40 Hollywood Actors Who Had A Meltdown On-Set
Being a world-famous Hollywood actor has to be one of the most pressurised jobs on the entire planet. Riches and fame may be nice, but living your life under intensive media scrutiny must take its toll.
No wonder some actors wind up having major meltdowns on the job – and here are some of the most infamous instances of movie stars having a total meltdown on-set.
40. Christian Bale: Terminator Salvation
Thanks to it all being caught on audiotape, this has become one of the most well known and shocking on-set meltdowns in Hollywood history. On the set of Terminator Salvation, Christian Bale launched into an expletive-filled tirade at director of photography Shane Hurlbut. The cinematographer incurred this abuse after walking into Bale’s line of sight whilst he was shooting a scene with co-star Bryce Dallas Howard. As Bale raged on for almost four minutes, Hurlbut and the film’s director McG failed to calm the actor down, with the highly-strung actor ending his rant by claiming that he and Hurlbut were “f***ing done professionally.”
The whole incident was made all the more bizarre by the British Bale continuing to speak in the American accent he was using for the role of John Connor, even whilst losing his temper. The recording went viral, and Bale later apologised by saying that he and Hurlbut had resolved their differences and that they continued to work alongside each other without further incident.
39. Lucy Liu: Charlie’s Angels
Landing the third lead alongside Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore in 2000’s Charlie’s Angels was a major career step for Lucy Liu, best known at the time for TV’s Ally McBeal. However, Liu quickly became notorious in Hollywood following a well-publicised spat with co-star Bill Murray. Accounts vary as to just what went down between the two of them, but it’s widely reported that Murray upset Liu by suggesting that she couldn’t act and shouldn’t even be in the film.
Rather than dealing with Murray’s comment calmly, Liu is said to have physically attacked the actor whilst screaming at him. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the incident led to Murray being replaced by Bernie Mac for sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. Both actors would attempt to downplay the incident in later interviews – but, as we’ll see, it’s not the only time Bill Murray has ruffled some feathers on set.
38. Johnny Depp: City of Lies
It’s no secret that the life of Hollywood megastar Johnny Depp has been somewhat turbulent in recent years. These off-camera troubles would seem to have bled through into the once-respected actor’s behaviour on set. One particularly unpleasant incident is said to have occurred during production on 2018 fact-based drama City of Lies, in which Depp starred as the real-life LAPD detective assigned to investigate the murder of rapper Notorious B.I.G.
Depp didn’t take kindly to being told by the film’s location manager, Greg ‘Rocky’ Brooks, that shooting on the streets of LA was going to run late one night. In response to this news, Brooks claims he was “repeatedly hit” and verbally abused by Depp, and later wrongfully dismissed from his job as a result. Brooks filed a lawsuit against Depp and the production companies behind City of Lies; at the time of writing the case has yet to be resolved.
37. Tom Hardy – The Reckoning
As inconceivable as it might seem today, there was a time when British actor Tom Hardy was a total unknown (not to mention being skinny and clean-shaven). However, the fact that Hardy hadn’t made his name yet doesn’t seem to have deterred the young up-and-comer from asserting himself on-set in his early days. Hardy has admitted that during production on one of his first movies, 2002’s The Reckoning, he came to blows with the film’s leading man Paul Bettany.
Details are sketchy regarding just what went down between the young Hardy and the more established Bettany, but we know it got physical. Hardy was questioned about the incident years later in an interview with fellow actor Vincent Cassel, who jokingly asked him, “would you advise someone who’s shooting their first movie, to take a swing at the lead actor because he’s saying bad things about you?” Hardy responded, “I didn’t hit [Bettany], I slapped him. I didn’t want to leave a mark on his face.”
