Strange things that happened on the set of DC movies

Superhero movies have been dominating the theaters for close to two decades now, thanks in large part to one of the twin titans of nerdom: DC Comics. But as much as people love the final product DC puts out, it's all the hard work putting big movies like these together that makes such an incredible spectacle possible. Sometimes the stories behind the scenes are just as interesting as what ends up on the big screen. See for yourself!

A-list penguins

We've all heard stories of prima donnas on the set of films. Big shot actors that need to have each and every one of their whims met, or else they'll lock themselves in their lavish trailers, leaving the production in a free fall. Well it turns out the actors that were pampered the most on the set of Batman Returns were … the penguins. Not The Penguin. Actual penguins.

The production wanted to use King Penguins to add some flair to Danny Devito's dastardly Penguin character, but the only tame ones in captivity were held in a bird sanctuary deep in the English countryside. They flew the flightless birds to the US in the refrigerated hold of a plane, and housed them in two forty-foot trailers, each temperature-controlled and including a swimming pool, along with another 2,000-gallon pool outside. The perks didn't end there — they even had a round-the-clock bodyguard, who clearly had the best job ever.

Despite the temperature topping at 100 degrees in Burbank, California, where the film was shot, the entire set was refrigerated down to 35 degrees, which brought the AC bill to roughly a million bucks. Deal with that Keaton — the penguins were the real stars here! The majestic beasts must have enjoyed their trip to Hollywood, as it's reported that most of them mated and produced eggs, which is the easiest way to confirm a happy penguin.

Pranksters put Superman in peril

Filming big action flicks is no easy feat — it isn't always just one big CGI fest. Stunt teams pull off some death-defying acts, where one wrong move could mean somebody gets seriously hurt. Communication is key to keeping everyone safe while pulling off sweet stunts, and bad communication is exactly what nearly caused disaster on the set of Superman Returns.

The crew used walkie-talkies to communicate with each other, but one day, a couple of pranksters snuck onto the set and stole a set of the devices. At first, it seemed the only damage done was being forced to halt production while the walkie-talkies were replaced, but once the film got up and going again the pranksters listened in, picking up on all the film lingo.

The pranksters finally struck on one night of filming, shouting "cut" and "action" through the walkies during a scene where a Mustang car jumped down steps and landed between extras. The scene had to be stopped numerous times due to the interference. Luckily, no one caught a stang to the face, but with such mixed signals flying around the airwaves, it wouldn't have been hard for someone to get seriously hurt! Superman Returns would end up being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects, while the idiot pranksters' greatest achievement in life will likely be being mentioned in this kickass article.

Heath Ledger directed himself

We all know the late Heath Ledger was a great actor, but did you know he had directorial chops too? He had directed a few music videos in the past, and was planning on directing a documentary as well as a feature film. That said, you've already seen some of his finest work without even realizing it.

Remember that terrifying scene in the Dark Knight, where The Joker records himself torturing the Batman-imposter? That "LOOK AT ME" really rattles the soul. According to IMDB (and confirmed by Buzzfeed via pictures) Ledger directed the homemade video himself under director Chris Nolan's supervision. Nolan was so impressed with the scene that he left the next twisted home video from The Joker (where reporter Mike Engel reads his statement to Gotham City) entirely in Ledger's hands. Why waste Ledger's incredible Joker persona on just acting, after all? This bold choice definitely paid off big.

Batman springs a leak

With all the Batman movies over the years, there have been several different takes on the famous Batsuit. Some are darker, some lighter, some with armor, some with nipples, but one thing seems to be universally true — they're all insanely uncomfortable. In the video above, George Clooney, who swung and missed as the Caped Crusader in Batman & Robin, outlines just how outlandish the Batsuit actually is.

This seems to be a running theme with Batmen of the big screen. When Ben Affleck donned the mantle for Dawn of Justice, he went to both Clooney and his predecessor Christian Bale for advice on the role. Clooney gave him some advice which is apparently "not repeatable," while Bale had some practical advice — make sure the suit has a zipper! In 2013 Bale explained his shared wisdom with Access Hollywood: "The only thing I said to [Affleck] was to make sure to [be able to] take a [leak] without having anyone help him, because it's a little bit humiliating … You have to have someone … help you out of the costume in order to be able to do that." Otherwise, Bruce Wayne becomes John Wayne.

The Batsuits are so infamously impractical, it's even rumored that Clooney once peed himself in his! Apparently, all the Bruce Waynes of the screen can't be as fortunate as Adam West when it comes to the comfort factor.

The Batsuit that was out of Ben Affleck's price range

Speaking of Batsuits, apparently you can put a price on them, and it is very very high. Ben Affleck was so impressed with his batsuit for his debut alongside/against Superman that he wanted to take it home with him after the film had wrapped, he revealed on a visit to "Live with Kelly and Michael."

