Making a good movie is never easy, and it gets harder with big-budget superhero movies that have a lot of moving parts and a lot riding on their success. The pressure is on, so when you add in different personalities, you get a volatile mix that makes you wonder how many movies get made at all. There have been a lot of movies based on comic books, and while some have been great and some have been terrible, the drama has been intense in making many of them.
We’re going to be talking about fights between actors working on the same movie, fights between directors and actors where they argued over the results, fights between directors and studios on how to make the movie, and everything in between. In some cases, the conflicts actually made the movies better. In others, the feuds made the movie worse. In a select few, the fighting on the set actually kept the movie from being made at all. Today, CBR is going to peel back the curtain on some of your most loved and most hated movies based on DC comics, and the stories of the fights that went on behind the scenes.
15. TOMMY LEE JONES VS. JIM CARREY (BATMAN FOREVER)
The two villains of 1995’s Batman Forever were Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and the Riddler (Jim Carrey). The two were a dynamic duo on the screen in their plot to destroy Batman, but things apparently didn’t go too well behind the scenes.
According to a recent interview with Carrey, Jones told him at their first meeting “I hate you. I really don’t like you.” Jones also said that he despised Carrey’s “buffoonery.” Carrey has speculated that Jones blamed him for the failure of his movie Cobb, which came out only in limited release on the same weekend as Carrey’s hit movie Dumb and Dumber. Things only went downhill from there. While the two had great chemistry on the screen, the actors refused to speak to each other on the set during filming.
14. TIM BURTON VS. JON PETERS (BATMAN)
When he directed 1989’s Batman, the movie catapulted the young Tim Burton into stardom. His dark and noir vision of Batman changed pop culture and introduced a new wave of superhero movie-making that’s still going strong today. What hasn’t been acknowledged as much is Jon Peters, who produced Batman, along with Peter Guber. Peters was on the set almost every day and made a lot of contributions, some of which clashed with Burton’s vision.
It was Peters who insisted on action scenes like the fight between Batman and the Joker’s Swordsman. He also wanted a climax in a cathedral, which Burton opposed, so he had the cathedral set built without Burton’s knowledge and ordered the director to use it. Burton resented having the changes forced on him but ultimately produced a great film.
13. RICHARD DONNER VS. THE SALKINDS (SUPERMAN II)
In 1978, Richard Donner made the world believe a man could fly with the groundbreaking Superman. Starring Christopher Reeve, Superman was hailed as a masterpiece and made the superhero faithful to the original comic. Donner played a big role in that over the objections of the producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind who wanted a camp comedy. The Salkinds also wanted the movie done fast and cheap.
Donner refused to cut corners and made the movie the way he wanted while facing constant complaints by the Salkinds over the budget and long shooting schedules. It got to the point where the two sides even refused to talk to each other. The original plan was for them to film Superman and Superman II at the same time, but he was fired and replaced by Richard Lester after Donner had shot a majority of the second movie.
12. KIDDER, HACKMAN VS. SALKINDS (SUPERMAN III)
While 1983’s Superman III gets a mixed reaction from fans, Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor) and Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) definitely disliked the movie. After the abuse and firing of director Richard Donner for Superman II, Hackman and Kidder took up their anger with the Salkinds. Hackman allegedly refused to return to Superman III as Lex Luthor, forcing the script to be rewritten without him. When Kidder made her anger public, the Salkinds allegedly cut her role to a cameo with Lana Lang playing the love interest for Superman.
In public, however, the feud has been denied by all parties. Ilya Salkind claimed they wanted to change the love interest to avoid Lois becoming overused, and Hackman claimed he had other commitments. It’s notable, though, that both actors returned in Superman IV where the Salkinds weren’t involved. Given how the final movie turned out, that may have been a blessing all around.
11. CHRISTOPHER REEVE VS. CANNON FILMS (SUPERMAN IV)
With its cheesy special effects and nonsensical plot, 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace is one of the most reviled superhero movies of all time, and it’s not just the fans who aren’t happy with it. Christopher Reeve argued with the studio Cannon Films about how little was being spent on the production during and after filming the movie, and his objections became a major feud on the set.
