It’s no secret that actors and directors don’t always get on. Sometimes directors are just mean other times actors are stuck up, or possibly both can be true. A fair amount of the time these disputes are hardly heard of but every now and again they go public. And then there are times that they are glaringly obvious and almost impossible to miss when you re-watch them.
A lot of the time actors and directors try to sweep the conflict under rug and play it off as nothing, even suggesting that it improved the film (too be fair sometimes it does). But in reality, that’s most likely just them trying not to destroy their careers by getting involved in a media spat and blow off how bad the conflict may have got.
There are many things that can start a conflict between an actor and a director. Though in most circumstances a director wields more power than an actor, this is not always the case, at least at some points while filming. Actors are creative people too and can take their performance and creative opinions very seriously and the control for power can lead to plenty of arguments.
1. David Goyer and Wesley Snipes – Blade: Trinity
The final installment of the Blade franchise, despite not being a particularly interesting film, was definitely interesting behind the scenes. The film was known for its infighting between Goyer and Snipes. And for Snipes, it also looked like the beginning of a career break down that would see him disappear from our screens and reappear in prison for failing to file tax returns.
Snipes 100% hated working on Blade: Trinity and apparently would spend most of his time in his trailer smoking weed, only leaving for close-ups. His co-star, Patton Oswalt who played the character Hedges, spoke about the on-set troubles and claimed he only filmed one scene with Snipes. All other shots were filmed with visual effects or a stand-in, some even claim that his stand-in was in the film more than he was.
The trouble started even before filming began as Snipes was initially unhappy with the first choice of director. The director was changed David Goyer, but Snipes was still unhappy, despite Goyer writing all three films in the franchise (though, to be fair, this was Goyer’s second film as director). The relationship between the two got so sour that at one point, Goyer hired some bikers to pretend to be his security.
After that, Snipes then had a sit-down with Goyer and said that he thinks Goyer needs to quit, to which Goyer responded saying actually he has all the close-ups he needs, you should quit instead. The story goes that after that, Snipes would only communicate with Goyer through post-it notes signed from ‘Blade’.
Some people have even suggested that the awkward acting may have resulted from the problems on set, which is quite plausible, especially when the central protagonist is hardly there! In the end, Snipes decided to sue the producers behind the film for $5 million.
2. Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel and Bob Hoskins – Super Mario Bros.
The Super Mario Bros. film was an amazing catastrophe, it’s so bad it’s not surprising that even hardcore Super Mario fans might not even be aware of its existence. Not only did the film itself turn out to be weirdly terrible, the entire film process was a nightmare for almost everyone involved.
While Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo both fit the characters of Mario and Luigi (at least physically), the choice of husband and wife directors Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, certainly didn’t. The two came from an art-punk background that definitely didn’t fit in with the family-friendly Super Mario Bros. but that was supposedly the point as producer Roland Joffé wanted to do for Batman what Burton had – make it darker – and, let’s be honest, it doesn’t make much sense for Mario. Perhaps the biggest sacrilege came from the fact that hardly anyone who worked on film knew a thing about the vastly popular video game.
Aside from the lack of knowledge of Super Mario and humongous deviation from the source material, there was a lot of trouble on set. The script was constantly being rewritten, sometimes just before filming, which angered a number of actors. Morton and Jankel were just not used to filming something so huge, they didn’t know how to organize it. In the end, the film went over budget and over schedule.
Hoskins has repeatedly named Super Mario Bros. as his most hated film and has been quite vocal about it. In a 2011 interview with the Guardian, Hoskins answered “Super Mario Bros.” to ‘What is the worst job you’ve done?’, ‘What has been your biggest disappointment?’ and ‘If you could edit your past, what would you change?’ Apparently, Hoskins spent most of his time alone and didn’t spend much time with other cast members until he heard they were smoking weed together.
Dennis Hopper was also known to have hated his time while filming, remembered for having outbursts over the fact they kept changing his lines without even telling him.
