The biggest film star on-set meltdowns: From Tom Cruise’s Covid outburst to Christian Bale’s expletive rant

Tom Cruise (L) and Christian Bale (R) (Getty)
Tom Cruise (L) and Christian Bale (R) (Getty)

On a film set, tensions can reach a boiling point due to long hours, production delays, and the pressure to perform flawlessly take after take.

While some actors are known for their amiable nature, others have earned a reputation for being challenging to collaborate with.

In the entertainment world, there's an increasing demand for actors to abandon any diva-like tendencies - after all, nobody relishes working with individuals who stir up unnecessary drama.

Regrettably, stories of demanding actors circulate swiftly among both crew members and cast. With the advent of social media, some of these actors' frustrations are now aired publicly through leaked audio or video clips.

Here, The Standard delves into some of the most notable tense moments and exchanges on set.

Christian Bale

Christian Bale continues to grapple with the perception of being “difficult” following a highly publicised outburst during the filming of Terminator: Salvation in 2008.

In an explosive incident on set, the Oscar-winning actor directed expletives and threats towards the film's director of photography, Shane Hurlbut, and threatened to quit the film.

Audio recordings of the altercation surfaced the following year, capturing Bale's aggressive behavior and verbal attacks.

In the leaked footage, Bale can be heard threatening to physically confront Hurlbut and destroy equipment, saying: “Am I going to walk around and rip your f***ing lights down, in the middle of a scene? Then why the f*** are you walking right through?

“What the f*** is it with you? What don’t you f***ing understand? I’m going to f***ing kick your f***ing ass if you don’t shut up for a second.”

Subsequently, Bale issued a public apology, acknowledging the “inexcusable” nature of his actions and expressing remorse for his behaviour, which he described as “acting like a punk.”

Despite the apology, the incident has contributed to a lingering reputation for Bale as being challenging to work with on set.

Tom Cruise


In 2020, Tom Cruise garnered attention for a widely circulated audio clip of him reprimanding crew members on the set of Mission: Impossible 7 for breaching COVID-19 protocols.

Cruise's outburst targeted crew members on the film set, reportedly due to their failure to maintain social distancing.

An audio tape captured Cruise shouting: “If I see you do it again, you’re f***ing gone. And if anyone in this crew does it, that’s it — and you too and you too. And you, don’t you ever f***ing do it again.”

As the first major production to resume filming during the pandemic, Cruise's tirade was attributed to heightened stress and concerns over safety.

However, the aggressive delivery of his message sparked controversy and fear among the crew, with reports suggesting a tense atmosphere on set and crew had been “walking on eggshells,” following the incident.

While some, like George Clooney, defended Cruise's actions, insisting people “have to be responsible,” both on and off set others, like former Scientologist Leah Remini, branded it a “publicity stunt.”

Ewan McGregor


Ewan McGregor found himself in a viral video showcasing a profanity-laden outburst during the filming of his Netflix series, Halston, in 2020.

At the time, the Scottish actor, 53, was shooting scenes for the miniseries in New York's Central Park when he was captured becoming enraged at paparazzi photographer Steve Sands, 64, who was documenting the scene.

In the clip, the Star Wars actor stormed towards the snapper and shouted: “Stop talking to me.” He then appeared to add: “I’m walking behind this f**king flag!”

A source familiar with McGregor's situation alleged that the photographer was being disruptive, prompting the star to take action to safeguard the crew.

Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix won praise for his chilling portrayal of The Joker in 2019, but equally surprised viewers when a clip surfaced showing him seemingly losing his composure off-camera as well.

The actor found himself in an uncomfortable position when footage of the purported outburst was broadcast, in which he was heard telling a cinematographer: “The constant whispering, just shut the f**k up, dude.”

The Oscar winner’s response came after a crew member had called him “Cher”, in an apparent dig at him being a diva. In the clip, which aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Phoenix is heard saying: “I know you started the f***ing Cher thing, Larry … making fun of me. Like I’m a f***ing diva.

“It’s not even an insult. Cher, really? Singer, actor, dancer, fashion icon - how’s that a f***ing insult?”

After watching the clip on the show, the American actor told Jimmy Kimmel: “That was supposed to be private. I’m embarrassed, I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry you guys had to see that.”

Sometime after, Phoenix’s publicist told Entertainment Weekly the whole exchange “was a joke outtake”.

Tom Hardy

 (20th Century)
(20th Century)

Tom Hardy found himself in hot water after an on-set outburst directed at assistant director Scott Robertson during the filming of The Revenant and penned him a letter of apology following the incident.

The film's director Alejandro G. Iñárritu apparently told guests at the 2016 BAFTAs: "You didn’t see what happened between Tom and Scott.

“It was really something to see. It was crazy. But the next day, before we can shoot anything, Tom has written this most beautiful letter and absolutely poured his heart out.

“For me, it showed the true heart of the man - that he could write something like that after an incident like that.”

This wasn't the first instance where Hardy sought forgiveness following a heated moment. He openly admitted to a "scuffle" with Iñárritu. In a light-hearted response, Hardy, 43, even created humorous T-shirts depicting him throttling the Birdman director.

In other instances, there were rumours circulating about physical clashes between Hardy and actor Shia LaBeouf during the filming of Lawless. However, LaBeouf later clarified they were only play wrestling.

David O. Russell

David O Russell pictured with Christian Bale (L) (PA Wire)
David O Russell pictured with Christian Bale (L) (PA Wire)

American film director David O. Russell was left red-faced when a video surfaced of him angrily confronting Lily Tomlin on the set of 2004’s I Heart Huckabees.

The leaked footage captured Russell in a heated moment, tossing papers and other objects to the ground while shouting at Tomlin.

Despite their interaction on set, the pair have moved on from the experience with Tomlin telling The Hollywood Reporter: “[David and I] made up in just a few hours, and then we had a second fracas. By then, I was like stoic in my suffering. But we've overcome it. It dissipates and it's gone.”

Echoing Tomlin’s sentiment, Russell told The New York Times: "Lily Tomlin and I love each other, and we would work together tomorrow.”

However it wasn’t only Tomlin who had experienced the director’s outburst but also Amy Adams, who claimed the director made her cry several times on set of 2014’s American Hustle.

Not only that but Russell made headlines after allegedly getting into a physical altercation with George Clooney on their film, Three Kings.

Early in the shoot, the pair were said to have had words with Clooney stating that Russell frequently berated the crew. On one occasion when Clooney witnessed this behaviour and confronted Russell, urging him to stop yelling.

This confrontation escalated when Russell pushed Clooney, resulting in a brief scuffle before tensions were diffused.

The film's producer Charles Roven told The Hollywood Reporter: “We've got George, who's having trouble remembering his lines because he's working seven days a week, and we've got David, who's falling behind schedule.

"Now we're shooting the climax of the movie. Helicopters, explosions, gunfire. It's chaos, madness. And George sees David talking to the extras' [assistant director], and it looks like he's yelling at him.

"But he's yelling to be heard. And George comes running over and goes, 'I told you, motherf***er, if you're going to pick on somebody, pick on me'.

"And David goes, 'Why don't you just f***ing remember your lines for once?' And boom! They grab each other, and they're tussling."