375181 02: 1996 BILL PAXTON AND HELEN HUNT AS JO HARDING IN THE ACTION THRILLER "TWISTER"Released 20 years ago this week (on May 10, 1996), "Twister" wasn't just a blockbuster special-effects spectacle that made viable movie stars out of Helen Hunt an Bill Paxton.

It was also the "Apocalypse Now" of weather-themed disaster movies. The film's production was marked by severe injuries to the stars and crew, a runaway budget, and the cinematographers openly rebelling against the director. Here are the real-life twists you didn't hear about from the tornado drama's tempestuous shoot.
1. The "Twister" screenplay is credited to "Jurassic Park" novelist Michael Crichton and his wife, Anne-Marie Martin, but it was revised by such celebrated script doctors as Joss Whedon (who dropped out of the project because he contracted bronchitis), Steven Zaillian (who dropped out because he was leaving for his honeymoon), and Jeff Nathanson, who was on the set and kept rewriting the script until the end of the shoot.

2. Helen Hunt was director Jan de Bont's only choice for the role of tormented storm chaser Jo. She was surprised to be asked to carry the expensive blockbuster, since she had to be back on the set of her hit sitcom, "Mad About You," before the end of August 1995. Fortunately, "Mad" producer/co-star Paul Reiser offered to push back the start of the show's production by two and a half weeks to accommodate "Twister" overruns.
3.Jami Gertz won the role of Paxton's hapless fiancée because Mira Sorvino (soon to win an Oscar for "Mighty Aphrodite") refused to go brunette.

4. Plagued by sunny weather, the production used bright lamps to reduce the exposure and make the skies look dark and stormy. But the lamps blinded Paxton and Hunt ("These things literally sunburned our eyeballs," Paxton recalled), and they had to wear dark glasses and take eye drops for several days until they recovered.

Paxton and Hunt also took lumps from being pelted with ice chunks in the hailstorm scene. The two leads had to take hepatitis shots after their scene wallowing in a filthy ditch. In that same sequence, Hunt kept banging her head on a low bridge because she would stand up too quickly, and she also was hit in the head by a truck's open passenger door in the cornfield sequence. De Bont told Entertainment Weekly, "I love Helen to death, but you know, she can be also a little bit clumsy." Hunt, who blamed her accidents on exhaustion from the difficult shoot, replied, "Clumsy? The guy burned my retinas, but I'm clumsy."5. Tensions flared between de Bont and cinematographer Don Burgess's camera crew. They complained that de Bont would get upset when they couldn't turn on a dime and set up new shots on a moment's notice; he countered that the unpredictable weather meant the shooting schedule had to be flexible. The crew considered getting T-shirts made emblazoned with de Bont's favorite curse-word phrase, "F---ing Hell S---." The breaking point came when a camera assistant walked into the frame and ruined a complicated shot involving noisy wind machines, leading de Bont to shove the man into a mud puddle. Burgess and 20 crew members walked. The film was only five weeks into production.

6. De Bont replaced Burgess with veteran cinematographer Jack N. Green. Unfortunately, Green was hospitalized with a back injury when a house rigged to collapse did so while Green was still inside it. With two days left to shoot, de Bont took over camera duties himself.
7. Much of the film was shot in Wakita, Oklahoma, where producers purchased and then leveled eight blocks of existing houses, as well as flattening 30 homes built for the shoot. According to the Twister Museum in Wakita (which contains props and memorabilia from the movie), the filmmakers' destruction of the town was so convincing that a third-party video crew flying overhead saw the fake devastation from the air and landed their helicopter to investigate.

8. With the lengthy and tumultuous shoot, the need for twice as many effects shots as anticipated (because of the uncommonly clear skies), and late re-shoots that added the prologue about Jo's childhood, the budget swelled from $70 million to a reported $92 million. But "Twister" grossed $242 million in North America, becoming the second biggest movie of 1996 (only "Independence Day" earned more). Worldwide, the tornado tale sucked up a total of $494 million.
9. "Twister" was nominated for two Oscars, for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound. It was also nominated for two Razzies, including Worst Supporting Actress (for Gertz, pictured). The Crichtons won the Razzie for Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million.

10. "Twister" was the first mainstream Hollywood movie released on the then-new home video medium of DVD.

Based on 17 critics

Storm-chasers (Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton) follow tornadoes in Oklahoma. Read More

categories Movies, Trivia