"To alcohol! The cause of and solution to all of life's problems!" - Homer Simpson in "Homer vs. The Thirteenth Amendment"
Movie making is a surreal experience, even at the best of times. More importantly, though, moviemaking can be a boring experience. Most of the time spent on a movie set involves sitting around waiting for actors to arrive from make-up, for a cameraman to set up a shot, or for a director to decide whether or not the set is to his liking. For that reason, actors often pick up strange hobbies…like pounding back booze. Few other jobs would consider such behavior acceptable, though on movie sets, hitting the sauce sort of comes with the territory. Numerous actors throughout the years have revealed their love—or vice—of alcohol, and enjoy having a few drinks between scenes. Some even claimed to be unable to work without have a drink or two first.
Which brings us to this batch of boozers. The actors listed here all have confessed to having a few drinks or more on set during filming, or at least had their consumption well documented by others. Their getting lit spans different eras, genres, origins and styles. Some confess to only having a drink once or twice, while others spent entire film shoots blitzed out of their skulls.
Kick back and pour yourself a beverage as we check out 15 Famous Actors Who Were Wasted On Movie Sets.
15 Spencer Tracy/Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
Spencer Tracy became one of the silver screen’s all-time great actors with standout performances in Judgment at Nuremberg, Adam’s Rib, and Captain’s Courageous, just to name a few. From the moment he set foot in Hollywood, however, he had a nasty reputation as an alcoholic. Originally under contract to Fox, the studio dumped him after finding him unconscious in a hotel room after a two week binge! When he later signed to MGM, the studio took great care to monitor Tracy’s drinking, and he became one of the biggest stars in the world.
By 1967, however, the years of drinking had taken their toll on Tracy’s body. Longtime companion Katherine Hepburn recalled that she would never try to curtail Tracy’s alcohol consumption, even to the detriment of his health. By the time the two made Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Tracy could only work for a few hours a day. The crew had to film in the mornings, as his drinking would render him impossible to work with by midday. He died just after wrapping up work on the movie.
14 Peter O’Toole/Lawrence of Arabia
O’Toole once recounted to David Letterman that drinking was something his generation did when a man had little else to do…and even when he did. The riveting, blue-eyed actor never hid his love of the drink throughout his career, and even claimed that his boozing helped enhance his performances.
While shooting Lawrence of Arabia, O’Toole imbibed on a regular basis. The actor recalled shooting a difficult scene that involved a raid on camel back. O’Toole and co-star Omar Sharif both feared falling off their camels and getting trampled, so the two got roaring drunk to work up their courage! Time gave O’Toole a glowing review for his performance in Lawrence of Arabia, particularly noting his “messianic” performance in the raid scene. O’Toole always laughed that he had no memory of filming, he was so drunk!
13 Billy Bob Thornton/Bad Santa
Thornton once had a reputation as one of Hollywood’s most eccentric actors—and as one of the town’s weirdest bad boys. During his marriage to Angelina Jolie, he once bragged at a red carpet premiere that the two had just “done it” in the car. The couple also lived in a trailer parked in the backyard of a Hollywood mansion, and wore vials of each other’s blood around their necks.
Thornton makes no effort to hide his eccentricities, which also have included getting drunk on set. Though the film proved a success, by all accounts, filming the hit 2003 black comedy Bad Santa tested the patience and professionalism of all those involved. To cope with the behind the scenes tensions, Thornton has confessed to hitting the sauce. In fact, since the actor was playing a hard-drinking Santa impersonator, Thornton routinely got drunk before the cameras rolled. Bad Santa opened to wide acclaim, with critics singling out Thornton’s performance as one of his best.
For his part, the actor claims to have loved making the film. Time will tell whether we'll soon hear tales of Thornton 'getting into character' for his upcoming reprisal of the role in Bad Santa 2, which is set to come out this November.
12 Gary Oldman/Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Oldman has become a stalwart character actor in Hollywood productions since bursting onto the showbiz scene with Sid & Nancy in 1986. Since then, he’s gone on to appear in everything from blockbusters like the Harry Potter series to acclaimed lower-profile fare like Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy. Oldman had one of his biggest—and most unlikely—hits in 1992 with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a gothic horror film from Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola.
Cast in the title role, Oldman had to exude raw sexuality and total creepiness, depending on the circumstances of the scene. One such moment required Oldman to shave Keanu Reeves with a straight razor and drink his blood. Coppola insisted on shooting the scene at midnight to add to the air of mystery and supernatural weirdness. While awaiting filming, Oldman passed the time by knocking back the booze! By the time the actors went before the cameras, Oldman had become stone cold drunk, which added to the weirdness of his performance, which also won him wide acclaim.
We're starting to sense a pattern here...
11 Margot Robbie/The Wolf of Wall Street
Margot Robbie caused a sensation with her breakout performance in The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013, playing a bombshell Brooklyn blonde that seduces and later marries Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort. Robbie had long labored in TV soap operas and little-seen fare, like the flop ABC drama Pan Am. Needless to say, catapulted from obscurity to working with one of the screen’s biggest stars and a legendary director in Martin Scorsese heaped a huge amount of pressure on Robbie’s shoulders.
