Actors Who Claim They Were Abused On Set

The following article includes mentions of drug addiction, attempted suicide, and allegations of sexual abuse, child abuse, and workplace harassment.

Audiences turn to the film and TV industry to escape the monotony of our everyday lives. Whether we are watching an epic dramatic romance, a dumb comedy, or even a psychological thriller that we must tune into every week, we are seeking entertainment. It's easy to put Hollywood hitmakers on a pedestal, because their industry seems glamorous and brings us joy. But there can be a dark side to making movies and TV that is rarely talked about.

When Tarana Burke's #MeToo Movement came to showbiz, it shed light on a dangerous culture of sexual harassment and assault in the industry and helped hold predators like convicted sex offender and former film producer Harvey Weinstein and disgraced TV personality Matt Lauer accountable for their alleged abusive behavior. "What the Me Too campaign really does, and what Tarana Burke has really enabled us to do, is put the focus back on the victims," actor Alyssa Milano, who popularized the #MeToo hashtag on social media, said on "Good Morning America" in 2017 (via The New York Times). For her part, Burke noted that the movement was "bigger than" either herself or Milano and told the Times, "Neither one of us should be centered in this work. This is about survivors."

Unfortunately, whether it's sexual in nature or not, there is a long and disturbing history of alleged abuse in Hollywood — and we've uncovered some of the most egregious examples through the actors who claimed they were abused on set.

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).

Alfred Hitchcock allegedly abused Tippi Hedren on two film sets

Tippi Hedren is a living Hollywood legend known for the thrillers she starred in directed by Alfred Hitchcock — 1963's "The Birds" and 1964's "Marnie." In her 2016 memoir, "Tipi," Hedren said that Hitchcock deserved credit for making her a star (via USA Today). However, she also described different types of abuse that allegedly happened on both film sets, which might explain why she never worked with Hitchcock again after "Marnie."

During filming "The Birds," Hedren claimed that she kept distance from Hitchcock after he made unsolicited advances toward her in the back of a limo: "With no warning, he threw himself on top of me and tried to kiss me." In response to Hedren's horrified reaction, Hitchcock allegedly exacted a dangerous kind of revenge: He reportedly told her mechanical birds were being used in the scene where her character is attacked, but they were actually real birds. Per IndieWire, the cuts and scratches Hedren endures onscreen are real, as is the shock and terror on her face. In her book, the actor called the attack "brutal and ugly and relentless."

While filming "Marnie," Hitchcock allegedly sexually assaulted Hedren. "I'll simply say that he suddenly grabbed me and put his hands on me. It was sexual, it was perverse, and it was ugly, and I couldn't have been more shocked and repulsed," she wrote, per USA Today. "The harder I fought him, the more aggressive he became." Hedron claimed that Hitchcock threatened her, and she never spoke to him again, even though filming continued.

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).

Her experience on Dancer in the Dark made Bjork quit acting

Björk is best known as an alternative singer with 15 Grammy nominations to her name, but she also tried her hand at acting in the 2000 film, "Dancer in the Dark." She played Selma Jezkova, a European mother who takes her son to the U.S., hoping that their experience will be like what they see in the movies. However, neither Björk's experience on set nor Selma's onscreen went as they expected.

In two Facebook posts shared in 2017 (via The Guardian), Björk alleged that the film's director, Lars von Trier, sexually harassed her while making the movie. While detailing her experiences, she claimed that she had to listen to "unwanted whispered sexual offers from [von Trier] with graphic descriptions" and threats to "climb from his room's balcony over to mine in the middle of the night with a clear sexual intention." Björk wrote that she soon "became aware of that [sic] it is a universal thing that a director can touch and harass his actresses at will and the institution of film allows it." She also denied rumors that she was difficult to work with and even ate a shirt (that's not a typo), writing, "I have never eaten a shirt. Not sure that is even possible." 

For his part, von Trier denied the allegations in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, but admitted that the two were not friendly. Per IndieWire, Björk mostly quit acting after her experience on "Dancer in the Dark," save her now ex-boyfriend, Matthew Barney's, experimental films and 2022's "The Northman."

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).

