The reason all of us are at least a little obsessed with celebrity culture is that so many performers seem to be freaking insane. Maybe it's a natural side effect of the fame and money, or maybe you just need to be a little crazy to be willing to spend months in New Zealand pretending to be an elf or whatever. Whatever it is, we're not sure if life on a film set would be hilarious or a freaking nightmare.
What we do know is you'd definitely walk away with some great stories to tell ...
Gene Hackman Was an Asshole on The Royal Tenenbaums Set
The Royal Tenenbaums was the film that cemented symmetry-obsessed director Wes Anderson's career after first getting the attention of independent film critics and liberal arts students with Rushmore. Anderson had a very clear vision for it from the get-go: from the moment that vintage typewriter type bar clapped against paper, the grumpy patriarch character of Royal Tenenbaum was written specifically to be played by Gene Hackman. That was a bold decision, considering Hackman really, really didn't want to be in the movie.
"Every moment of this is pure agony."
When Anderson started courting Hackman for the role, he sent the actor some preliminary artwork to help convey the tone of the film, which Hackman never returned, possibly because he tossed it straight into the trash. A portion of his shit-boiling rage was stirred by the fact that he resents being offered roles that were written with him in mind, which he told Anderson in a face-to-face meeting before Anderson had even started writing The Royal Tenenbaums. The other reason was money -- The Royal Tenenbaums didn't have much of a budget, and Hackman's character is in nearly every scene, which means he'd essentially have to work every single day of filming for a much smaller salary than he was used to.
The scene where he bet on a dogfight wasn't actually in the script.
Hackman eventually let his agent talk him into accepting the role, but not before making a solemn vow to be the biggest son of a bitch he could during filming. Making sure everyone working on The Royal Tenenbaums knew he'd literally rather be beaten to death with coat hangers than be in their fucking movie was just below "turn in a good performance" on his list of priorities. According to the cast and crew, Hackman became increasingly intolerable as filming went on, venomously snapping at people for the slightest transgression and generally making Anderson's life miserable. He treated Anderson like his no-good, hipster nephew, telling him to "pull up his trousers" and straight up calling him a cunt in front of the crew.
"This line wasn't originally in the script either. Go figure."
Things got so bad on set that the rest of the cast, including veteran actress Anjelica Huston, were scared to be anywhere near Hackman. In an effort to try to ease the tension, Anderson eventually asked Bill Murray to come in on his (Murray's) days off, because Murray, in addition to being Anderson's friend, was apparently the one person who just wasn't intimidated by Hackman. Murray gladly showed his solidarity by supervising the filming of several scenes, including one where he stood on a ridge overlooking the shoot in a cowboy hat, because nobody messes with Bill Murray in a goddamned cowboy hat. The experience was so negative that when asked what it was like to work with Hackman, Murray begins his response by calling Hackman a cocksucker.
The Cast of The Godfather Were Constantly Exposing Themselves
The Godfather is rightly considered one of the greatest movies of all time. It was a huge hit at the box office, won Best Picture at the Oscars, launched the career of Al Pacino, and proved that a supporting character can spend an entire film speaking in a ridiculous voice and still win an Academy Award. The film's enduring legacy is only slightly discolored by the fact that, in at least some of those groundbreaking and memorable scenes, the actors aren't wearing any pants.
The horse even insisted on being filmed without them.
Between takes of this ultra-serious mob drama, the cast were goofing off like middle schoolers on substitute teacher day pretty much all the time. One of their favorite running gags was to drop their pants and moon each other. It all started with James Caan and Robert Duvall, who, for some indescribably insane reason, decided the only way to overcome their nervousness about working with the legendary Marlon Brando was to flap their naked ass cheeks at him in between takes, which probably had the screen veteran wondering just what the hell kind of drugs these young Hollywood kids were taking and if they had any leftovers he could buy.
The face of a man that deeply regrets not putting his pants back on before sitting in a chair that Brando had just used.
However, if you're under the impression that Brando was above asinine hijinks, then you have seriously overestimated him. While cameras were being put in place and 500 extras were being assembled for the film's famous wedding scene, Brando took the opportunity to turn around, pull down his pants, and flash his legendary trouser hams to the entire cast and crew. It is up for debate whether his ass or his Don Corleone face looked more like a sad bulldog.
"My God ... it's like one of those paintings where the eyes follow you."
As a reward for this noble (read: unbeatable) act of public exposure, Caan and Duvall presented Brando with a belt that read "Mighty Moon King," which is a great name for a David Bowie album and/or one of Frank Zappa's children. It is unclear whether Brando accepted the belt himself, or if he sent a fake Native American woman to reject it on his behalf.
