The 13 wildest (yet somehow widespread) movie rumors of the last 40 years

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Nov 17, 2017, 1:30 PM EST

With the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi barely a month away and anticipation of the movie at a fever pitch, the speculation about just what the movie contains has reached an all-time high as well. Rumors are circulating rapidly about the film, its plot and the fate and/or identity of its major characters, and if anything we know even less about this movie than we did about its ultra-secretive predecessor, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Some of the speculation that's out there may prove to be true, while no doubt a lot of it will turn out to be just the rampant musings of many fans' overheated imaginations. But although we now live in an age of instantaneous communication -- which can also mean instantaneous false information -- wild rumors about upcoming movies are nothing new. In fact, if we go back nearly 40 years, some of the craziest speculation back then centered around -- you guessed it -- a Star Wars movie.

Here then are 13 of the craziest movie rumors of the past four decades -- ideas that, no matter how strange they seemed, somehow got around and were believed by untold numbers of info-starved fans. Tell us below if you remember hearing any of these, if there's one you came across and would like to share, and if you think any of the films might have been actually enhanced if the rumor was true...


The Han/Vader fusion in The Empire Strikes Back

A long time ago in a world far, far away, before the Internet, speculation flowed freely and plentifully about what the first Star Wars sequel would contain. One of the wildest plot rumors maintained that Han Solo (Harrison Ford) would actually clash with Darth Vader (David Prowse) in a lightsaber duel -- and that during this duel, their lightsabers and eventually their "life forces" would become fused. This in turn would create a conflict for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill): if he kills Vader, does he also kill his friend Han? While this ended up being wildly off-base, the "Han dies" rumors persisted -- evidently his real fate in the movie, getting frozen in carbonite, may have been leaked and distorted somehow. Second wildest rumors about The Empire Strikes Back? That Mick Jagger would score the movie!


The Shining was really an expose of a faked moon landing

There are so many interpretations and rumors about the meaning of Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror classic The Shining that filmmaker Rodney Ascher even made a whole documentary about them called Room 237. While the doc is chock full of wild theories, perhaps the weirdest of all is that The Shining is Kubrick's elaborately coded apology for producing fake moon landing footage that NASA used to publicize the Apollo 11 mission. Images in The Shining -- like the Apollo 11 sweater worn by Danny Torrance and a carpet pattern that resembles the Apollo launching pad -- supposedly bear this out. Of course Kubrick is no longer around to make his confession, so The Shining/Apollo 11 conspiracy theory remains unproven... as far as you know.


Cannibal Holocaust was real

This notorious Italian exploitation film was the first horror movie to make use of the "found footage" format -- some 19 years before The Blair Witch Project brought it into the mainstream. But back in 1980, the graphically violent documentary-like footage -- supposedly all that remained of a film crew slaughtered in the Amazon by cannibals -- led to rumors that director Ruggero Deodato had some of his cast members murdered on camera for real. Deodato was actually dragged into court, where he had to prove that the four actors "killed" on screen were all still alive by demonstrating how the makeup effects were done and getting the actors to be interviewed on TV. Unfortunately a half dozen on-screen animal deaths, including a turtle and a monkey, were all too real, leading to the movie being banned for years.


The Poltergeist curse

There have been many so-called "curses" throughout the history of Hollywood, from The Wizard of Oz to the Superman curse to The Exorcist. But the king of all cursed films is Poltergeist, thanks to the string of terrible and tragic deaths that rippled across the making of the original film and its sequels, including the murder of 22-year-old actress Dominique Dunn and the shocking death by septic shock of 12-year-old star Heather O'Rourke. The rumored reason for all the deaths associated with the film is equally bizarre -- that real skeletal remains, not fake ones, were used during the movie's pool scene, thus enraging the spirits of the people to whom the bones belonged. We're not ready to believe that the rumor or the curse is real, but we bet every bone you've ever since in a movie since has been a fake one...


Howard Stern was going to play Scarecrow in Batman 5

While 1997's Batman and Robin was in post-production, Warner Bros. commissioned a script for a fifth film called Batman Unchained (not Batman Triumphant, as rumored for years). Joel Schumacher was going to direct again, and the villains were said to be Scarecrow and Harley Quinn. Word was that Schumacher had approached radio shock jock Howard Stern to play Scarecrow and singer-turned-actress Courtney Love to appear as Harley. The Stern part of it, at least, was untrue: Schumacher was interested in Nicolas Cage. Another rumor was that Jack Nicholson was going to return as Joker in a Batman hallucination induced by Scarecrow's fear gas. None of this ended up happening; Batman and Robin bombed and Batman Unchained was abandoned, although the Scarecrow showed up (played by Cillian Murphy) in the later Dark Knight trilogy.


Michael Myers vs. Pinhead

After 2003's Freddy vs. Jason became an improbable hit for New Line Cinema (it grossed $115 million), Dimension Films allegedly wanted to get cracking on a showdown between horror icons it owned the rights to: Michael Myers of Halloween fame and the supernatural Pinhead from Clive Barker's Hellraiser franchise. Barker was reportedly on board to script the thing, with Doug Bradley -- who originated the role of Pinhead and played him in eight films -- interested in doing the film too. There were even rumors about John Carpenter directing it. But the project never got off the ground, supposedly because Halloween's producers -- the Akkad brothers -- did not want Michael Myers crossing over with any other monsters. Don't know how the plot would have worked out, but that's a bout we would have liked to see.


