The film they were making was fiction, but many of the crew members grew worried that the rumored curse surrounding the filming was not. Some were skeptical of the whole thing, but at least one other was so convinced he began wearing a cross around his neck whenever he was working on set.
The film was Richard Donner’s The Omen (1976), and that man was producer Harvey Bernard, a firm believer in the curse that supposedly claimed many lives during filming.
“I wasn’t about to take any chances, ” he told the Herald Scotland back in 2005. “The devil was at work and he didn’t want that film made. We were dealing in areas we didn’t know about and later on in the picture it got worse, worse and worse.”
The Omen‘s premise alone captured the attention of audiences and critics, and it still earns praise as one of the best horror films to date. The film concerns an American ambassador, played by Gregory Peck, plagued by a series of gruesome deaths tied to his adopted child — who may or may not be the Antichrist.
Bob Munger, who came up with the idea for the film, claimed he had misgivings about the film all along.
“I warned Harvey at the time. I said, ‘If you make this movie you’re going to have some problems. If the devil’s greatest single weapon is to be invisible and you’re going to do something which is going to take away his invisibility to millions of people, he’s not going to want that to happen.'”
Though the film proved successful, the production was fraught with troubles from day one — and even some time before. In June 1975, a few months before shooting was set to begin, star Gregory Peck’s son committed suicide via a bullet through his head. The event eerily mirrored the events of the film, wherein Peck’s character is (spoilers!) forced to kill his own son.
Despite the tragedy, the mourning actor caught a plane to London to begin filming. His plane was hit by lightning. Before long, producer Mace Neufeld left Los Angeles for London. His plane, too, was hit by lightning. Both his and Peck’s planes suffered no casualties, luckily.
Lightning struck twice in this story, just as the IRA bombed twice. The hotel where Neufeld and his wife took up residence was bombed by the terrorist group. So too was a London restaurant, just hours before Peck, along with a gang of other actors and executives, arrived for their dinner reservation.
The film narrowly avoided disaster that time, but it hardly compared to the next uncanny accident. The production had booked a plane for hire to use for aerial filming, but that plane switched clients at the last minute. It crashed almost immediately on take-off, killing everyone aboard. One crew member, a tiger handler, died in a freak accident.
Even once filming was finished, the supposed curse wasn’t put to rest, but instead followed production members to their next projects. First, there was stuntman Alf Joint, who was doing a standard day’s work for his profession on the film A Bridge Too Far — simply to jump off a roof and onto an airbag below. But he didn’t jump when, or how, he was supposed to, but fell suddenly and awkwardly. Upon waking in the hospital, badly injured, he told others he felt as if he’d been pushed.
The curse of The Omen is certainly subject to some doubt — after all, tragic coincidences don’t necessarily prove anything, especially since Hollywood is riddled with legends of cursed films. The Omen remains the most notable of all still, even inspiring a TV documentary, the aptly titled The Curse of the Omen.
But wait — there’s one last piece of the legend we neglected to mention, and it’s likely the most chilling tale of all. It happened on Friday the 13th of August in 1976, not yet two months since The Omen was released in theaters. Designer John Richardson — who, of course, worked on the film — was driving with his assistant Liz Moore through Holland, where he was working on A Bridge Too Far, when the car collided with another in a horrific head-on accident.
Moore died almost instantly from a wheel that cut through the chassis and decapitated her. Richardson was lucky, and merely knocked unconscious. When he came to a few minutes later, he looked up and saw a road-sign pointing the way to a nearby Dutch township. The sign read, Ommen, 66.6 km.