Fights, Camera, Action:15 Hollywood Cases Of Feuds Between Actors and Directors

Fights, Camera, Action:15 Hollywood Cases Of Feuds Between Actors and Directors

Like any creative discipline, film is a medium that constantly varies in approach both onscreen and off. For this reason, the personalities of actors and directors can compliment each other like salt and pepper or clash like fire and ice. When creative forces collide in Hollywood they can result in some of the most enthralling yarns you’ll find in gossip rags. Here are 15 legendary cases of an actor versus a director—some reputable, some not, all worth a look nonetheless.

George Clooney & David O. Russell


Director David O. Russell established his penchant for behaving badly on the set of Three Kings. The movie would become a breakout hit of 1999, but at a cost—a fight with star George Clooney and Russell broke out, resulting in Hollywood headlines. Reports vary—crew members say Clooney punched Russell when the director fired a crew member and kicked another. Clooney claims Russell insulted and head butted him first. Russell, finally, claims he never physically touched anyone. Bad blood has remained between the pair throughout the last decade. When asked of the altercation in a 2004 issue of Premiere, Clooney responded “Quite honestly, if he comes near me, I’ll sock him right in the f—ing mouth.”

Bruce Willis & Kevin Smith

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Bruce Willis and Kevin Smith struck up an agreeable repartee on the set of Live Free or Die Hard, leading Willis to sign onto Smith’s buddy cop project A Couple of packages. By the time the film’s title would be changed to Cop Out, Smith and Willis’ working relationship would be on the rocks. Smith opened up about his tension with a disagreeable Willis on Marc Maron’s podcast, reporting the actor wasn’t even willing to participate in the film’s poster shoot. A representative close to the project later came out with the claim that Smith’s kush intake hindered his direction of the actors,  an accusation Smith has vehemently denied. Since the failure of Cop Out, Smith has labeled Willis the reason he has quit directing films. Willis has yet to respond to any of it.

Michael Bay & Megan Fox


Following the failure of Transformers 2, Megan Fox opened up about her disappointment with the franchise and Bay’s treatment of his actors. The director didn’t appreciate her comments, which painted comparisons to Napoleon and Hitler, but dismissed them as the meaningless chatter of a 23-year-old. Things seemed to calm down until Bay’s website posted an open letter written by members of his Transformers crew. It called the actress the “queen of talking trailer trash” and claimed she’d have a better future as an . Bay would try to smooth things over by rejecting any involvement in the letter, though by the time Transformers 3 began production Fox’s character would be dropped in favor of model Rosie Huntington-Whitely.

Shelly Duvall & Stanley Kubrick


Stanley Kubrick was a master stylist and, at his best, a master filmmaker. He has also been described as “an actor’s enemy” by Robert Duvall. Though she isn’t related to Robert, The Shining star Shelley Duvall can probably attest to that sentiment. During the making of the film Kubrick reportedly tormented Duvall on set in effort to break her nerves down. This, he reasoned, would add realism to the similar unnerving experienced by her character, Wendy Torrance, in the film. Kubrick made it cast and crew policy to ostracize Duvall. He also subjected her to an ungodly amount of takes—a scene where she attacks Jack Nicholson with a baseball bat was reportedly filmed 127 times. Duvall would address his bullying on set by saying “For a person so charming and so likeable… he can do some pretty cruel things when you’re filming. Because it seems to me at times that the end justified the means.” Duvall would later claim that, though she’d never want to experience such a shoot ever again, she owed a debt of gratitude to the director for making her a smarter performer.

Edward Norton & Tony Kaye

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American History X would garner Edward Norton an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, but it would also sever his ties with the film’s director, Tony Kaye. Before filming, Kaye gave Norton his blessing to retool the script to his liking. Though he didn’t especially like what was delivered to him, Kaye filmed it anyway. After the film’s production, Kaye’s first cut of X garnered several notes from New Line Cinema, who financed it. The director would return with a much shorter version that was rejected on the grounds of being far different from the previous version. Finally, Edward Norton stepped in and assembled a third version that would become the finished film. Kaye has rejected this take on the material outright, saying Norton and New Line ruined his film. He would try to have his name credit changed to the pseudonym “Humpty Dumpty” unsuccessfully. Norton later described the director as “a victim of nothing but his own professional and spiritual immaturity. Period.”

Faye Dunaway & Roman Polanski


Roman Polanski, like Kubrick, has a notoriously tough behind-the-scenes temperament. Unlike Shelley Duvall, actress Faye Dunaway didn’t respond to directorial bullying on the set of Chinatown passively. The two would argue heatedly onset and reportedly had a few physical altercations (one supposedly ending with the director yanking out a wad of the actresses hair). One rumored episode that Dunaway has long refused to acknowledge is that the actress threw a cup of her own urine into Polanski’s face when he wouldn’t go allow her to use the bathroom during a scene’s filming. Despite these eccentric fights, the film would be an Academy Awards darling, earning both the actress and the director nominations. Dunaway would later attend an anniversary screening of the film in the picture above.

Tippi Hedren & Alfred Hitchcock


Alfred Hitchcock would become obsessed with leading lady Tippi Hedren, who starred in The Birds and Marnie (pictured above). The actress claims Hitchcock’s “blonde obsession” led to a series of sexual advances. When the actress rejected them and attempted to exit her contract under Hitchcock, he went out of his way to ruin her career. Hedren would call him both a “genius” and “deviant”; her story was later made into the HBO Original movie The Girl starring Toby Jones.

