Stephen King’s only directorial effort, Maximum Overdrive is mostly remembered as being a cheesy horror movie, but a horrible injury happened on set. On-set injuries are a sad reality of working in Hollywood, despite all the money that studios generally direct toward safety. To be fair, injuries can and do occur in any line of work, although they don’t tend to get as much attention. For better or worse, the goings on in show business fascinate the masses, and instantly draw more interest.
Maximum Overdrive‘s production is pretty infamous, as is the film itself, if only because King directing a horror movie excited many, and the final product proved to be an enormous letdown. It’s fun in a so bad it’s good way, but pales in comparison to King’s genuinely terrifying novels. For his part, King has admitted that part of the reason things turned out so bad was him being high on cocaine for basically the entire shoot, which didn’t help him already being a first time director.
One aspect that’s not discussed nearly as often though is the sad fate that befell cinematographer Armando Nannuzzi, an esteemed Italian movie maestro. While he wasn’t killed, his career and life were forever altered.
Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive: The Horrible Injury On Set
Armando Nannuzzi was recruited for the Maximum Overdrive gig by producer Dino de Laurentiis, who figured that having an experienced cinematographer would be an asset for a novice like Stephen King. Unfortunately, Nannuzzi didn’t speak much English, leading to an annoying communication barrier between the two men. Nannuzzi had been working since the 1950s, and previously photographed the King adaptation Silver Bullet. The fateful accident came during the filming of a scene in which a sentient lawnmower threateningly moves down a driveway at a character.
It’s a very brief bit, but according to court documents, King insisted that the blades be left in the machine and be spinning fast as the lawnmower moved to make the scene scarier. The lawnmower at one point took off faster than expected, and its blades chopped through pieces of wood that were being used to angle the camera. This sent splinters flying right into Nannuzzi’s eye. Reports vary as to whether Nannuzzi actually lost the eye or just saw its use severely impaired, but the accident caused him permanent injury.
While Nannuzzi would continue working for about another decade, it was on a much more sporadic schedule, because as one might imagine, impaired vision isn’t conducive to directing photography on a movie. Understandably, he sued King and other producers behind Maximum Overdrive for the hefty sum of $18 million. He didn’t get that much though, as the case was settled out of court in 1992 for only $975,000.