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.

42 thoughts on “Bickering between filmmakers and actors on movie sets

  1. What a fun article. One of my favorites is Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski on the set of Aguirre: Wrath of God. From the IMDb trivia page:

    According to director Werner Herzog, Klaus Kinski threatened to abandon the film entirely at one point during the shooting. Werner Herzog says he threatened to kill Klaus Kinski and then turn the gun on himself if Klaus Kinski left – and later declared he was quite prepared to do so. Klaus Kinski stated in interviews that Werner Herzog wielded a pistol to emphasize the threat, but Werner Herzog denies this.

    1. Vince

      Yes, I’ve heard of that one too John. I think it was in Fitzcarraldo that the Amazon river natives offered to kill Kinski for Herzog… One of my favorite set conflicts was between Kubrick and the oscar winning cinematographer Lucien Ballard while filming The Killing – great story found on the Kubrick: Life in Pictures DVD.

      1. Ted S.

        Yeah Vince I saw that too the fight between Kubrick and Ballard, you must’ve seen the part where he yelled at Shelly Duvall on the set of The Shining then right?

  2. Yeah that’s great stuff. We don’t hear about it a lot now because it happened pre-internet, but James Cameron is reputed to be notorious for giving actors a hard time. To this day, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio cannot stand Cameron. There’s stories of her breaking down on the set. Ed Harris had problems on this production as well. Mary Elizabeth refuses to be in any DVD special features on the movie as far as I know.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Mark and yeah I heard stories about Cameron and his actors on the set of The Abyss. Also, I read that he made Cate Winslet cry so many times during the shoot of Titanic and she vowed to never work with him again.

    2. I have read somewhere that at a certain point on the abyss set the actors weren’t excused to go to the bathroom so one of them had to pee in her wetsuit (I think it was Mary Elizabeth) because she really had to go.

  3. This is a great piece … I have seen the footage of David O Russell on YouTube going at it with his actors. It was really funny!

    I guess it is to be expected when you have such creative forces (and Michael Bay) working on an artistic project. I suspect that a lot of the differences blow over but some seem lasting.

    1. Hey Castor, did you know Ted has teleporting ability? That’s why he could transport himself invisibly to these sets 😉

      1. Ted S.

        I wish I had a camcorder with me when O. Russell and Clooney started exchanging punches, the clip would’ve been all over YouTube already if I did have a camera with me. Ha ha.

        Funny enough though, a lot of people thought it was someone from Clooney’s camp who leaked the video of O. Russell yelling at Lily Tomlin on the set of I Heart Hucklebees. Apparently Clooney still holding a grudge against Russell.

  4. cooldued17

    Huh, i’m pretty sure nolan and leo never fought on set. Where r u getting that from???? Well the others are pretty accurate, you should have added val kilmer, i heard some crazy stories about his relation with directors.

    1. Ted S.

      It was just rumors that’s why I said I don’t know what they fought about. Google it and you might find something about them fighting on the set.

    2. Ted S.

      Yes I heard stories about Kilmer vs. Joel Schumacher on the set of Batman Forever but I don’t know what they fought about so I decided not include it on the list.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. wow. I didn’t know that fact about Leo and Nolan. What an interesting article. I heard James Cameron gave everyone a hard time during The Terminator production, but maybe it didn’t go so bad since you didn’t put it on the list. The Bay vs Connery fight, I’d love to see that.

  6. This was a very fun read! Interesting. Yes, you never quite know what goes on behind the scenes of a movie unless they publish it, or you’re there. Always interesting to see just how close, or not, actors are to the characters they portray.

    I’m surprised that the majority are guys and not gals. Not that one would be more argumentative over another, I just would tend to think it be more equal. I am surprised. No Sandra Bullock or Scarlett Johansson, or Julia Roberts (Hook) stories.

  7. PrairieGirl

    I know this is TV, but he’s been in movies too: Can anyone say Charlie Sheen and Chuck Lorre? Nasty! ;-D

  8. it’s difficult for me to imagine Leo DiCaprio & Christopher Nolan getting in each other’s faces, probably because i don’t want to believe that the filming of Inception was anything less than heavenly for all concerned LOL

    Russell Crowe & Ridley Scott supposedly have had their differences going all the way back to the Gladiator set. i remember rumors at the time it was released that they fought over whether or not Maximus would hook up with Lucilla and about the script, which I guess was being written as they went, i.e., they would get their lines the night before, so they never got a complete script.

    I also remember reading that supposedly, at some time during his career, Val Kilmer stubbed a cigarette out on a background artist’s face.

