Serious struggles are commonplace behind the scenes of Hollywood productions. It’s only fair that Hollywood’s glamour requires blood, sweat, and tears; intense training and gruelling hours during productions took a toll on some of our favorite A-listers over the years. From the early Hollywood system days when stuntmen were risking their lives, to today’s big-budget superhero movies that require actors like Chris Pratt to get into marathon-runner-shape, we should explore how these productions test actors’ limits.
Just like us, famous celebrities get sick, experience fatigue, and struggle with their mental health. Unlike most of us, when famous celebrities take a sick day, millions of dollars are potentially lost due to production postponements. Since the stakes are so high, actors will more often then not choose to fight through their afflictions, and the best stars are so talented that they avoid showing telltale signs of illness in their performances.
The list of production problems throughout Hollywood’s history is a long one, and eventful issues range from trivial shark malfunctions in Jaws to total catastrophes that cost studio heads their jobs like the $250 million bomb, John Carter. With hundreds of millions invested, thousands of crew members employed, and strict schedules, each blockbuster success is basically a miracle. Unbeknownst to most film fans, the struggle is real on the sets of these behemoths. So which of our favorite film shoots contain hidden truths and which famous celebrities fought through their ailments to deliver memorable performances? What production mishaps left actors ill, like the time Tom Hanks cut his leg filming Cast Away and was hospitalized? Let’s find out.
15. Robert De Niro Had A Very Serious Illness While Shooting Meet The Fockers
Universally hailed as one of the all-time greatest actors, Robert De Niro received seven Academy Award nominations during his profound career – he won for his roles as Vito Corleone in The Godfather: Part II and Jake La Motta in Raging Bull. De Niro absolutely earned his stripes in dramatic acting, but he shines in comedy, as well. Who can forget De Niro shooting Billy Crystal‘s pillow in Analyze This? Who could ignore the fact that Meet the Parents began a $500 million franchise? Considering De Niro’s beloved status, his announcement that he had prostate cancer in 2003 was a scary moment in Hollywood. De Niro’s cancer was discovered during a routine check-up within months of shooting the blockbuster sequel, Meet the Fockers. It’s a relief to know now that De Niro had surgery and survived, but the public’s knowledge of this means it’s certainly not a secret, anymore. The secret is not one De Niro keeps from us, it’s one that we keep from De Niro. In hindsight, every time we look back at De Niro’s role as Jack Byrnes, we are aware that he had cancer during that time, but he didn’t. It makes you wonder if knowing he was sick would have affected De Niro’s performance?
14. Winona Ryder Channeled Real-Life Depression In Girl, Interrupted
Even people living under rocks watched the sci-fi phenom Stranger Things last fall. Outshining the whole cast was Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), a tenacious single mother role that demanded a full range of emotion from the Beetlejuice actress. The ability to take on such emotionally draining roles requires a strong-willed person who understands what it’s like to endure that pain, which Ryder does.
When Winona Ryder resurfaced in Black Swan after a decade-long hiatus in 2010, she opened-up about her struggles with depression. What remains even more revealing than her interviews at this time, is the 1999 adaptation, Girl, Interrupted. Besides affording us one of Angelina Jolie‘s best performances, Girl, Interrupted offered real insight into Ryder’s own mental struggles. Ryder didn’t just play Susanna Kaysen, it was her idea to make a movie out of Kaysen’s memoir in hopes that “the teenagers who feel alone out there will see this movie and say, ‘Thank God.’”
13. Robin Williams Struggled With Lewy Body Dementia While Filming Night At The Museum 3
In the summer of 2014, the world lost one of the all-time greatest stage and screen talents, Robin Williams. Whether he was Matt Damon‘s therapist, Nathan Lane‘s husband, or Sally Field‘s nanny, at least one of everybody’s favorite characters was played by Williams. Williams hanged himself shortly after being mistakenly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease; however, upon examination, it was determined that William’s suffered from a severe case of Lewy body dementia.
