Clark Gable was initially disappointed when Franchot Tone was cast as Byam. The two actors had been bitter rivals for the affections of Joan Crawford while filming Dancing Lady (1933), and they did not like each other at all. However, during filming Gable surprisingly became close friends with Tone when they discovered a mutual interest in alcohol and women, both of which were abundantly available in Avalon, the island of Catalina's famous pleasure town.
Irving Thalberg cast Gable and Charles Laughton together in the hope that they would hate each other, making their on-screen sparring more lifelike. He knew that Gable, a notorious homophobe, would not care for Laughton's overt homosexuality and would feel inferior to the RADA-trained Shakespearean actor. Relations between the two stars broke down completely after Laughton brought his muscular boyfriend to the island as his personal masseur. They were an obviously devoted couple and would go everywhere together, while Gable would turn away in disgust. In addition, Laughton felt that he should have won the Best Actor Oscar for The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934). In any event, he was not even nominated and the award went to Gable for It Happened One Night. In order to break the ice before shooting, Gable, apparently unaware of co-star Laughton's homosexuality, took him to a brothel. Laughton's wife Elsa Lanchester always said that Laughton was nevertheless "flattered" by this gesture.
Money, Dear Boy: James Cagney, then on a hiatus from Warner Bros. during a contract dispute, has a cameo in the film. He is clearly visible toward the beginning of the film. He was sailing his boat near where the film was shooting near Catalina Island; director Frank Lloyd was an old friend of his, and Cagney asked him if he could play a small part in the film, saying, jokingly, "I need the money". Lloyd had Cagney dressed in a crewman's clothes and put him in the background of a few scenes.
Romance on the Set: During filming Clark Gable and Franchot Tone were said to have become romantically involved with Mamo Clark and Movita, who played their girlfriends in the movie.
Creator Backlash: Richard Harris had such a miserable time on the film that he refused to attend the premiere. He later described the shoot as "nightmarish" and called the film "a total fucking disaster".
Dawson Casting: Trevor Howard was initially reluctant to play Bligh, because he felt he was far too old for the part. The real life Lieutenant William Bligh was 33 when the Bounty set sail, and 35 at the time of the mutiny. After all the problems filming, Howard said he wished he had turned the film down.
Hostility on the Set: Marlon Brando didn't endear himself to his costars. He was standoffish with the British cast. Moreover, he alienated several of them with his chronic lateness on the set and his habit of changing his interpretation of scenes after rehearsing them.
Trevor Howard described Brando as "unprofessional and absolutely ridiculous. He could drive a saint to hell in a dogsled". On the day they shot the scene where the natives welcome the Bounty to their island, he repeatedly ignored calls to the set while he was talking to some local women. When he finally showed up, Howard, who had been sweltering in the hot sun waiting, lost his temper and walked off the set, making Brando wait for him. Brando later wrote a letter to Howard apologising for his behaviour on the film. Howard was largely responsible for helping the American star win a libel action against a British newspaper concerning the film. He also agreed to appear with Brando in Morituri and Superman.
The scene where Christian strikes Mills was problematic. On the first take, when Brando struck Richard Harris, it was a damp squib. Harris responded with a mock curtsy and waggled a limp wrist in the air. Brando didn't get the joke. On the second take, the blow was weak. Harris thrust his chin forward and said, "Come on, big boy, why don't you fucking kiss me and be done with it!" Brando glared, white with rage. Then Harris kissed him on the cheek, hugged him, and said "Shall we dance?" Angry and embarrassed, Brando stormed off the set. From that point on, the two refused to speak to each other, Brando acting to a stand-in, while Harris acted to a packing case with Brando's face on it. When it came to film Brando's death scene, Brando attempted reconciliation by asking Harris to give him his lines. Harris threw the case at him and said, "Here, you'll get as much out of that as I got out of you".
McLeaned: Hugh Griffith was fired during filming when his alcoholism became unmanageable. That is why his character disappears for large portions of the film. Indeed, his behavior was considered so bad that he was not allowed back onto the island for the final scenes.
Method Acting: Marlon Brando filmed his death scenes on a bed of ice to simulate dying from severe burns. The crew could only shoot three takes at a time as Brando's skin would turn blue as the result of the chill.
Wag the Director: Marlon Brando constantly undermined the authority of director Lewis Milestone, and got the crew to obey his every whim. Brando had so much clout by this point that he got MGM to green-light virtually every outrageous idea he had. At one point, he pulled people off the film crew to decorate and design a friend's wedding in Tahiti. Another time he had airplanes filled with cases of champagne, turkeys and hams flown to Tahiti for parties. He also threatened to quit the film if the Bounty ship was burnt and demanded repeated re-writes to meet his ever-changing vision of the film.