36. Lawrence Tierney: Reservoir Dogs
Revisiting Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 debut film Reservoir Dogs today, it’s easy to note how many of its cast the writer-director would later reunite with: Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi. However, one Reservoir Dogs actor Tarantino never worked with again was Lawrence Tierney. Turns out there’s a good reason for that (and it’s not just because the actor couldn’t work as extensively after a stroke in 1995). Tierney, who stars in Dogs as grizzled crime boss Joe, reportedly attempted to undermine everything that the director was trying to achieve on set.
The conflict ended with the pair getting into a fist fight, and that in turn led to Tarantino firing the actor. Tarantino later referred to Tierney, a veteran of numerous Hollywood films, as “a complete lunatic who just needed to be sedated.” The filmmaker also says that the fight erupted because the actor was “personally challenging to every aspect of filmmaking.”
35. Lindsay Lohan: The Canyons
Few actors in modern times embody the stereotype of the troubled former child star as perfectly as Lindsay Lohan. After rising to fame through Disney movies, Lohan’s later hits Freaky Friday and Mean Girls seemed to indicate a bright future for the actress. Unfortunately, Lohan’s well-documented problems with substances and her general diva-ish attitude soon made her persona non grata in Hollywood. There had been hopes that 2013’s The Canyons, an edgy drama directed by Paul Schrader (who, as we’ll see, has a history of promoting on-set tension), would give her a comeback.
However, once filming was underway it was clear the actress hadn’t reformed, as she didn’t show up for the first day of shooting and was promptly fired. She then cried outside the director’s trailer until he agreed to rehire her. Things didn’t improve throughout the shoot, though, with Lohan constantly forgetting her lines and locking herself in her trailer for hours on end. It all might have paid off if the film had been met with commercial or critical success – but it wasn’t.
34. Dennis Hopper: Super Mario Bros
1993’s Super Mario Bros may have the distinction of being the first movie based on a video game, but it’s not a highlight on the resume of anyone involved. With the producers and directors constantly at loggerheads, the script was being rewritten daily, much to the disdain of the cast. One cast member in particular made sure that his anger did not go unnoticed: seasoned screen star Dennis Hopper, who had been cast in the film as the villainous King Koopa.
On being presented with an entirely rewritten scene mere minutes before they were due to shoot, Hopper by all accounts went ballistic. The actor is reported to have roared (loud enough for all on set to hear), “You rewrote my lines! You call this writing? This is s**t! It’s s**t! And the fact you’d do it without asking me?” Hopper threw such a tantrum that the production broke for lunch early – and it took three and a half hours before the actor calmed down enough to agree to shoot the rewritten scene.
33. Gene Hackman: The Royal Tenenbaums
Legendary French Connection Oscar-winner Gene Hackman was never known for being the most easygoing actor. Writer-director Wes Anderson found this out the hard way when he cast Hackman in the lead role of his 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums. Although Anderson had written the role specifically for Hackman, the actor turned the part down multiple times.
Having taken a huge amount of persuasion to sign on, the cantankerous Hackman didn’t make it any easier for Anderson once he was on set. By all accounts Hackman was frequently argumentative and dismissive of the director, and engaged in some abusive name-calling. It’s perhaps for the best, then, that Hackman quit acting altogether soon thereafter, appearing in only three more movies before retiring with 2004’s Welcome to Mooseport.
32. Ian McKellen: The Hobbit trilogy
As one of the most respected British actors of his lifetime, Ian McKellen has a reputation for consummate professionalism. Even so, McKellen is only human – and his time reprising his Lord of the Rings role of Gandalf in the Hobbit trilogy pushed him to breaking point. The FX-oriented nature of the three films meant McKellen was left shooting many of his scenes alone against a green screen, something that proved depressing for the stage and screen legend. McKellen recalls, “I felt pretty miserable … and thought perhaps, has the time come for me to stop acting altogether if I can’t cope with these difficulties?”
The actor found the experience “so distressing and off-putting and difficult that I thought ‘I don’t want to make this film if this is what I’m going to have to do’… I act with other people, I don’t act on my own.” McKellen recalled that on one such occasion, “I got absolutely miserable and had a little cry to myself. I didn’t realise that the microphone I was wearing was open so everybody could hear me muttering to myself about how I wanted to go home.”
