9 Infamous Feuds Behind Oscar-Nominated Movies

Ben Arnold
·Contributor

Oscar-nominated movies may bathe themselves in glory, but in many cases, such glory was hard won. Particularly when there’s feuding going on when the director says cut.

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Chinatown - Faye Dunaway Vs Roman Polanski

Nominated for: Everything, more or less

Roman Polanski was a notoriously irascible fellow behind the camera back in the day. His leading lady in classic noir ‘Chinatown’ Faye Dunaway was no slouch in the attitude department either, Polanski calling her ‘a gigantic pain in the ass’, proffering that she displayed ‘certifiable proof of insanity’.

It’s claimed he forcibly plucked a hair from her head because is was catching light and spoiling a shot, but she gave as good as she got.

Myth has it that when he refused to allow her a toilet break, she filled up a cup with urine and threw it in his face.

Never mention this to her though. Guardian film writer Xan Brooks was thrown out of an interview with her for daring even to ask about it.

Batman Forever - Joel Schumacher Vs Val Kilmer/Tommy Lee Jones

Nominated for: Cinematography and Sound

It’s no one’s favourite Batman movie, which must make the fact that the on-set atmosphere was toxic an additional thorn in the side of its director Joel Schumacher.

Schumacher branded Kilmer, who had just taken over the role of Bruce Wayne from Michael Keaton, as ‘childish and impossible’ over his behaviour, which involved being rude to crew-members. When he was called on it, Kilmer reportedly refused to speak to Schumacher for two weeks.

The notoriously grumpy Jones, who was playing Harvey Dent, wasn’t much fun to be around either, having got off on the wrong foot with Jim Carrey, who was playing The Riddler.

"Jim Carrey was a gentleman, and Tommy Lee was threatened by him. I’m tired of defending overpaid, overprivileged actors. I pray I don’t work with them again," said Schumacher.

The Birds - Tippi Hedren Vs Alfred Hitchcock

Nominated for: Special effects

A most contentious relationship was that between Alfred Hitchcock and his muse Tippi Hedren (the volatility of which was documented in the 2012 HBO biopic ‘The Girl’).

Hedren says that the tyrannical director, who it’s claimed was infatuated with her, made her life a ‘living hell’ on set. She tells of how instead of using mechanical birds in the infamously claustrophobic attic scene, Hitchcock used real birds instead, handlers hurling them at her for a shoot that lasted a week.

She finally collapsed, bleeding and hysterical, and had to be put under the care of a doctor. “I got over Hitchcock a long time ago because I wasn’t going to allow my life to be ruined because of it,” she said in 2012. “It was like I was in a mental prison, but now it has no effect on me. I did what I had to do to deal with it.”

Dancer In The Dark - Bjork Vs Lars von Trier

Nominated for: Best Song

The set of the bleak drama ‘Dancer In The Dark’ was described as ‘a war zone’, the inexperienced singer-turned-actress frequently clashing with the eccentric auteur.

"I met Björk one day and instead of saying hello she spat on the ground," said von Trier, though later she asked if she could write a song in his honour. "It was so absurd, because of the violent hostility that we had been through. It was so completely crazy."

He added that working with her was ‘like dealing with terrorists’, notably when she left the set for four days, before returning with a manifesto of demands.

Bjork has countered, saying: “[Von Trier] needs a female to provide his work soul. And he envies them and hates them for it. So he has to destroy them during the filming. And hide the evidence.”

The Truth - Henri-Georges Clouzot Vs Brigitte Bardot

Nominated for: Best foreign language film

The drama off-camera that surrounded The Truth was akin to soap opera.

Clouzot was known for his aggressive directing style - and on occasion slapping actresses - with claims he forced Bardot to drink whiskey and take tranquillizers so that she looked sufficiently ‘out of it’ to give a realistic performance.

They were barely speaking by the end of the shoot, Clouzot reportedly saying: “I don’t need amateurs in my films - I want an actress.” Bardot was said to reply: “And I need a director, not a psychopath.”

Movie: Tootsie - Dustin Hoffman Vs Sydney Pollack

Nominated for: 10 categories, Jessica Lange won best supporting actress

The brilliantly-crafted comedy on screen came at a price, according to director Sydney Pollack (who also played Dustin Hoffman’s character Michael Dorsey’s agent George).

"Dustin feels that his job as an actor with any integrity is to dig his heels in and fight as hard as he can for what he believes in," he told the New York Times.

"I don’t have any quarrel with that. I do have a quarrel with some of his other assumptions. For whatever reason, I think Dustin feels that directors and actors are biological enemies, the way the mongoose and the cobra are enemies. He sees every picture as what he calls a ‘silent war.’ And he’s fought with most of his directors. I think if he would give a director half a chance, and not assume that the director is trying to kill him, he would see that most directors want exactly what he wants, which is the best possible picture."

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane - Bette Davis Vs Joan Crawford

Nominated for: Five Oscars, winning costume design

This pair truly despised each other. Davis hated Hollywood’s obsession with Crawford’s sexual antics (she was openly bisexual), and was said to have been jealous of both Crawford’s fling with Clarke Gable, but most of all her relationship with Franchot Tone. Davis had fallen in love with Tone on the movie ‘Dangerous’, but he ended up marrying Crawford.

By the time they hit the set of ‘Whatever Happened To Baby Jane’, their hatred for each other was simmering, about to boil over.

Davis would insult her using the foulest language while Crawford was in earshot, while Crawford asked for a body double during the scene when Jane beats her character Blanche, fearing she might actually hurt her.

It’s claimed Crawford wore a weightlifter’s belt during a scene when Davis had to drag her across the room, because she knew Davis suffered back problems. Davis was nominated for the Oscar, but when she didn’t win, (Anne Bancroft did) Crawford went up to collect the award. She had slyly arranged with other actresses who weren’t present at the ceremony that she would pick up the gong instead.

It was the final insult to her co-star.

Terms of Endearment - Shirley MacLaine Vs Debra Winger

Nominated for: 11 Oscars, won five

Mother and daughter on screen, bitter hatred off it. Both actresses were reportedly difficult to work with, but they saved much of their ire for each other.

It’s alleged that Winger’s behaviour was erratic at the time because she was using cocaine, and that she used abusive gestures, once even aiming a fart in the direction of MacLaine.

MacLaine won out, however, when both actresses were nominated in the Best Actress category. As MacLaine accepted the going, she famously shouted ‘I deserve this’ as a final snipe to Winger.

Star Wars - Anthony Daniels Vs Kenny Baker

Nominated for: Nine Oscars, won six

They irritated each other in the movies, and also in their personal lives. It would seem that Daniels’ resented the fact that as a trained actor he’d been paired up with someone who had got the job for their size. When once asked about his co-star, Daniels said: “He might as well be a bucket.”

Even after the films, the heat didn’t die down much. “He’s been such an awkward person over the years,” said Baker. “If he just calmed down and socialised with everyone, we could make a fortune touring around making personal appearances. I’ve asked him four times now but, the last time, he looked down his nose at me like I was a piece of sh*t.”

When Justin Lee Collins floated the idea of a cast reunion on the Channel 4 documentary ‘Bring Back Star Wars’, Baker added: “It depends. If you invite his lordship, the one with the golden balls. If he comes, I won’t be there.”

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