Movie heroes played by real life villains. It’s not that the idea is surprising or even unexpected. They do call it acting for a reason. And movie heroes, whether they are the superhero champions of cartoons or meant to be grittier and more realistic, are the epitome of Hollywood fantasy – the dude who can fist fight his way out of a gang of bad guys. The exotic mutant team who saves the world. We’re not expecting realism here.
It’s just that we can’t help but be surprised by how many of those cinematic heroic types end up having feet of clay – and worse. These are often people who have built entire careers on portraying just the right combination of badassery and charisma that makes for the perfect movie hero. Or, they may have built a significant chunk of their reputation on iconic hero roles. It’s part of their public persona.
We get it, in part. There are only so many press junkets you can go on before you start to lose it. And, the expectation of being everyone’s heroic type even off screen is sure to make anyone snap before too long. But, it’s always important to remember where that rich and famous lifestyle came from those annoying fans and the intrusive pics of you they see in the media.
Some of the people on our list were villains to co-stars, their fans, some to the paparazzi, and in some cases, they were villains in the eyes of the law too. We’re all just human after all. Sigh.
15 Robert Downey Jr.
Tony Stark, as a character, is a jerk kinda/mosta the time, so maybe it’s not so surprising that actor Robert Downey, Jr. has been known to display similar behavior from time to time. During the media tour for Age of Ultron, Downey walked out on an interview for Britain’s Channel 4. He later doubled down by calling the journalist a “bottom-feeding muckracker.” In a 2015 interview, Downey trashed indie films in general, and even indie filmmakers, saying “Actually, most of you are kind of inexperienced and lame.” Now, we'll allow that this was sparked by comments made by Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu who dissed superhero flicks in an interview of his own, calling them “cultural genocide.” But we'll also note that Downey himself spent a good number of years doing indie flicks to pay the bills. As for Inarritu, Downey said, “Look, I respect the heck out of him, and I think for a man whose native tongue is Spanish to be able to put together a phrase like ‘cultural genocide’ just speaks to how bright he is.” Seems like somebody touched a sore spot. Back when his claim to fame was guest starring on Ally McBeal, during a talk with students at Cambridge University, Downey called feminism “make believe” and talked about the size of his anatomy. A charmer!
14 Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise plays a hero-type in almost all his movies, from the Mission Impossible franchise to Jack Reacher, and more. He started out his career as a romantic hero in movies like Top Gun. Then he had that messed up meltdown on live TV while he was on a promo tour for War of the Worlds. Interviewed by Matt Lauer, he decided to criticize Brooke Shields for taking medication for post-partum depression. Because Scientology, which knows better than Brooke and her doctor apparently. Speaking of which, former Scientology devotee, now vocal critic Leah Remini said in an interview that Tom was far from the smiling celebrity he likes to be seen as. She went so far as to call him “diabolical.” Ego seems to get in the way at times. Rumor has it that he's the reason for the disappointing Mummy reboot, flexing his star power to subdue what should have been a creepy and chilling movie into yet another Tom Cruise jerk-hero vehicle.
13 Val Kilmer
Val Kilmer has played a variety of roles in his career, including the Caped Crusader in Batman Forever, directed by Joel Schumacher. Schumacher described Kilmer as “the most psychologically disturbed human being [he’s] ever worked with.” The director went on the record to say that he had to take Kilmer aside to tell him to chill out because of his ultra-rude treatment of the crew. He's been so obnoxious to production assistants and others on set that he's made them cry. On the set of Heat, there were rumors that Al Pacino went off on Kilmer because of his treatment of the crew. He’s also been publicly criticized by noted directors Richard Stanley, John Frankenheimer and Keven Jarre. Kilmer’s rep is so bad the he’s apparently earned the nickname “Psycho Kilmer” in the movie industry. While he’s still working, his star is noticeably dimmer in Tinsel Town these days. It doesn’t pay to alienate everyone you work with.
12 Gwyneth Paltrow
Look, we love Pepper Potts, and we get that she’s acting as the business brains to the Stark empire, and therefore also to the Avengers. But Gwyneth Paltrow the actress has developed a reputation that’s slightly less than stellar. Calling your divorce a “conscious uncoupling” is bad enough, as is doling out questionable pseudo-medical advice on your lifestyle website. But ghosting your co-stars? Rumor had it that she refused to speak to Scarlett Johansson on the set during the entire filming of Iron Man 2. She’s also left a string of stories about outrageous behavior and demands in her wake, including demanding that staff completely dry out the shower at the gym before she got in, and refusing to use a roll of toilet paper that has been touched by anybody else.