31. Richard Pryor: Blue Collar
35 years before calling the shots on Lindsay Lohan misfire The Canyons, Taxi Driver writer Paul Schrader made his directorial debut with 1978 drama Blue Collar. In the hopes of promoting a real sense of rivalry on-screen, Schrader told all three of his leading men – Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto – that they alone were the film’s lead. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this approach promoted bitter conflicts between his three stars – and Pryor was the one who dealt with it in the worst way.
The troubled comedy legend, playing one of his few straight roles, was suffering from serious drug addiction at the time, and was prone to paranoia. Fights would break out between the cast with great regularity, and – most alarming of all – Pryor is said to have brought a gun to set. Reportedly, the actor pointed the gun at his director in a rage and demanded that he wouldn’t shoot more than three takes of any scene.
30. Shia LaBeouf: Lawless
Not unlike Lindsay Lohan, Shia LaBeouf is another Hollywood actor to have graduated from child star into notorious headline-grabber. Headlines were indeed grabbed when LaBeouf co-starred with Tom Hardy in the 2012 film Lawless. Rumours swirled that the two actors had constantly been at loggerheads throughout filming, and got into a physical fight at least once – and it was widely claimed that LaBeouf once knocked Hardy out (according to Hardy himself, LaBeouf “knocked me out sparko”). This, however, is one instance when the reality and the rumour don’t quite line up, as Hardy and LaBeouf have both refuted claims of a mutual hatred, with the pair claiming they were simply engaging in rough play-fighting.
LaBeouf explained in 2019, “this one week, my girlfriend was in town and [Hardy] runs into the room… he picked me up and I didn’t have nothing on so now I’m naked on his shoulder. We’re in the hallway, we’re wrestling around.” This ended up near a stairwell, which Hardy accidentally fell down – and then, LaBeouf says, “for the rest of the shoot, he told everybody I knocked him out.”
29. LL Cool J: Any Given Sunday
After rising to fame in the 80s as a rapper, LL Cool J enjoyed a fairly successful film career for a time. However, it’s possible that the rapper-turned-actor may have rubbed some people up the wrong way during his time in the Hollywood limelight. This would seem to have been the case when he starred alongside future Ray Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx in Oliver Stone’s 1999 sports drama Any Given Sunday.
In the film, LL and Foxx play members of rival football teams, and the two actors may have gotten a little too invested in the conflict between their characters. It has been claimed that, whilst shooting a football scene, LL punched Foxx in the face, which unsurprisingly Foxx didn’t take kindly to. Just when things seemed to have calmed down between the two, LL proceeded to elbow Foxx in the head whilst walking away.
28. Bette Davis: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Screen legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had one of the most infamous, bitter rivalries in Hollywood history. Nonetheless, the actresses agreed to appear alongside one another in a film that played on their intense animosity: 1962’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? It’s no great shocker that the film was not shot under especially relaxed conditions, with both actresses frequently finding ways to antagonise one another. Davis perhaps took it to the greatest extreme in a scene in which her character Baby Jane physically strikes Crawford’s Blanche.
That’s right, Davis hit Crawford in the head for real – although accounts vary as to just how hard she did it (some claim Crawford needed stitches afterwards). Crawford got the last laugh, though: when Davis lost out on the Best Actress Oscar to Anne Bancroft, Crawford arranged to accept the award on the absent Bancroft’s behalf.
27. George Lazenby: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
One-and-done James Bond actor George Lazenby is one of the most widely derided movie stars in history, in large part owing to his ill-advised behaviour upon landing the role of a lifetime. The 29-year-old Australian model had almost no acting experience, and essentially bluffed his way to becoming the first actor to take over from Sean Connery as 007. However, whether it was from the nerves or simply the delight of suddenly achieving such success, Lazenby is said to have really embraced his character’s main vices while shooting 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
As well as being as great a womaniser as Bond, Lazenby also had as much of a fondness for alcohol. By all accounts Lazenby was very often drunk on set, and is reported to have thrown empty vodka bottles at crew members. Despite this, Lazenby was still expected to play Bond again – but infamously refused, believing (incorrectly) that playing the famous spy a single time would be enough to establish him as a major movie star.
