During the movie Rush Hour 2, there is an infamous scene where the now-defunct Desert Inn in Las Vegas in blown up, in the movie it is a casino. The movie showcased policemen and the secret service against criminals who were trying to counterfeit millions of dollars. So the end scene it was only fitting to show millions of the fake bills flying through the air as the casino exploded.
The sequence was a great success and the movie was well received by the public, but something odd did happen during the filming. The fake bills that had been supplied by a prop company did not get returned correctly, in fact, movie extras and passersby had picked up many of them and were attempting to use them to buy things in various stores. As you can imagine the real authorities, were not too happy about this at all. In fact, the real secret services who deal with all counterfeiting attempts of American currency turned up and detained millions of dollars of prop money.
The whole bizarre event even ended in the climax of the prop maker, Independent Studio Services being charged with counterfeiting and all their faux cash was seized. The company still has nightmares about this day, the secret services knocking on the owner’s door. When you take into account that $10,000 stack of fake currency cost $8 to create and the secret services seized over $200 million, you can put the loss into perspective.
And it is a dilemma faced by many prop supplies in Hollywood, you have to create something real that will keep directors happy but at the same time, you can’t fall on the wrong side of counterfeiting laws. Over the years many techniques have been used by Hollywood to skirt around this, for example, when the Mexican Revolution in 1920 made Mexican currency useless Hollywood bought up vast quantities of it to use in filmmaking.