How Prop Money From a Hollywood Blockbuster Ended Up Confiscated by Secret Service

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In late 2000, the producers and crew for action flick Rush Hour 2 gathered at the now-defunct Desert Inn in Las Vegas and prepared to blow up a casino. The scene, which pitted policemen and Secret Service agents against a counterfeiter attempting to launder $100 million in superdollars, was to culminate with hundreds of thousands of fake bills floating through the air.

After several days of filming, the sequence was a success. Then, something incredibly odd happened. The bills, which had been supplied by a major Hollywood prop house, were picked up by movie extras and passersby and were attempted to be passed off as legal tender in various stores along the strip. The authorities weren’t too thrilled. Secret Service agents glided in, swiftly detained somewhere north of $100 million worth of prop money, then accused the prop maker — Independent Studio Services (ISS) — of counterfeiting, and ordered a cease and desist on all of their faux cash.

For ISS (the company who produced the money), the premise of Rush Hour 2 had become a reality — and they were penned as the bad guy. Sadly, their story is indicative of a constant dilemma faced by prop suppliers in Hollywood: the necessity to skirt the line between strict counterfeiting laws and producers’ demands for incredibly realistic money.

Zachary Crockett, writing for Priceonomics about the real business of fake Hollywood money.

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