With news breaking recently that Italian Oscar-winner Bernardo Bertolucci did the unthinkable whilst filming his famed classic Last Tango in Paris, Cultastic looks back at 5 other directors who were total dicks to their cast and crew.
They may too often lean on the age-old myth of the “tortured artist”, but there’s not really any excuse for any director to subject the hard-working men and women of their cast and crew to some of the inhuman monstrosities that are featured below.
From unsimulated sex, to endless discomfort, to launching a fucking boat through the jungle, many of the attached filmmakers may have made something really quite artistically special in the process, but they really did take things too far to do it.
Starting with the recent revelations surrounding Bernardo Bertolucci and that scene with all the butter, here’s a whole bunch of notable directors, featuring many awards-winners and critical favourites, who just didn’t know where to draw the line:
Bernardo Bertolucci – Last Tango in Paris (1972)
Starting with what is most likely the worst of the pack, it turns out that the famous ‘butter rape’ scene from Bertolucci’s Oscar-nominated (and widely praised) Last Tango in Paris might not have been all that consensual. Although the scene was actually simulated, actress Maria Schneider has spoken out since about how she felt “raped” by what her fellow lead Marlon Brando had done to her on camera.
The recent comments from Bertolucci mostly state how he felt bad for Schneider but more importantly, that he “doesn’t regret” his actions, clarifying that he and Brando didn’t tell her about the use of butter as lubricant in the scene, and for that she felt seriously humiliated. Bertolucci claims he did it to get a more genuine reaction out of the young actress but the reality was, he ended up psychologically scarring her for many years to come.
Having shot the scene with the 48 year-old Brando when she was just 19 herself, Schneider became deeply troubled in the years that followed, turning to drugs and at one stage, she even attempted suicide. So yeah, too far for sure, Bernardo.
Alfred Hitchcock – The Birds (1963)
From the worst to arguably the most famous, Alfred Hitchcock was known as a bit of a troublesome guy behind-the-scenes. It’s no question that he was a master of his craft, but socially, it seems he left a lot to be desired.
On his early-60s chiller The Birds, the famed Brit definitely took things into overdrive though, casting the largely unknown Tippi Hedren in the lead seemingly only so that he could stalk and torment her. The BBC/HBO drama The Girl with Toby Jones and Sienna Miller from a few years back covers this idea fairly well, but based on Hedren’s own testimonies, it seems Hitch well and truly “made her life a living hell”.
The film in question was only really the starting point, but provides one of the dodgiest stories overall. Having assured Hedren that the birds used in the climactic attic sequence would be fake, Hitchcock slyly switched them out with real ones, making for a genuinely terrified performance from his leading lady, but one which left fairly dark emotional (and physical) scars with her for years to come.
Vincent Gallo – The Brown Bunny (2003)
Famously slated as “the worst film in the history of Cannes” by Roger Ebert, Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny didn’t really hit home particularly well with any critics upon its premiere at Cannes back in 2003 due to its ridiculously long, drawn out shots, its fairly contrived and pretentious plotting and, oh yeah, that seemingly pointless unsimulated blowjob scene.
A bit of an infamous one within the industry, said sex scene wasn’t the first to go before the cameras completely unsimulated, but it was one of the first to actually end up reaping havoc on the actors in question. Gallo, who also starred opposite Chloe Sevigny, was criticised for its needlessness, whilst Sevigny quickly found herself dropped by her agency due to the explicitness of what she had done on camera.
Both have spoken out since about how they don’t regret doing it, but either way, it seemed like a bit of a step too far.
Ruggero Deodato – Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Returning to the mind of yet another troubled European, Italian horror maestro Ruggero Deodato actually found himself hauled up in front of a court of law due to his handling of certain scenes in his late-70s mockumentary/jungle epic Cannibal Holocaust. Just months after its initial release in Italy, the film was seized by local magistrates and Deodato himself was thrown in jail on a string of obscenity charges.
Alongside a number of animal rights outcries following the on-screen slaughter of a pig, a tortoise, and various other jungle dwellers, Deodato was accused of actually murdering his own actors and was forced to prove that he didn’t in front of the courtroom. And whilst it was proven that he didn’t actually make the world’s most heavily-publicised snuff film after all, he did still kill an awful lot of defenceless animals and exploited the homes and lifestyle of a indigenous tribe without crediting them at all, which is all kinds of fucked up.
Werner Herzog – Fitzcarraldo (1982)
Easily the most bonkers contestant on the list though is everybody’s favourite mad-eyed German, Werner Herzog. You might know him for his uber philosophical documentaries or that time he got shot during an interview with Mark Kermode and kept the cameras rolling, but Herzog originally made a name for himself in the 70s and 80s as one of the arthouse scene’s most ambitious working directors.
One of his more extravagant projects, the early-80s wacko-adventure tale Fitzcarraldo, told the story of a delusional Irishman who insisted on dragging a 340-tonne old-school steamship through the jungles of Peru. Herzog being Herzog demanded that the crew actually do it for real, and the resulting nightmare, from its loose-cannon star to the local natives burning down Herzog’s sets, was captured in its entirety by filmmaker Les Blank for his documentary Burden of Dreams. To this day it remains one of the most unhinged stories in filmmaking history and you can probably see why.
Abdellatif Kechiche – Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013)
This Palme d’Or winning romantic masterclass certainly stole many-a heart when it premiered across the globe a few years back now, but two people who were left a little, shall we say, less-entranced, were weirdly enough the film’s stars Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos.
It seems that Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche drove the pair to the very edges of their own emotional sanity during filming, demanding the rawest most extreme performances imaginable from them. Supplying them both with most-likely rather uncomfortable prosthetic vaginas, the leads were pushed to get very close and personal in the film’s rather extended lesbian sex sequences, and later, during the climactic lovers’ argument, Seydoux and Exarchopoulos found themselves very much at absolute breaking point.
With Kechiche behind the camera, his leads admitted that “even crossing the street was difficult”, with the director demanding hundreds and hundreds of takes on scenes that otherwise seemed relatively straight-forward. Safe to say, neither Seydoux or Exarchopoulos seem particularly excited about the idea of working with him again.