3. Abdellatif Kechiche and Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos – Blue Is the Warmest Color
Blue Is the Warmest Color (or to give it its proper French name: La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2) achieved critical acclaim upon its release, even winning the Cannes Film festival in 2013. But, not long after that accusations started to surface about the poor working conditions suffered by the crew, and then after that, actors Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos started talking about how ‘horrible’ the filming process was.
Seydoux is quoted as saying:
“It was sometimes embarrassing and sometimes illuminating, surrounded by three cameras in a very small room. Sometimes you could spend like five hours on a scene. I felt like a prostitute.”
And that’s fairly believable given the very very erotic nature of the film and the likely poor working conditions. Even the writer of the original novel, Julie Maroh, compared it to pornography.
But the difficulties on set didn’t end there. The two actors also spoke about the break-up scene where Seydoux had to hit Exarchopoulos. Director Abdellatif Kechiche supposedly pushed Seydoux to continue hitting Exarchopoulos, filming it numerous times, reportedly screaming “Hit her! Hit her again!”. During the said fight scene, Seydoux also pushed Exarchopoulos through a glass door where she cut herself and started bleeding. Instead of stopping there, Kechiche apparently wanted to do it again.
Upon hearing about these claims, Kechiche was pretty angry and denied everything. He couldn’t believe what they were saying and even called them arrogant and spoilt.
4. David O. Russell and George Clooney – Three Kings
The conflict between George Clooney and David O. Russell is one of the most well-known confrontations between an actor and director in recent years. David O. Russell is a director who has a habit of getting into arguments with actors. However, managing to get George Clooney, perhaps seen as one of the calmest and most well-liked actors, to grab you by the neck is quite an achievement.
It all happened on the set of Three Kings when Clooney assumed that Russell was shouting at an extra who was unable to knock down his co-star Ice Cube. Apparently, Clooney, who was trying to defend the extra, told Russell to pick on him instead. At that point, Clooney claims, Russell headbutted him and Clooney then grabbed him by the neck (bear in mind, there are many different interpretations of this story!) before they were separated.
Many blew this off as the two both being under an intense amount of pressure, at pivotal points in their careers. Clooney was on set filming Three Kings for four days a week in Arizona and for the other three days was in Los Angeles filming ER. Russell, on the other hand, was filming his first major film with a big budget and, as the studio were wary about giving an independent filmmaker such a large budget, had a lot of restrictions to deal with.
It wasn’t the only time they quarreled though, it was a constant thing on set. Many have attributed it to Clooney’s tendency to support the underdog, and in the case of Three Kings, that happened to be the extras.
This is not an isolated incident though. Russell also got enraged with Lily Tomlin while filming I Heart Huckabees and Jennifer Lawrence on the set of Joy, just to name a few.
5. Harold Ramis and Bill Murray – Groundhog Day
The story behind this conflict is quite unbelievable and ended an actor-director relationship that included Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, Caddyshack, and Stripes. Murray was going through a tough divorce at the time which had an adverse effect on his mood. While it was good for his grumpy character, which he plays really well, it made him really difficult to work with on set.
During the filming of Groundhog Day, Murray tried to make it impossible to work with him by being uncontactable. He never answered the phone and never got back to people. Eventually, someone suggested to Murray to hire a personal assistant, which he did. Unfortunately, it appeared that Murray still had a sense of humor (albeit a mean one) and he decided to hire a deaf personal assistant that could only be communicated with by sign language, which no one knew, not even Murray.
Murray also had artistic differences with Ramis. Ramis wanted to make a comedy, while Murray was more interested in exploring ‘the human condition’. To be fair, perhaps this did end up having a positive effect on the film, adding a layer of depth that might otherwise have been left out. But, then again, Murray is clearly being unreasonable, especially considering that the two are known for their comedy films. On top of that, Murray also resented that some people believed that Ramis was responsible for Murray’s success.
He never spoke to Ramis again after the film, something he truly regretted many years later when Ramis died. It was only on Ramis’s deathbed that the two reconciled in 2014.