Kim Basinger & Adrian Lyne


Director Adrian Lyne reportedly took a page from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining playbook while making the sen-sual drama 9 ½ Weeks. He would ban the cast and crew from associating with actress Kim Basinger, refuse to give her notes and spread gossip about fellow actor Mickey Rourke’s intentions toward her. This mental and emotional manipulation was intended to give Basinger a breakdown akin to the one her character experiences in the film, aided by the fact the script was shot sequentially. The film would become the breakout performance of Basinger’s career, but at the cost of her mental and emotional stress.

Jake Gyllenhal and David Fincher

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David Fincher is another director from the Stanley Kubrick school of obsessive-compulsive directing. The tension would grow between the two on set thanks to Fincher’s perfectionist methods. After the film’s completion, Gyllenhal would express his frustration with Fincher’s style: “… sometimes we’d do a lot of takes, and he’d turn, and he would say, because he had a computer there, ‘Delete the last 10 takes.’ And as an actor that’s very hard to hear.” Fincher would jab back at the actor, retorting “When you go to your job, is it supposed to be fun, or are you supposed to get stuff done?” Later, Fincher would admit that the “delete the last 10 takes” incident was actually a bit of emotional manipulation intended to try and bring the actor to tears for a particularly emotional scene. The two have seemed to mend things, as Gyllenhaal can be seen above attending a Santa Barbara International Film Festival gala honoring of the director.

Katherine Heigl & Judd Apatow

Photo: Adriana M. Barraza

No on-set barbs were traded between director Judd Apatow and actress Katherine Heigl on the set of Knocked Up. However, Heigl would later dismiss the film and director after its release. She called Apatow and the film “sexist” in an interview with Vanity Fair, stating Knocked Up “paints women as shrews.” The swipe apparently sparked a spat between the actress and director. To no one’s surprise, she will not be appearing in Apatow’s sequel, This Is 40.

Ewan McGregor & Danny Boyle


Scottish actor Ewan McGregor was Danny Boyle’s go-to leading man in such films as Trainspotting and Shallow Grave. When it came time to make The Beach, McGregor was promised the lead the role by the director. Then, when the start date was approaching, Boyle would choose Leonardo DiCaprio in his stead. McGregor accused Boyle of misleading him, keeping him attached to the role to secure the Titanic star. The two wouldn’t talk for several years until Boyle began discussing making a sequel to Trainspotting. As of 2011, McGregor was continuing to hold the grudge and has likely stopped the sequel from ever getting made.

Val Kilmer & Joel Schumacher


While casting Batman Forever, Schumacher pushed for Val Kilmer to fill the cape and cowl left by Michael Keaton. Unfortunately for Schumacher, he got his way, beginning a longstanding series of fights between the director and actor. Kilmer reportedly disliked the film’s shallow take on his character, its focus on co-star Jim Carrey (who played the villainous Riddler) and the style of the film. According to Schumacher, Kilmer would lash out at the crew, acting “irrational and ballistic… rude and inappropriate” before the director finally put his foot down. Neither men would speak to each other for a full two weeks and Kilmer would not return for the follow-up, Batman and Robin. Despite his difficulties, Schumacher would praise Kilmer’s performance in 2011 as the “best Batman ever.”

Steven Spielberg & Tom Cruise

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Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise would collaborate successfully on Minority Report and War of the Worlds before their relationship supposedly took a turn for the worse. According to tabloid “insiders,” during the promotional tour for War, Spielberg apparently became furious with Cruise’s dismissal of drugs like Ritalin in its role to help children suffering from ADHD. Spielberg also supposedly disliked Cruise’s ranting about the merits of Scientology over the actual movie. Though it seems like a reasonable enough cause for a feud, Spielberg’s attorneys would later dismiss the rumors as false. Still, it stands to reason since the two haven’t worked together since 2006, in part due to Paramount’s termination of Cruises contract that same year.

Bill Murray & Harold Ramis


Bill Murray collaborated with Harold Ramis on several of his most successful vehicles, from Meatballs to Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day. The latter film, however, turned out to be a tipping point in their relationship bringing about many disagreements. The actor, eager to branch out of his funnyman persona, pushed to bring the film into a more existential and serious place. As director, Ramis stuck with the broad comedy formula he knew worked for the actor. While the two would combine to make a widely praised movie, it caused a falling out between the two that has yet to mend. In Time Magazine, Ramis would jokingly request “If you could please attach the words ‘he said affectionately’ to every quote of mine, I’d really appreciate it because I had and have great affection for Bill. It goes unexpressed and unconsummated at this point, but I’d love to do something with him again.” The two kind-of sort of reunited for the Ghostbusters Video Game in 2009 (providing the voices of their iconic characters ).

Leonardo DiCaprio & Quentin Tarantino

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Leonardo DiCaprio and Quentin Tarantino apparently butted heads on the set of the upcoming Django Unchained according to a report from The National Enquirer (hence you may want to keep a grain of salt in place while reading this). During the filming of a fight scene, the pair are said to have squabbled over the direction. Tarantino is said to have won out and the ensuing sequence resulted in actor Jamie Foxx accidentally decking DiCaprio as he had predicted. With a busted lip, the actor is said to have screamed at his director “I’ve done four Martin Scorsese films without a scratch – and then I work with YOU!” They would finish the scene successfully, the rag added. Whether it’s true or not, the pair seem amicable in press promotions of Django and DiCaprio has praised Tarantino’s work to slightly more reputable source like The New York Post.

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