Williams openly struggled with addiction and depression, but in only a short time leading up to his passing (his wife Susan Williams, said symptoms began ten months prior), his mental health drastically deteriorated. While filming Night at the Museum 3, Williams reportedly suffered from anxiety and had trouble remembering lines. It’s so scary because forgetting lines never an issue for the Broadway veteran, and neither was the debilitating paranoia that plagued him until the end. Hopefully, the American Brain Foundation can us Williams’ diagnosis to learn how to better fight and prevent Lewy body dementia.
12. Helena Bonham Carter’s Smoking In Scenes Of Fight Club Caused Bronchitis
David Fincher‘s Fight Club is a certified classic; it’s flooded with talent from every angle. Amidst Fight Club’s deep roster is the fan favorite, Marla, played by Helena Bonham Carter. Just like we remember Robert Paulsen (Meat Loaf), and Jared Leto getting his butt kicked, we remember Marla’s ever-existing cloud of cigarette smoke. Unfortunately, all that smoking came at a cost, when Carter contracted bronchitis during filming. In fact, Fincher made Carter smoke, a lot. According to Carter, “He got obsessed with the smoke. It had to float in a particular way.” In good spirit, Carter gave Fincher an X-ray of her lungs as a farewell gift upon wrap-up. After all, Fight Club represents a pivotal moment in Carter’s life – released the same year as Carter’s divorce with Kenneth Branagh, the movie jump-started Carter’s film career.
11. Kate Winslet Caught Pneumonia While Filming Titanic
People often mistake coincidence as irony, but it’s definitely ironic that Kate Winslet caught pneumonia while shooting Titanic. As one of the most successful movie in history, the production of Titanic was one for the record books. James Cameron‘s epic was the most expensive movie at the time (costing $200 million in 1997), tied Ben Hur for the most Oscars won by a single film, and was the first to gross over $1 billion. As a result of its popularity, Titanic became a trivia goldmine.
With such a devoted following, the fact that Winslet got pneumonia is humdrum – what’s interesting is… how? The truth behind this factoid is Winslet was the only cast member who refused to wear a wetsuit. When asked to wear the wetsuit, Winslet declined as she insisted that it would show through her dress, and she also wanted a natural reaction to the cold when she jumped into the water searching for Jack.
10. Emma Stone Experienced Panic Attacks While Filming Birdman
Oscar night is the most elegant night of television and the coveted Oscar is cherished like a Nobel. So, what does it take to make the final cut and be nominated for your performance? For Emma Stone, it took a panic attack on the set of Birdman. Not unlike Garland and Monroe, Stone claimed her loss of anonymity was frightening. After Easy A, stone said she “started to feel overwhelmed by the energy of Hollywood.” To escape the Hollywood fog, Stone moved to New York and three years later began filming Birdman.
Alejandro G. Inarritu’s productions are notoriously rigorous and his style requires painstakingly long takes. During her monologue, Stone messed up a few times. And then messed up a few times more. At one point, Inarritu yelled at Stone, “You’re ruing the movie!” Stone eventually would succumb to the pressure and eventually had an on-set meltdown. The stunning actress did get that Oscar nom, but was it worth it?
9. Christian Bale Almost Lost His Life While Filming The Machinist
As an actor on the “do not approach” list and a true master of his craft, Christian Bale is as mysterious as the roles he often plays. A master of transformation, as well, we’ve seen Bale fat in American Hustle, jacked in The Dark Knight, and extremely clean in American Psycho; but his most impressive metamorphosis was in The Machinist. The Machinist wasn’t a huge hit because it was just about the most depressing film of the millennium, but Bale’s recent popularity brought this impressive performance to the forefront of Bale’s evident ability. What fans of Bale don’t know is that his weight loss was borderline reckless and almost ended him. After already losing 45 lbs for his role, Bale’s nutritionists told him that if he lost even FIVE more pounds, he would be risking his life. Apparently comfortable with his daily diet of a can of tuna, an apple, and countless cigarettes, Bale lost another 20 lbs!
8. Gal Gadot Secretly Had Morning Sickness While Filming “Justice League”
In 2017, Gal Gadot became the first person to simultaneously play a fictional superhero as Wonder Woman, and be a real-life superhero combating Hollywood’s chauvinism. For example, Wonder Woman became the highest grossing female-directed film. WW was also the first superhero movie attended by more women than men. Most importantly, Gadot became the only successful DC character since Christian Bale played Batman (Ben Affleck is insufferable). Gadot showed real courage when WW producer, and longtime creepy guy Brett Radner was outed for harassment. Gadot refused to return as Wonder Woman unless Ratner was fired and Warner Brothers didn’t hesitate to do just that.
The only thing that stopped Gadot in 2017 was her baby daughter, Alma. Although she champed through it, Gadot’s morning sickness was so relentless during the shooting of Justice League that her assistant had to follow her around with a bucket to puke into. Gadot’s assistant even disguised the bucket so the cast and crew wouldn’t find out she was pregnant. It’s hard to imagine a vulnerable Gadot vomiting, and it’s even harder to believe there’s at least one woman out there that hates Wonder Woman.
7. Don Cheadle Experienced Severe Claustrophobia During Iron Man 3
Disney recently confirmed their acquisition of Fox, which means the Marvel Studio universe will grow as they subsequently earn the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man will finally fight Jennifer Lawrence or Rebecca Romijn as Mystique, and with Avengers: Infinity War releasing next year, Don Cheadle should cherish his role as James Rhodes. Marvel’s comic adaptations aren’t without their production issues – Jeremy Renner, Idris Alba and Chris Evans all claim the movies take a toll on them (Renner recently broke both of his arms). Maybe it’s because Cheadle’s role doesn’t require as much screen time as the others, or maybe he’s just a grateful type of person, but Cheadle never complained. On the contrary, Cheadle even remained poised when he began to suffer from claustrophobia in his mostly metal suit. The actor’s claustrophobia became bad enough that he took anti-anxiety medicine before getting into his suit. Even worse, Cheadle admitted that when he would have to use the bathroom, he would just relieve himself in the suit.
6. Filming Unbroken Brought Miyavi To His Breaking Point
Takamasa Ishihara is a Japanese musician and actor better known by his stage name, Miyavi. And, in 2014, Miyavi would blip on the American radar with his role as Watanabe in the Coen Brothers penned, Unbroken. The Angelina Jolie-directed film earned three Oscar nominations, but, despite heart-wrenching performances, did not garner award attention for its acting. It’s surprising considering what the cast went through such as Jack O’Connell’s extreme weight loss to play the captured Olympian, Louis Zamperini (O’Connell blacked-out at one point). Unbroken was a tough production, but Miyavi possibly suffered the most. The pop star played a tyrannical sergeant in a Japanese prison camp during World War II and Miyavi nailed the performance, sacrificing his mental health in the process.
In the most pivotal scene, Zamperini lifts a log over his head after Watanabe nearly takes his life. While filming this powerful scene, Miyavi became so emotionally distraught that he vomited on set. “It was awful torture for me to hate the other actors,” Miyavi told Vanity Fair. If that wasn’t enough, Miyavi also said he would often cry after shooting the more intense scenes.
5. Colin Farrell Had An Addiction Relapse During The Production Of Miami Vice
The Irish import Colin Farrell made some good and some bad career choices (compare In Bruges to Daredevil), but his off-screen life gained as much attention as his best films. If our definition of “crazy” falls somewhere between Britney Spears and Angelina Jolie, then know that Farrell dated them both. In discussing the public’s perception of Farrell, let’s just say the Phonebooth star isn’t the type to appear on Lip Sync Battle. We all remember the scene in season 2 of True Detective when Farrell’s character, Det. Ray Velcoro, lost all hope and went on a bender like the world was ending. Farrell’s emotional breakdown in the show was almost good enough to make us forget how bad Vince Vaughn was, but his performance channeled Farrell’s own destructive behavior. For instance, during the production of Michael Mann’s film adaptation of Miami Vice, Farrell felt into his substance abuse issues again. By the time production concluded, Farrell relapsed bad enough that he was put on a plane to rehab. In fact, Farrell boarded that plane immediately after attending the premiere screening, while the rest of the cast made their way to the after party.
4. Charlize Theron Had One Heck Of A Toothache While Training For Atomic Blonde
Charlize Theron is no stranger to extreme body transformations for movie roles – most notable is her Oscar-winning performance of Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Fortunately for us, Theron’s role in Atomic Blonde only embraced the actress’ stunning beauty; however, for Theron, training for her role as Lorraine in David Leitch’s spy thriller was an intense physical barrage. To prepare, Theron had eight different trainers as she triumphed through a ten-week training regime. Theron Claimed it was so physically taxing that it was often too painful to pick up her kids. During one training session, the South African actress was clenching her jaw so hard that she cracked two of her front teeth. The damage to Theron’s teeth led to chronic pain on set and required multiple dental surgeries which included replacement teeth and a screw. Knowing how tough she is, it’s surprising Theron didn’t pull the teeth out herself.
3. Kevin Bacon Suffered From Anxiety During Tremors
Imagine it’s 1985 and you just co-starred in one of the biggest hits of the entire decade, Footloose – you would expect to be competing with Tom Cruise for Top Gun. With these high expectations and popularity, Kevin Bacon went on to star in history’s worst consecutive string of movie roles until Adam Sandler‘s Netflix deal. How bad was it? Bacon starred in the only bad John Hughes movie (She’s Having a Baby). By 1989, during the filming of Tremors, Bacon began to fear that his career had already peaked. At the same time, Bacon’s wife, the beautiful Kyra Sedgwick was pregnant, his mother was diagnosed with cancer, and the stress piled up. In an April 2017 interview with Philly Voice, Bacon broke the news that he’d been struggling with anxiety since the rough patch in the eighties. Fortunately, it wasn’t long after Tremors that Bacon landed roles like A Few Good Men and Apollo 13.
2. Marilyn Monroe Fought Sinusitis While Shooting Something’s Got To Give
Something’s Got to Give establishes itself in history as the most infamous unfinished film, and Marilyn Monroe‘s final role. The mysteries behind this disaster led to many theories, books, documentaries, and accusations. In a nutshell, 20th Century Fox said Monroe was difficult on set and was subsequently fired when the production fell behind schedule and went over budget. However, things get interesting when Fox is accused of scapegoating Monroe. So what really went down?
Fox needed Something’s Got to Give to be successful after their box office failure, Cleopatra, so they hired the very bankable Monroe. Within days of starting production, Monroe fell ill and was diagnosed with sinusitis, but being the professional she was, Marilyn fought through it. When noted production issues such as last-minute script changes accumulated, the leading lady that kept showing up late because she was sick became an easy target to blame for the entire calamity. Fox fired Monroe and sued her for excessive production costs. Of the many controversies surrounding this films’ production such as the infamous “happy birthday, Mr. President” performance and her substance abuse scandals, the questionable severity of Monroe’s sinusitis is the most mysterious.
1. Judy Garland Began Her Substance Abuse Troubles During The Production Of The Wizard Of Oz
Judy Garland’s struggles with substance abuse were no secret – she was even hospitalized at a time when going to rehab meant that you brain was on backwards. The scary truth is that Garland’s destructive path began during the shooting of everyone’s favorite classic, The Wizard of Oz. The film’s production was such a catastrophe that Wizard of Oz should be the only family movie with an R-rated DVD commentary. A short summary of the issues on set would include but are not limited to violent on-set accidents, character changes, and even multiple directors, oh, and the aluminum makeup may have poisoned the Tin Man (Jack Haley). But, if anyone could handle the crises on the set of Oz, it was Judy Garland. Garland was raised as a vaudevillian, married five times, had three children, and is arguably the Hollywood system’s most famous casualty. Garland hated Hollywood and once said, “I stayed there and I don’t know why, perhaps because I though it was my home.” It may only be a secret because we want it to be, but The Wizard of Oz serves as a tragic metaphor for everything Garland wanted, hated, got, and never found.