Big stars don’t come cheap…and we’re not just talking about paychecks. Famous actors often use their star power to make particularly outrageous demands, giving us a glimpse into the mindset of people who think showing up to work deserves a reward.
Johnny Depp – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Johnny Depp was paid $20 million plus a huge percentage of the backend profits for his fifth outing as rascally Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which is as exhausting a sentence to write as it is to read. Despite receiving enough money to build his own Pirates of the Caribbean ride wherein every single pirate robot is replaced with an animatronic of Walter Matthau, Depp couldn’t be bothered to show up to set on time or even memorize his lines.
Depp’s habit of drinking thousands of dollars of wine a month resulted in frequent lateness, which caused expensive delays as the filmmakers had to scramble to reschedule shots on days where he showed up hours after his call time. It was so bad that a production assistant was assigned to stake out Depp’s rented house and watch for signs of activity, like trying to capture a photo of drunk Bigfoot. Depp also allegedly had to be fed his lines through an earpiece, which was probably easy enough to conceal as a piece of fanciful pirate jewelry.
Prince – New Girl
Prolific musical genius and possible interdimensional being Prince once guest-starred on an episode of New Girl in an especially delightful cameo as himself. Considering both Prince’s ethereal nature and the fact that it was the first (and ultimately only) time he ever appeared on a TV sitcom, you would expect him to bring a list of complicated demands shrouded by a series of riddles, sort of like instructions on how to care for a magical creature.
Prince only had one demand, but it was a doozy – he would only agree to guest star if a planned cameo by the Kardashians was scrapped. Evidently he had invited Kim Kardashian onstage during a recent performance, and her lack of enthusiasm offended him so greatly he vowed to destroy her network television cameo career.
Ben Affleck – Gone Girl
After being cast as the male lead in David Fincher’s adaptation of Gone Girl, Ben refused to wear a Yankees cap in one scene of the movie, shutting down production for several days until he and Fincher could agree to the compromise of a Mets cap. Affleck felt that, as a lifelong Red Sox fan, being seen in a major motion picture wearing the logo of the Red Sox’s most bitter rivals would be a betrayal. Indeed, the superstar of Paycheck and Reindeer Games endorsing the Yankees would be a blow from which the Red Sox might never recover.
Affleck also had some important casting recommendations for the part of Andie, the young student with whom his character Nick is having an affair. Affleck sagely told Fincher that Emily Ratajkowski, the famous model who appears mostly nude in the music video for Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, would be perfect for the part of the woman who has to have a sex scene with Ben Affleck. Affleck had no other casting notes.
Jim Carrey – Man on the Moon
After being cast in Milos Forman’s Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon, Jim Carrey was gunning hard for an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of the legendary comedian. He was somewhat less concerned with making the film’s set a comfortable working environment for his crew and co-stars.
Carrey demanded everyone address him either as Andy (on days when he was filming scenes as Kaufman) or as Tony Clifton (on days when he was filming scenes as Kaufman’s alter-ego Tony Clifton), and would refuse to deliver messages between his three personas, much to Forman’s frustration.
He also claimed that he was channeling the spirit of the long-dead Kaufman through his body, and met with Kaufman’s family as Andy Kaufman, which is a thing that should probably be illegal.
George Clooney – Gravity
George Clooney appears in director Alfonso Curaón’s award-winning film Gravity as the doomed astronaut Matt Kowalski, the commander of a space shuttle mission carrying Sandra Bullock into space to fix the Hubble telescope, despite the fact that Sandra Bullock is somehow more afraid of space than that Russian dog whose skeleton is presumably still orbiting the planet.
Kowalski dies pretty quickly, leaving Bullock’s character struggling to overcome the terrors of space on her own. Despite his short time on-screen, Clooney demanded that he be furnished with a full garden, basketball court, and beach hut built right next to his trailer. Evidently he felt since his character floats away into oblivion, he needed to be able to live onset until he himself ran out of breathable air.