To cope with her nervousness, Robbie turned to tequila. The actress found the spirit particularly useful before shooting some raunchy sex scenes with DiCaprio. Robbie has said many times that DiCaprio is one of her favorite actors, and that she felt enormous pressure performing alongside him. That she had to appear naked in her scenes did little to calm her down. After taking down a few shots of tequila, however, Robbie found the nerve to get it done, and she's now one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood.
10 Robert Shaw/Jaws
By all accounts, the filming of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws tested the sanity of everyone involved. Working on the high seas brought on sea sickness, prop sharks wouldn’t work, and costars Richard Dreyfuss (Hooper) and Robert Shaw (Quint) couldn’t stand one another. Both men had reputations for substance abuse on set, so it should come as no surprise that Shaw liked to drink during filming, and that his drunkenness caused a good deal of friction with his co-star.
Dreyfuss has since said that he actually liked Shaw…when Shaw was sober, anyway. Shaw would always behave in a professional manner when sober, but would begin to sip scotch as the shooting days wore on. Dreyfuss even recalls an occasion where he took a glass of booze out of Shaw's hand and throwing it overboard. Throughout most of the film, Shaw is drunk when performing on camera. One exception to the rule: the scene where his character actually gets drunk! Shaw had tried to perform it drunk himself, but couldn’t pull himself together to sustain the scene.
9 Jennifer Lawrence/Catching Fire
Jennifer Lawrence gained a reputation as one of the best young actresses in Hollywood following her breakout role in the 2010 indie drama, Winter’s Bone. She also gained a bit of a reputation in the Hollywood party scene. Friend Miley Cyrus recalls seeing Lawrence so drunk at a party one night, she yelled at Lawrence to pull herself together! Yup, Miley Cyrus said that.
Lawrence has also confessed to occasional boozing, including knocking back a few drinks the night of her Academy Award win. She’s also admitted to having a few drinks on set. During the filming of Catching Fire, to cope with one particularly long shooting day, Lawrence started boozing with costars Woody Harrelson and Josh Hutcherson. The three kept trying to crack each other up while shooting scenes, and admitted that while their behavior was less than professional, they had a good deal of fun. Director Francis Lawrence, for his part, has confirmed the stories are true, though does not hold a grudge for the behavior of his actors. Nor should he, as the film debuted to great reviews and pulled in $865 million at the worldwide box office.
8 Rebecca Romijn/X-Men
While some give all the credit to Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man film, it was Bryan Singer's first X-Men film that truly kicked off the superhero movie craze that comic book nerds are still enjoying today. The inauguaral mutant adventure pulled in nearly $300 million at the box office in the summer of 2000, setting the table for one of the biggest franchises in history and introducing the world to Hugh Jackman. Another actor had her breakout with X-Men as well: Rebecca Romijn. At the time, the then-27 year old had done little in the way of acting, as she was better known for her work as a supermodel. X-Men gifted her the role of Mystique, and Romijn’s slinky performance helped cement her reputation as a capable actress.
Filming X-Men wasn’t exactly a good time for Romijn, however. In order to keep her make-up design a secret, Fox ordered her to sit in a windowless room between takes. Romijn found the experience maddening, as she didn’t get to spend much time with her costars. To celebrate the end of filming, Romijn brought a bottle of tequila to the set one day, and did shots with members of the cast and crew. Unfortunately, that day happened to be the one where she was to film the climactic third act brawl between Mystique and Wolverine. While shooting the fight scene, Romijn reportedly vomited all over Hugh Jackman—blue from all the coloring dye her body had absorbed!
7 Shia LaBeouf/Lawless
Few actors have the meteoric rise of Shia LaBeouf, and few have as steep a fall. The actor began working in television and in smaller films before catching the eye of director/producer Steven Spielberg, who cast him in the lead in the Transformers film series and in a pivotal role in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. After a weird (and we mean weird) fall from grace that included car accidents, getting kicked out of the audience of a Broadway show, and a bizarre art installation, LaBeouf has re-emerged in recent years as a darling of the indie film world.
His behavior, however, still falls into the realm of the strange. While on set of his film Lawless, LaBeouf openly got drunk on moonshine to the point of offending his costar Mia Wasikowska. Wasikowska, who has confirmed LaBeouf’s method tactics, apparently found him so insufferable she called her lawyers to try and quit the movie! LaBeouf claims his role required that he drink, and that he was never “weird” about it. We imagine Ms. Masikowska would disagree.
6 Daniel Radcliffe/Harry Potter
Daniel Radcliffe has had a remarkable career, and it all began with nabbing the title role in Warner Bros. big budget adaptation of the Harry Potter book series. Having grown up in the public eye, Radcliffe has of late confessed to struggling with the demons of fame. Filming movies almost nonstop from the age of 11, Radcliffe went through his own period of heavy substance use, which threatened to spill over into his work life.
