By Erin Free

Whether it’s refusing to shave a caveman-style beard; having actors and directors sacked at will; banning crew members from calling them by name; stealing scenes from their co-stars; screaming at a cinematographer; or demanding ridiculously enormous changes at the last minute, Hollywood’s biggest performers really know how to act up.


An actor of uncommon brilliance, Oscar winner Christian Bale doesn’t like being distracted on set. This was evidenced in a now infamous leaked audio tape of the actor going up in metaphorical flames while shooting the 2009 sci-fi actioner, Terminator Salvation. Bale exploded in a fit of rage when the film’s cinematographer, Shane Hurlbut, walked into a shot to adjust his lights…while the famously deep-in-character Bale was smack bang in the middle of an emotion-heavy scene. With audio still rolling (and later illegally released on the internet), the actor responded with abject rage and frustration. “Do you want me to fucking go trash your lights?” Bale thundered. “Do you want me to fucking trash ‘em? Then why are you trashing my scene? You do it one more fucking time and I ain’t walking on this set if you’re still hired. I’m fucking serious. You’re a nice guy, but that don’t fucking cut it when you’re fucking around like this on set.” During his expletive-blasted torrent of abuse, Bale also laid into the film’s director, McG, and – though he was partially justified in his outburst – came across as a man well and truly walking the edge. Though Bale and Hurlbut patched up their differences during the shoot, the months-later leaking of the audio recording saw the actor appear on the Los Angeles radio station KROQ, where he made his mea culpa on The Kevin & Bean Show.I was out of order beyond belief,” Bale said. “I make no excuses for it. I’ve heard a lot of people saying that I seem to think that I’m better than anybody else. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I am a lucky man. That is why I put so much into what I do, and why I care so much about it, and why sometimes that enthusiasm just goes awry.”


Singer, actress and perennial pop culture presence, Cher, is a diva with a capital D. She’s unmistakably in control of her own public image, and never backs down…for anyone. “I’m not mean,” she told Entertainment Weekly in 1996. “But if someone fucks with me, I want to rip their fucking throat out.” Cher clashed violently with director, Peter Bogdanovich, on the 1985 drama, Mask, and made life a living nightmare for George Miller on 1987’s The Witches Of Eastwick. “Cher behaved liked a child,” the filmmaker told The LA Times. This one-named entertainment industry force of nature, however, truly made her presence felt during production of the 1990 comedy drama, Mermaids. First, Cher had young British actress, Emily Lloyd (who had made a sunny splash in 1987’s Wish You Were Here) sacked because she felt that the blonde, fair-skinned beauty wasn’t believable in the role of her teenage daughter. Lloyd – who had already started filming, and later successfully sued the production – was summarily replaced by Winona Ryder. Cher, however, wasn’t done. Unhappy with Swedish director, Lasse Hallstrom – making his American debut after a number of acclaimed movies in his homeland, including the Oscar winning My Life As A Dog – the actress had him bounced from the production too. Cher was equally unimpressed with his replacement, Frank Oz (who’d had a big hit with the comedy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), and promptly had him kicked to the curb as well. She got along sufficiently with Oz’ genial replacement, Richard Benjamin (the actor-turned-director had had great success with 1982’s My Favorite Year), and he actually made it to the end of the shoot. Cher, however, didn’t make enemies of everybody on the set. “She’s a sweetheart,” her late co-star, Bob Hoskins, told US Magazine. “She’s got a sense of humour. We giggled our way through this picture. Oh yeah, I love her.”


Thanks to his podcasts, Donald Trump impersonations, and bravura work on the much loved TV series, 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin now bathes in a largely positive glow. He does, however, have a dark side, as evidenced by the now infamously volatile phone message that he left for his teenage daughter while in the middle of a messy dispute with his ex-wife, Kim Basinger. Baldwin was also booted off a commercial flight when he refused to stop using his iPad prior to takeoff. Baldwin’s biggest piece of acting up, however, took place on the set of the 1997 thriller, The Edge, in which he plays a fashion photographer stranded in the wilderness. Perhaps lured in by the rugged environment in which the story unfolds, Baldwin decided to grow a big, thick beard for the film. When he arrived on set, however, the movie’s producers expressed their instant dissatisfaction, claiming that the beard didn’t work for the character and that, more importantly, then-sex-symbol Baldwin would potentially be unrecognisable beneath all that facial fuzz. The actor refused to shave, leading to a hot, fiery stalemate which eventually became the stuff of Hollywood legend, thanks to producer, Art Linson, who recounted the ridiculous tale in his Hollywood tell-all book, What Just Happened. When director, Barry Levinson, came to adapt the book for the big screen – with Robert De Niro in the central Hinson-like harried producer role – Baldwin was even asked if he wanted to play himself in the film. “I thought that he might have a sense of humour about it, but I let it go,” De Niro said at the film’s London press conference. Linson, however, wouldn’t even consider asking Baldwin. “I have too much regard for my own health,” the producer said. “He has a true temper.”


