Messed Up Things Hollywood Starlets Were Told To Do

The following article contains references to sexual assault, racism, homophobia, and body negativity 

When the subject of misconduct in Hollywood arises, we usually think of powerful industry executives harassing and abusing women. Following the revelations in recent years about innumerable directors, producers, and actors engaging in highly problematic behavior, one would assume that certain power imbalances in the industry have changed. The abuse of starlets is something that has been masked for decades and it's only recently that actors have bravely decided that they won't be silenced. In the past, those who came forward to accuse men of misconduct were swiftly silenced and blacklisted from Hollywood (we need look no further than Sean Young, who was ostracized from the biz after calling out abusive men). As more starlets come forward, it may appear as though there has been a reckoning of sorts in Hollywood, with abusers finally being made accountable for their actions.

But the mistreatment of starlets is not confined to the horrors of the casting couch. Often, actors are degraded in other ways, namely via psychological and emotional abuse. Women in showbiz have been told to do countless eyebrow-raising acts to further their careers. We may assume that entertainers in Hollywood have greater autonomy to reject such problematic recommendations, but we mustn't overlook the power dynamics that exist in the industry, enabling those in positions of power to degrade hopeful young stars. This one's not for the faint-hearted: let's take a look at the messed up things Hollywood starlets were told to do.

Mischa Barton was told to sleep with Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio's apparent predilection for women decades his junior has generated much public discourse. Legend has it that Leo has never dated a woman over 25, leading to the aging heartthrob cementing his status in the realm of memedom. But jibes and memes aside, there's a darker aspect to his supposed interest in young women. Comedian Katherine Ryan, for instance, branded the star "creepy" for pursuing women young enough to be his daughter. Such sentiments appear sinister considering the revelation that a 19-year-old Mischa Barton was once told that sleeping with DiCaprio would further her career.

Barton made the alarming admission in a 2005 interview with Harper's and Queen (via BuzzFeed News), which resurfaced in 2023 following rumors that DiCaprio is dating a 19-year-old. At the time, Barton herself was 19, whereas DiCaprio was 31. It was Barton's publicist, Craig Schneider, who gave her the troubling advice following the "Wolf of Wall Street" star's split from supermodel Gisele Bündchen. "For the sake of your career, go and sleep with that man," Schneider reportedly told Barton. Apparently repulsed at the suggestion that a teenager should sleep with a grown man to enhance her career prospects, she replied, "Isn't Leo, like, 30 or something?" 

As Twitter users pointed out, DiCaprio's rumored girlfriend, Eden Polani, was two-years-old when the interview was conducted. Considering that DiCaprio is now pushing 50, the teen Barton's disgust at the prospect of sex with a 30-year-old is all the more prescient. 

Marilyn Monroe was made to shave her face

Hollywood's ill-treatment of Marilyn Monroe was so monstrous that it defies belief. Despite being a highly intelligent woman and exemplary actor, Monroe was still reduced to the sum of her parts, deemed a "dumb blonde" by studio execs. Darryl Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, harbored such a dislike of Monroe that he sought to deliberately humiliate her on set, thereby exacerbating her depression. But the starlet's degradation also extended to her meticulously crafted image.

Monroe was known for having a lot of facial and body hair, which may have been the result of a hormone cream she used to maintain her pale complexion, per The Telegraph. But studio execs were unhappy with the actor's facial hair and ordered her to remove it. "She had the heaviest peach fuzz beard of any actress in Hollywood," explained Gene London. "They wanted to remove the facial hair, but Marilyn absolutely refused. She said that when the light hit the fuzz it caused her face to have a soft glow." According to insiders, Monroe did end up giving into the demands of producers by shaving her face.

Although she never addressed the shaving rumor during her lifetime, Monroe made no secret of her disillusionment with the industry after being mistreated by execs. "I don't look at myself as a commodity, but I'm sure a lot of people have. Including, well, one corporation in particular," she said, evidently shading Zanuck, per The Guardian.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Kirsten Dunst was told to kiss Brad Pitt when she was 10

In recent years, there's been a long overdue appraisal of the apparently rampant child abuse that occurs in Hollywood. Accordingly, greater efforts have been made to ensure the safeguarding of child actors. It seems unfathomable, then, that just a few decades ago, it was somehow deemed perfectly acceptable to tell a pree-teen to kiss a 29-year-old man.

When making "Interview with the Vampire" in 1994, Kirsten Dunst, who was just 10 at the time, was required to kiss Brad Pitt on the lips. Chatting with Interview Magazine in 1998, Dunst said that she found the experience unpleasant: "Kissing Brad was so uncomfortable... I thought it was gross, that Brad had cooties. I mean, I was ten." Alarmingly, the outlet notes that Dunst's character was supposed to convey sensuality. We repeat: she was 10. In an interview with The Guardian, she said that producers forced her into the kiss. "I was like: 'Don't make me do it!'" she recalled.

