Bickering between filmmakers and actors on movie sets


I think we all remember the infamous Christian Bale’s audio tape of him yelling at a cinematographer on the set of Terminator: Salvation. Then a few years ago someone released the clip of David O. Russell screaming at Lily Tomlin on the set of I Heart Huckabees, this wasn’t the first time he got in a fight with his star, you’ll read about it later. [rtm’s note: Last week, I tweeted Playlist‘s article on Terrence Malick punching a producer on the set of Badlands.

I think most film fans know that these things do happen quite a bit during film production. So I figured I should write about some of the other infamous fights on movie sets that not many people knew about.

1. Mission: Impossible – Tom Cruise vs. Brian De Palma

The dispute between Cruise and De Palma would definitely have made a huge news on the internet had it happened today but back in 1996, the internet was still new, so this story actually was published on TIME magazine. Things got heated between these two because of the scene where Cruise and his team broke into the CIA headquarters. The scene in particular is when Cruise was going to steal the NOC list from the computer, I think everyone know what scene I’m talking about. De Palma called cut after 15 takes but Cruise wanted to do 15 more. Well De Palma told him he got what he needed but Cruise insisted that they should do more takes; this was Cruise’s first producing gig so I assume he also wanted to take control of the film.

Of course De Palma wasn’t happy to hear that and shouted back “I’m the f***ing director and I said we’re done with this scene!” I don’t recall what Cruise said back to De Palma but the two of them almost got into a fist fight, until Cruise’s producing partner at the time Paula Wagner stepped in and calm everyone down. So in the end, they compromised and did 5 additional takes on the scene. Not many people remember but when the film came out in the summer of 1996, De Palma was nowhere to be seen during the promotion of the film. I figured he probably didn’t want to be around Tom Cruise after he’s done with the picture. Ironically Cruise offered him a chance to come back and direct the second film but of course he turned it down. I wonder why?

Side note: Cruise and Woo also crashed early on while shooting M: I-2 but it wasn’t as bad as the one with De Palma and I guess both kissed and made up because Woo was everywhere promoting the film and Cruise can’t stop praising Woo’s direction of the film.

2. Three Kings – George Clooney vs. David O. Russell

Russell has a reputation of being very difficult to work with in Hollywood and no one was surprised when he and Clooney got into it during the shoot of Three Kings. So what happened was Russell was having a bad day and decided to take it out on one of the crew members, he’s basically insulting some poor guy who wasn’t even a big part of the production. Clooney witnessed this and stepped in by telling Russell to calm down and be professional. Well Russell fired back by calling Clooney a pretty boy and started head butting him and then the fists started flying. A bunch of crew members had to separate the both of them. After the incident, Clooney and Russell were hardly in speaking term, luckily they finished the movie. I wish someone who had taped the fight would release it on YouTube someday, would love to see that.

Because of the incident, Russell couldn’t get another of his film off the ground until five years later and then he got into another fight one of his stars again on the set of I Heart Huckabees. I wonder if that’s the reason why his next film (I couldn’t remember the name of it) after I Heart Huckabees couldn’t find enough money to finance it. Luckily for him The Fighter was a modest hit and got some Oscars nominations, I was surprised he and Bale didn’t get into a big fight on the set considering both of them has huge ego.

3. Mr. & Mrs. Smith – Angelina Jolie vs. Doug Liman

Half way through the shooting of this film, Jolie and Liman got into a huge fight because Liman was criticizing her acting abilities. It has gotten so bad that Jolie refused to be in the same room as Liman. So in order to finish the film, Brad Pitt actually directed all of the romantic scenes between the two of them and Liman was watching the take in a different room. Fox did a good job of keeping the fight quite because the story didn’t come out until after the film was released. Also, the romance between Pitt and Jolie on the set was probably more interesting to the public than the fight.

