Actors Who Were Under The Influence On Set

In almost any profession, if you show up to work blasted, you'll be escorted off the premises faster than you can raid the fridge in the break room, but television and movie sets aren't the normal workplace. If an actor shows up a little toasted, maybe it's to settle his or her nerves before a tough scene, or maybe they're playing someone who's high or drunk and they're going method, or maybe they're sadly and hopelessly addicted. For whatever reason, substance abuse on the set is about as commonplace as flipping out on an assistant. Here are some actors who've admitted to working in an altered state of mind.

Kevin Nealon & Justin Kirk - Weeds

Weeds (2005-12) is a show about a suburban widow turned marijuana kingpin, and it regularly features characters smoking tons of the green stuff. Kevin Nealon and Justin Kirk play two of the biggest stoners on the show, so it's only natural to assume they're either drawing on personal experience, or going method for their performances. The answer is actually kind of a cheat, because what they're really doing is getting fake-stoned on fake weed that, according to Nealon, is some kind of "honey rose herb" stuff. In fact, he claims that multiple shoots of a scene where they partake in the quasi-chronic left him feeling so strange that he couldn't get off the couch. "I had a big smile on my face, I was so lightheaded," he told USA Today. "We had to ask them what was in the stuff."

Show producer Roberto Benabib even noticed the effects. He told Business Insider, "Sometimes they do take after take and you will see them getting woozy because it has a strange effect on them. But it's totally legal and it is what we are supposed to use." Basically, they have to pretend like they're getting high and having a blast, when in reality, they're just basically getting the hangover. Sounds terrible.

Seth Rogen - Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Wait, Seth Rogen got high on a movie set? We know, stop the presses, right? In this particular instance, Rogen's smoking habit seemed so favorable, it actually converted director Kevin Smith into being a new stoner at age 38. "That dude gave me the greatest gift I've had in the last five years," Smith told MTV. "The moment I start smoking, I start working." Smith is now as outspoken about the creative benefits of herb as Rogen. Smith even appeared on a morning show in Toronto and talked about smoking weed every day. That is some powerful influence that Rogen wields.

And it's not just Smith who's succumbed to Rogen's ways. On a Jimmy Kimmel Live! (via UPI) appearance, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt admitted that while he and Rogen were on the set of The Night Before (2015), they would pass a joint around in the morning to kick-start the creative juices. But Gordon-Levitt's experience was far from the epiphany that Smith had. Gordon-Levitt told Kimmel, "I decided to start smoking at the end of the day, after the work was done," he joked, after noting his comic suggestions were only funny to him. "Smoke at the end of the day, kids...then enjoy your weed."

The moral of the story here is that working with Rogen is awesome unless you hate laughing until you cry and enjoying what is probably the most amazing craft services offering in the industry. If that's the case, then he's probably not for you.

Jack Nicholson - Easy Rider

Jack Nicholson is unquestionably a Hollywood legend, not only for what he does on the screen, but also for the wild life he's led off screen. His love life is too colorful to even scratch the surface here, but his lifelong association with casual drug use is just as interesting. "Casual" may be stretching the definition a bit, since over the years Nicholson has admitted to using many mind-altering substances.

For example, in a 1980 People interview, he talks about doing what for most people is a powerful hallucinogen like it's no big deal. "Last year on a raft trip I had a little flavor of the season—peach mescaline—but it was not like the hallucinatory state of the '60s. This was just kind of sunny."

That lends some perspective to Nicholson's Playboy interview (via IndieWire) where he admits that while shooting the campfire scene in Easy Rider (1969), he was "smoking almost an entire joint of real marijuana during every single take." For a guy who takes mescaline to feel "sunny," smoking multiple joints is probably like chewing gum. Plus, he was nominated for an Oscar for the role, so it's not like the Academy thought his performance suffered.

Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi - The Blues Brothers

Given his legendary drug abuse and untimely death, John Belushi being high on set is about as shocking as snow at the North Pole, but most people probably didn't think his frequent collaborator and buddy, Dan Aykroyd was also getting in on the action. In a 2012 Vanity Fair exploration of the making of The Blues Brothers (1980), Aykroyd admitted he did cocaine on the set. "Everyone did it, including me. Never to excess, and not ever to where I wanted to buy it or have it."