26. Marilyn Monroe: Something’s Got to Give
If you’re thinking to yourself that you can’t remember a Marilyn Monroe movie called Something’s Got to Give, don’t worry, you don’t have a memory problem. That’s because the film in question was never finished, as studio 20th Century Fox abandoned the 1962 production completely due to their leading lady’s erratic behaviour on set. The notoriously troubled Monroe was going through a difficult time personally, as well as dealing with a busy celebrity lifestyle. Monroe was frequently late to set or absent without leave: she made her famous appearance at the birthday celebrations of President John F Kennedy when she should have been shooting Something’s Got to Give.
The film’s cast and crew continued to shoot around their frequently absent star, although on one of Monroe’s few full days on set she shocked everyone by stripping nude for a swimming pool scene. After calling in sick for the umpteenth time, Monroe was fired from the movie in June 1962, and the production was soon shut down. Just over two months later, Monroe passed away.
25. George Clooney: Three Kings
You wouldn’t normally associate George Clooney with any kind of trouble, but that wasn’t the case on the set of the 1999 film Three Kings. This troubled production saw Clooney clash in a big way with director David O. Russell, a filmmaker notorious for his on-set volatility. However, it’s debatable as to whether Clooney really comes out of this particular story looking like the bad guy. Reports suggested that Russell violently threw one of the film’s extras to the ground after an altercation, with Clooney recalling that “we were trying to get a shot and then he went berserk. He went nuts on an extra.”
Outraged by this, Clooney proceeded to physically attack Russell himself, which resulted in a full-on brawl between the actor and the director. The actor later ended their relationship by saying “will I work with David ever again? Absolutely not, never.”
24. Wesley Snipes: Blade: Trinity
1998 Marvel Comics adaptation Blade and its 2002 sequel had given Wesley Snipes arguably the biggest role of his career. Unfortunately 2004’s third instalment Blade: Trinity had a significant role to play in the actor’s high-profile fall from grace. During production, Snipes was on very bad terms with writer-director David S. Goyer, whom the actor is reported to have chased and physically threatened on set. At other times Snipes wouldn’t turn up for scenes, instead remaining in his trailer and forcing the crew to shoot with his stand-in.
Things apparently got so bad between Snipes and the rest of the film’s cast and crew that by the end of the shoot the actor would only communicate with his colleagues via post-it notes. None of this boded well for the final film, and unsurprisingly Blade: Trinity was widely blasted as a disaster, killing the series dead in its tracks.
23. Bill Murray: What About Bob?
It’s not the first time that Bill Murray has been mentioned on this list, because Charlie’s Angels wasn’t the first time that the actor had been involved in a notorious on-set altercation. Murray is also reported to have clashed with his co-star Richard Dreyfuss in a big way whilst filming the 1991 comedy What About Bob? Dreyfuss kept quiet on the matter for a long time, telling Yahoo in 2019, “I didn’t talk about it for years… Bill just got drunk at dinner. He was an Irish drunken bully, is what he was.”
Dreyfuss recalls that an intoxicated Murray “put his face next to me, nose-to-nose. And he screamed at the top of his lungs, ‘Everyone hates you! You are tolerated!’ There was no time to react, because he leaned back and he took a modern glass-blown ashtray. He threw it at my face from [only a couple of feet away]. And it weighed about three quarters of a pound. And he missed me.” What About Bob? producer Laura Ziskin also claimed that Murray threw her into a lake after they had a serious falling out.
