Directors will stop at nothing to get realistic tears: slapping actors, insulting them, locking them in chests, threatening to shoot their pets or burn down their houses! Such sneaky tricks get meted out to adult and child stars – some brushed it off, but others had nervous breakdowns. Alfred Hitchcock once called actors ‘cattle’ but would you treat a cow this way?
#1 On the set of the film ‘Skippy’ director Norman Taurog informed child star Jackie Cooper that he would shoot his dog if he didn’t cry on command. He did but the trauma remained – he later called his autobiography: ‘Please Don’t Shoot My Dog.’
#2 His fellow child star Shirley Temple said that it was common in the early days of Hollywood for child actors to be locked in a windowless box with a block of ice as a chair. She claimed to have been unscathed by this, later writing: “So far as I can tell, the black box did no lasting damage to my psyche.”
#3 During the making of ‘Exodus’ Otto Preminger was unimpressed with the emotion of a gang of children in a crucial scene. His solution was simple – he announced that their mothers had gone away and that they would never see them again. Cue floods of tears and a very happy director.
#4 Gaby Hoffman was 11 when she starred in the 1993 weepy ‘The Man Without A Face.’ But the audience weren’t the only ones crying. She told an interviewer that director Mel Gibson’s frequent eruptions of rage were scary – as he directed his screaming fits at her she was often in floods of tears.
But if they were OK with making children cry, dealing with adults was no problem:
#5 On the set of ‘Apocalypse Now’ director Francis Ford Coppola berated Martin Sheen into such a hysterical state that he punched a mirror, cut himself, smeared blood up the wall and tried to attack Coppola. The crew was so disturbed they tried to stop filming – but a delighted Coppola told them to keep going.
#6 Stanley Kubrick ordered Shelley Duvall to repeat a traumatic scene over and over again in ‘The Shining’. After whacking Jack Nicholson over the head with a bat a reported 127 times Duvall became so distressed that her hair fell out and she was violently ill.
#7 To get Tippi Hedren into a suitably anxious state on the set of ‘The Birds’ Alfred Hitchcock tied live birds to her with nylon threads. As they pecked at her eyelids she collapsed in total hysteria. He was happy – she was not, later calling the experience of working with him a mental prison.
#8 Kim Novak claimed that the director Josh Logan pinched her arm so hard to make her cry in ‘Picnic’ that it bruised. In a twist on this theme, he later claimed that she had actually asked him to do it!
#9 On the set of ‘Stage Door’ Katherine Hepburn said that her director Gregory La Cava was not impressed with the tears from Ginger Rogers. He called her to the set alone and told her: “Babe – I got terrible news, your mother called, your new house burned down.” After filming her traumatized reaction he later cut it into the film.