Actors Who Made People Cry On Set

Great actors are good at making movie audiences cry, but in those moments when you feel little tugs on your heartstrings watching powerful performances, you're witnessing more than just acting. You're seeing the culmination of everything within the film leading up to that emotional scene. Context is important, too. Sometimes it's not the audience — but the other folks on set — who are reduced to tears by an actors performance or real-life behavior. That's what we're going to dig into here.

Some stars took method acting too far; others were just plain mean; and some delivered performances so moving that they shook their colleagues to their cores — for reasons both good and bad. From Oscar winners to comedians to Hollywood fan favorites, find out who turned their co-stars into puddles and who made innocent children wail. For better or worse, these are the actors who made people cry on set.

Burt hurts Kathleen Turner

Many female actors have helped shine a spotlight in recent years on the treatment of women in Hollywood. In the process, the alleged ugly side of some beloved male actors has been revealed. When Kathleen Turner, a respected industry veteran, spoke about some of the worst experiences in her career, a few notable men came out looking very bad.

The worst of the bunch, according to Turner's interview with Vulture, was the late Burt Reynolds, her co-star in 1988's Switching Channels. "Working with Burt Reynolds was terrible," she said. "The first day Burt came in he made me cry. He said something about not taking second place to a woman. His behavior was shocking. It never occurred to me that I wasn't someone's equal. I left the room sobbing."

Decades later, Turner was still stewing over that encounter, and Reynolds hadn't softened his stance over the years, either. On Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen in 2018, Reynolds named Turner the most overrated actor in the '70s and '80s, so it seems he took this feud to his grave. 

Mel Gibson makes little girls cry

When Gaby Hoffman was asked to look back on her experiences as a child actor working with difficult male directors, she pointed a finger at Oscar-winner Mel Gibson, telling HuffPost Live the actor/director would be "tough for anybody."

Hoffman recalled Gibson "cursing and screaming" at her while filming The Man Without a Face. According to the actress, who would have been about 10 years old at the time, Gibson reduced her to tears during his directorial debut for reasons out of her control. "I think I was acting like a kid instead of a professional actor," she said. "It happens once in a while when you're a kid actor." 

The experience may not have been especially pleasant for Hoffman, but it certainly didn't hold Gibson back. The next film he both directed and starred in was a little flick called Braveheart, which won five Academy Awards.

Bill puts the scar in Skarsgard

On a normal day, making children cry might not be a good thing for actor Bill Skarsgard, but when he's decked out in his Pennywise clown makeup on the set of It, those tears are a testament to how terrifying he is while in character. 

In a chat with Interview, Skarsgard spoke about the difficult situation he found himself in on the horror movie set, "If I succeed at doing what I'm trying to do with this character," he said. "I'll traumatize kids." He detailed a particularly disturbing moment while filming. "At one point, they set up this entire scene, and these kids come in, and none of them have seen me yet," he recalled. "Some of them were really intrigued, but some couldn't look at me, and some were shaking. This one kid started crying. He started to cry and the director yelled, 'Action!'"

Those kids weren't the only ones traumatized by the experience. Skarsgard scarred himself, too. He admitted to thinking, "Holy sh*t. What am I doing? What is this? This is horrible." It was no laughing matter, but the actor kept clowning around until he no doubt became the nightmare fuel for an entire generation.

Anthony Hopkins turned co-stars into mush

Acclaimed actor Anthony Hopkins has surely made many people cry over the years. He is, after all, the face and voice behind serial killer Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs – one of the most terrifying characters in movie history. But for actress Rachel Evan Wood, it was the opportunity to co-star alongside Hopkins in Westworld that made her emotional. 

"He really is the greatest actor I've ever worked with. I did a couple scenes and afterwards just had to go into a corner and weep," she revealed. Wood recalled a time when a friend visited her on set and saw her bawling her eyes out. As her pal tried to comfort her, Wood had to explain that this was just a regular occurrence after shooting a scene with Hopkins. "I went, 'No, it went really well. I'm just crying because I've hit a milestone as an actor. That's a little overwhelming and I'm taking a moment.'"

