Making movies and TV shows is an expensive—and stressful—business. Is it any wonder that the people who make them have a tantrum now and then? Who among us hasn’t lost our cool at work once or twice or Christian Bale times? I mean, at least when I have a meltdown, there’s not a multi-million dollar project on the line and hundreds of crew members watching. Let’s be real, as much as we all like to judge this or that actor who loses it on set, we eat up the stories of these hysterics like candy. What fun would Hollywood be if we didn’t get to hear about rich people acting ridiculous? Here are 24 dramatic facts about the most melodramatic meltdowns by Hollywood’s elite.
24. Hackman’s Resistance
Many actors are flattered when a screenwriter develops a part with them specifically in mind. Gene Hackman? Not so much. Wes Anderson wrote the role of patriarch Royal Tenenbaum with Hackman in mind, but the actor was unresponsive to the director’s attempts to cast in for the film, saying there wasn’t enough money to tempt him. Anderson eventually wore him down, but at what cost? Hackman, determined to cause trouble, yelled at everyone who messed up and even called Anderson a c*** in front of the entire cast and crew. By the end of the shoot, the only cast member who wasn’t deathly afraid of Hackman was Bill Murray, who would sometimes watch over filming while wearing a tough-guy cowboy hat in order to make Hackman stay in line.
23. Underwater Diva
Jaws was the first ever summer-blockbuster, frightening audiences off of the beach and vaulting director Steven Spielberg into the upper echelons of Hollywood talent. He managed all of this despite—or because of—his diva lead character. Not Roy Scheider, not Richard Dreyfuss (although his reported feuding with Robert Shaw’s Quint was intense). No, it was the shark that almost sunk the movie. Spielberg and his crew tried every method of making their $250,000 mechanical shark (and rubber prop sharks) look authentic, but every day there were new problems with its functioning. After the shark sank dozens of times, or malfunctioned, or just looked blatantly fake and harmless, the director decided to take a new approach. By shooting from the shark’s point of view, only showing quick glimpses of the beast and using the famous score (dun-dun) to cue dread, Spielberg freaked viewers out by forcing them to imagine everything they could not see. This is one meltdown with a happy ending.
22. Too Much Bond
After Sean Connery ended his reign as James Bond, casting directors took a chance on an unknown model from Australia named George Lazenby. Lazenby proceeded to get into the part by embarking on an international exploration of what it meant to be an uber-male super-spy—ie. boozing, clubbing, and bedding multiple women a day. Back on set he used his own gun for target practice on airborne liquor bottles, drinking like a fish and generally alarming the crew. Eventually, Lazenby burnt out and abandoned the role of Bond after one film (it didn’t help that critics panned his performance).
21. Director Loses his Cool
Famously temperamental, David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) continues to make hit movies, yet the list of people he’s terrorized grows longer and longer. One of the most public explosions was captured on film when Russell exploded at veteran actress Lily Tomlin (Miss Frizzle herself!) on the set of I Heart Huckabees. After a comment about needing less direction from the director, Tomlin was subject to an epic attack from Russell, who called her various filthy names while the other actors sat silently, sometimes breaking out into nervous laughter.
Two and a Half Men was one of TV’s biggest hits when star Charlie Sheen went into a tailspin of taking drugs, doing outrageous stunts and revealing salacious details about his marital and sex life, all accompanied by his classic catchphrase, “winning!” Tired of Sheen’s absences and insults towards the showrunners, Chuck Lorre fired Sheen from his $1.5 million-per-episode gig. The show ended up fizzling out, but Lorre went on to create The Big Bang Theory, so I think he’s doing alright.
Michelle Rodriguez’s character Ana-Lucia on the hit show Lost was a divisive one for fans—she didn’t seem to have a purpose, took screen time away from the main cast, and messed with the fan-favorite pairing of Jack and Kate. Off-screen, Rodriguez was partying too hard and was ultimately caught drinking and driving for the second time in a year. “Coincidentally,” her character was abruptly killed off in the show.
