There’s a common concept that people read celebrity gossip because it somehow humanizes its subjects by reminding readers that, beneath all the glam and glitter, celebrities are people just like us who have bad days, family drama, health issues, and the odd breakdown — but this is only half-true.
What really draws us in is the idea and sight of entertainers we love and adore facing problems that, due to their fame, fortune, and power, seem like amped-up versions of our own. This is especially true of actors’ mental health problems and other issues which cause instances of spectacularly disruptive behavior on their part; they fascinate us all the more because their work and media presence encourage us to see everything they do as a kind of performance.
So when an actor (or any performer) has some kind of breakdown, it feels like either an extension of their public persona or a spectacular disruption of the illusion that they’ve crafted.
Here are the 18 Actors Who Had Very Public Breakdowns.
18. Nicolas Cage
Between the poor career decisions and out-of-context “freak out” YouTube clips, many people have forgotten what a uniquely daring and compelling actor he really is and have instead embraced him as a meme-generating human cartoon. Additionally, reports of stolen dinosaur skulls and dietary habits based on animals’ sex lives have done little to discourage that.
However, not all crazy Nicolas Cage stories are so amusing, as evidenced by these two separate incidents in which the actor engaged in public behavior that suggests his Oscar-winning performance in Leaving Las Vegas was closer to his real self than we all imagined.
The first incident occurred in December 2010 outside a nightclub in Bucharest during a break from filming of Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance; amateur video footage shows an angry Cage swearing at a man and two women and bizarrely boasting that he will “fucking die because of honor” as his bodyguards escort him back in his car.
The second outbreak occurred on the 16th of April 2011 in New Orleans, where he was arrested on charges of domestic violence, disturbing the peace, and public drunkenness after an altercation with his wife. The charges were dropped three weeks later.
17. Shia LaBeouf
So far, Shia LaBeouf’s post-Even Stevens career can be broken down into three phases: faux-teenage blockbuster dweeb, serious dramatic actor, and alcoholic performance artist. Currently, he’s stuck in the third phase and it’s unclear whether his recent performance in American Honey or his Borg/McEnroe biopic will be enough to pull him out of it.
While some could point to his plagiarism of Daniel Clowes’ Justin M. Damiano in 2013 as LaBeouf’s start of darkness, that moment can be more accurately pinpointed in June 2014. After getting banned from a restaurant for public urination, LaBeouf was arrested for disrupting a performance of Cabaret by loudly yelling at the actors onstage.
Since then, there seems to be no end in sight to LaBeouf’s troubles, as 2017 has thus far seen no less than three instances of the Transformers star getting into fights and making a very public nuisance of himself.
16. Mel Gibson
It may feel like centuries ago but, once upon a time, Mel Gibson was one of Hollywood’s most popular movie stars and his off-screen reputation was that of a mischievous prankster rather than a violent alcoholic bigot with deep-seated anger issues. While Gibson’s struggle with alcohol was never really a secret, it wasn’t until his notorious DUI arrest in June 2006 that it started causing severe harm to his career.
Of course, what shocked people wasn’t the drunkenness itself so much as the anti-Semitic rants that punctuated his arrest, which seemingly confirmed the many accusations leveled at Gibson in 2004 by Passion Of The Christ critics.
Despite his apologies, the damage was done and things only got worse from then on; in July 2010, amidst allegations of domestic violence against his estranged girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva, RadarOnline published recordings of threatening phone calls made to her by Gibson, causing him to be dropped by his agency.
15. Anne Heche
Anne Heche has suffered from many mental health problems throughout her life, most of them stemming, according to her account, from the repeated sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her closeted gay father.
On August the 19th of 2000, shortly after the end of her high-profile relationship with Ellen DeGeneres, these problems manifested themselves in the form of a very public psychotic episode.
After a three-plus hour drive from Los Angeles to Cantua Creek, Heche abandoned her car on the roadside, took a hit of ecstasy, and walked half-dressed across the desert for a mile and a half until she reached the ranch of one Araceli Campiz, who recognized her and allowed her to use his shower.
