8 Actors Who Had One Weird Condition for Playing a Part
One of the perks of celebrity is that you get to be impressively, exasperatingly picky. In exchange for waiving your right to privacy for the rest of your life, you can demand that your every workplace be furnished exclusively in zebra print, catered by your childhood favorite restaurant that only has one location in Mississippi and open to your entire entourage of ninja babies. It’s not a bad trade-off.
And unlike musicians who can write their own songs or novelists who can (and should) write their own books, people have to convince the most famous actors to work for them. That means they’ve largely got directors and producers by the short hairs and the ability to demand just about anything they want. Some of them have availed themselves of that privilege, sometimes to a hilarious degree.
Ariana Grande and Lea Michele Refused to Scream… For ‘Scream Queens’
Grande is a Grammy-winning pop icon and Michele was in a Fox comedy about show choir, so naturally, they’re equally concerned about protecting their voices. According to Michele, she and Grande told Scream Queens creator Ryan Murphy, “We can’t scream, this is our gift,” so “Ryan got me in a booth one day and I told him ‘I’m screaming like twice and then you’re going to have to use it the whole season.’” Seems like a disqualification for starring in a show called Scream Queens, but campy horror-comedy producers can’t be choosers.
Gene Wilder Insisted on Willy Wonka’s Somersault
After Wilder read the script for Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, he told director Mel Stuart that “there’s something missing,” and he would only take the part if he made his entrance fake-limping on a cane before falling forward into a perfect somersault. The director reasonably asked him, “What do you wanna do that for?” but it was crucial to Wilder that “from that time on, no one will know whether I’m lying or telling the truth.” Fortunately, it worked out, because they had him do one normal take with every intention of screwing him over if it hadn’t.
Ben Affleck Refused to Wear a Yankees Cap
David Fincher had no idea what a headache he was giving himself when he decided Affleck’s character in Gone Girl should wear a Yankees cap to try to blend in with the crowd in a New York airport. Affleck is essentially the city of Boston stuffed into six feet of bad tattoos, so if he allowed himself to be immortalized representing the Red Sox’s rivals, he’d never be able to show his face in a Dunkin’ Donuts again. He shut down production for four days over the conflict, which was settled when Fincher and Affleck compromised on a Mets cap.
Giancarlo Esposito Wanted a Cape
As a character actor with a 40-year career and an IMDb page as long as your arm, Esposito was a dream score for The Mandalorian. In fact, creator Jon Favreau was apparently so stunned by Esposito’s enthusiasm for playing the villain Moff Gideon, he asked him if he had “any requests.” “I have one request,” Esposito recalled telling Favreau. “Please, I must have a cape.” Favreau’s immediate agreement “sold (him) on everything.”
Steve McQueen Demanded the Same Number of Words As His Co-Star
Actors can be a jealous lot, always wanting the highest salary, top billing, purest cocaine, etc. But they’ve got nothing on McQueen, who only agreed to star in 1974’s The Towering Inferno if his character was given the exact same number of words in the script as that of his co-star, Paul Newman. It was the same kind of quibble that led McQueen to turn down Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, so the team obliged and presumably sorely regretted it when they realized they didn’t have word-counting software yet.
Bill Murray Leveraged His Comedy to Produce a Dramatic Flop
When Dan Aykroyd approached Murray about starring in Ghostbusters, it was exactly the type of role he wanted to move away from. He had dramatic aspirations, and he especially wanted to star in an adaptation of The Razor’s Edge, a sort of World War I–era Eat Pray Love, but weirdly enough, no one would finance it. Aykroyd suggested that Columbia Pictures might bite if he made it a condition of signing on for Ghostbusters. It worked, and it was about as successful as if Bill Murray had actually starred in Eat Pray Love.
Liam Neeson Insisted on a Funny Accent
Be careful who you make fun of — you just might get them. When Seth MacFarlane approached Neeson about starring in 2014’s A Million Ways to Die in the West, Neeson found it ironic, since he was the butt of a Family Guy gag specifically about how Neeson could never convincingly play a cowboy. Because he’s got that funny accent, see? So Neeson said he would do the movie, but only if he could “do it in a very broad Irish accent.” MacFarlane agreed, and everybody learned a lesson about letting him make jokes.