    1. Ted S.

      I think when you have two people who are rich and famous and have huge ego, they’re going to clash when working together. Both Leo and Nolan are professional enough to not make it personal, but of course I’m assuming here, you never know maybe they’re not even talking to each other anymore. 🙂

      Wow I didn’t know that Scott and Crowe bickered on the Gladiator sets, thanks for sharing.

      I heard so much bad stories about Val Kilmer, especially on the sets of Batman Forever. I remember Joel Schumacher said he was thrilled that Kilmer decided to not return to do Batman & Robin. Maybe it’s the reason Kilmer never became the big star that everyone thought he would be, if you’re always being a a-hole on the sets than people just don’t want to work with you.

  9. Such a great article Ted! I’m so gonna tweet the living h*ll out of it!

    It is amazing that David O. Russel actually didn’t end up fighting with Bale or Mark Wahlberg on the Fighter. Davis is actually guest in an episode of the Slash film podcast where he mentions that he has done some crazy stuff in the past that kept him unemployed for a while. However, when listening in on him you kind of understand why he keeps getting in trouble because he comes off as a know-it-all.

    Maybe DiCaprio wanted some depth to his character on Inception. If you ask me he was right to bitch about that hahah

    I also love how Ed Norton keeps getting in to the editing room of his films. One wonder if his in their union or something.

    Once again great post!

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Joel, yeah I know I was surprised that O. Russell and Bale didn’t get into a fight on the set or maybe they did but they decided to keep it quite.

      I won’t be surprise if Leo and Nolan argued about that at all.

      Yeah Ed Norton loves to see more of himself on the screen so he always try to force himself into the editing to make sure most of his scenes are on the screen. I think the producers of The Avengers just didn’t want to deal with him that’s why he’s not returning to play The Hulk in the film.

      Thanks for the tweet!

    2. Hey there Joel, did you finish your pitch? I’m really curious ’cause you’ve got my boy Gerry Butler in your cast AND Christian Bale! I’d love to hear what you think of mine as well.

      1. I have had a very busy week at work so I’m a little behind but I hope to have my first one up tomorrow. I glanced on yours earlier today and it looks really good as usual even though your boys aren’t in it. I have added it to my instapaper app in on my iPhone and I’ll try reading it tomorrow on the bus to work.

        Gotta say I’m very impressed with your blog Ruth. I haven’t realized the scale of visitors you have on here until recently and there is a lot of interesting posts. To bad I’m not eligible to vote in the in the lammies this year you had gotten my vote for best newbie thats for sure.

        1. Yeah, I visited your blog yesterday and didn’t see it. I’ll be sure to check back again because you’ve also got Timothy Dalton in it (my head is spinning of the possibility of seeing him & Gerry in a movie together!!)

          Why thanks for your kind words about FC, Joel… I’ve got help obviously, people like Ted, Prairiegirl, etc. have enriched my blog so much the past year. Thank you for your vote (I still appreciate it even though you weren’t eligible). I’m quite surprised to have gotten nominated considering how many other great new blogs out there.

    1. Ted S.

      Hey Fitz,

      I don’t know if the rumors are true or not either but again we never really know what happened on the set of that film.

  10. I love the brutal honesty in this article. We all like to think that directors and actors get along and have a great time whilst making a movie, but as you’ve pointed out, that’s not always the case. Apparently things were very difficult for Cruise, Kidman and Kubrick during the filming of Eyes Wide Shut. I read somewhere that he made him walk through a doorway like a hundred times to get it absolutely perfect. That’s just something I heard, though. It might not be true.

    One filmmaker I imagine it would be very difficult to work with (thankfully he’s only made two films) is Vincent Gallo. Look, I love the guy’s movies, and I like to think he’s not as egotistical as he’s made out to be, but apparently he gave an 18 year-old Christina Ricci hell during the production of Buffalo ’66, even when his character wasn’t being a total bastard to her. Still love the movie, though.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah I heard stories about the shooting of Eyes Wide Shut too, I think you can find so many great behind stories on all of Kubrick’s films. He’s great at what he does but also a madman.

      I’ve never seen any of Gallo’s work so I can’t comment on that.

      Thanks stopping by.

  11. Great Post Ted (as always).

    I love this kind of stuff. Films seem to be a bit like a Swan, all graceful and smooth on the surface but then you look underneath the water and all hell is breaking loose!!

    Thanks for putting this together matey


    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Custard.

      Yeah I love reading about these behind the scene stories, when you have people who are rich and famous, most of them has huge ego and eventually they’ll clash on the set.

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