Crying over Keaton

A nomination for an Academy Award is proof that Michael Keaton was amazing in Birdman, but he probably already knew that judging by the reaction of his co-star, Amy Ryan. 

"I would just cry because Michael was so in the groove," she told Vanity Fair, recalling her emotional dressing room scene with Keaton. "He was in such a true intimate place and it would break my heart watching him go through that scene." 

Birdman featured very long takes with few hard cuts, so as Keaton transitioned seamlessly from one scene to another, Ryan said she'd jump out of the shot and attempt to regain her composure. "I would just stand behind some wall and cry," she said.

And if you thought being in the same room as Keaton was a requirement to make Ryan misty-eyed — think again. "I cried in the theater, too," she said.

There's no crying in dodgeball

Adam Sandler has taken a lot of heat for his offbeat brand of comedy from critics over the years, but imagine taking heat from a bunch of parents? That's got to be brutal.

During a visits to Conan, Sandler told a story about filming the classic dodgeball scene from Billy Madison, which, apparently, didn't quite go as planned. "I'm hitting all these first-graders really hard with a dodgeball," he recalled. "...So I hit some kid pretty hard and he gets upset and he starts crying, and then the parents come up to me and they're like, 'Hey, what's the deal?'" Not really seeing what the problem was, Sandler said he tried to deflate the situation by explaining that it was all planned. "I'm supposed to plug all these kids. It's part of the joke ... Didn't they read the script?"

"They're six," the parents grumbled. "They don't read yet."

Nicole Kidman cues the waterworks

For Liane Moriarty, the author of Big Little Lies, watching Nicole Kidman take on the role inspired by the author's real life was a tremendous privilege, but seeing Kidman dressed as Audrey Hepburn during a trivia night scene, really pushed Moriarty over the edge. 

"They had her dressed exactly as I described her in the books," Moriarty told TheFIX. "So I was surprised that I got a bit teary when I saw her. She looked like something from a fairy tale. She looked gorgeous."

Moriarty wasn't alone in feeling an emotional connection to the role and the performance. Kidman has also talked about the toll the heart-wrenching story took on her. "I didn't quite realize how it was going to affect me," she told Elle. "It affected me more than anything I've ever done. Doing that for five months and then going home, I had to sort of keep it quiet, I was trying to be stoic about it, and be secret about it, but it penetrated my psyche."

Naomie Harris brings the set down in Moonlight

When Naomie Harris took on a role partly inspired by director Barry Jenkins' own mother in Moonlight, she felt pressure to be authentic to the muse. The role was especially challenging for Harris because nearly all of the personality traits of the crack-addicted character were alien to her. Even lighting a cigarette proved a weighty task for Harris during a pivotal scene in the film, but she stayed in character while struggling with the lighter and inadvertently created one of the most powerful moments in the movie.

"Naomie doesn't smoke; and doesn't drink — and so she couldn't light the cigarette," Jenkins told the Daily Mail. "She genuinely had trouble with the damn cigarette, so I quietly told [her co-star] Trevante [Rhodes] to reach over and take the cigarette, light it, and give it back to her." 

After Rhodes hands the lit cigarette back to his on-screen mom, Harris delivers an emotional, unrehearsed apology that reportedly shook up everyone who was watching the scene live. "On set, that moment made everyone weep," Jenkins said. "I was probably crying the most."

Marlon Brando goes too far

Marlon Brando is considered by many to be one of the greatest actors in the history of cinema, but not everyone places him on a pedestal, particularly not the late Maria Schneider, who harbored some ugly memories of the screen legend from her experience co-starring in Last Tango in Paris.

Director Bernardo Bertolucci and a then-48-year-old Brando planned to shoot a simulated rape scene with the 19-year-old Schneider. Schneider reportedly wasn't given much, if any, warning about the traumatic scene. Bertolucci said he never told the actress about their plans because, in his words, "I prefer to have your reaction as a girl than as an actress." 

Well, Bertolucci got the real and visceral reaction he wanted from the young woman. Schneider recalled living through that terrible moment in an interview with the Daily Mail. "Even though what Marlon was doing wasn't real, I was crying real tears," she said. "I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci."