Hollywood is swimming in scandals, it’s undeniable. The drama (and sometimes comedy) from behind the scenes is often just as intriguing as whatever unfolds on screen. However, most scandals fall into the category of “any press is good press” and will help cast a bigger spotlight on the movie. Some scandals have even been deliberately set up for this purpose. Other scandals no one would even dream of setting up.
There have certainly been times in Hollywood where scandals have overshadowed the film, or damaged its success. Sometimes scandals involve an on-set disaster, actors or directors having diva moments, or even stars having an affair with their co-stars.
However more frequently we’re seeing a new type of controversy, as people have opened up conversations about inequalities in Hollywood. This includes conversations about equal representation for women and ethnic minorities among others. But with Hollywood not catching up with the times quickly enough, its lead to criticisms big enough to overshadow the movie.
So without any further ado, here is 15 Huge Scandals That Totally Overshadowed Movies.
15. A Dog’s Purpose – Animal cruelty accusations
It’s been a while since we’ve had a really big dog film. There’s usually a tear-jerking dog film that becomes one of the most iconic films of the decade – for the ’00s it was Marley and Me. Disney probably figured it was about time they churned out a heart-warming family film centred around a dog in the hopes it would be this decades answer to Marley and Me.
A Dog’s Purpose was looking promising,– until that video surfaced. The animal cruelty accusations were not doing the movie any favors or attracting dog-lovers to go see it. It became heavily criticized and boycotted by many. More people were speaking about the video that was leaked than the movie itself.
Further claims came forward criticizing the video – there were reports that it was edited, doctored, and taken out of context. But no counter claims could save the fact that people were watching the video and not the movie.
14. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane – Bette and Joan’s feud
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s bad blood was already known about before they starred in a film together. So when the two actresses played showbiz sisters who were tearing each other apart in Whatever to Baby Jane, it became a case of life imitates art. The stories of feuding on set were making headlines, and even when the film was released it was all people were talking about. The pair did little to patch up or hide the feud, even when the film showed signs of success.
But even the success of the film couldn’t let it be overshadowed by the feud. Even its chance at Oscar glory became a big feud moment when Bette Davis lost to another actress, and Joan Crawford accepted it on the actress’ behalf.
13. Snow White and the Huntsman – Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders’ affair
Anytime a movie star gets together with someone from the movie credits it is bound to cause a little bit of a buzz. But when there’s cheating involved, it can blow up into a full-on scandal. Such was the case for star of Snow White and the Huntsman Kristen Stewart and director Rupert Sanders. The pair were caught kissing by paparazzi, and the photos released caused quite a stir. Rupert Sanders was married with two kids, and Kristen Stewart had been in a long-term relationship with Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson. Of course, the Twilight fans all took this very personally.
After this, the movie was swiftly overshadowed by the scandal. Both Sanders and Stewart released public apologies whilst the media began to dig deeper into the story. Although both couples initially seemed to make public reconciliations, neither of them lasted and both couples broke up. Neither Stewart nor Sanders worked on the follow up film The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and the movie was lambasted by critics and a disappointment at the box office.
12. Exodus: Gods and Kings – White-washing
Exodus: Gods and Kings began to gain controversy as soon as it was released. The film follows the story of Moses, but despite being set in Egypt the cast was led by white actors. However, the real controversy came from comments. When asked in an interview about the decision to cast only white actors in the lead roles of Exodus: Gods and Kings, Scott was blunt in his response, making it clear that he hadn’t even considered casting Egyptian actors to play Egyptians. Scott said:
“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I’m just not going to get it financed.”
The comments stirred controversy for referring to ethnic actors as “Mohammad so-and-so” but also brought up more questions about the point he made. Can big budget films survive without (white) A-list actors? Well, films like Life of Pi would suggest they can. While it may be understandable to want big names attached to a picture, given all the controversy it caused for Exodus: Gods and Kings (and other films on this list), it seems clear that whitewashing a film doesn’t do it any favors anymore.
11. The Crow – Brandon Lee’s Death
One of Hollywood’s most famous on set tragedies is the death of Brandon Lee, the star of the 1994 film The Crow. The star was filming a scene in which his character gets shot, when a monumental props error turned into a death trap. An improperly cleaned prop gun fired by actor Michael Masse sent a debris from a blank cartridge into Lee’s chest, as if a bullet had been shot. The star was rushed to hospital but died there due to the immense loss of blood.
