Breaking news regarding the super secret production of the upcoming James Bond film Spectre has Christoph Waltz swearing up and down that he is absolutely not playing SPECTRE mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld – just like Benedict Cumberbatch definitely wasn’t playing Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. Fans obviously have good reason to continue their skepticism, having been constantly lied to by actors and directors in order to preserve the movie-going experience associated with their projects. If it turns out that Waltz actually is playing Blofeld, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time the movie-going populace had been misled in such a way. Spoilers ahead!
Hitchcock isn’t called the “master of suspense” for nothing. Not only were his films thrilling, tense, and suspenseful, but the man knew how to market those movies to provide the most shock and entertainment to the audience. A classic example is that of Psycho, which was an event unlike any other at the time. Hitchcock wouldn’t allow anyone into the theater after the movie had started, and cinema owners actually enforced this policy. While this secrecy intrigued and excited audiences, the real reason for the policy was because Hitchcock’s leading lady (Janet Leigh), a big star and a huge marketing point, is killed off twenty minutes into the movie. Hitchcock, having misled his audience regarding Leigh’s appearance in the film, didn’t want them to feel gipped if they arrived late only to find that Leigh’s character was already dead.
Russell T. Davies
While Steven Moffat is the current keeper of the TARDIS, former Doctor Who show runner Russell T. Davies was just as much a master of secrets. One of the biggest lies he ever told was that he hated the Master and that there would never be a story arc in which he was involved. Obviously, this turned out to be blatantly false, when the entirety of season three subtly builds up to a surprising reveal and a three part finale featuring the Master. When asked about it, Davies was nearly gleeful in his deception, explaining that he simply lied to throw everyone off track. And it worked, at least for me. The Master reveal was one of the biggest surprises of Doctor Who. I still get a deep feeling of excitement when I re-watch that moment, remembering vividly how I felt when the surprise was dropped on me.
Abrams is specifically known for keeping secrets. His film sets are locked down tight and script access is strictly controlled. Even trailers don’t tell you much – except that the Millennium Falcon is apparently still in one piece after a long, long time. Perhaps one of the least successful secrets he tried to keep is the one in which Benedict Cumberbatch was actually playing Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. Everyone involved reasoned that Cumberbatch’s character couldn’t be Khan, because his name was clearly listed as Benjamin Harrison. Unfortunately, this fooled no one. It may not have been a surprise that Cumberbatch was Khan, but it was a delightful reveal all the same.
Shane Black is mostly just known for Lethal Weapon and a string of other over-the-top action movies, but not particularly for any secrecy regarding his work. But as soon as Black got the job to write and direct the third installment of the epic Iron Man series, the lies started. Specifically, we were told one big lie: that Ben Kingsley was the Mandarin and that he would be the villain in Iron Man 3. In a sense, this is true. In reality, however, this was more like a bait and switch. We were drawn in by the promise of a creepy terrorist type villain as performed by the great Kingsley, which turned out to be a cover for the real, unexpected villain we were given in his place. The part Kingsley actually plays is that of the drugged out, drunk, and over sexed actor Trevor Slattery. Of course, there is a theory floating around that this actually might be the real ruse and that the Mandarin was just playing a very elaborate game.
If you don’t know the name, Sud is the creator and head writer of The Killing, the American remake of the Danish series Forbrydelsen. While The Killing started out strong, there was some controversy among audiences when it was promised the mystery would be solved by the end of season one, but the show runners never delivered on that promise. Instead, the mystery ran into the second season, leading audiences to question if the writers actually knew where they were going with the show. This breach of promise, small though it may seem, broke the good faith and trust of the audience. The show never quite recovered, faltering through its first two seasons and downright struggling through to its fourth – but despite the fight, it turned out to the be the little show that could, constantly avoiding cancellation and eventually making a deal with Netflix to wrap the series up in a final fourth season.
My love for Patrick McGoohan is no secret. The man was an intense, surprising, unsettling, and arresting actor and had one of the great creative minds of his time. The Prisoner stands out as a landmark television series – inspiring modern classics like Lost and Twin Peaks – and caused an audience reaction to match its importance. The Prisoner was a phenomenon in its time, keeping viewers rapt and confused every week, dying to know how the prisoner would finally escape the Village. McGoohan’s series is bizarre and abstract, a psychological and philosophical experiment wrapped in the shell of a spy series. That was one lie. Audiences were used to the simple good versus evil of James Bond and similar spy fare, so when the fabled Number One – leader of the Village – turned out to be something more complicated than a Bond villain, they rebelled. McGoohan immigrated to the US shortly after the finale, fleeing angry viewers. Perhaps reasonably, McGoohan had a complicated relationship with his most famous work. And this is the other lie, because McGoohan could never be consistent in his feelings when talking about the show. One interview he would dismiss it as trash, another he would discuss in depth and at length the allegorical origins of the story, or sometimes he would promote it enthusiastically in a strange, alienating publicity appearance, or perhaps make light of it by lending his voice to an episode of The Simpsons. McGoohan was legendary for his enigmatic personality and mercurial moods, which only adds to the mystique of the series and its creator.