11 Edward Norton
Edward Norton’s star was already on the downswing when he got his chance at a Marvel superhero. Norton made his name in the late 1990s with movies like American History X and Fight Club. But, there were already stories about fighting with directors, and from there, it was Death to Smoochy, and a string of less prominent movies until he got the starring role in The Incredible Hulk in 2008. It was a big break for a career on the wane, with the MCU just starting to open up into the phenom it is today. But, by dint of controlling and obnoxious behavior on set, he was replaced, and the rest is history. Seems Norton's thing is rewriting the scripts to his movies, which began with Frida in 2002. On the Incredible Hulk set, he rewrote his lines everyday, and even added scenes to the script. They were filmed, but then later, everything he’d added was cut out of the final version. He wasn’t happy, saying, “I'm incapable of engaging as an actor on something without engaging as a dramatist. And when you work with great people, they not only accept it, they welcome it. But when you work with insecure people, it's a problem.” Pompous much? Marvel bigwig Kevin Feige claimed he had no team spirit.
10 Tobey Maguire
Some people still say Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man ranks as the best. It’s arguable, but his bad reputation isn’t. A prominent Hollywood casting agent called him, “the worst little monster you’ve ever met.” That’s pretty unequivocal. He’s one of those stars that won’t let anyone else look at him in the eye on set. In 2011, he was linked to an illegal poker club – the same one where he supposedly played high stakes games with the likes of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon – and had to settle a lawsuit in 2012 to avoid related charges. Molly Bloom, the lady who ran many of those games, wrote a book detailing her adventures called Molly's Game, describing Maguire as a bad tipper, among other things. As the high roller who won a lot of the time, he'd demand to be catered to, including using his own high-tech card shuffling machine when he played – and then charging Molly a $200 rental fee. He'd play power games with her, like making her bark like a seal for a $1K chip. He nearly caused a scene about it in front of the well heeled players, and then got angry when she continued to refuse. Hmmm...wonder if he's as arrogant now?
9 Christian Bale
The star of Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy has had more than his fair share of bad press. It was on the set of Terminator Salvation, playing the iconic role of John Conner, that he had an infamous meltdown that was captured for posterity and posted on Youtube. In it, the director of photography and some underling move onto the set, and Bale completely loses it on them. He curses out the director of photography and even tries to get him fired. Bale did apparently apologize...after the video went public. As a proponent of Method acting – a technique designed to create realistic portrayals – he’s known to be intense on set. In fact, Bale seems to have said it best himself in an interview, “If everyone really knew what a jerk I am in real life, I wouldn’t be so adored in the slightest.”
8 Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis has made a career out of playing a kind of working class hero in the Die Hard franchise and other movies. Even in the early stages of his career, though, there were stories about his difficult behavior and many, many tales of feuding with this co-stars. There were rumors of nasty scenes on the set of Moonlighting, the TV show that launched his movie career in the 1990s. Antoine Fuqua, who directed him on Tears of the Sun, described in as a “pain in the ass.” Kevin Smith, who directed him in Cop Out with Tracy Morgan, said working with Willis was “soul crushing.” His feud with Sylvester Stallone led to his being dropped from the Expendables flicks. Does he really have so much money that he can alienate all of Hollywood?
7 Jennifer Lawrence
Remember when everybody loved JLaw? Back in 2014, influential international magazines were running giddy headlines like, “4 Reasons Why Jennifer Lawrence Is Exactly like Katniss Everdeen,” it seemed like she was everybody's golden girl. What happened? Well, success, money, and lots of media attention, to put it simply. Since then, Ms Lawrence has gotten a rep for pretty consistently being openly hostile to paparazzi and outright rude even to her fans. She's tried to justify it all, but how can anyone expect to attain that level of fame without some paying some dues when it comes to media and fan contact? A reporter tried to touch her dog at the airport in June 2017, and she responded by snatching up the doggo and hissing “Don't touch my dog, you f$$ng loser!” Jennifer also revealed in an interview that she had desecrated a sacred rock formation in Hawaii by scratching her butt on it. It’s not something Katniss would do.
6 Steven Seagal
Steven Seagal is another actor who’s made a career out of playing tough hero types, his acting chops (or lack of them,) bolstered by a 7th-dan black belt in Aikido, a Japanese martial art. He actually began his career teaching Aikido in Japan, and apparently, he’s not afraid to throw his weight around on movie sets either. Actor John Leguizamo told a Canadian radio host that Seagal tossed him against a brick wall, winding the much smaller actor, just to prove his alpha status. Actor David Spade went on the record calling him “tough to work with,” and Seagal notoriously didn’t want to go along with the gags during a stint co-hosting SNL in 1991. He also left wife Kelly LeBrock for the babysitter. Most recently, he's penned an action novel about a character very much like him (and who looks exactly like him on the cover,) who fights against the evil deep state with a forward by scummy former sheriff/jail keeper/convict Joe Arpaio. A class act all the way.
