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The Real Reason These Actors Stormed Off Set

Making movies and TV shows isn't easy; sometimes, the artistic tensions they create can even lead to actors storming off the set. 

Perhaps the star had been caught on a bad day; perhaps an overbearing director provoked them into walking away angrily; perhaps there are other factors at play. Most of the time the actor eventually returns, apologies are offered, and everyone finishes what they began. After all, film and television are artistic endeavors, and most everyone in Hollywood holds the work itself above all else.

But that doesn't mean the actor didn't have a reason for storming off set, and it doesn't mean those concerns weren't valid. Some of the projects these incidents happened on went on to become notorious boondoggles; others, downright classics. From bad material to bruised egos, here's a breakdown of some well-publicized moments an actor stormed off their set — and whether their complaints were ringing an early alarm, or just creating extra noise.

Lea Michele (Glee)

Lea Michele was not always on the best of terms with her Glee co-stars, but one specific incident with the late Naya Rivera led her to storm off the set of the hit series. 

On April 17, 2014, TMZ reported what sources close to Rivera told them: Michele's "diva antics" had annoyed most of the cast and crew on the prior Tuesday, specifically when she made everyone wait to shoot a scene while she dealt with "personal matters." Rivera finally went to the producers and warned them that Michele was "pissing off people" — and when Lea Michele learned about that, she left the set.

Sources close to Michele contradicted the story, telling TMZ the actress was unaware of any complaints about her and wasn't even shooting scenes with Rivera. Additional rumors Claimed that Rivera was the one who "got tossed off the set." 

In 2016, Rivera published a book entitled Sorry Not Sorry in which she admitted that she and Lea Michele did not get along. "Lea and I were like two sides of the same battery," she wrote. "We are both strong willed and competitive — not just with each other but with everyone — and that's not a good mixture."

Despite their feuding, when Rivera drowned in 2020, Michele posted a black and white photo of her in apparent tribute to her former co-star.

Sharon Stone (A Golden Boy)

Landing Sharon Stone for their low-budget Italian film A Golden Boy (which came out in 2014) was a huge deal for director Pupi Avati and his producer-brother Antonio Avati, but as they'd soon learn, working with her was quite difficult. 

Pupi told The Hollywood Reporter on the heels of the film's release that Stone's misbehavior included disappearing during the filming of the final scene, simply because a TV cameraman was on set. 

"She immediately disappeared," explained Pupi Avati. "We looked for her everywhere, but nothing. Then my brother received a phone call from Los Angeles from her manager: she wouldn't come back on the set until the photographers and especially that damned TV cameraman had gone away."

So, the brothers Avati did the only thing they could — bow to her demands — and the Casino Best Actress nominee returned to the film about a writer struggling with the decision to publish his late father's autobiography.

"We did [as she asked and] so she, like nothing happened, shot the scene. The thing that I found most absurd is that she had to call to the States and to close herself in a car, instead of coming to ask us directly." Despite his claims of clashing, Pupi Avati followed them up by saying that he would not necessarily turn down working with Stone again.

Carl Weathers (Rocky IV)

The fight in Rocky IV between Carl Weathers' Apollo Creed and Dolph Lundgren's Ivan Drago was brutal, but what happened behind the scenes was apparently no different. According to Rocky series star Sylvester Stallone, Weathers and Lundgren did not get along on set. When the two were in the ring, Lundgren had been too aggressive with Weathers, causing the Action Jackson star to storm off set yelling profanities at the 6'5" Swedish tough guy. After four days of no production, Stallone finally convinced Weathers to return, after Lundgren agreed to not be as hostile.

In 2020, Yahoo! Entertainment spoke with Lundgren about his on-set fracas with Weathers. "I like Carl. But I'd worked out with Sly for five months before the picture. So I knew him pretty well," said Lundgren. "And I was a fighter, a karate champion from Europe and I think when Carl showed up, he was like, 'I'm gonna have to fight this guy? He seems like he's the real thing.' I didn't dislike anybody on that set but I think he got a little scared of me. Then I had to kill him, of course." We're pretty sure Lundgren is referring to what his character had to do in the movie — but in retrospect, maybe Weathers was smart to get out of there.

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (The Abyss)

James Cameron's 1989 underwater epic The Abyss was legendarily difficult to shoot, and a scene where Ed Harris' Bud Brigman revives Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's Lindsey Brigman pushed the actress to her limit. 

"[In the drowning scene I was] screaming at her to come back and wake up, and I was slapping her across the face and I see that they've run out of film in the camera — there's a light on the camera — and nobody had said anything," Harris told Entertainment Weekly in 2016. "And Mary Elizabeth stood up and said, 'We are not animals!' and walked off the set. They were going to let me just keep slapping her around!"

Mastrantonio has since admitted she doesn't have a lot of fond memories making the film, saying, "The Abyss was a lot of things, fun to make is not one of them." After suffering so much mental and physical pain in one scene alone, Mastrantonio's stance on The Abyss seems justified.

Gene Hackman (The French Connection)

1971's The French Connection is considered one of the greatest movies ever made, but on-set difficulties between actor/former Marine Gene Hackman and legendarily two-fisted director William Friedkin almost kept the film coming to fruition. Speaking with future Mission: Impossible director Christopher McQuarrie in 2016, Friedkin explained that Hackman grew up disliking authority and as the authority figure on set, Friedkin needed to make Hackman angry. 