18. Two Legends Wage War
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is a classic Hollywood film where the backstory is more entertaining than the actual film. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis play two sisters trying to destroy each other, a dynamic surely infused with their real-life hatred. The production was a constant war between the two actresses. Davis lined a row of Coke bottles just outside Crawford’s dressing room, causing Crawford to trip and injure herself, and Crawford had to get stitches when Davis kicked her in the face—purposefully?—during a fight scene. No angel herself, Crawford attached heavy weights to her dress in a scene where her body had to be dragged, causing Davis to badly pull a muscle.
17. The Garbage Hits the Fan
While Wesley Snipes was making Blade: Trinity, he became angry when he saw a black actor in the film walking around wearing a shirt that said “Garbage.” Not knowing that it was the actor’s own shirt, Snipes confronted director David Goyer and called him a racist, even trying to strangle him!
16. Desert Breakdown
Anne Heche was a film and TV star in the ’90s, but was mostly known for being one half of Hollywood’s most famous lesbian couple, when she dated Ellen Degeneres. Shortly after the two broke up, Heche took ecstasy, which triggered an unfortunate mental breakdown that received a huge amount of attention—probably because of its utterly bizarre nature. She was found in a stranger’s house in the desert, claiming to be God and that her spaceship was waiting for everyone—she even made up her own language to communicate with the aliens. Well to her credit, the aliens probably wouldn’t have spoken English, so maybe she was on the right track?
15. Putting a Hit on Lead Actor
Ever heard of Fitzcarraldo? Little known to mainstream audiences but generally considered to be one of the most challenging shoots in movie history, Fitzcarraldo is a German adventure film directed by Werner Herzog about a rubber baron trying to pull off impossible feats—like attempting to drag a steamship over a giant hill. Not only did the crew have to physically drag the ship without special effects, but the lead actor Jason Robards dropped out because of dysentery, and his replacement Klaus Kinski was so despised by everyone that a local Chief of the Aguaruna peoples approached Herzog and offered to kill Kinski for him.
14. Terminated, Indeed
In the middle of filming a scene for Terminator Salvation, the director of photography Shane Hurlbut happened to wander near Christian Bale twice, sparking a huge argument. Audio of the incident was leaked, allowing the public to hear Bale screaming at Hurlbut for being distracting, swearing 39 times, calling him an “amateur” and demanding that he be kicked off the set. At one point Bale threatens “I’m going to kick your f***ing ass!” and has to be talked down from assaulting Hurlbut. And here I thought he was arguing with Peter Griffin that whole time!
13. Shame on Kramer
Michael Richards was a comedy-world favorite for his performance as Kramer on Seinfeld, and his stand-up performances were consistently sold out. However, one fateful day, Richards was filmed arguing with an audience member, calling the man the N-word and going on a tirade about hanging black people. Richards “retired” from stand-up after this incident.
12. Cruise Falls in Love
It was a common sight on Oprah Winfrey’s show to see a celebrity crying on the couch while Winfrey pried intimate details from them—but Tom Cruise had the audacity to jump on it. In 2005, the relationship between TomKat (Cruise and Katie Holmes) covered every magazine in the world. The host had barely opened her mouth to ask about it when Cruise let his freak flag fly. Dropping to the floor, fist-pumping, grabbing Winfrey’s hands and even jumping on her couch, Cruise made a spectacle of himself and eventually sprinted backstage to bring Holmes out in front of the crowd. The sight is even more cringe-worthy to look back on now after the couple’s messy divorce and public scorn against Cruise’s association with Scientology. As Winfrey said to her audience, “The boy is GONE.”
11. The Paper-Bag Prince
Shia LaBeouf, once adorable child star and current livewire, has had no shortage of public outbursts. The strangest (but least violent, at least) of these was at the premiere of his film Nymphomaniac, where he paired his tux with a brown paper bag over his face that proclaimed “I’m not famous anymore.”
10. Tyra is Not Pleased
Emotions run high on America’s Next Top Model, as individuals compete to impress Tyra Banks with their runway looks and attitude. One contestant’s attitude rubbed Banks the wrong way, however, and the judge lost it. “I was rooting for you. WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU! How DARE you?” Banks screamed, forever cementing herself in GIF-history. And really, isn’t that what we’re all striving for?
