Most dramatic film set bust-ups, from Tom Hardy to Amber Heard

Film sets are prone to tension. In the most useful cases, that tension is channeled into the work itself. Would Mad Max: Fury Road have that same wired, exhausted charge if Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron weren’t eager to throttle one another off-camera?

Other times, though, the tension can be detrimental to the movie itself, leaving everyone involved tired and withdrawn and eager to get off the set entirely. Just ask Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel, fallen brethren of Fast & Furious fame, and two men who will probably never share a scene again. For shame.

To explore the benefits and drawbacks of actors scrapping with each other – or with their directors – we’ve collated 16 times in which film sets proved to be incredibly hostile workplaces.

Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf

While the specifics of Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf’s on-set friction remains unclear to this day, we at least know that something went down on the set of John Hillcoat’s 2012 Western Lawless. In 2011, LaBeouf claimed that he and Hardy had a dust-up while filming, with Hardy adding that LaBeouf had “knocked [him] out cold”. He continued: “He’s a bad, bad boy. He’s quite intimidating as well. He’s a scary dude.” Confusing matters, though, LaBeouf later said that Hardy was joking, and that the pair had gently tussled after Hardy walked in on LaBeouf and his girlfriend in a state of undress. He further claimed that they’d merely wrestled, and that in the fight Hardy had fallen down a flight of stairs and knocked himself out. While the genesis of the pair’s squabble is a mystery, Hillcoat himself told a Reddit AMA that the pair “definitely” had a fight. “It escalated to the point where they had to both be restrained,” he said.

Amber Heard and the filmmakers behind ‘London Fields’

A once-promising Martin Amis adaptation about a clairvoyant femme fatale, London Fields rapidly became embroiled in legal drama stemming from what all parties have admitted was a contentious set. Lawyers for star Amber Heard dubbed the film an “artistic fiasco” and argued that “no respectable actor would promote [such a] piece of garbage”. Heard had previously sued producer Christopher Hanley and his wife Roberta over “sexploitation”, claiming that nude scenes with a body double had been shot behind her back and inserted into the film. Hanley, meanwhile, denied Heard’s claims, and sued her, claiming that she had violated her contract, didn’t adequately promote the film, and had actively sabotaged the film’s release.

By 2018, three years after the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival was pulled at the last minute, London Fields was finally released to low box office and dismal reviews. The off-camera drama, meanwhile, appeared to be over, with all parties reaching a settlement and no money changing hands. “It’s very important for a female actress or any woman to be able to exercise her own control over her own body and her image,” Heard told the Associated Press upon the film’s release. “I’m glad that the version of the movie being released is supposedly respectful … with regards specifically to nudity and my nudity agreement. But again, those issues are in the past.”

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron

In 2020, the Mad Max: Fury Road stars opened up about their infamous feud on the set of the 2015 film. Charlize Theron had admitted at the time that the pair “f***in’ went at it” while filming the post-apocalyptic drama. Speaking to The New York Times, Tom Hardy said: “I think in hindsight, I was in over my head in many ways. The pressure on both of us was overwhelming at times. What she needed was a better, perhaps more experienced, partner in me. That’s something that can’t be faked. I’d like to think that now that I’m older and uglier, I could rise to that occasion.”

Theron added: “In retrospect, I didn’t have enough empathy to really, truly understand what he must have felt like to step into Mel Gibson’s shoes. That is frightening! I think because of my own fear, we were putting up walls to protect ourselves instead of saying to each other, ‘This is scary for you, and it’s scary for me, too. Let’s be nice to each other.’ In a weird way, we were functioning like our characters: Everything was about survival.”

In February 2022, the plot thickened when Theron claimed she was “scared s***less” of Hardy on set. She made the revelations in the book Blood, Sweat, and Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road, which details a heated encounter between the pair after Hardy showed up to set three hours late.

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Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel

“Candy ass” and “chicken s***” were the inventive insults that Dwayne Johnson came up with in 2016 for his Fast & Furious co-star Vin Diesel. During an interview with Rolling Stone, Johnson explained that the pair have “a fundamental difference in philosophies on how we approach moviemaking and collaborating”. Diesel later claimed that his difficulties with Johnson stemmed from him doling out unwelcome acting advice. “My approach at the time was a lot of tough love to assist in getting [his] performance where it needed to be,” Diesel told Men’s Health.

