Excessive Demands Actors Have Made On Movie Sets

17 minute read

By Goliath Team

Being an actor — well, a successful one anyway — is a pretty sweet deal. Fame and fortune are the most prominent perks that come along with being a big Hollywood star and that privilege extends to the actual movie set. While working on a film is a two-way street between the cast and crew, studios definitely treat the former group better and go out of their way to satisfy actors’ wants and needs while they’re on set. That isn’t as ridiculous as it might sound, as many actors don’t demand too much from craft services or have outrageous stipulations in their contracts that must be met. However, Hollywood is a place notorious for attracting its fair share of egotistical individuals who feel that the seas should part to accommodate their every whim and sometimes the demands they’ve placed fall into the outrageous or just plain bizarre territory.

While the history of movie-making is littered with all sorts of stories of actors asking for a little too much, here are 24 of the most excessive demands we’ve come across.

24. George Clooney Once Asked For A Basketball Court and Private Garden

Released in 2013, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, was met with critical and financial success, pulling in an estimated $723 million worldwide, which was impressive given the film’s $100 million dollar budget.

While making the Academy Award-winning film, Clooney demanded that his lot come with a private basketball court, a hot tub, landscaped garden, and a custom-made beach hut. It’s been reported Clooney’s amenities cost the film roughly $125,000 and it’s hard not to imagine that the actor’s extravagant demands caused somewhat of a riff with other members of the cast and crew.

Source: Rachel Murray / Stringer

23. Paris Hilton Once Requested Live Lobster And Grey Goose

Released in 2010, Adam McKay’s buddy cop comedy The Other Guys, starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, and Eva Mendes grossed over $170 million worldwide. The film was generally well-received, earning a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes and winning an award for “Best Comedy Film” at the 2010 Comedy Awards

Fresh-off playing Leshii in a single episode of Supernatural in 2009, Paris Hilton was offered a small role as herself in McKay’s film, but her part was eventually cut due to the model’s behavior and outlandish requests on set. It’s been reported that Hilton handed producers a three-page list of demands, which included live lobsters to be brought on set when she was hungry, as well as bottles of Grey Goose vodka.

Source: Cole Bennetts / Stringer

22. Will Smith’s Likes Expensive Trailers

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and Rosario Dawson, Men in Black II was released in theaters on July 3, 2010. On a budget of $140 million, the Men in Black sequel grossed $441.8 million worldwide, which is a good thing given Smith’s on-set demands.

Smith is generally one of the more well-liked actors in Hollywood, but during the filming of Men in Black II, the actor’s demands got the best of some of his co-workers, as well as a few locals. Despite living minutes from the set, it’s been reported that Smith requested a $2 million dollar trailer, which included two bedrooms, two baths, and a private movie theater.

Source: Jason Merritt / Staff

21. Ben Affleck Once Refused To Wear Yankees Hat

During the filming of 2014’s Gone Girl, director David Fincher and actor Ben Affleck had a disagreement over an article of clothing worn in the film. The script called for Affleck’s character to wear a Yankees hat,  but being a Boston native and die-hard Red Sox fan, he refused and asked Fincher if he could wear a Mets hat instead. Fincher agreed.

During an interview with Rolling Stone, the Boston native discussed his reasoning for refusing to wear the Yankees hat.

“I said, ‘David, I love you, I would do anything for you. But I will not wear a Yankees hat. I just can’t. I can’t wear it because it’s going to become a thing, David. I will never hear the end of it. I can’t do it.’”

Source: Ore Huiying / Stringer

20. Fake Wounds Are Not Convincing Enough For Shia LaBeouf

Shia LeBeouf is a known method actor, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, from time-to-time it has caused problems on set. During the filming of David Ayer’s 2014 war film Fury, LaBeouf ‘s character is featured with various face wounds, but rather than allowing a makeup artist to do what they were hired for, the young actor insisted on cutting his face with a knife. Not only that, LeBeouf would open his cuts as they healed to keep them looking fresh throughout the film

While the face cutting is slightly insane, LeBeouf also had a tooth pulled by a dentist to further get into character for the film.

