There are many different voices on a movie set: the director, who is responsible for the look and feel of the film, the actors, who bring their own sensibilities of craft with them to each movie, and the studios and producers, who are responsible for overseeing the financial interests of the film. So who’s the boss? And who makes the final decisions? If there were an easy answer to that question, there wouldn't be so many movies that made changes because of actor feuds.
Some actors are notoriously hard to work with. Think that Bill Murray is simply a sweet, funny, comedic genius? Think again. He’s got a reputation for being unkind to people he doesn’t like: just ask Lucy Liu. Several directors also have a bad reputation. Megan Fox publicly compared Michael Bay’s on-set behavior to Hitler, so it’s no wonder why she was subsequently written out of Transformers: Dark of the Moon.These are just a few of the notorious behind-the-scenes fights that changed film plots or the direction of a project. Who knows what kind secret blowups have taken place in an actor’s trailer or in a studio head’s office? Here are 15 behind-the-scenes feuds that changed movies.
In the early '90s, actor Val Kilmer garnered a reputation for being hard to work with. On the set of Batman Forever (1995), director Joel Schumacher witnessed the reason for Kilmer's bad rep firsthand. Schumacher had a conversation with Kilmer about his poor treatment of others on the set, and the talk resulted in Kilmer not speaking with the director for several weeks.The fallout from this feud may not have affected this particular Batman movie, which did well at the box office, but it certainly affected Kilmer's career: this was a one-and-done performance for Kilmer as Batman. The franchise and Schumacher chose to recast the role of the Caped Crusader, bestowing the black cowl upon George Clooney in 1997's Batman & Robin.
- Once Upon a Time in America, Sergio Leone's epic ode to American gangster films, is a classic case of studio interference. Leone's original tale of Jewish gangsters in prohibition-era New York City ran for 229 minutes. Leone and studio heads clashed over the film's running time, and distributors subsequently edited the film down to a mere 139 minutes. They also turned the film's non-linear narrative into a chronological tale, a move that critics widely criticized. The butchering made the story very difficult to understand, and it ultimately resulted in box office failure. However, Leone's original vision is available for viewers who don't mind the four-hour running time.
- Due to Iron Man's enormous success, it's hard to remember what a mess Robert Downey Jr. was before putting on the suit. His battle with drugs and alcohol led to multiple arrests, and it seemed like the talented actor's career was over. However, sometimes all it takes for a comeback is to have one very persistent man in your corner. Director Jon Favreau battled Marvel to cast Downey as Iron Man. The studio rejected the idea several times, but Favreau insisted because he knew Downey was perfect for the part. "It was my job as a director to show that it was the best choice creatively…and now the Marvel Universe is the biggest franchise in film history," Favreau said. Sometimes feuds actually do end well.
Tony Kaye is known around Hollywood for being a bit of a hothead. For his feature film directorial debut American History X, Kaye did not want to cast Ed Norton (who was later nominated for an Oscar for his performance), but finally agreed when he couldn't find anyone else for the role. After Kaye finished editing the movie, he handed over a 96-minute cut to New Line. When the studio and Norton responded with several notes and questions about the cut, Kaye reportedly responded with a temper tantrum.New Line wound up booting the director from the editing room, and Kaye asked for his name to be entirely removed from the project. His request was denied. New Line added 40 minutes of footage to the controversial film, which has gone on to become a cult classic and film school staple.