Strange Things That Happened On The Sets Of DC Movies

Superhero movies have been dominating the theaters for years now, thanks in large part to one of the twin titans of nerd-dom: 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 40-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 reportedly brought the A/C bill to about $1 million. 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 intentionally bad communication could have 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 several of them. Once the film got up and going, the pranksters listened in, picking up on all the film lingo.

They finally struck on one night of filming, shouting "cut" and "action" through the walkies. One source claimed this happened during a scene where a Mustang car jumped down steps and landed between extras. Whether it was that scene or a more pedestrian one, it's lucky that no one caught a car to the face with such mixed signals flying around the airwaves of an action movie. 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.

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 Buzzfeed, Ledger directed the homemade video himself under director Christopher Nolan's supervision. Ledger also directed the next twisted home video from the Joker (where reporter Mike Engel reads his statement to Gotham City). Why waste Ledger's incredible Joker persona on just acting, after all? This bold choice definitely paid off.

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."

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, who got a comparatively soft fabric suit.

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.

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. Cavill committed to an extremely difficult regimen that started him at 5,000 calories while he was putting on muscle mass and then cut it drastically to sculpt the muscles and reduce his body fat.

After finishing filming his two 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 an apple pie. Looks like Superman is weak to more than just Kryptonite.

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 goes for around 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 ... or hopefully that's how his producers felt.

Killer Croc researched real crocodiles

Suicide Squad was filled with baddies from all over the DC rogues gallery, and 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 the 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.

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 all kinds of deranged "gifts." To his on-screen lover, Margot Robbie, he sent a nice love letter along with a box containing a live rat. So romantic. To Will Smith, who played the gun-toting Deadshot he gifted bullets, and he even gave out condoms made to look like they'd been used because why the hell not. (Leto first claimed he did this in an interview and later denied it.)

The most memorable prank, however, was likely the time when Leto, off-set, had a dead hog delivered with a video message he filmed in character. It's a good thing director David 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 the therapist likely spent a lot of time hearing about trauma caused by unexpected dead animals.

Wonder Woman was defeating bad guys for two

It took Hollywood forever to make a Wonder Woman movie, but maybe that was because the right actress hadn't come along until Gal Gadot. She was perfect for the role of the Amazonian superhero, adept at everything the film required of her, from fish-out-of-water comedy to romantic bits to elaborate action sequences. Of course, some of those big set-pieces needed after-the-fact reshoots, and by the time the cameras re-rolled in November 2016, Gadot was about five months pregnant. 

As the character of Wonder Woman was not pregnant — and as filmmakers couldn't go the pregnant sitcom actress route and have Gadot stand behind furniture or carry around a laundry basket — the production had to find a creative solution to hide Gadot's noticeable baby bump. Costumers cut a large swath out of the front of the Wonder Woman costume and inserted a piece of bright green cloth. It was basically a very small green-screen, and it enabled digital effects artists to smooth down Gadot's belly in the editing bay. "We will be able to tell her daughter Maya that she's in her mom's stomach right then, in the middle of that battle scene," director Patty Jenkins told Entertainment Weekly.

It's hard to get a read on Jason Momoa

As Aquaman unfolds, Mera (Amber Heard) and the dude-bro who would be Aquaman (Jason Momoa) bicker like young siblings, but by the end of the film, these underwater dreamboats predictably fall in love. While shooting the epic adventure, Heard and Momoa engaged in a relationship similarly strained as their characters' early interactions, predicated on some very petty behavior. 

It all starts with books. Heard reads a lot while she's on movie sets waiting around to shoot her scenes. There's not much else to do while suspended on wires, so Heard would read, toss her book to a crew member when the director called "action," then have the worker throw it back up when they got the all-clear. "I would feel so bad someone was going out of their way to do it ... so wardrobe built me a book bag," Heard told Good Morning America. No more games of catch — the actress just put her book into the satchel, which was made "out of the green screen material" so then the effects team could just edit it out of shots. 

When she was on the ground reading between takes, the bag served another purpose: protecting her books from a jealous Momoa. "He adopted this method of ripping out the pages of my book so I would pay attention to him," she said.

Wait, a Stan Lee cameo ... in a DC Comics movie?

Fans of movies based on Marvel Comics characters can almost always bet on a fun, conspicuous cameo from legendary and prolific Marvel boss Stan Lee. (For example, he's a mailman in Fantastic Four, and Tony Stark thinks he's Hugh Hefner in Iron Man.) One of his last on-screen appearances before his 2018 death came in the animated flick Teen Titans GO! To the Movies. It's based on the comedic Cartoon Network series about the usually low-stakes adventures of Robin, Beast Boy, and Raven, characters from Marvel rival DC Comics. The cameo even calls it out: "This is Stan Lee. Dig my subtle cameo!" Lee's animated doppelganger says. "This is a DC movie? I gotta get out of here!"

So how did the king of Marvel show up in the DC universe? Warner Bros. animation president Sam Register had a hunch that Teen Titans directors Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath would want Lee in their superhero movie sendup. He had a mutual friend ask Lee, and he was down. "Immediately, we were like, "We gotta do a really obnoxious Stan Lee cameo where he just mugs at the camera and calls attention to himself," Horvath told Entertainment Weekly. Horvath and Michail tried to record Lee's lines at his office ... until their audio engineer's equipment failed. They wound up capturing Lee's lines on a humble laptop instead.