In addition to being made to kiss an adult, Dunst had to simulate sucking another actor's blood. This was something she also felt incredibly uncomfortable with, telling Vanity Fair that the actor was sweating profusely. Ick. "That was the worst thing I did," she said. "And also having obviously to kiss Brad Pitt at that point. I was a little girl... It was very weird." The scene had such a lasting impact that she didn't kiss another person until she was 16.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Thandiwe Newton was told to perform racist and degrading acts for Charlie's Angels

Throughout Hollywood's often sordid history, Black women have been demeaned and degraded by powerful white figureheads. From typecast "mammy" depictions to being reduced to servile roles, there's seemingly been no end to the racist stereotypes imposed upon Black actors, as the BBC argues.

In an interview with Vulture, Thandiwe Newton opened up about the racism she's faced in Hollywood. Back in 2000, she was auditioning for a part in "Charlie's Angels," but backed out of the high profile project after being told to perform some shockingly degrading acts on screen. "The director said to me, 'I can't wait for this ... You're going to think it's like yellow lines down a road, and you pull back and you realize it's the stitching, because the denim is so tight on your a** it's going to look like tarmac,'" she recalled.

After discussing the incident with Amy Pascal, then the head of Columbia Pictures, Newton was told that the character would only be believable if she was portrayed as hyper-sexualized, rather than intelligent and educated (Newton herself is a Cambridge graduate). "She's like, 'Maybe there could be a scene where you're in a bar and she gets up on a table and starts shaking her booty,'" Newton said. "She's basically reeling off these stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character." In a statement to Vulture, Pascal claimed that she had no recollection of uttering the racist microaggressions.

Jennifer Lawrence was urged to lose weight as a young actor

Numerous studies have shown that it's extremely dangerous to reinforce negative body image into impressionable young women. Sadly, Jennifer Lawrence has been subjected to rampant body negativity from an early age.

Giving a speech at Elle's Women in Hollywood ceremony (via USA Today) in 2017, Lawrence revealed that she was told to lose 15 pounds in two weeks when she was starting out in the industry. "One girl before me had already been fired for not losing enough weight fast enough," she revealed, "and during this time a female producer had me do a nude lineup with about five women who were much, much thinner than me ... After that degrading and humiliating lineup, the female producer told me I should use the naked photos of myself as inspiration for my diet." Although she did not specify what project required her to lose this dangerous amount of weight, Lawrence later disclosed to Variety that she was told to shed weight for "The Hunger Games" when her body was still growing.

Despite her wealth of talent and unique beauty, Lawrence was still made to feel as though she wasn't enough. In an interview with Elle, she stated that, for the sake of other young women and girls, she refused to perpetuate diet culture. "I'm never going to starve myself for a part ... I don't want little girls to be like, 'Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I'm going to skip dinner,'" she stated.

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

Rita Hayworth was pressured to laser her hairline

To be an actor in Hollywood's Golden Age was often to abandon one's identity. Studio bosses were notorious for scooping up starlets and reinventing them. The chestnut-haired Norma Jeane Baker, for instance, became Marilyn Monroe; Bernard Schwartz, the son of Hungarian-Jewish immigrants, became Tony Curtis; and the part-Hispanic Margarita Carmen Cansino became Rita Hayworth.

The daughter of a Spanish father and Irish mother, Hollywood decided to eradicate any trace of Hayworth's Hispanic heritage. Subsequently, studio execs did not stop at changing the starlet's moniker. They sought to alter her entire appearance, and, in turn, her identity. Prior to becoming a global superstar, Hayworth had a low, dark hairline. Dissatisfied with the actor's natural beauty, movie moguls told her to undergo painful hair removal treatments. Such extreme beauty measures were bolstered by her abusive first husband, Eddie Judson, who suggested that she get electrolysis on her hairline, per the book "If This Was Happiness" (via Vanity Fair).

So, for two years, Hayworth endured electrolysis, which required each of her hairs to be lasered individually, per The Daily Telegraph. It was a grueling and painful process, one that eventually killed off the hair follicles in her low forehead, resulting in the idealized high hairline that studio bosses so sorely wanted. Hayworth's story is a horrifying reminder of the ethnocentric abuse faced by women in Hollywood. As film critic Karina Longworth put it, "In other words she was too visibly ethnic."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Maria Schneider was forced into degrading acts with a middle-aged Marlon Brando

A profile by the Daily Mail describes Maria Schneider as possessing a perpetual babyface, a descriptor that's all the more troubling in light of the degrading acts she was told to perform for "Last Tango in Paris." Schneider was just 19 when she was cast in Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial film. Her co-star Marlon Brando, meanwhile, was 48. 

