One of the neat things about power is that people almost never go sane with it. Quite the opposite, in fact. And when it comes to movie directors, who have enormous and often unchecked power over their films and the people working on them, the lack of sanity can be quite striking. Below, we've selected several of the most hilariously unhinged instances of famed directors who went mad with power.
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Michael Bay is a director famous for making cartoon alien robots who can turn into sedans a multi-billion-dollar industry. He's also, by many, many accounts, a sexist nightmare.
For example, consider Kate Beckinsale's experience while making Pearl Harbor. During group interviews when promoting the film, Bay would unfailingly compliment his male leads, Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. But when asked about Beckinsale, he would only remark, "Kate wasn't so attractive that she would alienate the female audience." This wasn't a one-time thing, some gaffe which secretly exposed deeper sexism in Hollywood. No, he'd say this repeatedly. In front of Beckinsale. Like, to remind her or something.
So that's rather gross.
It gets worse. Consider Megan Fox's casting experience for the first Transformers movies, in which she showed up at Bay's house and washed his Ferrari while he filmed it.
This wasn't even the first time she'd been creepily filmed by Bay. When Fox was 15, she was cast as an extra on Bad Boys II for a club scene. At some point during this process, a grown-up explained to Bay that she was only 15 and couldn't be filmed holding a drink. A little hiccup which Bay got around by having her dance around under a waterfall instead. You know. To get soaking wet. When she was in 10th grade.
Possibly because he was annoyed at Fox for pointing out he was an impossible monster, Bay recast her role for the ridiculously-named third film in the series, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon. For that film, he chose English model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, whose casting consisted of meeting Bay while she was doing a Victoria's Secret photo shoot and answering a single question: "Can you walk?" Huntington-Whiteley managed to exhibit more professionalism than most of us would in the face of such smug douchery, and confirmed that, yes, she knew how to walk. But Bay wasn't done yet. He needed to check this. So right that minute, he drove her half a mile out into the desert, said "Action!" and sped away, leaving her to walk across the desert in heels, underwear, and a floor-length cape.
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Ridley Scott has made a lot of movies, but he might still be best known for one of his earliest: the sci-fi horror rom-com Alien.
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To capture the horror of being trapped on spaceship with an eight-foot superpredator that bleeds acid, Scott knew he had to do everything possible to make the creature seem alien to his cast. He did this by being a jerk to the actor playing it.
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Since CGI'ing the bejesus out of everything wasn't possible yet, Scott needed an actor in a rubber suit to portray the titular villain. Seven-foot Nigerian actor Bolaij Badejo certainly looked the part (when encased in extraterrestrial rubber), but that wasn't enough for Scott. He insisted on keeping Badejo separate from the rest of the cast and crew to make him more alien to the others. Badejo was forbidden to socialize with the other actors during breaks, always had to be in the xenomorph costume, and was even kept in a completely separate hotel from the rest of the cast and crew.
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All of this is captured beautifully by another absurd anecdote. Because the alien costume's tail made it impossible to sit in a chair, some of the crew constructed a swing for Badejo to sit on between takes. Which sounds nice, until you contemplate what this must have looked like. A lonely alien, forbidden to make friends with anyone, quietly rocking back and forth in a swing. If that isn't the most tragicomic image you can think of, what happened to you?
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Many moviegoers don't care or even notice when a movie is shot on film and digital, but amongst filmmakers, this is a thorny and often contentious decision. Although the technology is always changing, traditionally, film has had better picture quality and color depth, while digital has been cheaper and allowed for more flexible shooting logistics. In some cases, excessively flexible shooting logistics.
David Fincher, director of Fight Club and Se7en, gave digital a try when he began work on Zodiac. He quickly fell in love with the cheap storage afforded by digital technology, which removed any incentive to conserve resources. Shooting lots of takes suddenly became feasible in a way it wasn't before. And on Zodiac, he would sometimes shoot 80 takes in a row.
But shooting like this doesn't just use up cheap hard drives. It also used up his cast and crew; shooting that many takes is exhausting. Worse was the psychological toll it took. Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo both complained that Fincher would pause in the middle of his shooting marathons to review the footage and say something like, "Delete the last 35 takes." Which is demoralizing, to say the least.
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Using digital also meant that Fincher never had to pause to reload the cameras, which meant actors got far fewer breaks. In the documentary Side By Side, Robert Downey Jr. complains that he couldn't stay on his feet for 14 hours straight. They barely had time for bathroom breaks, leading to Downey Jr. to pee in mason jars, which he'd then leave around the set as a form of protest. Thus did Tony Stark turn into Howard Hughes.