4. Blade Runner – Ridley Scott vs. Everyone on the set:

If you have the definitive cut edition of Blade Runner on DVD or Blu-ray, I’d recommend you watch the behind the scenes feature of this film. It’s one of the best behind the scenes features I’ve ever seen, film students out there should definitely watch it and know how tough it is to make a movie in Hollywood. So basically during the shoot of this movie, Scott was a tyrant on the set. He pissed off everyone including Harrison Ford, which explains they never worked with each other again after this film. A bunch of crew members actually made t-shirts with the sign Blade Runner and wear them on the set. Of course Scott saw them wear the t-shirts but he said he didn’t give a flying f**k about what the crew thought of him. Scott also pissed off the film investors; they actually threaten to shut down production if he doesn’t finish shooting a particular scene on time. They gave him a week to shoot one scene but he decided to take a month to finish it. Luckily for Scott, the producer was on his side and he put out a few fires that Scott had started.

Of course the film is now considered one of the best sci-fi films ever made and everyone seems to be happy with it. Except a couple of investors who hated the film because it tanked at the box office and they lost quite a bit of money on it.

5. The Shining – Stanley Kubrick vs. Shelley Duvall

Most film lovers know that Kubrick was a perfectionist when it comes to shooting his films, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to learn that he was basically tortured Duvall while shooting this film. You can actually see the fights between them if you saw a documentary of Kubrick’s life that came out a few years ago. He was so tough on Duvall that she cried most of the time while they were shooting the movie, now some said he did this because he wanted her feel what her character felt. I don’t know if that’s true or not since Duvall said he never apologize to her after the shooting wrapped.

6. The Rock – Michael Bay vs. Sean Connery

So after his first film Bad Boys was a box office hit, Bay thought he was the master of the universe and decided to not give any respect to Connery or anyone else on the set while shooting this movie. Of course Connery being a veteran actor and have worked with so many directors in the past, he decided he had enough and started yelling back at Bay while they were shooting one of the scenes from the film. At one point Bay went up to Connery’s face and started yelling at him, well let’s just say James Bond didn’t like that and he made sure Bay knew his place. They both got into a shoveling match and luckily Jerry Bruckheimer was on the set at the time and stepped in and calms everyone down. I think Connery would’ve kicked Bay’s ass had they got into a fist fight.


Edward Norton vs. most of the directors he’d worked with

Norton is known for his bickering with filmmakers as far back as his work on American History X, he was still an up and coming actor back then but apparently he and the director Tony Kaye didn’t see eye to eye during the making of this film. Norton apparently got the permission from the studio to re-edited the movie to lengthen his screen time. Of course Kaye found out and wasn’t too happy about this and he sued the studio.

A few years later, he got into a fight with director F. Gary Gray on the set of The Italian Job because again he wanted to have more screen time. After they finished shooting, Norton tried to force himself into the editing room to make he gets his equal share of screen time. Unfortunately for him this time the studio sided with the director and they told him to get lost.

Recently he got into some bickering with Marvel Studio chief because he wanted the studio to keep more scenes of him in The Incredible Hulk. If you want to see those scenes, they’re available in the special features of DVD/BD. They cut out about 30 minutes of scenes with him in it, so I kind of understand why he was upset. He again tried to force himself into the editing room but they told him to get lost and they didn’t even invite him back to join the cast of The Avengers.

Russell Crowe vs. Ridley Scott on the set of Robin Hood

Even though they’ve worked with each other in four other films, apparently Crowe and Scott got into a few heated discussion on the set of this movie. I’m not sure what they were arguing about but some suspected it was about the tone of the film. The original script was more of a light adventure film but Scott decided to turn it into a gritty and violent film. Crowe wasn’t too happy about the final product, so don’t expect to see the pairing of Crowe and Scott in the near future. Apparently the fight between them was so severe that they haven’t spoken to each other since the film wrapped production.

Leonardo DiCaprio vs. Chris Nolan on the set of Inception

I think because of the film’s success, the dispute between these two never really made into a big news. Now I don’t exactly know what they fought about but some rumors going around that Leo was trying to change Nolan’s script of the film, particularly his character in the film. We might never know what happened between these two but one thing is for sure, don’t expect to see a DiCaprio and Nolan pairing up again any time soon.

Sources: TIME magazine and the now-defunct Cinescape magazine.

Well those are some behind the scenes bickering between actors and directors, I’m sure there were many more fights that we don’t know about but I always find it very amusing and entertaining to read about this stuff. If you know of any other fights on movie sets, do share them in the comments section.