Ego Trippin': Five Difficult Actors

Some actors are/were not very nice people. Find out five egomaniacal actors right here. 

Sometimes there are actors that are virtually impossible to work with and create tension and drama on and off the set during production. Yet the studio or financiers backing the production put up with their actions because of their acting talents and name recognition. These are five deceased actors that were considered to some of the most historically difficult to work and deal with.

Klaus Kinski
Klaus Kinski was an amazing character actor with distinctive facial features who was best known for taking on any role available regardless of the quality, as well as his violent temper and behavior during productions and his working relationship with director Werner Herzog. He would often take on second-rate European films for the large paycheck, resulting in his performances often upstaging what was a substandard production. His onset outbursts and reputation were well known. In Herzog on Herzog, Werner Herzog said that “Kinski was probably the most difficult actor in the world to deal with. Working with Marlon Brando must have been like kindergarten compared to Kinski. During a play he hit someone so hard with a sword that the actor was in hospital for three months; another time he threw a candelabra into the audience, after having hurled various insults at them first” [1]. While filming Aguirre, The Wrath of God there were multiple incidents which included an actor being injured with a sword during a scene and a night where Kinski shot a Winchester rifle and a member of the crew had the top of his finger shot off [1]. This continued throughout his career with tirades and requests that directors and crew members be replaced because he disagreed with their vision. Kinski and Herzog worked on five films together which culminated in the 1987 film Cobra Verde, which by this point the duo’s relationship had reached a breaking point and Kinski’s “ rage and his demonic intensity was a real problem from day one. Kinski was like a hybrid racehorse who would run a mile and after reaching the finish line collapse….Every single day …[Herzog] did not know if the film would ever be finished because Kinski terrorized everyone on set. He would halt filming even if one of the buttons on his costume was too loose” [1]. Their tumultuous relationship would be the subject of an excellent documentary by Herzog titled My Best Friend.

Oliver Reed
Oliver Reed is best known for his distinctive macho looks, often worn thick moustache, hellraiser lifestyle, intense alcoholism, and penchant for taking roles in second rate movies that were considered below his acting talent. Most of his role choices could be attributed to his outspoken nature particularly against women, his binge drinking, and brawling. He was reportedly up for big roles as the next James Bond after Sean Connery, The Sting, Jaws, and collaboration with Steve McQueen. Others were selected for the subsequent roles, with the main reason most likely being his out of control lifestyle. This led to him famously appearing on television shows drunk, having an argument with Shelly Winters on the Johnny Carson Show, and often being drunk during film productions. Directors often said that they never knew what they were going to get out of him each day, because it all depended on how much he would drink the night before. His wild and erratic behavior during Hired to Kill included pulling out his penis during a key large scale scene that involved a helicopter and a huge crew of cast and extras. His drinking feats became something of a legend, with some dispute over whether the extreme amounts were blown out of proportion. His friend Christopher Lee did say that “when when he started [drinking], after number eight, he became a complete monster. It was awful to see” [2]. He received the scar on his chin after a bar fight in 1963 and “died of a heart attack in a bar after downing three bottles of Captain Morgan's Jamaica rum, eight bottles of German beer, numerous doubles of Famous Grouse whiskey and Hennessy cognac, and beating five much younger Royal Navy sailors at arm-wrestling. His bar bill for that final lunch time totaled 270 Maltese liras, almost £450” [3].

Marlon Brando
He was controversial, highly respected for his memorable performances, considered difficult to deal with at times, and is one of the greatest actors of the 20th century. He pretty much refused to memorize his lines, believing that using cue cards brought a sense of realism to the dialogue. Early in his career he was viewed as a rock and roll bad boy because of his outrageous public behavior, including punching a paparazzo and breaking his jaw. On the set antics and weight issues began to really take shape during the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), leading to production delays and an inflated budget that almost led to MGM going bankrupt. The costume department had trouble keeping his clothes from ripping apart and he would storm off the set frequently. The first director quit and veteran director Lewis Milestone came on and considered quitting as well when Brando tried to take over the direction of the scenes he appeared in [4]. Milestone said that he had “been working in the business for forty-six years and … [had] never seen anything like it” [4]. He was often viewed by cast and crew as a petulant child who would throw a fit whenever things weren’t done his way and then would turn around and blame others for it. Brando’s refusal to memorize lines became an issue for director Bernardo Bertolucci during the filming of Last Tango in Paris, as he had to worry about making sure the camera didn’t pick up any of the cue cards that were placed around the set. The colossal production issues that occurred during the making of Apocalypse Now are famously documented in Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, one of which dealt with Brando. He showed up severely overweight and hadn’t read the source material, forcing director Francis Ford Coppola to spend several days going over the story, character, and dialogue. Because of the weight and Brando’s inability to remember his line, Coppola opted to film mostly his face and have Brando improvise most of what he said.

Errol Flynn
Errol Flynn was one of the first Hollywood action heroes, an embodiment of the type of male character prototype that was idealized by the American public. He was known for his swashbuckling and sword fighting heroes such as Robin Hood and seemed to be plagued in real life with trying to be the type of persona that he portrayed on the screen. Because of that, his life was filled with drinking, brawls, failed marriages, countless sexual encounters, two statutory rape cases, wild orgies, and worldwide adventures. His drinking on the set during his time at Warner Brothers led to studio head Jack Warner barring the serving of alcohol on the set, because he would end up getting so drunk he couldn’t perform. This only got worse during the 1950’s, when he was not only drinking but also using morphine and heroin to combat a back injury. Most of the time he would only make it through half a day’s shoot because he was too drunk to continue. The final scene in Montana was supposed to be a romantic kissing scene, but Flynn so intoxicated he refused to kiss her and performed the scene lying on the ground. When he died in 1959 at the age of 50, his organs where so damaged you would have thought he was an 85 year old man. The coroner listed the cause of death as natural causes. There are so many more tales about this man and multiple books speculating events that it’s hard to separate what is truly fact and what is fiction.

Richard Burton
Burton was considered to be one of the great Shakespearean actors of the 1950’s and was expected to be the successor to Lawrence Olivier, but become more known for excessive drinking and tumultuous on and off screen relationship with Elizabeth Taylor. They were married twice and made 11 movies together. He would end up marrying three other women and have numerous other reported relationships with women. His voracious alcoholism and various physical ailments is likely what led to breakdown in all of his relationships. At its peak during the 70’s, he was drinking three to four bottles of vodka a day [5]. This resulted in some poor performances where he appears to be slurring lines or is somewhat incoherent. He was so intoxicated during the shooting of The Klansman, that most of his scenes had to be filmed with either sitting or lying down because he wasn’t able to stand [5].

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-Raul Vantassle

Works Cited

P. a. H. W. Cronin, Herzog on Herzog, London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 2002.
"pardolive," pardolive, 9 8 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 9 8 2016].
"IMDB," IMDB, 29 2 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 29 2 2016].
D. H. W. B. a. J. N. Hollywood Hellraisers: The Wild Lives and Fast Times of Marlon Brando, Sellers, Robert, New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2010.
"IMDB," IMDB, 10 8 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 10 8 2016].