The 11 Most Controversial On-Set Feuds

There’s a lot that goes into the making of a film, especially in Hollywood. Today, studios are willing to sink millions of dollars into movies that they believe promise a likely return on their investment. Everything from craft services to promotions is carefully budgeted. However, what remains a wild card is how the cast and crew will interact.

Sometimes good relationships lead to decades of fruitful collaborations. Just look at Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio and Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale. Other times, the random pairings that fared well in screen-tests fail to stand the test of time, stress, and other cinematic trials.

Here are some of the biggest and most controversial on-set feuds that have become Hollywood legend.

1. Stanley Kubrick and Shelley Duvall

By the time legendary director Stanley Kubrick got around to filming The Shining, his reputation for perfectionism was already common knowledge. Since his movies had done so well, both critically and financially, studio executives overlooked the worst of his bad habits.

People who worked on The Shining generally agree that actress Shelley Duvall bore the brunt of this abuse. He intentionally belittled her, insulted her acting, and made her feel worthless in order to bring a deeper level of realism to her portrayal of Wendy Torrance. After spending most of a day filming 127 takes of the famous baseball bat scene, Duvall was in hysterics.


2. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford

Although they claimed to respect each other, the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford is one of the most famous of Hollywood’s golden age. The fact that they were both talented actresses trying out for the same parts is likely the cause of their mutual loathing. It’s also rumored that Davis was in love with Crawford’s husband Franchot Tone.

Their mutual enmity became on-screen fodder in 1962 when they starred together in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Their antics on set were legendary. Davis installed a Coke vending machine in her room to spite Crawford, who at the time was married to the CEO of Pepsi. Publicly, they supported each other. However, it’s rumored that Davis actively campaigned for Crawford to lose the Oscar for Best Actress.

3. Faye Dunaway and Roman Polanski

Another director-leading lady feud that’s been discussed over and over again is the complex relationship between Roman Polanski and Faye Dunaway.

During the filming of the 1974 film Chinatown, Polanski bullied Dunaway. He did so by pulling her hair and refusing to let her leave the set to go to the bathroom. The later harassment led to the likely false story of her tossing a cup of her pee in his face.

Since then, Dunaway has developed a reputation as an impossible actress to manage. She even left a 2008 interview in “incandescent with rage” after a reporter from The Guardian asked her whether the story was true.

4. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron

Although Mad Max: Fury Road was met with critical success, the relationship between leading actors Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron was one of intense friction.

Tom Hardy was reportedly frustrated because he couldn’t figure out where the movie was going and was exhausted by the 100-day-long shoot in the Namibian desert. Later, he claimed that his frustration was a result of feeling like director George Miller was unable to communicate his vision for the movie.

Hardy has since publicly apologized, acknowledging his frustrating behavior and asking for Miller’s forgiveness.

5. Christian Bale and Shane Hurlbut

Christian Bale might be one of Hollywood’s most dedicated actors. Oftentimes, losing or gaining a substantial amount of weight and completely changing his body for roles. Even though these physical changes are proof enough of his intensity, fans got to see exactly how intense working with him actor could be in 2009.

Halfway through filming Terminator: Salvation, a secretly-recorded audiotape of Bale blowing up at director of photography Shane Hurlbut was released. In it, Bale screams at Hurlbut for getting in his sightline. He even threatens to have Hurlbut fired. The tape quickly made the rounds. Eventually, Bale called into LA radio station KROQ to publicly apologize.

6. Wesley Snipes and Everyone

During the filming of Blade: Trinity, it’s rumored that Wesley Snipes suffered some kind of mental breakdown. This breakdown led to him becoming completely impossible for anyone in the cast and crew to work with. He reportedly refused to speak to director and producer David S. Goyer. Eventually, Snipes refused to respond to anyone who didn’t call him “Blade”.

Ryan Reynolds later told reporters that while filming the movie, Snipes once told him: “Keep your mouth shut. You’ll live longer.” Reynolds also charitably insists that most of Snipes’ behavior was due to his intense method acting, saying: “I never met Wesley Snipes on this film, not for a second. I only met Blade.”

7. Kevin Smith and Bruce Willis

Director Kevin Smith is well-known for his stoner comedies like Mallrats, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Most of the time he collaborates with a small cabal of talented friends like Jason Mewes, Jason Lee, and Ben Affleck.

In 2010, during the filming of Cop Out, star Bruce Willis and Smith got in a few public tiffs. Willis took issue with Smith’s frequent use of marijuana, while Smith found Willis combative and unpleasant.

After a particularly difficult day of filming, Smith went back to his trailer and punched three holes in the walls. His assistant quickly started calling them “Die Hard One, Die Hard Two, and Die Hard Three”.

8. Lars von Trier and Bjork

Both Lars von Trier and Bjork are considered controversial in their own rights. Von Trier’s films Melancholia and Dogville, both of which he wrote and directed, are considered some of the most unique stylistic movies made in the last 25 years. Bjork has her own unique aesthetic but also has a reputation as an impetuous and difficult person to work with.

While filming the movie Dancer in the Dark, the pair did not get along at all. Bjork now claims that von Trier sexually harassed her numerous times. On the flip side, CNN reported that Bjork began every shooting day by saying: “Mr. von Trier, I despise you”, then spitting on him.

9. Katherine Heigl and Everyone

Although she’s since managed to rehabilitate her image, there was a period about 10 years ago when Katherine Heigl was considered one of the most difficult actresses in Hollywood. She ran afoul of director Judd Apatow and co-star Seth Rogen after filming Knocked Up when she publicly labeled the movie “a little sexist”.

Around the same time, she landed in hot water again when she removed her name from consideration for an Emmy, saying that there was nothing in Grey’s Anatomy that warranted a nomination. Showrunner Shonda Rhimes quickly wrote her off the hit show, saying that she no longer put up with “nasty people”.

10. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes

Two romantic leads who had very unromantic feelings for each other off-screen were Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.

The pair, who broke hearts in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, started the shoot annoyed with each other. As such, they refused to speak as soon as the cameras stopped rolling.

Danes thought that DiCaprio, who loved to pull pranks, was completely immature, while DiCaprio felt that Danes’ lack of enjoyment of his pranks made her uptight and annoying. However, it’s reported that after a period of mutual enmity, they eventually worked through their problems and became good friends.

At the time, Danes was only 16, and DiCaprio was 22, so their poor communication is understandable.

11. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams

Another pair of romantic leads who went through a period of mutual loathing is the duo from The Notebook: Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.

As soon as filming began, the relationship between the pair began to disintegrate. Director Nicholas Cassavetes later told VH1 that they would scream and shout at each other in full view of the crew. Eventually, Cassavetes locked the two in a room together and told them that they would have to sort through their differences before they would be allowed out.

This intervention worked as the pair reconciled. It may have worked a little too well as the pair went onto become a real-life couple, dating for more than three years.

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