When it comes to making movies, nightmare productions aren’t all that rare. Countless outside forces can threaten to shut down a film set, but sometimes the threat can come from an actor’s behavior. A star can be childish or absolutely crazy, and other times they can go to extremes for a role.
You might think actors have it easy because they just have to show up and recite some lines before collecting a ton of cash. But, that’s not how it works. Making movies can be an incredibly difficult and strenuous task. The long days on set can be morally and mentally taxing, and this can cause actors to struggle or act out. Even on “easy” days, there can be disagreements with directors over creative choices.
Producing a successful movie takes a lot of work, and so many things must go exactly right for people to want to spend their hard earn money at the theater. But these twenty actors took things to such extremes in different ways that they came close to shutting down their projects permanently. Luckily, someone on set was able to convince each of them to keep going.
20 Wesley Snipes – Blade: Trinity
Star Wesley Snipes and director David Goyer did not get along after Snipes accused Goyer of being a racist – and then tried to strangle him. Then, Goyer had a biker gang pose as his security detail on set.
Goyer wanted Snipes gone, and after they had all the close-ups they needed, he suggested that Snipes quit the project and they could just use a stand-in. But, Snipes was worried about the director replacing him, and instead decided to stop talking to Goyer, and left messages for him via post-it notes.
“Wesley [Snipes] was just (censored) crazy in a hilarious way. He wouldn’t come out of his trailer, and he would use (substances) all day. Which is fine with me, because I had all these DVDs that I wanted to catch up on,” said co-star Patton Oswalt.
19 Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando – The Island of Dr. Moreau
The Island of Dr. Moreau writer Richard Stanley said Val Kilmer was a nightmare on set because everyone would give in to his demands. He said that Kilmer wouldn’t have acted that way if people hadn’t kept saying “yes” to him. It got so bad that Kilmer once sat down during filming and refused to stand back up.
As for Marlon Brando, he basically rewrote the script how he wanted. The reason Dr. Moreau wore an ice bucket on his head and white makeup on his face – Brando. He also had a mini-me in every scene dressed similarly.
But, director, John Frankenheimer, refused to give into Brando’s demand that the big twist ending revealed Dr. Moreau to be a dolphin.
18 Marilyn Monroe – Some Like It Hot
It is no secret that Marilyn Monroe had mental health issues and was difficult to work with. She rarely showed up to set on time, never knew her lines, and would burst into tears and run off set whenever she made a mistake and then locked herself in her trailer for hours. Today, someone might see this behavior as evidence of a serious emotional problem, but back then it was just another sign of movie-star aloofness.
By the time she showed up on the set of Some Like It Hot, Monroe was already a household name, and she decided that she was such a big star that she could do whatever she wanted.
It took Monroe sixty takes to get the line “It’s me, sugar” right. After that, director Billy Wilder decided to tape her parts of the script onto the set furniture, so she could read them like cue cards.
Her co-star and on-screen romantic partner, Tony Curtis, later said that Monroe was “mad as a hatter,” and if it wasn’t for her famous chest, she would have been in an asylum. He also revealed that their on-screen kiss was a horrible experience.
Monroe was such trouble on set that Wilder didn’t invite her to his house for the wrap party. And when someone asked him if he would ever work with Monroe again, he said that his doctors advised against it.
17 Jamie Foxx – Any Given Sunday
The set on Oliver Stone’s movie about professional football had fighting, partying, and general chaos. And when it came to shooting the game between the Miami Sharks and Los Angeles Crusaders, the testosterone powder keg exploded.
When LL Cool J’s character fumbled, he was supposed to argue with Jamie Foxx on the sideline. But, in the middle of the fight, the rapper improvised and hit Foxx.
Afterward, Foxx told LL to let him know before doing it again. But, when they shot the scene from a different angle, he hit him again without warning. Things escalated quickly into a brawl, with punches flying and Al Pacino caught underneath, and the crew tried to separate them before calling the Miami police to break it up.
