Mario Tursi
May 14, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

”William Shakespeare’s a Midsummer Night’s Dream” features one of those rare Shakespearean happy endings, but shooting the film version with stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart, and Kevin Kline was far from a fairy tale. ”People were starting to lose it by the last week,” says director Michael Hoffman.

Casting glitches popped up almost immediately. Kline balked at taking the role of the oafish Nick Bottom, preferring to play the regal Oberon, King of the Fairies. ”He just wouldn’t bend,” recalls Hoffman. Then Flockhart, who had once dismissed ”Dream” as ”this insipid, ridiculous, frivolous comedy,” had to push the limits of her endurance just to jam the project into her ”Ally McBeal” hiatus. ”I was sitting on the plane wondering, ‘Just how am I going to start a new part tomorrow and shake off ‘Ally?”’ says the 34-year-old actress.

Though Kline eventually did bend, leaving the role of Oberon to Rupert Everett, and Flockhart shook off both jet lag and Ally, more trouble cropped up once shooting began. Not only did filming night scenes for five weeks straight almost unhinge cast and crew, the lush greenery on the set became poisonous. ”It was this huge airplane hangar full of decaying vegetation and bugs and rot, and by the end, I think greenhouse gasses developed,” says Hoffman.

But the greatest misery was left to Flockhart and costar Anna Friel. The two were set to engage in an elaborate mud fight, but no one had checked to see if the grittiness of the mud was costume-friendly. ”It got inside their corsets, so every time they moved, it was like sandpaper taking their skin off,” says Hoffman. Worst of all, the women had to repeat the scene, which meant a four-hour process of cleaning up before getting tossed into the skin-searing mud pool for a second time. ”They had to be dragged to the mud pit, it was so miserable,” says Hoffman. ”The last 45 minutes of those four hours was spent just coaxing them into it.” An actress turning down a mud bath? Sacrilege!

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