Sometimes, when it comes to movies, finding out about what went on behind the scenes and the journey that everyone went on to get it made can be just as good, if not better than the movie itself. Especially if there was a lot of drama on set and actors having breakdowns that were so severe, it jeopardized the production of the movie because, at the end of the day, everyone wants to see a car wreck more than the race itself.
There are countless ways an actor can have a breakdown on set and a variety of them are covered here. There are breakdowns that are self-inflicted due to an actor committing a bit too hard to a role, and there are cases where an actor is driven to the brink of insanity by a co-star, or more commonly, director. Some actors are impossible to work with and at times, refuse to work at all, and then there are divas who throw fits (or in the case of number five, dumbbells!).
In the end, no matter how intense or over the top a breakdown was and even if it resulted in production coming to a halt, everyone found a way to push through and finish the movie. Now, whether or not these actors learned from their mistakes and mended fences with anyone they had issues with is a whole other story. For now, all we’re focusing on are 20 Actors Who Had A Breakdown While Filming And Almost Ruined The Movie!
20 Jerry O’Connell Just Wanted A Cookie
Jerry O’Connell may have played the more reserved character in his group of friends in Stand By Me, but he was far from that in real life. At only 12 years old, he proved he was a lot to handle and had a bit of a rebellious side. There was a fair going on not too far away from where they were shooting Stand By Me and since O’Connell happened to be a fan of fairs, he thought he’d go check it out. However, rather than just sneak out, he took it a step too far and tied his babysitter to a banister and headed to the fair alone. Later that day, O’Connell would learn a valuable lesson about karma.
Unbeknownst to little O’Connell, this wasn’t a typical fair with rides and games, but instead, was more of a hippie fair. So, when he decided to buy some cookies, he had no idea they contained a “special” ingredient, and no, it wasn’t love.
According to co-star Kiefer Sutherland, “they found him crying in the park, lost, and completely disoriented” which led to production being shut down for two days while he recovered.
Considering this happened in the ’80s, though, O’Connell could have accidentally ingested some way worse.
19 Marilyn Monroe Couldn’t Take The Heat
To be fair to Marilyn Monroe, it sounded like nearly everyone involved with the movie Some Like It Hot caused issues on set, but then again, a lot of it seemed to either revolve around her and it affected the production of the movie. There were countless days of shooting where Monroe would show up late to set or not show up at all for various reasons. Even when she was there, she would constantly either forget her lines or mess up even the simplest ones. This is no more evident than when she needed a reported 60 takes just to properly deliver the line, “It’s me, sugar!”Add to that all the times a flubbed line would result in her running off the set crying and holding up production for hours, the claims that she was difficult to work with seem fair.
Not only did this frustrated the director Billy Wilder, but her co-star Tony Curtis couldn’t stand her either. He felt like his best work came in the first few takes, but because Monroe needed roughly 30 takes for one scene to get it right, his performance would drop by then. Once the film finally wrapped, it was estimated that she had cost the production $500,000.
18 Marlon Brando Gets A Bedtime Story
The stories about the issues that plagued the production of Apocalypse Now are legendary today as it is nothing short of a miracle that the movie got made. The majority of the actors were a disaster to work with, the weather was constantly an issue, and the director Francis Ford Coppola was losing bits of his sanity every day. However, all of that, even combined, pales in comparison to everything one man caused on set.
Suffice it to say, after everything that happened, Marlon Brando caused the most trouble and was the sole reason as to why production had to be shut down for one week.
To start things off, Brando showed up to set grossly overweight, by choice, and then got insecure about his body and demanded he only wear black clothes during filming and that he be shot in the shadows. With his hand forced and not wanting to delay production any further, Coppola allowed it. However, when he found out that Brando hadn’t read the script and therefore knew nothing about the story or his character, Coppola knew he had a legitimate problem. So, he shut down production for a week while he read Brando the entire script. Everyone just had to wait around, and in the end, it proved to be a waste of time as Brando decided he wanted to improvise his lines anyway.
17 Faye Dunaway Serves Up A Warm Cup Of Justice
Considering the controversy surrounding director Roman Polanski, there will definitely be some people who will applaud what Faye Dunaway did to him on the set of Chinatown, even if it was pretty gross. The director and the actress were reportedly at each other’s throats for the majority of filming and constantly found new ways to annoy each other, whether intentional or not. However, it never seemed to compromise the production as they would work past it, that is until Polanski refused to let Dunaway go to the bathroom between takes, and all hell broke loose.
