No matter what your career choice is, the hope is always that you are going to like your boss. If you don’t, watch out, because nobody can make your life miserable quite like your employer. In fact, one of the actors below described his experiences on set as literally being the most miserable working experience of his life.
When you are an actor, your boss is often the director or various producers that hover around the set. While sometimes you see actors and directors become BFFs and work together on a frequent basis, that is definitely not always the case. So instead of focusing on the times directors got along with their actors, you’ll learn about the opposite in this article. We’re talking about actors that have come out and said they’re more likely to punch a director in the face than ever work with them again. Also included is a famous Batman movie feud, a director being called Hitler and several examples of the director thinking the best way to motivate their actress was through emotional abuse.
There’s even a director/actor combo that worked together 5 times, but also tried to murder each other twice (literally). Even Heisenberg (…Bryan Cranston) makes an appearance on the list!
It doesn’t mean that these films didn’t sometimes still do well (though some bombed), but these are 15 of the most prominent times that there was a director/actor feud on-set.
16. David O. Russell and George Clooney – Three Kings
David O. Russell is definitely a talented director, having been nominated for 3 Academy Awards for best director. But even with all his talent, one thing that is also pretty hard to deny is that he’s a bit of a d*ck. One of the most prominent examples came during the shooting of the movie Three Kings with George Clooney.
Clooney was apparently getting fed up with how David was treating the rest of the staff, stating “you can’t shove, push or humiliate people,” and the situation apparently escalated to a fight.
When asked about the incident 5 years later, Clooney stated that he’d happily “sock Russell in the ******* mouth” if their paths happened to cross again. Let’s just hope Clooney still doesn’t have access to his old batsuit or Russell could be in trouble!
15. Stanley Kubrick and Shelley Duvall – The Shining
Shelley’s most iconic performance may come from The Shining, but unfortunately for her, she definitely did not enjoy the experience. Duvall has opened up about how Kubrick was impossibly hard to work with, at times making her do scenes over 100 times. On top of this, there were reports that Kubrick purposely had the other cast members try and alienate Shelley in order to help her “get into character.” As you’ll read below, Kubrick is not the last director on the list to try out this method. Kubrick may have been a talented director, but that perfection clearly came at a cost.
14. Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren – The Birds
The Birds was a terrifying film, but it was even scarier for the lead actress Tippi Hedren. While it was originally the role of a lifetime, it quickly turned into a nightmare. The peak of the film comes when Tippi’s character is attacked by birds. You’d think those would be mechanical birds, right? Not for Hitchcock!
Tippi opened up about the experience in an interview.
“An assistant producer came in and couldn’t look at me. He told me they were going to use real birds, not mechanical ones. Those birds pecked – I’d seen what had happened to the trainers. They tied the birds to me with elastic bands. They hurled birds at me. One of the birds tied on my shoulder only just missed scraping its claw into my eye. I shouted, ‘Get these birds off me’ and I sat in the middle of the soundstage and cried. At the end I was so exhausted I was out cold…..I realised that Hitch had chosen an unknown actress because no famous actress in their right mind would have done this movie.”
Hitchcock did not say anything to Tippi about the scene after, despite it being, you know, an absolutely insane thing to put an actress through. Tippi stated “He was extremely complicated. I think he was a misogynist – absolutely, no doubt about it. But I wasn’t a wimpy girl. New York had made me tough. I wasn’t frightened.”
Things only got worse for Tippi. After she turned down Hitchcock’s sexual advances, he kept her under contract and did not cast her in any films during the peak time of her career. At least you can take solace in the fact that Tippi maintained a good attitude, saying “Hitch succeeded in ruining my career but he didn’t ruin me.”
13. Michael Bay and Megan Fox – Transformers
When the lead actress of your film compares you to one of the worst dictators of all time, it’s probably not the best thing! Back in 2009, when Megan Fox was starring in the Transformers series, she opened up about what it was like to work with Michael Bay.
“God, I really wish I could go loose on this one. He’s like Napoleon and he wants to create this insane, infamous mad-man reputation. He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is. So he’s a nightmare to work for but when you get him away from set, and he’s not in director mode, I kind of really enjoy his personality because he’s so awkward, so hopelessly awkward. He has no social skills at all. And it’s endearing to watch him. He’s vulnerable and fragile in real life and then on set he’s a tyrant. Shia [LaBeouf] and I almost die when we make a Transformers movie. He has you do some really insane things that insurance would never let you do.”
It’s clear that Michael Bay is able to make films that are at the very least financially successful, but nobody wants to work with someone who always makes them feel so on edge! Imagine being on his movie set but not having any star power and being on the receiving end of that bad mood.
12. Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski – Fizcarraldo
Klaus’ name may not jump out to you, but maybe it would have if he had accepted the role of Indiana Jones that was offered to him. Instead, he called it a “yawn-making, boring, pile of ****,” but Spielberg would be ecstatic he did not cast him after hearing the stories between director Herzog and Klaus. The two worked together on 5 films, leading Herzog to admit that “Klaus was one of the greatest actors of the century, but he was also a monster and a great pestilence.”
Their feuds came to a major head on two separate occasions, the second of which is detailed below. The first occurred during the filming of Fizcarraldo. The film was set in the Amazon, so you can imagine it was hot and tempers were high. So much so that Herzog admitted that he tried to murder Klaus (wait, what?). Herzog snuck up to his house and tried to burn it down, while Klaus was sleeping inside.
Thankfully, Klaus’ dog was there and helped attack Herzog when he got closer to the house. I’m not too sure how he thought he would have been able to film the rest of the movie without a star, but apparently he was an angry guy.
11. Katherine Heigl and Judd Apatow – Knocked Up
Katherine was given an outstanding opportunity to break away from her television show Grey’s Anatomy and into films when she was cast in the film Knocked Up. The movie was written and directed by Judd Apatow, but Heigl’s thoughts on it helped get her blacklisted from Hollywood “It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. … I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a bitch; why is she being such a killjoy?”
Heigl is allowed to her opinion, but slamming the film that you just appeared in was far from a smart PR move. While there were not many reports of the two feuding on set, you can imagine she was not overly thrilled for most of the project.
10. David Cross and Producer(s) – Alvin and Chipmunks, Chipwrecked
David Cross may be best known for his role on Arrested Development, but he’s also appeared in 3 of those god-awful Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. During the filming of the third film, Cross had some cross words to say about one of the producers on the film.
There was a scene where Cross’ character is on a cruise while dressed in a pelican suit and has no dialogue. Cross wanted them to use a body double, but they refused. In return, when he was on Conan O’Brien’s show, Cross stated, “In all honesty, it was the most miserable experience I’ve ever had in my professional life… I was forced, at legal point, to spend a week on a cruise ship… It was terrible. There was no reason for me to be there.”
When he was asked about the producer who insisted he be on the ship, Cross bluntly said, “She is the personification of what people think about when they think negatively about Jews.”
9. Kim Bassinger and Adrian Lyne – 9 1/2 Weeks
Kim Basinger owes a lot of her success in the industry to her role in the film 9 ½ Weeks. It was a steamy erotic drama that made it clear to the industry just how beautiful Basinger is. Too bad for her it was allegedly an awful experience working on set with director Adrian Lyne. It was reported that Lyne would force the cast and crew to isolate Basinger during filming, and spread malicious lies about Basinger. The idea behind this was that Lyne wanted to make sure they captured a realistic mental breakdown of her character on screen.
Lyne would also often refuse to acknowledge Basinger, and instead only communicate with her co-star Mickey Rourke, who had been instructed to ignore or goad Basinger.
When asked about the experiences, Lyne stated “Kim is a bit like a child. In order for her to be angry, I would rage at her and she would rage back at me. Mickey also had to do it. He frightened her. And that was done purposely.”
8. Lars Von Trier and Bjork – Dancer In The Dark
Did you know that Bjork can act? Me either, but that did not stop her from being cast in Lars Von Trier’s film, Dancer in the Dark. The film was a disaster from the get-go, including one incident in which Bjork disappeared for 4 days and then returned demanding more input on the film’s music. Working with Bjork was described by Lars as like working with a terrorist. Apparently she had also spit at Lars and declared in the past that she was done with acting.
When Bjork was asked about her experiences, she recalled “He needs a female to provide his work soul. And he envies them and hates them for it. So he has to destroy them during the filming. And hide the evidence.”
Probably never ideal to have your star describe you as destroying women during filming!
7. David Fincher and Jake Gyllenhaal – Zodiac
Both David and Jake are incredibly successful at their respective crafts, so why wouldn’t the two want to work together? Perhaps, because Jake did not exactly have the best time appearing in Fincher’s film Zodiac back in 2007.
Fincher has been very open in the past about how he hates earnestness in performance, saying “Usually by Take 17 the earnestness is gone.” In order to get his best performances, Fincher would often state things like “delete the last 10 takes” and do so deliberately to try and make Gyllenhaal (and his character) act discouraged and disappointed. Jake described Fincher as someone who “paints with people…it’s tough to be a color.”
It was reported that for Fincher’s acclaimed film Gone Girl, he averaged 50 takes per scene to shoot. Talk about an exhausting day at work!
6. Bryan Cranston and Tony Kaye – Detachment
How on earth do you have the courage to clash with Heisenberg?! Bryan Cranston is one of the most talented actors out there, but not even he could stand the direction of Tony Kaye who he worked with on the project Detachment.