Marlon Brando – The Island of Dr. Moreau
If you’ve seen the terrific documentary Lost Soul, then you’re already familiar with the near-Biblical catastrophe that was 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. Marlon Brando was cast as the titular Dr. Moreau, a mad gene splicer, and was several weeks late to the shoot, which is the most professionally responsible thing he did on the set of this film.
Brando insisted that Dr. Moreau had a sun allergy, and demanded to be covered in white makeup for all of his exterior scenes with a bucket of ice on his head. This was mostly to ensure that he could rely on a stand-in for most shots and do very little acting himself. He also showed up with a little person, Nelson de la Rosa, and insisted that de la Rosa be present in every one of his scenes, because Brando apparently believed little people were pets/accessories.
Tom Cruise – Anything
One of the best things about Tom Cruise hitting middle age is that we all get to participate in his mid-life crisis as he needlessly endangers himself doing insane stunts in film after film. But in order to do all that Cruise Running™, Cruise Jumping™, and Cruise Clinging To The Outside of Dangerously High Vehicles and Structures™, he requires special garments.
Cruise insists upon having an arsenal of specially-made thongs, woven from a specific fabric, to maximize his comfort and flexibility while performing his stunts. Since he prefers to wear new ones each time, that can mean as many as 50 Cruise-supporting thongs per film, which is a small price to pay to ensure that the chafing never reaches a degree of friction to cause his groin to burst into flames in mid-Cruise Run™.
Lea Michele – Scream Queens
After her breakout role on Glee, that show your mom really liked 10 years ago, star Lea Michele quickly allowed 100% of the show’s success to go directly to her head, despite the fact that the show is an ensemble piece about high schoolers singing fun arrangements of popular songs and she is the least interesting character.
For her role as Hester on Scream Queens, Michele only agreed to actually scream two times, and insisted that a recording would have to be used for any other take that required her to scream in order to protect her singing voice. She’s totally moving enough albums to justify this.
Steve McQueen – The Towering Inferno
The Towering Inferno was a big budget disaster movie made during the height of the genre’s popularity back in 1974. Not content with merely being the film’s lead, Steve McQueen demanded to have the same number of lines as his co-star Paul Newman, so extra dialogue had to be written for him. He didn’t ask for more lines than Newman, because that would’ve been gauche.
McQueen also demanded that the brim of his fireman’s helmet be shorter so that it wouldn’t hide his face, which consequently meant that every other fireman’s helmet in the film had to be changed as well, or else McQueen’s character would look like a lunatic who just showed up with a department store firefighter costume. He also argued about where his name should appear on the film’s poster, as he wanted to be billed before Paul Newman, so the compromise was made to put McQueen’s name first, but slightly lower than Newman’s.
Will Smith – Men in Black III
For the epic third installment of the Men in Black series, star Will Smith wanted to make sure that he was afforded a level of on-set luxury that would allow him to reach deep within his soul and deliver the high-quality performance audiences had come to expect from the film series about a rapping extraterrestrial police force.
Smith demanded a double-decker $2 million trailer, even though filming was only a few blocks away from his apartment. The trailer (which, again, was just for him) contained multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, and a private movie theater, presumably so he could gather the cast and crew together to watch Will Smith movies.
Marlon Brando – Superman
Legendary actor Marlon Brando became arguably even more legendary later in his career as the patron saint of refusing to do anything like a normal human being. He was particularly notorious for never bothering to memorize his lines, which you may recognize as the primary job actors are expected to perform.
While filming his brief role in Richard Donner’s Superman as the Man of Steel’s father Jor-El, Brando had his lines taped to the back of the infant actor portraying baby Superman. He also refused to remove his expensive Rolex, which is a brand of timepiece generally not found on the planet Krypton. He was paid $3.7 million for this.
Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
Daniel Day-Lewis’s unquenchable need to completely occupy the body and soul of every character he portrays suggests that he bears some supernatural curse that doesn’t allow him to simply make-believe like his acting peers. For his role in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Day-Lewis stopped just short of traveling back in time and abducting the American president to run lines with him.