A few years later, LL Cool J talked about the incident in a radio interview.
“I was doing a little improv, screaming on him, and yelling at him based on the character and what was happening in the scene. He took me seriously. He felt like he needed to hit me because I touched him,” LL said. “I had to defend myself and in defending myself somehow his helmet got snatched off and he got hit in the temple.”
Co-star Bill Bellamy said that LL obviously won the fight, and the rapper let everyone know it in his song U Can’t (Censored) With Me.
16 Johnny Depp – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
Darlene Cates played the obese, housebound mom of Johnny Depp’s character in the 1993 film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, but a scene that required Depp to insult his co-star caused him to walk off the set several times. In the scene, Depp had to call Cates a “beached whale,” and it upset him so greatly that it brought him to tears.
Cates was an actress who Gilbert Grape’s author and screenwriter ,Peter Hedges, saw in a 1985 Sally Jessy Raphael episode titled “Too Heavy to Leave Their House.” On the show, she talked candidly about her struggle with obesity and the pelvic infection that caused her to gain 150 pounds.
She had health problems for years, but later in her life she lost 250 pounds and had hopes of returning to acting. However, the actress died in her sleep in March 2017, at the age of 69.
Leonardo DiCaprio called Cates the best onscreen mom he ever worked with.
“Her endearing personality and incredible talent will live on in the memories of those who knew her, and those who loved her work,” wrote DiCaprio on FaceBook.
15 Mike Myers – Wayne’s World
The most memorable scene in the 1990s SNL comedy, Wayne’s World, was in the beginning when Wayne and Garth drive around Chicago in an AMC Pacer while headbanging and lip syncing to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
But, studio execs thought the song cost too much, so they pushed to change it to a more affordable Guns ‘N Roses song, and Mike Myers almost quit because of it.
It was important to keep Bohemian Rhapsody because Myers had based the scene on his memories of arguing with his friends over who got to sing which “Galileo” when the song was on the radio.
But the song wasn’t the only part of the scene that caused debate and second-guessing. Both he and Dana Carvey despised filming the sequence because they had to bang their heads for hours.
Director Penelope Spheeris said that there were so many different shots and camera angles that Myers started to complain about headaches and asked for Advil. By the end of it, he wasn’t even sure if the scene was going to be funny.
As for Carvey, he wasn’t comfortable with all the painful head motions either, but his bigger problem was that he didn’t bother to learn the lyrics.
14 Christian Bale – Terminator Salvation
On the set of Terminator Salvation, Christian Bale had a meltdown and went on a four-minute foul-mouthed rant aimed at director of photography Shane Hurlbut, after he made the mistake of walking into Bale’s eyeline during a take.
Bale threatened to “kick Hurlbut’s butt” and to get him fired. And when Hurlburt apologized, Bale just continued to go after him.
“No don’t just be sorry. Think for one (censored) second. …Am I going to walk around and rip your (censored) lights down in the middle of the scene? …Do you have any (censored) idea about its (censored) distracting? Give me a (censored) answer!” screamed Bale.
He later apologized for the rant (a sound engineer secretly recorded audio of the incident and posted it online) and called it “inexcusable.” Bale admitted that he “acted like a punk,” and he was “out of order beyond belief.” He also explained that he puts so much into what he does and cares about it so much that sometimes his “enthusiasm just goes awry.”
Bale insists that he and Hurlbut resolved their differences on the same day of the verbal attack.
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13 Ashton Kutcher – Jobs
After years of starring in sitcoms and comedy films, Ashton Kutcher was eager to prove himself as a serious actor, so he took the role of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in the 2013 biopic Jobs, directed by Joshua Michael Stern.
Kutcher explained during the movie’s premiere screening at Sundance that he felt close to Jobs because they both shared a fascination for tech, and he admired Jobs’ resilience.
Kutcher prepared for the part by growing his hair long and spending hours studying video of the Apple CEO to learn his mannerisms. But, that wasn’t enough for Kutcher, so he decided to replicate Jobs’ diet and eat only fruit, nuts, and seeds.
