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Wag the Director

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"Two takes? No, no no no. I don' two takes. Amateurs like you do two takes. Print it, I'll be in my three-story trailer."
Calculon, Futurama

Actors are in a constant state of communication with directors (and, sometimes, writers) as to what they think or feel their character should do, and in what direction their development ought to go. Thus in a very fundamental sense actors are always meddling for the benefit of the story.


Well, This Is Not That Trope.

This trope is when actors, likely those whose salary accounts for a significant portion of the budget, impose their ideas on the director. Maybe they want more screen time, a major rewrite of the plot, or some other concession that would get any smaller actor fired, like refusing any and all direction on their acting and filling their performances with Ham and Cheese or being overly serious.

The result may not harm the film overall (or it may well be so extensive it becomes a vehicle for them to showboat in) but it is usually noticeable to viewers and may cause laughter, groans, or head-scratching. It's most typically parodied by the famous Diva line "Shoot my good side please!"

And yes, there are occasions when this trope actually improves the production. However, this trope differs from the typical creative (and collaborative) process by involving a self-centered actor overruling the director.


As a general rule, there are three cases of "positive" Director Wagging: (1) A case of Throw It In!, where the additions work, (2) The actor in question is acting as an Assistant Director, or the Director is acting as the AD, or (3) The actor filling a void where the director should be (as sometimes happens when a director is incompetent or fired). Cases 2 and 3 benefit heavily from an actor who knows how to make a film, which is a rarer skill among actors than you might think (acting rewards specialization and subjectivity, directing and producing reward generalism and objectivity).

Note that this situation is actually an improvement on how things worked for a while in Hollywood. After the final collapse of the studio star system in the late 60's, if an actor didn't like how the director was doing their job, it was completely possible for the star to get the director fired, then take over director's job themselves for the remainder of the shoot. This practice was officially stopped in 1976, after Clint Eastwood had Philip Kaufman fired from The Outlaw Josey Wales and took over the film himself — the Director's Guild subsequently made a rule which stated that whenever a film's director was fired, the replacement was not allowed to have been associated with the production in any way whatsoever. This theoretically safeguards directors from overly egotistical actors, although there are, of course, ways around it.


The trope name is a play on "wag the dog", meaning that rather than the dog wagging the tail, it's the tail that wags the dog. Or in this case, rather than the director directing the actor, it's the actor who directs the director. Also note that when it comes down to it, the producer is (often unfortunately) the one with more power in Hollywood; actors just have a more direct connection, hence this trope.

Compare Executive Meddling, Protection from Editors and Troubled Production. Contrast Prima Donna Director.

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In-universe examples

  • Parodied with a Sprint theatre ad (part of the "Please Turn Off Your Cellphones" adverts) where a chimpanzee actor and his agents argue with a negotiating agency for a bigger slice of the film (eventually culminating in him controlling the soundtrack, which consists of slapping a keyboard).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This is the entire plot of the Japanese film Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald. The lead actress of the radio drama requests that her character be made American. This leads to the other actors wanting their roles changed, then they want plot changes, and pretty soon, the radio drama is nothing like what was originally written. It doesn't help that both the director and the drama's writer are complete pushovers.
  • Prima-donna actor Mike Shiner undermines Riggan Thompson's directorial vision at every opportunity in Birdman. For extra meta points, Shiner is played by Edward Norton, who is notorious for engaging in this trope in real life (see below).
  • This is how Neville Sinclair, the self-important actor played by Timothy Dalton, treats the director of his "Laughing Bandit" movie in The Rocketeer: the scene where Sinclair's ordering him to ban an actress from the lot (because her boyfriend had showed up and ruined a take) makes it clear this is just the director's latest round of being shouted at.
  • In State and Main the lead actress was hired specifically to play a part that requires nudity and a sex scene (its implied she normally gets hired for her looks, not her talent) but becomes a conservative Christian before the shoot and demands the scene be removed. The director fights it for much of the movie but the writer eventually finds a way to make it work somehow rewriting the character as a nun.
  • This is the whole second act of Living in Oblivion: the big-shot actor causes all manner of chaos when he keeps trying to change the scene, sometimes out of creative differences from the director and sometimes out of spite due to estrangement with his co-star.
  • In The Real Blonde, a soap opera actor refuses to re-sign his contract unless the producers kill off his co-star's character because she humiliated him for his failure to perform.
  • In Om Shanti Om bratty star Om Kapoor, after belatedly realizing that his role in the movie he is currently filming is an over the top Oscar Bait Inspirationally Disadvantaged man, decides that the scene that he is supposed to film that day is boring and basically forces the director to hastily make a Item Number (with Om being the Item) set to disco music, and shoehorn it into the plot under the guise of a "mental lanscape" reflecting what his character is supposed to feel. To Om's credit, the scene the music number is replacing really is that boring, but still.
  • Nicola Anders is this to Viktor Taransky in S1m0ne, causing him to prefer a simulated actress with no thinking power of her own.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Lucas Lee. He takes the word out of the director's mouth, uttering "action!" to start his scene. Then he completely derails the scene to beat up Scott. The hapless director (and the rest of the crew) barely react.
  • In Tootsie, Michael Dorsey has become notorious throughout the entertainment industry for bringing this attitude to every project he ever works on, to the point where by the opening of the film, his own agent has to tell him that no one will hire him as an actor because of it. It gets easier once he assumes the persona of Dorothy Michaels and is able to find more subtle ways to get his ideas across:
    Michael Dorsey: He told me what he wanted. I didn't say anything. I did it my way. He bawled me out. I apologized. That was that. [beat] I think Dorothy's smarter than I am.
  • Satirized in Shadow of the Vampire, where a fictionalized Max Schreck acts like a total douchebag towards F. W. Murnau during the filming of Nosferatu because he's a real vampire, not an actor. He constantly butts heads with Murnau, tries to eat any of the crew members he thinks are unnecessary (which is most of them), and his vampiric nature causes a lot of production snafus, like only being able to film his scenes at night, or having to fly to a shooting location because taking the boat they already paid for would mean crossing running water. The Hostility on the Set gets progressively worse until finally the film crew and Schreck try to murder each other, with Murnau going completely insane and just casually filming as his star brutally kills the crew before getting incinerated by the sun when some late workers obliviously walk in.

    Live Action TV 
  • Happens on Slings & Arrows quite a bit, particularly whenever Geoffrey ends up with some hugely famous and award-winning stage actor on hand to play a leading role (e.g. Henry Breedlove, an Expy of Kenneth Branagh, defying all of his direction as the title character in Macbeth).
  • In an episode of Las Vegas, Jean-Claude Van Damme (appearing As Himself) is shooting an action movie in Las Vegas. He demands to perform a dangerous stunt himself where his character drives a motorcycle off the roof of the casino and goes around the director's back to do so. Van Damme's agent tells him that he was right when he said who would really be in charge. Van Damme subsequently dies because the stunt was rigged for failure.
  • In Monty Python's Flying Circus, the film of 'Scott of the Antartic' is changed to 'Scott of the Sahara' purely to satisfy lead actor Kirk Vilb's desire to fight a lion.
  • Parodied in Key & Peele, where it's shown that the increasingly bizarre Urkel-centric plotlines of Family Matters are due to Jaleel White being a psychic who killed anyone working on the show that displeased him.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Mysterious Planet", the Doctor insists on being shot from his best side. Subverted, in that he's saying this to a security camera, so this one more case of the sixth Doctor's Deadpan Snark.
  • Victorious: An episode had Beck getting a part in a movie and getting his friends jobs on set as extras. The movie's star, Melinda Murray, is shown to be a diva appears to do this. She demands they redo a scene when she thinks Beck got his line wrong. When it's pointed out that he got his line right, she has him fired from the movie.
  • Schitt's Creek: Moira Rose arrives to the set of her comeback vehicle, The Crows Have Eyes III: The Crownening only to realize the director is only doing it for the paycheck. She proceeds to rewrite scenes and convince him that they can make the best schlocky film. It becomes a surprise hit.

    Web Animation 
  • The Homestar Runner short "The Next Epi-Snowed!" parodies this phenomenon. Crack Stuntman, the voice actor for Gunhaver from the Cheat Commandos Show Within a Show, disrupts recording by making a series of increasingly ridiculous demands. In the end though...
    Reynold: "It's too bad Gunhaver's on a secret mission to the moon for an undisclosed period of time, and that when he gets back his voice might have changed."

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in Metalocalypse when the director of Blood Ocean is contractually forbidden to actually direct (or even approach) the band members.
  • The Pinky and the Brain short "Yes, Always". In addition to Brain doing an as-verbatim-as-possible-on-a-family-show recreation of the Orson Welles example cited under Real Life advertising, Brain starts by kicking the entire production staff out, and ultimately gets fed up and storms off. (He returns when he sees a whole horde of mice waiting to replace him.)
  • The plot of an early episode of The Flintstones leads up to Fred and Wilma becoming the main characters of a live sitcom after they and the Rubbles wind up in Hollyrock. Fred lets fame get to his head and, on the night of the premiere, he's handing script rewrites to the director, telling the crew to hold the spot-light over him at all times, and generally acting like a prima-donna toward everyone involved with the show. The director decides that he doesn't want to deal with Fred for the entire run of the show and gives Fred a good dose of stage fright by telling him just how many people are watching Fred.
  • The quote at the top of the page comes from Calculon in Futurama. After Bender is cast to play a part in "All My Circuits", his horrible acting forces the director to rewrite his role so he's in a coma. Calculon does his lines for the scenes, emphasizing how his nephew is now in a permanent coma. Bender refused to take this, so he gets up, introduces himself and starts dancing around. When the director says they'll have to re-shoot the scene, Calculon tells him off.

Real-life examples

  • As mentioned in Film below, Orson Welles's infamous breakdown (the recording of which is informally titled "Frozen Peas" or "Yes, Always") while recording what he considers to be poorly written narration for a series of Findus TV advertisements. Listen to it here.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Marlon Brando was a notorious repeat offender. He refused to memorize lines for anyone, insisting that they be held off-camera on cue cardsnote  or, when technology allowed, to be fed via radio into an earpiece. For Last Tango in Paris, he asked Bernardo Bertolucci if he could write his lines on co-star Maria Schneider's ass. Bertolucci refused to let him do it. In fairness, Brando was said to be severely dyslexic and had a hard enough time reading his lines, much less memorizing them, though accounts differ as to whether or not he used it as a convenient excuse to cover up for his drink and drug use.
    • On Mutiny on the Bounty, 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.
    • While filming The Missouri Breaks, Brando threw out all his character's dialogue and improvised instead. He also "re-imagined" his experienced gunfighter character as a flamboyant half-Indian with a cheerful Irish accent and a feathered earring.
    • Brando showed up for the filming of Apocalypse Now drunk and fat, though Coppola had been specified a wiry, muscular character. He hadn't read the book upon which it was based, instead insisting that Francis Ford Coppola read it to him on the set. He demanded changes to the script, only allowed himself to be filmed in shadows, and ultimately improvised most of his own rambling lines. All this after receiving his $1 million advance.
    • Brando did not appear on the first day of filming Christopher Columbus: The Discovery. Perhaps due to their prior experience working with Brando on Superman, producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind hired an understudy of sorts to play Brando's part if he didn't show. Tom Selleck, who only agreed to do the film just to work with the legendary actor, threatened to quit the film if they didn't manage to get Brando on the set. Brando came to work the next day, but ultimately threatened to walk off the movie because his demands to have the script rewritten to acknowledge Columbus' ethnic cleansing of Native Americans weren't met; contractual obligations forced him to stay. Brando tried to take his name off the picture, but he was unsuccessful at that also (and he ended up with above-the-title billing on top of that).
    • In The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), Brando shot a scene while wearing a champagne bucket as a hat. Everyone was too afraid to tell him to take it off. This is what is rumored to have inspired the scene where Val Kilmer wears one and does a not-at-all Affectionate Parody of Brando after his character has gone insane. It was a Take That! by the rest of the cast and crew.note  He also arrived to the set with Nelson de la Rosa, a minor dwarf celebrity from the Dominican Republic he'd recently befriended, and demanded he also receive a part, forcing them to include de la Rosa as Moreau's assistant Majai.
    • On the set of The Score, Brando's final film, he constantly called director Frank Oz "Miss Piggy". Pretty soon Oz refused to speak to Brando, and co-star Robert De Niro had to step in and direct all of the scenes with Brando. Like Apocalypse Now and various other examples of this trope, it might have improved the film.
  • Edward Norton is another notorious repeat offender:
    • American History X: Director Tony Kaye alleged that Norton had the film re-edited so he had more screen time. Kaye disowned the project, tried (in vain) to have his name taken off the film, and sued New Line for nearly $300 million. However, Kaye's edits had already been rejected by the studio twice before a new editor was brought in with Norton to deliver their own version. The finished product was well received and Norton earned an Oscar nomination, so he apparently won the argument.
    • The Incredible Hulk: Norton is a fan of the Hulk, and did a rewrite that brought the film closer in line to the comics. The film was better received than the first film. However, Norton's reputation as being difficult to work with was allegedly one of the reasons he was not asked to reprise his role for The Avengers. Though the more commonly known and accepted one was simply a conflicting work schedule - couple that with how well his replacement was received, and Norton's chances of reprising the role are slim-to-none.
    • Norton even engaged in this trope during the production of Birdman, in which he plays a brilliant but intense method actor who tries to wrestle control from the director of the play he was cast in. Supposedly, he didn't even see the irony of the situation until it was explicitly pointed out to him.
  • Steve McQueen:
    • The gratuitous fight scene in The Cincinnati Kid was added at the insistence of Steve McQueen.
    • On The Getaway, Steve McQueen had Jerry Fielding's score replaced with Quincy Jones. Under his contract with First Artists, McQueen had final cut on the film and when Sam Peckinpah found out, he was upset. Richard Bright said that McQueen chose takes that "made him look good" and Peckinpah felt that the actor played it safe: "He chose all these Playboy shots of himself. He's playing it safe with these pretty-boy shots."
    • Steve McQueen only agreed to be in The Great Escape on the condition that motorcycle stunts were added in just for him. The studio complied for the most part, but did not allow him to perform the iconic jump over the fences. A stunt double rode the bike during that shot for insurance reasons and because the studio did not want their big star to land in the hospital.
  • Warren Beatty:
    • On Bonnie and Clyde, Warren Beatty and Arthur Penn quarrelled constantly during filming, as the star questioned almost every one of the director's choices. As a result, the rest of the cast often spent hours waiting for them to settle their differences. One major bone of contention was Penn's insistence that they add a scene in which Bonnie and Clyde pretend to be dead. Beatty insisted the idea was ridiculously pretentious, but Robert Towne tried to write it anyway. The writer soon realized that Beatty was right, but cautioned him to avoid a confrontation on the matter. In his opinion, Penn was only holding onto the idea out of insecurity - he couldn't admit he was wrong. After a few weeks of filming bolstered Penn's confidence, Towne was sure he'd drop the idea, which is exactly what happened.
    • On Ishtar, Warren Beatty spent a lot of time arguing with Elaine May, getting to the point where they went for days without speaking to each other. Eventually they compromised by shooting every scene twice, one her way and one his. During postproduction, May and Beatty fought frequently in the editing room, and May often left it to Beatty to direct the actors during looping sessions. The joke was (and some people say it was not a joke) that Bert Fields, their mutual agent, was the one with the real final cut on the film.
    • On McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Warren Beatty constantly asked for multiple takes, which annoyed Robert Altman greatly. One scene where Beatty catches a bottle after it falls and pours another drink required twenty takes and he still wanted more. Altman stormed off the set and let an assistant director handle it. And it took twenty more takes. Altman got his revenge by making Betty do twenty-five takes of a scene in the cold snowdrift.
    • On Town And Country, Warren Beatty clashed with the director and demanded numerous script changes and retakes. This led to the film being shelved for three years.
  • Halle Berry:
    • Halle Berry doing this led to the Catwoman (2004) movie being greenlit. It backfired after Catwoman crashed and burned.
    • Halle Berry's demands in Die Another Day that, among others, she be featured in front of Pierce Brosnan, freaking JAMES BOND, on the movie poster.
    • During the filming of X-Men, Halle Berry refused to wear white contacts that covered her eyes (like in the comics) and wanted more lines/scenes. By shooting time for X2: X-Men United, she had more clout, and used it to give herself a bigger part (and more money) in the movie, and lo, here comes her conversations with Nightcrawler and strange use of powers against the missiles. And, again, she demanded even more for X-Men: The Last Stand, with rumors flying that she wouldn't even cameo in the film without a huge paycheck. However, her final paycheck (after she begged for her part back) was said to be a lot smaller than demanded.
  • In a positive example of this trope, The Addams Family's original ending was to have Gordon remain an impostor, but be accepted as Uncle Fester anyway because he fit in so well with the rest of the Addams clan. Pretty much the entire cast objected to the idea. Anjelica Huston was "passionately against" it and Raúl Juliá was "outraged". In the end, the cast chose ten-year-old Christina Ricci to convince Barry Sonnenfeld to change the ending. Ironically, the only one who didn't care either way was Christopher Lloyd, who played Fester.
  • Harrison Ford:
  • Crispin Glover tried to do this in Back to the Future, but didn't have enough sway to get away with it. His "unreasonable demands" for the sequels may have been creative control, but this cannot be proven. Just as likely would be a paycheck equal to Michael J. Fox's, despite being a tertiary character.
    • Yet another story actually gives some reason for Glover's demand. Apparently, Universal was only willing to pay Glover $50,000 for his role (which for a big-budgeted studio tentpole is very low). Glover asked for a raise to a more manageable figure but was fired immediately. But the story doesn't end there. Universal would later use footage of Glover from the first film without his consent, and use heavy prosthetic makeup on another actor to make him appear to be Crispin for new footage, which led Glover to sue Universal for residuals on using said footage. The lawsuit was successful, which led the Screen Actors Guild to create a new rule on such cases, nicknamed the "Crispin Glover Rule".
    • For the record, Glover has stated that he didn't return for the sequels because he thought George McFly becoming rich and famous in the revised timeline and bullying his former bully sent the wrong message. Had he been successful in getting the ending of the first movie changed, it would have been a straightforward example of this trope.
  • Spencer Tracy wasn't fully cooperative on Bad Day at Black Rock. He told John Sturges to avoid close-ups (probably because of his age) and hated to do additional takes. In the garage sequence between him and Robert Ryan, Sturges called for a second take. Tracy asked the crew if they had understood him in the scene. When they said yes, he refused to shoot it again.
  • Michael Douglas refused to either go full frontal or be bisexual for Basic Instinct.
  • The DVD Commentary on Battlefield Earth makes it clear that John Travolta, not director Roger Christian, was in the driver's seat. Considering his status as driving force behind the project and probable writer of the script though, perhaps the wonder is that he wasn't actually the director.
  • Charlton Heston was so unhappy with the script for Beneath the Planet of the Apes that not only did he demand less screentime, but he insisted that his character be killed off so he couldn't come back for any sequels and end the series there. Obviously, he didn't succeed in the last bit.
  • A pretty dark example of director wagging took place on the set of Blade: Trinity if writer Chris Parry is to be believed. Wesley Snipes didn't like the director (David Goyer, who wrote the first two movies in the Blade Trilogy and co-wrote Batman Begins), and decided to do the least amount of work imaginable in response. He was only on set when a shot required him to face the camera directly (his stunt double had to fill in the rest of the time) and seemed to go out of his way to be a dick to everyone involved when he could be bothered to show up. This also led to the infamous image of Blade's CGI-eyes, which came about because in the scene in question Snipes refused to open his real eyes. This is part of what led to Ryan Reynolds's Throw It In! "He doesn't like me, does he?" and the expansion of Reynolds's part to fill screentime, a lot of it improv. Patton Oswalt elaborated even further on this in an interview with the A.V. Club, revealing that not only did Snipes accuse Goyer of being a racist multiple times with little to no provocation, but eventually stopped speaking to him entirely, communicating only in Post-It notes. And because he was such an intense method actor, he signed each one "Blade".
  • Jeanne Moreau did it in François Truffaut's The Bride Wore Black enough for him to never work with her again.
  • According to Joss Whedon, Donald Sutherland was under the impression that he was the star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and rewrote all of his dialogue, often making the scenes incomprehensible in Whedon's opinion. Whedon praised Sutherland's abilities as an actor, but called his behavior "rude" and Sutherland himself "a dick". Sutherland was also responsible for him and Kristy Swanson playing the Slayer and her Watcher during the medieval flashback scene, which implies that the Slayer and Watcher are constantly reincarnated. In the novelization, there are several flashbacks to previous Slayers, (who are also more ethnically diverse), and a mention of what would grow into the Watcher's Society in the show.
  • The only major conflict between Paul Newman and George Roy Hill on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid occurred over what became known as "the Bledsoe scene", a break in the extended superposse chase when Butch and Sundance go to visit an old sheriff hoping to get his help enlisting them in the Army to fight in the Spanish-American War. Newman felt the scene should come at the end of the chase and be the motivation for their flight to South America. Hill disagreed strongly. Every day, Newman came on the set with fresh arguments for why it should be done his way and with increasing passion for his opinion. "Paul was becoming almost anal about it," noted Robert Redford, who at one point jokingly suggested they rename the film "The Bledsoe Scene". Ultimately, Hill won the argument.
  • Brian De Palma claimed that while making Carlito's Way, Sean Penn demanded 30 takes of the shot of Kleinfeld asking Carlito to help him with Tony T's escape. When De Palma wanted to move on to the next shot, Penn screamed at him. He continued to yell at De Palma on the ride back to New York City. Penn later called De Palma on the phone to continue yelling at him. De Palma said that was the only argument they had on the film.
  • Crispin Glover's character in Charlie's Angels (2000) was supposed to have dialogue, but he elected to play him as a mute.
  • In an example of an actor's demands affecting multiple films, Clark Gable had George Cukor fired from Gone with the Wind and replaced with Victor Fleming, who had to be dragged off The Wizard of Oz with a quarter of its scenes left to be shot. The rest of those were handled by King Vidor instead. Vivien Leigh wasn't happy with Fleming's brusque style after the careful nurturing she had enjoyed with Cukor. When she asked him for direction in one scene, he told her "Ham it up". On another occasion when she asked for his constructive advice, he told her to "take the script and stick it up her royal British ass". After Cukor's departure, Leigh had to fight hard to keep the movie's Scarlett true to her view. Fleming's interpretation of her was that she was an out-and-out bitch as in the novel and that he had no desire to create any sympathy or insight for her.
  • Ralph Bakshi, known for his animated films aimed at adult audiences, got this with Kim Basinger during the production of Cool World. She convinced producer Frank Mancuso Jr. to change the script to make it more kid-friendly, hoping to show it to cancer-stricken children. Unfortunately, the movie was written as a hard R-rated thriller in which a half-toon, Half-Human Hybrid went on a psychotic killing spree. Mancuso was already having the script rewritten to remove all of the horror elements because he was bored with the genre, so this went from being an R-rated horror film to an R-rated comedy to a PG-13 comedy.
  • During Cop Out, Bruce Willis explicitly ignored Kevin Smith's instructions/direction and generally behaved like a dick, to the point that Smith (who previously idolised Willis) said he would never work with him again and would never work with anybody he'd idolised in his youth either.
  • Brandon Lee requested that one character be removed from The Crow - an Asian character from the comic who tries to steal Eric's powers - as he felt it was a stereotype.
  • Narrowly averted on Alejandro Jodorowsky's ill-fated adaptation of Dune. Jodorowsky wanted to recruit Salvador Dalí to play the Emperor, but he had very little experience with negotiating and Dali made a number of demands, including the hiring of Amanda Lear as Princess Irulan and $100,000 for every hour he was on set. Jodorowsky, in a rare moment of lucidity, realized that this would bankrupt the film and rewrote Dali's role so that he would only have to be on set for one hour. This all ended up being a moot point, as Dali was ultimately fired for his pro-Franco statements.
  • In Every Which Way but Loose, Clint Eastwood was often in dispute with the director, James Fargo. The first assistant sarcastically commented that this was because Fargo "had the notion that he was directing the movie." Note that Eastwood and Fargo had been long-time collaborators, with Fargo having handled second unit duties on films that Eastwood had directed, and working smoothly with him during Fargo's directorial bow on The Enforcer. On that occasion they worked well together, since it had been agreed that Eastwood was really in charge, but Fargo expected more control on Every Which Way. Their friendship survived the film's production, but afterwards they agreed that it'd probably be best for the sake of their sanity if they didn't work on the same film again.
  • During the filming of Fireproof, Kirk Cameron's wife Chelsea Noble had to be costumed to serve as Erin Bethea's kissing double, because Cameron refused to even pretend to kiss any woman other than his wife.
  • Fist of Fury was originally going to end with the main character surviving, as his real life counterpart did. However, Bruce Lee insisted that he die at the end, but with honor.
  • The filming of Four For Texas was heavily marred by the deteriorating relationship between Robert Aldrich and Frank Sinatra. Sinatra reasoned that he was a major draw for the movie, and thus could do whatever he wanted. Aldrich later calculated that over the course of the 37 days they spent shooting the movie, Sinatra only put in about 80 hours of actual work.
  • Michael Douglas's character in The Ghost and the Darkness was originally going to be a small and enigmatic character simply known as "Red Beard", but after he took over as producer the role was given to him and received more importance. He even went and had the movie completely re-cut in post production, removing 45 minutes of scenes in order for him to have more screen time. This also explains story parts that go nowhere and plot holes that the movie has. Like for example, a part where the story jumps from having only few people killed by lions, only for characters in later scenes mentioning how the number of people dead is much bigger.
  • Giant:
    • George Stevens had a hard time directing James Dean. The problem started with Stevens ordering Dean to get rid of his Actor's Studio mannerisms, like moving his head from side to side or hopping while walking. The two argued constantly, and at one point the actor went on strike for three days. Dean even ordered his agent to come to the location to help him deal with the director. He also referred to Stevens as "Fatso" behind his back. In defiance, Dean would often hold up production for hours, causing the film to go over schedule. At one point, Dean was said to have ruined an outdoor scene by yelling "Cut!" and then unzipping his pants and urinating in full view of the crew and visitors on the set.
      Dean also refused to undergo a lengthy make-up process for his later scenes, claiming "a man of 45 shows his age in thoughts and actions, not in wrinkles." He only allowed them to gray his temples and put a few lines on his forehead.
    • In addition to Dean, Stevens often argued with Elizabeth Taylor. Most of their fights stemmed from his practice of demanding multiple takes without explaining why or offering additional direction to the actors.
  • It's been rumored that the reason that The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest wasn't quite as good as the two previous The Millennium Trilogy adaptations was that the director was basically letting Noomi Rapace call the shots when it came to her character - a character that she'd grown to resent so much that she's joked about spending the last day of filming vomiting every last trace of Lizbeth Salander out of her.
  • Russell Crowe was continually unhappy with the screenplay of Gladiator, rewriting much of it to suit his own ends. He would constantly question the script and would frequently walk off the set if he didn't get his way. The famous line "And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next." he initially refused to say, telling writer William Nicholson, "Your lines are garbage but I'm the greatest actor in the world and I can make even garbage sound good." On a positive note, he objected to a sex scene between Maximus and Lucilla, feeling that it would be out-of-character for a man avenging his family's deaths.
  • On Hard Target, Jean-Claude Van Damme would often second guess John Woo and in post-production, he went with his own editor to make his own edit of the film. Van Damme's version excises whole characters to insert more scenes and close-ups of his character Chance. When asked about this edit, Van Damme replied that "People pay their money to see me, not to see Lance Henriksen".
  • One of several problems associated with Highlander II: The Quickening can be chalked up to Christopher Lambert refusing to participate in the film unless Sean Connery's character (who died in the first film) was resurrected, as the two actors had become very good friends whilst making the original. It probably didn't help that Lambert was forced by his contract to make the sequel; he felt the first movie was a self-contained story that sequels would only spoil. He did guest-star in the pilot of the Highlander: The Series though.
  • Hook has a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment where Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) inexplicably grows to normal size and has a semi-romantic scene with Peter Pan (Robin Williams). Reportedly, this scene happened because Roberts demanded at least one scene in which she acted alongside Williams rather than a greenscreen. This, among other such tantrums and fits of diva behavior, inspired the crew to nickname Roberts "Tinkerhell". Steven Spielberg went on the record to say he'd never work with her again. To her credit, Roberts owned up to her behavior later on, stating she was having relationship problems off-set, but admitting that it was no excuse for such bad behavior.
  • Susan Sarandon objected to how her sex scene with Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger originally played out. Originally, Deneuve gave Sarandon something to drink, then Sarandon becomes light-headed and loses her inhibitions. Sarandon didn't like that angle - she stated that it didn't matter if you were straight or gay, no one would need to be drugged to be talked into sleeping with Catherine Deneuve!
  • Iron Man 3 was originally going to be an adaptation of the Devil in a Bottle story (about alcoholism), which director Shane Black wanted. But Iron Man/Tony Stark's actor, Robert Downey Jr., didn't want to get in the headspace that could potentially make him fall back into his own alcoholism that he had long worked to overcome, and refused to do it. Instead, Tony is dealing with PTSD from the events of The Avengers (2012), which worked out rather well, due to rising awareness of veterans of the War On Terror dealing with the condition.
  • Stewart Granger had the first director of King Solomon's Mines, Compton Bennett, sacked as they couldn't get along and the shooting was going nowhere. The next director Andrew Marton, being a man's man, hit it off instantly with Mr. Granger.
  • In Left Behind: Tribulation Force, there's a scene which has Buck Williams (Kirk Cameron's character) and Rayford Steele confronting a friend of the latter who didn't want to hear what the Antichrist planned to do. Cameron (who by that point had just teamed up with Ray Comfort's "The Way of the Master" ministry) manages to combine this with a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment when he suddenly throws in this random string of questions related to the 10 Commandments lifted almost word for word from a "The Way of the Master" video he appeared in.
  • Bruce Willis and producer Joel Silver took over production on The Last Boy Scout, making changes to Shane Black's script and making Tony Scott film many scenes that he didn't like under threat of being fired from production.
  • Live Free or Die Hard:
    • Bruce Willis apparently did a lot of this during the film, greatly frustrating the director and some of the other actors. On the other hand, according to Kevin Smith (who had a role in the movie, and told the story in one of his "Evening" shows) it's probably for the better: the studio apparently wanted a lot more low-brow humor, goofiness, and other un-Die-Hard things, and weren't afraid to make the story suffer for it, which Willis refused to allow. When they tried to tell him he couldn't make the changes he wanted, he abruptly finished the argument by asking, "So who's your second choice to play John McClane?"
    • Interestingly, Willis's usual dub voice actor in Spain, Ramón Langa (and a popular actor in the country in his own right) also threatened to walk out if the Spanish version of Live Free or Die Hard did not include profanity (the English version was neutered in post-production to get a PG-13 rating).
  • A positive example: When Helen Mirren was cast in The Long Good Friday, her character was a stereotypical gangster's moll, but she refused to play it that way and insisted on making her more intelligent and interesting.
  • Meryl Streep once said in an interview that a director had no place telling actors how to act, they simply "rented" their performance.
  • On Mildred Pierce, Joan Crawford was in constant clashes with Michael Curtiz over her character's wardrobe. The director was annoyed that Crawford was trying to make Mildred look more glamorous than she should. Crawford insisted she was buying all her clothes off the rack, but she was still secretly having her costume designer altering the waists and padding the shoulders.
  • In Morocco, Marlene Dietrich insisted on adding a scene where her character kisses another woman on the lips. In order to justify this, she had the other woman hand her a flower that she later hands to Gary Cooper's character, so that the censors would be unable to cut the kiss without also editing the scene with the flower.
  • An expose by Variety revealed that Tom Cruise had a lot of control over The Mummy (2017) and these include:
    • Early drafts of the script gave about 50/50 screentime to Nick Morton and Ahmanet, but Cruise brought in writers he was more familiar with (Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman) to make changes to the script, including increasing Nick's screentime at the expense of Ahmanet's screentime and development.
    • Alex Kurtzman was director in-name only. It was essentially Cruise who was the actual director of the movie. Not helping was that Kurtzman's inexperience in directing big-budgeted action blockbusters was showing through, giving even more incentive for Cruise to take the reins.
    • The whole production team basically falling in line with whatever Cruise said, even going as far as overseeing the editing of the movie with his preferred editor, Andrew Mondshein.
  • Clint Eastwood changed so many things around when filming The Outlaw Josey Wales that he eventually fired the director and replaced him with himself. The Director's Guild of America now has an "Eastwood rule" preventing this sort of thing. Make what you will of the fact that Eastwood has since made a name for himself as a director of some repute.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Johnny Depp infamously decided to act like his character, Captain Jack Sparrow, was drunk the entire movie. This was instead of trying to act like a more traditional pirate badass like the directors wanted. When the directors gave Depp an ultimatum about this, Depp responded with "Trust me, or fire me." Sparrow became the Breakout Character of the franchise. Note that the character's creators were reported to be pleased with Depp's take, as it actually fit their idea of him as a trickster much better than a straightforward action hero.
  • According to Bruce Campbell, on The Quick and the Dead, Gene Hackman initially refused to do the scene where Herod leans to his aide and asks, "What are the odds on The Kid?" It was only when Sam Raimi explained his character's motivation that he agreed to do the scene as planned.
  • Harry Dean Stanton was quite difficult to deal with on Repo Man.
    • He wanted to do a "baseball-type signal" to Emilio Estevez in a scene where he had to show him where to park a car. Alex Cox - a notorious sports-hater - refused the suggestion. According to Cox on the DVD Commentary, Stanton lost his temper:
      "I've worked with the greatest directors of all time. Francis Ford Coppola. Monte Hellman. You know why they're great? Because they let me do whatever the fuck I wanted!"
    • On another occasion, while filming a scene in which Bud brandishes a bat at the Rodriguez brothers, he wanted a real bat and did actually use it in one take, swinging it around recklessly. The other cast members were (relatively) OK with it, but Robby Müller took Alex Cox aside and said: "Just now I felt the wind of a wooden baseball bat pass over my face. I will not shoot this scene unless all the actors use plastic bats." Unsurprisingly, Stanton was furious when asked to use a plastic bat, screaming out that "Harry Dean Stanton only uses REAL baseball bats." A literal tug of war ensued over the bat, much to the amusement of the crew. Fortunately, a quick-witted production assistant was able to swap the wooden bat out for a plastic one.
    • Stanton's general moodiness and constant grumbling about money prompted Cox to consider writing him out of the rest of the film and giving his remaining scenes to Lite. Michael Nesmith vetoed this plan, so Stanton stayed in the picture. It also helped a little that Stanton noticed how the crew revered Muller, and began to do so in turn. So if Cox wanted something done, he'd sometimes tell Stanton that it was "for Robby". It worked.
  • Robert Mitchum admitted that he took a subtle approach to this trope:
    Control is marvellous. You get a white chair with your name on it in lieu of salary. I don't want control like that. There is a very simple way to get control any time: Just forget your lines. When the cost of the scene is up to $40,000, they come over and say, "What's the problem?" "Oh, I have this idee fixe that it could be better." Believe me, they listen. I think it's a much simpler system than having control.
  • Alan Rickman only agreed to play the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves on the condition that he could play the character however he wanted. He played him as a Laughably Evil Large Ham in the otherwise straight-faced Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. He's often considered the best thing in the film.
  • John Travolta during the filming of Saturday Night Fever. To quote IMDB:
    "When John Travolta first saw the rushes, he was greatly upset that his solo dance was cut in close-up. He called Robert Stigwood and vocalized his concerns. It didn't seem right he explained, that he had worked so hard to get in shape and learn a complex dance just to see the sequence cut down in the editing room. It was important to Travolta for audiences to see his work and to know without a doubt that he was doing his own dancing. Stigwood agreed and told Travolta to go back and sit with the editors and personally supervise a new cut of the solo sequence."
    Since the dance scenes were so vital to the success of SNF, this probably counts as a "positive" example.
  • The shooting script for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band called for Peter Frampton's character to kill Steven Tyler's, but when it came time to film this scene, Aerosmith threatened to walk out. "There's no fucking way that Steven is gonna get directly offed by Frampton," commented Joe Perry. "It's gotta be an accident, the way it was in the original script we fucking agreed to." They finally agreed to a compromise, with Tyler's character being accidentally pushed to his death by Sandy Farina.
  • On his final film, The Shootist, John Wayne saw that the final shoot-out was edited to show him shooting a guy in the back. He said, "I've made over 250 pictures and have never shot a guy in the back. Change it." They did. However, Wayne had shot men in the back in several of his movies, including The Searchers. Wayne was also highly self-conscious of his public image, considering it unmanly to be photographed in production stills while makeup was being applied with a powder puff. He also insisted on using a particular reddish tint of makeup, which flattered his complexion but created headaches for cinematographer Bruce Surtees. Most importantly, he insisted on toning down the profanity and more explicit references to cancer from the original novel.
  • Patty Maloney was reportedly displeased when she read the script for the telefilm Sideshow, as it described her character as a "freak". The script was amended at her request.
  • Richard Pryor was initially unhappy with the blackface gag in Silver Streak. Originally, a white man walked in and believed George was black. Pryor was uncomfortable with the scene and felt it would be funnier if a black man walked in and is not fooled at all. Pryor asked Arthur Hiller for a re-shoot but Hiller refused. Pryor walked off the set and refused to return to filming until the scene was changed. Hiller relented and Pryor's idea was used for the final cut.
  • A positive example from Sixteen Candles: Carlin Glynn, who plays Brenda, confronted John Hughes about the fact that the script didn't call for her to apologize for forgetting her daughter's birthday, despite the fact that her character was described as a good and attentive mother. Hughes agreed and added the scene where Brenda tearfully apologizes to Sam.
  • Kirk Douglas got rid of the first director for Spartacus and brought in (then-)little-known Stanley Kubrick. Though directing the film made Kubrick famous, he later claimed that almost everything was really controlled by Douglas. It might have helped that, in addition to the lead, Douglas was also the producer. It's worth noting that the two of them were very good friends; Kubrick did it as a favor to Douglas.
    • The emphasis is that they were good friends; Douglas' behaviour didn't stop once his friend was the director, and he had numerous arguments with Kubrick over the course of filming. Their friendship dissolved as a result, and they never worked together again. Douglas later is alleged to have remarked that he respected Kubrick's abilities, but not Kubrick himself, calling him "a talented shit."
  • After Jamaica Inn, where star/co-producer Charles Laughton pushed him aside and took control of the film, Alfred Hitchcock tolerated this pretty much just once: Marlene Dietrich was allowed to have some creative control over how she was shot in Stage Fright (1950), mainly because she had learned cinematography and lighting from actual European masters of the art, and she was willing to directly collaborate with the film's cinematographer to get the effects desired. Otherwise, Hitchcock had very little tolerance for this kind of thing, save when the objection was at the level of writing.
  • The Star Trek films:
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:
      • William Shatner kept doing a sing-song delivery of the line "here it comes" (in the crucial scene where Kirk was tricking Khan into thinking he was sending information on Genesis rather than an override code to drop Reliant's shields). Meyer, who knew that Kirk was smarter than blatantly telegraphing to a highly-intelligent enemy that he was tricking him, kept demanding take after take. Finally, Shatner, fed up, gave a muted and petulant-sounding delivery of the line, hoping that Meyer would take the hint, finally cut it out and move on. Guess which take ended up in the movie?
      • Shatner was quite reluctant to do the "getting old" theme in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He was eventually talked into it, but did get his wish that they not include a line which mentioned how old Kirk was.
    • Even when the actors direct the movies, they're not immune to this trope. Shatner's original draft for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier involved Spock and McCoy betraying Kirk alongside the rest of the Enterprise. Naturally, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley refused to go along with this, as it would be out-of-character for them, especially given the events of the previous three films.
    • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country:
      • There were a few lines that Nichelle Nichols refused to say, given their racist nature (said about Klingons in the movie, but they could easily have applied to African Americans). Some were cut, others were given to other characters. She also disagreed with the scene about needing to race through books to find the translation for Klingon, stating that as the Communications Officer she should be able to speak Klingon. She was overruled. Ironically, Reboot Uhura would be established as speaking fluent Klingon.
      • William Shatner tried it when it came to the line "Let [the Klingons] die!" Every take, he immediately recoiled as if in horror at what he'd just said. Director Nicholas Meyer promised Shatner they wouldn't cut the recoil. Guess what got cut.
      • During the final battle, Captain Sulu and the Excelsior was supposed to arrive dramatically and use its charting gaseous anomalies equipment to jury-rig a heat-seeking photon torpedo. Shatner, however, insisted that the Enterprise should save itself. In consequence, the Excelsior arrives just in time to be shot at, and the gaseous-anomalies equipment is magically onboard the Enterprise instead.
  • Christian Bale was offered the part of Marcus in Terminator Salvation, but wanted John Connor. This expanded the role, and kind of threw things off-balance. Of course, the most infamous case involving Bale is the rant he delivered at the DP during the making of Salvation. In the leaked audiotape, Bale chews out the director of photography for changing the lighting levels while he was in the midst of performing a scene, and subsequently tells director Joseph "McG" McGinty that he will not have it happen again. Of course, Christian Bale would later go on to apologize for this rant sometime later of his own volition, and most of the cast and crew's reaction when asked about it was "You don't change the lighting during a scene".
  • Ralph Richardson took his role as God in Time Bandits so seriously that he submitted his own red ink edits complete with message "God wouldn't say that".
  • The release of the Tombstone director's cut on Blu-Ray has re-ignited claims that Kurt Russell was the actual director. Kevin Jarre, the initial director, was fired because he refused to cut the screenplay. Following that, George P. Cosmatos was brought in to finish the film. However, following Cosmatos's death in 2005, Russell claimed that Cosmatos was simply following Russell's orders. He'd been recommended by Sylvester Stallone after doing the same for him on Rambo: First Blood Part II. This was all essentially a dodge around the DGA and the Eastwood Rule, which prevents actors from taking over for a fired director.
  • Training Day originally ended with Alonzo being a Karma Houdini, but Denzel Washington insisted that he get his comeuppance.
  • Robert Pattinson did this in Twilight, having said he purposefully attempted to portray Edward as a creepy, obsessed nutjob because that was how he saw the character in reading the book. Pattinson has been frank about his bafflement with the franchise, explicitly stating in interviews that he finds the books disturbingly personal private fantasies and Edward a repressed, self-hating ball of issues who really shouldn't be a romantic hero. He mostly auditioned for the movie so he could have a chance to hit on Kristen Stewart, which is actually pretty appropriate for the character he played.
  • Matthew Goode, who played Veidt in the Watchmen movie, was unhappy with the character's backstory as presented in the comic, and came up with his own - that Veidt gave up his family fortune because his parents were Nazi war profiteers. It's barely touched on in the movie, though.
  • According to Joss Whedon, Kevin Costner "fired" the director of Waterworld (his then-friend Kevin Reynolds, who helmed Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) halfway through. Costner demanded the movie to be shot in the ocean rather than in a water tank on land... which led to the construction of an expensive water tank set in the ocean. Since there were no bathrooms on the set people had to be ferried regularly to land so they could poop. Throw in the fact that between takes Costner was living in a mansion with swimming pool and a cook for his personal use with all expenses covered by the producers and you'll understand that the rest of the crew was a bit upset. And last but not least, Costner demanded the VFX crew to hide his receding hairline digitally (not a cheap feat in 1995). The result? The most expensive film ever produced until the release of Titanic (1997).
  • The disability fake out/somersault scene in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was Gene Wilder's idea, and he only agreed to take the title role on the condition that it was used. Director Mel Stuart had been so eager to give Gene the part that he didn't make him audition in the first place. He also had total control of his costume, from the dimensions to the colors to the number of pockets.
  • Lillian Gish did this for The Black Pirate, despite not even being in the movie. She was adamant that her husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who played the titular character, was not allowed to kiss his leading lady Billie Dove and insisted on acting as a stand-in for Dove for the final scene.
  • Subverted early on in the production of The Fly (1986) according to producer Stuart Cornfeld, who recounted the story on the Projection Room podcast: Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, actual lovers at the time, were cast as Seth and Veronica and prior to the first table read of the screenplay were extensively rehearsing together and adding a lot of improvised dialogue. They incorporated this into the table read. When it was over, writer-director David Cronenberg simply and coolly announced that everyone would take a break, and then those who wanted to do the script as written would return for another go-round. Goldblum and Davis returned, and the finished film's dialogue is near-exactly what Cronenberg wrote (the more elaborate DVD releases include the shooting script as a bonus feature).

    Film — Animated 
  • Mike Myers had already recorded some of his lines for Shrek when he decided that his character should have a Scottish accent. This meant not only going back and rerecording all of the lines, but also reanimating significant portions of the film which had already been completed at the time. The latter added millions of dollars to the films budget, but Myers insisted, and the studio complied.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Rik Mayall agreed to appear in the Blackadder episode "Bells" on the condition that his part be in every conceivable way funnier than Rowan Atkinson's. The showrunners agreed, and Lord Flashheart, British television's most legendary ham, was born.
  • In later seasons of Charmed:
    • Rose McGowan was fed up of Paige being written as someone who Really Gets Around. After one episode where there was just one scene of her on the couch with an extra, she went to the writers and said "Paige isn't a ho" - resulting in Paige getting romance arcs in the next three seasons.
    • All three actresses hated the increasingly Stripperiffic outfits they had to get dressed up in whenever one of them was transformed into a Cute Monster Girl. Before the final season, they went to producers and complained. Part of the reason for Billie's introduction was for a young female to provide Fanservice.
    • A proposed storyline for Season 5 was a romance between Paige and Cole. Both their actors found the idea disgusting and refused to go through with it.
  • One episode of Dad's Army called for Captain Mainwaring to have a grenade dropped down his trousers, prompting him to hastily remove them. However, Arthur Lowe refused to do it, citing a clause in his contract that he not be filmed without his trousers on, so it went to Corporal Jones.
  • Daredevil (2015): Charlie Cox and Deborah Ann Woll have both spoken about working with Season 3's showrunner Erik Oleson with regards to Matt's and Karen's story arcs.
    • In Cox's case, it was about working to seamlessly integrate Matt's character growth from the first two seasons of the show plus The Defenders (2017).
    • Meanwhile, Woll encouraged Oleson to make Karen's past something difficult for her to endure and avoid the misogynistic and sexualized violence that Karen was subjected to in the two comics storylines that most prominently feature her (becoming a drug-addicted porn star who indirectly gives up Matt's identity to Fisk in a moment of weakness in Daredevil: Born Again, and her fridging at the hands of Bullseye in Guardian Devil). During production of Daredevil season 3, she worked very closely with showrunner Erik Oleson to ensure Karen's backstory steered towards something that made her more heroic. In one interview prior to season 3, she said, "If we ever do delve into Karen's past, please don't make it that she shot someone while saving a busload of children. You know? I wanted to encourage him to make this difficult, make it something hard for her to get over, and so we can hopefully pull off something pretty interesting. I like the idea of compromising the character in some way, but I just don't know that it has to be sexual, or that it has to be in a way that causes her to lose her strength." The end result is that Karen is a former drug user, who was in a toxic relationship with a drug dealer, and she kicked the habit after she got her brother killed while driving under the influence. She never gives Matt's identity up to Fisk due to Fisk figuring it out all by himself. And her death in Guardian Devil ends up being subverted at the last second by having Dex kill Father Lantom instead.
  • Neal McDonough is an extremely serious Catholic and, as such, refuses to do any sex scenes on any show he appears in, citing his religious beliefs as reason. An interesting example of this would be his demand that his character on Desperate Housewives be given a redemptive ending (sparing the life of Susan and Mike's kid at the last minute) and ending up in a catatonic state in a mental institute, surrounded by imaginary versions of his dead family. Though this ending did tick off some people behind the scenes (series creator Mark Cherry), as previous attempts by cast members to control their character's storylines were shot down by Cherry.
  • Doctor Who:
    • William Hartnell demanded that dialogue implying Brother–Sister Incest between Richard the Lionheart and his sister Joanna in "The Crusade" be removed, as he felt it was inappropriate for a family series. The Incest Subtext was still implied in the performances.
    • Jon Pertwee's run had a mild (and positive) example, in that he was a fan of action movies, which reflected in his Doctor becoming more of a hands-on action-oriented figure than his predecessors. He also was fond of gadgets and incorporated them into the show, notably the Whomobile, which Pertwee personally owned. His final story, "Planet of the Spiders", featured an extended chase scene involving the Whomobile, his old car Bessie, and a gyrocopter, possibly as a farewell gift to Pertwee.
    • Toward the end of his tenure as the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker was becoming pretty insufferable, demanding a minimum of retakes and, because of his volatile romantic relationship with Lalla Ward, occasionally refusing to be so much as in the same room as her. This meant that they did not rehearse scenes with each other and barely even looked at each other on camera. In his final season, Baker met his match with a new production team, led by John Nathan-Turner, who began instituting the now-infamous Limited Wardrobe and other creative edicts. Reportedly, Baker went to the showrunners asking what would happen if Baker left the show as a show of clout, and was very surprised when they called his bluff.
    • A milder version happened much later when Matt Smith, unhappy with how the Eleventh Doctor would dress (word is he was to have a more swashbuckling look, à la Jack Sparrow)note , successfully lobbied to have the character's look changed to a more professorial appearance, with the inclusion of the bowtie.
    • Another positive example in Big Finish Doctor Who. Paul McGann pushed for a new look for his Doctor, based on World War I-era navy clothes, as well as a World War I storyline. This happened in "Dark Eyes".
      • This played in in a very much "ask forgiveness before permission" fashion. McGann had volunteered to do a photoshoot to put together new photos for the Big finish CD covers and production artwork. The producers were overjoyed, as they'd long since gotten tired of reusing the twenty-years-old stills from his original movie appearance. When he showed up in his bluish-black leather overcoat, jeans, white t-shirt, and canvas satchel instead of his Victorian velvets... the producers were still overjoyed, and they were more than happy to work the changes into the script. An appearance by McGann in costume at a convention soon after, which met to wildly positive reactions by the fans, was just icing on the cake.
    • Yet another, which was more a request than a demand, during the second series of the new show: Billie Piper requested an episode where she got the opportunity to be funny, after spending the first season tackling some rather serious material. Hence the episode "New Earth".
    • In "Tooth and Claw", the script originally had Queen Victoria liken Sir Robert to Sir Francis Drake (rather than Sir Walter Raleigh), until Derek Riddell (Sir Robert) pointed out that this would have been incorrect for the reference the Queen was making.
    • "School Reunion" was originally meant to have Sarah Jane Smith be reintroduced as a recovering alcoholic, but Elisabeth Sladen suggested that this be removed.
    • In "The Unicorn and the Wasp", the Doctor was originally supposed to ram the Vespiform into the lake with the car that he and Donna commandeer, until David Tennant objected because he was concerned that that ending would portray the Doctor as a murderer.
      • The casting of Fenella Woolgar (who, coincidentally or not, has starred in the Poirot (1989) series twice as of 2010) as Agatha Christie was made at Tennant's suggestion.
    • In defiance of Robert Shearman's wishes, Christopher Eccleston raged against the the lone Dalek in the episode "Dalek" instead of mocking it flippantly. After seeing how well it worked, though, Shearman was pleased.
  • According to some reports, the romantic relationship in ER between Dr. Benton (played by the African-American Eriq La Salle) and Dr. Corday (played by the white Alex Kingston) ended because La Salle thought that it had Unfortunate Implications suggesting that successful middle-class black people were "above" dating other black people.
  • Growing Pains suffered badly from this after Kirk Cameron became a born-again Christian. Cameron began demanding final say over any and all scripts, demanded that his on-camera love-interest/co-star Julie McCullough be fired simply for appearing in Playboy, and threw tantrums whenever anything remotely sexual happened (be it something harmlessly non-verbal like his character having the keys to his girlfriend's apartment, which Kirk believed would imply that the two were fornicating, or even a fake-out scene where Kirk is shown in bed with another woman, as part of a play he was doing). In 1991, the executive producers had finally had enough of Cameron, and quit the show, which was quietly cancelled a year later.
    • Cameron has tried to continue this into his adult career, one of his most notable demands is he will not kiss any woman on screen who is not his real-life wife, requiring his wife to be cast as a “kiss double”. Operative word being “try”, since he has nowhere near the star power as an adult that he did as a teen, and his antics have basically killed his career in Hollywood. He nowadays can only find work in low-budget Christian movies, or his own vanity projects.
  • In the 1986 Lord Peter Wimsey adaptations, Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter insisted on Lord Peter's proposal to Harriet being the climax of "Gaudy Night", as in the books, rather than a couple of lines in the middle.
  • The Punisher (2017): Jon Bernthal was very aware throughout filming that Frank Castle should not come off as a completely admirable hero, and in a few scenes convinced the writers to more clearly play up his darker nature.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • In "The Naked Time", where a space affliction removes the crew's inhibitions, the writers initially wanted Sulu to run around threatening people with a katana. George Takei disliked the stereotyping, but instead of complaining, he suggested playing Three Musketeers instead. His suggestion created one of the most memorable scenes in the series. (It also gave him an excuse to show off the fencing lessons he'd taken to un-falsify his claim of knowing how to fence when he auditioned.)
      • In "Plato's Stepchildren", the famous kiss between Uhura and Kirk was originally supposed to have another male lead, but Shatner insisted that "if anyone is going to kiss Nichelle, it's going to be Captain Kirk!" Shatner's prima donna antics in general behind the scenes would lead to pretty much the whole cast (excepting Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, who were Shatner's dear friends throughout) hating him for many years. Nichelle Nichols famously went off on Shatner during a later interview that he was conducting with her, starting her rant with "Okay, here's the reasons why I despise you." The importance of the bi-racial kiss is in fact one of the only instances where she and Shatner agreed.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • A positive example - on the first season episode "Angel One", Patrick Stewart sought to have the script changed to remove the sexist elements. He was overruled, resulting in a thoroughly despised episode.
      • Stewart also wasn't too thrilled with his stodgy, preachy, apparently sexless Captain in Seasons 1-2, and intimated that he might leave the show if something wasn't done about it. Actually, the phrase he used according to Ron D. Moore was, "there isn't nearly enough shooting and screwing on this show." The vacation episode, "Captain's Holiday", was tailor-made to please Patrick.
      • According to the legendary blog of Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner had to throw what amounted to a polite temper tantrum early on in filming. During the filming of the first batch of episodes, whether Data could use contractions in his dialogue changed from writer to writer or director to director. It got to the point where Spiner refused to continue with a scene until the showrunners made up their minds one way or another, permanently. Wheaton added in his blog entry "Given how important it was to the character, I really can't blame him."
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • In the first season episode "If Wishes Were Horses", Colm Meaney, who played O'Brien, vocally protested against the first draft of the script, in which his character would encounter a Leprechaun, believing it to be full of demeaning stereotypes of Irish people. As a result, the episode was rewritten so that the entity would appear as the fairy tale character Rumpelstiltskin. Meaney had been forced to share the screen with some offensively Irish space-colonists in "Up the Long Ladder" on TNG, but his higher position on the DS9 cast made him confident that he could demand rewrites this time.
      • Nana Visitor, who played Kira Nerys, was horrified when the writers began to overtly Ship Tease her character with Dukat, and protested to the producers that there was no way that the character would ever develop romantic feelings for somebody who had personally overseen the brutal occupation and genocide of her culture. In her own words: "I remember Ira [Steven Behr, the showrunner] and I on opposite ends of that ops table yelling at each other". As a result, the plotline was abandoned. Most of the fandom thinks that this was on balance a good thing. The episode "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night" was the result of Visitor's campaigning - with the producers teasing Visitor that "no, you aren't having a relationship with Dukat, but your mother did."note  Visitor had the last laugh, though - the script originally called for Kira to forgive her mother for what she had done, but Visitor insisted that Kira would not be so sympathetic that soon after finding out ("Maybe she could be sympathetic about the subject in 20 years."), and she got her wish.
      • On the other hand, Visitor knew when to pick her battles: she and Rene Auberjonois both opposed the Kira/Odo romance, believing the two characters were better off as friends, but neither of them ultimately stood in the way of them getting together.
      • In the Grand Finale, Sisko was originally going to leave forever, but Avery Brooks argued that a black man leaving his pregnant wife would be full of Unfortunate Implications. In this case, the creators agreed and the ending was changed. It's also been reported that Sisko's reluctance to share the rest of the crew's enthusiasm for the Vic Fontaine holoprogram, because of the racism of real 1950s Las Vegas, was a reflection of Brooks' own opinions.
    • Star Trek: Voyager: According to Trek legend, Kate Mulgrew's reaction to discovering a padded bra sewn into her uniform was to tear it out with her bare hands, march into the writer's room, and slam it on the table, flatly informing them "I'm not wearing this."note  When asked about the story, Robert Picardo wasn't able to corroborate it but conceded that "it sounds like something Kate would say".
  • Twin Peaks originally planned to have a romance develop between Dale Cooper and Audrey Horne. Kyle MacLachlan objected, stating he felt it would be out of character for Cooper to enter into a relationship with a high school student, although rumor has it that the real reason was because Maclachlan was dating co-star Lara Flynn Boyle at the time, who was jealous of Sherilyn Fenn.
  • On The West Wing, Richard Schiff rejected the infamous secret military space shuttle leak plot, arguing his character would never do such a thing. He did ultimately play the stuff more or less as written by the post-Sorkin writers, but the way he acts it one can't help but wonder if he's covering for somebody. To this day, the plotline doesn't sit well with fans and quite a few fans agree with Schiff over the writers.
  • Happened twice on What's Happening!!, eventually leading to the show's cancellation.
    • During the second season, co-star Fred Berry demanded a higher salary and better studio accommodations for the actors, a dispute that eventually led to a full-fledged walkout by Berry and star Ernest Thomas during the second season episode "If I'm Elected".
    • In the third season, Berry and Thomas again threatened to strike in demand for another raise. This time, the executive producers opted to cancel the series rather than to give in.
  • Paul Eddington, a firm believer in nuclear disarmament, once convinced the writers to rework the script of a Yes, Prime Minister episode that he believed was rather too flippant about nuclear war.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike wasn't meant to last long but James Marsters wanted a job, so he played lines that were meant to be dismissive of Drusilla as instead reacting to her like the most doting boyfriend. It worked.
  • The Plot Against America: Due to obligations with Stranger Things and other projects, Winona Ryder's schedule was tight, but she agreed to appear in The Plot Against America playing a 1940s Jewish woman on the condition that her character would say "Gay kocken offen yom!" at someone. It's Yiddish for "Go shit in the ocean" and basically means "Go fuck yourself." Co-creator David Simon was only too happy to oblige. Her character ultimately says it to the rabidly antisemitic Henry Ford.
  • In a positive example, Jenny Agutter suggested a storyline for one episode of Call the Midwife to showrunner Heidi Thomas; she knew that the "salt test" diagnosing babies with cystic fibrosis was developed in 1958, due to having relatives with the condition herself, and suggested that Dr. Turner would learn about this medical breakthrough.
  • During his guest appearance on Happy!, "Weird Al" Yankovic was supposed to play a giant foul-mouthed baby, but Weird Al does not swear, so the showrunners allowed him to ad-lib lines where necessary.
  • James Woods was able to use his clout to have the original screenwriter of Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story fired because he, a supporter of the Republican Party and a staunch defender of Giuliani, hated the script's percieved "liberal bias" and hired a conservative screenwriter to make the former New York mayor (and future Trump ally) more sympathetic.

  • The music video for the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn" was originally supposed to feature Kerry King (who performed the guitar solo) getting knocked offstage by a gorilla. King's response was "If there's gonna be anyone knocking anyone offstage, it'll be me knocking the gorilla", which is what subsequently happened.
  • The Cranberries didn't like Samuel Bayer's original cut of "Ridiculous Thoughts" and re-edited the video with live footage, credited as "Freckles Flynn".
  • According to the oral history I Want My MTV, director John Landis was shocked by Michael Jackson's crotch-grabbing "panther dance" when shooting the epilogue of the "Black or White" video. He warned Jackson that he had a kid-heavy fanbase (unlike Madonna or Prince) and that he was courting trouble with his moves, but Jackson said he was "expressing [him]self" and was able to overrule Landis's objections. When the video premiered on a four-network simulcast in the U.S. — Fox aired it immediately after an episode of The Simpsons — the resultant furore over the epilogue (both over the dance moves and its seemingly random violence) resulted in it being immediately cut from subsequent airings, though it was later re-edited to justify the violence and even shown uncut in later years.
  • During the filming of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music video, director Samuel Bayernote  was basically acting like a dictatorial jerk towards the extras (as well as demanding numerous takes, which Kurt was never fond of doing in general) and managed to piss off Kurt Cobain in particular. Kurt edited the final cut of the music video, taking out several elements, and giving himself an up close facial shot at the end. The video's memorably chaotic crowd scenes are a direct result of the extras, sick of sitting through an entire day's worth of takes, moshing more aggressively than they otherwise would have. Kurt also disobeyed Bayer's direct order to stay as far away as possible from the on-set flamethrower by using it to light a cigarette.

