The 20 most awkward on-set movie arguments to make you cringe

Workplace arguments can get the best of us all, but when your workplace is a movie set, which includes hundreds of cast and crew, a stressful and demanding filming schedule, and a studio breathing down your neck, those little tiffs around the water cooler can escalate into much more serious incidents. The next 20 'disagreements' showcase just how bad things can get when actors disagree with directors, each other, and, frankly, anyone on set! From Faye Dunaway throwing a cup of urine in Roman Polanski's face, to Christian Bale being caught on camera ranting at a crew member, here are the most awkward movie set spats to ever take place. Bet your office doesn't look too bad now, eh?

Faye Dunaway vs. Roman Polanski

The movie set: Polanski’s 1974 masterpiece Chinatown, in which Faye Dunaway gave great smoulder opposite Jack Nicholson’s busted-nose investigator.

The awkward argument: It started with Dunaway attempting to understand the motivations of her character. When she asked her director for, uh, direction, he reportedly merely yelled: “Say the fucking words. Your salary is your motivation!”

Worse still, when one of the actress’ stray hairs threatened to ruin a shot, Polanski plucked the offending strand from Dunaway’s head without even considering calling in make-up. Dunaway got her own back when, after her director refused to let her take a loo break, she threw a coffee cup full of urine in his face. Polanski’s later description of his lead actress as “a gigantic pain in the ass” seems fitting.

The kiss and make up? Dunaway refuses to address the stories about Chinatown’s troubled production. When one Guardian journalist dared ask her about it, she flew into a rage. "I think you've brought up something that is so distasteful,” she told him. “You know very well, I am a lady and you were completely insulting.” Didn’t really help her case any, did it?

David O. Russell vs. Lily Tomlin

The movie set: Passable domestic comedy I Heart Huckabees, about a husband and wife who go detective on their existential issues.

The awkward argument: Russell lost his rag on the set of the 2004 dramedy, taking his frustrations out on poor Lily Tomlin. Brilliantly, his rant was caught on camera and has been yo-yoing all over YouTube ever since . Tomlin started it by complaining that Russell was making too many confusing changes to the script (a common issue with Russell movies), which prompted her director's transformation into a Tasmanian devil of curse-words and desk-sweeping. Tomlin holds her own with a well-placed “why don’t you fuck your whole movie?”

The kiss and make up? There were no hard feelings after the fact, apparently, with Tomlin forgiving her director his fiery temper. “I just have great affection and regard for David,” she said in a post-shoot interview. “There was a lot of pressure in making the movie.”

Bette Davis vs. Joan Crawford

The movie set: Classic washed-up-celebrity chiller Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, in which Davis and Crawford play sisters living together in a ramshackle old house.

The awkward argument:  A bitter rivalry had raged between the two actresses for almost 30 years (amid rumours of man-stealing and bisexual liaisons) before they made Baby Jane. Their enmity came to a head rather literally during one scene in which Davis’ character kicks the living daylights out of Crawford’s. The scene was meant to a no-contact, choreographed outburst, but Davis ended up booting Crawford in the head for real. Crawford ended up needing three stitches and was left with a lump on her forehead the size of an egg. She got her own back by sewing weights into her dress for another scene in which Davis has to heave her across the floor…

The kiss and make up? “Miss Crawford and I weren't enemies,” Davis maintained in 1979. “We made one film together. We didn’t know each other at all.” Hello denial, old friend.

Christian Bale vs. Shane Hurlbut

The movie set: Futuristic fourquel Terminator Salvation, which has Christian Bale taking on the role of mankind’s saviour John Connor.

The awkward argument: The most recent on this list (it took place July 2008), Christian Bale’s furious rant at director of photography Shane Hurlbut caused a storm in the tabloids. During a filthy four minute rant, Bale loses it completely, yelling at Hurlbut for breaking his concentration by walking on set during a scene. Bale's so angry he even switches between an American and an English accent. The recording (presumably leaked by an insurer) went on to become an online sensation thanks to numerous wickedly funny memes .

The kiss and make up? Bale and Hurlbut talked the incident out afterwards and patched things up. Later, Bale publicly apologised on the radio, admitting that he’d “acted like a punk”. He’s a big softie, really.

