Making a movie can be a long, grueling, sometimes even dangerous process. It can drive actors and directors insane, causing them to have violent outbursts, thrown child-like temper tantrums, or even urinate in mason jars…
1. Robert Downey Jr. and David Fincher (Zodiac)
To protest the pace of filming the David Fincher thriller, Zodiac, Robert Downey Jr. would urinate in jars and then leave them strewn around the set, like some sort of weird pee-based modern art installation. Fincher explained that the innovation of digital cinematography allowed him to speed up shooting significantly, “Robert Downey actually came up to me and said, ‘I can’t work like this. I never get to go to my trailer. I can never get my shit together. I’m on my feet 14 hours a day.’ He actually left mason jars of urine on the set, like over in the corner. He’d pee and bring it back as a form of protest.”
Downey Jr. later likened Fincher’s directing style to living in a Russian prison, “I just decided, aside from several times I wanted to garrote him, that I was going to give him what he wanted. I think I’m a perfect person to work for him, because I understand gulags.”
2. Gene Hackman and Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums)
Even before filming began on the Wes Anderson classic The Royal Tenenbaums, Gene Hackman hated the idea of the film. You see, the part of Royal Tenenbaum was written specifically for Hackman, something the actor vehemently opposes. There was also the issue of payment. The Royal Tenenbaums was a small budget film with a large ensemble cast, so each actor was paid significantly less than usual. Hackman eventually agreed to do the movie, but only if he could terrorize his director.
Co-star Gwyneth Paltrow admitted she was “scared” of Hackman and Anjelica Huston added, “I was a lot scared but I was more concerned with protecting Wes.” Hackman once called Anderson a “cunt” and told the director to “pull up his pants and act like a man.”
Only Bill Murray was unfazed by Hackman’s antics and Anderson even asked the comedian to protect him, “You were not scared of Gene,” Anderson said to Murray, “I noticed early on so I started asking you to come be there. I remember, there was a scene where Gene goes for a walk in the park and I looked up on the top of this rock and you were standing with a cowboy hat watching the set. And you were just there to show solidarity and I was very touched by that.” That’s right, Bill Murray would survey the set from atop a cliff while wearing a cowboy hat. That’s like the Wes Anderson version of Batman.
3. Megan Fox and Michael Bay (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen)
We imagine that the movie set for a blockbuster reboot of a 1980s cartoon would be amazing (Care Bears reboot, anyone?), but working conditions on the Transformers franchise were apparently so bad that Megan Fox infamously compared director Michael Bay to Hitler, “God, I really wish I could go loose on this one. He’s like Napoleon and he wants to create this insane, infamous mad-man reputation. He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is. So he’s a nightmare to work for but when you get him away from set, and he’s not in director mode, I kind of really enjoy his personality because he’s so awkward, so hopelessly awkward. He has no social skills at all.” Fox ended her tirade with, “And it’s endearing to watch him,” so at least Bay has that going for him. The pair did eventually make up and worked together again on the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.
Actress Tippi Hedren had a well documented, troubled relationship with director Alfred Hitchcock. “He was too possessive and too demanding,” Hedren would later say.
While filming a scene for The Birds, Hitchcock allowed Hedren to be attacked by real birds rather than the mechanical birds the film had previously used. “Everybody had lied to me,” Hedren said, “and on the Monday morning, as we were going to start the scene, the assistant director came in and looked at the floor and the walls and the ceiling, then blurted out: ‘The mechanical birds don’t work, so we have to use real ones,” and then he ran out. When I got to the set I found out there had never been any intention to use mechanical birds because a cage had been built around the door where I was supposed to come in, and there were boxes of ravens, gulls and pigeons that bird trainers wearing gauntlets up to their shoulders hurled at me, one after the other, for a week.” Eventually, Hedren collapsed, bloodied and exhausted. She was placed in the care of a doctor, who asked “What are you trying to do? Kill her?”
In the 1983 book The Dark Side of a Genius by Donald Spoto, Hedren admitted that during the filming of Marnie, Hitchcock made “an overt sexual proposition that she could neither ignore nor answer casually, as she could his previous gestures.” When she refused his advances, Hitchcock vowed to ruin her career. “And he did,” Hedren said, “kept me under contract, kept paying me every week for almost two years to do nothing.”
