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 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 12 of the most insane demands we’ve come across.
12. The Black Rose (1952) – Orson Welles Demands A Fur-Lined Coat, 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 on 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. The Departed (2006) – Jack Nicholson Asks 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.
10. The Expendables 3 (2014) – 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’s still work, 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. Stallone even went public with the news with a pair of passive-aggressive tweets:
WILLIS OUT… HARRISON FORD IN !!!! GREAT NEWS !!!!! Been waiting years for this!!!!
— Sylvester Stallone (@TheSlyStallone) August 6, 2013
GREEDY AND LAZY …… A SURE FORMULA FOR CAREER FAILURE
— Sylvester Stallone (@TheSlyStallone) August 6, 2013
Fortunately, it appears that Stallone and Willis have since buried the hatchet, with Stallone tweeting out the following about Willis in 2014:
Made up with BRUCE W. A stand up guy, my mistake….
— Sylvester Stallone (@TheSlyStallone) November 18, 2014
9. Annie (2014) – Quvenzhané Wallis Demands 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 appear no lower than 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).
8. The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) – 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 on set, 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.
7. Shrek (2001) – Mike Myers Re-Records Dialogue, Costs Dreamworks
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 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.
6. The Towering Inferno – Steve McQueen Demands 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.
5. The Canyons (2013) – Lindsay Lohan Demands 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.”
4. Mission: Impossible Series – Tom Cruise Requests 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 back in 2013 that the Mission: Impossible star demands in his rider 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.
3. Quigley (2003) – Gary Busey Demands 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.
2. Miami Vice (2006) – 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.
1. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) – Clint Eastwood Gets Director Fired, 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 on set 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.