frenzy regarding race relations and racism that flared up again just a few weeks ago in Ferguson, Missouri.

In the aftermath, Fox quietly decided to change the name of the comedy from Neighborhoood Watch to simply [The Watch](movie:216515), along with pulling numerous ads for the film.

Though it was probably unnecessary of the studio, it's still nice to know that occasionally, big studios are smart enough to exercise tact and discretion about sensitive social issues rather than trampling all over them.



A tragedy that sends ripple effects out into the world doesn't always have to be one that happens on a large scale. Such was the case with the unexpected death of Heath Ledger, who was at the pinnacle of his career at the time of his passing. The sudden loss of Ledger threw the production of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus completely into disarray, with the film and his scenes being half-finished at the time of his death.

The project was set to be completely scrapped, but director Terry Gilliam came up with an utterly brilliant way of making it work with the help of three of Ledger's best friends. Jude Law, Colin Farrell, and Johnny Depp all stepped in to tag-team and complete the role left unfinished by their close friend, and the story was quickly revamped to include the explanation that the character's appearance changed depending on the magical realm he was in.

At one point, Tom Cruise approached Gilliam about taking over the role, but Gilliam shot him down, later stating

I just wanted to keep this [in the] family—it's as simple as that [...] There were people even offering to come and help, they didn't know Heath. It had to be in the family somehow, I don't know why; it was my attitude.

Continuing to keep it in the family, Law, Depp, and Farrell all eschewed their payment for the film, donating their salaries instead to Ledger's young daughter, Matilda. Instead of a reminder of his death, the production and resulting film became one last bow for a man who had led an amazingly talented life.


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