15 Most Difficult Directors To Work With Ever

POSTED BY Tayyab Khalil, UPDATED ON January 17th, 2024
Most Difficult Directors to Work with Ever

If you ever had a terrible boss then dozens of Hollywood actors can feel the dilemma you have been through. Acting in a movie is not confined to just reading from a script. It is an emotional rollercoaster with an overdrive button waiting to be pushed if the filmmaker has the habit of pushing the cast to the brink of exhaustion. Here are the 15 most difficult directors to work with ever:


15. Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone

Image Source: hollywoodreporter.com

Two-time Academy Award winner Sean Penn’s experience of working under Oliver Stone for the 1997 crime thriller U-Turn was less than pleasant. The actor recalled that talking to the filmmaker was like o “talking ta pig.” Penn is not the only Academy Award-winning actor that Stone rubbed the wrong way. He had flat-out asked Jamie Foxx,

“you’re just not good at all, are you?”

Stone’s antics forced James Woods to temporarily quit the movie Salvador. Completing an Oliver Stone movie is a far cry from being an easy task and actress Blake Lively can assure you that. After the production of Savages, she bought the entire crew t-shirts with ‘I Survived Oliver Stone’ written on them.


14. David Fincher

David Fincher

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Even David Fincher admits that he is difficult to work with. The director does not allow his crew bathroom breaks and that forced Robert Downey Jr. to place mason jars filled with his urine on the sets of Zodiac.

During the shoot of the same movie, Fincher mentally exhausted Jake Gyllenhaal by constant retakes of his scenes and then deleting them in front of him. The actor resorted to crying after seeing hours of his hard work being deleted.


13. Riddley Scott

Riddley Scott

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As the director behind Blade Runner, Gladiator, Alien, and The Martian, Ridley Scott has cemented his legacy as one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation but that does not necessarily mean that actors are eager to work with him.

During the filming of the sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner, the director brawled with leading star Harrison Ford over creative differences. Scott went one-on-one with Russell Crowe as well during the shooting of Robin Hood.


12. Terrence Malick

Terrence Malick

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Even if you work in a Terrence Malick movie, there are chances that the director will shock you with the final product. The director often significantly shortens screen time during the editing phase with Christopher Plummer, Adrien Brody, and Sean Penn being his victims.

It gets worse as Malick spends no second thoughts when it comes to deleting the entire scenes of actors from his movies. Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain, Barry Pepper, Amanda Peet, and Michael Sheen were supposed to appear in The Wonder but all of their scenes were left on the editing room floor.


11. Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog

Image Source: indiewire.com

Notorious for perilous production, Werner Herzog once filmed scenes on erupting volcanoes and made his production team manually haul a large ship weighing 320 tons over a hill. Perhaps the biggest victim of his stressful shooting is Christian Bale. During the shooting of Rescue Dawn, the actor was dragged behind a buffalo, underwent torture devices, and even ate live maggots.

One might assume that his best friend Klaus Kinski Herzog is spared from Herzog’s mad antics but that is not the case. During the production of Aguirre, Wrath of God, the director threatened to shoot Kinski if he left the set.


10. Roman Polański

Roman Polański

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Being the leading actress in the 1974 mystery flick Chinatown was not a walk in the park for Faye Dunaway. When she asked for motivation, director Roman Polański aggressively answered,

“Say the f—ing words, your salary is your motivation.”

Dunaway also had her strands of hair plucked by the director when he thought they would distract the audience from the scene.

The pinnacle of their behind-the-scenes drama was when Polański refused Dunaway a bathroom break and she furiously threw a cup of her urine on the director. Co-star Jack Nicholson has wittingly remarked,

“Roman’s an irritating person whether he’s making a movie or not making a movie.”


9. William Friedkin

William Friedkin

Image Source: hollywoodreporter.com

To say that William Friedkin made the set of The Exorcist a freakshow would be an understatement. The director fired real guns behind the actors with scared emotions and even slapped William O’Malley to get a reaction from him for an intense scene.

For the movie’s frozen room scene, the director chilled it in real life and forced actress Linda Blair – who was only wearing a nightgown – to stay in it during the entire shoot. The director was not too kind to Ellen Burstyn as well.

To shoot the scene in which she was abruptly thrown back by demonic forces, Friedkin made her plunge using a rope harness. The actress received an Academy Award nomination but at the expense of a permanent spinal injury.


8. David O. Russell

David O Russell

Image Source: hollywoodreporter.com

Notorious for yelling at extras, production crew, and actors, David O. Russell has often been deemed as one of the most verbally abusive directors in Hollywood. The director once put Christopher Nolan in a headlock to release Jude Law from his contract so Russell could star him in I Heart Huckabees.

Speaking of headlocks, Russell engaged in a physical altercation with none other than George Clooney on the set of Three Kings. The director had been yelling at a crew member and Clooney stepped forward to lighten up the situation. Chaos ensued and the two brawled on the set.


7. Lars Von Trier

Lars Von Trier

Image Source: bbc.com

It does not come as a surprise that a self-proclaimed Nazi and Hitler sympathizer would pop up on the list. Lars Von Trier has been disreputably cruel to women on set to the point of Nicole Kidman and Björk Guðmundsdóttir promising to never work with him again.

The director has also been deemed as a control freak and Paul Bettany backed up the allegation by claiming that “you’re absolutely his puppet” while working under him. The actor had collaborated with Von Trier for Dogville and called it a “hideous experience.”


6. Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola

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His claim to fame might be The Godfather but his infamy stems from Apocalypse Now. The production of the entire movie was a nightmare that saw many crew members getting fired or catching diseases. Francis Ford Coppola’s psychological manipulation of leading star Martin Sheen almost killed the actor. The director had kept Sheen drunk and locked in a hotel room for two days.

The gruesome shooting in the jungle had a fair share of hurdles, Sheen almost died due to a heart attack, and worst of all, Coppola and several crew members were either on drugs or drunk. Even the director himself was over-exhausted from the strenuous shooting and contemplated suicide three times.


5. Michael Bay

Michael Bay

Image Source: variety.com

The list would have felt incomplete without the grand inclusion of none other than Michael Bay. Megan Fox compared the director to Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler, commenting that

“he’s a nightmare to work for.”

Bay also had a fistfight with Shia LaBeouf on the set of Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

When Hugo Weaving made disgruntled comments on his role in the Transformers series, Bay responded by saying,

“Be happy you even have a job – let alone a job that pays you more than 98% of people in America.”


4. Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa

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Arguably the greatest Japanese filmmaker of all time, Akira Kurosawa has released one cinematic milestone after another but it was not at all easy. After not being satisfied with Toshiro Mifune’s frightened reaction upon almost getting shot with arrows during the production of Throne of Blood, Kurosawa used a professional marksman to shoot the arrows. Needless to say, Mifune’s reaction was spot on as he was inches away from death.

The director also had a unique way to bring out the best in his cast members. In one instance, he verbally abused Yoshio Inaba so badly that the actor went to the rest of the actors on set and advised them to be perfect while delivering their performances on set.


3. Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock

Apart from being a critically acclaimed director, Alfred Hitchcock was quite the prankster, and people working under him were often subjected to his practical jokes. He once had a horse delivered to Gerald du Maurier’s dressing room and sent two tons of coal to a cameraman who boasted about his new all-electric kitchen.

Fun and games aside, Hitchcock had a much darker side as well. If the #MeToo movement existed in the Golden Age of Hollywood, the director would have been public enemy number one. Actress Tippi Hedren claimed that Hitchcock would sexually assault her and other actresses on the set of The Birds. The dilemma is not restricted to just sexual harassment. The director also frightened the actress in a scene in which she was supposed to be bombarded with mechanical birds but Hitchcock decided to use real ones.


2. James Cameron

James Cameron

Image Source: indiewire.com

From extremely long working hours to nailing crew members’ cell phones on the wall, James Cameron is the epitome of a mad boss. Known for shooting dangerous scenes, the director was responsible for Ed Harris and Kate Winslet nearly dying during the production of Abyss and Titanic, respectively.

Even his then-girlfriend (now ex-wife) Linda Hamilton was not safe from Cameron’s dominating demeanor. To prepare her for the iconic role of Sarah Connor in Terminator, he made her undergo a year-long diet and train under a former Mossad agent.


1. Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick Director

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A perfectionist when it comes to making films, Stanley Kubrick had a knack for shooting scenes exactly how he imagined. That, of course, meant countless retakes until he achieved what he had in mind. The director was notorious for shooting dozens of takes for every scene, no matter how long or short.

The scene in The Shining in which Shelley Duvall walks back up the stairs while crying and swinging a bat at her husband was shot 127 times. That is only the tip of the iceberg as the director had over-stressed the actress so much that she started losing her hair on set. The director would take numerous retakes of even the most trivial scenes.

During the shooting of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick made Tom Cruise walk through a door 95 times! Whenever stars signed on to work with him, they knew fully well that they were in for a grueling experience as Kubrick was an immensely talented director but tremendously difficult to work with.

Hope you enjoyed our list of the most difficult directors to work with. Feel free to share your views in the comments below!


  1. Bert Bladkis says:

    Lol such a Maurice thing to say

  2. Maurice says:

    Sorry, some of these directors could only harass, and most are contemporary and not from the golden age that produced the likes of William Wyler, John Ford, Henry King, Michael Curtiz. and Leo McCarey. Those were directors. I almost forgot Howard Hawks and Louis Milestone.

  3. dfsg says:

    thats a list of the greatest director of our time

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