Press tours are supposed to play like kumbaya love circles, with actors and directors waxing poetic about the “family” they became on set and how fruitful the trust they put in each other ended up being in the end. The talent behind Cannes breakout Blue Is the Warmest Color did not get that memo.
Abdellatif Kechiche, who directed the Palme d’Or-winning drama about two women exploring their sexuality together, released an open letter Wednesday titled “To Those Who Sought to Destroy Blue Is the Warmest Color.” The letter is in response to an array of interviews the film’s stars Léa Seyoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos have given expressing how Kechiche, in their opinion, terrorized them on set, particularly during the shooting of the film’s now-notorious graphic ten-minute sex scene.
“It was horrible,” Seydoux told The Daily Beast, saying that she felt “trapped” and that she’d “never” work with Kechiche again. “There was a kind of manipulation, which was hard to handle,” agreed Exarchopoulos. “Most people don’t dare ask the things that he did.”
With both parties firing off accusations at each other—Kechiche’s letter calls Seydoux an “arrogant and spoiled child”—and Seydoux and Exarchopolous remaining steadfast that Kechiche’s treatment of them during the sex-scene shoot left them, as Exarchopolous says, “ashamed,” here’s a look back at some of the worst stories of directors terrorizing their actresses.
Brigitte Bardot vs. Henri-Georges Clouzot, La Vérite
In order to get the performance he wanted out of Brigitte Bardot in La Vérite, director Henri-Georges Clouzot apparently felt the need to literally slap it out of her. There are numerous tales of horror on the Vérite film set. In one scene, Bardot’s character was supposed to overdose on sleeping pills, so Clouzot had the actress take pills he claimed were aspirin. He got the take…but Bardot had to have her stomach pumped. Later in production, he reportedly got her drunk and slapped her until she was crying hysterically enough to nail a scene. “I don’t need amateurs in my films—I want an actress,” he reportedly shouted at her during one argument. “And I need a director, not a psychopath!” she shot back.
Tippi Hedren vs. Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds
The hell Tippi Hedren was put through by Alfred Hitchcock during the filming of The Birds was so dramatic that the events were recently acted out by Sienna Miller and Toby Jones in the HBO movie The Girl. Hedren was an unknown when Hitchcock cast her as the sought-after lead in The Birds, so she put up with his abuse in order to nail the iconic bird-attack scene. Hitchcock reportedly threw live birds at her and let the rattled creatures peck and scratch at her, even tying them to her in order to get the scene just right. Hedren narrowly missed having an eyeball clawed out during one take.
Maria Schneider vs. Bernardo Bertolucci, Last Tango in Paris
It’s hard to forget the controversial anal sex scene from Last Tango in Paris in which Marlon Brando uses butter as a lubricant on Maria Schneider. It’s not hard, however, to imagine how, decades later, Schneider would be haunted by shooting such a scene—and by the director who orchestrated it all. “He was fat and sweaty and very manipulative,” she said of director Bernardo Bertolucci in a 2007 interview. He “would do certain things to get a reaction from me,” she recalled. That infamous scene? It turns out it wasn’t even in the script. “They only told me about it before we had to film the scene and I was so angry,” she said. “I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci.”
Shelley Duvall vs. Stanley Kubrick, The Shining
In the world of filmmaking, a director’s perfectionism is something to be admired. It can also be something to be feared. It’s a habit that’s especially problematic when said perfectionist director is working with an actress with relatively little professional experience, which was the case when Shelley Duvall worked with Stanley Kubrick on The Shining. The iconic scene from the film, where Duvall goes after Jack Nicholson’s character with a baseball bat, was reportedly shot 127 times. The stress of the shoot eventually took a physical toll on Duvall, with the actress falling so ill her hair began falling out.
Faye Dunaway vs. Roman Polanski, Chinatown
Hand it to Faye Dunaway: she doesn’t take abuse sitting down. The actress reportedly sparked fireworks with director Roman Polanski on the set of Chinatown, with the two strong personalities routinely hurling expletives at each other. When Dunaway asked the director for help finding her character’s motivation in one scene, he reportedly responded, “Say the fucking words. Your salary is your motivation.” Later in the shoot, Dunaway was about to shoot a scene in a car with costar Jack Nicholson, but kept saying before the cameras rolled, “Roman, I have to pee. I have to pee.” He refused to let her take a break, saying, “You stay there. We shoot, we shoot.” Her response: throwing a coffee cup filled with liquid at Polanski’s face. “You cunt, that’s piss!” he shouted. “Yes, you little putz,” she replied.
Björk vs. Lars von Trier, Dancer in the Dark
Dancer in the Dark is one of the most brutally affecting movies of the past 15 years. It was also, apparently, a brutal film shoot. Both director Lars von Trier and the film’s star, Bjork, have spoken out about how bleak production was. “The thing about making that film that upset me most was how cruel Lars is to the woman he is working with,” Bjork wrote on her website. On her side, there were reports that von Trier would emotionally manipulate her in order to bring out her performance. On his side, he claims that there were days that she just wouldn’t show up for filming. “It was dealing with terrorists,” he said.
Nicole Kidman vs. Lars von Trier, Dogville
While Nicole Kidman claimed after her Dogville shoot with Lars von Trier that she still enjoyed working with the director, the stories from set don’t paint a very charming picture. When filming began, for example, they two were at such odds that they eventually retreated to the woods for a three-hour walk-turned-screaming-match, in which they had it out with each other about his directing style. Is it surprising that more than one actress has taken issue with von Trier’s methods? Not especially, considering what the director has to say about his reputation and how he requires that his actresses “submit” to him: “Yeah they submit. I don’t think I’ve misused anybody, but I could, of course.” After a giggle, he ends, “And I could be tempted to. But I don’t think I have.”
Megan Fox vs. Michael Bay, Transformers
If you want to call someone unpleasant, there’s a myriad of ways to do it. But Megan Fox goes for broke after describing her torture-filled time filming Transformers with Michael Bay: she compares the director to Hitler. “He’s like Napoleon and he wants to create this insane, infamous mad-man reputation,” she said. “He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is. So he’s a nightmare to work for.” How much of a nightmare? Despite Transformers launching her career, she bowed out of Bay’s franchise after the second film.