Source: Michael Tran / Contributor

19. Daniel Day-Lewis Insists Everyone Call Him “Mr. President”

While filming the 2012 historical drama Lincoln, well-known method actor Daniel Day-Lewis made a few demands and despite being a little strange, director Steven Spielberg had no problem approving them given the actor’s resume.

Day-Lewis refused to use any form of electricity that the President wouldn’t have had access to, as well as requesting that everyone on set refer to him as “Mr. President”. The actor even went as far as refusing to speak with anyone who was British, fearing that it would negatively affect his performance.

Source: Jemal Countess / Stringer

18. Will Ferrell Requested A Mobility Scooter?

Directed by Kent Alterman and starring Will Ferrell, Andre 3000, and Woody Harrelson, Semi-Pro was released on February 29, 2008. The film wasn’t well-received by critics and made significantly less at the box office in comparison to Ferrell’s previous sports parodies Talladega Nights and Blades of Glory, which makes his ridiculous demands that much funnier.

Ferrell has made some rather strange requests while filming over the years, but the demands he made while shooting  Semi-Pro, might just take the cake. According to the SNL alumni’s tour rider, Ferrell asked for a Janet Jackson-style headset microphone, a mobility scooter, and weirdest of all, a rainbow on wheels. Why? We have no idea.

Source: Charles McQuillan / Contributor

17. Three Chances For Dolph Lundgren

During the late ’80s, Dolph Lundgren was working on Gary Goddard’s Masters of the Universe, a science fiction film widely recognized as a critical and commercial failure. At that time, Lundgren’s English was terrible, so Goddard was forced to dubb his rising star, a move that didn’t sit well with Lundgren.

In an attempt to improve his English and protect his brand, Dolph created a clause in his contract that awarded him three opportunities to perfect his lines. If he was unable to get them right by his third attempt, Lundgren would be dubbed.

Source: Juan Naharro Gimenez / Contributor

16. Nicolas Cage Once Requested A Live Bat

Released in 1988, Vampire’s Kiss, starring Nicolas Cage and Jennifer Beals, tells the story of Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage), a publishing executive who believes he’s becoming a vampire after being bitten by a bat that flies through his window.

During the making of Vampire’s Kiss, Cage was adamant that a live bat is used during the scene, but director Robert Bierman disagreed, which caused the film to stop production for a few days. After a lengthy argument between Cage and Bierman, they both agreed that an animatronic bat would be used instead.

Source: Rich Polk / Stringer

15. Uma Thurman Once Demanded Three Cell Phones

While in Paris working on Eloise, a film based on the book Eloise in Paris by Kay Thompson that was never actually finished, actress Uma Thurman, best known for Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill film franchise, worked it into her contract that she be given three cell phones and the opportunity to purchase any costume or wig from the film at a greatly reduced rate. Thurman also made sure that no cast member of the cast or crew was allowed to have a better dressing room than hers.

Source: Edward Berthelot / Contributor

14. Sharon Stone Once Refused To Kiss On Camera

While filming Pupi Avati’s A Golden Boy, Sharon Stone became incredibly uncomfortable during a kissing scene, which prompted the actress to walk off set and refuse to return. The actress later returned and filmed the scene like nothing happened, but demanded that all the photographers and cameramen leave the set.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, director Pupi Avati had this to say about the experience:

“She immediately disappeared. We looked for her everywhere, but nothing! Then my brother received a phone call from Los Angeles from her manager: she wouldn’t come back on the set until the photographers and especially that damned TV cameramen had gone away. Obviously we did so and she, like nothing happened, shot the scene. The thing that I found most absurd is that she had to call to the States and to close herself in a car, instead of coming to ask us directly.”

Source: Rachel Murray / Stringer

13. Eddie Murphy Refused To Use Anything Twice

Following the success of films like Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America, actor/comedian Eddie Murphy was on top of the world. It seemed as if the SNL alum could do no wrong, that is until it was discovered by people who worked with him that the actor throws out everything that isn’t new.

When shooting a movie, Eddie Murphy refuses to wear the same pair of underwear or socks twice. He even requires the clothing to have the tags left on them to prove the items are brand new. At the end of the day, he throws everything away. He refuses to use anything twice, which also includes items like mouthwash, toothbrushes, and beverages.

