We’ve all worked for bosses who have rubbed us up the wrong way, and whilst a tiny bit of aggravation is to be expected in any work environment, most of us never get to the point where our grievances result in anything too destructive taking place.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case under the bright lights of Hollywood, where creative differences and personality clashes have resulted in raging conflicts that have threatened to derail entire multi-million-dollar film productions. Below are 20 examples of actor-director teams who clashed to the point where they made the decision to not work with each other ever again.
20. Julia Roberts and Steven Spielberg
In the 1991 fantasy film Hook, Julia Roberts was cast as a revamped Tinkerbell, a mischievous fairy. But Roberts was nicknamed ‘Tinkerhell’ by production staff during filming due to her being something of a difficult on-set presence. The actress was also later described as being “sometimes sombre, sometimes at the near edge of hysteria.” She would reportedly hide away in her trailer for hours and irritated Spielberg with her late arrivals.
At the time there was talk that Spielberg wanted to recast the role completely, though these rumours were denied by the film’s producers. However, the legendary director did later admit that “it was an unfortunate time for us to work together.”
19. George Clooney and David O. Russell
Director David O Russell is no stranger to engaging in aggressive confrontations with his actors. He once launched into a foul-mouthed tirade at actress Lily Tomlin on the set of his 2004 film I Heart Huckabees, captured on YouTube. But Tomlin wasn’t the only person to fall foul of Russell’s temper, as George Clooney has also said that he would “absolutely not” work with the director ever again.
The pair collaborated on Three Kings, in which Clooney played a soldier searching for stolen gold. The pair got into a physical fight during the filming of their 1999 film Three Kings when, in Clooney’s words, Russell “went nuts on an extra.” When Clooney defended the extra, Russell apparently retorted to him, “Why don’t you just f***ing remember your lines for once?!”
18. Bruce Willis and Kevin Smith
After they clashed on the set of their 2010 buddy-cop action-comedy film Cop Out, director Kevin Smith described working with Bruce Willis as “difficult” and “soul-crushing.” Far from finished, he also labelled the Die Hard actor as “unhappy,” “bitter” and “mean.” Originally entitled A Couple of D***s, this movie sees Willis star as an NYPD detective chasing down a rare baseball card.
Apparently, Willis was an extremely disruptive presence on the film’s set and even told Smith “I’m Bruce Willis and I’ve been doing this for 25 years very successfully. Please don’t put your loser stink on me,” the Die Hard star allegedly warned the filmmaker. However, Kevin Smith probably had the last laugh, as Cop Out became his highest-grossing movie to date.
17. Val Kilmer and John Frankenheimer
We could probably write an article titled “30 Times that Val Kilmer Has Fallen Out with a Director.” There have been plenty of occasions in which the often difficult actor has rubbed his on-set boss the wrong way. The Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher once spoke of his experiences with Val Kilmer in an Entertainment Weekly interview: “I don’t like his work ethic, and I don’t want to be associated with him ever again.” But perhaps the most famous example of Kilmer’s directorial clashes came on the set of the 1996 stinker The Island of Dr. Moreau.
This box office bomb included Kilmer as a neurosurgeon and Marlon Brando as his mad scientist boss. Kilmer fought with John Frankenheimer so much that the director was later quoted as saying that “even if I was directing a film called The Life of Val Kilmer, I wouldn’t have that pr**k in it.”
16. Bill Murray and Harold Ramis
Despite collaborating on a number of successful films, including Caddyshack and Ghostbusters, Bill Murray and the late Harold Ramis fell out big time on the set of Groundhog Day. In the words of Ramis’ daughter Violet, the pair “were not seeing eye to eye on the tone of the film.” Ramis remembered Murray, who was going through a divorce at the time, being “really irrationally mean and unavailable.”
The once very good friends didn’t even speak for two decades after the film’s shoot came to an end. But in 2010, when Ramis had been diagnosed with a serious infection, Murray went round to his house to bury the hatchet. The pair reconciled over a dozen doughnuts, and they became friends again for the final four years of Ramis’ life.
