Donner’s horror classic from the ‘70s saw such bad luck during filming you’d think it was cursed by the Devil himself!
The Omen continues to be one of those standout horror pictures that spoke to something in the human consciousness. Not only did it spawn a series of films, but also created one of the most iconic representations of the Son of the Devil, and managed to make a dent at the Academy Awards, too. Damien’s even a member of freakin’ South Park! But in spite of the mass success and long legacy that Richard Donner’s horror film would see, it’s a miracle that the movie was even completed in the first place. Sometimes films are plagued with a number of production issues that slow things down, but The Omen experienced such a horrendous slew of bad luck, the film would even be considered to be “cursed” in retrospect.
Right out of the gate The Omen was looking at a stacked deck with their being bad luck present even in the pre-production phase. Two months before filming, Gregory Peck’s son committed suicide. Obviously this is a tremendous loss to go through for the Oscar-nominated actor who’s responsible for playing Damien’s father, Robert Thorn, in the picture. The subject matter even deals with Peck’s character struggling to kill his son.
When production did commence, there were weird bouts of coincidental bad luck right from the start. An airplane getting struck by lightning is a fairly rare occurrence, and yet it happened to both Gregory Peck’s and screenwriter, David Seltzer’s separate planes. This was merely when they were heading into production to begin with, giving them a fairly tumultuous start to things. Lightning would continue to play a weird factor here though, as not long after, executive producer Mace Neufeld’s plane was also struck by lightning. The experience would traumatize Neufeld, with him describing it as his “roughest five minutes” on a plane. In a final plane-related WTF moment, Gregory Peck canceled a flight reservation of his, only to later learn that his plane had crashed and killed everyone that was aboard! Then, just so lightning could prove that it hadn’t given up, Harvey Bernard, a producer on the film was narrowly missed by lightning while in Rome.
All of that alone would be enough to warrant The Omen as being cursed, especially when dealing with the topics of God and the Devil, and lightning colloquially being seen as an “act of God.” This was merely the tip of the iceberg though. A hotel that Richard Donner was staying at while production was going on would end up getting bombed by the IRA! Miraculously he survived, although he’d also get hit by a car during production, too. Vehicles would continue to be a tricky beast for The Omen, like on the first day of shooting when a head-on car collision would injure a lot of crew members, although thankfully not killing any of them. Later on, the actor who plays the taxi driver who takes Robert Thorn around Italy had the car door slammed on his hand by Peck accidentally, nearly taking off his finger (the huge bandage is still visible in the final film).
Animals can often be a tricky area for productions, especially when being around the Son of the Devil will have a tendency to make them go bananas. In this case, the trainers for the Rottweilers were injured by the dogs, who happened to bite through their protective gear in spite of the proper precautions being taken. Then, the animal handler/zookeeper who helped with the baboon scene at the zoo was eaten alive by a lion two weeks after the completion of the film. It was this act of unnatural bad luck that sealed the deal on the film’s alleged “curse.”
What’s even crazier is that more fuel has been added to this fire in recent years, with John Moore’s 2006 remake of the film also getting some residual curse mojo. For Moore’s remake they lost 13,500 feet of film, which contained the scene where Damien’s 666 birth mark is revealed. The lab had no idea what happened and were even in tears over the matter. The most that had ever been lost before was 400 feet of film (one roll), with this being outrageous and unexplainable. In another case of the Devil just playing with these chess pieces as they try to make this film, the actor who played Father Brennan in the remake, Pete Postlewaite, had his brother die. The craziest thing is that it was after drawing the combination of three sixes in a card game. How does that make any sense!
Finally, if there are still any skeptics out there, this is the smoking gun in the whole curse case. Like, I cannot believe that this actually happened because the odds are so astronomically small. John Richardson, the set designer responsible for the infamous decapitation scene in The Omen, suffered a car accident with his wife, Liz Moore, in August while shooting A Bridge Too Far. The car crash not only saw Liz decapitated in a way that looked identical to Richardson’s set design work for the film, but this all also happened on Friday the 13th, with a nearby street sign saying, “Ommen, 66.6km” which makes no sense. That’s too bonkers of a coincidence!
Regardless of if there was some greater power at work willing this bad luck to happen or not, there’s no denying that it’s a crazy amount of loss for a production to take on. It’s amazing that on top of that the crew could remain so resilient and the film would still turn out to be so satisfying. Let’s hope that the cast of A&E’s new Damien series doesn’t need to book any air travel in the near future…