5. Shelley Duvall and Stanley Kubrick (The Shining)
Shelley Duvall once described working with Stanley Kubrick as “almost unbearable.” While filming The Shining, Kubrick pushed the actress to her limits and required an absurd amount of takes for every shot. For example, the scene where Wendy runs up the staircase carrying a knife was shot 35 times. That’s the equivalent of running up the Empire State Building. Duvall was under so much stress while filming, that she eventually became ill and started to lose her hair.
“So here was my chance to work with Kubrick,” Duvall later said, “And that was another category. Going through day after day of excruciating work. Almost unbearable. Jack Nicholson‘s character had to be crazy and angry all the time. 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. I was there a year and a month, and there must be something to Primal Scream therapy, because after the day was over and I’d cried for my 12 hours, I went home very contented. It had a very calming effect. During the day I would have been absolutely miserable.” In fact, Duvall said that the role required her to cry so much that she eventually ran out of tears.
6. George Clooney and David O. Russell (Three Kings)
While filming Three Kings, George Clooney and director David O. Russell came to blows over the way the director treated his crew. Russell would frequently scream at his crew and he even made the script supervisor cry. After Russell shoved an extra to the ground and started kicking him, Clooney told the director that he “Can’t shove, push or humiliate people who aren’t allowed to defend themselves,” to which Russell allegedly replied, “Why don’t you just worry about your fucked-up act? You’re being a dick. You want to hit me? You want to hit me? Come on, pussy, hit me.”
“Then, he started banging me on the head with his head,” Clooney explained, “He goes, ‘Hit me, you pussy. Hit me’. Then, he got me by the throat and I went nuts. Waldo, my buddy, one of the boys, grabbed me by the waist to get me to let go of him. I had him by the throat. I was going to kill him. Kill him. Finally, he apologized, but I walked away. By then, the Warner Bros. guys were freaking out. David sort of pouted through the rest of the shoot and we finished the movie, but it was truly, without exception, the worst experience of my life.”
Russell has since said, “I wouldn’t make another George Clooney movie if they paid me $20 million.” Don’t worry, Russell, that probably won’t happen.
7. Marlon Brando and Frank Oz (The Score)
During production of The Score, Marlon Brando repeatedly argued with director Frank Oz and referred to him as “Miss Piggy” (the Muppet that Oz played from 1976 to 2001).
Eventually Brando stopped taking directions from Oz and preferred to be directed by co-star Robert De Niro. Oz explained, “Marlon was trying to make more of a statement in his acting, and I wouldn’t let him, and I was very tough—I should have been more nurturing, it was more my fault. But because I wasn’t, he hated me, and wouldn’t really let me direct him after that. So I said I directed the movie, but I really didn’t direct Marlon—90 percent of the time, he wouldn’t listen to me.”
8. Faye Dunaway and Roman Polanski (Chinatown)
Director Roman Polanski once described Faye Dunaway as “a gigantic pain in the ass” and said that she “demonstrated certifiable proof of insanity”.
In the book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Peter Biskind wrote that on the set of Chinatown, “Polanski once forcibly plucked a stray hair from Dunaway’s head, because he thought it was catching the light and spoiling his shot. He also claims that Dunaway later took her revenge by throwing a cup of urine in the director’s face after she was refused a bathroom break.”
When asked about the urine incident by a journalist from The Guardian, Dunaway lost her temper and tossed the journalist out of the room, “I won’t respond to that. That doesn’t even deserve the dignity of a response. I don’t know the details of that. It is absolutely ridiculous.”
9. Bob Hoskins and Rocky Morton/Annabel Jankel (Super Mario Bros.)
In an interview with The Guardian, Bob Hoskins was asked, “What is the worst job you’ve done,” “What has been your biggest disappointment,” and “If you could edit your past, what would you change?” His answer to all three was the live-action Super Mario Bros. movie.
In 2007, co-star John Leguizamo admitted that he and Hoskins would frequently get drunk just to make it through filming and Dennis Hopper once said of the film’s directors, Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, “It was a nightmare, very honestly, that movie. It was a husband and wife directing team who were both control freaks and wouldn’t talk before they made decisions. Anyway, I was supposed to go down there for five weeks, and I was there for 17. It was so over budget.”
10. Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog (Fitzcarraldo)
While filming Fitzcarraldo, actor Klaus Kinski would frequently attempt to fight director Werner Herzog and other members of the cast and crew. The documentary, My Best Fiend, details the production of the film and shows Kinski yelling at production manager Walter Saxer over quality of the food. Klinski’s behavior upset the native extras so much that one of the native chiefs offered to kill Kinski, but Herzog politely declined, saying he needed the actor to finish the film.