Daniel-Day Lewis had everyone refer to him as “Mr. President” during filming, and would speak to everyone as if he were actually Abraham Lincoln, including referring to his costar Sally Field as “Mary Todd.” He also refused to speak to any cast or crew member who spoke with a British accent to preserve the American accent he had perfectly cultivated (and also because refusing to speak to British people is just a thing Americans did in the 1860s).
Kirk Cameron – Growing Pains
Today, you might recognize Kirk Cameron as the guy who makes those insane films about rescuing Christmas from whomever he believes is attacking it (the word “might’ is doing some pretty heavy lifting here). But back in the 1980s, America knew him as Mike, the eldest Seaver child on the hit sitcom Growing Pains.
Despite the fact that his character was an unabashed serial dater, Cameron fought with the show’s producers over content he thought was “inappropriate.” He even got his costar Julie McCullough fired after playing his girlfriend for two seasons when he learned she had posed for Playboy, because Cameron is a bizarre alien who is terrified of sex.
Nicolas Cage – Vampire’s Kiss
Vampire’s Kiss is a movie about Nicolas Cage getting bit on the neck by a woman and becoming convinced that he is turning into a vampire. It is one of the greatest gifts this planet has ever received and we should all feel immeasurable shame that it isn’t the centerpiece of a major world religion.
Nicolas Cage wanted the filmmakers to use a real bat for the pivotal scene in which a bat flies into his character’s apartment and sparks his delusion, but after heated deliberation with the director he eventually agreed that it would be better to use a puppet. It isn’t clear whether Cage wanted to be bitten by a real bat, but since I do not have that information, it is my responsibility to assume that yes, he did.
Shia LaBeouf – Fury
For his role as Boyd “Bible” Swan in director David Ayer’s film Fury, Shia LaBeouf wanted to go as method as possible to really get inside the mind of a World War II tank gunner. Reasoning that his character wouldn’t have access to clean water while stuck in the tank in the middle of the European countryside, LaBeouf refused to bathe. His co-stars, locked in the steamy iron box with him, no doubt appreciated his commitment to historical accuracy.
Not content to merely be stinky, LaBeouf set about turning himself into a human grotesquerie. He had a tooth pulled, and repeatedly cut open his own face rather than use special effects makeup, which he didn’t feel was realistic enough. In Shia’s defense, it is impossible to argue with that.
Wesley Snipes – Blade: Trinity
Wesley Snipes was unhappy with the choice of director David S. Goyer to helm Blade: Trinity, the third installment of the film series about the Marvel Comics character who, much like Snipes himself, nobody had been paying attention to until the first Blade movie came out. So Snipes decided to take his frustration out on the entire production by being as difficult as possible.
Snipes flat-out refused to film several scenes, using his stand-in to do pretty much anything that wasn’t a close-up. He also famously refused to open his eyes for a particular shot, forcing the director to use digital effects to paint his eyes open. He also refused to speak to most of the crew, relaying messages via his personal assistant and Post-It notes. Basically, he behaved like an actual vampire, hiding in his trailer and keeping his eyes shut in fear of the sun.
Daniel Day-Lewis – My Left Foot
Daniel-Day Lewis is an actor equally respected and feared for his insistence on doing wildly unnecessary things to prepare for his film roles, including living by himself in a log cabin for a month for The Last of the Mohicans and engaging in pretend racism for Gangs of New York, which is pretty much the same thing as actual racism.
For his role in the movie My Left Foot as Christy Brown, a man stricken with cerebral palsy unable to move any part of his body except for his titular left foot, Lewis refused to get out of his wheelchair at any point during filming. He had the crew push him everywhere and feed him his meals while on set, a courageous level of commitment doubtless appreciated by everyone on set with family members who were actually disabled.