The incident took a massive toll on Michael Masse, who had shot the faulty gun that was supposed to be safe for use. He was shaken to the point that he quit acting for a year, and the film was completed using Lee’s stunt double and early uses of face-replacement CGI effects. The accident was likely a result of the film not following Hollywood union standards. This was possibly because the film was shot in North Carolina, a state which has laws meaning which union oversight or regulation isn’t required.
10. Twilight Zone: The Movie – The fatal helicopter crash
Vic Morrow had been a famous character actor, and earned his spot as a much loved household name. He landed a role in the big-screen Twilight Zone: The Movie for a section directed by Jon Landis. What no one could foresee is that he would end up in one of the biggest on set Hollywood tragedies.
Morrow played a time-traveller visiting wars throughout history. One scene required him to carry two children through a river, while chased by a helicopter and surrounded by explosions. Tragically, one explosion was too close to the helicopter and it crashed. The blades decapitated Morrow and one of the children, while the other died under the weight of the crash.
The film became surrounded by controversy and lawsuits, including claims that the children’s families did not know that the children would be in scenes with a helicopter. Amid the media coverage, the movie opened to mixed reviews. Landis rewrote his segment and included it, but his career has never fully recovered.
9. Moonlight – The Oscar’s blunder
This year’s award season was a kind of redemption story for the Oscars. After the backlash at the lack of diversity the year before, and with so many great black films like Hidden Figures and Fences being released, it was their chance to show they could give recognition to films from diverse backgrounds. And they so nearly got it right – intending to give Best Picture to the so-far successful underdog of the year, Moonlight.
However in the biggest mess up in award show history, the wrong picture was awarded the prize – the other favorite to win, La La Land. Everything about the mistake was awful- nothing was corrected until several speeches from La La Land were made, when someone from La La Land had to announce the mistake themselves and hand over the award to the real winner.
The moment stole the whole show, and no matter how graciously both Moonlight and La La Land handled it no one would talk about anything else. It dominated the headlines, social media, and all of the post-awards interviews. While La La Land had already had plenty of hype pre-award shows, Moonlight had been a much smaller picture and so didn’t start to pick up buzz until the awards began piling up. It never quite got its big moment.
Unfortunately for Moonlight, what should have been a historic Oscar moment for all the right reasons became historic for all the wrong reasons.
8. The Great Wall – The White Saviour Trope
Hollywood is finally opening up to conversations about diversity, and with that comes criticism of films that aren’t taking diversity seriously. Unfortunately for Matt Damon, this meant his film The Great Wall was heavily criticized for white washing. Matt Damon described the situation as a “bummer”. However, unlike some whitewashing situations, it wasn’t so straightforward. Some claimed that since the character he was playing wasn’t originally Asian, it wasn’t whitewashing. But that still didn’t make it innocent.
What is was definitely guilty of was using the “white savior trope”; showing a white person as being a hero and saving other ethnicities, who can’t same themselves. The stereotype of heroes as being white men has been a long problem in Hollywood, but luckily now people are starting to talk about it and resist it – which puts pressure on the movie industry to correct it. Unfortunately for Damon, the controversy overshadowed the movie.
7. I Heart Huckabees – David O. Russell’s meltdown
When you hear the name David O. Russell, you might conjure up images of one of his Oscar winning movies with Jennifer Lawrence or Bradley Cooper in. Chances are if you don’t think of that, you think of his infamous bad behaviour. In particular, his infamous meltdown in which he let loose on Lily Tomlin. But one thing’s for sure, you don’t think of his movie I Heart Huckabees. And that’s probably because his on-set meltdown kind of stole its thunder.
It became so heavily associated with the director, that at an award ceremony where he was set to win a lifetime achievement award, the comedian Mike Birbiglia quoted the infamous profanity-filled rant word for word to the audience – which included David O. Russell. Unsurprisingly the hot-tempered director wasn’t too pleased. While his film I Heart Huckabees certainly suffered from it, he’s certainly been given a second chance by Hollywood , which has embraced many of his recent films like Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.
6. Mr. and Mrs. Smith – Brangelina
Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were the ultimate golden couple of Hollywood in the early ’00s. They seemingly had it all – the looks, the success, and each other. That was, until the filming of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The film was led by Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie, who were rumored to have an affair during the filming. The love triangle soon became one of the biggest showbiz stories of the decade, only fueled by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s divorce and “Brangelina” shacking up together soon after. The film managed to get lost somewhere in all the drama, and the title could never get a mention without all the drama being brought up.
