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Top 10 Most Difficult to Work With Movie Directors

Written by Nathan Sharp These directors may be geniuses when it comes to making movies, but that doesn't mean they're friendly when it comes to working with actors and other people. WatchMojo presents the top 10 movie directors that are nearly impossible to work with. But who will take the top spot on our list, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, or James Cameron? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: Big thanks to Jake Fraser, Princess Caticia, Andrew A. Dennison, VaporTimes, MikeMJPMUNCH, Kaitlyn Maughan, Nicholas Agnes, and Mandella Saaid for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Most+Difficult+To+Work+with+Movie+Directors

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Working on a movie isn’t all glitz and glamour. In fact, it can be downright unpleasant. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 most difficult to work with movie directors.

For this list, we’ll be looking at directors who have a bad reputation in the biz for being demanding, rude, ill-tempered, or exhibiting some other type of off-putting behavior. Many of these directors are legendary and well-respected, just... not particularly well-liked on-set.

#10: Werner Herzog

While Herzog may be a nice enough fella, he is well-known in the industry for being absolutely bonkers and a real stickler for authenticity, and it’s this reality-based directing style which gets on many people’s nerves. Some of his nuttier actions include willingly filming an active and erupting volcano, forcing Christian Bale to eat live maggots for “Rescue Dawn,” and forcing his production team to haul a real 320-ton ship over a large hill for his film “Fitzcarraldo.” But hey, at least no one can criticize the quality of the effects.

#9: Terrence Malick

A strictly private and withdrawn man, Malick is reported to be both kind and inviting off set, but terribly peculiar and troublesome when behind the camera, which makes for stressful productions. Numerous crewmembers have quit on him over the years due to his irksome direction, and his work has been called “pretentious” by Christopher Plummer due to his habit of overwriting. He also has a knack for upsetting actors, like Adrien Brody, by significantly reducing or entirely eliminating their roles in editing – editing which can sometimes take up to two years, as was the case on his film “Days of Heaven.”

#8: David Fincher

Fincher has directed five actors to Oscar nominations, so it’s clear that he knows exactly what he’s doing. Unfortunately for the actors themselves, this comes at a cost, including extremely long hours and not being able to pee. Yep... on the set of “Zodiac,” actors reportedly worked overtime with few breaks, and as a form of protest, Robert Downey Jr left mason jars full of urine scattered around the set. Fincher’s notorious perfectionism reportedly brought Downey’s co-star Jake Gyllenhaal to tears when, demonstrating the virtues of shooting digitally, he erased imperfect takes right in front of the frustrated and tired actor.

#7: Michael Bay

Say what you will about Michael Bay and his movies, but… don’t say it to his face. Bay is known for being extremely hot-tempered and emotional on his sets, often bossing the crew around and becoming agitated over confrontations. He allegedly once unplugged music that Shia LaBeouf was playing to prepare for a scene and replaced it with his own, only to storm off in anger when LaBeouf confronted him about it. Actress Megan Fox has also said of Bay: “He wants to create this insane, infamous madman reputation” and compared him, at the expense of her job, to Hitler.

#6: Lars von Trier

This technical master may have both a Palme d’Or and Grand Prix from the Cannes Film Festival to his credit, but he is also a “self-proclaimed control freak.” He reportedly has a penchant for yelling at and disrespecting his actors, particularly women, some of whom have accused von Trier of displaying misogynistic tendencies. Icelandic singer Bjork’s experience working with the director was seemingly so unpleasant that she claimed she would never work on a film again. Nicole Kidman actually confronted him about making too many sexual jokes on the set of “Dogville,” while Kirsten Dunst, after working with him on “Melancholia” acknowledged that his sense of humor took some time to adjust to.

#5: David O. Russell

While David O. Russell has produced some acclaimed films, his on-set personality leaves much to be desired. Case in point, the videos of Russell tearing into actress Lily Tomlin. Then there was the drama while shooting “Three Kings,” where Russell reportedly threw an extra to the ground, prompting Clooney to confront him. As the story goes, Russell began banging his head against Clooney’s, goading the actor into punching him - only to have Clooney strangle him instead. Of course, we couldn’t leave out the time he allegedly put Christopher Nolan in a headlock to get the director to release Jude Law from his contract so Russell could keep him in a role. So yeah… difficult.

#4: Francis Ford Coppola

The man behind the camera of some of the greatest movies ever made is known for being extremely assertive, often clashing with production crews and studios. His problematic persona was perhaps most evident during the filming of “Apocalypse Now,” which saw Coppola essentially making up the movie as he went, to the understandable annoyance of everyone else involved. They had to tread lightly however, as he was quick to fire naysayers. He also blamed himself for leading Martin Sheen to an early-aged heart attack (although the heat and booze certainly didn’t help), with Sheen later saying “I don’t know if I’m going to live through this.”

#3: Stanley Kubrick

Kubrick is infamous for his perfectionism, and unfortunately, for those under his command, this often means long days, countless takes, and lots of stress. For example, he demanded so much from Shelley Duvall and treated her so harshly on the set of “The Shining” that she became sick, beginning to lose hair from the stress. His penchant for endless takes has annoyed many, but his iron fist and strong personality usually dominates them in the end. Tom Cruise didn’t even tell Kubrick that he had an ulcer during “Eyes Wide Shut” because he feared how Kubrick would react! Talk about a strong personality.

#2: James Cameron

James Cameron is one of the most visionary and game-changing directors in history, but revolutionary titles mean revolutionary work, and apparently, lots of flying spit. Cameron is never one to say “no,” and once he gets an idea in his head, it WILL come to fruition, no matter the physical hardships, financial detriments, dangers, or emotional costs to himself, cast or crew. He is notorious for his long work days, his extremely short temper and subsequent explosive tantrums, and (as legend has it, at least) for punishing distracting crew members by nailing their cell phones to the wall.

Before we scare you with our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Ridley Scott

Michael Cimino

Oliver Stone

#1: Alfred Hitchcock

While Hitchcock was notoriously hard on actors, he is our number one pick for one reason: his treatment of actress Tippi Hedren. It started during filming of “The Birds” when Hitchcock used live birds to attack Hedren, despite having previously assured her that they would be mechanical. Hedren also claims that Hitchcock began making repeated sexual advances on her. During filming of “Marnie” he allegedly outright told her to be sexually available to him, often isolating her from the crew. When she refused him, he used his power as her contract owner to deny her future roles, effectively ruining her acting career.


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