One of the biggest problems with Superman IV is that it had a very low budget, lower even than what had been quoted for the movie. The director Sidney Furie had to cut corners everywhere he could. He was particularly upset about the scene where he walked to the United Nations which was intended to be shot on the streets of New York. Instead, the scene was shot at a bus station in England.
10. SEAN YOUNG VS. TIM BURTON (BATMAN RETURNS)
Batman was a huge movie and made stars out of Michael Keaton and Kim Basinger, but one actress who missed out was Sean Young who had been offered the role of Vicki Vale but broke her arm in rehearsals and was replaced by Basinger. The loss of the role clearly stung her and she was determined to get the role of Catwoman in the 1992 sequel, Batman Returns.
How determined? Not only did she make her own Catwoman costume, but she flew to Los Angeles and snuck onto the Warner Bros lot to try to get an audition. After storming into the offices of the head of production Mark Canton (she was in full Catwoman costume btw), she was kicked out but went on to appear on The Joan Rivers Show in costume. She still didn’t get the part, and is still bitter about it, over 20 years later.
9. TIM BURTON VS. DANNY ELFMAN (BATMAN RETURNS)
Tim Burton and Danny Elfman have been creative partners since 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, and Elfman has scored almost all of Burton’s movies. That includes Batman Returns, which had a somber and delirious soundtrack to match the twisted visuals. However, the movie ended up causing major problems between the two.
While Burton and Elfman haven’t really talked publicly about it, Batman Returns apparently caused “creative differences” between the two. Elfman was more experimental than he was in Batman, using more choruses and a screeching violin effect for Catwoman’s themes, and there was a lot of pressure that led to clashes between the two. After Burton’s next movie The Nightmare Before Christmas, Burton and Elfman took a break from each other until Mars Attacks in 1996.
8. VAL KILMER VS. JOEL SCHUMACHER (BATMAN FOREVER)
In 1995, the Batman franchise continued with Batman Forever, a return to the campy and humorous Batman that fans remembered from the ’60s. It also marked a change in the lead role with Val Kilmer playing Batman instead of Michael Keaton, directed by Joel Schumacher. While Kilmer looked great on camera, behind the scenes things didn’t go so well.
According to Schumacher, Kilmer was angry and rude to the cast and crew, and called Kilmer “childish and impossible.” When Schumacher tried to get Kilmer to calm down, Kilmer didn’t talk to Schumacher again for the next two weeks. After Batman Forever, Schumacher hired George Clooney to play Batman in the next film, Batman and Robin. Given how that movie turned out, Schumacher might have done Kilmer a favor.
7. TERRY GILLIAM VS. WARNER BROS. (WATCHMEN)
The graphic novel Watchmen was a landmark book in 1986 and the film rights were quickly snapped up, but it took 20 years for the movie to hit the screens. One of those who tackled the tough project was Terry Gilliam, former Monty Python and director of the surreal Brazil. One of the first things he did was get a rewrite of the script and set out an ambitious plan to make the movie more faithful to the novel.
Unfortunately, Gilliam clashed with Warner Bros. over how much it wanted to spend. Gilliam had just come off of 1988’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen that went over budget, so the studio would only offer a quarter of the budget he wanted. Without the budget he wanted, Gilliam abandoned the film, later saying that the graphic novel was unfilmable as a movie and would work better as a TV miniseries.
6. 20 CENTURY FOX VS. WARNER BROS. (WATCHMEN)
It took 20 years for the groundbreaking 1986 graphic novel Watchmen to get made into a movie, and when it finally arrived, the journey took a detour. It turned out that the development process had taken it through some murky legal waters.
The first studio to option Watchmen was 20th Century Fox and when it was due to be released by Warner Bros. in 2008, the Fox studio claimed it still owned an option on the property. Fox said that the original contract entitled the studio to an option of any Watchmen film, and sued Warner Bros. to block the movie’s release for a cut of the profits from it. The lawsuit was ultimately settled with undisclosed terms and the movie went on to the big screen with mixed results, but two studios happy with their agreement.
5. NEVELDINE/TAYLOR VS. PG-13 (JONAH HEX)
When Jonah Hex went into production, a lot of people who weren’t comic book fans were confused about the property. The classic comic about a scarred gunfighter facing supernatural enemies in the Old West wasn’t one that most audiences were familiar with, but DC comics fans were excited to see one of the more obscure heroes get his due. When it was announced that the screenplay would be written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (who also wrote 2006’s Crank), fans were even more excited.
However, Neveldine and Taylor left the film over “creative differences” with the studio. The duo later explained that they had written the Jonah Hill script as a solid R-rated movie, a lot like Crank. The studio wanted to cut some of the edgier parts to get a PG-13 rating, which Neveldine/Taylor refused to do.
4. JARED LETO VS. EDITORS (SUICIDE SQUAD)
In 2016’s Suicide Squad, a group of supervillains was assembled to fight unconventional threats in the DC universe. One of those villains was Jared Leto, who took on the infamous role of the Joker. He reinvented the Joker as a drug lord; his tattoos, metal grill and flamboyant style weren’t well-received by some fans, but made for an unforgettable performance.
If Leto had his way, his performance would have been more impressive because he had apparently shot a lot of improvised footage he hoped would be used. It wasn’t. Audiences were surprised the Joker was more of a cameo than the central figure the marketing suggested, but Leto was even more surprised. He’s been vocal in interviews about how upset he was that so little of his work was actually used in the final cut.
3. DAVID AYER VS. TEASER TRAILER (SUICIDE SQUAD)
Since the movie didn’t have many of the classic DC heroes, 2016’s Suicide Squad movie kind of flew under the radar until July 2016. After the release of the fun and comical teaser, interest in Suicide Squad exploded, but there was a problem: the real movie was nothing like the teaser.
Ayer’s original vision of 2016’s Suicide Squad was what he described as The Dirty Dozen with supervillains, a violent and brutal exploration of heroism and villainy. The teaser didn’t reflect the dark tone of the real movie. Especially after complaints that Batman v Superman had been too dark, Warner Bros panicked, ordered reshoots and put the movie through multiple editors to make Suicide Squad lighter and funnier than Ayer wanted the movie to be. Many critics pointed out that the tone shifted as if two different movies had been stitched together, which they had.
2. SCREENWRITERS VS. EACH OTHER (WONDER WOMAN)
One of the hardest parts about bringing Wonder Woman to the big screen was the screenplay. According to reports, Warner Bros. struggled to get the right tone from the very beginning of development so they adopted a controversial strategy. The studio hired five different screenwriters to work on five different treatments, instructing them to write the first act to see which one worked. Warner Bros. basically pitted them against each other.
The writers became frustrated not knowing if their screenplay would be used or thrown away. Kelly Marcel, the screenwriter of Fifty Shades of Grey, quit the project over the competing system. In the end, the script was whittled down to two versions which were retooled by director Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns into the final screenplay, but the final screenwriting credits took a long time to iron out.
1. MICHELLE MACLAREN VS. WARNER BROS. (WONDER WOMAN)
When it was announced that Wonder Woman was coming to the big screen, only one thing could have made it more exciting, and that was a female director. Michelle MacLaren was tapped as the director, which seemed like a great move until she abruptly left the movie, leaving Warner Bros. scrambling to replace her.
It turned out behind the scenes that there were clashes between MacLaren’s vision of a sweeping war epic along the lines of Braveheart while Warner Bros. wanted something more character-driven. To be honest, the phrase “character-driven” might be another way of saying “cheap” since huge battle scenes cost money. The studio was also worried she might not be able to handle the big-budget movie since she had only directed TV shows like Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
What was the worst fight behind the scenes? Let us know in the comments!
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