10 Notorious film directors that treat actors like dirt

Many actors discover their passion for cinema through watching the great films of world renowned directors. After achieving stardom, they try their hardest to work with the great names they admired as youngsters. But after meeting them, and suffering under them on set, some hope to never work together again, even if the film becomes a success or wins major prizes. The strictness, obsessiveness and occasional madness of these directors ensures that the actors never want to work with them again. This article includes ten of the directors who are most demanding of their actors.

Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog is certainly one of the toughest and most extreme directors an actor could work with. In some of his films he made decisions that risked the lives of himself and the rest of the crew. An example of this was the filming of "Aguirre, the Wrath of God". While recording, the cast was forced to live on rafts on Amazonian rivers for five weeks, almost getting caught in a heavy flood. In one of his documentaries, "La Soufrière", he risked the lives of all the actors, filming a few metres from a volcano about to erupt. In one scene you can see the toxic gases that were being released. Klaus Kinski worked on five of his films and they had strong arguments over each one, sometimes including physical altercations. Despite the troubled relationship they consider each other friends.

Lars Von Trier

Lars Von Trier is a renowned Danish film director and screenwriter. The actors who took part in his films have labeled him as one of the most difficult to work with. In the film "Dancer in the Dark", he submitted singer and actress Björk to unbearable pressure. After finishing the film, she vowed to never take part in another big screen production. In fact, when she learnt that Nicole Kidman was going to act in "Dogville", one of Von Trier's most acclaimed films, she wrote a letter to Kidman, advising her not to take part in the project saying he would "eat your soul". Although turning a deaf ear to Björk's advice, Kidman never worked with the director again. Paul Bettany also acted in that film and said it was "a horrible experience".

John Ford

"He's the only person to make John Wayne shout and swear", is the answer that journalists received when asking about how John Ford treated his actors. This prestigious American actor, producer and director was known for his severe work ethic. In addition, many described him as an authoritarian, and it's said that he used to mock and intimidate his actors to achieve better performances. He was one of the first to film outdoors, and he would make all the crew sleep in tents near the filming locations. His passion and commitment to filming put his life in danger: in two of his documentaries he was exposed to heavy gunfire and was injured on both occasions.

Oliver Stone

One of the most-hated directors on set is probably Oliver Stone. Jaime Fox, winner of the best actor Oscar for "Ray", had to put up with Stone asking him in front of the whole crew: "You're just not good at all, are you?". Talking to him is like "talking to a pig", said Sean Penn after working with Stone on "U-Turn". In "Savages", one of his most recent films, the director pushed his actors to the limit over several months. Blake Lively compared that experience to the "Jurassic Park" ride at Universal Studios. When the filming was close to finishing, the actress gave all her colleagues a t-shirt with the slogan "I survived Oliver Stone", because she thought that "they needed something nice after working for Stone for that long".

James Cameron

Those who worked with him claim that he is obsessed with detail and obtaining the best take. To achieve this, he often drives his crew to their limit. Linda Hamilton, a leading actor in "Terminator 2" and Cameron's ex-wife, had to go on a diet for a year and train with an ex-Mossad agent for the role. Later on she would say that the director is a "controlling idiot" who "doesn't treat his actors like human beings on set". Other celebrities suffered the same pressure a few years later. Ed Harris nearly drowned during the filming of a scene for "Abyss", and it was later revealed that he burst into tears when hearing the director shout "cut". In the same film, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio had to relieve herself in a wetsuit after Cameron denied her request for a toilet break.

Terrence Malick

The director of the acclaimed film "The Thin Red Line" is known in the film world as being very demanding of his actors. Ben Affleck acted in the film "To the Wonder", and shortly after its release he said that Malick is more interested in trees than in humans. Another of his "not so happy" characteristics is to significantly cut the actors onscreen time without prior warning, an experience Sean Penn, Adrien Brody and Christopher Plummer all went through. Although that is nothing compared to what Rachel Weisz, Michael Sheen and Jessica Chastain suffered. They all participated in "To the Wonder" and yet their scenes in the film were completely cut by the director during the editing process.

Akira Kurosawa

The renowned Japanese director was nicknamed "The Emperor" due to his dictatorial control during filming. In addition, he has provoked extremely risky situations in order to achieve the perfect take in a few films. In one scene from "Throne of Blood", he hired professional archers to shoot one of the protagonists, who had to try and dodge the arrows. Some of his colleagues suggested that "he could easily have died during that take". Kurosawa is also known for using a very demanding and sometimes cruel technique with his cast. He simply picks an actor, then attacks and insults them. Supposedly, this methodology is used to motivate the others and achieve better performances.

Michael Bay

The bad relationship Michael Bay has with some actors was revealed after the premier of the "Transformers" trilogy. Three of the stars, Megan Fox, Shia LaBeouf and Hugo Weaving, did not hold back from criticising him publicly. In an interview with "Wonderland" magazine, Fox accused the director of "being like Hitler on his sets" and that "it was a nightmare working for him". LeBeouf got along so badly with the director that they got in a fist fight during the filming of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon". Later on, Bay fired Fox and the actress was not included in the third film due to her statements. When he was asked what he thought of her, he replied, "She was at the practices, but she didn't seem to want to be a part of them. She said that she wanted to, but she didn't act like she wanted to. She was more worried about her Blackberry than acting".

Orson Welles

The creator of "Citizen Kane" was one of the most talented directors in film history. Welles always worked on his own terms, making it impossible for him to use studios and forcing him to finance his own films. Some interviews recently came to light in which he admitted to looking down on and abusing many of the most famous actors at the time. "Norma Shearer was one of the most minimally talented ladies to appear on the silver screen", he stated in one of the articles. He also considered Charlie Chaplin as "arrogant", James Stewart as a "bad actor", Lawrence Olivier as "stupid", and Spencer Tracy as "hateful". During a break in filming, Richard Burton, a star at the time, approached him to say that "Elizabeth Taylor so much wants to meet you". Welles denied the request, saying, "no, as you can see, I'm in the middle of my lunch".

David Fincher

Two giants of film history, Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock, will always be remembered for their obsession over catching the best take. Sometimes they repeated the same take a hundred times before achieving it. David Fincher shared the same methodology. In "Zodiac" he made Robert Downey Jr. record the same scene 70 times. During the filming, the actor left several bottles full of urine on the set in protest, as the director did not allow toilet breaks. Jake Gyllenhaal also suffered abuse in the same film, and he later revealed some details in an interview with the New York Times. "David knows what he wants, and he's very clear about what he wants, and he's very, very, very smart. But sometimes we'd do a lot of takes, and he'd turn, and he would say, because he had a computer there, to delete the last ten takes. As an actor, that's very hard to hear".

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About the Author

Soy Periodista y me especializo en deportes, aunque también me apasiona el cine, la literatura y el estudio de la cultura.Tengo 28 años, por ahora vivo en Buenos Aires. Estudié algunos años Sociología en la UBA y luego cambié a Periodismo, en la Universidad de Palermo. Terminé mis estudios a finales del 2011 y desde entonces me sigo especializando en temas diréctamente relacionados a la Comunicación y el Periodismo. Actualmente estoy haciendo un curso virtual de Community Managment y Social Media en la UTN.