What Movie: "The Contender" (2000)
What Went Down: With a series of revisions and retractions and setting-the-record-straight interviews, it’s hard to untangle this one, except to say that while on-set all was reportedly hunky dory, once actor and producer Gary Oldman saw the finished cut of the political, words were had between him and director Rod Lurie, as well as with DreamWorks. Oldman claims he was misquoted when he was said to have claimed that the film had been altered to lean more left-ward, politically, but he doesn’t deny he was disappointed with how his character, the Republican antagonist toward Joan Allen’s Democrat, was portrayed as a straightforward villain, particularly through the use of score. For his part, Lurie claimed that Oldman was suffering from “Stockholm syndrome” as though he had been taken hostage by his character and his character’s beliefs. which Oldman took exception to, saying...
Choice Quote: "I find a lot of that "Stockholm Syndrome" stuff really insulting, both to me and to actors in general. He doesn't know what he's talking about. I don't want to sit here and take cheap shots. This feud, this thing that has bubbled up, has become this sandstorm." -- Gary Oldman, in an interview for Venice magazine
Who Came Out Looking Less Of A Dick: Not sure anyone comes out too terribly here: Oldman had issues with the portrayal of his character, Lurie had issues with his issues. Oldman, however was ultimately gracious about the finished film. "Sandstorm" in a teacup, perhaps?
What Movie:"The Shining" (1980)
What Went Down: Any attempt to draw a simplistic parallel between fraying tempers on-set and an accompanying dip in quality of the resulting film literally disintegrates in the face of Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece “The Shining.” But by the accounts of both Duvall and Crothers, Kubrick’s infamously exacting approach made the set a tortuous place for both, especially Duvall who claimed that the hysteria she was required to portray was so constant that she ran out of tears and had to increase her water intake purely to remain hydrated enough to cry. Kubrick also instructed the other cast and crew to show Duvall no sympathy during the grueling shoot, and this, coupled with the stress of constantly rewritten scenes apparently ended up causing her hair to start to fall out. But while official (well, Guinness Record) word has it that one of her scenes -- swinging a bat at Jack -- required 127 takes, the Steadicam operator claimed that was an exaggeration, although he claimed a different scene required 148 takes. That latter scene (officially logged at a mere 85 takes) was one involving Scatman Crothers, who apparently broke down at one point, begging the famously reticent director to tell him “What do you want, Mr. Kubrick?”
Choice Quote: “[Duvall had] the toughest job that any actor I’ve seen had” -- Jack Nicholson
Who Came Out Looking Less Of A Dick: We have to sympathize with the actors, but it's hard to tell where it might have been possible to call a halt to Kubrick’s perfectionism without impacting on the finished film (a bit like second-guessing some kind of deity). If anything, it proves that being an out-and-out genius and behaving dickishly are hardly mutually exclusive -- and Kubrick is the rare case where you feel it’s the utter dedication to the film, as opposed to ego, that’s at work.
What Movie: "Three Kings"(1999)/"I Heart Huckabees"(2004)/“Nailed” (????)
What Went Down: Russell’s erstwhile rep for feuding with his actors found early expression when George Clooney, apparently incensed over how Russell was treating the crew on the set of his criminally underrated Gulf War movie, confronted Russell over it, and apparently the altercation came to blows. Later on during the aborted (due to financial fuck ups) ”Nailed,” James Caan reportedly walked off set because he disagreed with the director over the correct way to choke on a cookie (the age-old coughing vs. no-coughing debate), and of course, in between, on the set of “I Heart Huckabees,” this happened:
Subsequently, however most of these fences seem to have been mended, as perhaps Russell mellows with age and Oscar recognition. Clooney, while unlikely to work with him again, said “I really do appreciate the work he continues to do, and I think he appreciates what I'm trying to do,” while Tomlin said in 2011 “... it was nothing anyway, it was just temper. We just both had a bad temper fit.” Whether Caan has mellowed too is hard to tell. Perhaps dissing an actor’s interpretation of a baked goods-related death is just a line you do not cross.
Choice Quote: “[The fight with Russell] was, without exception, the worst experience of my life” -- George Clooney
“I worked on this fucking thing for three fucking years not to have some cunt yell at me… fuck yourself.” -- Russell to Tomlin
"Why don’t you fuck your whole movie? Because that’s what you’re doing.” -- Tomlin’s reply.
Who Came Out Looking Less Of A Dick: While Russell doesn't come out looking too rosy, you can read a different account of the "Three Kings" dust up in Sharon Waxman's "Rebels on the Backlot" (click here) that paints Clooney more as the troublemaker who pushed one button too many. However, Tomlin wins everything, our hearts included, for that clip, but on "Nailed,” if that story has been reported accurately, then Russell takes the cookie.
What Movie: "Transformers"
What Went Down: Prior to the filming of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” Fox publicly lambasted her director Michael Bay comparing him, sigh, to Hitler on-set. It’s debated whether, as Fox says, she refused to work on the third ‘Transformers’ or whether as Bay maintains, he fired her on advice from Steven Spielberg, but with everyone from Fox’s subsequent co-star Chris O’Dowd to Shia LaBeouf weighing in, the spat became emblematic of Hollywood’s attitude to sexism (whether Fox intended this consequence or not) for about six minutes back there.
Choice Quote: “...he's a nightmare to work for” -- Fox on Bay
“I'm sorry, Megan. I'm sorry I made you work twelve hours. I'm sorry that I'm making you show up on time. Movies are not always warm and fuzzy.” -- Bay in a GQ interview
Who Came Out Looking Less Of A Dick: Oh how we’ve gone back and forth on this one! Initially, we were Team Megan for the sheer unexpectedness of a to-that-date all-but-mute sex kitten so publicly biting the hand that feeds, even if everyone who invokes Hitler in a comparison should automatically lose the argument. But her subsequent reported apology, and sign-on to the goddamn Bay-produced “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie, kind of negates that. And with Shia LaBeouf’s contribution to this important discourse delivered in particularly nasty form, we’re prepared to believe that the dickishness quotient is so high on those movies that our finely calibrated instruments of dickishness detection simply get overloaded.
What Movie:"Aguirre, Wrath of God” (1972)/“Fitzcarraldo" (1982) etc
What Went Down: Perhaps the most the most legendary actor/director feud, at least in world cinema terms, what marks out the Herzog/Kinski collaboration is the almost archetypal way it details the love/hate relationship between an obsessive director and his obsessive muse. Not only the that, but the self-awareness with which they seemed to embark on their projects (including a documentary on the very subject, Herzog’s surprisingly fond portrait of Kinski “My Best Fiend”) makes for endlessly compelling anecdotes and quotes, and not a few death threats. Add to that the often physically grueling conditions in which they shot and Kinski’s beyond-method descent (ascent?) into madness and delusion, and you have one of the most combustible combinations of temperaments and circumstance ever marshaled into being for a film. Or six -- up until Kinski walked out on “Cobra Verde” and they never re-teamed thereafter.
Choice Quote: “You leave this jungle now and you'll find eight bullets in you and the ninth one will be for me” -- Herzog to Kinski after he threatened to leave ‘Aguirre.’
Who Came Out Looking Less Of A Dick: Herzog. He may be a mercurial madman in his own right, but you get the feeling that he is always able to put whatever mania is at hand in service of a unique artistic sensibility. Kinski, however, even before the dire accusations of sexual abuse made against him more recently, had a wide streak of insanity that seemed to leak into all corners of his life. And while that made him undeniably exciting to watch, he was never more scintillating onscreen than when it was conducted down the lightning rod of Herzog’s strength of will and innate intelligence.