A lot of people work very hard to make movies. All of them attempt to create something that will entertain and satisfy the audiences who fork over their hard-earned money for a ticket. There’s a lot of creativity – and often a lot of passion – involved. The goal of a film critic, meanwhile, is to be honest, to assess what works and what doesn’t. When the movie gets good reviews, everyone is happy. When it doesn’t, the people who made it can occasionally feel a little hurt or even angry.
More often than not, they simply take bad reviews for what they are: constructive criticism from people who love cinema enough to dedicate their lives to writing about it. But every once in a while, an actor or director gets angry enough to strike back at something a critic said. And at times, it can get ugly.
What follows are examples of that ugliness. Here are 13 Stars and Directors Who Publicly Feuded With Film Critics.
13. Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t like any you-know-what snakes on his you-know-what plane. He apparently doesn’t like critics taking shots at his major blockbuster either. In 2012, Jackson took umbrage over the fact that New York Times film critic A.O. Scott gave a negative review to The Avengers, a film that had been warmly received by the majority of critics. Specifically, Scott said the movie was full of “bloated cynicism” and “grinding, hectic emptiness.”
Jackson responded by going on Twitter and saying that Scott “needs a new job…one that he can ACTUALLY do.” The critic retweeted Jackson’s comment, saying he felt “more flattered than threatened” and implying that Jackson’s disgust may have actually proven his point. The back-and-forth continued, with the actor accusing Scott of having a “jaundiced” posterior. Eventually, both parties let the matter drop, and with more than $600 million in receipts at the U.S. box office alone, Jackson didn’t have reason to stew much longer.
12. Melissa McCarthy
Rex Reed has been a recognizable film critic for decades. In recent years, though, he’s achieved a reputation for making his negative reviews a little too personal at times. That’s exactly what happened when he reviewed the Jason Bateman/Melissa McCarthy comedy Identity Thief. Reed, who didn’t care for McCarthy’s performance, referred to the actress as a “female hippo” and called her “tractor-sized.” He also openly stated that her weight was a “gimmick” that she capitalized on to earn easy laughs.
For her part, McCarthy attempted to take the high road. She shrugged off his body-shaming by saying Reed was clearly “in a really bad spot” and “swimming in so much hate,” while admitting that such comments likely would have devastated her when she was younger. The critic refused to back down. He told one website that he’d lost many good friends to obesity and didn’t find it to be a laughing matter. That excuse rang hollow given the unnecessary meanness of his words. In any regard, Identity Thief was a hit, and Melissa McCarthy has enjoyed a successful career, supported by fans who adore her.
11. Richard LaGravenese
You may not know the name Richard LaGravenese, but you’ll definitely recognize some of the movies he’s written: The Bridges of Madison County, The Horse Whisperer, Water for Elephants, Unbroken. His breakout script was also his second to be produced. The Fisher King — which starred Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges — earned LaGravenese an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay in 1992. One critic who was less than impressed with his work was Gene Siskel. On the annual Academy Awards preview episode of Siskel & Ebert, the critic selected LaGravenese’s script as the least deserving nominee in the major categories.
Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with the writer. For his next screenplay, a comedy called The Ref, he created the character of a balding, ethically-questionable military school instructor who gets blackmailed over some provocative photos with topless women. That character’s name? Siskel. The inclusion of his uncommon last name surprised the critic when he attended a press screening of the film. Siskel responded to the slight by saying it was an ill-conceived form of revenge, since audiences might be expecting an Ebert joke to follow, thereby distracting them from the story. He also humorously lamented that Jack Nicholson didn’t play the character. (A then-unknown J.K. Simmons, aka Gym Gordon, did.) Perhaps not-so-concidentally, Siskel gave The Ref a “thumbs down” on the Siskel & Ebert show.
10. Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky is the visionary director of Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Noah. Armond White is the film critic for the New York Press, and a man known for his contrarian reviews. He puts out an annual “better than” list in which he insists that the movies that get the worst reviews are actually better than those that get the most favorable reviews. (As a reference, he once tried to make the case that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was better than Zero Dark Thirty.) These two strong-minded gentlemen ended up going toe-to-toe at, of all places, an awards ceremony.
During the 2011 New York Film Critics Circle awards dinner, White — who was the group’s chairman as well as the evening’s host — openly made known his disdain for many of the films the organization was honoring. It became so uncomfortable for the attendees that Aronofsky couldn’t take it anymore. Onstage to present an award to his Black Swan cinematographer Matthew Libatique, the director took his shot, telling White, who had severely panned Black Swan, to “keep it up” and saying that he provided “another reason not to read the New York Press.” Upon returning to the stage later, White responded by sniping, “Darren reads me. That’s all I want. And because he reads me, he knows the truth.”