Eric Stoltz – Back to the Future
Before Michael J. Fox was cast in Back to the Future, the role of Marty McFly was ever-so-briefly played by Eric Stoltz, an actor most famous for being mistaken as Craig Kilborn in the trailer for the 1997 Jennifer Lopez film Anaconda.
During his short tenure as Marty, Eric Stoltz refused to break character. He would only answer to “Marty,” and was ruthlessly aggressive towards Tom Wilson, who plays Biff. The two almost got into a fight after repeated takes of a scene in which Marty shoves Biff, because Stoltz kept pushing Wilson entirely too hard (you know, like a guy who is trying to start a fight). Stoltz was fired shortly thereafter and replaced with Fox.
Jamie Foxx – Miami Vice
Director Michael Mann decided to adapt his hit TV show Miami Vice into a movie in 2006, because Phil Collins and linen suits are timeless. For his big budget reboot, he cast Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx to play Detectives Crockett and Tubbs.
Foxx was fresh off of his Academy Award win for Ray, and was apparently eager to start flexing his A-list star demands. By far the strangest of them all was that Foxx flat-out refused to film any scenes on or near boats or planes. This created some problems for Mann, because as the title suggests, Miami Vice takes place in Miami, a city in which you are never more than 100 feet away from a boat or a plane, and follows two vice detectives as they go on drug-busting adventures that take place almost exclusively on boats and planes.
Marlon Brando – The Score
When Marlon Brando was cast in 2001’s The Score alongside Robert DeNiro, audiences were excited to see the legendary star finally appear onscreen with his Godfather: Part Two costar. The only person who wasn’t excited was director Frank Oz, because by this point in his career, Brando had long perfected the fine art of “Brando-ing.”
The notoriously mercurial Brando hated Oz as hard as he possibly could, and refused to do anything the director asked, derisively referring to him as “Miss Piggy” for the entire shoot. He wouldn’t even smile during a critical final scene, forcing Oz to stretch Brando’s lips later with digital effects.
Paris Hilton – The Other Guys
You probably don’t remember Paris Hilton in the buddy comedy The Other Guys, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as a pair of bumbling odd-couple detectives. That’s because her list of demands was so absurd, director Adam McKay decided it would be better for both his film and the world in general if he just left Hilton out of it.
Even though she was only scheduled to be on set for a single day to film a brief cameo, Hilton turned over a list of requirements that included live lobsters and a bottle of Grey Goose vodka be kept at the ready for her at all times. Normally demands like these require a good-faith release of hostages.
Lena Headey and Jerome Flynn – Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is all about cutthroat characters making tenuous alliances with other cutthroat characters who can barely stop hating each other long enough to agree that an army of ice zombies is a bad thing, so it makes sense that some of the show’s politics bleed over into the real-life relationships between the actors.
Lena Headey, who plays Queen Cersei, and Jerome Flynn, who plays Bronn, refuse to speak to each other, film any scenes together, or even be on set at the same time, because they used to date years ago and apparently it didn’t end well. Maybe Flynn continually subjected Headey to his old boy band, which is a thing he was absolutely in.
Sarah Jessica Parker – Divorce
After starring as the lead in the hit show and cultural phenomenon Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker can ask HBO for pretty much anything she wants. In fact, I’m surprised she hasn’t negotiated Matthew Broderick into the background of a Game of Thrones battle scene yet.
For her role as Frances Dufresne on the HBO series Divorce, Parker drew up a particularly rigid contract that gives her the exclusive power to start and stop filming (basically, she’s the only person who gets to call “action” or “cut”). She also bizarrely stipulates that she cannot be filmed or photographed while she is eating. This can only mean that she vomits her entire stomach out onto her food like a fly and wants to preserve this secret.
Julia Roberts – Anything
Julia Roberts has been one of the most famous movie stars in the entire world since the prequel Bush administration, so nobody should be surprised to hear that she can ask for pretty much anything she wants while filming a movie, TV show, or Italian coffee commercial in which she does not speak a single word.