A comic talent of the first order, Mike Myers – the man behind the smash hit Austin Powers trilogy, as well as the hilarious Wayne’s World movies – is also a down-to-the-wire perfectionist. Despite his nice guy persona, Canadian-born Myers is also no pushover. He faced down major studio, Universal, and a lawsuit estimated at $3.8 million when he backed out of his contract to play German film poseur, Dieter, in a feature film version of his Saturday Night Live recurring skit, “Sprockets.” Myers stated that he couldn’t get the project into tip-top comedic shape, and that he would prefer to face legal action than “cheat moviegoers with an unacceptable script.” It was again Myers’ dedication to his comedic craft that had the performer doing a little acting up during production of the 2001 animated smash hit, Shrek. When he signed on to voice the film’s titular character – a self-loathing but big hearted ogre looking for love and redemption in an unconventional fairy tale world – Myers first demanded multiple rewrites of the script, which was initially intended as a vehicle for late comedian, Chris Farley, who actually recorded 95% of the film before his sad passing in 1997. Eventually happy with the script, Myers then jumped into the sound booth, applying a Canadian accent to his big, green on-screen alter-ego. Halfway through production, however, the actor decided that Shrek would be more engaging with a Scottish accent. “I thought that Shrek should sound Scottish, as it sounds working class, and I think that ogres are working class,” Myers told Contact Music. “So I asked to re-do the whole recording with the Scottish accent. It was going to cost $900,000 to re-record, but the producers did it anyway. I was really happy with it.” The film was a smash, and Myers’ acting up was quickly forgotten…


When future movie icon, Steve McQueen, was cast in the 1960 western, The Magnificent Seven, his big screen star was at the very beginning of its ascent. He’d had minor and supporting roles, and was looking to establish himself cinematically after finding success on the western TV series, Wanted: Dead Or Alive. But when he walked onto the set of John Sturges’ remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, McQueen wasn’t even close to the top of the pecking order. He was billed below leading man, Yul Brynner, and the film’s villain, Eli Wallach, and was on an equal footing with German actor, Horst Bucholz, the film’s other young gun. McQueen had wanted Bucholz’ more rounded role, and made it his mission once on set to divert as much attention toward himself as possible. In the middle of scenes, McQueen would inject little bits of business –checking his gun, changing the angle of his hat etc – to draw the viewer’s gaze away from Yul Brynner and onto him. “Steve was a very, very clever actor,” co-star, Brad Dexter, says in the documentary, Guns For Hire. “He would detract from the other actors by indulging in a lot of histrionics that had nothing to do with the character, and the audience would be riveted.” McQueen may not have been the star of The Magnificent Seven, but he clawed and scratched for every scrap of screen time and attention that he could get. “Steve was a real hustler type,” the actor’s first wife, Neile McQueen Toffel, says in Guns For Hire. “He was going to get what he wanted. So, if he didn’t have the lines, he was going to move every second to distract from Yul Brynner.” It worked – though he has very little dialogue in the film, The Magnificent Seven made Steve McQueen a star.


“Forget the movie…let’s pull the job!” Those were the typically upfront words muttered by singer, actor and monolithic pop cultural presence, Frank Sinatra, when he was told the plot for Ocean’s Eleven, the 1960 Las Vegas heist flick that went on to become one of the crooner’s most infamous big screen efforts. While his most accomplished performances can be found in From Here To Eternity and The Man With The Golden Arm, the best on-screen approximation of Sinatra’s inherent swagger is unquestionably on display in Ocean’s Eleven, in which he co-stars with his fellow entertainer buddies, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, collectively tagged The Rat Pack. Though directed by Lewis Milestone, Sinatra really ran the show on Ocean’s Eleven. He basically used the shoot as an excuse to hang out in Las Vegas, booking The Rat Pack into two stage shows a day at The Sands Casino during filming. “I couldn’t wait to get to work,” Peter Lawford recalled in Nancy Sinatra’s book, Frank Sinatra, My Father. “Everybody was flowing on the same wavelength. We would do two shows a night, get to bed at 5:00am, get up again at seven or eight, and go to work on a movie. We’d come back, go to the steam room, get something to eat, and start all over again. They were taking bets that we’d all end up in a box.” Hard partying Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack treated Ocean’s Eleven with something bordering on disdain, improvising their way through scenes rather than learning their lines (or, alternatively, using cue cards to help them with their dialogue), and lording over a schedule that often required them to do as little as three hours’ work a day. Ocean’s Eleven might have been a movie, but for Frank Sinatra, it was really just one big party.