22. Martin Sheen: Apocalypse Now
While Apocalypse Now is often listed among the greatest films ever made, it’s also infamous as being the result of one of the most troubled productions in Hollywood history. Director Francis Ford Coppola’s film was beset with all kinds of mad controversies that involved financial difficulties, drink, drugs and even its lead actor smashing a mirror with his bare hands. Martin Sheen came onto the film as a last-minute replacement for Harvey Keitel, who Coppola fired early on.
Unfortunately, Sheen was in a very bad place personally at the time, struggling with alcoholism, and the pressured conditions on set didn’t help this. In the infamous Saigon hotel room scene, Sheen really was as drunk as he appears, and unwittingly punched through a genuine mirror and bled all over the place for real. As if all that wasn’t enough, Sheen would go on to suffer a heart attack whilst Apocalypse Now was still shooting. Miraculously, he survived and went on to finish the film.
21. Val Kilmer: The Island of Dr. Moreau, Red Planet AND Batman Forever
It really is that hard to pick just one example of losing the plot on-set when it comes to Val Kilmer. Despite being a talented actor, Kilmer’s whole career seems to have been over-shadowed by crazy on-set antics and controversies. For one, Kilmer clashed – sometimes physically – with director Joel Schumacher on the set of Batman Forever. The actor also struggled with extreme claustrophobia in the Bat-suit, hence he was replaced by George Clooney on follow-up Batman & Robin (a small blessing for Kilmer there). Reportedly Kilmer had a similarly antagonistic relationship with co-star Tom Sizemore during the filming of 2000 box office bomb Red Planet.
Worse still, on 1996’s notoriously troubled The Island Of Dr. Moreau, Kilmer is said to have essentially held the production to ransom with his diva-ish demands and selfish behaviour (he also allegedly burned a crew member with a cigarette). As reports of the actor’s difficult behaviour spread, so too did his job offers dry up.
20. Tom Cruise: Mission Impossible 7
Tom Cruise made headlines back in 2005 due to his hyper-energetic demeanour during an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show. While his appearance was meant to promote Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, Cruise ended up leaping onto Oprah’s couch and raving about how much he loved Katie Holmes. But this isn’t the only time Cruise has let his emotions get the better of him
More, Cruise made headlines for having a meltdown on the set of Mission Impossible 7, as a recording of his outburst went viral. Cruise berated his colleagues for their lax approach to COVID-19 restrictions on set after witnessing two crew members standing too close to each other. In a leaked audio clip, the actor was clearly heard shouting: “If I see you do it again, you’re f***ing gone. And if anyone in this crew does it, that’s it — and you too and you too. And you, don’t you ever f***ing do it again.”
19. Marlon Brando: The Island of Dr Moreau
Marlon Brando is perhaps one of the most successful actors to come out of the 20th century with a career spanning 60 years. These 60 years didn’t pass by uneventfully, however, without any crazy stories of Brando’s behaviour on set. Notably, Brando’s actions on the set of 1996 film The Island of Dr Moreau were enough to make the screenwriter, Ron Hutchinson, want to pull his hair out.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2017, Hutchinson revealed that he shocked when Brando turned up to shoot in bad shape. While ad-libbing is part and parcel of making a film, Brando also refused to read any of his written lines: “he wanted to improvise it all,” Hutchinson recalled. He also refused to take an ice bucket off his head for some scenes due to the heat.
18. Rip Torn: Maidstone
1970 American film Maidstone has gone down in history for its legendary on set brawl. With the cameras still rolling, Rip Torn completely lost the plot and began attacking his co-star Norman Mailer. Torn hit Mailer in the head with a hammer while claiming he needed to “kill his character.” Torn and Mailer proceeded to fight, with Torn strangling Mailer and Mailer biting off part of Torn’s ear.
The fight was eventually broken up when Mailer’s wife Beverly – and their distressed young children – intervened. Despite the brutality of the scene, it made the final cut and has gone down in cinematic history as one of the strangest, most brutal on set meltdowns ever.