"Instead of saying 'cut,' I would say, 'Oh, Jesus Christ. Are you kidding me?' I would say, 'Pal, you better get a day job. Y'know, you better look for something else 'cause this isn't working out,'" said Friedkin. "And he actually quit the film on the second day, and his agent, Sue Mengers, said, 'Well, that's fine, Gene. If you do that, you'll own the picture. Y'know, you will own everything they've spent,' so Gene stuck around and stuck it out." 

As it turns out, Hackman would've missed an Oscar for Best Lead Actor if he had dropped out of the movie. So, returning to set seems like it was a pretty good career move.

Faye Dunaway (Chinatown)

Faye Dunaway has long held the reputation of being difficult to work with, but she is not entirely to blame for an incident between her and Roman Polanski on the set of the 1974 classic Chinatown

The since-disgraced director apparently plucked a hair from Dunaway's head, causing her to scream, "I don't believe it. That motherf—-r pulled my hair out!" before storming off the set. The reaction may have been a bit extreme, but pulling hairs out of a woman's head is also pretty uncalled for.

In 2009, Christopher Bollen of Interview magazine asked Polanski if he ever talked to Dunaway after filming Chinatown. "Oh, yeah. Of course. Last time I saw her was in Cannes last year. She was also giving a prize," Polanski responded. "We met in the bathroom. I was washing my hands, and some woman was washing her hands, and she said, 'Hi, Roman.' I look up in the mirror, and it was Faye." We're assuming that this time, he knew enough to not touch a single hair on her head.

Russell Crowe (Gladiator)

Ridley Scott's critically acclaimed historical drama Gladiator, which first hit theaters in the year 2000, went on to receive several Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Lead Actor for Russell Crowe, but the film's star didn't make that journey any easier. 

Time magazine published an article about Gladiator when the film was initially released, stating that Crowe had doubts about the movie's evolving script and stormed off the set when he did not receive answers. "Russell was not well behaved," a Dreamworks executive told the magazine. "He tried to rewrite the entire script on the spot. You know the big line in the trailer, 'In this life or the next, I will have my vengeance'? At first he absolutely refused to say it. He did a lot of posturing and put the fear of God into some people. Thankfully, Ridley never yelled. He was the voice of reason dealing with many unreasonable factors, not the least of which was his lead."

Gladiator producer Douglas Wick told CinemaBlend twenty years later that the reports of Crowe's heavy involvement in the script were "greatly exaggerated" and that "Russell constantly had a strong point of view of what Maximus would do and not do, but there wasn't much improvisation." Even if these allegations aren't true, they continue the old narrative that Crowe has been difficult to work with.

Brad Pitt (Ad Astra)

The 2019 sci-fi flick Ad Astra cast Brad Pitt as an emotionally distant astronaut searching for his long lost father — but the actor may have had a similarly distraught mental state behind the scenes. 

In 2017, Hollywood Life reported that Pitt was stressed out over his divorce with Angelina Jolie, and had stormed off the set while shooting a difficult scene. Their source claimed that Pitt, who was attached to wires, had engaged in heated discussions with director James Grey, who he had known for decades, but not in a way that would hurt the production.

Hollywood Life's "insider" added that Pitt is not a bad guy and that his emotions simply got the best of him that day. "Brad is a passionate filmmaker intent on making sure every movie he makes is the best production possible, it was his passions that led to the blowup," quotes the article. "Brad has been working hard at being his best self. He has been living very clean, and has not been drinking, smoking or vaping and that has been challenging for Brad too. Yesterday all that tension came to a head and things kinda got out of hand just a bit." 

Chevy Chase (Community)

Comedy legend Chevy Chase played outlandish millionaire Pierce Hawthorne in the cult sitcom Community, but he did not always have the best time on set. According to a Deadline expose published on March 31st, 2012, Chase walked off the set of the show on the last day of shooting without filming one of his scenes, which had been intended to close out the Season 3 finale. This incident led to a bitter feud between Chase and series creator Dan Harmon.

The following August, Harmon shed some light on why Chase stormed off set in one of Reddit's "Ask Me Anything" sessions (via The A.V. Club). Writer/producer Adam Countee pitched a "tag" for the Season 3 finale, which would reportedly serve as an emotional ending for the season. Chase, however, refused to shoot the scene because he didn't think it was funny. 

When the actor had walked off set in the past, the crew would pick up his shots later in the week, but since they were filming the season finale, the sets came down after Chase went home. The scene was never shot, and Harmon was not happy about it. Chase left the show in November of that year but would return for a cameo in Season 5.

Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones)

Dame Diana Rigg received much acclaim for portraying the quick-witted Lady Olenna Tyrell on the blockbuster series Game of Thrones. She did walk off the set while filming, but she didn't do it out of spite. 

Shortly after the actress passed in 2020, her co-star Jessica Henwick discussed with EW how Rigg shortened her duties to perform a brief scene in Season 6. 

"She walked onto the set, and she went, 'I'm ready now!'" Henwick recalled to the magazine. "A cameraman came over and went, 'Well, okay, but we haven't finished setting up.' She interrupted him and said, 'Roll the cameras!' And she just started doing her lines. She did two takes, and then the guy came over and was like, 'Great, now we're going to do a close-up.' And she just stood up and she went, 'I'm done!'" 

"Now, she can't walk fast. She has to be helped," Henwick added. "So basically we just sat there and watched as Diana Rigg effectively did her own version of storming off the set, but it was at 0.1 miles per hour. She cracked me up. I loved her."