9. Rob Schneider
It’s hard to believe that someone who made a lowbrow comedy called Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo would argue passionately for the artistic merits of his work, but that’s just what Rob Schneider did. When Los Angeles Times critic Patrick Goldstein mocked the film’s lack of Oscar-worthiness and referred to Schneider as a “third-rate comic,” the actor took out an ad in an industry trade paper sarcastically accusing Goldstein of being unqualified to pass judgement on Deuce Bigalow because he hadn’t won a Pulitzer Prize. Fellow critic Roger Ebert jumped to Goldstein’s defense, pointing out that he himself had won a Pulitzer. He wrote: “Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks.”
Despite that smackdown, Schneider and Ebert were eventually able to make nice with one another. When the venerated critic was ill with cancer, Schneider sent him a bouquet of flowers. After he passed away, his widow Chaz reached out to Schneider, who admitted Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo wasn’t very good and expressed admiration for Ebert’s love of cinema. It represented a rare happy ending to an actor/critic feud.
8. Vincent Gallo
Because he was the most well-known film critic in America for many years, it’s no surprise that Roger Ebert found himself in more than one feud. At the Cannes Film Festival in 2003, he walked out of a screening of model-turned-actor/director Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny, declaring it the worst film ever to screen at the fest. Gallo responded by calling Ebert a “fat pig” and wishing colon cancer on him. The critic fired back, stating that watching a video of his own colonoscopy was more entertaining than watching The Brown Bunny.
Then an amazing thing happened. After the bad response at Cannes, Gallo re-cut his film, trimming it by nearly thirty minutes and tightening up its narrative. Ebert reviewed the new version — and gave it a thumbs up, saying that the editing had turned it into a different, more coherent picture. He and Gallo were later able to make amends in person.
7. Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer
The Lone Ranger was supposed to do two things: be a blockbuster hit and turn Armie Hammer into a star. In reality, the movie flopped hard at the box office and arguably hurt Hammer’s career. So when the time came to promote the film for international audiences, Hammer and co-star Johnny Depp (who was singled out for his unappealing portrayal of Tonto) were a little touchy. During an interview after the picture’s U.S. release, the actors took a swipe at the people they blamed for The Lone Ranger‘s failure: film critics.
Depp openly suggested that the reviews were written “seven to eight months before we released the film” and that critics were opposed to him re-teaming with Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Hammer took it a step further, accusing critics of “gunning for” the movie because of its well-documented production problems and budget overruns. Critics, he said, “decided to slit the jugular” of The Lone Ranger. These comments stirred up a flurry of critical reactions online, with most critics pointing out that they didn’t make the movie and therefore shouldn’t be blamed for the public’s rejection of it.
6. Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith owes his career to film critics. It was they who supported his low-budget indie debut Clerks, putting it on the public’s radar. That’s why it was so surprising when Smith later attacked them with such vitriol. After years of making independent comedies, the filmmaker decided that he wanted to try his hand at a mainstream studio film. The result was Cop Out, a buddy cop movie starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan.
Smith openly admitted that this was by no means a passion project. He wanted to make a commercial hit. Nevertheless, Smith was incredibly wounded by the largely negative reviews Cop Out received, likening them to “bullying a retarded kid.” In a lengthy Twitter rant, he announced that critics would no longer be allowed to screen his films in advance, for free. They would have to pay to review them. He also accused critics of not creating anything worthwhile (as if a career of facilitating discussion about art has no merit.) Richard Roeper was the critic Smith singled out most for panning Cop Out. Having filled in once for the ailing Roger Ebert on the Ebert & Roeper show and apparently believing that earned him a lifetime pass on negative assessments, he called Roeper “the kind of guy who’s nice to your face, then stabs you in the back.” Making his outburst even more odd was that Smith had long made light of the negative reviews of Jersey Girl, a picture that was far more personal to him.
The rant, not surprisingly, inspired a multitude of critics to defend themselves in print, poking holes in Smith’s arguments. Eventually, the filmmaker softened up a bit, going on to make intentionally divisive pictures like Red State and Tusk, and saying that he was “too old to fight or care anymore.”
5. Roland Emmerich
Roger Ebert (again!) did not like Independence Day. Nor did he like Stargate or Universal Solider. This apparently rankled the man who directed all three of those pictures, Roland Emmerich. So, taking a page out of the Richard LaGravenese playbook, he decided to get some not-so-subtle onscreen revenge against his perceived nemesis. For the 1998 movie Godzilla, Emmerich and co-writer Dean Devlin created two interesting supporting characters. One was the bespectacled, overweight, and highly ineffectual Mayor Ebert, whose poor decisions put the good citizens of New York City in peril. The other was the mayor’s assistant, a bald man named “Gene” (after Ebert’s professional partner Gene Siskel).