17. Will Smith: Men in Black 3
Smith starred alongside Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black back in 1997, in one of his first major film roles after his success on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. By 2012, Smith had cemented his position as one of Hollywood’s most bankable and successful stars. It’s no surprise, then, that while shooting Men in Black 3 Smith had a rather diva-esque request, in keeping with his status as one of Hollywood’s leading lights.
According to Collider, Smith demanded that he have “a double decker $2 million trailer” on set. This was in spite of the fact that filming was happening just a few blocks away from his New York apartment. Smith continued to insist on staying in this ludicrous trailer despite complaints from local residents.
16. Nicolas Cage: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Anyone who’s seen Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance will know that Nicolas Cage evidently gave 110% when it came to getting into character. But did you know just how far Cage went to achieve his enthusiastic – verging on manic – performance? Cage followed an intense method acting technique known as “Nouveau Shamanic” which helped him put on such an energetic performance.
Cage donned black and white face paint and sewed Ancient Egyptian symbols into his costumes to truly embody the spirit of the Ghost Rider. “It occurred to me, because I was doing a character as far out of our reference point as the spirit of vengeance, I could use these (Shaman) techniques,” he revealed in a chat with Empire Online back in 2012. “I wouldn’t say a word to my co-stars or crew or directors. I saw the fear in their eyes […] I believed I was the Ghost Rider,” he said.
15. Al Pacino: The Godfather II and Dog Day Afternoon
Al Pacino is one of the most successful actors to come out of the 20th century. A formidable performer, there’s no doubt that Pacino was uncommonly dedicated to his craft – arguably, in some cases, too dedicated. Pacino once collapsed from exhaustion while on the set of Dog Day Afternoon, as he’d just finished working on The Godfather II. The talented actor had overworked himself by giving his all on the Francis Ford Coppola film before diving in with the same intensity on Sidney Lumet’s work.
It was clear that Pacino was at breaking point on set – Lumet decided to shoot the scenes where Sonny calls his wife back-to-back, with Pacino’s performance getting increasingly intense. When filming wrapped for the scene, Pacino burst into tears. Lumet subsequently called the experience “as good a moment of directing as I’ve ever had in my life”.
14. Lily Tomlin: I Heart Huckabees
Tensions often run high on set – particularly so between actors and directors as their creative visions clash. This is exactly what happened between Lily Tomlin and director David O Russell on the set of 2004 film I Heart Huckabees. Tomlin was dismayed by Russell’s direction and said “let’s just take it one f**king line at a time, instead of changing everything” in an audio clip leaked by TMZ.
“It’s very difficult to even create what you’re gonna do when it’s a constant barrage of, “Change this, change this, do this, do this, no, wait, wait, do it a different way, do it a different way,” she said. Russell immediately hit back: “‘F**k you! I’m just trying to f**king help, you understand me? I’m being a f**king collaborator.” Tomlin went on to say in 2011 that there were no hard feelings between the pair.
13. Klaus Kinski: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Klaus Kinski plus director Werner Herzog is almost guaranteed to be a recipe for disaster. While filming Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Herzog threatened to shoot Kinski after he tried to walk away from the project. While Kinski (obviously) lived to tell the tale, other cast and crew members on set had much closer shaves.
One night, a lot of the cast and crew were playing cards in a hut. They were making a lot of noise, and this irked Kinski. Irritated and unable to sleep, Kinski took a Winchester rifle and essentially opened fire into the hut in a bid to get them to shut up. Thankfully, no one was killed, but one bullet took the tip of an extra’s finger off. Herzog immediately confiscated Kinski’s gun and still has it to this day.
12. Tom Sizemore: Red Planet
Tom Sizemore and Val Kilmer were good friends when shooting for Red Planet began – but less so when it wrapped. Apparently, Sizemore responded harshly after Kilmer made some insensitive remarks about how much more money he was earning from the film. Kilmer reportedly quipped to Sizemore, “I’m making ten million on this; you’re only making two.” Sizemore had reached breaking point with Kilmer’s insensitivity and retaliated by launching a 50-pound weight at Kilmer.