It seemed to be an unreasonable demand by Polanski that led to somewhat of an overreaction by Dunaway. According to Polanski, after a take, he approached the vehicle Dunaway was in to go over the scene when, out of nowhere, she tossed a cup of coffee in his face that had the added ingredient of urine. That’s right, she ended up getting her bathroom break after all, but in an unconventional way. Polanski was livid and after the pair cussed each other out, he nearly shut down production but decided against it. A little heads up, though, for anyone who gets the chance to meet Dunaway, never ask her about what happened as it won’t go well.
16 Third Time Is Not A Charm For Wesley Snipes
Blade: Trinity may be a terrible movie, but the story behind how it got made at all is an all-time classic. According to Patton Oswalt, who acted in the movie, he believes that if people understood what the film crew went through to get the movie made, “the fact that that movie exists, puts it above Citizen Kane.” This all stems from the star Wesley Snipes who was a disaster to work with and nearly caused the movie to be shut down on multiple occasions. He did everything, from refusing to come out of his trailer, to constantly being under the influence, to assaulted the director, David Goyer, because he was apparently being racist
At one point, Snipes even had the nerve to tell Goyer to quit the movie and let someone else finish it, to which Goyer countered by telling Snipes to quit because they had all of his close-ups and could use his double for the rest of the shoot. After that, Snipes refused to talk to Goyer at all for the rest of filming and would only communicate with sticky notes that he signed with the name Blade. Either he decided to become a method actor for the movie or he was having a massive breakdown. Pretty much everyone who worked on the movie would go with the latter.
15 Tippi Hedren Gets Some Much Deserved Rest
If there is one breakdown on this list that is justified it’s Tippi Hedren’s on the set of The Birds after one scene got way too real. Mechanical birds were used throughout the movie so Hedren was under the assumption they’d be used for the climactic scene where she gets attacked, mainly because that’s what everyone told her. However, she quickly found out that was a lie when she showed up on set to film the scene and was informed that the mechanical birds were “broken” and they would have to use real birds instead. What came next was five straight days of hell that had actor Cary Grant telling Hedren,
“You’re the bravest woman I’ve ever seen.”
For the first four days, whenever director Alfred Hitchcock yelled, “Action!” birds were released on Hedren and pecked her over and over again. On the fifth day, some were even tied to her beforehand and more were thrown at her. Understandably, Hedren finally broke down and refused to film anymore. Hedren’s doctor ordered her to take a week off to rest, but Hitchcock, the class act that he is, argued against it as he claimed she was the only person left to shoot. He was finally convinced to let her rest and after a week of recovery, she returned and finished the movie.
14 Round Two With Brando
Many of the movies Brando was in seemed to have been plagued with issues and filled with difficult cast and crew members and yet, somehow, he always seemed to be the one that stood out as the worst among the bunch. Which brings us to another Brando meltdown, this time, on the set of The Score. At least for this movie, he had the decency to read the script beforehand, but that was probably the least of everyone’s worry on set. Brando seemed to have an issue with the director Frank Oz from the get-go for some reason and would reply to any attempt at direction or advice from him with words and phrases that cannot be repeated here.
It got to the point where he refused to show up on set if Oz was there, claiming to be allergic to him.
This led to Oz having to watch the scenes from another room on a monitor and then essentially play telephone with an assistant director and Robert De Niro to direct Brando. De Niro and Edward Norton were no cake walk either as both tried to exercise their creative control over the script at every turn, however, that’s not uncommon behaviour on bigger movies, whereas Brando’s unreasonable behaviour certainly was. It’s mind blowing how any movie he was in ever got made.
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13 Gene Hackman Scares Everyone (Except Bill Murray)
Seeing as no one in the cast members of The Royal Tenenbaums talked to or heard from Gene Hackman nearly 10 years after the movie was released, it should come as no surprise that he wasn’t exactly a delight to work with. According to director Wes Anderson and cast members Gwyneth Paltrow and Anjelica Huston, Hackman was absolutely terrifying throughout filming and they were legitimately scared to work with him. The reason for Hackman’s behaviour, aside from being a grumpy old man, seemed to stem from Anderson pestering him for a long time to be in his movie because he wrote the part specifically for Hackman. After turning it down countless times, Hackman was finally convinced by his agent to take it, and that’s probably around the time he started plotting his diabolic plan.