Walter Matthau vs. Barbra Streisand

The movie set: The lavish ‘60s musical Hello, Dolly! sees Barbra Streisand star as a titular warbling matchmaker.

The awkward argument: Matthau infamously referred to Streisand as having “no more talent than a butterfly’s fart”. The pair bickered throughout filming, and Matthau refused to be near the actress unless the script demanded it. “He hated Barbra Streisand,” says Christopher Andersen, author of Barbra – As She Is. “He had just won an Oscar for The Fortune Cookie. She was running the show. She was telling the director, Gene Kelly, how to direct that movie. “Walter Matthau went to the head of the studio, Richard Zanuck, and Zanuck said, ‘I'd love to help you but this is not Hello, Walter! we're making.’"

The kiss and make up? They may have fought on-set, but Matthau clearly held no grudges against his co-star. Years later, he was an invitation-only guest at her One Voice concert, paying $5,000 for the privilege.

Marlon Brando vs. Frank Oz

The movie set:  So-so crime comedy The Score, in which Brando played an elderly gay thief about to take on an epic heist with the help of Ed Norton’s young thug.

The awkward argument: Despite earning a cool $3m for just three weeks of work, a 77-year-old Brando was as typically diva-ish as usual during his time shooting with director Frank Oz. Refusing to dumb down his overly camp performance at Oz's request, Brando began referring to his director as “Miss Piggy” (Oz, of course, voiced the porky puppet in The Muppets), while snarling: “I bet you wish I was a puppet so you could... make me do what you want.” Brando even allegedly refused to come to the set if Oz was present, forcing co-star Robert De Niro to direct one of his scenes.

The kiss and make up? Time magazine ran their report on The Score's tricky on-set antics, detailing the above quarrels, but Frank Oz has frequently denied any problems ever existed.

Sean Young vs. Daryl Hannah/Oliver Stone

The movie set: Oliver Stone’s momentous money-flavoured Wall Street; Charlie Sheen’s an upstart stockbroker, Daryl Hannah’s his wispy-haired love interest, and Michael Douglas is the slimy money-raker who corrupts them all.

The awkward argument: There’s making a fool of yourself (say, turning up at the Warner Bros lot dressed as Catwoman hoping to bag the role), and then there’s really making a fool of yourself. Young’s ability to rattle was never more evident than during her time on Stone’s 1987 opus. She’d already landed the role of Gordon Gekko’s wife, but she irritated her director no end by suggesting that she should switch parts with Hannah. Stone became so infuriated one day that he cut Young’s scene short, put her on a bus home, and sliced her role in half.

The kiss and make up? Young’s not worked with Stone since. That probably speaks for itself. “I'm a comeback waiting to happen,” the actress told EW in 2008. “No one deserves it more than I do.” We’re still waiting, too, Sean…

Peter Sellers vs. Blake Edwards

The movie set: The sets of five Pink Panther movies, as well as comedy The Party.

The awkward argument: Though their combined creativity forged a handful of cinematic Pink Panther masterpieces (and 1968 laugh riot The Party), Sellers and Edwards shared a famously strained relationship. They would often refuse to speak to each other on set, while Edwards once said that working with Sellers was “truly a schizophrenic experience”. Revenge of the Pink Panther in 1978 was their last Panther film together, though Edwards went on to direct further adventures with a different cast. Those Sellers-less efforts all bombed.

The kiss and make up? Sellers was working on a new Pink Panther film when he died. His relationship with Edwards had deteriorated such much by this point that Edwards was not involved in the film’s production.

Kristen Stewart vs. Robert Pattinson

The movie set: Shirt-less wonder Eclipse, third film in the interminable Twilight Saga about a young teen who falls in love with a pale, frown-y vampire.

The awkward argument: Ah, young love. Accusations were hurled when Pattinson turned up on the Eclipse set later than co-star Stewart. The latter had a meltdown, accusing Pattinson of spending time in a burlesque bar. Said an onlooker: “When Robert arrived, he and Kristen started fighting. She accused him of taking a later flight from London because he had been hanging out too late at a burlesque bar. She accused him right in front of the director and crew.” Needless to say, the crew recessed and the sparring pair had a private make-up session.

The kiss and make up? Evidently things are rosy now. The pair have finished filming the final chapter of the Twilight Saga (two-hander Breaking Dawn) and no reports of further bust-ups have emerged.

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.