Thankfully, Sizemore missed, and Kilmer escaped uninjured. However, this all changed after the pair were instructed to film a fight scene together. The producers warned Sizemore to control himself – but that didn’t stop him from landing a punch right in the middle of Kilmer’s chest.
11. Ewan McGregor: Halston
Every celebrity has to put up with the incessant invasiveness of the paparazzi – and every celebrity has their breaking point. Star Wars and Trainspotting star Ewan McGregor reached his limit in November 2020 while shooting the Netflix show, Halston. McGregor was filming scenes for the miniseries in New York’s Central Park when he flew into a rage at a paparazzo.
In a leaked clip, McGregor could be seen storming up to the photographer – named Steve Sands – and shouting “stop talking to me.” An inside source claimed that Sands was causing trouble and McGregor was merely standing up for himself and the rest of the crew. Sands, 64, said himself: “I got into a tit for tat on the set. Then Ewan yells at me. That was the end. I don’t hold anything against him.”
10. Joaquin Phoenix: The Joker
Joaquin Phoenix dazzled as The Joker in the 2019 movie – but it seems as though making the film wasn’t exactly plain sailing. In October 2019, Phoenix was put in a tough spot after footage of him ranting at a crew member was aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live. In the clip, Phoenix can be heard talking about a cinematographer, saying: “The constant whispering, just shut the f**k up, dude.”
The cinematographer in question had called Phoenix “Cher” (in reference to his diva-esque personality), which apparently touched a nerve. Joaquin went on to say: “I know you started the f***ing Cher thing, Larry … making fun of me. Like I’m a f***ing diva. It’s not even an insult. Cher, really? Singer, actor, dancer, fashion icon – how’s that a f***ing insult?” Phoenix said on the show that he was “embarrassed” by his behaviour.
9. Marilyn Monroe: Some Like It Hot
Marilyn Monroe is arguably the original Hollywood ‘diva’ – so it’s no surprise that there was considerable drama on the sets of some of her films. There was notably a lot of tension on the set of her most acclaimed film, Some Like It Hot. As Monroe was a bankable, established star by 1959, she had grown lax when it came to committing to work.
She rarely showed up on time when shooting Some Like It Hot – and the problems didn’t even end when she did turn up. She hardly bothered to remember her lines, and apparently, it took her 60 takes to deliver the three-word line, “It’s me, sugar!” Director Billy Wilder grew so fed up with Monroe’s laidback approach that he taped her script onto the backs of set furniture just so she could read her lines correctly.
8. Gene Kelly: Singin’ In The Rain
Singin’ In The Rain is undoubtedly one of the best loved musicals to come out of the 20th century. But production was far from a breeze. Instead, it was a bumpy ride with lots of feuding behind the scenes. Star and co-director Gene Kelly was behind much of the tension on set given his demands for perfection.
He regularly insulted Debbie Reynolds for her inability to dance as perfectly as he wanted. On one occasion, Fred Astaire found Reynolds cowering under a piano in floods of tears after enduring another tirade from Kelly. Thankfully, Kelly later apologised to Reynolds and admitted that he had been unbearable to work with.
7. Sean Connery: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Original Bond actor Sean Connery was effectively driven into retirement after shooting The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In his old age, Connery found himself averse to make another film ever again, so bad was his experience with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Connery and director Stephen Norrington feuded intensely during production, which doubtless tested the veteran Bond star.
On one occasion the two clashed after Norrington cancelled a whole day of shooting because an elephant gun prop ‘did not look quite right.’ This reportedly drove Connery up the wall. While the pair did not come to literal blows over their different approaches to production, Connery insisted on helping to edit the film’s final cut. He went on to tell The Hollywood Reporter in 2018 that Norrington should’ve been “arrested for insanity” for his behaviour on set.
6. Shelley Duvall: The Shining
If you think Shelley Duvall’s unhinged portrayal of Wendy in The Shining was a little too convincing, you’d be absolutely right. Unconventional director Stanley Kubrick literally pushed Duvall to the brink of madness while making the film. The actor and director reportedly bickered and fought constantly over disagreements concerning the script and Duvall’s acting style.
Kubrick also reportedly forced Duvall to cry for hours on end and made her do 127 takes for the scene where she hits Jack with a baseball bat. Duvall was so stressed and overwhelmed by Kubrick’s intense directing style that her hair began to fall out. In a 1980 interview with esteemed critic Roger Ebert, Duvall described the experience as “almost unbearable.”
5. Heath Ledger: The Dark Knight
It’s perhaps unsurprising that a role as emotionally demanding as the Joker can have an adverse effect on any actors who play the enigmatic role. This was certainly the case with Heath Ledger, who played the part in The Dark Knight back in 2008. Ledger locked himself in a hotel room and slept for two hours a night for a whole month to prepare for the role.
He kept a diary (written in character) during this time spent cooped up alone, which helped him to really get into the Joker’s mindset. He told Empire in a 2007 interview: “I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath – someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts.” Ledger went on to say in an interview with the New York Times that playing the Joker was “physically and mentally draining.”
4. Ashton Kutcher: Jobs
Ashton Kutcher’s approach to getting into the mind of Steve Jobs was another instance where method acting went too far. Kutcher found out while researching the Apple CEO that Jobs followed an unorthodox fruit-only diet. The actor then decided to try out the diet for himself in preparation for his performance as the lead in 2013 biopic Jobs.
Kutcher ended up hospitalised for severe vitamin deficiencies as a result of following the extremely dangerous diet. Furthermore, doctors noted a significant reduction in his bone density and even diagnosed him with pancreatitis. Suffice to say, Kutcher learnt his lesson and went back to eating a more balanced diet after this dramatic health scare.
3. Dustin Hoffman: Kramer vs Kramer
Dustin Hoffman was going through a divorce himself while shooting 1979 divorce drama Kramer vs Kramer. While, in some ways, he productively channelled his feelings into his performance, in other ways, he overstepped the mark. Hoffman controversially slapped co-star Meryl Streep across the face while filming one scene in the film.
“This is tricky because when you’re an actor, you’re in a scene, you have to feel free,” Streep said years later. “But this was my first movie, and it was my first take in my first movie. And he just slapped me. And you see it in the movie. It was overstepping,” she said.
2. Jared Leto: Suicide Squad
Jared Leto is another actor who took things a bit far with his approach to getting into the mind of the Joker. Speaking to Vanity Fair in 2016, actress Viola Davis revealed that Leto gifted every cast member a dead pig. “He did some bad things, Jared Leto did,” she revealed. “He gave some really horrific gifts. He had a henchman who would come into the rehearsal room, and the henchman came in with a dead pig and plopped it on the table, and then he walked out.”
As if this wasn’t bad enough, Leto also gifted co-star Will Smith used contraceptives and a sex toy. “I did a lot of things to create a dynamic, to create an element of surprise, of spontaneity, and to really break down any kind of walls that may be there,” Leto told Entertainment Weekly.
1. Russell Crowe: Gladiator
Filming Gladiator was no walk in the park. Apparently, tensions ran so high one day that leading man Russell Crowe threatened one of the crew. Angered by the producer’s refusal to pay his assistants a fair wage (as per Crowe’s judgement), the actor threatened to kill him. “You motherf***er. I will kill you with my bare hands,” he reportedly said during a 3am phone call with the producer.
The producer, Branko Lustig, immediately telephoned Steven Spielberg after the altercation and asked to leave the production. Crowe also butted heads with director Ridley Scott over the line “And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” Crowe was reluctant to deliver the line but eventually acquiesced, saying afterwards that the line was “sh*t, but I’m the greatest actor in the world and I can make even sh*t sound good.”