Director Confrontation

The actor filmmaker confrontation

The actordirector relationship can often be a tumultuous one. Let’s explore some examples of the most notorious hate-hate actor-director relationships:

Three Kings – George Clooney vs. David O. Russell

Leftist George Clooney, always out to defend the weaker individual, reportedly had a difficult time dealing with Russell, who allegedly treated everyone on the crew fairly badly. When Clooney decided to speak up about it, the confrontation became heated and very nearly physical. Lots of pouting later, the film finally got finished and the warring pair still made a great job of it. Clooney says the two met at a party some time later and decided to bury the hatchet. “We made a really, really great film, and we had a tough time together, but it’s a case of us both getting older”, says Clooney.

The Island of Dr. Moreau – Val Kilmer vs. John Frankenheimer

“There are two things I will never do in my whole life. The first is that I will never climb Mount Everest. The second is that I will never work with Val Kilmer again”, stated Frankenheimer following one of the most infamously troubled shoots in history. It appears Kilmer was originally cast as the leading man but requested to have reduced time on set due to his going through a particularly bad divorce. He was then cast as the co-star, with the lead being given to Marlon Brando, and the two apparently fell out. Although the entire story is full of conflicting statements, Kilmer insists that he is on excellent terms with Brando. Unfortunately we may never know the details, as Frankenheimer carried the feud to his death in 2002.

American History X – Edward Norton vs. Tony Kaye

When Tony Kaye, advertising maestro and British art scene enfant terrible was brought on board to direct American History X, animosity ran rampant. He notoriously argued with everyone, but had a particular dislike for Norton, who was actively involved both in the script and editing room. He surreptitiously mocked Norton, and even went to the extent of saying he was not good for the part. Norton’s response was fairly laid back; he said of Kaye, “He has a compulsive need for melodrama. He’s taken a very normal level of collaborative interaction and turned it into a melodrama of creative abuse because he needs to paint himself as an oppressed artist. But let’s not make any mistake: Tony Kaye is a victim of nothing but his own professional and spiritual immaturity. Period”.

U-Turn – Sean Penn vs. Oliver Stone

Two diametrically opposed personalities, Penn and Stone clashed heavily in U-Turn. Penn insisted that talking to Stone was like “talking to a pig”. The feud seems to have occurred because someone on set (apparently the son of a friend of Stone’s) seemed to be—according to Penn—not only incompetent, but also getting in the way Penn’s acting. Infamous for his short fuse, Penn was reported to have showered the person in question with a torrent of abuse. Things simply got worse from that point onwards. However, in his biography Penn admits to having put the feud behind him. “I ran into [Stone] at Sundance and we had a great conversation” said Penn.

Giant – James Dean vs. George Stevens

James Dean changed the face of screen acting. Following in the footsteps of Marlon Brando, Dean helped create a new kind of naturalism, influencing generations of performers after him. While his first two films pushed him skywards through synergetic collaborations with great directors, the director on his third film, though no less brilliant, offered a very different approach. Stevens loved to shoot hours of film, and then hack away in the editing room, often leaving his actors to sit and wander aimlessly as they waited for their long overdue shots. Dean rebelled to that style of treatment. After being ignored for a whole day, Dean decided to not turn up for the next day’s shoot out of protest. The director threatened to have him kicked out of Hollywood, but Dean responded coolly that he’d stick to his guns. For every day he was going to be made to sit down doing nothing, he intended to ship a day at the studio. From then on, whenever Dean walked onto the set, he was never made to wait.

The Prince and the Showgirl – Marilyn Monroe vs. Laurence Olivier

When Marilyn Monroe, in a bid to escape the “dumb blonde” image, took to method acting and set up her own production company, she thought teaming up with Sir Laurence Olivier for the film The Prince and the Showgirl would be a great career move. It soon became evident that Olivier’s strict Shakespearian traditionalism would be at odds with Monroe’s devotion to method acting. Monroe questioned the director at every turn and her resentment was apparent, more so for his once having told her “Try to be sexy”. When asked about Monroe years later, Olivier put it simply, “She’s a bitch”.

Big Country – Gregory Peck vs. William Wyler

When Peck and Wyler came together on set for Big Country, Peck, who was producing as well as acting, started taking exception at Wyler’s habit of overshooting. The film went over budget and by the end of the collaboration, the relationship had become so strained that the director made his feelings clear, “I wouldn’t direct Peck again for a million dollars”.

Chinatown – Faye Dunaway vs. Roman Polanski

In the film Chinatown, Polanski, a fastidious and autocratic director, made a fine job of treating everyone as his subordinates. For this reason, Dunaway and co-star Nicholson were soon butting heads with Polanski. It is said that at one point Polanski forcibly plucked a stray hair from Dunaway’s head because it was ruining his shot. Dunaway admits, “We all lost our patience a bit”. On his end Polanski is adamant in his opinion of Dunaway, “She was a gigantic pain in the arse”.

The Score – Marlon Brando vs. Frank Oz

Marlon Brando was famous for his on-set antics. In The Score, he was cast to play the part of a gay criminal. He turned up for his first day wearing dandy-style makeup and played his character in a very effeminate fashion. This did not quite fit the director’s vision of the character, who continuously asked Brando to tone it down. Brando took exception to this and retorted, “I bet you wish that I was a puppet so you could stick your hand up my ass and make me do what you want”, referring to Frank Oz’s background as puppeteer and voice actor for Jim Henson’s Muppets and as Yoda in Star Wars.

Dogville – Nicole Kidman vs. Lars Von Trier

Lars Von Trier has a history of putting his leading ladies through a tortuous time on set. Most notable of these is singer-turned-actress Bjork, who after having worked with Von Trier on Dancer in the Dark, vowed to never act again. Nicole Kidman also suffered at the hands of Von Trier in the 2003 film Dogville. Kidman claimed that the first week of shooting was tricky as she and Von Trier both had preconceptions of how the film should look. After a three hour walk in the forest and a no-holds-barred scream-fest, the two came to a tentative agreement. Once that agreement failed to hold Kidman pulled out of two Dogville sequels.

Buffalo 66 – Christina Ricci vs. Vincent Gallo

Actor, writer, director and musician Vincent Gallo and Christina Ricci clashed mightily in Buffalo 66. Gallo claims Ricci was either drunk during the entire shoot, or on cough syrup. “But it was okay”, he said, “She’s basically a puppet. I told her what to do and she did it”. For Ricci, Gallo remains a great source of frustration who has talked out of hand. “I’d rather be the one who talks little”, she has said. Ricci insists nobody should be put through that kind of abuse and that she has vowed to never work with Gallo again. “I’ve told people I won’t be in the movies if they cast him.”

Basic Instinct – Sharon Stone vs. Paul Verhoeven

Probably the most famous scene in Basic Instinct, the interrogation room scene where Sharon Stone uncrosses her legs and jaws drop, is at the center of the feud between Stone and Verhoeven. Stone claims Verhoeven insisted she take off her underwear because it was reflecting the light and that “if I took off my underwear there would be a shadow and we wouldn’t see my pubic hair”. She insists that Verhoeven tricked her into shooting the scene without wearing underwear. But Verhoeven counters that the actress knew exactly what was going on. “She took her panties off and then gave them to me as a present. She saw the video straight after. When her agents saw it though, [Stone] freaked out”. The agents feared the scene might ruin Stone’s career. In the end, it did just the opposite..