If Hackman was fair about one thing, it’s that he made sure everyone got to feel his wrath throughout the entire shoot as no one was safe from a verbal lashing. One of his more memorable tirades was apparently aimed at Anderson when he told the director to “pull up his pants and act like a man,” before calling him a terrible word. The only actor not afraid to stand up to Hackman was Bill Murray, which led to Anderson asking Murray to come in even on his days off to help deal with Hackman.
12 Shelley Duvall Was Pushed Too Far
With everything that Shelley Duvall had to go through during the 13 months it took to film The Shining, it’s a massive accomplishment that she was able to complete the movie altogether. Her character goes through a lot in the film and she practically went through the same experience as she “had to cry 12 hours a day, all day long, the last nine months straight, five or six days a week.” Considering she had to spend that much time actin hysterical, there’s a good chance that for the last few months, she wasn’t so much acting as she was just portraying her true feelings and emotions.
Stanley Kubrick’s treatment of her on set matched with his directing style and that definitely didn’t help matters either. Although, it is argued that he treated her poorly during filming to keep her in the same mindset as her character, considering she is an actor, that seems a bit unnecessary as she could have just acted that way. One of the moments that seemed to push her over the edge, though, came when Kubrick made her do 127 takes of the baseball bat scene. Most of this can be seen in the behind-the-scenes documentary about the movie, which not only showcases Kubrick’s treatment of her, but also her reactions to it.
11 George Lazenby Thought He Was James Bond
When Sean Connery decided to call it a career on playing James Bond, the next man to take over the mantle as the character in the franchise was George Lazenby. Not only was following Connery a tall order, but he was a relative newcomer. A former model who appeared only in a few commercials before landing the role, this was a tall order for him to take on, and it’s fair to say Lazenby didn’t handle it well.
He immediately clashed with the director and his co-stars on set, and that wasn’t even the worst of it. The main issue stemmed from Lazenby seeming to think he truly was James Bond. He let the role and the fame that came with it get to his head, which resulted in him buying a gun and carrying it around with him on set. That’s dangerous enough on its own but to add to that, Lazenby was not shy about showing up to work after having a few. When he wasn’t filming, he would toss his empty bottles in the air and shoot at them. It definitely wasn’t an ideal working environment. Lazenby later claimed he was mislabeled difficult to work with and it cost him roles later on in his career, but he didn’t deny anything, which shows he may not have the best judgment.
10 Klaus Kinski Was Really Hurt
Klaus Kinski had a reputation for being one of the most difficult actors to work with, ever, which is why it’s surprising that Wener Herzog cast him in five of his movies. Then again, Herzog seemed to be just as crazy as Kinski, so it kind of makes sense. The film in question for this one is Aguirre, The Wrath of God and Kinski’s actions on set, though despicable, were nothing new as he would throw tantrums and yell at crew members all the time. What was new was when he shot a gun three times in the direction of extras that were, according to him, playing cards too loud. However, it wasn’t this outburst that almost led to production shutting down. That came on two separate occasions but for the same reason: Kinski was almost murdered.
The first time came when natives in the area they were filming in got annoyed with Kinski and offered to kill him for Herzog. He declined but mainly because he wanted to finish the movie. Herzog did change his tune, though, when Kinski decided he was leaving the movie for good. This time, it was Herzog who threatened Kinki’s life by telling him if he tried to leave “there’d be eight bullets in his head and the ninth one would be [his].” Kinski stayed and finished the film, obviously, and the end result was arguably their best movie together.
9 Anne Hathaway Struggled On Set
Anne Hathaway didn’t cut any corners when it came to playing Fantine in Les Miserable and even though it took a tremendous toll on her mentally and physically, an Oscar win definitely made it worthwhile. At the time of filming though, Hathaway seemed more concerned with staying alive than winning awards. She lost weight in preparation for the role before completely starving herself for 13 straight days of filming, during which she constantly struggled not to faint or collapse on set. She fought through it, but her biggest breakdown came when she had to watch her head get shaved. Her reaction to this, which Hathaway volunteered for, totally blindsided her as it had a bigger effect on her than she expected.
She thought shaving her head would be no big deal right up until the first bit of hair was cut off.