5 Kiefer Sutherland
Kiefer Sutherland ruled the small screen as counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer in the hit TV series 24 from 2001 till 2010. He also developed a reputation as a legendary drinker whose behavior often disrupted things on the set of the Fox TV series. Costar Freddy Prinze, Jr. went on the record in 2014 in an interview with ABC. “Kiefer was the most unprofessional dude in the world.” Kiefer’s aggression has gotten the better of him on other occasions. In 2009, at a celeb-filled event, he saw a fashion designer accidentally jostle Brooke Shields, and he responded with a head butt. In the 2006 documentary I Trust You To Kill Me, he drunkenly attacks a large artificial – and fully decorated – Christmas tree in the lobby of a London hotel. Sutherland seems to acknowledge his issues – he just doesn’t want to do anything about them. In fact, he wrote a song about it on his album Down in a Hole, called “Can’t Stay Away.”
4 Wesley Snipes
David S. Goyer wrote the first two Blade films, the movies that made Wesley Snipes into a huge movie superhero, and kick started the whole superhero movie genre as we know it today. For the third installment, Blade: Trinity, Goyer moved over to the director’s chair. It was a move he may have lived to regret. According to Patton Oswalt, a comedian who had a bit role in the movie, relations between Snipes and Goyer got so bad that at one point, Snipes tried to throttle his director. Oswalt said in an interview that Wesley was anti-social on set, spending all his downtime inside his trailer with wafts of marijuana smoke drifting out whenever he chose to leave it. If you’ve seen the move, the widely panned end of the Blade trilogy, the only shots you see that are actually Snipes are the close-ups. Everything else was done with his body double. He would only communicate directly with Goyer, and at that, only in the form of post-it notes. Snipes insisted on staying in character at all times, and even signed his post-it notes “Blade.” Not surprisingly, no one was really happy with the film as it was released, and Snipes went on to sue both Goyer and the studio. (The case was settled out of court.) We notes that Snipes hasn’t exactly lit the screen on fire since his release from a 3-year prison term for tax evasion.
3 Danny Glover
Danny Glover has had a long career in movies, but he’s probably best known for his portrayal of Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon series. Now, Mel Gibson is his own brand of villain, but it doesn’t look as if Danny is much better – albeit without the racist overtones. In 2007, he punched a photographer from the New York Daily News in the face; (he's moments away from doing that in the image on the right, above). He often has trouble keeping his temper around the media, it seems. In 2015, he lost it when a news anchor on KTVU tried to cut his interview short. “I’m not somebody who’s moved to the wayside,” he told him. He’s often hostile to media, in other words, and there are multiple stories of him being arrogant and mean to underlings.
2 Mike Myers
Austin Powers is a super spy superhero satire. We get that. But the stories from the set portray a Mike Myers who’s a little more like Dr. Evil. He went off on a member of the crew for looking at him in the eye as if he was an equal or something silly like that. Wayne’s World was a huge success, but filming it led to a huge falling out between Myers, co-star Dana Carvey, and director Penelope Spheeris. In fact, Myers was said to have blocked Spheeris from any involvement with the sequel, which didn’t do nearly as well. It wasn’t until 2013, more than two decades after the movie’s release, that the three had a public reconciliation. While filming The Love Guru, he hired assistants specifically to keep him shaded from the sun. Crew and co-stars from the 2003 movie The Cat In The Hat told media that he made the experience a nightmare. We’ll just note that, as his star rose in Hollywood and he had more creative input into his movies, the stories about arrogance and plain old jerkish behavior got more and more frequent...and his movies began to tank. Maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere.
1 William Shatner
Say it ain’t so, Captain Kirk. But, apparently it is – in fact, he’s been dubbed “Captain Jerk” and the moniker seems mostly apt. He’s had many public feuds with former co-stars Leonard Nimoy and George Takei. While the original Star Trek series was filming, Nichelle Nichols, who famously played Lt. Uhura, was rumored to want to leave the show because of his diva antics, which included stealing other actors’ lines. When James Doohan, who had played Scottie, had Alzheimer’s and a tribute was planned for him, Shatner refused to attend. He is supposed to have said, “I really don’t want to deal with all this Alzheimer’s crap.” That’s cold. The Captain Jerk nickname began circulating after he refused to show up for Leonard Nimoy’s funeral. That’s ice cold.