15. Edward Norton and Tony Kaye
During the making of American History X, director Tony Kaye and his star Edward Norton experienced a massive personality clash. The 1998 movie explores white supremacist gangs in Los Angeles, with a script by David McKenna. Tony Kaye, who wouldn’t direct a film for another decade, later eviscerated Edward Norton as “a narcissistic dilettante who raped the film.” New Line Cinema eventually ditched Kaye completely, letting Norton take charge of the editing process.
The fired director spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a failed lawsuit and advertisements in the Hollywood press. Meanwhile, Norton was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Empire Magazine named his loss at the ceremony as one of their 22 Incredibly Shocking Oscars Injustices.
14. Chevy Chase and Chris Columbus
Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire director Chris Columbus was originally set to direct the 1989 comedy sequel National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The apparently nasty behaviour from Chase led to Columbus quitting (or getting sacked) and being replaced with Jeremiah Chechik. Chase had already established himself as a sometimes difficult co-star throughout his years on Saturday Night Live.
Instead, Columbus happily took up the directorial role for Home Alone, another spectacularly successful Christmas movie. “To be completely honest, Chevy treated me like dirt,” Columbus has been quoted as saying. The director continued: “I called John [Hughes, the film’s writer] and said ‘there’s no way I can do this movie. I know I need to work but I can’t do it with this guy.”
13. Kate Winslet and James Cameron
The months of filming for the 1997 blockbuster Titanic were particularly gruelling for Kate Winslet. While creating the ocean scenes, the actors spent long stretches in an pool, during which Winslet suffered from hypothermia. In one scene set in the sinking ship, Winslet caught her coat on a gate as she ran and was dragged underwater, almost drowning as a result. With only about four hours of sleep each night, Winslet won little sympathy from the determined director.
Winslet also revealed there were times when she was “genuinely frightened” of director James Cameron’s temper. However, despite being quoted as saying that she would be “reluctant” to star in one of his films again, she has since signed up to star in his blockbuster sequel Avatar 2.
12. Gene Hackman and Wes Anderson
Gene Hackman is far from the easiest star that the award-winning director Wes Anderson has worked with. They collaborated on The Royal Tenenbaums, a comedy about gifted siblings who grow disgruntled with their failures in adulthood. Hackman reportedly sunk Anderson’s spirits by repeatedly insulting him and calling him names in front of the rest of the cast. Hackman’s co-star Gwyneth Paltrow has since said that Hackman told Anderson to “pull up your pants and act like a man.”
It’s also been reported that Hackman frequently called Anderson a “c***,” as they filmed this New York tale across 250 different sets. Winning a Golden Globe for his performance, Hackman retired from Hollywood three years after completing this film.
11. Frank Oz and Marlon Brando
There was no love lost between the Muppets star Frank Oz and Hollywood legend Marlon Brando as they worked together on The Score. This tense heist film was the only time De Niro and Marlon Brando ever co-starred, but what should’ve been a dream team instead turned into a fighting match between Brando and his director. Brando apparently disliked being directed by a Muppeteer. He would mockingly call Oz ‘Miss Piggy’ after the famous diva he voiced.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Oz acknowledged that their feud was at least partly his fault. “I was confrontational,” Oz admitted of his working relationship with the Streetcar Named Desire star. “I should have been more generous and I think that’s what caused the rift between us,” he surmised in 2001.
10. Sean Young and Oliver Stone
Sean Young was promised a major role in Oliver Stone’s 1987 drama Wall Street. She was to play Kate Gekko, wife of Wall Street player Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). However, Young actually much preferred the part of Darien, Gekko’s girlfriend. This role instead went to Young’s Blade Runner co-star Daryl Hannah. This casting decision led to a fully-blown feud between Young and Stone, as Young kept asking the director to reconsider her for the other role.