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Back in the '80s, before Michael Bay desensitized us to the wonderment of watching shit blow up, we had artists. Men and women who crafted visual masterpieces of rapidly expanding fireballs. Arguably the van Gogh of this art form was John McTiernan, director of classics such as Die Hard, Predator, and The Hunt For Red October.
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Less celebrated among his catalog is the 2002 remake of Rollerball, because, well, it's Rollerball. The only really interesting thing about that movie is the insane power struggle behind the scenes which ended up getting McTiernan thrown in jail.
Here's what went down. In 2006, a private investigator named Anthony Pellicano was indicted for various things he did in his healthy career helping Hollywood players. One of his favorite tactics was to wiretap whomever he was being hired to investigate using a custom-designed system called "Telesleuth." The legal scholars among you will recognize this as being completely and totally illegal.
McTiernan had hired Pellicano to tap the phone of Charles Roven, the producer of Rollerball. With the movie over budget and behind schedule, McTiernan began seriously butting heads with Roven, who wanted Rollerball to be a plain old action movie, as opposed to the sci-fi version of Spartacus that McTiernan was hilariously advocating for. McTiernan became paranoid that Roven was attempting to torpedo the movie, and had even deliberately set fire to the set.
McTiernan hired Pellicano to tap Roven's phone, in the hopes that he could catch Roven badmouthing one of the other studio execs. It didn't work, and ultimately Rollerball came out and sucked entirely on its own merits. McTiernan was charged with illegal wiretapping and for failing to cooperate with the FBI during Pellicano's investigation (but not, somehow, for making Rollerball). He spent ten months in jail -- during which he didn't make any more Rollerball, so clearly some good came of all this.
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While we can watch in wonder and bemusement at the lengths that method actors like Daniel Day-Lewis will go to remain in character, at least they usually have the courtesy to keep their obsessiveness to themselves. But not John Ford.
Ford was a major pioneer in the Western genre, at least partially because he treated his cast and crew like actual pioneers. His 1924 movie The Iron Horse was lauded for its realism in portraying how miserable it was to work on the railroad, an effect Ford achieved by making the cast and crew miserable while working on a railroad. How miserable? Well, they lived in makeshift accommodations in bitterly cold temperatures, and on at least one occasion they watched their meal get slaughtered in front of them.
Also, in one scene he shot at his lead actor with live ammo. For realism.
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Ford's commitment to authenticity extended to his casting choices, getting real cowboys (which were still around in the 1920s) to act in his movies. Anybody who could ride, shoot, and wear a ten-gallon hat could find work. Being authentic cowboys, they acted like authentic cowboys too, which involved a fair bit of drinking, fighting, and screwing. It's believed that several babies were conceived on set. Also, at least one assistant died due to pneumonia. Ford himself ended up plunging into an alcoholic episode that "only lasted a few days."
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Eventually they finished the film, and even though it was well over-budget and behind schedule and literally killed a guy, The Iron Horse became a cinematic classic. So it was all worth it.
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We've already told you about legendary director Alfred Hitchcock's tendency to torture his actresses, and, well, we don't really need to do much more with this sentence, do we? "Tortured actresses," pretty much captures it all, so we'll stop here.
Except no we won't!
Because there's so much more to Hitchcock's assbaggery. Consider the notorious "prank" he pulled wherein he bet a crew member that he wouldn't spend a night chained to a camera in a dark, deserted movie studio. The crew member happily agreed, because he had never seen a horror movie before, so Hitchcock handcuffed the man to the camera himself, offered the guy a healthy drink of brandy to "help him sleep," and went home for the night.
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The next day, the rest of the crew arrived on set to find the poor guy handcuffed to the camera, exhausted, crying, and covered in his own shit. It turned out that Hitchcock, bless his treacherous black heart, had poured a healthy dose of laxative into the brandy before offering it to the poor bastard. So there you have it. Even a filmmaking genius like Hitchcock can sometimes stoop to the level of Dumb And Dumber.
What's The Best Fictional School To Attend? In the muggle world, we're not given the opportunity for a magical hat to tell us which school we should go to. Usually we just have to go to the high school closest to where we live or whatever college accepts our SAT scores and personal essay. This month, our goal is to determine what would be the best fictional school to go to. Join Jack, Daniel, and the rest of the Cracked staff, along with comedians Brandie Posey and Steven Wilber, as they figure out if it's a realistic school like Degrassi or West Beverly High, or an institution from a fantasy world like Hogwarts with its ghosts and dementors, or Bayside High, haunted by a monster known only to humans as Screech. Get your tickets here!
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