Then about halfway through the process, she started to regret the decision and began trembling before launching into a self-described “mental patient-level crying” and becoming “inconsolable.” It didn’t help that she had to go through this alone without her husband’s support as she had forced him to leave the set early on because he was making her too happy and she wanted to be miserable like her character. Mission accomplished.
8 LL Cool J Did What His Mama Told Him To Do
It’s crazy to think that at one point in their acting careers, LL Cool J would take a role more seriously than the Oscar-nominated Jamie Foxx, but that’s essentially what caused a fight between the two on the set of Any Given Sunday. Both have shared their version of the story, albeit Foxx’s fame in a stand-up routine, and how it unfolded is the same but their take on it is completely different. The scene where it all went down too was, ironically, a fight scene, but verbally and not physically.
According to LL, he made a character choice to add some physicality to the argument and shoved Foxx during takes. However, he never ran that by Foxx, who didn’t appreciate it because according to him, they were just acting and LL was taking things too far. It all escalated from there as Foxx warned LL not to touch him again, and when he did, Foxx threw a punch of his own. LL reacted with words at first, but right after, he decided to punch Foxx in the face and knocked him out. Finally, the cast and crew stepped in to break it up and the Miami police were called to calm everyone down. LL and Foxx would end up squashing their beef later on and Foxx even joked about how LL knocked him into another movie.
7 Natalie Portman’s Character Becomes Her Reality
Another actress who literally starved for her craft — Natalie Portman lost 20 pounds and rehearsed for eight hours a day to prepare for her role in Black Swan and kept the weight off during production by only eating carrots and almonds. Just like Hathaway, though, she was rewarded with an Academy Award for her efforts. However, the price she paid to get it was having to spend countless nights in fear as she admits, “I thought I literally was going to die.” For most people, nothing is worth that risk, but apparently, for actors, that’s part of the job description.
Along with keeping a strict diet, Portman fully immersed herself in the role by essentially ridding herself of a social life for the entirety of the shoot and spending her days filming or training and getting very little sleep.
All of this combined culminated in Portman dislocating a rib during rehearsals. She didn’t let that stop her though, as she claimed that, “all dancers are always dancing with an extreme injury.” On top of that, she mentioned that the set was always serious and scary and never fun, which ended up reflecting the tone of the movie.
6 Christian Bale Yells At Someone For Doing Their Job
Even if someone hasn’t heard the leaked audiotape of Christian Bale’s expletive-filled rant on the set of Terminator: Salvation, they more than likely are aware of the story seeing as it spread like wildfire at the time. Bale is known as an actor who fully immerses himself in a role by doing whatever it takes to deliver the best possible performance, which is why one can see where he may have been coming from when he lashed out at the director of photography, Shane Hurlbut. Bale claimed he was still somewhat in character as the crazy John Connor when he yelled at Hurlbut, but even he realized that wasn’t a good enough reason to excuse his behaviour.
Hurlbut was simply doing his job by making sure everything was set up properly in the scene but ended up walking into Bale’s eye line during the take and Bale absolutely lost it. Aside from comparing that situation to him ripping lights down during a scene, Bale also claimed he wasn’t coming back to set until Hurlbut was fired. In the end, they were able to hash it out and go on to finish the movie and Bale even issued a public apology where he admitted that he “acted like a punk,” to universal agreement.
5 Tom Sizemore Has A 50-Pound Overreaction
This is another on-set fight, but one that could have ended a lot worse than a knockout punch if someone had better aim. This fight happened between Tom Sizemore and Val Kilmer while they were filming the movie Red Planet back in 2000 and it all started over a petty argument about fame. According to Sizemore, Kilmer threw a fit when he found out that production paid to have Sizemore’s exercise equipment shipped to the set because apparently, Kilmer was making more money than Sizemore — that’s it. He’s quoted as saying, “I’m making ten million on this one; you’re only making two.” If that doesn’t make any sense, neither did Sizemore’s nearly deadly reaction.
Rather than handle the so-called argument with words, Sizemore thought it would be a good idea to throw a 50-pound weight at Kilmer! Luckily he missed or else they probably would have never finished the movie on account of Kilmer being in the hospital and Sizemore being in jail. The feud culminated when Sizemore got physical again, this time during a fight scene. Producers reportedly begged Sizemore not to actually hit Kilmer in the face, and he didn’t but instead dropped him with a stiff punch to the chest. His punishment? Seemingly nothing as they carried on filming.
