Movie props help the film world go round. There are so many incredibly famous props from movie history, but not all of them are fake. There are some fantastic set and item designers out there who craft objects that seem real but are not the real deal. Some productions prefer to utilize the original, realistic item as a prop instead.
That can add a sense of realism to any scene if all the objects in use are genuinely authentic. On the other hand, though, there’s an essence of creativity that could be taken away from a sequence, if a scene isn’t enhanced by very specific designs. Regardless of where audiences stand on the use of real props, these are usually assumed to be fake.
Perhaps the most common prop in the world is the gun. Most action movies feature them in some capacity, although outside of the genre, it’s fairly normal to see a firearm become the hero’s weapon of choice. They have come in so many varieties, from laser blasters to throwback western pistols.
Surprisingly often, the guns used on set are genuinely real. They are loaded with blanks, or perhaps not loaded at all, but directors usually feel having the real deal adds some gravity to a scene. It’s incredibly dangerous to go down this path, but there’s a weight and feel to a gun that actors don’t have to pretend.
There are so many brilliant films about food and even more sequences in general cinema which sees a meal as the central focus of a scene. It’s normal to see huge platters of edible goodness be recreated out of Styrofoam and clever prop-making techniques.
But, there are plenty of examples where the food in a scene is genuinely real. What’s difficult about that is that the food can go off quickly under the bright lights of a studio setting. What’s more, if an actor is eating, they might have to be consuming the same meal again and again, as shots are retaken.
8 Wizarding Set Dressing
The Harry Potter series is a brilliant example of practical prop-making done right. Each release has plenty of props that made the movie stand out, from the Sorcerer’s Stone to the door to the Chamber of Secrets. But when dressing the sets, most of the objects used are real.
The decorators will usually go around charity shops and antique stores to find all sorts of oddities that might double for magical objects. Whether it’s the Potions Classroom or the Room of Requirement, the items that fill out the spaces were probably used at some stage.
Lightsabers aren’t real. Nobody has, thus far, discovered a way to create such a controllable blade of light, which acts as a laser that can burn through anything. That being said, on set, there is a practicality to a Lightsaber that audiences wouldn’t have thought about.
In the past, the Lightsabers were created through thin pieces of colored tubes and then enhanced using CGI. Nowadays, there’s a genuine Lightsaber prop that’s used, that even brings with it a central glow that can light a scene more clearly. It’s no longer about computer wizardry and more about creating genuine Star Warsartifacts.
It’s difficult to keep track of how many movies contain huge bookshelves. Perhaps it’s a store selling all kinds of readable treats, or maybe a vast fantastical library which at some point has to be filled out with CGI so that it can reach the scale intended in the script.
When practical books are needed though, a set decorator usually curates a genuine list of items. These aren’t empty pages or fake props that the art department has made to look real. More often than not, these are all books that consumers can purchase. Even for Harry Potter, the books were written on the inside; in many book scenes, actors often explore the literature on offer in between sequences.
Cars are used again and again in the production of racing movies and other such high-speed films. Some viewers may assume that a lot of the stunts are achieved with fake cars though, or perhaps enhanced or recreated in some way using CGI.
That’s not entirely false, but viewers would certainly be shocked at the countless times genuine cars have been used as nothing more than props, smashed up and flipped sideways to gain a great scene. In recent years, there’s been a return to practical stunts in these kinds of productions, that continue to use genuine motor vehicles that will be nearing the end of their life on the road.
It surely can’t be safe to have genuine swords on a set. The practice needed to be able to wield such a weapon would perhaps take far longer than a production schedule has time for. Plus, everyone already knows about the painstaking effort that goes into crafting rubber and plastic safety swords.
It might be surprising to know that actors are sometimes given genuine swords that have been slightly blunted down, to bring a layer of reality to a moment. It gives the actor a sense of the weight and the danger of a sword, while also catching the light in all the right ways for the camera.
It’s impossible for an action-adventure movie to not include a skeleton. When there are tombs involved, pirates, ancient ships, or perhaps hidden pyramids, there are usually some bones hidden around the place to scare off the protagonist. What’s interesting is that they are often real.
Across cinema, genuine skeletons have been used countless times to dress sets. Where they are all sourced from is a bit of a mystery, but next time human bones pop up on the screen, chances are that they aren’t just a fictional recreation with some plastic.
2 Dead Animals
Unfortunately, that sense of realism that has been used for genuine skeletons can also extend to dead animals. While the specific example isn’t from a film, the scene where Tywin Lannister handles a dead deer in Game of Thrones utilized a genuine animal.
Usually, when cinema goes for an animal for a scene like this, they sustainably source them so that they had already died of natural causes. Regardless, it’s pretty unbelievable that a prop department wouldn’t just recreate an animal for a scene.
Flamethrowers are a real thing. They genuinely work. Some people might be shocked by that. What seems even more dangerous though is that across film history, flamethrowers have been allowed on set to bring the grit and fire to an action moment.
Sometimes they might be enhanced by computer effects, but whether it’s Ripley’s weapon in Alienor the guitar in Mad Max: Fury Road, genuine flames are safely brought on to set through the use of these incredible devices. Needless to say, they are likely not used for very long.
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