When his famous guest showed no sign of intending to leave, he called the local sheriff’s department for assistance. When the deputies arrived, they were greeted by the sight of Heche claiming to be God and that she was going to take everyone to heaven in a spaceship. After spending a few hours in hospital, Heche was released without charge. She has since recovered from her ordeal.
14. Christian Bale
Christian Bale, as anyone who’s seen The Machinist will know, is a method actor. As such, his job requires intense preparation and utmost concentration every second the camera is rolling, whether it’s for serious dramatic fare like The Fighter or popcorn entertainment like Equilibrium. Woe be unto anyone who makes the mistake of disturbing the master at work.
Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut found this out the hard way on the set of Terminator: Salvation when he accidentally walked into one of Bale’s scenes, unleashing a furious expletive-filled tirade from the actor that far exceeded the limits of reasonable frustration, and that sound engineers wasted no time in recording and leaking online for public amusement.
While Bale did apologize for his behavior, the incident brought up memories of a more violent outburst from July 2008, which resulted in his arrest for assault against his mother and sister for allegedly insulting his wife. The charges were later dropped due to insufficient evidence.
13. Alec Baldwin
When he isn’t doing hilariously dead-on impressions of our current president on Saturday Night Live or voicing animated boss babies, Alec Baldwin is often found in tabloid reports of his violent profanity-laden temper tantrums, some directed at New York Post photographers, others at his own daughter.
As respected an actor as he may be, the 30 Rock star’s anger issues have considerably soured public perception of him as a person — as demonstrated during a particularly memorable American Airlines flight.
On December the 6th of 2011, AA Flight 4’s take-off from LAX was delayed for an hour due to a disturbance that started when a flight attendant had the gall to remind the Oscar-nominated actor to turn off his cellphone.
According to witnesses, the incensed Baldwin got up, locked himself in the toilet and violently pounded his fists against the walls. After getting forcibly escorted off the plane, Baldwin took another flight to New York and subsequently laughed off the incident in a SNL sketch.
12. Britney Spears
Britney Spears’ inclusion on this list may seem incongruous but that would be forgetting her starring role in the 2002 hit film Crossroads, made fittingly enough at a career crossroad between her (mostly) wholesome teenybopper period and her provocative sex bomb phase. Three years after that transition, things started going downhill.
The problems began in February 2006 when pictures of her driving with her five month-old son Sean in her lap were leaked online, apparently documenting the result of a scary encounter with a paparazzi. More family problems emerged nine months later when she began proceedings to end her two year-old marriage to Kevin Federline.
Everything came crushing down in February 2007, when Spears checked herself into rehab for 24 hours, shaved her head and snapped at a paparazzi by smashing an umbrella against his car. After a stint in a psych ward in January 2008, Spears got sober and now seems to have put her troubles behind her.
11. Charlie Sheen
Charlie Sheen’s descent into the abyss has been at once a sad and perversely fascinating spectacle. Here was the son of a superb actor, once the star of such landmark films as Platoon and Wall Street, now reduced to an international caricature of self-destructive Hollywood excess.
Sheen’s drug problems and criminal behavior had already come under scrutiny before, but it wasn’t until his hiatus from Two And A Half Men for drug rehabilitation and eventual firing for an anti-Semitic rant against producer Chuck Lorre that his mental instability became worldwide news.
For months, Sheen dominated the news with bizarre interviews, podcasts, and one-man shows all dedicated to his wild inimitable greatness. He now appears to have mellowed down somewhat, particularly after publicly announcing his HIV-positive status, but his career as a respected actor seems truly over.
10. Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe has always carried a “difficult” reputation, on and off-set, mainly due to arguments with co-workers and the odd brawl. However, the infamous 2005 Mercer Hotel incident sticks in most people’s mind for sheer absurdity.
On the 6th of June 2005, the Gladiator star was arrested in SoHo, New York and charged with second-degree assault and fourth-degree possession of a weapon. What weapon did he use to commit that assault? Why, the very cause of his outburst, of course: one of the hotel’s telephones.
