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On-Set Hollywood Feuds: Norm Or Abuse?

Noah Camarena |
March 5, 2015 | 2:53 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence (Twitter/ @Independent)
David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence (Twitter/ @Independent)
Over the past week or so there have been rumors surrounding film director David O.Russell and movie star Jennifer Lawrence. The rumour, originated by TMZ, claimed that Russell and Lawrence engaged in a heated exchange while filming their upcoming movie “Joy” which will be released Christmas Day, 2015 and is expected to be a front-runner come awards season.

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The rumor caught fire because it is not the first time that Russell has been involved with a scenario such as this. 

When he was shooting his film “Three Kings,” Russell and the film’s star George Clooney were said to be on the verge of fighting one another after the famous director repeatedly demeaned different members of the crew. This altercation even resulted in Clooney announcing that he would never work with the director again, although he later said that the two had fixed their damaged relationship.

Russell did not stop with this incident however. While filming “I Heart Huckabees,” a number of videos emerged that showed Russell and actress Lily Tomlin furiously yelling at one another. At one point, Russell even knocked over a stack of paper in frustration over what he believed to be the actress’s incompetence. Despite this argument, Tomlin laughed off the matter and even said that she liked to work in an environment that is so emotionally charged. 

Even in his latest rumored outburst, the actor once again came to his defense. Lawrence recently posted a statement on her Facebook page to explain that the two never had an argument and that they are the best of friends, just enjoying making another movie. Lawrence does have history with Russell, she worked with him in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” so that might explain why she is so quick to come to his aid, but it does pose a bigger question. Are altercations like Russell’s normal for Hollywood or is this emotional abuse?

Russell is not the only director to have multiple run-ins with his actors. Director Tony Kaye has also experienced problems with his workers on various occasions. After the film “Detachment” was released, Bryan Cranston noted that he was upset with how Kaye handled the script, so much so that he did not even see the movie. Edward Norton also did not see eye to eye with Kaye when the two worked together on “American History X.” Kaye even went so far as to say that Norton “raped” his film. Kaye also said that he should have re-casted the part and replaced Norton, but he did not have enough time. Norton worked as an editor for the film, but Kaye removed his name from the film because Kaye was not happy with how Norton edited the film. Kaye went to great extremes to get his opinion heard, and he cut down the 200 hours worth of footage down to a measly 87 minutes.  

Sometimes, even the best of the best can butt heads which was the case for Jake Gyllenhaal and David Fincher as they worked on their 2007 film “Zodiac.” While the two were never reported as coming to blows, Gyllenhaal was deeply disturbed by Fincher’s style of directing, which he felt was somewhat insulting to he as an actor. The disgruntled actor revealed that sometimes acting did not even feel fun when he worked with Fincher because it seemed as there were times where all Fincher was concerned about was getting the job done. The actor explained that sometimes they would do countless numbers of takes in a row, only for them all to get deleted by Fincher’s order; and for an actor, having all of your hard work deleted in the blink of an eye can be extremely demeaning. Both men skipped the Los Angeles premiere of their film, but in this case, it seems as if the style of directing was the problem.

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It is not always the directors who initiate the conflict, as sometimes an actor can speak out and spark a controversy. In the case of Megan Fox and Michael Bay, Fox’s comments got her replaced in the “Transformers” franchise. Fox went on a rant to describe her former director and even compared him to the likes of Napoleon and Hitler when he is on set. According to Fox, his tyrant personality made it hard to work for him. If there was a consolation hidden in her comments, Fox did admit to liking the director as a person aside from the movie set. That being said, she did say she likes him because he is “hopelessly awkward” and has “no social skills.” Probably not much of a surprise when she found out she would not be returning to star in the third installment of “Transformers.”

Most feuds only escalate to petty disagreements, but there are times when extreme, and strange, situations occur, none more strange than a feud between Faye Dunaway and director Roman Polanski. As the two worked on the 1974 film “Chinatown,” they ran into a collection of hurdles. Polanski refused to help Dunaway with her character development, plucked hairs from the top of her head and even prohibited her from taking a bathroom break. This last incident proved to be the tipping point for the actress. In response to the insane rule, Dunaway threw a cup full of urine into the face of the director. 

It seems as if there's a history of feuding between directors and actors in movies. Most times it just has to do with a disagreement between styles and an overall bad fit between the two. However, there are some cases where tension can boil over and create a conflict that is bigger than the movie. Is it emotional abuse? I don’t think so. Perhaps when doing something worth caring about, people tend to get passionate, and everyone deals with it in different ways.

Reach Staff Reporter Noah Camarena here and follow him on Twitter here.



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