Responding to the remark, Johnson said: “I laughed and I laughed hard. I think everyone had a laugh at that. And I’ll leave it at that. And that I’ve wished them well. I wish them well on Fast 9. And I wish them the best of luck on Fast 10 and Fast 11 and the rest of the Fast & Furious movies they do that will be without me.”

Amy Adams and David O Russell

Buried in leaks from the Sony hack in 2014 were claims that Amy Adams and David O Russell clashed on the set of American Hustle, Russell’s convoluted con movie from the year before. Discussing their relationship in 2016, Adams confirmed that the filmmaker made her cry due to his process, which involved talking and shouting at his actors mid-scene. “He was hard on me, that’s for sure,” she told GQ. “It was a lot. I was really just devastated on set.” She added that she has no intention of working with him again.

David O Russell directs Amy Adams on the set of ‘American Hustle’

(Atlas Entertainment/Kobal/Shutterstock)

George Clooney and David O Russell

Adams was just one of many stars to confirm friction with Russell. On the set of 1999’s Three Kings, George Clooney confronted the filmmaker after he “went nuts on an extra”, according to the actor. “I would not stand for him humiliating and yelling and screaming at crew members, who weren’t allowed to defend themselves,” Clooney said in 2003. “I don’t believe in it, and it makes me crazy. So my job was then to humiliate the people who were doing the humiliating.” He also dubbed working on the film “the worst experience of [his] life”.

Lily Tomlin and David O Russell

Then there’s Lily Tomlin, who was seen in leaked footage from the set of 2004’s I Heart Huckabees being screamed at by Russell and giving as good as she was getting. While the footage went viral in 2010 and somewhat dented Russell’s image in the public eye, Tomlin has repeatedly said that the pair made up after a few hours of tension. “We don’t want to misbehave; believe me, it’s embarrassing. It’s humiliating, you know?” she said in 2011. “Because you just lose it. You act like a crazy person. But I adore David. I adore him as a talent.”

Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte

After starring opposite Nick Nolte in I Love Trouble, Julia Roberts didn’t hold back in an interview with The New York Times in 1993. “From the moment I met him we sort of gave each other a hard time, and naturally we get on each other’s nerves,” she said. While Nolte can be “completely charming and very nice”, she added, “he’s also completely disgusting. He’s going to hate me for saying this, but he seems go out of his way to repel people. He’s a kick.” Roberts might have been being playful – it’s unclear – but Nolte took her comments seriously. “It’s not nice to call someone ‘disgusting’,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “But she’s not a nice person. Everyone knows that.”

Alex Pettyfer and Channing Tatum in ‘Magic Mike’

(Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock)

Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer

While they played friends in Magic Mike, Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer were not so close in real life. “Channing Tatum does not like me. For many reasons. Many being my own fault,” Pettyfer said in a 2015 interview on Bret Easton Ellis’s podcast. According to Pettyfer, tensions began because he was “very insecure as a human being” during filming and decided to keep to himself on set. “That gave me a bad rep because they said, ‘Oh, Alex thinks he’s f***ing better than everybody else because he doesn’t speak to anyone.’” The acrimony allegedly only worsened when Pettyfer rented an apartment from a friend of Tatum’s and moved out before paying the four months of back rent that he owed. Tatum never publicly responded to Pettyfer’s comments.

The cast of ‘Steel Magnolias’ and Herbert Ross

Despite being a beloved classic, the 1989 weepie Steel Magnolias had a tortured production, with most of the cast – Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine and Dolly Parton – clashing with director Herbert Ross. “My deepest memories of the film were how we bonded together after he told one of us or all of us we couldn’t act,” Field said in 2013. “He went after Julia with a vengeance. This was pretty much her first big film.” In 1993, Ross said that Roberts “looked bad and gave a very bad performance” in the film. In response, Roberts called Ross “mean and out of line”, adding: “If he thinks he can talk about me in such a condescending way and not have me say something about it, then he’s nuts”.

Parton has also claimed that Ross would repeatedly tell her on the set that she needed acting lessons. Bemused, she told him: “I’m not an actress, I’m Dolly Parton. I’m a personality who has been hired to do this movie. You’re the director. It’s your job to make me look like I’m acting.” Ross died in 2001.