A notorious on-set mischief maker, late acting legend, Marlon Brando, often made a movie production his own personal playground. Whether gleefully baiting his co-stars, or introducing inexplicable bits of weirdness into his characterisations, Brando was a Loki-like force to be reckoned with. As well as acting and activism, he also took a great interest in making sure that he was paid well, and on time. A rare misstep saw the actor sign on to Arthur Penn’s western, The Missouri Breaks (“It wasn’t a good movie, but I had fun making it,” Brando has said), without seeing a formal contract. Though he continually asked to see one once the movie was in production, the film’s producers baulked, and Brando became convinced that they were attempting to wait him out. The actor believed that once they had enough footage in the can, the producers would say that their financing had fallen through, and that they couldn’t pay him to the full figure that they had originally offered. And that’s when Brando went into action. “Once filming begins, actors gain an edge over producers,” he wrote in his autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me. “If they stop, they’ll lose whatever money they’ve already spent, and they’ll still have no picture. Producers also hate delays, because it can cost $100,000 a day to keep a crew on location.” Apropos of this theory, Brando then started dragging the chain – slurring his speech, blowing his lines, and effectively putting The Missouri Breaks in slow motion. “If your technique is effective,” Brando says in his autobiography, “nobody can tell that you’re doing it on purpose.” After more delays, and a verbal set-to with one of the film’s producers, Brando was told that the formal contract would be signed soon. “It was, and suddenly I started remembering my lines again,” the actor says.


One of the most unquestionably and singularly beautiful actresses in the history of cinema, Raquel Welch kicked up a firestorm of interest in the sixties and seventies, and became one of that heady era’s most notable sex symbols. Famously bursting onto the screen in a fur bikini in the 1966 fantasy adventure, One Million Years B.C., and later showing off her body to equally unforgettable effect in the likes of 1967’s Fathom and Bedazzled, Welch put the brakes on her increasingly saucy image when she signed on for the 1969 western, 100 Rifles, opposite Burt Reynolds and Jim Brown. The film’s producers had requested that Welch – playing a fiery freedom fighter – appear naked in one of the film’s pivotal scenes, in which her character distracts a cadre of marauding soldiers with her nude body. The actress refused, and the producers (along with studio, Twentieth Century Fox) continued to lean on her…hard. In this case, an actor’s acting up was also about taking a stand. “I am proud of the fact that I have never appeared in the nude,” the actress says in Peter Haining’s biography, Raquel Welch. “It is a very personal thing to take off your clothes. I refused to do this nude scene in 100 Rifles, and for weeks, the telegrams flew back and forth. I mean, could you see me waving a rifle and bounding among a party of Mexican Indians starkers? They couldn’t convince me that stripping off was either logical or reasonably motivated. Finally, they gave up. I played the scene with my clothes on, but they had their nude scene as well. They brought in another little lady to take her clothes off. It’s so depressing that commercial interests should always override aesthetic considerations.” True to her word, Raquel Welch kept (most of) her clothes on for the rest of her career.


Whether it’s feuding with filmmakers, or an unlikely dalliance with politics in New Mexico, Val Kilmer is one of America’s most unconventional and controversial actors. He also likes to go deep with his performances, and it’s this intense dedication to his craft that sent rumours flying on the set of Oliver Stone’s epic 1991 rock music biopic, The Doors, in which Kilmer delivered an uncanny embodiment of hedonistic icon, Jim Morrison. According to rampant conjecture, Kilmer had sent out a memo to the film’s crew with a number of rules about how he was to be treated on the set. According to this infamous communication, nobody was allowed to approach the actor without good reason; he was to be referred to as “Jim” while in character; and crew members were barred from looking directly at him. “I didn’t know about it until the film came out,” Oliver Stone says in James Riordan’s biography, Stone. “Val said that it was all a mistake.” According to the actor, it was all a major misunderstanding. Kilmer says in Stone that elements of the memo were intended solely for his own personal staff, and not the crew in general. The film’s associate producer, Clayton Townsend, however, believes that it was all an act of actorly entitlement. “I still think that he wrote the memo,” he says in Stone. “Val was really concerned about staying in character, but he could have handled it other ways. He had a massage therapist on the picture that was costing $5,000 a week. That’s ultimately like $50,000 in massages! He said that he had to have it. Of course, he’s a star and he’s working like a dog, but that’s going a bit far. Val was always in his own funk. Other people were friendly, and it becomes like a family, but he never wanted that.”