In theory, this may sound like a healthy plan, but Kutcher ended up in the hospital with pancreatitis just days before shooting started.
“The fruitarian diet can lead to, like, severe issues,” Kutcher explained. “I was like doubled over in pain. My pancreas levels were completely out of whack. It was really terrifying… considering everything.”
He did recover in time to start filming, but the movie was not a big success. It grossed just $35 million worldwide, but that was enough to recoup the movie’s $12 million budget.
12 Al Pacino – The Godfather
When shooting begun back in 1971 on the mob classic The Godfather, everyone on set agreed that Al Pacino was a disaster as Michael Corleone. Producers were critical of Pacino and called his performance “anemic,” while trying to figure out “what the hell is this kid doing?”
Pacino says that “there was a movement NOT to have me in the part,” and they tried to fire him multiple times. The actor says that at that point, he didn’t want himself to play the part and almost quit. It wasn’t until director Francis Ford Coppola had producers back off that Pacino returned to finish the project.
Paramount wanted either Ryan O’Neal or Robert Redford to play Michael Corleone in the great epic about family and violence. Pacino thought he would be better in the part of the hot-headed older brother, Sonny.
But, he ultimately knew what he was doing in the role that made him a star.
“I was trying to create a character who you don’t know where you’re at with him,” Pacino said. “I knew it was a tough part to pull off. Michael’s so insular, so private.”
It was the Sollozzo scene that ended up making all the difference. In it, Michael clenches his teeth, grabs a gun hidden in a restaurant bathroom and shoots corrupt New York police captain McCluskey, along with Corleone rival Sollozzo. It was the moment the law-abiding son carries out his first mob hit, and it sealed his fate as his father’s replacement.
Pacino’s performance in the scene also made everyone realize that Coppola had made the right choice.
11 Jerry O’Connell – Stand By Me
Jerry O’Connell was just 13 years old when he shut down production of the classic 1986 coming-of-age film Stand By Me because he got too high after eating some special cookies. It all started when O’Connell wanted to go to a fair, so he skipped out on work and snuck away to the fairgrounds near where they were filming in Eugene, Oregon.
But, it turned out to be a hippie fair and he bought laced cookies – and proceeded to eat the whole bag.
“They found him crying in the park, lost and completely disoriented, and we had to shut down [production on the film] for two days,” said co-star Kiefer Sutherland.
Despite the incident, O’Connell has called shooting Stand By Me one of the best experiences of his life, and one of the best Summers of his life. He says that Corey Feldman, River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, and Rob Reiner were his best friends, and they spent the summer walking around in the woods and goofing off. He added that Reiner was great when it came to dealing with child actors. He would be rehearsing with them, and they didn’t know it. Instead, they thought they were playing games.
10 Bette Davis & Joan Crawford – Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
The feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford is probably one of the most legendary in the history of Hollywood. It was so epic that there is even a TV show about it – FX’s Feud. These two really, really hated each other, and had publicly talked about it for 30 years.
When executives made the brilliant casting decision to have them star together in What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, it was really no surprise that they made things extremely difficult on set.
It became a never-ending challenge for the crew to keep the two women from going after each other between takes.
Davis replaced all of the Pepsi dispensers on set with Coke dispensers because Crawford was married to the president of Pepsi. When Crawford complained, Davis placed Coke bottles outside of Crawford’s door to make her trip, which she did, and injured herself. And, during a fight scene, Davis kicked Crawford in the face, and it resulted in a shoe print that required stitches.
Crawford retaliated by lining her dress with lead weights so when Davis had to pull Crawford’s lifeless body in a scene, it caused her to throw her back out.
9 Marlon Brando – Apocalypse Now
Things got off on the wrong foot on the set of Apocalypse Now when Marlon Brando showed up significantly overweight when he was supposed to be playing a Green Beret. For the role, Director Francis Ford Coppola had asked Brando to lose a few pounds, but in traditional crazy Brando style, he decided to go the other way.
