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Top 10 Actors Forced into Bad Situations On-Set

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Owen Maxwell

Working on movies isn't as glitzy as it seems. From Meryl Street, to Shelley Duvall, to Uma Thurman, these actors have all had to go through some terrible on-set experiences. WatchMojo ranks the top actors forced into bad situations on-set.

Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Actors+forced+into+Bad+Situations+on+Set Special thanks to our user MattW128 for suggesting this idea!


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Sometimes realism can come at a price. Welcome to and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Actors Forced into Bad Situations on Set.

For this list we're looking at times where bad planning and heartless behavior put actors, and sometimes crew members, between a rock and a hard place. We're basing our picks on a mix of physical harm, mental trauma and how peoples' recklessness left actors damaged. Things don't always go as planned, so we'll be excluding stunts gone wrong unless negligence was a part of it.

#10: Meryl Streep

"Kramer vs. Kramer" (1979)

The emotional divorce at the center of 'Kramer vs. Kramer' meant there were going to be tears shed. Dustin Hoffman, however, wasn't sure that Meryl Streep could tear up naturally on cue, so he decided to slap her before their opening fight. The crew was in shock, and the hit was so loud that director Robert Benton assumed the production was ruined. Hoffman even taunted Streep about her dead lover to provoke her more, but she continued acting. Despite his massive overstepping, Meryl's courtroom speech later on in the movie proved she didn't need to be hit to give an emotional performance.

#9: Cast / Crew

"Cannibal Holocaust" (1980)

The 'found footage' realism of 'Cannibal Holocaust' meant director Ruggero Deodato had to resort to some nefarious means to make things look real. During the remote on-location filming, Deodato's guidance led to multiple animal deaths – including a pig, turtle, and two monkeys. The cast and crew of the film were forced to execute the killings, causing tension on the set. One scene even required unpaid extras, including several children, to remain in a burning hut longer than was safe. Deodato was later charged with animal cruelty and had to get his actors to testify that he didn't actually murder them.

#8: John Wayne & Countless Extras

"Noah's Ark" (1928)

To bring Noah's story to life, director Michael Curtiz needed to make his biblical flood scene as epic as possible. Unfortunately for the cast and crew, this meant throwing countless extras into the water, including a young John Wayne. The unpredictable conditions even knocked cameramen into the water, and led to pneumonia, broken ribs and drowning. One extra was hurt so badly, they had to have their leg amputated. Despite all the permanent injuries involved, Curtiz continued on to direct 'Casablanca'. Cinematographer Hal Mohr had even suggested using miniatures and special effects, but he was ignored and left the set in protest.

#7: Cast / Crew

“Roar” (1981)

We’re sure that everyone who worked on “Roar” knew what they were getting into. They were filming a movie about a family that lives amongst lions, tigers, and cougars, after all. But they definitely weren’t prepared for the hell they’d be put through for the sake of realism. The trailer boasts that “70 members of the cast and crew” were harmed by the dangerous animals over the 11-year (!) shoot. Not only that, but according to the director Noel Marshall’s son, his dad would refuse to stop filming even when the actors would scream for help, all in the name of “authenticity”. There’s uncompromising realism, and then there’s literally letting people get eaten by lions.

#6: Stunt Actors & Horses

"Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ" (1925)

Shooting a dazzling chariot race in the 1920s meant the team behind 'Ben-Hur' didn't have special effects to keep them out of danger. It meant both stunt actors and screen actors were really whipping around corners at the whim of their horses. The directors even allegedly offered bonuses to the race winners to get more hectic footage. One chariot's wheel broke, and launched a stuntman so far that he died from his injuries. A pile-up during another shoot led to the death of five horses. The infamous naval battle reportedly had extras fighting with real swords, and ended when an out-of-control fire forced actors overboard.

#5: Shelley Duvall

"The Shining" (1980)

It took over an entire year to shoot 'The Shining,' which caused plenty of stress to everyone involved. Shelley Duvall experienced a real nightmare however, thanks to on-set bullying and repeated illnesses. Though Duvall appreciated the results afterwards, director Stanley Kubrick chastised her endlessly on set. Kubrick also made Shelley do 127 takes for the baseball bat scene, and even asked the crew to avoid supporting her. Duvall’s building stress was so bad it caused some of her hair to fall out. Shelley would also cry on-set for 12 hours a day, which she – ironically – considered to be therapeutic.

#4: Uma Thurman

"Kill Bill: Volume 2" (2004)

To film the Bride's drive to Esteban's, Uma Thurman was put behind the wheel of an old beater convertible. While the shot wasn't considered a stunt, it resulted in Thurman losing control and crashing. Uma ended up with a knee injury and a concussion, due to the car's lack of restraints and safety gear. Stunt coordinator Keith Adams wasn't even told Thurman was driving that day, and claimed had he been on set it would have been filmed with a stunt driver and in a roadworthy car. Thurman, meanwhile, clarified it was the producers, not director Quentin Tarantino, who pressured her to drive.

#3: Tippi Hedren

"The Birds" (1963)

Just as 'The Birds' comes to a close, Tippi Hedren is violently ambushed inside a house by the feathered monsters. Her reactions are spot on, mostly because Hedren was really being attacked by birds. Hedren spent five days being pelted by birds and even had them tied to her at one point so that they could peck at her. Hedren wanted to speak out against her treatment, but she knew Hitchcock could ruin her career if she did, so she endured. In the end, Tippi was only allowed rest after one bird nearly blinded her and a doctor stepped in.

#2: Maria Schneider

"The Last Tango In Paris" (1972)

When Paul asks Jeanne for some butter, the moment quickly escalates into a horrifying scene of sexual violence. Most directors would plan something like this out cautiously, but Bernardo Bertolucci filmed it the same day he and Marlon Brando conceived it. A 19-year-old Maria Schneider was furious with the idea, and only went along with it due to her inexperience in the industry. Bertolucci admitted the lack of consent for the scene was to humiliate Schneider and make her reaction real. Though the act itself was simulated, Schneider has said that all the deception made her feel raped by both Brando and Bertolucci.

#1: Vic Morrow & Two Child Actors

"Twilight Zone: The Movie" (1983)

In this film's 'Time Out' segment, Victor Morrow plays a racist traveling through time to understand the error of his beliefs. Morrow eventually ends up in the Vietnam War, where he was to save two Vietnamese children from harm. However, when a pyrotechnic stuck the Bell UH-1 helicopter involved in the scene, the chopper crashed, killing Morrow and the two child actors. Director John Landis went to court on charges of involuntary manslaughter caused by criminal negligence. Though he was found innocent, Landis had hired children without proper permits – triggering changes within California's child labor laws.


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