Although the movie’s success suffered, thankfully not all the big names involved in the drama had to compromise their success. Jennifer Aniston continued to go from success to success with hit chick-flicks and comedies. Despite their controversial beginning, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were eventually embraced by the world as their own power couple. The pair eventually reached full circle when their break-up cast an untimely shadow over the release of Brad Pitt’s latest film Allied.
5. The Interview – Sony Data Breach
It’s rare that a movie intended to be the hit comedy of the year is pulled from theaters. It’s also rare that a comedy film is accused of nearly starting a war and nearly causing terrorist attacks. But that’s what happened to The Interview when Sony’s servers were hacked. The organization allegedly behind the attack issued terrorist threats if theaters showed the film. On top of that the movie, which involved a plot where James Franco and Seth Rogen try to assassinate Kim Jong-Un, had already ruffled among North Korea’s officials.
Theaters started dropping the film pretty quickly, and the theatrical release was almost non-existent. It was undeniable that the film was being overshadowed by the Sony data hack, terrorist threats, and North Korean condemnation. To this day, it remains what the film is known for. You would expect that James Franco and Seth Rogen were only capable of controversy from the occasional tasteless joke, but this was certainly not expected.
4. Ghost in the Shell – Whitewashing controversy
Whitewashing has recently become a big word in the film industry, and is used to point out films that will cast what should be an ethnic role with a white actor. The reason it’s harmful is simple: when it takes place on a large scale, it denies ethnic minorities of representation for stories that are supposed to be theirs. One of the biggest recent whitewashing controversies was surrounding Scarlet Johanssen’s latest role in Ghost in the Shell.
As soon as it was announced that Scarlett Johansson was cast in the lead role of Major Motoko Kusanagi, people began condemning the whitewashing of one of the most iconic characters in Japanese modern pop culture. The film has been unable to escape the controversy, and the backlash to the casting – along with mixed reviews and confusing marketing – led to the $110m project grossing a disappointing $19m in its opening week in the USA.
3. The Terminator – Christian Bale’s Meltdown
It’s expected for A-list actors to develop a bit of a diva attitude, but on the set of Terminator Salvation, lead actor Christian Bale took diva behavior to a whole new level. Far from staying humble and polite, he dove right into an expletive-laden rant at a crew member for walking through a scene. His consistent bad language makes the rant almost unreadable, but some of the more PG quotes include “you are trashing my scene”, “Do you understand my mind is not in the scene if you’re doing that?”, and a personal favourite of ours, “Ah-da-da-dah”. Let’s just say it certainly wasn’t his best monologue. And all because a lighting guy went to check a light.
Had the drama stayed on set, it probably wouldn’t have affected the movie in anyway. As is to be expected, the press got their hands on it and a recording of the rant, and transcripts, were spread around like wildfire. The rant became a hot topic surrounding the film’s release, and it seems the actors bad behavior cast the film in a different light.
2. Ghostbusters – Female leads
The Ghostbusters reboot was announced to replace the lost-in-limbo third installment of the popular eighties franchise. The film, which had actresses in all 4 main roles, has been steeped in controversy. It became largely responsible for starting a conversation about women leading Hollywood films and gender inequality. The problem was that the release of the movie became so much about that conversation, that people forgot it was also supposed to be about the movie itself.
The trailer famously became the most disliked ever video on YouTube, and while that was largely due to people hating on the female leads, it overpowered the trailer itself. No one got to say whether they thought the trailer was good or bad without it becoming a conversation about the female leads. And the same became true of the film. Those in favor of women leads in Hollywood felt obliged to like the film, and those who were against the idea felt obliged to hate it.
1. The Watch – The death of Trayvon Martin
All of the scandals on this list have one thing in common: the scandal was somehow directly linked to the movie. They either happened on set, involved the stars, or were about the film itself. But sci-fi comedy film The Watch, about a neighborhood watch group fending off aliens, starring the likes of Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, became tied up in a scandal that was completely unrelated to the film.
In 2012, a teenage boy named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a member of a neighborhood watch. The crime was atrocious, but had nothing to do with the movie. The film, which was being promoted and released at a similar time, however had to carefully re-market itself to avoid being linked to the crime. It takes a lot to get a film to change its name so late in the game, but in the wake of the events the film was renamed from Neighborhood Watch to The Watch.
The marketing campaign was also shifted to focus on the film’s alien premise to help distance any association. Unfortunately, the film was not a great success and so remained more memorable for its tie-in with the news story.
Did we miss any big scandals of our list? Let us know in the comments.