Being an actor has always been seen as a dream job that only a select few are able to obtain. It comes with all sorts of perks like various award shows, designer clothing, endless fame, and loads of cash. However, sometimes there’s a dark side behind all the glitz and glamour and this darkness occurs behind the scenes between the camera, the director and the actors. A build up of pressure, tight deadlines, and an overly demanding director can create the perfect storm, turning a dream role into a nightmare. Here are 11 of the most shocking things directors have made actors do for a role.
11. Swim in Shark Infested Waters
The 2003 film Open Waters told the true story of an American couple who were left behind on a poorly managed scuba diving trip and found themselves stranded in shark-infested waters off the Great Barrier Reef. The low budget film was shot on weekends over a period of two years and with a budget of $130,000, they could not afford realistic-looking rubber sharks. As a result and in order to fulfill the vision of director Chris Kentis, actors Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis were forced to swim in real shark-infested waters. They spent over 120 hours in the water, while shark wranglers baited the surrounding seas with tuna. Don’t worry – they were given chain mail to wear under their diving suits in case things got too toothy.
10. Suffer a Permanent Physical Injury
Due to the high demands and perfectionism of director William Friedkin, the filming of The Exorcist was plagued with a number of unfortunate incidents. Actress Ellen Burstyn, who played Chris in the film, recalled one horrific experience in the BBC documentary The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist. For a particular scene, Friedkin instructed a stuntman to violently yank Burstyn around the set on a wire. Burstyn recalled, “I said to William, he’s pulling me too hard, I can get hurt. William said to him, ‘OK don’t pull so hard.'” However, Friedkin went behind her back and told the stuntman to “give it to her.” Burstyn was pulled so hard that she flew across the room and landed on her coccyx resulting in permanent spinal injury. Friedkin didn’t cut when Burstyn screamed in pain and instead chose to let the camera linger in order to get a quick shot before calling the ambulance.
9. Tortured with Live Birds
Alfred Hitchcock was a brilliant filmmaker and is considered one of the greatest directors of all time. Nicknamed the ‘Master of Suspense’, Hitchcock’s onset directing style can be summed up by one of his most famous quotes, “All actors should be treated like cattle.” Tippi Hedren who starred in his film The Birds, was tortured on screen for that role. In order to get a realistic effect, Hitchcock threw live birds at the actress for five days of filming. The birds scratch, pecked, and defecated all over her. Still unsatisfied with the resulting terror, he ordered that the birds be physically tied to her. One of them barely missed clawing Hedren’s eye out.
8. Have Boiling Water Poured On You
In 2009, Channing Tatum was in Scotland filming a scene for The Eagle, which required his character to wade through icy, cold water. To warm up between takes, a crew member was instructed to mix the river water with boiling water, and pour it into Tatum’s wetsuit. After filming wrapped for the day, Tatum received one last bucket of warm water; however, the crew member forgot to dilute the boiling water with river water, resulting in the actor’s privates to be severely scalded. On top of that, the wetsuit kept the boiling water against his skin, partially burning it off. Tatum was rushed to the nearest hospital where he was bandaged up and administered morphine. Now, the director didn’t force Tatum to be badly burned, but he did require him to wade in icy waters, thus creating the circumstances surrounding Tatum’s onset injury.
7. Get Handcuffed to A Co-star For Hours
Alfred Hitchcock had a reputation for mistreating his actors and forcing them to do shocking things for their roles and it started long before The Birds. In 1935, Hitchcock directed the film The 39 Steps and at one point he handcuffed the lead actress to her male co-star for hours until she developed bruises on her wrists. On top of that, in one scene – he needed a shocked reaction from his leading lady, so in order to get it – he began unbuttoning his pants as if he was going to whip out his genitalia.