When Cranston was asked about his performance in the role (which the reporter enjoyed), he bluntly stated, “I haven’t seen it, I’m surprised to hear that actually…Because I felt that Carl Lund, the writer of ‘Detachment,’ wrote a really beautiful, haunting script. And I didn’t feel that it was honoured…I was upset with that. I really was. And so I didn’t see the movie, Tony Kaye is a very complicated…interesting fellow…I don’t believe that I’ll be working with him again. I didn’t get along with him on a personal level. But I just honor the writing.”
So in other words, Cranston’s favourite thing about the movie was the script, which is why he signed on, and then quickly realized he was making a big mistake. Cranston wrapped up the interview stating that he hopes the film turns out well, but noted “I’m not the only actor on that film to feel that way.”
As you’re going to find out, this is not the last prominent actor that Tony Kaye has been scorned by during his time in Hollywood.
5. Val Kilmer and Joel Schumacher – Batman Forever
There are a few different stories out there that talk about how Val Kilmer is a difficult person to work with. You can add director Joel Schumacher to the list of people that are not a fan of Kilmer. The two got into a serious argument while on set for Batman Forever after Schumacher got fed up with how awful Kilmer was treating those on set who were “beneath him.”
Kilmer then refused to interact with Schumacher for two weeks, but when you hear Joel’s thoughts on Kilmer, you’ll understand he wasn’t too heartbroken. “I’m tired of defending overpaid, overprivileged actors. I pray I don’t work with [Kilmer] again.”
Schumaker also had issues with Tommy Lee Jones, who was also co-starring in this “film” (and I use that term lightly).
4. Christian Bale and Shane Hurlbut (Director of Photography) – Terminator
Christian Bale has taken on several demanding roles and often puts his body through a great deal of torment to get ready for a role. You can imagine he’s a little tightly wound, which means he was bound to explode, and explode he did back in 2009.
A clip went viral of him ripping into the Director of Photography. Bale yelled at him, “stay off the ******* set, LET’S GO AGAIN AND NOT HAVE YOU WALKING IN…I’ve never had a DP behave like this…I’m going to kick your ******* ass. Do you want me to trash your lights?”
The situation kept escalating until Bale said he would not walk on set again if this employee continued to make mistakes and was not fired.
As you can imagine, this clip going viral went incredibly poorly for Bale. He immediately made several public apologies for his angry tirade, and stated that he and the DP had made up and that “I was out of order beyond belief. I make no excuses for it….I acted like a punk.”
3. Kevin Smith and Bruce Willis – Cop Out
Kevin Smith is known for having several actors that he casts in a lot of his films, but you can imagine Bruce Willis is not among his usual bunch. The two worked together on Cop Out, but after the filming wrapped, Smith had absolutely nothing positive to say about their experiences together when writing about Willis in his book Tough Sh*T.
“He turned out to be the unhappiest, most bitter, and meanest emo-b**ch I’ve ever met at any job I’ve held down. And mind you, I’ve worked at Domino’s Pizza…Willis fostered an unpleasant and unproductive working environment whenever he was on set.”
To make this even more evident, during the final wrap party (which Willis did not attend), Smith ended things by saying “I want to thank everyone who worked on the film, except for Bruce Willis, who is a f*cking dick.”
2. Herzog and Klaus – Aguirre, Wrath of God
Above we talked about the time Herzog tried to burn his lead actor alive, but what about the time a gun was involved?
The incident occurred during filming of Aguirre, Wrath of God. One day, Klaus had apparently had enough of acting for the day and wanted to leave. Logically, Herzog pulled out a gun and said “You leave this jungle now and you’ll find eight bullets in you and the ninth one will be for me.”
Call me crazy, but that seems like a bit of an overreaction to somebody wanting to take some time off. How on earth these two continued to work together is beyond me. Herzog admitted that most of the fellow cast also took issue with Klaus and recalled them stating “’How could you do this do us? We can’t take this man a minute longer.” He added “I remember scenes where Klaus was attacked, and how the other actors used to take such pleasure in punching and kicking him. He was often quite badly hurt.”
1. Tony Kaye and Edward Norton – American History X
American History X is a fantastic film, but as you know by now, that doesn’t mean it was a great experience for those involved. Kaye spent 43 days shooting footage, amassing close to nearly 200 hours of footage. He then made a rough copy that pleased the studios and the star, Edward Norton. Unfortunately, as Kaye stated, just because “It’s good enough to fool New Line (the studio). And it’s certainly fooling Edward Norton. But it doesn’t fool me. My standards are a lot higher.”
Kaye was given 8 weeks to work on the project alone, but when it came time to meet up with him, Kaye brought a monk, a priest and a rabbi to the meeting (and no film) so the original studio cut was released. Kaye went to such lengths as trying to get his name removed from the film and replaced by his dog, but he was unsuccessful. To put it bluntly, Norton said, “Let’s not make any mistake: Tony Kaye is a victim of nothing but his own professional and spiritual immaturity. Period.”
No wonder Heisenberg feuded with him!
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