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Creator Breakdown / Film

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  • Josh Trank's erratic behavior during the Troubled Production of 2015's Fantastic Four (add a chaotic environment, Executive Meddling, and Trank intoxicating himself for relief, and it wasn't pretty) became infamous that it ended up destroying his career just as it was starting.
  • After Zack Snyder's daughter tragically committed suicide during post-production of Justice League (2017), he continued working on the film for about a month, but when reshoots were scheduled in England, he decided to step away from the project. Joss Whedon was already helping with the scripting of the reshoots, and with Snyder's approval took over as director for those sequences and getting the film completed.
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  • David O. Russell fell out with Lily Tomlin on the set of I Heart Huckabees. Footage of that leaked onto youtube which created quite some fuzz at the time.
  • After going through an emotionally painful divorce and the resulting custody battle over his daughter, David Cronenberg made The Brood, where experimental psychiatry enables the Author Avatar protagonist's psychotic wife Nola to manifest her mental trauma physically as deformed mutant children who abduct the Author Avatar's daughter and kill anyone whom Nola views as personal enemies.
  • Oliver Stone wrote the screenplay for Scarface (1983) while trying to kick his cocaine habit.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was produced while George Lucas was going through a divorce, as well as Steven Spielberg's then-recent breakup with Amy Irving. Lucas has admitted that this may partly be why the film was made so much Darker and Edgier in tone than its predecessor, although it was also partly an attempt to replicate the success of The Empire Strikes Back, which was also darker in tone than the movie it preceded to great success (and owed to a minor version of this, as the first writer Lucas hired died after delivering her first script and Lucas' next draft made changes such as Darth Vader being Luke's father and Han Solo being frozen).
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  • George Lucas' divorce from Marcia (her work in editing being a major factor in the original trilogy's success) after the completion of Return of the Jedi is sometimes thought to have contributed to his long hiatus from working on Star Wars until the late nineties, his constant reedits of the films, and eventually selling Star Wars to Disney in 2012. Before that, the Troubled Production of A New Hope - where Lucas was even hospitalized in stress\shock - made Lucas give up on directing the sequels, and only take the helm again 22 years later with The Phantom Menace.
  • Martin Scorsese came to the decision to make Raging Bull at the behest of actor and close friend Robert De Niro when Scorsese had a life-threatening cocaine addiction. The tone of this movie with its themes of sin, punishment, and redemption is largely inspired by the director's struggles to get his life back in order. Scorsese has described his experience making Raging Bull as "kamikaze filmmaking". The reason he had to be persuaded to make it was because he had intended to quit filmmaking altogether. Even after being persuaded to make it, his attitude was that if it was successful, he would keep making films, and if it wasn't, he would never make another film, but at least he went out with a bang. The screenwriter was Paul Schrader, who had fairly serious emotional problems and drug issues as well, not to mention his struggles with his Calvinist upbringing.
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  • Roman Polanski's version of Macbeth is more bloody than other versions (and with a way darker ending than the play—and the play doesn't exactly end cheerfully itself, let us note) because it was made after his pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson Family. The end of the film is mostly shot from the perspective of Macbeth's head on a pike. A few years later, he was asked to direct Chinatown. In an understandably dark place, he insisted upon changing screenwriter Robert Towne's ending from a somewhat optimistic one to an almost nightmarishly bleak one. Towne later acknowledged that the change was for the better.
  • Almost every possible form of musical-related Creator Breakdown (as listed on the 'Music' subpage) is parodied in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, in which almost every song Dewey Cox writes is a direct (and blatantly obvious) reflection of his current problems and emotional state at the time, from his complicated relationship with his father to how much he wants to sleep with his back-up singer to a Brian Wilson-writing-Smile style emotional collapse. It all culminates in his final song, "Beautiful Ride", which is an epic summing up of everything he has done and learned in his life to that point. He dies literally three minutes after performing it.
  • The scene in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's film adaptation of Devdas where Paro's mother is ridiculed in the middle of a party was based on a recurring nightmare of his about seeing his mother humiliated.
  • The majority interpretation of Antichrist is that true art is offensive, but there have been arguments that the director's admitted depression was deeper than anybody quite realized. Much, much deeper. Here is a link to an interview with Antichrist's director, Lars von Trier.
  • Adaptation. is a textbook example of this trope. Suffering from serious writer's block over being asked to write a screenplay about a book about flowers (in which nothing much happens), Charlie Kaufman writes himself and an imaginary twin brother into the story. While he becomes increasingly frustrated with his inability to write, his brother takes a three-day course and almost overnight starts turning out instant hit scripts of more conventional Hollywood fare. It's not until the author and "star" of the book have killed Charlie's brother that his writer's block is broken.
  • Woody Allen's Stardust Memories is pretty much a feature-length rant by Allen about how his fans have rejected his attempts to make more mature and intelligent comedies and want him to go back to the style of his "early, funny ones." He does acknowledge via several of his characters that his earlier, funnier movies still made the world a better place by giving people something to laugh at, even if they weren't serious works of art.
  • There's a great deal of discussion about this relating to Deconstructing Harry. It generally comes down to whether you take the eponymous character to be even more of an Author Avatar than Allen's characters in his previous films (something which is quite a debate anyway) or a fictional version of someone else (many claim he based the character on writers Philip Roth or Norman Mailer). Of course, the film takes a great deal from an Ingmar Bergman film (Wild Strawberries) and Freudian psychoanalysis, both of which are common Allen themes. In general, it is difficult to not consider the very dark, nasty tone of Deconstructing Harry, as well as preceding films Husbands and Wives and Celebrity, to be influenced by his then-recent, very ugly, very public breakup with longtime partner Mia Farrow.
  • One of the many, many theories concerning Eraserhead is that it's David Lynch coming to terms with marriage and fatherhood. Even the baby's inhuman state can be defined as a massive exaggeration of real-life - Jennifer Lynch was born with a clubfoot. Lynch has admitted in interviews that moving from his quiet suburban hometown to Philadelphia in the late '60s was...ugly. The most specific Lynch has gotten is that "bad things happened".
  • Discussed in Music and Lyrics, where the characters are writing a pop song; one of them makes the case that it's better to channel your personal issues and pain into creative endeavors that you can get paid for and see success as a result of, rather than sitting around moping, "being a little bit self-indulgent and creatively bloody moribund." He puts this into practice when his writing partner, who he's fallen in love with, leaves him and he writes the first good song he's ever written solo to try and get her to come back.
  • Paul Schrader went through a divorce and a breakup with a live-in girlfriend. He lived in his car for a few weeks. He stayed in the aforementioned former girlfriend's apartment for a few weeks as well. He was lonely and alienated. The result? He wrote Taxi Driver. Schrader has been struggling with drug addiction and emotional problems for decades. It tends to turn up in his work as a director.
  • Alan Parker, the director of Pink Floyd The Wall, reportedly had many breakdowns, and often describes the filming as a complete and total nightmare. From the exceptionally dark and unpleasant subject matter nearly driving him crazy, to nearly every scene presenting some kind of unimaginable catastrophe for Parker to struggle through, it's been noted by others working on the film that there was an untold number of times that Alan Parker just wanted to quit. Especially involving one very particularly ugly story, in which the REAL Neo-Nazi Skinheads that were hired to play the part of FICTIONAL Neo-Nazi skinheads continued their savage lynchings and attempted rapes during their "riot scenes" a little too convincingly long after Alan had yelled "Cut"...
  • Brad Silberling's Moonlight Mile (not this one) was born out of the murder of his girlfriend, actress Rebecca Schaeffer. Though most of his movies concern death and loss to some extent (Casper, City of Angels, Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events), none are as personal as this.
  • , where the movie is about the director, Federico Fellini. Fellini's life at this point was at a low point, having a creative block while working on a movie, becoming disillusioned by directing in general and going through the end of his marriage. All this is mirrored by the main character in the movie, also a director, who eventually has an Imagine Spot suicide before quitting his work on the movie he was directing and trashing the props, which had already cost a fortune to make. In the end, however, he finally feels a sense of relief for the first time in ages.
  • About halfway through La Dolce Vita, this defines Fellini's career. For example, even Fellini's wife (and often lead actress) thought Juliet of the Spirits was about his struggles with his homosexuality, so much so that there were bitter, bitter fights about it between them as the movie was shooting.
  • George Stevens, before World War II, made rousing adventure films like Gunga Din and light comedies such as Swing Time. Then he joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps and filmed both D-Day and the liberation of Dachau. When he came back, his work took a darker, serious tone, including what many critics think of as his masterpiece, Shane.
  • John Ford had a major alcohol-fueled one on the set of Mister Roberts. He had major conflicts with his cast and crew, including a physical confrontation with the film's star, Henry Fonda. (Fonda and Ford never forgave one another.) Eventually, Ford had a gall-bladder attack and left the production for good, but his behavior nearly destroyed his career. About a year later, he got a chance to go off into Monument Valley with his old friend John Wayne and make a movie with minimal studio interference. The result was The Searchers, widely considered one of his masterpieces.
  • Dario Argento contemplated suicide for a few days after finishing Suspiria (1977). Thankfully, he got better.
  • Bill Murray was going through a divorce while making Groundhog Day which, coupled with arguments with director and friend Harold Ramis over what direction the movie should take, led to their friendship completely breaking down. It wasn't until Ramis was on his deathbed in 2014 that they reconciled.
  • Cracked had an article on DVD commentaries where the speakers break into meltdown. Two are straight examples of this: Trey Parker said he did Cannibal! The Musical to mock an ex (the same he later named Cartman's slutty mom after) and going on lengthy tirades about her; and Mickey Rooney being a Grumpy Old Man on the guy who's trying to interview him about an episode of The Twilight Zone (1959) he did.
  • In 2004, French writer and director Catherine Breillat suffered a bad stroke that left her paralyzed on her left side, then spent the next three years recuperating, and then, in 2007, she befriended a conman who convinced her to loan him over €700,000 so that he could write a screenplay that never materialized. This experience inspired her 2013 film, Abuse of Weakness.
  • Nicholas Ray often came close to this on some of his films.
    • His marriage to Gloria Grahame was already in trouble when he decided to cast her into his film with Humphrey Bogart, In a Lonely Place. Various stipulations in Grahame's contract could be considered spousal abuse if done now. They would undergo separation during the filming, further causing tension in part because of a fear that one of them would be replaced by the studio because of the incident. However, despite this, the film was considered the first that propelled Ray into an unsung hero in the film community, and the ending was altered to be somewhat lighter than the book it was based on. He alluded to his marriage when he explained his reasoning for the change:
    "I just couldn't believe the ending that Bundy (screenwriter Andrew Solt) and I had written... Romances don't have to end that way. Marriages don't have to end that way, they don't have to end in violence."
    • His productions towards the end of The '50s were increasingly messy. Bitter Victory and Wind Across the Everglades was taken away from him and finished by other directors. Likewise King of Kings. 55 Days at Peking was the straw that broke the came's back. Faced with a Troubled Production going drastically over-budget, feuding stars and constant script re-writes, Ray had a heart attack on the set and filming was completed by two other directors. He never directed another Hollywood film. The only thing he worked on after that was an experimental film he made with his students in the late 70s, which was unfinished (but eventually completed in 2013) called We Can't Go Home Again.
  • Following the failure of his Kickstarter for the movie Rampage 3, Uwe Boll uploaded a couple of rant videos giving a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to those who didn't back his Kickstarter and Hollywood in general. Considering his track record, though, it doesn't really come as much surprise as to why no one chose to. (Warning: Videos NSFW)
  • During the filming of Wayne's World, Mike Myers arrived on set one day to discover that the snack table only had butter and not margarine for his bagel. Myers reportedly became enraged, flipped the table over, stormed off the set, and did not come out of his trailer for hours. According to director Penelope Spheeris, incidents like this were very common with Myers. Although Wayne's World was a massive hit, Spheeris turned down the chance to direct Wayne's World 2 because she'd had enough of Myers' moody attitude.
  • Derek Savage, creator of the infamous Cool Cat Saves the Kids, originally took the criticism of his (somewhat cheesy) movie in stride, and even changed some parts of Cool Cat after the movie came up on Your Movie Sucks. Later, however, Savage suddenly filed copyright claims on many reviews of Cool Cat that criticized the film, leading up to a feud with Alex of I Hate Everything. It all came to a head when Alex tricked Savage into revealing that he had made phony cease-and-desist letters from non-existent law firms representing the directors of previously reviewed film Attack of the Jurassic Shark, which was soon followed by Savage uploading a video wherein he called Alex such things as "a lying punk troll" and urged his fans to direct their vitriol at Alex and I Hate Everything. (Which ironically got him labeled as the very type of person he condemned in Cool Cat.) This failed to work, and the whole incident led him to be labeled as a Small Name, Big Ego who Can't Take Criticism.
