Film is an amazing medium because of all the emotional journeys characters go through in such a short period of time. To achieve this, directors often have to rely on interesting and sometimes extreme measures to get amazing performances from their actors and actresses.
Unfortunately, that means some directors have done awful things, especially to actresses. There are all sorts of horror stories out there, from being verbally harassed to getting physically injured to being completely traumatized. It can be quite disturbing to see what many acclaimed directors have reportedly done, but torturing actresses - whether over a personal beef or to get the perfect shot for their film - appears to be a sadly common occurrence.
As the deadline was closing in for the final cut of Shane Black's The Predator, 20th Century Fox discovered Black hired actor Steven Wilder Striegel, a friend, to play a small role opposite Olivia Munn. Directors cast friends all the time, so this wasn't surprising - but Striegel is a registered sex offender, and Black knew about it.
Striegel pleaded guilty to trying to coax a 14-year-old girl into a sexual relationship back in 2010. When Munn found out about Striegel's record on August 15, 2018, she alerted 20th Century Fox and they cut the scene from the film.
This isn't the first time Black got Striegel a role post-conviction, either. Black also cast him in Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys, and even defended this decision, saying, "I personally chose to help a friend. I can understand others might disapprove, as his conviction was on a sensitive charge and not to be taken lightly." Black later recanted, claiming to have been misled by Striegel and calling the choice "an error in judgment."
[It was] both surprising and unsettling that Shane Black, our director, did not share this information to the cast, crew, or Fox Studios prior to, during, or after production. However, I am relieved that when Fox finally did receive the information, the studio took appropriate action by deleting the scene featuring Wilder prior to release of the film.
Shelley Duvall gained a reputation as a kindhearted animal lover, so it comes as a pretty big shock to learn Stanley Kubrick emotionally tortured her to film The Shining. It's more than just how he talked to her or gave direction - it was things like reportedly reshooting the same take over 100 times. Duvall notes in The Complete Kubrick just how exhausting working with Kubrick was:
From May until October I was really in and out of ill health because the stress of the role was so great. Stanley pushed me and prodded me further than I’ve ever been pushed before. It’s the most difficult role I’ve ever had to play.
Even her costar Jack Nicholson was aghast at how Kubrick treated Duvall. He noted that he was a great director toward everyone except her.
David O. Russell has a reputation in Hollywood for being tough on his actors and actresses. He famously got into a fistfight with George Clooney when they worked on Three Kings, so it's not much of a surprise to hear that Russell was also difficult on American Hustle, especially toward Amy Adams. She said Russell's behavior on set was so extreme that she often cried after a day of shooting.
In an email exposed during the 2014 Sony hack, journalist Jonathan Alter wrote to Sony CEO Michael Lynton, chronicling Russell's treatment of Adams: "His abuse and lunatic behavior are extreme even by Hollywood standards."
Louis B. Mayer isn't exactly a director, but he's Hollywood royalty all the same. In fact, he's one of the Ms in MGM Studios: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He also has a reputation for allegedly assaulting actresses in his movies.
The Wizard of Oz is the film that propelled Judy Garland - who was 16 at the time - to stardom. But, in the 1930s, studio heads reportedly pushed the limits of child labor laws, and MGM doctors gave Garland sleeping pills followed by "pep pills" to keep her alert when the cameras were rolling. They also gave her pills to control her weight. Garland struggled with substance abuse and addiction for the rest of her life.