Mr. Crowe, you see, had been trying to reach his wife in Australia but found the telephone uncooperative, and vented his frustration on hotel clerk Nestor Estrada by hurling the offending object in his face, giving him a cut below the right eye and a welt on the right cheek.
9. Omar Sharif
The late Omar Sharif was known throughout most of his life as a hard-drinking, hard-partying hell-raiser whose love of sex, smoking, and gambling got him in no small amount of financial, personal, and health problems. However, for many people, this was just part of his romantic “bad boy” appeal. However, there were a few occasions when the Lawrence Of Arabia star showed a darker side to that persona.
The first came in July 2003, when Sharif reacted to a lost game of roulette by verbally attacking the croupier and head-butting the policeman sent to escort him away, earning him a one-month suspended sentence and €1800 in fines and damages. In June 2005, it was a Beverly Hills steakhouse valet’s turn to suffer Sharif’s wrath for daring to refuse a €20 tip.
However, Sharif’s most shocking outburst came in October 2011 during the Doha Tribeca International Film Festival, when he publicly slapped Egyptian journalist Aisha Al-Douri in full view of cameras, all because of her persistence in getting him to pose for a photo with her. While annoying fans and reporters can be a nuisance to deal with, physically assaulting women is never a good look.
8. Meat Loaf
In 2011, Meat Loaf signed up to participate in the eleventh season of Celebrity Apprentice as a member of the all-male team Backbone. Among his fellow male celebrity teammates were country singer John Rich, rapper Lil Jon, and actor/famous crazy person Gary Busey. Such a lineup on a notoriously ultra-competitive show was bound to lead to a clash of egos and so it did, in the form of a memorable clash between Meat Loaf and Gary Busey in episode five.
During an artwork challenge, the singer was unable to locate a bag of markers and became convinced that a fellow teammate had stolen them. After seeing sponges on Busey’s table, he suddenly lost his cool and began screaming obscenity-laden insults, accusations, and threats in the bemused actor’s face, forcing Lil Jon and Mark McGrath to physically restrain him.
7. Martin Lawrence
Martin Lawrence is famous for his broad, over-the-top comedy so it’s not all that surprising to learn that his off-screen persona can be equally extravagant. However, not even Lawrence’s most outrageous Big Momma comedies could match the craziness of his 1996 road rage incident.
On May the 7th 1996 in LA, the comedian was arrested and hospitalized following a spectacular nervous breakdown that occurred in the middle of Ventura Boulevard. According to eyewitnesses, Lawrence ran into the busy street swearing and screaming things like “they’re trying to kill me!” and “fight the establishment!” while carrying a loaded handgun in his pocket.
Although police cited failure to take prescribed medication as the cause of his fit, his publicist insisted that the incident was simply due to exhaustion and dehydration. Whatever the cause, this was neither the first nor the last of the Bad Boys star’s many outbursts. Thankfully, while his screen appearances are somewhat less frequent today, his health problems seem to have subsided.
6. Johnny Depp
Once revered as one of America’s most sensitive and versatile actors, Johnny Depp is now engaged in a downward spiral of professional and personal failures that threaten overshadow his accomplishments.
When Amber Heard went public with her accusations of domestic violence during their divorce proceedings, fans, friends, and relatives of the actor united in their disbelief. It took published photos of her injuries and a hidden-camera video of Depp drunkenly trashing his kitchen and yelling abuse at her for the truth to sink in.
While neither the divorce nor the evidence of abuse appear to have harmed Depp’s career, his reputation has taken a blow that he may never wholly recover from and his recent public behavior, such as joking about assassinating President Trump at the Glastonbury Festival, has done little to make things better.
5. Rip Torn
Younger audiences may best remember Rip Torn as either MIB chief Zed in the first two Men In Black films or the voice of Zeus in Disney’s Hercules but back in the ’50s and ’60s, he was one of many exciting young Actors’ Studio-trained actors that helped lay the foundation for New Hollywood to build on. Like many of those actors, Torn was an unpredictable rabble-rouser on and off-set, and he’s not one to mellow with age.