  • This very nearly happened to Peter Jackson on the set of The Hobbit. After he came on board to the director's chair in 2009 to fill in for friend and previously slated director Guillermo del Toro, he asked to be given more time to plan ahead since this meant they'd have to redo almost the entire film and that the release date should be moved to a more convenient time. Warner Bros. refused, and instead gave him only six months of pre-production. This was especially bad because his previous big-budget outings (The Lord of the Rings and King Kong (2005)) had over two to three years of pre-production. Plus, he had to deal with a labor dispute when New Zealand unions charged the production with essentially using scab workers. Once production actually got rolling, Jackson then had to, in his own words, "wing it". He frequently gave the cast and crew long breaks because he had no idea what he was going to be shooting on any given day and was frantically coming up with dialogue and action sequences mere moments before cameras rolled. This, combined with near-constant studio interference and the unforeseen consequences with turning two movies to three came to a head when it came time to shoot the Erebor sequences during pickups in 2012 and to plan out the battle of five armies and nearly caused him to have an on-set breakdown where he finally asked for more time to plan and sort everything out, to which he was finally granted. Makes you realize it's a miracle the trilogy even got made at all.
  • Darren Aronofsky suffered one after the release of his film mother!, the incredibly negative response from audiences and some critics, and its subsequent failure at the box-office. He evidently would talk about nothing but the movie and began having shades of Can't Take Criticism and Dear Negative Reader. According to Jennifer Lawrence, this and the age difference between the two led to their breakup. To further rub salt on the wound, the movie ended up receiving three Razzie nominations, including Worst Director for Aronofsky.
  • Kristy McNichol had a massive nervous breakdown while filming Just the Way You Are in France and had to take a year off to recover.
  • John Carpenter experienced this with the initial reception for The Thing (1982). While he is very proud of the film, citing it as arguably his favorite from his entire filmography, and very pleased that it now gets the respect it deserves, the visceral hatred it received at the time, including from the director and star of the original film that influenced his career so much, nearly destroyed his career and basically tanked his confidence as a filmmaker. He refused to even talk about it for another few years due to the personal impact its reception had on him.

In-Universe examples

  • Parodied in the movie A Mighty Wind, where folk music duo Mitch & Mickey broke up in a particularly messy romantic dysfunction, and Mitch proceeded to release several solo albums with titles and cover art demonstrating an increasingly absurd degree of emotional breakdown. One of these albums provides the trope picture.
  • The Wedding Singer.
    • Parodied. Robbie's breakdown occurred while he was writing a love song for the woman who would later leave him at the altar; the lyrics and style of that song start with fluffy romance, switch suddenly to extreme rage, dissolve into shocked sadness, and finally end with despairing "kill me now" screaming.
    • This also happens at the first wedding gig Robbie takes after the aforementioned 'abandoned at the altar' situation; he finally snaps and screams an extremely bitter cover of "Love Stinks" at the 'happy' couple. It eventually results in the father of the bride kicking his ass and throwing him in a trash bin.
  • Funny People has its main character George Simmons deliver a stand-up routine shortly after receiving news that he has a likely-terminal illness. Needless to say, his dark, joyless material doesn't get a lot of laughs, nor does he much care.
  • A Gun for George, where the violent crime novels the protagonist writes about a Vigilante Man called "The Reprisaliser" are clearly an outlet for the protagonist's own simmering and barely controlled anger issues following the murder of his twin brother. Once people stop buying his books, publishers refuse to reprint them and libraries/bookstores refuse to stock them, it's suggested that there's nowhere else for his anger to be directed except at the world around him...
  • The French movie The Magnifique, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo. The main character is a shy writer of a successful series of spy novels centered on an over-the-top James Bond Expy. Near the end of the movie, he finally rebels against his overbearing boss, and completes his last novel by having the main character getting run over by an ambulance, becoming impotent, and making out with the Big Bad.
  • The film The Fall features this regarding its Story Within A Movie, due to its exploration of the relationship between narrative, creator, and audience.
  • In (500) Days of Summer, Tom's greeting cards vary widely based on how his relationship with Summer is going. When it's going well, he comes up with a card that says "I love us." When things aren't he writes "Roses are red, violets are blue... Fuck you, whore" The film itself is based largely off the screenplay writer's life as he estimates about 75% of the film happened to him. The film also begins with "Author's Note: The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Especially you Jenny Beckman. Bitch."
  • The film All That Jazz (a fictionalized version of the life of Bob Fosse) is pretty much dedicated to this trope. The main character even has duets with Death, and he dies at the end.
  • Played for laughs in Hamlet 2; the Shakespearean sequel is very clearly a thinly-veiled representation of protagonist Dana Marschz's various hang-ups and neuroses, most particularly his difficult relationship with his (unseen) father. He sorts himself out by completely mangling the original Hamlet (which is oddly appropriate, in a warped way, given how relationships with fathers and father figures are a central subtext of the original) and casting himself as Jesus in the process.


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