In one of the film's most notorious scenes, Brando uses butter as a lubricant before sexually assaulting Schneider's character. But she wasn't told that she had to perform the degrading scene until the day of shooting. "You can't force someone to do something that isn't in the script," she told the Daily Mail, "but at the time, I didn't know that ... During the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn't real, I was crying real tears. I felt humiliated ... I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci." In a disturbing admission, she said that Brando remarked that her babyface reminded him of his daughter, Cheyenne.

In an interview with The Guardian, Bertolucci confessed that he and Brando conspired to humiliate Schneider, plotting the butter scene over breakfast without consulting her. "Poor Maria. I didn't have the occasion to go to ask her to forgive me," he said. "She was a 19-year-old who ... had never acted before. Maybe, sometimes in the movie, I didn't tell her what was going on because I knew her acting would be better."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Harvey Weinstein warned Cara Delevingne not to come out

A proudly LGBT model and actor, Cara Delevingne has spoken of the isolation she felt as a kid due to her sexuality. Despite overcoming such struggles, homophobic ideation was reinforced by movie moguls, who encouraged her to hide her identity.

When she first embarked on an acting career, Delevingne was discouraged from coming out, warned that her sexuality would supposedly be a barrier to her career prospects. "One of the first things Harvey Weinstein ever said to me was, 'You will never make it in this industry as a gay woman," she told Net-a-Porter. Accordingly, Weinstein told the young actor to get a beard, i.e. a fake boyfriend as a ruse to disguise her sexuality. Historically, beards have been common practice in Hollywood; prior to the decriminalization of same-sex love, gay actors such as Rock Hudson were forced into marriages with women. But forcing LGBT people into heterosexual marriages was not okay then and is not okay now.

Delevingne refused to hide her authentic self and proved the disgraced movie mogul wrong, enjoying a successful acting career while openly dating other women. Her decision to live her truth in the face of adversity is a powerful reminder to anyone struggling with their sexuality. "I was done with being in the closet," she told Vogue. "I was done with being ashamed for who I loved and who I was ... Love is love, and we should be able to love who we want."

Quentin Tarantino pressured Uma Thurman to do dangerous stunts

In 2018, Uma Thurman made some alarming admissions about her long-time collaborator and friend, Quentin Tarantino. In an interview with The New York Times, she revealed that, during the making of "Kill Bill," Tarantino told her to perform highly perilous driving stunts with a potentially faulty vehicle. Thurman declined, arguing that such stunts should be reserved for a professional diver. "Quentin came in my trailer and didn't like to hear no, like any director," she recalled. "He was furious because I'd cost them a lot of time. But I was scared." The director reassured his leading lady that both the vehicle and road were perfectly safe. "But that was a deathbox that I was in," she continued. "The seat wasn't screwed down properly. It was a sand road and it was not a straight road."

Unfortunately, Thurman's fears were confirmed when the stunt went horrifically wrong. During a crash scene, she was badly injured, suffering a concussion and severe neck and knee injuries that still plague her to this day. Hospitalized and fearing that she would never walk again, she accused Tarantino of trying to kill her.

Speaking to Deadline, Tarantino admitted that telling Thurman to get into the car is the biggest regret of his life. He claimed that he misjudged the dangers of the stunt, believing that the road was safe. "I am guilty, for putting her in that car, but not the way that people are saying I am guilty of it," he stated.

Sharon Stone was told to have sex with her co-star

Having abandoned Hollywood, Sharon Stone has devoted much of her time to exposing the industry for its various iniquities. In her memoir, "The Beauty of Living Twice," she recalled an instance in which a veteran film producer told her to have sex with her co-star, to help cultivate some onscreen chemistry. "Now you think if I f*** him, he will become a fine actor?" she wrote. "Nobody's that good in bed. I felt they could have just hired a co-star with talent, someone who could deliver a scene and remember his lines... It was my job to act and I said so." Thereafter, the anonymous co-star made passes at her, perhaps having been told to do so by the producer.

Subsequently, Stone was branded "difficult," a label that has all too often been used against powerful women in Hollywood who refuse the demands of chauvinistic men. "Can you imagine what it was like to be the only woman on a set — to be the only naked woman...? And now I am the intimidating one," she wrote. Unfortunately, Stone revealed, asking women to sleep with their co-stars is a common practice in Hollywood, as she was frequently pressured into intimate encounters to magnify sexual tension. But she refused to give in to such demands.