13-Year-Old Jerry O'Connell Got High as Shit During Stand by Me
Stand by Me is a story about a group of kids embarking on an adventure to find a dead body, which is about as close to The Sandlot as you can expect from a Stephen King adaptation. Given that the movie starred Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Feldman, and River Phoenix, you're probably assuming that the "insane on set shenanigans" consisted of an eternal flood of drugs and alcohol. And you'd be right -- except that the troubles were exclusively limited to 13-year-old Jerry O'Connell, the fat kid.
"You guys wanna go smoke a dead body?"
According to Sutherland, O'Connell once bailed on a day of filming because he wanted to visit a local fair. At a glance, this sounds like a minor-yet-adorable inconvenience, considering that O'Connell escaped from his moviemaking obligations by tying his babysitter to a bannister and running into town, which is literally a plot point from The Goonies.
Except his truffle shuffle was a dance of victory, not shame.
However, it turns out the fair that O'Connell was so stoked on attending wasn't the typical Ferris-wheel-and-cotton-candy type of fair -- it was more of a "hippies spreading free love and handing out suspicious foodstuffs" kind of fair. Whereas he was expecting rides with a degree of safety that, at best, could be called "questionable," what he got instead was a bag of cookies because fat children love dessert. As you may have guessed, those cookies were baked with a little bit more than chocolate chips, and O'Connell was found sitting by himself in a park, sobbing and confused because he had just eaten an entire bag of pot cookies. In other words, a 13-year-old kid with no prior drug history had consumed a dose that would've thrown a grown man into full-on freakout mode.
"Look, shirt, I took you off like you told me to, so now you need to back the fuck up."
Rather than retitling the film Stand by Me and Tell Me the World Isn't About to End, Man, the producers opted instead to shut down production for two days while O'Connell recovered, presumably swearing off cookies forever.
Marilyn Monroe Was a Nightmare During Some Like It Hot
Marilyn Monroe is one of the most iconic movie stars who ever lived, even half a century after she stopped being alive. The story of her short-but-legendary career remains the prototypical example of Hollywood tragedy -- a vibrantly beautiful-but-vulnerable woman used up by an industry that relishes your failures twice as hard as it celebrates your successes. While that part of her story is certainly true, legend has a way of glossing over the less-savory parts of a person's personality. By all accounts, Monroe was kind of an asshole to work with.
"Well, nobody's perfect."
Some of the worst examples of Monroe Madness happened on the set of her most famous film, Some Like It Hot. Already a household name at this point, Monroe routinely decided that a star of her caliber didn't need to worry about things like showing up to work on time. On the rare occasion that she did appear on set, Monroe never bothered to have her lines memorized beforehand. We're not talking about long Shakespearean monologues, either -- in one scene, it took Monroe 60 takes to deliver the line, "It's me, sugar!" The director, Billy Wilder, became so exasperated by her absent-mindedness that he resorted to taping her parts of the script onto the backs of furniture on set so she could read them like cue cards.
Which explains the film's classic musical number, "Assembled in Bangladesh."
The difficulties didn't just end with tedious back-to-back takes, either. Oftentimes when Monroe would flub a line, she'd burst into tears and run back to her acting coach, or lock herself in her trailer for hours. Today, somebody might have recognized this as evidence of a serious emotional problem, but the crew of Some Like It Hot just took it as another sign of her movie-star aloofness.
Her costars weren't any more sympathetic. Despite playing her romantic partner onscreen, Tony Curtis later admitted that she was "mad as a hatter" and said that if it weren't for her famous bust, she would have wound up in an asylum. If that wasn't enough of a burn, Curtis also said that their on-screen kiss was a horrible experience and that all things considered, he would "rather be kissing Hitler." Curtis really didn't like Monroe, is what we're saying.
Here, he is wishing that he was being lathered by Stalin.
Monroe earned so much heat on set that Wilder refused to invite her to his home for the film's wrap party. When asked if he would ever work with her again, Wilder said his doctors advised against it, which as you may have noticed, is advice that physicians typically dole out when you tell them you're planning on smoking two cartons of cigarettes and running a marathon.
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford Beat the Hell Out of Each Other During What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is a classic Hollywood movie where two women, one successful and one not so much, engage in a bitter battle of wills that quickly escalates into extreme violence against each other. That also happened to be the plot of the movie.
The problem was that the film's lead actresses, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, really, really hated each other. Their rivalry was already common knowledge at that time, as they'd been bitching about each other publicly for the last 30 years. On paper, this probably seemed like a brilliant casting decision, considering the characters in the film were also meant to be bitter rivals. In practice, however, it became a never-ending challenge to keep the two stars from murdering the shit out of each other between takes.
Of which the scene where Crawford had to show genuine remorse took hundreds.
The actresses were more invested in fucking with each other in hilariously childish ways than putting together a quality motion picture. Before filming even began, Davis replaced all the Pepsi dispensers on set with Coke dispensers, a petty slight against Crawford, who was married to the president of Pepsi. When Crawford complained, Davis had all the Coke bottles lined up outside Crawford's door; predictably, Crawford wound up tripping over the bottles and injuring herself, presumably while Davis watched from behind a bush, laughing her ass off.
Davis wasn't content to restrict the physical endangerment of her costar to an off-screen rivalry. During the filming of a fight scene between the two actresses, Davis delivered a very real kick to Crawford's face, resulting in an angry shoe print that required stitches.
Davis then suggested changing the title to Whatever Happened to Your Face, Bitch?
Crawford finally got back at her during a later scene, in which Davis had to drag Crawford's lifeless body. Unbeknownst to Davis, Crawford had lined her dress with lead weights, causing the then-54-year-old Davis to throw her back out. Personally, we would've just dropped her. After the film was released and Davis was nominated for an Academy Award, Crawford lobbied hard to make sure Davis didn't win despite the fact that it would've been great publicity for the movie (Anne Bancroft wound up with the Oscar, which Crawford cheerfully accepted in her place). She hated Davis so much that she literally sabotaged her own film out of spite.
She also had the dress made out of poison ivy and used needles.
Davis would later say of Crawford, "That bitch hated working with me on Jane and vice versa." Crawford responded by saying the best fun she ever had was when she got to push Davis down the stairs during filming. That's like Brad Pitt saying his favorite part of Se7en was getting to shoot Kevin Spacey in the face.
George Lazenby Lived as James Bond for On Her Majesty's Secret Service
After Sean Connery announced he was abandoning the role of James Bond, the hunt was on to find the next drunken sociopath to take up the mantle of the British super-spy. After having enormous success with the then-unknown Connery, they decided to roll the dice of anonymity again with George Lazenby, an Australian model with zero acting experience. Lazenby, understandably anxious to impress, took the concept of method acting to an insane degree normally reserved for actual undercover agents.
Although whenever Lazenby said "undercover agent," he raised his eyebrows and then tried to fist bump you.
First of all, to prepare for auditions, Lazenby purchased one of Connery's old suits and even got his hair cut by Connery's personal barber, just to help maintain the illusion. That makes an odd sort of sense, considering he was trying out for an iconic role created by Connery, but once he successfully landed the role, Lazenby didn't throttle back. He decided to adopt all facets of the James Bond lifestyle, short of filling Fort Knox with nerve gas and kicking a fat German gangster out of an airplane.
According to Lazenby, the prestige of being the new official James Bond went to his head faster than a vodka martini. He rode around in a personal helicopter and could walk right in to any nightclub anywhere in the world, free of charge. Oftentimes, the clubs would actually pay him to come inside, because who doesn't want to party with 007?
For months, the government had to tell him that his license to kill was stuck in the mail.
"It wasn't difficult to get laid," he admitted in a 2012 interview, just in case anyone thought a former model who recently graduated into the world-famous role of James Bond had any trouble convincing women to have sex with him. "You'd get four or five girls a day." Lazenby even went out and bought a Luger, which the gun shop owner gladly handed over upon recognizing that his customer was James freaking Bond (guns are normally much more difficult to buy in Europe). As if to illustrate this point, on the set of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Lazenby would frequently make crew members nervous by drunkenly tossing liquor bottles into the air and shooting at them, presumably trying to hone his aim should he suddenly find himself having to do battle with a bunch of Soviet spies.
"Make sure they're vodka. I want this to be accurate."
As Lazenby later put it, "I was totally out of control ... I wanted to be James Bond, but you couldn't live the way James Bond lives." Eventually, he achieved a moment of clarity in which he realized that the Bond lifestyle was sustainable only in fiction -- in the real world, womanizing, gun-toting boozehounds usually end up disappearing in a pool of STDs, liver disease, and accidental death reports. As desperate as he had been to carry Connery's baton, Lazenby actually turned down a multimillion-dollar contract to continue the role of James Bond, a move that not only ended his brief run as 007, but also his entire movie career. So we got 12 years of Roger Moore instead.
J.M. McNab writes and podcasts for Rewatchability.com. You can also find him on Twitter: @Rewatchability.
For more Hollywood hell holes, check out 6 Beloved TV Shows (That Traumatized Cast Members For Life). And then check out The 23 Most Insane Ways Famous Actors Got Into Character.