9. Quit Joking Around
Suicide Squad was a critical flop of a film, but the cast seemed to be having a blast on and off set—except for the presence of Jared Leto. Leto insisted on staying in character as the Joker, which involved sending fellow cast members used condoms and anal beads. “The Joker is somebody who doesn’t really respect things like personal space or boundaries,” Leto explained to the media. Oh, that excuses it then.
8. America’s Sweetheart is Cranky
Most actors, however famous, would love to work with a director like Steven Spielberg, but Julia Roberts didn’t really get into it when she had the chance in Hook. Blame Kiefer Sutherland for this one, since the fallout from his and Roberts’ breakup affected her performance as Tinkerbell. She was so hard to work with that tabloids started calling her “Tinker-hell” and even the diplomatic Spielberg said that it wasn’t a great time for the two to work together.
7. Lohan Being Lohan
Lindsay Lohan had already obtained an unreliable reputation by the time she was cast in Georgia Rule, a film about a bratty teenager who is sent to her strict grandmother’s house to straighten out. Unfortunately, Lohan didn’t learn much from her character, and instead frequently missed shooting, and was late so often that her costar Jane Fonda barged into Lohan’s makeup trailer and cussed her out!
6. A Nightmare at McKinley High
Lea Michele earned herself the title of “diva” after what went down on the set of Glee. Apparently, Michele hated her co-star Naya Rivera, trying to get her fired from the show, and was rude and impatient, even snapping her fingers at crew member when a delay was interfering with her evening’s plans. Guest star Kate Hudson, who played Michele’s dance teacher, was said to have kept her distance. Good call, Kate.
5. Maybe He Hates Dairy?
Wayne’s World is a modern-day classic comedy starring Mike Myers, whose behavior on set caused director Penelope Spheeris to reflect that she “hated that bastard for years.” The talented comedian liked to rile people up on set and joke around while frequently complaining to Spheeris about her stage directions. The kicker is that apparently, Myers threatened to quit the whole production when he couldn’t find any margarine stocked on set. What, butter’s not good enough for you Mike?
4. Charlie Needs to Mediate this One
Movie sets are full of ego, but what happens when one actor blatantly criticizes another in the middle of production? In Charlie’s Angels, Lucy Liu allegedly attacked Bill Murray, screaming and throwing punches at his face. Was she justified? Moments before, Murray had stopped a scene in progress, apparently in order to compare Liu to her co-stars Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz. He praised the two other actresses, then pointed to Liu and asked, “What in the hell are you doing here? You can’t act!” Nice Bill, real nice. He was replaced by Bernie Mac for the sequel.
3. Clooney Lashes Out
As we’ve already learned, David O. Russell is known for demanding a lot from the people on his film set, but one actor decided to push back—literally. While filming the complex and expensive Three Kings, Clooney spied the director yelling at some extras and pushing one to the ground—Russell claims he was showing the actor how to act in the next scene. In a rage, Clooney ran over and he and Russell got into a physical tussle, spewing insults at each other and alarming the whole set.
2. On-Camera Breakdown
Martin Sheen is one of the most respected actors in Hollywood, and he led the trend of movie stars joining TV shows when he took a starring role on The West Wing. This makes it even harder to believe the story of his epic meltdown on the set of Apocalypse Now. Struggling with alcoholism and trying to stay sober for an important scene, Sheen smashed a mirror, began sobbing and fell to the floor—footage which actually ended up in the final cut of the movie.
1. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Who Remember Their Lines
Marilyn Monroe dazzled audiences on the screen, but the process to get her there could be somewhat of a struggle. On the set of Some Like it Hot, she didn’t show up on time for her scenes, and rarely learned her lines—even a simple one like “It’s me, sugar!” infamously took 60 takes to nail down. In between crying fits, locking herself in her trailer and clinging to her acting coach, the crew and cast grew to resent the star’s presence. When it was time for a kissing scene between Monroe and actor Tony Curtis, he cruelly said that he’d “rather be kissing Hitler.” Jeez, tell me how you really feel Tony.
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