  • According to artist Doug Watson, during the development of Demolition Man, his backglass artwork proposals were repeatedly rejected by Wesley Snipes, who wanted to ensure his career wasn't jeopardised by having him look like a crazed character. Linda Deal did the final backglass design.
  • Occurred during the development of Stern Pinball's Shrek, whose release was delayed due to the time needed for Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and the other actors to give final approval for their in-game replacement voices.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This happens in Professional Wrestling. When a wrestler (or a group of wrestlers) becomes very successful, they gain influence over their bookings. Examples include Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair (less and less as time went on though), The Kliq (especially Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, and Triple H), and Kurt Angle.

    Creative and management don't even have a problem with this a lot of the time because it makes the promotion look good when their top stars are... starring. The real problem emerges when otherwise talented stars lower on the card are getting shuffled around and overlooked because of it. Especially since those lower-card stars can end up with their credibility damaged in the eyes of fans, which is a very bad thing if a top star suddenly needs to be replaced without warning (such as a legitimate injury that puts him on the shelf for months).
  • After Triple H won King of the Ring, he refused to wear a crown. When he was going to be crowned the first time by Mankind, HHH instead took the crown and smashed it over Mankind's head. This was tried a few more times, but the end result was always the same. Finally, creative gave up on the idea of geting him to wear the crown.
  • During WrestleMania 28, Brodus Clay was going to have a dance segment on the main stage, but creative wanted it cut for time. However, John Cena stepped in on Clay's behalf, with Cena saying he would outright refuse to wrestle unless the segment went through in full. And since this was the show where Cena's "Once in a Lifetime" dream match against The Rock was going to happen, Brodus Clay got to dance.

  • By 1950, it was clear that the Commissioner of Baseball, who was supposed to be an authoritarian figure over players and team owners alike, was little more than a figurehead and the owners were clearly allowed to do whatever they wanted, in particular New York Yankees owners Del Webb and Dan Topping. Examples:
    • Webb orchestrated the dismissal of commissioner Happy Chandler after discovering Chandler was looking to ban him from the game for associating with gamblers, then led the committee that named Chandler's successor, Ford Frick, who would do very little to reign in Webb/Topping and the other owners' actions in his term.
    • When Connie Mack's family announced their Athletics club was for sale in 1954, the buyers came down to a group promising to keep the club in Philadelphia - and Arnold Johnson, a former business partner of Webb's who owned Yankee Stadium's lease and the ballpark in Kansas City that housed one of the Yankee's minor league clubs. The owners rejected the Philadelphia group's bid and approved Johnson's, who proceeded to move the club to KC and give Webb's construction company the contract to expand the KC stadium, while the Yankees moved the minor league team to Denver with no complaint. The Yankees and Athletics proceeded to work so many player deals between each other, which mostly benefited the Yankees, that the Athletics would be frequently referred to as a Yankees farm club.
    • After the Dodgers and Giants left the New York area, the struggles to bring the National League back to the area for the next few years, despite the commissioner openly saying New York was open to the National League and park commissioner Robert Moses wanting a team for his proposed Flushing Meadows stadium, was considered largely due to Webb and Topping's insistence that New York was now exclusively their territory and they had some mythical right to veto any other club coming to the area.
    • When baseball finally relented to expansion in 1960 to end the threat of the Continental League's formation, the original deal was to give New York a new NL club - the Mets - and the other three expansion teams to cities that didn't have major league teams. However, one of the new American League clubs went to Los Angeles despite them already having the Dodgers. This was because Topping raised such a snit that, since the Mets were "invading" the Yankees' territory, the American League deserved a Los Angeles club, while Webb wanted his construction company to be able to build a ballpark in LA (he had been denied the contract to build the Dodgers' stadium).

    Video Games 
  • After being cast in the role of Ansem the Wise for Kingdom Hearts II, Christopher Lee walked into the studio and gave an ultimatum to the director: "I'm a busy man, so I'm going to read my lines once, and only once, and then walk out of the studio." That's exactly what he did.
  • Red Dead Redemption 2: At the time of filming a scene in which Dutch van der Linde and his followers aim their guns at Arthur Morgan and John Marston in Beaver Hollow in the final part of Chapter 6, voice actor Gabriel Sloyer would never believe that his character, Javier Escuella, would turn his own weapon against his "brothers" and thus go against his good nature (according to an interview with Sloyer). Though Rockstar initially rejected Sloyer's idea of getting Javier's reluctance to aim his gun at Arthur and John into the scene, Sloyer insisted that they get that part in, until Rockstar finally gave in to his request.
  • While recording lines for the game Star Trek: Judgment Rites, William Shatner's Canadian pronunciation of the word "sabotage" - "sabba-taj" - riled the director, who suggested he pronounce it as "sa-bo-tawj". Shatner refused, saying, "I don't say 'sabotage'. You say 'sabotage'. I say 'sabotaaage'." He quickly followed up with, "Please don't tell me how to do it. It sickens me." The recording got passed around and the lines became a meme of the early internet. Sometimes the quote is misattributed to a recording for an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series, from twenty years earlier, in which Shatner also pronounces "sabotage" distinctively, as he does even in the original series itself.

    Western Animation 
  • From 2002 until 2009, Shaggy on Scooby-Doo was portrayed as a vegetarian like his voice actor, Casey Kasem. This was following Kasem having quit the role for a few years, after being forced to voice Shaggy in a 1997 Burger King commercial, and only agreeing to return if Shaggy was portrayed as a vegetarian too.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Jose Canseco appeared as one of the ringers Mr. Burns hires for the nuclear plant's softball team in "Homer at the Bat". He disliked the character model they came up with for him, and both he and his wife at the time objected to the original reason he misses the final game (waking up late in bed with Edna Krabappel), and Canseco basically intimidated the showrunners into changing his character's appearance and part in the show.
    • Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier appeared as himself in the episode "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?". Originally, Frazier was to be knocked out by Barney Gumble. However, Frazier's son objected to this, citing that Frazier was a world champion who wouldn't be knocked out in such a manner. Instead, Frazier beat up Gumble, and stuffed him into a garbage can.
    • When John Waters appeared as John in "Homer's Phobia", John's line "Do you know who would like [Homer]? My landlord." was originally "My father", but was changed by Waters's request. He didn't want to imply his actual father was intolerant of his sexuality.
    • Paul and Linda McCartney appeared as guest stars in "Lisa the Vegetarian" under the condition that Lisa would convert to vegetarianism permanently, stating that not doing so would confuse viewers. It also helps that the earlier episode, "Lisa's Wedding" stated that Lisa converted to vegetarianism at some point. This remains one of the few permanent changes in a show that delights in Status Quo Is God.
    • Lawrence Tierney guest starred as Don Brodka in "Marge Be Not Proud". Then showrunner Josh Weinstein, called Tierney's appearance "the craziest guest star experience we ever had". In addition to yelling at and intimidating employees of the show, Tierney made unreasonable requests such as abandoning his distinctive voice to do the part in a southern accent and refusing to perform lines if he did not "get the jokes".
    • Richard Gere would only guest star in "She of Little Faith" if Lisa permanently converted to Buddhism, and said "Free Tibet".
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Or rather wag the creator. When recording for the Deception arc, George Lucas initially didn't want James Arnold Taylor to voice Rako Hardeen so that Obi-Wan and Rako sounded different, as the former steals the latter's identity in that story arc. Dave Filoni and the creative team however were confident that Taylor could do a voice that sounded completely different from Obi-Wan and had him voice Rako; they eventually showed his performance to Lucas and he liked it.

Alternative Title(s): Actor Meddling


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