Radcliffe has confessed to partying hard nights while filming the Harry Potter series. On more than one occasion, the actor would arrive for filming still drunk from the night before! For that reason, Radcliffe has a hard time watching the Potter films—he recognizes the scenes where he worked while intoxicated. He also admits to frequently drinking to the point of blacking out. Radcliffe’s alcohol consumption increased after completing the Potter series, though he got sober in 2012. He claims to have not touched alcohol since.
5 Brad Pitt/Fight Club
David Fincher’s film Fight Club has become a cult favorite, thanks to the director’s trademark visual flair, depressive tone and subversive philosophy. The movie also helped Brad Pitt emerge as a more serious actor, and his performance in the film is often regarded as one of his best. Given the subject matter of Fight Club—a bare-knuckle street fighting club that becomes a terrorist group—it should come as no surprise that filming the movie had its own share of crazy incidents.
Case in point: in one scene in the film, Pitt’s character hits golf balls across a residential street with costar Edward Norton. The two are supposed to be acting drunk and destructive, so the two actors actually got drunk before going before the cameras! In reality, the two men are shooting their golf balls into the side of a parked catering van off camera. All things considered, the actors picked a good scene to get drunk for; imagine the chaos if they had been drunk in their fight scenes!
4 Martin Sheen/Apocalypse Now
Francis Ford Coppola loves allowing his actors leeway to improvise, and likes to give them off-camera direction while shooting scenes. By all accounts, the production process behind his 1979 masterpiece Apocalypse Now got way out of control: the movie went drastically over budget and over schedule, thanks to a litany of production delays ranging from typhoons to political revolutions to Marlon Brando acting crazy. Star Martin Sheen also had his own constitution tested, courtesy of a heart attack that almost claimed his life.
It was that kind of shoot. Coppola wanted to push his actors to achieve better performances, and in one scene, he had Sheen get drunk before rolling film. Sheen complied, and improvised his way through the scene with Coppola instructing him off camera. At one point, Sheen punched a mirror, which shattered, causing Sheen to begin to bleed profusely from his hand! Coppola cut the scene and allowed Sheen to get some first aid treatment, though the shot of him breaking the mirror appears in the final film.
3 Fred Astaire/Holiday Inn
Fred Astaire became one of Hollywood’s first megastars thanks to his song and dance skills during the era of big screen musicals. Often paired with talents like Ginger Rodgers or Bing Crosby, Astaire could light up the screen with his incredibly charismatic persona. One film with Crosby, Holiday Inn, has become a classic; it first produced the song “White Christmas,” which would become popular enough to spawn a film of its own. Though considered wholesome entertainment today, Astaire’s off-screen antics weren’t so squeaky clean.
In one scene in Holiday Inn, Astaire’s character gets drunk and makes a fool of himself while dancing, so the actor elected to jump aboard the bourbon train to get into the spirit of things. Between each take, Astaire would knock back a drink. Naturally then, by take seven, Astaire actually was drunk, giving the scene an added degree of authenticity. For the record, that seventh and final take is the one used in the film, and is widely considered one of Astaire’s best moments on screen.
2 Julie Andrews/The Sound of Music
Speaking of wholesome, Julie Andrews added to her reputation as one of the most wholesome stars in the industry by appearing in the smash hit musical, The Sound of Music. Friends of Andrews often comment at the irony of her public image as a squeaky-clean woman earned by performances as a nun in Music, or as a proper English nanny in Mary Poppins, for which she snagged an Oscar. Anyone on set of The Sound of Music would surely quibble with said image, given some of Andrews’ antics.
In one of the movie’s most memorable numbers, Andrews’ character and her children sing the song “Do Re Mi” on the Austrian countryside. Filmed on location, Andrews made friends with some of the locals, including a farmer who provided her with an ample amount of schnapps. Andrews defends her actions, pointing out that virtually everyone on set, in front of or behind the camera, had a few drinks that day. Though it looks like a bright, warm day in the movie, it was actually freezing! Everyone drank just to keep warm!
1 Richard Burton/Just about anything he ever did
Go figure that Burton would earn some of the best reviews of his life and an Oscar nomination for his performance as a hard-drinking college professor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The man had a reputation as one of Hollywood’s hardest drinkers, a habit he did little to try to hide from the public. The actor had said explicitly that he thought all actors were gay, and tried to cover it up with drinking. Burton admitted to doing as much himself!
At the height of his alcoholism, Burton could drink between three and four bottles of vodka per day! While filming The Klansman in 1974, Burton drank to the point of perpetual inebriation without end. Most of his scenes had to be shot with him sitting or lying down due to his inability to maintain his balance, and viewers have noted his slurred enunciation throughout the film. At the time, Burton was going through a nasty divorce from wife Elizabeth Taylor, and upon completing filming, went straight to lockdown rehab to dry out!
Did we leave out your favorite drunken actor story? Tell us about it in the comments!