While stories of Torn getting in trouble date at least as far back as the 1970s, the meltdowns that got him in the biggest scrapes with the law are much more recent. Aside from his many DUI charges (one of which he was eventually acquitted for), Torn infamously broke into a bank in January 2010 while drunk and armed with a handgun, apparently convinced the bank was his own house. He was sentenced to a suspended two-and-a-half year prison sentence and a three-year probation.
4. Andy Dick
Has any public performer lived up to their surname more than Andy Dick? You’d be hard-pressed to find an actor more widely reviled on the Internet than the NewsRadio star, so numerous and stomach-churning are his offenses against society. A long-time sufferer of substance abuse, Dick has frequently found himself on the wrong side of the law for lewd and disruptive public behavior, often while intoxicated.
Victims of his serial groping and unwanted touching include celebrities such as porn actress Tera Patrick and drag queen Chi Chi LaRue, both of whom he reportedly harassed at the 2011 Adult Video News Awards, as well as ordinary members of the public like the 17 year-old girl he sexually assaulted in a Murrieta restaurant in July 2008.
3. Michael Moriarty
Best known for playing DA Benjamin Stone on the long-running police procedural drama Law & Order, Michael Moriarty has also played prominent roles in films such as The Last Detail, Bang The Drum Slowly, Pale Rider, and Courage Under Fire and Along Came A Spider. These days, he appears to be retired from acting but can still be found blogging for the Canadian conservative website Enter Stage Right.
His life and career took a turn for the worse after his outspoken criticism of then-Attorney General Janet Reno’s crusade against TV violence led to his departure from Law & Order. Blaming network executives for caving in to political pressure, Moriarty emigrated to Canada and fell into a spiral of alcoholism that occasionally got him in trouble with the law, including an eventually-dropped assault charge for allegedly slapping his wife.
Although he is now sober, the feeling of persecution resulting from these events is evident in his political blogging, which consists mainly of incoherent ramblings about “World Communism” and the “Progressive New World Order” apparently out to destroy America.
2. Randy Quaid
While Randy Quaid has enjoyed a diverse and illustrious career on film and television, the role that endures most in popular consciousness is arguably that of half-crazed alien abductee Russell Casse in Independence Day.
It’s a classic portrayal of the eccentric conspiracy theorist who turns out to be right all along — we love it because it plays to our make-believe fantasies all while being grounded in a real psychological phenomeon. Unfortunately, it appears that Quaid may have taken the role too seriously.
In October 2010, Quaid and his wife Evi fled Hollywood to apply for refugee status in Canada. What or who were they seeking refuge from? None other than the dreaded “Star Whackers,” a mysterious cabal of assassins that, according to Quaid, are secretly responsible for the deaths of Heath Ledger and David Carradine, and have apparently turned their sights on the Oscar-nominated Last Detail star and his wife.
This sudden fear for their lives came only a month after the couple had been arrested in Santa Barbara for breaking into and occupying a guest house they used to own. After a troubled five-year stay in Canada, the Quaids returned to America and now live in Vermont.
1. Shelley Duvall
Shelley Duvall’s struggle with mental illness is one of the saddest pop culture-related stories to have emerged in recent memory. The generally private Shining star had given very few interviews and had all but disappeared from the public eye since her retirement in 2002, which made her first media appearance in 14 years all the more shocking to viewers.
On November the 16th 2016, controversial TV host Dr. Phil McGraw aired a promotional excerpt of an upcoming show that featured a physically unrecognizable Duvall confessing to various delusions and hallucinations, including her belief that her late friend and Popeye co-star Robin Williams is still alive and shape-shifting.
The show was met with furious criticism across social media for its perceived exploitation of a seriously ill woman for ratings. According to McGraw, she spent three days at a treatment facility following the interview before being returned to her house, where she is being treated by “local professionals.”
Can you think of any other actors who have had public breakdowns? Let us know in the comments.
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