Stone found this infuriating, and he began to trim Young’s role as Kate back as far as possible. In the film’s final cut, Young barely has any lines at all – while Hannah’s Darien became a far more important and interesting role. Young only ended up spending a single day on the set for this movie, for which Douglas won an Academy Award for Best Actor.
9. Faye Dunaway and Roman Polanski
Currently a fugitive from a sexual abuse case, Polanski often got into huge rows with Faye Dunaway while making the 1974 film Chinatown. Faye has described Polanski as a “bully”, noting, “I think what he did to me throughout the film bordered on sexual harassment.” When a strand of Dunaway’s hair fell across her face in a way Polanski didn’t like, the director marched over and plucked it from her head. She screamed and stormed off the set, saying, “I don’t believe it. That motherf***er pulled my hair out!”
Speaking after the film was released, Polanski said when confronted about this incident that “it doesn’t matter what [Dunaway’s] reaction was” – all that mattered was that he made his movie. In a popular but almost certainly apocryphal tale, Polanski annoyed Dunaway beyond belief by refusing to let her visit the bathroom, so she eventually threw a cup of urine at him.
8. Keira Knightley and John Carney
When John Carney directed Keira Knightley in the musical comedy-drama Begin Again, he was very public in his criticisms of the star. In an interview with The Independent, he lambasted her acting skills and declared he would never work with a “supermodel” again. “Keira’s thing is to hide who you are and I don’t think you can be an actor and do that,” Carney said. “Being a film actor requires a certain level of honesty and self-analysis that I don’t think she’s ready for yet, and I certainly don’t think she was ready for on that film,” he concluded.
However, in 2016 Carney apologised for his words about Knightley, writing, “Keira was nothing but professional and dedicated during that film and she contributed hugely to its success.” Knightley has since said that Carney also apologised to her in private, and she accepted. “It was a very difficult shoot. We didn’t get on. It’s just a thing that happens sometimes and I say that with no blame. It takes two to tango,” she conceded.
7. Burt Reynolds and Paul Thomas Anderson
Burt Reynolds was so disappointed by the experience of working on Boogie Nights, he reportedly fired his agent after filming wrapped. Apparently he only signed up for the film in the first place after turning down the part of Jack Horner (a porn director) seven times. Reynolds felt that Anderson was unoriginal and cocky, and the pair once came close to blows when Reynolds accused Anderson of being biased against him.
Reynolds told GQ years later that “[Anderson] was young and full of himself… I remember the first shot we did in Boogie Nights, where I drive the car to Grauman’s Theater. After he said, ‘Isn’t that amazing?’ And I named five pictures that had the same kind of shot. It wasn’t original,” Reynolds recalled. However, the pair have also noted that the tension between them helped to make Boogie Nights into a far more powerful movie.
6. Stanley Kubrick and Shelley Duvall
Shelley Duvall spent a year away from her family to film Kubrick’s classic horror movie The Shining – and she has since described the experience as “excruciating. Jack Nicholson’s character had to be crazy and angry all the time,” she said to Rolling Stone in 1980. “And in my character, I had to cry 12 hours a day, all day long, the last nine months straight, five or six days a week.” Behind the scenes, Kubrick often yelled at Duvall, telling her she was “wasting everyone’s time.” Amid Kubrick’s and Duvall’s frequent rows over the script, Duvall reportedly started losing hair from stress.
Duvall was further frustrated by how little recognition she won for the film. “After all that work, hardly anyone even criticized my performance in it, even to mention it, it seemed,” she said. At the time of the film’s release, there was little interest in her character. “The reviews were all about Kubrick like I wasn’t there,” she commented.