Roberts allegedly requires 4 gallons of Evian water per day while filming any movie, anywhere in the world. There is a six figure penalty if she ever goes Evian-less, which you may have noticed is slightly more than what 4 gallons of Evian costs.
Katherine Heigl – Grey’s Anatomy
Katherine Heigl has had a reputation for being difficult to work with ever since her breakout role as Izzie on Grey’s Anatomy. Whether or not that label is fair is debatable, but nobody can deny the weighty Shaq-sized dunk she landed in the face of the show’s producers back in 2009 after being denied more creative control over her character.
Heigl was nominated for an Emmy that year for her role on the show, but famously withdrew her name from consideration and refused to participate in the ceremony, claiming that she didn’t feel the material was worthy of an award. Basically, she called the show hot wet garbage, and wanted to keep any of it from splashing on the Emmys.
Jennifer Lawrence – Mother!
Jennifer Lawrence has been nominated for as many Academy Awards as X-Men films she has appeared in, though none of those nominations were in recognition for her X-Men work. As such, she commands a certain amount of power on set, which she used to make an unusual request of director Darren Aronofsky while filming Mother!
While filming the particularly intense film, Lawrence demanded a “Kardashian tent” where she could go and watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians to calm down. The tent was stocked with gumballs and photos of the Kardashians, so it meets the definition of “cursed object” and must’ve looked something like if the Branch Davidians had a make-your-own music video booth at a state fair.
Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock
America’s favorite abusive parent Alec Baldwin is notorious for his explosive temper, which among other things has resulted in him quitting Twitter forever more than once. He was able to successfully parlay this reputation into playing the character of prickly TV executive Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock.
Baldwin apparently saved all of his charm for the cameras, because various cast and crew have said that he was perpetually in a terrible mood and shouted constantly. He demanded a humidifier be on the set of 30 Rock at all times to protect his voice, despite the fact that he is not a singer. Apparently ,he wanted to ensure he could preserve only the richest tones while leaving shrieking voicemail messages for his daughter, who for some reason doesn’t want to take his calls.
Eddie Murphy – Anything
World-famous donkey and occasional comedian Eddie Murphy has been commanding the A-list treatment for longer than many current A-list stars have been alive, so it honestly wouldn’t surprise me to hear that he has a clause in his contract requiring a production assistant to shout motivational poetry at him through the fat end of a telescope. That said, his actual demands are somehow more alarming.
Eddie Murphy allegedly uses every item in his trailer only once, including underwear, socks, toothpaste, etc. He then throws them away and must be brought brand new sets of everything the next day, the clothes with the tags still on them. I earnestly hope this behavior was on full display during the filming of The Adventures of Pluto Nash, because it would’ve been the least wasteful decision made on the set of that movie.
Queen Latifah – Anything After 1999
Rapper-turned-actress Queen Latifah has turned in memorable performances in a number of films over the years, including Chicago, The Secret Life of Bees, and at least three Ice Age sequels. Her big league demand is by no means the most unreasonable one on this list, but it is 100% my favorite.
Queen Latifah has a clause in her contract that forbids her characters from being killed off. She added this after Sean Beaning her way through several films in the 90s, including Set It Off, The Bone Collector, and Sphere, in which she is killed by psychically manifested jellyfish.
Gary Busey – Quigley
Gary Busey is a sentient set of human teeth disguised as a man that has appeared in several memorable films including Lethal Weapon, Point Break, and Predator 2. Busey was critically injured and very nearly died after a terrible motorcycle accident in the 80s, which is information that will become very important in a moment.
On the set of Quigley, a film about a man who dies and is reincarnated as a dog, Busey insisted the set the production had built for heaven needed to be torn down because wasn’t an authentic depiction of the real heaven, which he claimed to have seen firsthand after his accident. Busey specifically noted that the set had mirrors, which he regarded as a particularly egregious mistake that, to the best of my knowledge, he never elaborated upon.