Making movies isn’t always fun and games. Actors are often put through the ringer and have to endure extreme conditions. James Cameron famously pushed his actors so hard on the set of The Abyss that they broke down in tears and Ed Harris punched him after a scene in which he almost drowned. Stanley Kubrick was even worse and essentially tortured Shelley Duvall on the set of The Shining.
For all the torment directors inflict on actors, the tables have been turned several times as well. More than one director has been faced with the desire to throw in the towel entirely after an experience with a film pushed them to the brink.
10. Mike Judge’s Fake Movie Had Him Losing Faith in The Process
Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge has only made a few feature films, but they have been cult favorites including Office Space and Idiocracy. The latter was the one that almost pushed the man to the edge, and for an almost unbelievable reason.
The movie takes place in a future where the human race has steadily gotten dumber and dumber. In one scene, audiences have assembled at a movie theater to watch a movie called Ass, the Movie. The joke is that everything in the future is dumber and audiences would watch a movie which is literally just a closeup of a bare ass, laughing the whole time.
Judge had to film the fake movie which, again, is just bare butts. The production then assembled 200 extras to be the film audience. Much to Judge’s dismay, once the extras were seated and the butt movie started playing, the audience genuinely started laughing as was written in the script. The problem was it wasn’t scripted laughter, they genuinely found it funny.
It was at this point that Judge began to question why he was making his movie at all since he’d get just as many laughs out of the stupid fake movie.
9. Chevy Chase Almost Made John Carpenter Give Up Directing
It’s an open secret in Hollywood that Chevy Chase is not well-liked. An entire list could be assembled of the various accusations that have been leveled against him during his career, but suffice it to say he’s difficult to work with.
Legendary horror director John Carpenter discovered how hard Chase was to work with back in 1992 when they joined forces on the film Memoirs of an Invisible Man. If you don’t recall the movie, don’t worry, most people don’t. It was a flop across the board.
Ivan Reitman had been tapped to direct the movie but ended up quitting after not being able to handle working with Chase. Carpenter was called in as a replacement and, though the movie got made, it made Carpenter consider quitting Hollywood altogether. To get an idea of his feelings, he described Chase as “he shall not be named who needs to be killed.” He then went on to suggest he should be set on fire.
Chase apparently hated wearing the makeup the role required and would often remove it in the middle of a scene, ruining hours of filming in the process. This was in addition to his standard habit of being insulting and walking all over others on set.
8. David Ayer Said Changes The Suicide Squad Broke Him
Comic book movies have been box office titans for well over a decade now thanks to the MCU and, to a lesser extent, the DCEU. DC never really found their footing though and in 2023 the universe was scrapped to be replaced with the cleverly named replacement DCU.
The DC slate of movies have their fans, of course, and some did better critically and commercially than others. One much maligned film was David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, which introduced the world to Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn.
Ayer has long teased that there’s a director’s cut of the movie that is much better than the theatrically released movie. Ayer said the movie broke him as the studio completely changed the tone of the movie he was trying to make.
He said his version was originally a dark and soulful film. But after the studio released Batman v Superman to horrible reviews and Fox released Deadpool to great reviews, the studio flip-flopped and turned his movie into a comedy.
He called the movie his biggest Hollywood heartbreak but shared that, maybe, the director’s cut would see the light of day, eventually.
7. Russell Crowe and Johnny Depp May Have Broken Peter Weir
We’ve all heard that some actors are harder to deal with than others. Take Chevy Chase from a few moments ago as an example. He’s far from the only one, however, and not every actor is difficult in the same way.
According to actor Ethan Hawke, director Peter Weir effectively quit Hollywood despite making hugely popular movies like The Truman Show and Dead Poets Society. The reason? Johnny Depp and Russell Crowe.
Weir stopped making movies after 2010’s The Way Back (not to be confused with Ben Affleck’s 2020 film of the same name). Hawke, who starred in Weir’s Dead Poets Society, said Weir used to like making movies but actors got in the way. He specifically called out Russell Crowe, who Weir directed in Master and Commander, and Johnny Depp.
You may be asking yourself when Weir and Depp made a movie together, and the answer is that they didn’t. Weir was set to direct Depp in a movie called Shantaram but the director and the actor butted heads so badly over the way the film should play out that he quit.
6. Paul Brickman Hated His Own Success
Many people remember Risky Business as Tom Cruise’s breakout hit that set him on the path to box office domination, all thanks to him sliding into a room in a pair of sunglasses and underwear. It also proved to be a hit for writer and director Paul Brickman. But unlike Cruise, Brickman’s star didn’t keep rising, and that’s mostly because he didn’t want it to.
Brickman has only directed three movies in his career and after Risky Business he waited seven years to do Men Don’t Leave, a comedy starring Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange. It would be another 22 years before he directed again, and that was a short film.