Not only that, but in a strangely casual admission that will later be echoed here by Dennis Quaid, Aykroyd claims the film actually had cocaine in the budget "for night shoots." Apparently, Trenta lattes weren't all the rage yet in 1980, but seriously, isn't it kind of crazy to know that movie sets were basically like Scarface's mansion back then? It makes sense, though, if you really think about it. After all, Flash Gordon also came out in 1980, and there's no way that entire film wasn't someone's cocaine-fueled fantasy.

Carrie Fisher - The Empire Strikes Back

After decades of sobriety, Carrie Fisher has made something of a second career by highlighting her struggles with drug addiction and mental illness and advocating for others to get help with both. She's written multiple books about the subject and has even been candid about her drug and alcohol use on movie sets. She told The Daily Beast that she remembers showing up "still drunk" to the set of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) after The Rolling Stones dropped by the shoot and partied all night with her and Harrison Ford. And the fun didn't stop there, because according to the Daily Mail, Fisher also once told the audience of a stand-up show, "We did cocaine on the set of 'Empire' in the Ice Planet." She didn't reveal who the other people in the "we" were, but let's be honest, we all know it was C-3PO. Super paranoid. Never shuts up. The signs were all there.

Nicolas Cage - Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Nicolas Cage's performance in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009) is nothing short of a manic tour de force. Roger Ebert described the film as "a dire portrait of a rapist, murderer, drug addict, corrupt cop and degenerate paranoid who's very apprehensive about iguanas." Ebert also rightfully suggests this kind of role is practically tailor-made for an actor like Cage. He's weird enough and crazy enough to be that guy and still somehow have audiences rooting for him. While his talents are certainly what propelled the film into delightful insanity, Cage also received an inadvertent boost thanks to a sinus infection that got treated with cocaine, which is apparently something they still do in Australia.

Yep, in an interview with Time Out London, Cage explained that he he hadn't done drugs in a long time, so when he was given a saline solution with "a tiny percentage of cocaine" in it, he used the experience as preparation for the role. "So I took it as an opportunity to go back to my room, start writing notes and see if I could recall anything that would help me. And I did notice that if I opened myself to it, I recalled certain sensations, behaviourisms, swallowing, dry mouth, feelings of invincibility and sexuality and all that stuff. I made notes and then I started rehearsing the scenes." That has to be the most responsible use of cocaine in the history of cocaine. Way to go and make this whole incident seem boring, Nic.

Ethan Embry - Can't Hardly Wait

Out of all of the characters in Can't Hardly Wait (1998), nebbish good guy Preston probably wasn't anyone's first guess for who was actually high in real life. Seth Green doing a bad Eminem impression and dressed like he was in Kris Kross' closet when a bomb went off? Yes, definitely. But doe-eyed Ethan Embry playing the anxiety-riddled jilted lover of a popular girl? You wouldn't think that required him being consistently blasted, but by his own admission to VH1, "At the time, when we were shooting that, I was the world's biggest stoner. I remember the director came up to me and asked if I was 'altered.'"

Embry joked about it, but it was actually part of a larger problem that took him years to overcome. In an interview with Buzzfeed, Embry admitted that his drinking and drug abuse wasn't outwardly destructive in a way that ever hurt his career or family, but that he realized he couldn't be fully present for his son when under the influence. That became his main motivator for getting sober. He now has a starring role on Grace and Frankie (2015-) as a recovering addict, acknowledging that he draws on personal experience for his performance. That means Embry's role on Grace and Frankie closes a 20-year loop on the most epic method acting ever done, which also means we're completely justified in calling him the Daniel Day-Lewis of questionable teen comedies.

Dennis Quaid - The Big Easy

In an extremely candid 2011 Newsweek interview, Dennis Quaid admits he was so messed up on coke while shooting The Big Easy (1986) that it affected his performance. "I was getting an hour of sleep a night. I had a reputation for being a 'bad boy,' which seemed like a good thing, but basically I just had my head stuck up my a**. I'd wake up, snort a line, and swear I wasn't going to do it again that day. But then 4 o'clock rolled around, and I'd be right back down the same road like a little squirrel on one of those treadmills." Perhaps even more shocking was Quaid's casual revelation that throughout his early career, cocaine was just around, and even budgeted into films as "petty cash," so that actors could indulge on set.

It's no surprise Quaid's habit turned into a serious addiction, which landed him in rehab in 1988 at a time when he was one of the hottest actors in Hollywood. Ironically, it would take him until 1998 to land a surprise hit with The Parent Trap, starring none other than Lindsay Lohan in the star-making role(s) that would eventually lead to her own downfall due to drug and alcohol abuse. It's like that "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game, only sadder, because the connection isn't a beloved star of Footloose (1984), it's drugs.