5. Megan Fox and Michael Bay
As the female lead of the Transformers franchise, Megan Fox was abruptly replaced by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley after the first two movies. Fox’s departure was triggered by her 2009 interview with Wonderland Magazine, in which she compared Bay to Hitler. “He’s like Napoleon and he wants to create this insane, infamous mad-man reputation,” Fox said. “He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is. [When] he’s not in director mode, I kind of really enjoy his personality because he’s so awkward, so hopelessly awkward,” she went on to say. “He has no social skills at all. And it’s endearing to watch him.”
The pair have given conflicting accounts about whether Fox was fired. Fox’s representative claimed Fox left the franchise of her own accord. Bay, on the other hand, has said he sacked Fox. Speaking to GQ Magazine, he said he kicked Fox off the team because of “the Hitler thing. Steven [Spielberg, the executive producer] said, fire her right now.”
4. Katherine Heigl and Judd Apatow
Starring as reporter Alison Stone in the comedy Knocked Up, Katherine Heigl was not pleased with what she described as the film’s “sexist” undertones – which led to a falling-out with director Judd Apatow. “[Knocked Up] paints the women as shrews, as humourless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys,” she said in a 2008 interview with Vanity Fair. “It exaggerated the characters, and I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a b****; why is she being such a killjoy?” she asked of Judd Apatow’s project.
But in an interview with Howard Stern in 2017, Heigl clarified her position, saying that she hated her character as opposed to the film itself. “I liked the movie a lot. I just didn’t like me,” she said. “[My character] was kind of like, she was so judgmental and kind of uptight and controlling and all these things. I really went with it while we were doing it,” Heigl noted, “and a lot of it, Judd allows everyone to be very free and improvise and whatever and afterwards, I was like, ‘Why is that where I went with this? What an asshole she is!'”
3. David Fincher and Robert Downey Jr
Director of Fight Club, Gone Girl and Seven, David Fincher seemed the perfect fit to direct Zodiac, a complicated thriller based on a real-life series of murders. While working for this famous perfectionist, the stars of Zodiac sometimes took over seventy takes of a single scene. While actors like Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo kept quiet about any frustrations, Robert Downey Jr – who played the journalist Paul Avery – spoke openly of Fincher’s demands. Reflecting on his on-set experiences, Downey Jr famously said, “I think I’m the perfect person to work for [Fincher], because I understand gulags.”
However, in a later interview with Movie Talk Nation, Downey was much more complimentary about Fincher, saying, “I genuinely love Fincher and I’m so excited to see anything that he does. No matter how difficult something is, he’s always patiently waiting, because ultimately he’s a very exacting director and he makes great films,” the star said.
2. Christian Bale and McG
After starring in the 2009 sequel Terminator Salvation, Christian Bale has suggested he regrets joining the project because of its director. The film was no success compared to the rest of the Terminator franchise, grossing almost $150 million below the previous movie, Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Bale reflected that he was persuaded into joining this film because of McG’s keenness.
Recalling McG’s promises, Bale said, “He goes, ‘Give me a chance. Everyone needs to evolve, and I need to turn over a new leaf.” Unimpressed with McG’s best efforts, however, Bale criticised the director after the movie came out. When asked whether he was right to collaborate with McG, Bale said, “There’s a lot of room for many approaches and many characters within the film industry. I won’t be working with him again, but I wish him very well. OK?”
1. Terrence Malick and Christopher Plummer
With his passionate and sometimes explosive directing style, Terrence Malick has won plenty of fans and critics among Hollywood. Sean Penn, for one, said that Malick failed to explain the plot of The Tree of Life to him at any point while they collaborated. While working on The New World, however, Christopher Plummer went a step further in criticising Malick – who both wrote and directed the drama. “I love some of his movies very much, but the problem with Terry is he needs a writer, desperately,” Plummer noted at a Newsweek roundtable.
“He insists on overwriting until it sounds terribly pretentious…and he edits his films in such a way that he cuts everyone out of them,” he said. “I was put in all sorts of different spots and suddenly my character was not in the scene that I thought I was in, in the editing room. It was very strange,” Plummer also commented. “I gave him s***. I’ll never work with him again.”