6. Try to Survive a Real Flood
Director Michael Curtiz was well known for being extremely efficient and productive, often completing films under budget and ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, sometimes Curtiz would cut crucial corners in order to keep the film on schedule and under budget. Determined to finish the 1928 film Noah’s Ark on time, Curtiz opted to flood the specially designed sets with 15,000 tons of water instead of creating the scene with miniatures and overlays as suggested by cinematographer Hal Mohr. When asked what would happen to all the extras, Curtiz replied, “Oh, they’re going to have to take their chances.” As a result, three extras drowned, dozens were injured suffering broken limbs and other serious injuries, the leading actress caught pneumonia, one actor broke two of his ribs and another actor lost all of his toenails. Curtiz later went on to win the Oscar for Best Director for his film Casablanca.
5. Film in a Real War Zone
Martin Sheen‘s most famous role came in the Francis Ford Coppola Vietnam war epic, Apocalypse Now in which he played the character Captain Benjamin Willard. This role kicked off his career but also almost took his life thanks to Coppola’s madness. Coppola chose to shoot the film in the Philippines due to the support the local government offered. The country was in a state of civil war, so he had to share time and adjust filming to accommodate the Philippine’s military needs. The shooting schedule was extremely demanding and Coppola was determined to capture as much footage as possible. Since they were in the middle of a war zone, the cast and crew could hear real gunshots and explosions in the distance. Martin Sheen didn’t take the whole war zone thing so well and ended up suffering a heart attack in the middle of the jungle.
4. Act Out The Same Scene 127 Times
The Shining is considered one of the greatest horror films of all time, and it appears that for actress Shelley Duvall who played Wendy, it was one of the most horrific experiences of all time as well. Director Stanley Kubrik was well known for his insane perfectionism and it was this trait that stretched filming of The Shining out from seventeen weeks to a full year. The scene where a frightened Duvall swings a bat at Jack Nicholson broke the record for most retakes of a single movie scene with spoken dialogue. Kubrik demanded 127 takes of that scene. In order to get an authentic reaction from Duvall, Kubrik intentionally created a hostile atmosphere where he would isolate her from the rest of the cast and endlessly scream and yell at her. By the end of shooting, she became so stressed that her hair began to fall out.
3. Wash The Director’s Car In A Bikini
The role of Mikaela Banes in the 2007 film Transformers was Megan Fox‘s breakout role; however, the experience wasn’t at all enjoyable for Fox thanks to director Michael Bay. Their onset squabbles were well-publicized and Fox made it clear how she felt about Bay when she compared him to Hitler in a 2009 interview with Wonderland magazine. Apparently, the audition process wasn’t too pleasant either. To “audition” for the role, Megan Fox had to wash director Michael Bay’s Ferrari in a bikini, while he filmed the entire thing. For a role that didn’t require her to wear a bikini or wash a car, that audition seems like it was more for Bay and not the film.
2. Have Your Hair Plucked Out
Director Roman Polanski is well known for being extremely tough and demanding of his actors. During filming of the 11-time Academy Award nominated movie Chinatown, Polanski would scream at actress Faye Dunaway, “say the f-cking words” and even plucked hairs out of her head if they were astray. He was also famously known for not allowing his actors to take bathroom breaks during filming of scenes
1. Wear Copper-Based Makeup Around Fire
The 1939 film The Wizard of Oz is an icon of American pop culture and looks as though it was a joy to film – but filming wasn’t as fun as it looked. The Technicolor process was expensive and time-consuming, so to cut costs, the producers and director required 16-hour days, six days a week. The sound stages were brightly lit and quickly reached more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit creating an unbearable work environment. In an early scene, filmmakers made fire erupt from the ground in order to conceal the Wicked Witches’ exit as she was lowered by an elevator. However, something didn’t go right and she caught on fire, which was made worse by the copper-based green makeup she wore. The makeup had to be removed before the second-degree burns on her hands and face could be treated. After spending six weeks in the hospital, she returned to filming but demanded a stunt double for the next scene involving fire. The stunt double was also badly burned.
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