4 Katherine Heigl Is Never Satisfied
Katherine Heigl went from being the next big Hollywood star to suffering a massive downfall and struggling to find work at all because of the way she conducted herself on set, most notably on the movie Life As We Know It. The actress was reportedly a pain to work with as she would constantly find something to complain about, big or small, or as one insider who worked on the movie put it, Heigl creates “desperately difficult situations” all the time.
This consisted of “wardrobe issues, not getting out of the trailer, questioning the script every single day,” or in other words, putting up a fuss for the sake of it.
Dealing with one difficult actress is bad enough, but apparently, the cast and crew had to feel the wrath of mama Heigl on set as well, as she is, unfortunately, her manager too. Whatever Heigl decided to complain about that day, either her mother would back her up or she would find something else to complain about altogether. Mother-daughter bonding at it’s finest! It should be noted that the director, Greg Berlanti, said he had no issue with Heigl and “would work wither her again in a heartbeat,” but considering he hasn’t since, it’s hard to take that claim seriously.
3 Bruce Willis Only Cares About Bruce Willis
It’s no secret that directors and actors clash all the time on set and that seemed to be the biggest issue plaguing the production of Cop Out, a film starring Bruce Willis and directed by Kevin Smith. Unfortunately for Smith, he experienced every fan’s worst fear when it comes to meeting an actor they admire, which is that they are actually a jerk in real life. Before the movie was released, there were reports that the two had issues during production but they both shot them down. That is until Smith decided to open his mouth later on and share his unpleasant experience working with the Die Hard star.
Smith described his entire experience working with Willis as “soul-crushing”
and labeled him as being undirectable, which he said came from Willis straight up refusing to say lines of dialogue even if it had a negative effect on the people acting with him in the scene. Smith even shared a story about how he approached Willis three times while filming a scene to give him direction on how he wanted Willis to act it out differently before realizing that Willis was never going to do it the way he wanted. At the wrap party, which Willis didn’t attend, Smith summed up his thoughts on working with Willis by saying, “I want to thank everyone who worked on the film, except for Bruce Willis.”
2 Rip Torn Stops For Hammer Time
What happened on the set of Maidstone was so insane and ridiculous there’s no point wasting any time getting into it, so here it is. Rip Torn lost his mind on set and began attacking the director Norman Mailer with a hammer. Mailer survived the attack and wrestled Torn to the ground but was overpowered and strangled until cast and crew finally came over to break it up. Crazy right? What’s even crazier is the cameras were rolling the entire time and caught the fight. However, rather than use it as evidence to have Torn thrown in jail, Mailer decided it would be better for the movie and put it in the final cut.
In an interview back when the film was released, Torn defended his actions by claiming that Mailer had told everyone involved in the film to orchestrate an assassination attempt on his character but not tell him how or when it was going to happen. Evidently, Torn was the only one who followed through with the request. It was a terrifying breakdown and a risky choice, whether or not it was actually planned.
1 Bette Davis And Joan Crawford’s Dangerous Prank War
The movie What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? plays more like a reality show or documentary when you realize that not only do the characters hate each other in the movie but the stars that play them, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, despised each other in real life too. This wasn’t the beginning of the feud either as they hated each other for years and didn’t hide it from the public before signing on to do the movie. It makes you wonder why they would ever agree to do the movie together and why the producers thought it would be a good idea.
The entire shoot was essentially one giant prank war between the actresses that always resulted in someone getting hurt.
It started when Davis put Coke bottles outside Crawford’s door that caused her to trip and injure herself, as well as psychologically torture because Crawford’s husband was the president of Pepsi. Crawford retaliated by putting weights in her dress during a scene where Davis had to drag her body, which caught her off guard and caused her to throw out her back. It escalated when Davis flat out booted Crawford in the face during a scene that resulted in her needing stitches. At least they were able to refrain from actually killing each other and eventually finish the movie.
References: cracked.com, criterion.com, cinemablend.com, metro.co.uk, whatculture.com, indiewire.com, bbcamerica.com, thevintagenews.com, rollingstones.com, uproxx.com, content.time.com, ranker.com, people.com, telegraph.co.uk, tv.avclub.com, vulture.com, gamesradar.com, tcm.com, ca.news.yahoo.com
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