Source: Paul Natkin / Contributor

12. Orson Welles Once Demanded A Fur-Lined Coat, Then Steals It

While he never achieved Marlon Brando (more on him later) levels, Orson Welles is an actor who grew increasingly eccentric as he got older. One prominent example of this eccentricity in action occurred in the 1952 adventure film The Black Rose. Welles insisted that his character Bayan wear a coat lined with mink fur, which was an unusual request from the point of view that the mink lining never actually made it on screen. However, the strangest part of the whole thing is that Welles essentially tricked the producers into purchasing him a new coat. The coat disappeared soon after production wrapped, only for Welles to turn up in it again in his next film, the 1952 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello. And this time, Welles made sure that the fur lining was exposed for all to see.

11. Jack Nicholson Once Asked For A Dildo And Cocaine (For His Character)

One of the best things about Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-winning 2006 film The Departed has to be Jack Nicholson’s unhinged performance as Boston mob boss Frank Costello, and the actor went to some interesting lengths to get into his character’s head. One of his wilder demands for the movie — well, more of a request really  — had nothing to do with money or specific foods delivered to his trailer. Rather, Nicholson wanted to present Costello as something of a sexual deviant and had two very specific ideas in mind for how to convey that on screen.

“I thought it would be more frightening if my character had a sexual component,” Nicholson explained in an interview with Rolling Stone.

“So I called Marty up and said, ‘Look, I just thought of what would be an interesting scene of [my character] having wild sex. And in this scene with two girls, one of the girls is wearing a strap-on.'”

Additionally, Nicholson requested that the backside of one of the actresses in the sex scene be dusted with cocaine. Scorsese, who had his own infamous coke period back in the 70s, was a big fan of both ideas and delivered a scene that may have turned out even wilder than Nicholson had envisioned. Fortunately, thanks to Scorsese’s filmmaking skills, Nicholson’s bizarre requests totally worked on screen.

Source: Kevin Winter / Staff

10. Bruce Willis Demands $1 Million A Day

The Expendables movies have the air of a bunch of older action stars just getting together to hang out but at the end of the day, it is still works and as such, it’s fair to expect adequate compensation. The Expendables 3 reunited Sylvester Stallone and many others who had worked on the previous two films in the series, but one actor who was notably absent was Bruce Willis. Much like in the other installments, Willis was set to appear in a small role and was offered $3 million for just four days of work in Bulgaria. Apparently, this wasn’t enough for the Die Hard actor, who reportedly said he’d drop out unless he was paid $1 million for each day of work. Stallone, along with the film’s producers, refused this demand and replaced Willis with Harrison Ford just 72 hours later.

Source: Frederick M. Brown / Stringer

9. Quvenzhané Wallis Once Demanded Star Billing

Being the youngest person to ever receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination is no doubt an incredible achievement, but does it entitle you to start acting like you’re a bigger deal than actors with more name recognition? Quvenzhané Wallis put this to the test in the 2014 Annie remake, in which she plays the title character. Coming off her Oscar nomination for Beasts of the Southern Wild, Wallis was offered $1.5 million to play Annie but her contract also stipulated that her name appears no lower than the second position in the title credits. This meant that while Jamie Foxx received top billing, co-stars Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, and Cameron Diaz were all listed after Wallis in the title credits and on the movie’s poster. In addition, her contract demanded veto power on any bloopers before their release, as well as her trailer having unlimited Wi-Fi (you know, that last one doesn’t actually sound so outrageous).

Source: Kevin Winter / Staff

8. Marlon Brando Goes All-Out Eccentric

The 1996 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau is infamous for its notoriously troubled production, which included the film’s first director, Richard Stanley, being fired three days into the shoot, as well as a number of cast departures, including Bruce Willis and James Woods. While Stanley and Kilmer have both gone on record complimenting star Marlon Brando for being warm and kind onset, the veteran actor made a number of questionable demands on set that suggest he was either losing his marbles or was so aware of how bad the movie was that he simply wanted to have some fun with it.