Eminem - 8 Mile

Eminem was already more than a recreational drug user when he landed his breakout role in 8 Mile (2002), the partially biographical film about a white Detroit rapper. In a Rolling Stone interview, the acid-tongued emcee revealed that by the time he became a movie star, he was already partying hard at his show's after-parties where "drugs were always around," but it was something about the long hours of film production that drove him to ramp up his use, particularly of the prescription sleep aid, Ambien. "We were doing 16 hours on the set, and you had a certain window where you had to sleep. One day somebody gave me an Ambien, and it knocked me the f**k out. I was like, 'I need this all the time.'"

That started a disastrous five years in which he gained 80 pounds, alienated friends and family, and nearly died of a methadone overdose in 2007. It could also explain why 8 Mile was the only fictional starring role Eminem has had. Imagine if Vanilla Ice's life had gone off the rails like that after Cool as Ice (1991). There's a good chance we'd have never seen him play Mark Twain in Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous 6 (2015), and let's be honest, that would have been a real tragedy.

Martin Sheen - Apocalypse Now

The production of Apocalypse Now (1979), Francis Ford Coppola's dark exploration of the Vietnam War, is something of its own legend. So much so, that the making of the film became the subject of the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991), which captured a behind-the-scenes look at the now infamous opening sequence in which a genuinely intoxicated Martin Sheen has a full-blown breakdown in a hotel room. Sheen basically improvises the entire thing, including the real drinking, which led to him accidentally smashing a vanity mirror and slicing open his thumb.

Sheen admitted to The Guardian, "At the time, I was a drinker. Hell, I was an alcoholic. It was my 36th birthday and I'd been drinking all day." The scene was very real and very disturbing for everyone on set, especially Sheen, who would suffer a heart attack and nearly die later on in the production. Sheen credits his experience on the film as an eye-opening one in which he re-examined the choices that he was making that brought him so close to death at the age of 36. Despite what is clearly a dogged if not reckless dedication to a role, he didn't even get nominated for an Oscar. Dustin Hoffman won best actor for Kramer vs. Kramer that year, and as far as we know, he didn't even come close to losing his mind on set. Way to drop the ball, Academy.

Edward Norton & Brad Pitt - Fight Club

In a movie like Fight Club (1999), it might seem like there were a lot of scenes where everyone was drunk, particularly the ones where they beat the crap out of each other in dirty bar basements for no apparent reason. But on the DVD commentary, Brad Pitt reveals the scene in which they were definitely "semi-trashed," was the one where he and Ed Norton wack golf balls into the industrial wasteland outside of Tyler Durden's house. They reportedly also hit the film's catering truck a bunch of times, which had to be just super for any unsuspecting food service worker who happened to be inside it. Anyway, hopefully Norton got himself a little tuned up before the scene where he unmercifully kicks his own butt in his boss' office. Even though we know there was a ton of movie magic at play there, that still looked like it had to hurt.

Jason Mewes - Dogma

In many of director Kevin Smith's movies, he appears in character as Silent Bob, a trench coat-wearing stoner who speaks only when doling out rare bits of sage wisdom. By Bob's side at all times is Jay, the foul-mouthed loon who does enough talking for both of them. Jay is played by Jason Mewes, Smith's real life BFF, who also in real life seems nearly identical to his outrageous on-screen persona. Unfortunately, that means Mewes has grappled with drug and alcohol abuse for years, which Smith opened up about in 2003 during his live show, An Evening with Kevin Smith. When asked if there would be more Jay and Silent Bob movies, he replied, "Honestly, [Mewes'] drug problems are the reason we're not going to do them again. Last time I saw him, I told him if he could stay clean for a year we'd do another one. Sadly, I don't think that's going to happen. Even on Dogma he was drunk all the time, and he's not a happy drunk."

Now sober for years, Mewes himself even cops to what a mess he was in the early days of his acting career. In an interview with Metro, he shed light on his intoxication on the set of Clerks (1994), which was both he and Smith's first film. "I was either drinking or smoking the whole time," Mewes said. "They had to send me home sometimes. I was drinking blackberry brandy—I passed out on the floor. I was so drunk I was slurring during a scene with Randal so they had to send me home." Something tells us that wouldn't have gone over so well for anyone other than the director's best friend. Lucky for Mewes, Smith is a forgiving guy, and the two continued working together for the next two decades.