Cloverfield was really a Voltron movie

"It's a lion! It's huge!" That's what some moviegoers thought they heard a panicked character scream when the first, mysterious trailer for Cloverfield played in theaters back in the summer of 2007. The misheard line -- actually "It's alive! It's huge!" -- convinced fans that they were hearing a reference to the giant robotic lions that combine to become Voltron, thus leading to rumors that the enigmatic, J.J. Abrams-produced film was in fact a live-action adaptation of the animated TV series of the same name. Of course that was false, although plenty of other rumors circulated around the found-footage monster movie (like that it had something to do with a cryptic online video game related to someone named Ethan Haas -- also fake news). 

Remaking Jaws... as a 3D comedy

There are some films that we hope will never be remade, mainly because they're pretty much perfect as they are. Certainly any list of such films would have to include Jaws at or near the top, right? Well, if a rumor from 2010 was to be believed, even Steven Spielberg's masterpiece was not safe from plunder: according to an anonymous source supposedly inside the studio, Universal Pictures was considering remaking Jaws in 3D (guess they forgot abut 1983's disastrous Jaws 3-D) as a way to lure younger viewers with modern new visual effects. The source also claimed that the movie would be more comedic than the original, with Tracy Morgan (30 Rock) being courted for the role of oceanographer Matt Hooper. Fortunately, nothing was ever heard about this again, so we don't know if the project was ever really a thing; let's pray it wasn't.


The Dark Knight dies

Right from the start, Christopher Nolan was insistent that The Dark Knight Rises would conclude his version of the Caped Crusader's story and provide a definitive end to his trilogy of films. Almost as soon as he said that, the rumors began that Nolan would make good on his promise by killing off the Bat. The speculation was only fueled by trailers and posters that showed Bane (Tom Hardy) tossing Batman's broken mask to the ground. But no, Batman (Christian Bale) didn't die -- although he faked his death at the end of the film after saving Gotham City and ran off to a life of contentment with the reformed Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). Sure, Batman has died (sort of) in the comics, but he has yet to kick the bucket on the big screen.


Iron Man meets the Guardians of the Galaxy

Toy lines are notorious as launching pads for all kinds of crazy movie rumors, because a) they are usually unveiled (at least to retailers) months before they hit shelves in tandem with the release of a given film and b) they often include characters, costumes, weaponry or scenes not necessarily taken from the movie they're tied to. Case in point: the strange tale of Iron Man meeting up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, in a post-credits scene that was allegedly supposed to happen at the end of Iron Man 3 and then again at the end of the first Guardians of the Galaxy. In the case of the former, an Iron Man toy garbed in some kind of white space armor led to rumors of Tony Stark venturing into local space and encountering the gang. In the case of the latter, an Iron Man figure that inexplicably came with a severed Groot leg fueled the same speculation when it was released in conjunction with GOTG hitting screens. Neither was true, of course, although old Shellhead and the Guardians will finally come face to face next May in Avengers: Infinity War.


Those Bizarro (get it?) Man of Steel 2 rumors

Although Man of Steel 2 remains a bit of a unicorn these days (it has no director, no script and no release date), that did not stop the rumor mill from churning out a stream of speculation for a while regarding who might turn up in the movie as either a foe or ally of the last son of Krypton. While the villainous alien android Brainiac has been at the top of fans' wish lists for years to show up in a Superman film, a flurry of rumors in 2016 -- shortly after the release of Batman v Superman -- suggested that not only would Brainiac drop in, but he'd be joined by Bizarro and Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl. We don't know exactly how those rumors began, but Bizarro has been a constant presence on the Superman speculation circuit for a while now -- there was even a hot minute where fans thought they spotted him in a trailer for BvS. We're likely to hear more of this if Man of Steel 2 is ever officially a go.


The Force Awakens -- and so does the rumor mill

We started at the beginning of this article with the rumors surrounding The Empire Strikes Back in the pre-Internet days. Flash forward to 2014/2015 as production was underway on the first new Star Wars live-action film in a decade, The Force Awakens, at a time when the web ruled over all. The intense secrecy surrounding the film led to a nonstop stream of gossip, speculation and rumor-mongering, most of which turned out to be what we now call "fake news." Perhaps the most outlandish idea was that Kylo Ren was actually Luke Skywalker, although the "Luke has turned to the Dark Side" whispers persist to this day. Other rumors: that Kylo was Luke's son (he's actually his nephew), that various ghosts (Palpatine, Obi-Wan) would show up in the film, that Finn was Lando Calrissian's son (uh, no), and finally, that Rey was Luke's daughter or Obi-Wan's granddaughter. The jury may still be out on that last one...


Life was actually a Venom prequel

Earlier this year saw the release of Life, a sci-fi thriller from Sony Pictures about a parasitic alien life form that invades the International Space Station and eventually poses a threat to Earth below. Somehow, a rumor started on Reddit (where all kinds of crazy tales are often hatched) that the movie was a secret prequel to Venom, the Spider-Man-related film that also centers around a parasitic alien life form that comes to Earth and turns into a super-villain. The rumor was fueled by the fact that Life screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick had in fact written an unproduced Venom script a few years back, along with Sony's stated intentions to build out a Spider-verse using that character and others. But Reese and Wernick dismissed the rumors out of hand, as did Life director Daniel Espinosa, and that was that; there is a Venom movie now in production, while Life has already been forgotten -- but the rumors may live on.