We’ve all seen at least one movie with an amazing action scene involving explosives and burning money. While it is illegal to destroy real American dollars, filmmakers can shoot these amazing moments by utilizing counterfeit money that looks real, called prop money. But there is one film that has had a significant impact on how filmmakers utilize counterfeit money that appears real in their films: Rush Hour 2.
The film had one of those epic scenes where money is detonated with a bomb. They were filming in Las Vegas, and one of the sets was a casino. The casino burst, scattering almost $1 billion in film money across the air and into the hands of onlookers.
So, while filming the casino explosion went off without a hitch, there was one unintended consequence. Bystanders who came discovered the false $100 bills attempted to make payments at local establishments using the prop money. When the authorities found out, they were furious.
The Secret Service, which is in charge of dealing with counterfeit cases, had confiscated more than $100 million in movie prop money. Unfortunately, the company that provided the cash for the movie props, Independent Studio Services (ISS), faced the consequences.
Because the money prop designs appeared too real, the Secret Service ordered ISS to discontinue production of the prop currency. Furthermore, any film production studio that bought prop money from ISS got a recall notice and could not use the props.
Prop money has changed a lot over time. As a matter of fact, prop houses made around 270 different kinds of movie money between 1970 and 2000. However, the ISS-created money was far too similar to the size of real money. Federal legislation requires that counterfeit money be at least 75% smaller or 150 percent larger than actual bills to ensure that people can detect the difference.
While there have been countless reports of counterfeiting issues over the years, the use of Rush Hour 2 prop money was a pivotal moment in the history of counterfeiting. Filmmakers still struggle to have realistic money without getting into problems, but prop houses now have some fairly realistic — but not too realistic — money that can be used in today’s movies and television shows.