Although Stone doesn't name the creepy producer in question, the New York Post suggests that it may be Robert Evans, who produced the erotic thriller "Sliver," starring Stone and William Baldwin.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

As a child actor, Brooke Shields was told to kiss and date grown men

With the release of Brooke Shields' 2023 documentary "Pretty Baby," which details her harrowing Hollywood experiences, there's been renewed scrutiny into the actor's onscreen exploitation. When she was just 11, she played a child sex worker in "Pretty Baby." Shockingly, the youngster appeared in nude scenes and had to kiss co-star Keith Carradine, who was 29 at the time. 

Although Shields maintains that she was not humiliated when making the film, it's unfeasible to find any merit in making a child perform nude and kiss a grown man Moreover, in her aforementioned documentary, Shields reveals that the 29-year-old Carradine was her first kiss. "I learned to compartmentalize at an early age," she said of the kiss. "It was a survival technique."

Despite being almost a decade away from the age of consent, Shields was routinely sexualized as a supposed nymphet throughout the film's promotional run. Rather disturbingly, director Louis Malle even described her as looking "as if the head of a twenty-five-year-old woman is sitting on the body of a child," per "Hollywood Reborn." And her exploitation as a child actor did not end there. When she was 14, she starred in the equally controversial "The Blue Lagoon." During production, producers told her to date her co-star, Christopher Atkins, who was 18.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Natalie Wood was encouraged to sleep with a director when she was 16

The tragic life of Natalie Wood continues to generate immense intrigue to this day. Having drowned in 1981, Wood's untimely death remains shrouded in mystery, with a number of theories circulating as to what really happened that fateful night. But in addition to her harrowing end, the star faced numerous hardships throughout her all-too-brief life.

The starlet had to contend with the demands of her mother, Maria, who was domineering and abusive, per the Los Angeles Times. From the outset of her career as a child actor, Wood was controlled by Maria, who wanted her child to live out her glitzy dreams. She pressured her daughter into various uncomfortable situations; when she was just five, Wood was instructed to sit on director Irving Pichel's lap and brandish her charm. Subsequently, Wood's compliant and passive nature, the product of her mother's coercive tactics, led to her being dubbed "one-take Natalie." Soon enough, Maria would encourage her teenage daughter to sleep with Hollywood execs to advance her career.

When Wood was just 16, she scored the breakthrough role of Judy in the classic film "Rebel Without a Cause." According to "Natalie Wood: The Complete Biography," Wood got the role after her mom told her to sleep with the film's director, Nicholas Ray, who was 42 at the time. As her biographer notes, no one — not even Wood's own mother — protected her from predators.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Bryce Dallas Howard was urged to lose weight for Jurassic World

Although strides have been made to advance body positivity, the film industry is still severely lacking in body diversity. As such, critics argue that mid-size and plus-size bodies have been reduced to mere fads. Testament to this pervasive body negativity, Bryce Dallas Howard has opened up about being shamed for her figure.

In an interview with Metro in 2022, Howard revealed that she was asked to lose weight for "Jurassic World Dominion," the third installment of the popular franchise. "[I've] been asked to not use my natural body in cinema ... because the conversation came up again, 'we need to ask Bryce to lose weight,'" she explained. However, she said that she was protected by the film's director, Colin Trevorrow, who dismissed any suggestions that Howard ought to change her body for the role. "He was like, 'There are lots of different kinds of women on this planet and there are lots of different kinds of women in our film,'" she said, "and I got to do so many stunts that wouldn't have been possible if I had been dieting."

Refusing to subscribe to restrictive notions of beauty, Howard is an outspoken critic of diet culture. "In my household, 'dieting' is a dirty word," she told Us Weekly. "Like, everyone knows that dieting and any kind of [negative] critiques of oneself that you wouldn't give to another [aren't okay]."

Industry execs asked Lea Michele to get a nose job

All too often, Hollywood favors Eurocentric beauty standards. So when an actor comes along with unique beauty, it's inexplicably perceived as an affront to convention as opposed to a celebration of diversity. Sadly, this was the case for Lea Michele.

In an interview with Today, Michele opened up about the cruel remarks industry execs have subjected her to. When she was just a child, she was told to undergo plastic surgery. "Growing up, I worked on Broadway and I always wanted to transition into possibly doing film and television," she said. "From a very young age, I must've been maybe only 13 years old, I started being told by managers and agents that in order to make it on television or be on covers of magazines that I was going to have to get a nose job." Speaking to Town and Country, she made similar admissions, revealing that she was told she wouldn't be pretty enough for film and television if she didn't have plastic surgery.

But Michele rejected such notions. Accordingly, her unique appearance became central to her popularity as an actor; as she points out, she likely wouldn't have been cast as Rachel in "Glee" if she had a more conventional Hollywood appearance. "When I look at my nose it reminds me of my dad and he has a really big nose," she sweetly told Today. "And I just love it. And it's mine."