When filming first began, Brando found a random ice bucket, put it on his head, and refused to take it off while filming. Of course, no one questioned him about it since he was Marlon freaking Brando and the bucket made it into the film. And do you recall the miniature version of Dr. Moreau who follows Brando’s character around throughout the film? That character isn’t in the book or script; rather, Brando had befriended a midget during production and told the director that he wouldn’t perform unless he accompanied him during his scenes. Bear in mind that neither the book or script called for any of this. But then, when you’re an actor as acclaimed as Marlon Brando, you probably just want to see what kind of crazy stuff you can get away with before someone actually tells you no.

Source: Frank Micelotta Archive / Contributor

7. Mike Myers Re-Recorded Dialogue, Costing Dreamworks Big

The original Shrek already had to be reworked to accommodate Mike Myers, as the title role had originally been written with Myers’ Saturday Night Live castmate Chris Farley in mind before Farley sadly died of a heart attack in 1997, but that wasn’t the end of the changes by a long shot. Myers requested that script be rewritten to reflect his different comedic approach and then after he had recorded pretty much all of his dialogue in 1999, he made another request that would cost Dreamworks millions of dollars.

After watching a rough cut of the film, Myers decided that the over-the-top version of his own Canadian accent that he had used was all wrong for Shrek, and thought that a Scottish accent would play better off of the villain Lord Farquaad’s (John Lithgow) upper-class, elitist English accent. “Since Lord Farquaad was played English, I thought of Scottish,” Myers later told USA Today. The problem was that at least one-third of Myers’ scenes had already been animated and the change in an accent meant that new mouth movements and new gestures would have to be done for all of the scenes. DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg estimates that the changes ended up costing between $4 million and $5 million, 10 percent of the film’s total budget. Good thing the franchise would end up becoming the 15th highest-grossing of all time, with more than $3.5 billion earned worldwide.

Source: Carlo Allegri / Staff

6. Steve McQueen Wanted Top Billing Over Paul Newman On The Poster

Steve McQueen and Paul Newman had a rather heated rivalry back in the day (though the rivalry had more to do with McQueen constantly needing to one-up Newman, as the former wanted to be both a better actor and racer), and it all came to a head when the pair finally starred together in 1974’s The Towering Inferno. McQueen wanted top billing over Newman and demanded that they each have the same salary and exactly the same amount of lines (Newman allegedly called McQueen a “chicken-sh-t” for counting the lines he had versus Newman’s).

Even the movie’s poster became a focal point for the pair’s squabble, with producers eventually landing on a compromise: McQueen’s name would be listed first, but Newman’s name would be slightly higher up. This positioning also extended to their pictures, as McQueen appears on the left, but Newman’s picture is slightly higher on the right. Thus, the term ‘diagonal billing’ was coined, though we think the producers should have just given Faye Dunaway star billing and been done with it.

Source: Paul Hawthorne / Staff

5. Lindsay Lohan Once Demanded Everyone Get Naked

It’s been years since Lindsay Lohan was cast in a film on the same level of quality as something like Mean Girls, but the troubled actress has continued to find steady work, such as Paul Schrader’s 2013 erotic thriller, The Canyons. Lohan only had one outrageous demand for the production, but it was one that polarized everyone on set. You see, the film called for Lohan to appear nude but she stipulated that she would only do so if everyone else on set stripped down too. Naturally, the crew scoffed at such a demand and refused to do it. Schrader, eager to just get the scene filmed and over with, spared his crew from the experience by opting to go it alone and went naked alongside his difficult star (though he chose to keep his socks on). Schrader would later describe working on The Canyons as “being held hostage by Lohan.”

Source: Aaron Davidson / Contributor

4. Tom Cruise Once Requested Over 50 Custom-Made Thongs

Tom Cruise has a reputation for being a bit of a weird guy — Scientology, jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, etc. — and his image certainly isn’t helped by the revelation that he allegedly wears a thong during action scenes. A source close to Cruise revealed to the Daily Star that back in 2013 the Mission: Impossible star demanded that he be provided with thongs made from stretchy, soft material, so as to allow him to be unrestricted when performing demanding stunts (Cruise performs nearly all of his own stunts).