Neither critic positively reviewed the film, and Ebert insisted that they’d gotten off lightly, saying that he thought the mayor and his assistant would be squashed by Godzilla. He also got the last laugh in his review with this sentiment: “Now that I’ve inspired a character in a Godzilla movie, all I really still desire is for several Ingmar Bergman characters to sit in a circle and read my reviews to one another in hushed tones.”
4. James Cameron
When you’re the King of the World, hearing criticism can be more than a little galling. Case in point: James Cameron. Despite incredible box office success, largely rave reviews, and heaps of awards praise, Cameron couldn’t let go of one of the few professional writers who failed to recognize the genius of Titanic. He penned a lengthy tirade against Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan for what he described as “an incessant rain of personal barbs” regarding the film. (“A movie that reeks of phoniness and lacks even minimal originality” was one of the review’s more harsh observations.) Among his accusations was that Turan was “simmering in his own bile,” engaging in “paternalism and elitism,” and “insulting the majority of the filmgoing public.”
For his part, Turan tried not to engage. He largely let his review speak for itself, although years later, he claimed that Cameron had emailed the paper’s editors demanding that he be fired. The Times opted to let him keep his position.
3. Alex Proyas
On the other end of the spectrum is Alex Proyas. Whereas Cameron’s Titanic won the Best Picture Oscar and was, for many years, the highest-grossing film in history, Proyas’ Gods of Egypt was a massive (and expensive) flop that earned a dismal 12% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The director — who had previously made Dark City, The Crow, and I, Robot — was very displeased by the reception to his 2016 movie. After opening to a weak $14 million, Proyas posted an epic Facebook tirade to express his displeasure. We’ll give you one guess who he blamed for the failure of his work. Hint: it wasn’t himself.
Proyas called film critics “deranged idiots” and “diseased vultures” who are “less than worthless.” He went on to accuse them of basing their opinions on what their colleagues say, and implied that the general public doesn’t listen to them anyway. Many critics responded by pointing out the flaws in Proyas’ argument, such as the fact that critics publish their reviews before there’s a consensus, and that if the average moviegoer doesn’t pay attention to critics, it was illogical to blame them for the utter failure of Gods of Egypt.
2. Amy Schumer
The majority of romantic comedies are extremely formulaic. Comedian Amy Schumer made her debut as a big screen leading lady with a romcom she wrote herself, Trainwreck. Like her stand-up routine, it was filled with hilariously painful self-analysis. The movie was raunchy and funny, and even a bit dark at times. Certainly nothing formulaic about it. Instead of giving Schumer credit for trying to forge a different path, Jeffrey Wells — blogger at Hollywood Elsewhere and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association — opted to tear her down. Wells griped that Schumer was “not conventionally attractive” and “chubby,” while adding there was “no way she’d be an object of heated interest in the real world.” He wasn’t done. After being called out by many of his readers, Wells published a second post, in which he called her “not grade-A or even B-plus material, certainly by my standards, as well as those of any moderately-attractive, fair-minded heterosexual dude who’s feeling hormonal.”
Schumer responded using the most powerful tools in her arsenal: forthrightness and humor. First, she tweeted a picture of herself in her underwear with the caption “I am a size six and have no plans of changing. This is it. Stay on or get off.” She then revealed to the Hollywood Reporter that Wells had tried to date her after his post. Finally, she devoted an entire episode of her Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer to the subject, with a 22-minute 12 Angry Men parody in which a bunch of Wells-ian male jurors try to determine whether she’s hot enough to be on TV. Now that’s how you drop a mic!
1. Uwe Boll
Thus far, all the feuds we’ve looked at have been verbal or in writing. Here’s one that actually got physical. Director Uwe Boll is best known for a series of video game-based movies (Alone in the Dark, Bloodrayne, Postal, Far Cry) that critics called incompetently made. Their bad reviews went beyond your garden variety thumbs-down. Most of his films have Rotten Tomatoes scores of less than 10%. His highest is only 25%. You get the picture.
Boll hated critics as much as they hated him, so he offered to step into the boxing ring with the critics who most harshly wrote about him. On the surface, it sounded great. The writers who despised his work could get in a couple of shots for putting them through agony, while he could get a chance to knock them just as they knocked him. It should have been cathartic for everyone. But what Boll declined to mention was that this was more than just a PR stunt. He knew how to box, and he had every intention of beating the crap out of his opponents.
That’s just what he did. Boll fought four critics in one night — Richard Kyanka, Jeff Sneider, Chris Alexander, and Chance Mintner — handily defeating all of them. Of course, this didn’t do anything to help him get better reviews, but it certainly offered the much-maligned director a chance to take his aggression out on the writers who panned his work. By the way, if you want to see an example of how brutal it got, here you go!
Who do you think won each of these feuds? Give us your thoughts in the comments.
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