The film business is not like a normal business.
If I work at the local Taco Bell and go psycho and act like I’m better than everyone else, I will get my ass fired. Soon, it will be hard for me to get another job because people talk. The word will get out.
In the world of blockbuster films, someone like Ed Norton can go prima donna on the set of American History X and, regardless of who is right or who is wrong, he will be the one who most people take the side of. Who the hell is Tony Kaye anyway? When he does it again on The Incredible Hulk, he is painted in an even darker light, more people may turn on him, but he will get work because he is a damn great actor. When you are great, you can be a prima donna asshole.
However, people who are very much NOT GREAT, pull that shit too.
A guy I know made a movie a few years ago. He needed a major star to help sell the movie and, thanks to a friend, he was able to sign Gary Busey. Busey proved to be much trouble. He demanded that if he came to Oklahoma to film his scenes he would require first class airfare for him and his girlfriend. He demanded the best room in the best hotel in the city for him and his girlfriend. He demanded limo service, on call, for anywhere he or his girlfriend wanted to go while they were here. The budget for this movie was under $100,000. The production crew ended up flying all necessary personnel to California to shoot the scenes with Busey in a bar similar to the one they were using in OKC. They saved money moving all their crew, actors and equipment to California instead of flying one actor, with his girlfriend, to Oklahoma to shoot his scenes.
Once on set, Busey pulled some of the shit he is known for. Old timers like Busey and Donald Sutherland use a technique they have almost perfected where they can almost guarantee their shots will all be close-ups. See, when the camera is in a master shot or 2-shot they will do something to disrupt the take in such a way that will be impossible to fix in editing. Then on their close-up, they would knock it out of the ballpark. Busey was in a scene with an actress where they were sitting at a table and talking. He then proceeded to purposively knock the ash tray over while delivering his dialogue. The actress, an unknown from Oklahoma, caught the ashtray, never skipped a beat and delivered her line. They used that shot, despite Busey’s actions.
Busey would also disappear for long periods of time while he was supposed to be on set and then when he returned would be bouncing off walls. Wonder what he was doing? Regardless, his name helped sell the movie and make a profit.
Now, let’s go to an even smaller scale: short films and student films.
These filmmakers are at the greatest disadvantage. They can’t say anything about horrible actors or actresses because the talent pool is so small, that when they find one, they don’t want to alienate all the other actors that they know.
A personal story.
An performer is hired to act in one of my movies. They come off well in the casting call and did well in the read through. On the second day of shooting, they decided they didn’t like their co-stars. I assumed things will go on as planned, professionalism and all that. We finished the shoot and, by the end, the two leads HATED each other. Fine, we were done and only two problems occurred during the shoot.
1. The performer showed up one day when we had the set ready to go, having read the script and gone over everything in detail, and tells me they are not willing to do the shot the way we discussed. It was the day of the shoot. I discussed with the producer the ramifications of firing this person on the spot, but we would have lots of footage to reshoot and would need to find a new lead and it might cripple the shoot. We changed it to satisfy this person. When I was watching the final season of Project Greenlight, I saw Krista Allen pull the same shit. I could relate.
2. We were preparing to shoot a scene from the movie and the performer brought another person to the set with them. This person sat there and pretty much ripped on my camera work and style the entire shoot. The person was asked by my producer to leave but refused and it was a public place, so we were handcuffed. I had to listen to this asshole critique the entire shoot.
Another problem after the shoot.
It was time to do the voice over’s. There was one voice over to be placed over a montage, the kind of voice over that would almost be like telling a story. The performer REFUSED to read it the way it was wrote, told me it was not good writing because they (them – not the character they were playing) would not talk like that. They then turned in a voice over that sucked the energy right out of the film at that point. I had given up on trying to reason with this person. I wanted them gone and I never wanted to see them again.
I should have fired this person after the first slip up.
Now that person is in Los Angeles. They are, I am sure, at the hands of people who will keep them under control. I don’t think this person will make it very far, though. You notice I don’t mention whether or not they are a male or female. See, that is my problem here. I am at the bottom of the food chain. I cannot afford to burn bridges. They know I am talking about them, but I won’t use names, movie titles or anything else that would hurt their career opportunities. It could turn around and burn me.
This can be a very frustrating business sometimes.
I can understand prima donnas in the upper echelon of the film business, but what the hell gives B-listers, and even worse yet, student actors just starting out the balls to think they can act like they are better than the picture.
NO ONE is above the movie itself.
Not even an Ed Norton.