July 13, 2014

Don't Lobotomize Your Creativity: Lessons from the Making of 'One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest'

Very few films both capture my imagination and speak to my soul the way One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest does. The story of R.P. McMurphy, written originally by Ken Kesey (who's an absolute legend in my neck of the drum circle) was adapted for the screen in 1975, went on to win a handful of Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Miloš Forman, and continues to be the embodiment of the rebellious spirit of the 60s. From a filmmaking perspective, though, the production of OFOTCN is a true testament to how Murphy's Law (McMurphy's Law? "V, stop.") can actually be beneficial to your film -- how sometimes it's the mistakes, problems, and dead ends that reveal the true potential of not only your project, but you as a filmmaker.

Being a native of Eugene, it's easy to forget that not every place in the world is as open to weird eccentrics as we are. It's perfectly normal to talk hydroponics downtown in Kesey Square with a bunch of "traveling" kids, get paid a flower in exchange for a cigarette (that happened to me a few weekends ago), or make bank playing a pan flute outside of a coffee shop. We like weird people -- in fact, the spirits of each of the residents in OFOTCN would be warmly welcomed here, which I think is what makes their mistreatment on-screen so palpable.

The film, set in Oregon in 1963, is a product of Saul Zaentz and actor Michael Douglas seeing great potential in Kesey's story of a Korean War vet who gets busted for brawling and gambling. However, finding a director, as well as key actors proved to be a challenge. But, as you'll see in this thorough making-of documentary, director Miloš Forman, Jack Nicholson, and Louise Fletcher (Nurse Ratched) weren't the first choices for the film; in some cases they were 4th and 5th choices (the part of McMurphy was offered to Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando).

Take a look at the documentary below, which was shared in a post by Cinephilia and Beyond:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bud4GTZ_leQ

And as an added bonus, here's a compilation of deleted scenes from the film:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWLoHE1yqZ4

You see, as indie filmmakers it's easy to get frustrated when we run into dead ends (we tend to come upon a lot of them). Our plans fall through constantly; our favored actor drops out, the location that would be perfect for our scene is just too damn expensive. But, there's a beauty in the chaos and in the failure and in the madness of trying to make a film without enough resources. Our films may not end up looking pretty and polished, but many times the challenges we endure as poor filmmakers bring about the honesty that many films these days lack.

Like McMurphy and the rest of the guys in the Salem psychiatric hospital, sometimes you have to fight for your right to be different, however ugly that may seem to a world that can sometimes be so sterile and homogenizing. Free your inner rainbow! Fly unfettered and free! Dance in the wildflowers in nothing but a loin cloth -- or whatever euphemism you use in your city to say "be yourself". Don't let the pressure to make "normal" films dampen your vision and lobotomize your creativity. It's okay to be R.P. McMurphy -- really. (/rant)

Be sure to check out Cinephilia and Beyond's post to look at a bunch of behind the scenes photos from the production.

[via Cinephilia and Beyond]

Your Comment

6 Comments

I really enjoyed that. Love seeing BHS from classic movies.

July 14, 2014 at 5:37AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Stuco

Not British Home Stores!!!! BTS I meant!

July 14, 2014 at 5:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Stuco

Thanks for the article. Alas, part 3 of the Making Of: "This video contains content from MC for Warner Bros., who has blocked it on copyright grounds."

July 14, 2014 at 7:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
Mike van der Lee

Great piece. This site is terrific.

July 14, 2014 at 8:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

Need to edit content .. Actor was Michael's father ... Kirk Douglas.

July 18, 2014 at 10:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
John

Really enjoyed this article and the documentary. Great film though, gonna go all McMurphy somewhere with a camera...

August 5, 2014 at 7:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply