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Movies That Traumatized Actors and Nearly Caused Them To Quit Acting

Madeline Hiltz
(Photo Credit: MovieStills DB)

We tend to forget how difficult it must be to act in films because the stars on our screen make it look so effortless. But we, the viewers, only see the final cut of any given scene. Often actors have to perform their scenes repeatedly while constantly being critiqued until the director gets what they are looking for. This has led to tears, fights, and some brutally intense scenes that the actors want to leave the movie or abandon acting entirely.

1. Carl Weathers in Rocky IV

Carl Weathers sand Dolph Lundgren in Rocky VI

Carl Weathers (left) and Dolph Lundgren (right) in Rocky IV. (Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/ United Artists/ MovieStills DB)

The Rocky franchise must have been difficult for the actors starring in it. After all, they had to get into really good shape to prepare and learn how to box for their roles. During the filming of Rocky IV in 1985, costars Dolph Lundgren (who played Captain Ivan Drago) and Carl Weathers (who played Apollo Creed) didn’t get along.

One day on the set of Rocky IV, Lundgren threw Weathers across the boxing ring. After this altercation, Weathers stormed off set and announced he was going to call his agent and quit the movie. This fight caused a four-day work stoppage while Sylvester Stallone convinced Weathers to come back to the movie. Dolph Lundgren also agreed that he would tone down his aggressiveness.

2. Shelley Duvall in The Shining

behind the scenes of The Shining

Behind the scenes photo of Jack Nicholson & Shelley Duvall. (Photo Credit: Warner Bros./ MovieStills DB)

Actress Shelley Duvall gave one of the best performances of her career as Wendy in The Shiningbut it certainly wasn’t an easy performance for her. In fact, the scene where Wendy tries to protect herself from Jack while he’s holding a baseball bat still holds the current Guinness World Record for most takes. Duvall was forced to shoot that scene 127 times.

Director Stanley Kubrick famously treated Shelley Duvall badly when they were on set together. Kubrick wanted the crew to ignore Duvall completely and he didn’t want anyone to show her any type of sympathy. He refused to give the actress any praise for the scenes she did while he would constantly praise Jack Nicholson, who was often sitting right beside Shelley. This role was almost too stressful for Shelley Duvall to bear, as she started losing her hair, was severely dehydrated, and was feeling both physical and mental anguish.

3. Faye Dunaway in Chinatown

Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson in Chinatown

Faye Dunaway and Jack Nicholson in ‘Chinatown’ (1978). (Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/ Getty Images)

During the filming of Chinatown, actress Faye Dunaway and director Roman Polanski were known for their on-set arguments. On one occasion, Polanski pulled out a few strands of Dunaway’s hair while in an argument.

Polanski refused to give Faye Dunaway a break while filming the scene where Jack Nicholson surprised her in the car. This scene made Dunaway consider walking away from acting altogether. It got so bad that eventually, Dunaway had to relieve herself in a coffee cup – which she then threw in Polanski’s face.

4. Jim Carrey in The Grinch

Jim Carrey in the Grinch

Jim Carrey in costume as the Grinch. (Photo Credit: Universal Studios/ MovieStills DB)

The Grinch is one of our favorite Christmas movies of all time. However, it would have looked much different if Jim Carrey had quit the movie. Recently, Carrey opened up about how much prep work went into him becoming the Grinch. During an appearance on The Graham Norton Show in 2020, the actor revealed that it took eight and a half hours in makeup each day to get the Grinch look correct.

Carrey nearly quit the movie because of this long process. It was only after he was trained by CIA operatives on how to endure torture that he was able to sit through makeup each day.

5. Brad Pitt in Interview With The Vampire

Brad Pitt in Interview With A Vampire

Brad Pitt in Interview With A Vampire. (Photo Credit: Warner Bros./ MovieStills DB)

The 1994 movie Interview With A Vampire starred some of the biggest names of the 1980s and 1990s, including Brad Pitt. Similar to the vampire movies we know and love today, Interview With A Vampire lacked a lot of light.

This film used the legendary Pinewood Studios in London for various movie scenes. During filming, Brad Pitt spent most of his time wearing yellow contacts, in an uncomfortable costume, and spent almost six months working in the dark. At one point, Pitt seriously considered quitting the movie, calling up one of the producers to ask how much money it would cost to quit the movie. After learning it would cost over $40 million to leave, he decided to ride it out.

6. Ian McKellen in An Unexpected Journey

Ian McKellen in An Unexpected Journey

Ian McKellen as Gandalf in ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.’ (Photo Credit: New Line Cinema/ Warner Bros./ Metro-Goldwyn Mayer/ MovieStills DB)

Ian McKellen as Gandalf is considered to be one of the highlights of The Hobbit trilogy. However, it was in this role that McKellen considered quitting acting completely. The trilogy needed to be filmed using green screens in order to achieve realistic visuals. However, in the first Hobbit film, An Unexpected Journey, McKellen found performing in front of a green screen so demanding that he nearly quit.

McKellen’s character, Gandalf the Grey, is supposed to tower over all the other characters. To create this height difference, McKellen had to be filmed separately on a different green screen set. The background and other characters would be edited in afterwards.

McKellen later said about this experience: “I felt pretty miserable… and thought perhaps, has the time come for me to stop acting altogether if I can’t cope with these difficulties?” He added, “It was so distressing and off-putting and difficult that I thought ‘I don’t want to make this film if this is what I’m going to have to do. It’s not what I do for a living. I act with other people, I don’t act on my own.” Luckily, the cast and crew tried their best to cheer Ian McKellen up, and he ended up returning for the next two movies in the Hobbit trilogy.

7. Melanie Griffith in Roar

Melanie Griffith and Tippi Hedren in Roar

Melanie Griffith and Tippi Hedren in ‘Roar’ (1981). (Photo Credit: MovieStills DB)

Roar is notoriously remembered for being the movie with the most recorded injuries… probably because the movie featured lions, tigers, pumas, and cougars – all of which were untrained.

The movie starred Tippi Hedren and her husband Noel Marshall. Tippi Hedren’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, appeared in Roar, but quit the production, telling her mother that “I don’t want to come out of this with half a face.” Griffith eventually was convinced to return to the movie, only to be mauled by a lion so severely that she required 50 stitches to her face and plastic surgery.

8. Tippi Hedren in The Birds

Tippi Hedren in The Birds

Tippi Hedren in The Birds. (Photo Credit: Universal Studios/ MovieStills DB)

Speaking of Tippi Hedren, she almost called it quits while filming Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Hitchcock had assured Hedren that mechanical birds would be used in her famous attic scene. However, on the day filming was set to start, Hedren was told that real birds were going to be used instead.

For five days, the actress had live birds thrown at her. After a bird nearly pecked her eye out, Hedren yelled “I’m done.” She was later forced to take a week off to recover from the exhaustion of the scene.

9. Lily Tomlin in 9 to 5

Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin in 9 to 5

Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in publicity portrait for the film ‘Nine To Five’, 1980. (Photo Credit: Archive Photos/ Getty Images)

It’s hard to imagine 9 to 5 without all three of its leading ladies, but within the first week of filming, actress Lily Tomlin wanted out of the movie. Jane Fonda, who coproduced the film, had spent a year trying to get both Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin to sign on to the project.

Looking back on it, Tomlin revealed that she “didn’t want to do a cheap comedy. I was looking for something more serious.” After only a week of shooting, she watched an unedited footage shot of herself which made her second-guess her role in the movie.

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The animated birds had not yet been added to the movie, which threw Tomlin off. “I’m not neurotic – I saw myself on screen in the dailies and I was talking to the birds that weren’t there and I was not doing a good job. And I thought ‘Oh I’m going to be horrible in this.’ It was only my third movie!” Jane Fonda also revealed, “she asked my producing partner to let her go, and she’d give the week’s money back.”