A beautiful comic partnership between Murray and Ramis resulted in a number of classic films, including Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day. But it was the latter project – which Ramis directed and Murray starred in – that led to a 21-year bust-up. According to a 2018 biography of Ramis by his daughter Violet, the pair had such volatile tension on the set that Ramis ended up grabbing Murray by the shirt collar and throwing him against a wall. The biography claims that, after Murray swore off their friendship, Ramis was left “heartbroken, confused and yet unsurprised by the rejection”. More than two decades later, with Ramis on his deathbed, Murray appeared at his door with a box of doughnuts and proceeded to mend fences with his one-time collaborator at the very last minute.

Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep has said Dustin Hoffman “overstepped” the mark when he slapped her face on the set of the divorce drama Kramer vs Kramer. Referring to the scene with Hoffman, Streep told The New York Times in 2018: “This is tricky because when you’re an actor, you’re in a scene, you have to feel free. I’m sure that I have inadvertently hurt people in physical scenes. But there’s a certain amount of forgiveness in that… But he just slapped me. And you see it in the movie. It was overstepping.”

Hoffman has previously said he was getting a divorce while shooting the film. “I’m sure I was acting out on her [Streep] throughout the movie,” he told the Huffington Post. “Stuff that I was feeling toward the wife that I was divorcing in real life.”

Bill Murray and Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu and Bill Murray were not exactly the best of friends while filming the 2000 action comedy Charlie’s Angels. Speaking on the Los Angeles Times’s Asian Enough podcast last summer, Liu said that she wouldn’t “get into the specifics” but there was a moment where she stood up to Murray while on set. Liu said Murray “hurled insults” at her that “kept going on and on”. “It was unjust and it was uncalled for,” she said. “Some of the language was inexcusable and unacceptable, and I was not going to just sit there and take it. So, yes, I stood up for myself, and I don’t regret it.”

Murray has not publicly commented on the fall-out, but reports have previously claimed that he “loudly complained” about Liu’s “acting technique” on set and that he even stopped a scene in progress and pointed to Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Liu, saying in order, “I get why you’re here, and you’ve got talent… but what in the hell are you doing here? You can’t act!”

Wes Anderson and Gene Hackman on the set of ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’

(James Hamilton/Touchstone/Kobal/Shutterstock)

Gene Hackman and Wes Anderson

It remains unclear what exactly bothered Gene Hackman about his Royal Tenenbaums director Wes Anderson, but he made it clear on set that he did not like him. In 2011, co-star Anjelica Huston claimed that Hackman told Anderson to “pull up [his] pants and act like a man”, while Noah Baumbach recalled Hackman dubbing Anderson a “c***” during filming. As for Anderson, though, he has no regrets about casting Hackman in the film, saying: “He’s a huge force and I really enjoyed working with him. Even though he was very challenging with me, it was very exciting seeing him launch into these scenes.”

Faye Dunaway and Roman Polanski

Dunaway’s feud with Polanski on the set of the classic film noir Chinatown quickly went down in Hollywood lore. They reportedly fought over costuming, hair and toilet breaks. The filmmaker would claim that Dunaway was “difficult” – a kiss of death for women of most eras in film – and dubbed her “a gigantic pain” in the press. In her autobiography, Dunaway claimed that misogyny led to the incidents on set being widely misreported. She claimed that Polanski was “incessantly cruel”, adding that he had a “never-ending need to humiliate” her, along with demonstrating behaviour that “bordered on sexual harassment”.

Burt Reynolds and Paul Thomas Anderson

Burt Reynolds may have received an Oscar nomination for his work in 1997’s Boogie Nights, but it didn’t quell his feelings about his director, Paul Thomas Anderson. The pair clashed on set, and Reynolds told GQ in 2015 that he wouldn’t work with him again despite the film’s acclaim. “Personality-wise, we didn’t fit,” Reynolds said. “I think mostly because he was young and full of himself. Every shot we did, it was like the first time [that shot had ever been done]. I remember the first shot we did in Boogie Nights, where I drive the car to Grauman’s Theater. After he said, ‘Isn’t that amazing?’ And I named five pictures that had the same kind of shot. It wasn’t original.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/film-set-fights-feuds-actors-directors-b2060682.html Most dramatic film set bust-ups, from Tom Hardy to Amber Heard


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