Actors and directors are notorious for being a complicated bunch. Never ones to shy away from voicing their opinions either onset or after a film/show has been released; since the dawn of cinema, audiences have been offered a vast array of gaffes, rivalries, and in some cases, examples of intense hatred between the two sets of people.
There is something inherently antithetical about the role of a director and that of an actor. The director, often an out and out auteur, is an unwavering visionary, striving to bring their script to life by any means necessary. This has given rise to many an actor having nothing but disdain for the director come filming’s wrap. Megan Fox‘s comments comparing Michael Bay to Hitler ring any bells?
On the other hand, actors and thespians are clearly an acquired taste. Whether that be the lack of self-awareness or ample amounts of narcissism, often actors draw the ire of directors and just about everybody else plainly by virtue of being alive. The instances of actors being difficult are innumerable. It seems as if being a prima donna comes as second nature to a lot of actors. Christian Bale, Katherine Heigl and Chevy Chase are just some of the names that spring to mind when recounting instances of actors being a pain. In fact, Bale’s 2009 meltdown on the set of Terminator Salvation – and comments in the wake of it – is one of the most glaring examples of the self-entitlement of A-list actors.
However, actors and directors often come into conflict purely because of work styles. This is something we can all understand as we’ve all had co-workers or bosses that we don’t quite click with due to a clash of modus operandi. Often in the world of cinema, this leads to both parties blacklisting each other as the fun ends up getting zapped from the project as it turns into an increasingly laborious bore.
One of the most famous examples of this is the way that auteur David Fincher and actor Robert Downey Jr. will likely never work together again. Both parties are notoriously labelled as being difficult to work with, but for different reasons. Fincher is widely characterised as a thankless perfectionist who can be a little cold towards his cast, and Downey Jr.’s off-screen life has been the source of much discourse and has been, at points, highly tumultuous. His infamous interview with Krishnan Guru-Murphy is an example of this.
Fincher and Downey Jr. realised they were chalk and cheese on the set of Fincher’s 2007 outing, Zodiac. A brilliant take on the story of the Zodiac serial killer, Downey Jr. played one of the protagonists, journalist Paul Avery. Given that it was a Fincher film, sometimes he would take over 70 takes of a single scene in the hope of finding the perfect one.
Understandably, this made leading men Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal and Downey Jr. grow increasingly frustrated. However, Ruffalo and Gyllenhaal managed to keep their thoughts to themselves. This was not the case for our Robert. Famously, when recounting his experiences with Fincher, Downey Jr. said: “I think I’m the perfect person to work for (Fincher) because I understand gulags”.
However, Downey Jr. would later amend his comments in an interview with Movie Talk Nation, “I genuinely love Fincher and I’m so excited to see anything that he does.”
Downey Jr. wouldn’t totally change his opinion, though. In that same interview, he explained: “No matter how difficult something is, he’s always patiently waiting, because ultimately he’s a very exacting director and he makes great films”.
A very exacting director indeed. Downey Jr. is not the first person to claim this, and he is sure not to be the last. Regardless, Zodiac is a brilliant piece of cinema and one that you definitely should check out if you’ve not already seen it. Classically Fincher, it constantly has you on the edge of your seat as we try to solve the puzzle of the mysterious Zodiac killer. Savour it, too, as this is likely the only time you’ll see Downey Jr. in a Fincher film.
Watch Robert Downey Jr. talk about David Fincher, below.