“There aren’t many movies where you don’t see Tom rolling around on the ground or doing a back flip off the side of a skyscraper,” the source told the Daily Star. “Over the years it’s taken its toll and he had his wardrobe department rustle him up a comfy thong.

“He was embarrassed at first but he sees it as a way of improving his flexibility as he gets older. He’s pretty insistent about having a new thong every time. We do have a laugh but he sees it as dedication to his craft.”

Costume designers and wardrobe staff working on the Mission: Impossible series are apparently requested to have over 50 thongs on hand whenever Cruise is on set but if we were running down the side of the world’s tallest building or hanging off the side of a plane, we’d probably want the comfort only a thong can provide too.

Source: Jeff Spicer / Stringer

3. Gary Busey Once Demanded A “Realistic” Heaven Set

Of course, Tom Cruise isn’t the only actor who could be described as being a bit of a weirdo, which brings us to the bizarre demands of noted nut job Gary Busey. In the late 80s, Busey survived a near-fatal motorcycle crash, made even worse by the fact he wasn’t wearing a helmet. Busey required intensive neurosurgery to remove blood clots between his skull and brain and the actor harnessed this near-death experience years later in the 2003 family comedy Quigley with a, particularly strange demand. See, Busey actually saw the pearly gates when he was on the operating table and upon first laying eyes on the film’s heaven set, Busey began raising a stink, claiming that it looked nothing like the real heaven.

Busey’s co-star, Curtis Armstrong, recounted the story to the AV Club (via Uproxx) back in 2012:

“He [Busey] showed up on a set made to look like Heaven, and he looked around and said, ‘I can’t play this scene.’ They were three days behind at this point. But Busey said, ‘It’s nothing like this. I’ve been to Heaven and it doesn’t look like this. That sofa’s all wrong. That mirror is ridculous. They don’t even have mirrors!’ It was ridiculous. He was completely nuts about the design of Heaven.”

We can only assume that any filmmaker looking to feature a “realistic” Heaven set in their film has Busey on retainer.

Source: Gary Busey

2. Jamie Foxx Acts Like A Giant Diva

Jamie Foxx saw his star rise considerably following his Oscar-winning performance in Ray and apparently let it all go to his head for his next movie, Michael Mann’s 2006 adaptation of Miami Vice. Not only did Foxx demand he be paid more than his co-star Colin Farrell (to which the studio agreed), he also had an entourage in tow on set and made the producers give him a private jet. Additionally, Foxx insisted that he wouldn’t work anywhere near or on a boat or plane, which seems like a difficult request to accommodate given that Miami Vice is an action movie set in a coastal city. Foxx would later force Mann to move the entire production back to Miami from the Dominican Republic after Foxx left the Dominican set following an argument between a cop and Dominican military personnel led to shots being fired, meaning that Mann had to scrap the ending he had envisioned taking place in Paraguay.

Source: Manny Hernandez / Contributor

1. Clint Eastwood Gets Director Fired And Then Takes Over

Clint Eastwood is recognized as much for his acting as he is his directorial work these days, but back in 1976, he was still thought of by many as an actor first, having only a few films under his belt at the time. For the western The Outlaw Josey Wales, Eastwood started out working just in an acting capacity but later took over directing duties after the original director, Philip Kaufman, was fired. The only problem? Eastwood was directly responsible for Kaufman losing his job. The two had frequent disagreements onset and were also both attracted to co-star Sondra Locke, whom Eastwood had actually cast against Kaufman’s wishes (Kaufman was also reportedly jealous of the relationship that developed between Eastwood and Locke).

On October 24, 1975, Kaufman was fired by producer Bob Daley at Eastwood’s request. This sparked an outrage with the Directors Guild of America and after Warner Bros. and Eastwood refused to back down on their decision, the production was heavily fined. The Director’s Guild would later pass new legislation, known as “the Eastwood Rule,” which prohibits any actor or producer from firing a director and then becoming the director themselves.

Source: Slaven Vlasic / Stringer

Goliath Team


Jack Sackman has been writing about movies and TV for Goliath since 2013.