Shia LaBeouf - Lawless

It's hard to think of a time in recent memory when Shia LaBeouf doesn't seem like he's at least high on life, but his quasi-method acting in Lawless (2012), which included him getting hammered on moonshine, was enough to terrify co-star Mia Wasikowska. LaBeouf told Page Six, "She was calling her attorney, like, 'Get me the [bleep] out of here.'" LaBeouf said was drinking off set, so that the next day his face would have the "drunk bloat" he felt he needed.

Hold on a second, there's more. LaBeouf's Charlie Countryman (2013) costar, Rupert Grint, told The Guardian that LaBeouf's behavior made for some memorable shooting in that film as well. Grint claimed his co-star took LSD for real, "smashed the place up, got naked and kept seeing this owl. If anything will make you not do drugs, it's watching that." Yep, that's what we were after. Naked and hallucinating imaginary owls. If that doesn't count as high on set, nothing does.

Woody Harrelson - Indecent Proposal

Given his notable marijuana advocacy through the years, it would be logical to think that Woody Harrelson likes to toke up before heading to set. This is a guy who's been on the cover of High Times more than once, and who even applied (unsuccessfully) for a license to open Hawaii's first medical marijuana dispensary. But despite his outspoken love of Mary Jane, Harrelson has never copped to being high on set. In fact, he doesn't even really like to talk about weed much anymore.

However, during promotion for The Hunger Games movie franchise (2012-2015), Harrelson told MTV about one time when he did try being drunk for a role. "When I was doing Indecent Proposal, I had this one scene, and I was supposed to be really drunk, contesting Robert Redford's love for Demi Moore, and I got smashed because I was supposed to be, so I rationalized it, and that wasn't a pleasant experience." That means Harrelson's Hunger Games portrayal of Katniss Everdeen's perpetually sloshed mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, is 100 percent pure acting. As for Elizabeth Banks' excuse for the direction she chose to take the Effie Trinket character? Let's just say we hope the inside of her set trailer looks like a frat party.

Robert Downey Jr. - Less Than Zero (1987) & Home For The Holidays (1995)

At the time of this writing, Robert Downey Jr. is at the top of his game. He's one of the highest paid actors in the industry, and is the hinge pin of Marvel's Cinematic Universe with his wildly popular portrayal of Iron Man. But for a long, dismal period in the '80s and '90s, it was a different story. Everyone already knows the broad strokes of Downey's struggle; the heroin possession charges, the time he was found sleeping in a random person's house, and the jail time, but the question is, did he ever take his felonious extra-curricular activities to work with him?

According to Ben Falk's 2014 biography, Robert Downey Jr.: The Fall and Rise of the Comeback Kid, yes, he did. Falk writes that during the 1995 production of Home for the Holidays, Downey "smoked black-tar heroin throughout the shoot." He also alleges that this is the first time Downey admitted to being high on set.

However, in a 2003 interview with The Guardian, Downey claims his on-set drug use started much earlier than that and intensified while filming 1987's Less Than Zero. "Until that movie, I took my drugs after work and on the weekends. Maybe I'd turn up hungover on the set, but no more so than the stuntman. That changed on Less Than Zero," he said. Granted, Downey also somewhat crudely described his character on the film as "this junkie-f****t guy," so perhaps there was some method-acting at play as a quasi-justification, but we're confident the studio would have been just as happy with him relying on his acting skills for that one.

Michael Rapaport - True Romance

In True Romance (1993), the ultra-violent thrill ride that actually jump-started Quentin Tarantino's career (He wrote the script.), Michael Rapaport plays Dick Ritchie, an aspiring actor who is also one of Clarence (Christian Slater)'s good buddies. There's a hilarious scene where they're negotiating a drug deal on a rollercoaster, which Rapaport admits in Maxim's oral history of the film, was not something he enjoyed doing. In fact, he ruined the first take by puking, after which he admits, "The second time, they sedated me. Some shots show me smiling because I'm drugged out of my mind, and some show me crying because I honestly thought I was going to crap." Director Tony Scott got more specific, "Pinchot was s****ing himself, and Rapaport was so scared that he dropped a bunch of Quaaludes and couldn't say his lines."

So, no, Rapaport's high-on-set story isn't exactly as scandalous as Downey smoking heroin, Sheen drinking himself into a mental breakdown, or Embry sullying the memory of a beloved '90s teen comedy, but it does provide us with additional backstory that makes watching this memorable scene even funnier. Enjoy.