On top of being out of shape for his part, Brando didn’t know any of his lines, and his co-star Dennis Hopper said that they had to shut down production for an entire week – and make a cast and crew of 900 wait – so Coppola could read him the script.
But, it wasn’t just Brando who caused problems. Hopper had a substance problem and required the crew to supply him, so he could function, Martin Sheen had his own struggles with alcohol and suffered a heart attack, and Coppola had a nervous breakdown, an epileptic seizure, and threatened to harm himself multiple times.
There were so many issues when it came to the making of this iconic film that they made a whole separate documentary about the process – Heart of Darkness.
8 Carl Weathers – Rocky IV
Rocky IV earned $128 million at the box office, making it the highest grossing sports movie for over a decade – bigger than Field of Dreams, White Men Can’t Jump, and Major League. But, Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed) brought filming to a halt for four days because Dolph Lundgren (Ivan Drago) was way too physical during their fight scene.
Lundgren was a Hollywood novice, with Rocky IV being just his second movie. He was a huge physical specimen and black belt fighter who threw Weathers across the boxing ring and into a corner, and this caused Weathers to storm off the set and threaten to quit the movie.
Director and star Sylvester Stallone had to convince Weathers to return so they could finish shooting, but then he ended up having a worse incident with Lundgren than Weathers. When Lundgren and Stallone were sparring, Stallone took a punch that caused his heart to slam against his breastbone. It ended up swelling and caused his blood pressure to go through the roof.
They ended up flying Sly to a Los Angeles hospital where doctors kept him in intensive care for eight days.
For the record, Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy finally took Rocky IV’s box office belt in 1998.
7 Tippi Hedren – The Birds
Actress Tippi Hedren – also known as Melanie Griffith’s mom and Dakota Johnson’s grandma – was the star of the classic Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds, and everyone remembers the scene when the birds attack the blonde woman in the bedroom.
That blonde was Hedren, and even though it only last for about a minute on screen, it took Hitchcock five days of filming to get what he wanted.
In her book Tippi: A Memoir, Hedren wrote about shooting the famous scene, and how the experience was the worst week of her life. She revealed that it eventually had her on the floor in tears.
The famous “bedroom scene” featured Hedren’s character Melanie going up the stairs to the bedroom and closing the door before she suffered the most vicious attack of the movie. Hitchcock told Hedren that it would be just her and a flock of “relentless, homicidal mechanical birds.” And, she would have no way of escaping. Instead, she would end up on the floor, terrorized and wounded.
But Hitchcock lied. Instead, he had handlers hurl live birds at Hedren, and she called it “brutal, ugly, and relentless.” At the end of the fifth day of shooting, one of the birds pecked her too close to the eye and Hedren snapped. “I’m done,” she said.
After it was over, she sat on the floor, unable to move, and began to sob. Hedren then took an entire week off.
When shooting was over, Hedren says that Hitchcock’s last words to her were, “I’ll ruin your career.”
6 Jason Miller – The Exorcist
Jason Miller played the character of Father Karras in the horror classic The Exorcist, but in the famous scene where Regan (Linda Blair) projectile vomits, she was supposed to hit his chest with the substance. But, the plastic tubing that sprayed the vomit (Andersen’s pea soup with oatmeal) accidentally misfired and it hit him in the face. His shock was so genuine that it made the final cut of the movie, but Miller was so angry he almost stormed off the set.
Director William Friedkin also went to extraordinary lengths to get realistic reactions from the cast. He would fire off guns behind the actors without warning to get a startled reaction, and he put both Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn in harnesses, so crew members could yank them violently.
Both actresses suffered back injuries as a result, and Blair got hurt when a piece of the rig broke and threw her on the bed. Burstyn also suffered permanent spinal damage during the scene where she is thrown away from her possessed daughter.
The movie ended up causing so much controversy that bodyguards had to follow Linda Blair for six months because of multiple death threats. As for Miller, The Exorcist was the first – and biggest – movie role of his career.
5 Gene Hackman – The Royal Tenenbaums
Gene Hackman, who played the family patriarch, was more than difficult to work with during filming. He would tell director Wes Anderson to “pull up his pants” and “act like a man,”, while repeatedly calling him a name that we can’t print (the best way to describe it would be a “see you next Tuesday”).
The entire cast, except for Bill Murray, was reportedly afraid of him. And, Anderson had to ask the comedian to come in on his days off to help keep Hackman in line.
“I’ll stick up for Gene too… I’d hear these stories, like, ‘Gene threatened to (hurt) me today.’ ‘He can’t (hurt) you, you’re in a union.’ ‘Gene threatened to take all of us and set fire to us.’ ‘It’s a union shoot, it’s New York, he can’t set fire to you,’” said Murray.
4 Just About Every Bruce Willis Movie
Really, there are too many options to choose from, but one of the worst was Cafe Society, the Woody Allen film where Willis lost his job. He struggled so badly with his lines that Allen fired him and replaced him with Steve Carell.
He also had issues with Sylvester Stallone on the set of Expendables 3, so he eventually left the project. And, director Kevin Smith had such a tough time with Willis on the set of his buddy cop comedy, Cop Out, that Smith called the experience “soul crushing.”
Willis was absent from the movie’s wrap party. And when Smith made a toast he said that he wanted to thank everyone who worked on the movie – except for Willis.
3 Marlon Brando – The Score
All three stars of The Score – Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, and Edward Norton – were all difficult during filming, but once again Brando was so bad, it was almost impossible to finish the movie. He was not a fan of director Frank Oz and the constructive criticism he gave, so Brando started to retaliate.
He decided to stop wearing pants during films and called Oz “Miss Piggy” Ultimately, he refused to be in the same room as the director, using the excuse that he was “allergic”. So, in order for Oz to finish production, he had to pass notes to Brando from another room.
2 Martin Lawrence – Big Momma’s House
Comedians know that the real challenge of comedy is in the physicality of your performance, and Martin Lawrence found that out the hard way during the making of Big Momma’s House. If you recall, Martin had to wear a latex fat suit for the role, and to help prepare himself, the Martin did something not quite so smart – he went for a jog wearing the gigantic suit in 100-degree heat, and you can only imagine how that ended.
By the end of his run, Lawrence had collapsed after suffering from extreme dehydration and heat exhaustion. When he got to the hospital, he wasn’t in the greatest of shape, with his body temperature being a jaw-dropping 107 degrees, causing doctors to put him on a ventilator to help him breathe. Then, he slipped into a coma that lasted three days.
Luckily, when he finally woke up, there was no permanent brain damage and Lawrence did not require kidney dialysis like doctors initially feared.
The movie ended up being a massive box office hit by grossing over $117 million, and it led to two sequels – Big Momma’s House 2 and Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son.
1 Robert De Niro – Raging Bull
Critics and fans alike regard Raging Bull to be a masterpiece of filmmaking and one of Martin Scorsese’s greatest works. But, during production, the movie suffered several setbacks that almost stopped production before it started.
For the role of Jake La Motta, Robert De Niro transformed himself by training for almost a year to become the real-life boxer. He boxed over 1,000 rounds in the gym and added 20 pounds of muscle. But, when they completed production in Los Angeles, they sent De Niro to Europe for an eating spree to gain weight, since the role also required him to depict La Motta on the decline.
Over four months, De Niro gained sixty pounds, and when he returned to New York to complete filming the weight gain took its toll. He struggled with his posture and had trouble breathing and talking. Scorsese temporarily halted production because he thought De Niro was at risk of having a heart attack.
De Niro and Scorsese are friends in real life, and the director was making sure his pal was healthy. It was possibly his way of returning the favor, because a few years earlier De Niro saved Scorsese’s life after he overdosed.
References: ranker.com, looper.com, things.com, hermoments.com
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