That's when the producers slapped him with the price tag of $100,000 and Ben decided to settle on taking a picture with it. Affleck explained that "a lot goes into" designing and making the suit, as well as the need to really buff up so the suit doesn't look like it's wearing you. Which segways into the most jacked superhero of the DCUniverse…

The new Superman is all-natural

When Henry Cavill was officially cast as Superman in Man of Steel, the British actor decided to fully commit to filling America's most iconic hero's spandex. Cavill refused to take steroids or accept any CGI enhancements to his body, saying it would have been dishonest to trick audiences while playing Superman, of all people.

So he hit the gym with the power of a Kryptonian, undergoing grueling training for nearly a year prior to filming, but he kicked it up a notch for his shirtless scenes. For those, he committed to an extremely difficult calorie-restriction diet and training regimen, that cut his calorie intake from 5000 to almost 1500 for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks, he was sitting (un)comfortably at a body fat level of 7%, the same level achieved by professional body-builders for competitions.

After finishing filming his two (yes, all of that for two scenes) shirtless scenes, he eased up and returned to a more manageable routine. He wanted his abs to be as pronounced as possible, and boy did he achieve it. Director Zack Snyder was so impressed by his star's dedication that, after he had shot his shirtless scenes, he surprised Cavill with a tub of ice cream and a whole pizza. Looks like Superman is weak to more than just Kryptonite.

Batmobile lost a wheel, because Robin laid an egg while driving

Movie stunts are a dangerous affair. There's a whole profession filled with madmen whose specialty is crashing cars, jumping off planes, and other death defying acts. While it's usually safer to leave it to the pros, sometimes the stars just can't resist pulling a Jackie Chan and doing their own stunt work, even if they shouldn't.

One such case happened during the filming of a scene in Batman Forever, where Robin takes the Batmobile for a joyride. Chris O'Donnell, the actor behind Robin, insisted on driving the Batmobile himself, and who could blame him, really? We'd drive it in a heartbeat. But alongside being one of the coolest rides in the history of fiction, it also proved very difficult to control. Chris ended up crashing it into a curb and denting a fender, but at least he got the joyride every kid — and every adult, let's be frank — has always wanted.

The Dark Knight Trilogy was murder on IMAX cameras

While the Dark Knight Trilogy was great for movies, it kinda sucked for cameras. Nolan wanted to give his audience the fully immersive Batman movie they deserved, shooting The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX for all its glorious, gritty beauty. IMAX cameras are quite the rarity, and they have the price tag to prove it. Each of them insures for nearly half a million dollars, but it's Batman, so it's worth the risk.

Catwoman had something to say about that. Her stunt double end up crashing her motorcycle into the set's IMAX camera, as you can see in the video above. Luckily when you make Batman movies like Nolan did, six-figure cameras are a dime a dozen .. at least that's hopefully how his producers felt.

Killer Croc researched real crocodiles

Suicide Squad was filled with baddies from all over the DC rogues gallery — one of the more unique additions was that of Killer Croc. The man-eating monster was portrayed by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, whom you may recognize (without the scales, anyway) from his role as Nykwana Wombosi in The Bourne Identity or Mr. Eko on Lost.

Aside from having to endure five hours of prosthetics and body paint each day, Akinnuoye-Agbaje took on additional, creep-tastic research, so as to get completely in the head of the man-eating half-man. According to the man himself, "what that entailed was me really looking at crocodiles and alligators in their own habitats. I went down to the Everglades to see how they move, the texture of their skin. I tried to incorporate those movements in the fight techniques. And I had him walk as if he was walking through the water with a sinuous twist." Akinnuoye-Agbaje even made an effort to avoid his fellow cast members, to make them extra wary of the Killer Croc. At least he was being aloof and unavailable for an artistic reason, rather than a diva-actor one.

Jared Leto's Joker was more menacing off-screen than on

It's no secret that a lot of people were disappointed with Joker in Suicide Squad. While some really enjoyed Leto's portrayal, most expected him to play a larger role, due to how hyped his inclusion in the film was. However according to Leto, there were enough deleted scenes in Suicide Squad to make a "Joker Movie." Whether we'll actually see it or not is up to DC and how much they want to invest in their Universe.

Due to there being less than 15 minutes of screen time for the Clown Prince of Crime, audiences were left to follow Leto's off-camera antics to get their Joker-fix. Leto got so into character that he chose to torment his fellow co-stars, giving them a range of deranged "gifts." To his on-screen lover, Margot Robbie, he sent a nice love letter along with black box containing a live rat. So romantic. To Will Smith, who played the gun-toting Deadshot he gifted bullets (who doesn't love receiving instruments of death under the Christmas tree?), and he even gave out used condoms to the cast because why the hell not.

The most memorable prank, however, was likely the time when Leto, off-set, had a dead hog delivered, along with a video message that he filmed in character. It's a good thing director Roy Ayer had a therapist on set. The therapist was there to help the actors in case they got too in tune with their characters' dark, villainous tendencies, though she likely spent most of her time hearing about trauma caused by unexpected dead animals.