Acting is a profession that requires a lot of versatility and willingness to test boundaries. In the act of immersion, sometimes things are done that the actor himself would never even consider, yet it must be played as natural. Often, this bravery pays off with a critically acclaimed performance that’s lauded for years or even becomes cinematic history. Sometimes, however, it results in a complete nightmare for everyone involved. Here are some particularly painful examples of the latter.
Burt Reynolds’ Deliverance from a pain free existence
Deliverance is a classic drama about man against nature (and other man), but it’s infamous for a scene too graphic to discuss here. Strangely enough, the only open regret from any of the actors comes from one who broke his butt a completely different way. There’s a scene in which the canoe Burt Reynolds’ character is paddling goes over a waterfall. Director John Boorman wanted to use a dummy, but Reynolds wasn’t having it. Being literally the condensed essence of 1970s masculinity, he insisted on performing his own stunts and went down the waterfall himself, landing on rocks that shattered his tailbone. Adding insult to injury, all that verisimilitude didn’t even create a more lifelike effect.
"He said his shoulder really hit a rock, and his head hit another rock," comedian Norm Macdonald told Howard Stern in 2016. "And then he said the next thing he remembered was he was way down stream, all of his clothes were torn off. […] Next thing he remembers, he’s waking up in the hospital, John Boorman’s at his bedside. And he goes, ‘I said to John, how’d it look… on the dailies?’ And John Boorman said, ‘It looked like a dummy falling over a waterfall.’"
Kate Winslet’s autograph agony
Titanic was a massively successful romantic dramatization of the sinking of the titular ship. It’s full of memorable moments, including a scene in which Kate Winslet’s Rose character asks Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack to "draw me like one of your French girls." It’s a passionate moment showing her character overcoming the disapproval of her fiancée and mother to claim her own agency and embrace the man she’s fallen in love with. Yet even now, weirdly obsessive fans try to get her to sign pictures of herself naked, and she’d love for that to stop.
"I don’t sign that picture", she told Yahoo! News. "It feels very uncomfortable. Why would you do that?" Winslet is now 41, a happily married mother of three and a multiple award-winning actress. She finds herself baffled by why certain members of her fanbase are so obsessed with this one particular image decades later.
Taylor Lautner would like his shirt back, please
Taylor Lautner played the werewolf character Jacob in the Twilight series. His lycanthropic transformations were accompanied with the removal of his clothes, giving fans of the series many opportunities to view his fit, muscular body. Many, many more opportunities than he was ever comfortable with.
"If I had to choose, I would never take my shirt off again in a movie," Taylor has elaborated, "but I guess that’s not very realistic. I certainly won’t be asking to do it, though."
While he takes pride in the effort he put in to get the physique shown off in the films, he worries that it gets in the way of people appreciating the work he put in to polish his acting craft. He doesn’t want to be seen as "just a body," but a competent actor that’s qualified for non-beefcake roles.
Even Eva Mendes gets intimidated
Once Upon a Time in Mexico concludes director Robert Rodriguez’s "Mexico Trilogy" with Johnny Depp playing CIA agent Sheldon Sands and Eva Mendes as a sadistic AFN operative who betrays him. They wind up kissing before the former shoots the latter dead. It’s a pretty epic scene.
Mendes does have one particular regret about that sequence, however. Seems she’d been harboring a long crush on Depp, and wishes the kiss had been drawn out longer. "I was so intimidated by him," she explained.
Terence Stamp’s missing scene partner
In The Phantom Menace, the first of the much-maligned Star Wars prequels trilogy, much of the film takes place establishing various debates in the Galactic Senate that lead to the establishment of the totalitarian Empire that dominates the original trilogy. Terence Stamp plays Chancellor Valorum, who’s ushered out in favor of the secret Sith Lord Palpatine by a vote of "no confidence" from Queen Amidala, played by Natalie Portman. It’s about as exciting to watch as an actual Senate hearing, but it’s important to the overall plot (or what passes for one).
Stamp was excited at first by the idea of working alongside Portman, confessing an admiration for her. However, when he actually arrived on set, Portman was nowhere in sight, and he was directed to a piece of paper taped to the wall and told that was for all purposes the "actress" he was expected to dialog with. His disappointment was palpable. "It was just pretty boring," he was reported to say later.
Jim Carrey’s Kick-Ass regrets
In the 2013 action comedy Kick-Ass 2, Jim Carrey plays a superhero called Colonel Stars and Stripes who’s gruesomely murdered by the supervillan group who become the antagonists of the title character. A few months after the film was released, Carrey publicly condemned the level of violence of the film after experiencing change of heart in the aftermath of the tragic Sandy Hook Massacre, which happened shortly after he’d wrapped up filming his scenes.
"I did Kick-Ass 2 a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence," wrote Carrey. "My apologies to others involve[d] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart."
Jennifer Lawrence’s soused sex scene
Passengers is a science fiction adventure starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Despite that megawatt cast, it didn’t do very well in the box office, partly thanks to the revelation of a crucial plot twist that makes the film significantly darker than it looks. The disturbing fact that a crucial plot point involves a startling disregard for the consent and personal autonomy of one of the characters isn’t helped by Lawrence admitting she spent the sex scenes too drunk to remember doing them.
She had jitters about the shoot because it was going to be her first time filming a sex scene and also felt guilty about doing so with Pratt, who was married. "I got really drunk," she admitted, "But that led to more anxiety because I was like ‘What have I done? I don’t know’… And it was gonna be my first time kissing a married man, and the guilt is the worst feeling in your stomach."
Sharon Stone felt Basic-ally deceived
In Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone plays writer/murderer Catherine Tramell. The character is performed as a classic noir vampy type, easily able to manipulate the men around her. That element is ratcheted up in a scene where she’s interrogated by police, whom she completely disarms with wit, snark—and eventually just a simple crossing and uncrossing of her legs, revealing her lack of underwear. It’s an iconic dramatic scene of power reversal, and Stone had no idea how it turned out until her first viewing of the finished film.
She later claimed she was advised on set by director Paul Verhoeven to remove her underwear because it was distracting the shot. The director advised that the scene would be playful innuendo and nothing graphic would be seen. This, famously, turned out not to be the case, and Stone was so shocked the first time she viewed the film she said she slapped Verhoeven.
Bruce Campbell has a bloody awful time
Evil Dead II was an absolute bloodbath on either side of the camera, and lead actor Bruce Campbell was constantly covered in gallons of sticky gore. In his memoir, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, Campbell wrote that all the fake blood made him pretty miserable — and also admits it was his own fault. "Out of sheer bullheadedness," Campbell said, "I had insisted on using the original, time-tested Karo syrup formula from the first Evil Dead film. The visual effect was nice, but I became the object of desire for every fly in Wadesboro."
Campbell had an especially hard time in the scene when a geyser of blood bursts out of a wall and slams into his face, drowning him in red goo. In the scene, it looks like Campbell is standing upright, but really, he’s lying down, and the blood is being dumped from a giant drum hovering above his face. Campbell was more than a little worried about suffocating, but that didn’t stop director Sam Raimi from dousing him in 55 gallons of fake blood. "I lived to tell the tale," Campbell wrote, "but every time I blew my nose for the next two weeks, the snot was bright red."
Elliot Page’s character makes a bad joke
The 2007 hit Juno follows the titular pregnant teen (Elliot Page) as she decides to give her baby to a wealthy couple (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). And it’s during a scene in which Page’s Juno is discussing potential baby names with Bateman’s Mark that things get problematic. Speaking with Bustle, Page said they majorly regret this moment because their character makes a homophobic joke. When Bateman floats the possibility of naming the baby "Madison," Juno responds, "Isn’t that a little gay?"
"It wasn’t something I totally registered at the time," Page told Bustle. "But, of course, now that I’m older I do. So many movies I loved as a kid are just rampant with homophobia and transphobia and biphobia, and I’m not excusing it by any means." Page came out as transgender in 2020, and has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights for many years.
Several years after the release of Juno, Page did a reading of the Juno script for Planned Parenthood, and when they got to that bit, they skipped the line entirely.
Denzel Washington gets all wet
Based on a 1980s TV show, The Equalizer stars Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, an unassuming widower who works at a hardware store and reads classic literature in his spare time — not that he has a lot of it to spare, because he’s always busy killing bad guys. An ex-CIA agent, McCall gets pulled back into action when a young woman (Chloe Grace Moretz) is viciously beaten by Russian gangsters. That kickstarts a war between McCall and the mob, one that eventually escalates into a tool shop showdown.
After luring the bad guys to his place of employment, McCall uses all manner of tricks and tools to pick them off one by one. Eventually, an explosion sets off the store’s sprinkler system, giving us an awesome moment when McCall uses a nail gun to bring down the villain, looking incredibly badass as he gets drenched in the artificial rain and water rolls down his stone-cold face.
Speaking with CinemaBlend, Washington admitted that after three days of shooting for 13 hours a day, he started to disagree with the whole "tough guy stands there in the rain" concept. Absolutely soaked, he was more than a little jealous of director Antoine Fuqua and the rest of the film crew "because they got on raincoats, and they’re dry." Movie stars get all the glory, but at least the gaffers and the lighting guys can stay comfy offscreen.
Michael Fassbender is his own fiercest critic
Michael Fassbender kills it pretty much every time he steps in front of the camera. At this point, no one questions his acting abilities… unless they’re Michael Fassbender.
When he was played a clip from X-Men: Days of Future Past at a Toronto Film Festival fundraising event, he looked a little embarrassed. The scene involved Magneto (Fassbender) and his frenemy Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) getting into a heated discussion while on a plane. At one point, Magneto loses his cool, raises his voice, and starts the plane a-shaking. To most moviegoers, Fassbender is a fantastic supervillain, but the star himself wasn’t pleased with this particular moment.
"I don’t actually like that performance there, to be honest," Fassbender admitted (via Vulture). "I just think it’s me shouting. It’s just like some dude shouting." Of course, if you’re going to be a shouty villain in an X-Men movie, you could get a lot hammier. (We’re looking at you, Oscar Isaac.) Maybe the poor guy should stop being so hard on himself. As we’ve pointed out before, Fassbender might be the best X-Men casting choice after Hugh Jackman, so we think he’s magnetic in every scene he’s in.
Kurt Russell faces the music
Directed by Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight was a lighting rod for hot takes and angry opinions. Some claimed the film was misogynistic, others blasted it for its use of racial slurs, and others couldn’t get over the gore. But music lovers probably have the best reason to hate on The Hateful Eight, as Kurt Russell’s character destroys a guitar… which turned out to be an expensive antique.
In the film, Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a shackled outlaw named Daisy Domergue who passes the time playing an old folk ballad. But her jam session is cut short when bounty hunter John "The Hangman" Ruth (Russell) yanks the guitar out of her hands and smashes it to bits. Sadly, Russell thought this was just some prop when it was really an instrument from the 1860s — one valued at $40,000.
The incident really shook up Leigh, as she’d fallen in love with the antique, and Russell was absolutely devastated by what he’d done. Speaking with Billboard, Leigh explained that Russell "felt terrible" when he discovered his mistake. "When he found out," Leigh said, "his eyes literally welled up. It ended up being great for the scene, but very sad for the guitar, and for my guitar teacher, and for me."
Chris Hemsworth would rather keep his shirt on
You’d think if you were built like the God of Thunder, you’d want to walk around without your shirt on all the time. But even though he plays the mighty Thor, Chris Hemsworth isn’t crazy about getting undressed onscreen. Speaking with MTV News, Hemsworth admitted he was hesitant to film a topless scene for Thor: The Dark World. As he put it, after Joss told him to get his shirt off, "I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. What’s the why? What are we doing?" But Hemsworth’s questions fell on deaf ears, and Thor’s amazing abs were put on display for the world to see.
The same issue came up in Thor: Ragnarok. Speaking with Access Hollywood, Hemsworth said he was really happy that originally, he could walk around fully clothed for the whole film. But eventually, director Taika Waititi decided the movie needed some eye candy. As the filmmaker put it, "I think we need to put some bums into seats." Hemsworth removed his top yet again, and while it’s sad he was upset about it, he totally ragna-rocked that scene.
Josh Brolin feels bad for killing a god
It’s fun playing the biggest baddie in the universe. Just ask Josh Brolin. He crushed it as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, and he really enjoyed crushing the Hulk as well. Speaking with USA Today, Brolin admitted that using MMA moves on his green rival was pretty awesome. "I love that Thanos uses a knee," Brolin said. "That was great."
However, Brolin didn’t have such a good time when it came to killing Loki. While the shapeshifting god of mischief does have a penchant for faking his own death, it seems Loki is gone for good this time. And according to Brolin, that knowledge took its toll on Tom Hiddleston.
"He had been with that character for so long," Brolin said. "And he’s so lauded for doing it. Tom was so vulnerable at that moment. So choking him out wasn’t the most fun thing I have ever done." But even though it made Brolin a bit wistful, Loki’s demise — coupled with the vicious Hulk beating — immediately set the stakes for Avengers: Infinity War, established the dark tone, and let us know that the Mad Titan wasn’t messing around.
Zoey Deutch has a problem with pizza
Romantic comedies are kind of rare these days, so it’s always nice when a good one comes along. When Set It Up hit Netflix in 2018, critics and audiences were delighted by the story of two employees (Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell) trying to get their respective bosses to hook up. Naturally, the two fall in love themselves, and in the film’s most famous scene, they bond over a cheese pizza.
Unfortunately for Deutch, filming that scene wasn’t exactly romantic. In fact, speaking with HelloGiggles, she described the moment as "really not okay" and one with "real undertones of pain, physical pain." She and Powell took very different approaches to how they ate their meal. According to Deutch, Powell was "smart" and "careful" about nibbling on his "gluten-free pizza." Deutch, on the other hand, devoured four entire pies and "threw up violently halfway through the scene."
The show had to go on, of course. "I had to proceed to be very close to Glen Powell," Deutch said, "who now, I think, looks at me in a very different light." She hasn’t lost her taste for the classic cheesy cuisine, but rewatching that scene probably makes her feel a little queasy.
The BDSM scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey were a nightmare for everyone involved
Fifty Shades of Grey is ultimately the product of a Twilight fanfiction session gone way out of control, becoming a series of novels and a film. Jamie Dornan plays the sadistic Christian Grey, and Dakota Johnson plays Anastasia Steele, the woman who submits to his interests and impulses. In lieu of more traditional romance and sex dynamics, a lot of the erotic tension is played out in bondage, domination and torture scenes which were apparently not a lot of fun to act out.
Shooting scenes like this isn’t a one-take deal. This means Johnson spent hours tied up, blindfolded miming being struck with a whip. As she reported to Time, "Filming a sex scene is not a sensual or pleasurable environment. It’s really hot — not in a steamy, sexual way. It’s just sweaty and it’s not very comfortable." She later referred to the experience as "emotionally taxing," but evolved from being miserable to thinking "Okay, let’s just get this over with."
Margot Robbie gets messy
While the character of Harley Quinn is one of the best parts of a lackluster movie, Margot Robbie had a pretty unpleasant time making Suicide Squad. First, there was the skimpy outfit that made her feel "self-conscious." Then there were those spiky gold bangles which she hated because she kept accidentally poking herself with them. But when The Washington Post asked Robbie which scene was her least favorite in the film, she didn’t hesitate for a second, naming the moment when Quinn throws herself into a vat full of white ooze that bleaches her skin Joker white.
"That chemical [scene] was the most unpleasant thing I’ve ever done in my entire life," Robbie said. It’s all to prove her devotion to the Clown Prince of Crime, but behind the scenes, she was totally repulsed. She described the liquid as "gluggy paint stuff" that got inside her ears and nose. "I was choking on it underwater," she said, "and I couldn’t breathe, and I tried to open my eyes, and it would glaze over my eyeballs, and I could only see white. It was horrible."