Audiences and critics loved Risky Business, but it was more than Brickman could handle. He didn’t want to be Hollywood’s golden boy, so he moved out of LA and basically became a recluse. Fame just didn’t agree with him and, as he told Salon, “Some people like the visibility. I don’t.”
5. Chadwick Boseman’s Death Nearly Caused Ryan Coogler to Quit
The MCU runs the gamut from critically beloved, to movies that landed with a shrug. And if you want to use Rotten Tomatoes as a metric for success and quality, then Black Panther is the number one MCU movie. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%, it grossed over $1.3 billion at the box office and even won three Academy Awards, more than any other comic book movie in history. It’s also the only MCU film, to date, to have been nominated for Best Picture.
Director Ryan Coogler was definitely on a career high after Black Panther’s success until tragedy struck. Chadwick Boseman, star of the film, died. He had colon cancer which he had not shared publicly, so his death at age 43 came as a huge shock.
Coogler, who had become close friends with Boseman, nearly gave up filmmaking after the loss. The pain of losing a friend, and the idea of making a sequel without him, caused him to question his future. Obviously Coogler chose to forge ahead, citing a conversation he’d once had with Boseman about the importance of the character as motivation.
4. Stephen King Thinks Maximum Overdrive Was a Moron Movie
Stephen King is world-renowned as the Master of Horror, and has published almost 100 novels and novellas so far in his career. He’s sold over 350 million books, too. For all of his amazing success as a writer, one thing he didn’t excel at was directing.
King has long had a love/hate relationship with the film adaptations of his novels. And while many people consider Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining a classic, King was not among them. He hated that Kubrick changed so much of the novel, but especially how the hotel affected main character Jack Torrance.
Annoyed with how Hollywood handled his work, King decided he would try to direct a movie based on his short story “Trucks.” This was renamed Maximum Overdrive, and it would prove to be one of the most maligned movies of all time. It made King decide to not direct again any time soon.
King has admitted he had no idea how to direct a movie and that he was incredibly high for most of the production. He was also drunk, too. He chalks it all up to a learning experience, which he more or less hated and has no desire to repeat.
3. The Trauma of Schindler’s List Almost Made Spielberg Pack It In
Not many filmmakers rise to the ranks of Steven Spielberg, a titan among directors. But even the biggest name in directing had his moment when he almost gave up, and it was his own work that brought it on.
His 1994 film Schindler’s List was critically well-received and is one of the most poignant films ever made about the Holocaust, but it almost made him quit the profession. The personal trauma of telling that story made him take a step back from his work and consider ending it.
In the end, he just needed time to come to terms with the experience before he could move on. He was inspired again later and returned to directing with Jurassic Park II.
2. David Fincher Despised Alien 3
David Fincher has become one of the most popular directors in Hollywood thanks to movies like Gone Girl, Fight Club, Zodiac, and Se7en. But his first movie, Alien 3, nearly ended his career on the spot.
The third Alien film was plagued with so many issues it’s become something of a legend. The original story went through numerous changes and writers. At some point it didn’t even feature Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and focused on “the Corporation,” with Corporal Hicks as the main character.
Sci-fi legend William Gibson wrote one of the scripts that took place at a galactic shopping mall. One version involved monks, one involved a planet made of wood. Writers eventually included David Twohy, Eric Red, David Giler, Gordon Carroll, Walter Hill, Rex Pickett, and Vincent Ward. Original director Ridley Scott couldn’t commit and it went to Renny Harlin, then Vincent Ward and eventually to Fincher, a first timer who was walking into a nightmare.
The studio had already released a trailer for Alien 3 before Fincher even started filming. He had a firm deadline and no idea what the movie was about. He’d get script changes daily and have to scrap the previous day’s work as a result. Actors and the studio hated his penchant for multiple takes, as he tried to perfect every scene.
Fincher made his own rewrites and took two years to get the movie done during which he was fired three times. The studio hated it and made numerous reshoots which Fincher had nothing to do with and has disowned the movie.He returned to music videos for a few years before making his next film, Se7en.
1. Studio Interference Made Scorsese Consider Quitting
When people rank movie directors, there’s always a lot of debate over who is best, since that’s just a subjective choice. But most everyone agrees that Martin Scorsese ranks among the best. Films like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Departed, and numerous others have been met with audience and critical adulation.
Despite his amazing success, it hasn’t always been easy. Like many directors, Scorsese has to deal with studios that want to make changes to his vision. By the time he was working on the movie Casino in 1995 he was starting to feel he’d done all he could do as a filmmaker. Worse, the studio didn’t like that he kept making long movies and wanted them shortened.
The same thing happened with 2004’s The Aviator. Scorsese said the studio kept telling him to edit the movie down for a shorter runtime, which he tried to do for weeks before nearly deciding he was done with directing altogether. It was too stressful, and it was not how he wanted to work.
Almost in defiance of what studios had wanted previously, Scorsese would make The Irishman in 2019 for Netflix with a 209 minute runtime.