Though an eternal rebel, and an increasingly committed political activist, double Oscar winner, Sean Penn, was once a truly wild and unpredictable presence. Whether it was his unlikely, highly volatile marriage to pop star, Madonna, or his fists-first-litigation-second approach to the paparazzi, Penn was a regular fixture in the tabloid media throughout the eighties and nineties. In 1989, when Penn signed on to the period comedy, We’re No Angels – in which he stars with Robert De Niro as a pair of escaped convicts mistaken for priests – he was at a personal and professional loose end. His marriage to Madonna had crashed and momentously burned, and he was more interested in kicking off a directing career than continuing with acting. Though still a deeply involved method actor of the first order, Penn’s head at the time was truly in the scripting of what would ultimately become his directorial debut, the 1991 masterpiece, The Indian Runner. The result of these on-set distractions and dissatisfaction was an unhappy Sean Penn, and the film’s director – Irishman, Neil Jordan – bore the brunt of most of it. “I was making this expensive film on quite a scale,” Jordan says in Richard T. Kelly’s biography, Sean Penn: His Life And Times. “I was immersed in the broader visual picture, and sometimes I’d need my actors to move from here to there, just in order to tell a visual story. And Sean’s character would…want to do different things. Sometimes we clashed over that sort of thing.” Penn was also acting up somewhat in the presence of the great Robert De Niro. “Sean and De Niro kind of railed with each other, head to-head,” Jordan says. “There was tremendous respect, but there was a jousting aspect to the relationship. There was a bit of one-upmanship. It was quite a tense set…let me put it that way!”


When revered Polish writer/director, Jerzy Skolimowski (The Departure, Deep End), cast notoriously outspoken and often verbally abusive actor/director/musician, Vincent Gallo (Buffalo ‘66), in the lead role of his cerebral, minimalist 2011 thriller, Essential Killing, he was taking a big risk. When the divisive Gallo picked up the Best Actor gong at The Venice Film Festival for his compelling portrayal of a Taliban fighter on the run in the snowy wilderness of Eastern Europe, Skolimowski’s choice was proven to be soundly, deliriously right. Getting that performance in the can, however, was far from easy. Not surprisingly, Gallo did more than a little acting up on set. “He would make scenes about every little detail,” Skolimowski told Vice. “He wanted to have berries for breakfast, and we were in a remote place in Poland where the nearest civilised shop was hundreds of miles away. So we said, ‘We cannot get you berries for breakfast; we can have it maybe tomorrow or the day after.’ We got him berries the next day, and he didn’t want them anymore. So the crew ate the berries. Also, immediately after I said, ‘Cut’ each time, there was an army of people running towards him with blankets and hot tea. And if anybody was a split second late, he was immediately angry, shouting, ‘How do you treat me? I am the star of the picture!’ But he was looking for reasons to explode, and to be angry. He wanted and needed to be angry. And he was! Vincent is a method actor, so he accumulates all the negative things to play that character. He was actually antagonising everybody just to feel like that character. This is the method. But what really counts is the final result on the screen, and he’s just sensational…he’s phenomenal! So whatever price we had to pay, it doesn’t count.”


Renowned as a top-tier professional with nary a black mark against her name, Anjelica Huston only acts up when it’s called for…and it’s usually done in the name of someone –or even more frequently, something – else. Despite the reputation of her father – legendary actor and director, John Huston – as a big game hunter, Huston is a keen animal rights activist. The actress claims, however, that her father’s guns-and-thunder image was amplified substantially by author, Peter Viertel, who partially based his book, White Hunter, Black Heart, on John Huston. Although Anjelica Huston admitted to The Guardian that their family home had “a few stuffed heads”, she insisted that her father never shot an elephant, as the book proposes. Huston spoke out about the treatment of animals on the 2011 television series, Luck, which was set in the world of horse racing, and was critical of US company Careerbuilder’s use of chimps in a series of ads. Though not flatly against the employment of animals for films, Huston doesn’t hesitate in speaking her mind if she sees them being mistreated in any way during shooting…if fact, she’ll do more than just speak her mind. “I understand the need to use animals in film,” Huston told guest host, Rosie O’Donnell, on an episode of Piers Morgan Tonight. “You have to be extra careful though. There should be a checklist on that, because I’ve seen bad behaviour. But if I see bad behaviour, I don’t go to work. I simply will not work. I was in Italy on a film [most likely The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou] where some Irish wolf hounds were being mistreated. I said, ‘Until that wrangler goes, I’m not going on!’ I can be a real pain in the ass about it.” Now, that’s the kind of acting up that we like to see…

If you liked this story, check out our features about troubled movie sets; films altered in post; and great things that nearly happened in the world of movies.


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