Darren Aronofsky reportedly puts actors through grueling stunts in the name of art

There is a particular type of abuse that some actors will endure in Hollywood: physical or emotional abuse from a director in the name of getting a coveted Oscar nomination. Darren Aronofsky — the director of acclaimed films like "Black Swan," "The Rookie," and "Noah" — will seemingly oblige any actor willing to put in the work. Aronofsky is known for particularly intense close-ups: He strapped a camera onto Ellen Burstyn for one such shot in "Requiem for a Dream," something the actor had never experienced before, per The New Yorker

Some of this pain, like the "physically grueling" ballet training Natalie Portman underwent to prepare for "Black Swan," was the actor's choice. But the outlet chronicled how Aronofsky went to extremes to portray realistic battle scenes and torture on the set of 2014's "Noah." Ray Winstone, who plays the villain Tubal-cain in the film, told the publication that he got sunstroke and lost movement in his right arm while filming. "I think Darren takes great pleasure in seeing you go through pain — you go again and again and again. He pushes you to the limit, looking for perfection," he claimed. Aronofsky also reportedly waterlogged actors on set, and casually dismissed Emma Watson's worries about an explosive going off near her without practice.

As BuzzFeed once put it, this phenomenon is often framed by the media as "the idea that, ultimately, creating these traumatic conditions was within the rights of the director as demigod, and worth it given the art that emerged."

Shelley Duvall said working on The Shining was 'excruciating'

Director Stanley Kubrick is notorious for running a demanding set. Per The Hollywood Reporter, a scene in his horror film, "The Shining," broke the Guinness World Record for "most retakes for one scene with dialogue." It was finished after 148 takes. Just reading that makes us tired.

In a 2021 profile, The Hollywood Reporter asked reclusive former Hollywood star Shelley Duvall if Kubrick treated her viciously on set. "He's got that streak in him. He definitely has that," she said. "But I think mostly because people have been that way to him at some time in the past. His first two films were 'Killer's Kiss' and 'The Killing.'" Duvall did say that Kubrick was "warm and friendly" toward her — but, per Rolling Stone, Stanley Kubrick's own daughter, Vivian Kubrick, captured Duvall's physical and emotional exhaustion while filming "The Shining" in a behind-the-scenes documentary, which features the actor "lying down on the floor in a state of complete exhaustion." As Duvall once told Roger Ebert, "Going through day after day of excruciating work. Almost unbearable."

Anjelica Huston, who lived with the film's star, Jack Nicholson, at the time, told The Hollywood Reporter that she believed he and Stanley Kubrick were unsupportive. "They didn't seem to be all that sympathetic," she said of the difficulty Duvall was having with the film's "emotional content." Huston added, "When I saw her during those days, she seemed generally a bit tortured, shook up. I don't think anyone was being particularly careful of her."

Judy Garland was allegedly sexually assaulted on The Wizard of Oz set

The original Dorothy of Oz had a difficult life. Judy Garland died of an accidental sleeping pill overdose in 1969 (via Time). But this was just the last of many hardships she sadly suffered in her life. They began at about the age of 13, when Garland signed a contract with MGM studios, whose executives allegedly created body image issues for her by forcing her not to eat, made her develop a reliance on drugs by giving her amphetamines and barbiturates, and even reportedly sexually assaulted her. Garland married for the first time at age 19, and would have five husbands in total. One was allegedly abusive. She also survived multiple suicide attempt, per Time.

Focusing on the abusive on-set conditions Garland allegedly endured, the most shocking story comes from her most famous film. Garland's ex-husband, Sid Luft, who served as her manager and to whom she was married from 1952 to 1965, had a memoir published posthumously in 2017. (Luft died in 2005). In the book, he claimed that the actors who played the Munchkins in "The Wizard of Oz" sexually assaulted Garland. "They would make Judy's life miserable on set by putting their hands under her dress ... The men were 40 or more years old," Luft wrote (via People). "They thought they could get away with anything because they were so small."

As for Garland's thoughts on the actors, she said in a 1967 interview with Jack Parr, "They were drunks... they got smashed every night."

If you are struggling 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).

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

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).

Last Tango in Paris reportedly captured real sexual abuse on film

"Last Tango in Paris" is a 1972 film starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, which was directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. It tells the story of two strangers who meet while looking to rent an apartment in Paris and begin an affair that gets increasingly violent. The couple purposefully does not exchange names. The film is very sexually explicit for its time, which garnered it both "acclaim and criticism" (via Vox). 

In 2007, Schneider gave an interview to Daily Mail, in which she claimed that she was sexually manipulated by both Bertolucci and Brando in a scene that featured her character, Jeanne, being raped by Brando's Paul. A stick of butter is involved. "That scene wasn't in the original script. The truth is it was Marlon who came up with the idea," Schneider alleged. "They only told me about it before we had to film the scene and I was so angry." Schneider said that she should have called her agent or lawyer, but she was 19, new to the business, and did not know the addition was out of the norm. The onscreen sex act was completely simulated, but Schneider added, "I was crying real tears. I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci." 

Bertolucci did take some responsibility in a 2013 interview (via Vox), saying, "I've been, in a way, horrible to Maria." However, he tried to justify his actions by claiming that he wanted her to "feel, not to act."

Amy Adams was 'devastated' working with David O. Russell on American Hustle

Director David O. Russell has an alleged documented history of aggressive behavior on set — from a physical altercation with George Clooney on 1999's "Three Kings" (confirmed by producer Charles Roven in The Hollywood Reporter) to the time he was filmed calling Lily Tomlin a "c**t" while filming 2004's "I Heart Huckabees."

Perhaps one of the most disturbing of these allegations was of Russell continuously mistreated Amy Adams on the set of 2013's "American Hustle." In emails leaked the following year through WikiLeaks, journalist Jonathan Alter wrote to his brother-in-law, Sony Entertainment CEO and chair Michael Lynton, that "the new stories of [Russell's] abuse and lunatic behavior are extreme even by Hollywood standards," before claiming that he "so abused Amy Adams that [co-star] Christian Bale got in his face and told him to stop acting like an a**hole."

For her part, Adams confirmed as much to GQ in 2016 when asked if these claims were true: "He did [make me cry]. He was hard on me, that's for sure. It was a lot. I was really just devastated on set." She clarified that this was not an every-day occurrence, but claimed she was reduced to tears on many of them. "Jennifer [Lawrence] doesn't take any of it on. She's Teflon. And I am not Teflon," Adams added. Later speaking with The Guardian, the actor further explained that it was "the experience of playing that character struck [her] in a strange place, and that's heightened by David's energy."

Debbie Reynolds' feet bled during Singin' in the Rain

Debbie Reynolds got her star-making role playing Kathy Selden in 1952's "Singin' in the Rain” when she was just 17 years old. Reynolds was much like her character — who was trying to break into the movie business — because she was not as experienced as her co-stars, Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor. In fact, she had no dance training at all before production began. But Kelly, who co-directed the film, was apparently not a patient teacher. In fact, he was allegedly borderline abusive toward Reynolds. 

"My feet were bleeding from all that dancing and when I pointed it out, Gene would say, 'Clean it up!' He was very sentimental like that!" Reynolds, who died in 2016, claimed to Express in 2013. In her "Unsinkable" memoir, published that same year, Reynolds claimed that Kelly was a "cruel taskmaster" (via Country Living), writing, "He came to rehearsals and criticized everything I did and never gave me a word of encouragement." For his part, Kelly eventually admitted that he treated his young co-star badly, reportedly saying, "I wasn't very nice to Debbie. I'm surprised she still speaks to me."

But Kelly's on-set behavior allegedly went beyond meanness. As Reynolds recalled in her memoir (via Country Living) of filming a particular scene, "Gene took me tightly in his arms ... and shoved his tongue down my throat. ...It felt like an assault. I was stunned that this thirty-nine-year-old man would do this to me."

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).

Hannah Waddingham was actually waterboarded on the Game of Thrones set

Battles may have been common to film on the "Game of Thrones" set, but Hannah Waddingham, who played Septa Unella on the popular fantasy drama series from 2015 to 2016 never expected to be literally waterboarded during a day's work. In Season 6 of the show, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) pays Unella back for torturing her by having Unella captured and tortured, too. Waddingham told Collider that Unella was supposed to be raped, but decision makers made a last-minute change while she was flying to film the scene, and her wardrobe suddenly required a wetsuit.

Instead of using visual effects to simulate the act of torture, Waddingham claimed that she was literally waterboarded. "And there I was strapped to a wooden table with proper big straps for ten hours. And definitely, other than childbirth, it was the worst day of my life," she said while describing her experience to Collider.

Waddingham and Headey were both uncomfortable, but the latter said she did it for the sake of art. "My whole thing has always been, take people to the absolute nth degree of their emotions and that's the same thing. Give of yourself and then it gives back to you," the actor explained. But the 10-hour day of traumatic filming was not without actual consequences, as Waddingham added, "It definitely gave me claustrophobia around water. Definitely."

The real reason Sophia Bush left Chicago P.D.

Sophia Bush played Erin Lindsay on NBC's "Chicago P.D." for four seasons before she quit the show in 2017 in the middle of her seven-year contract. She later explained to Dax Shepard on the "Armchair Expert" podcast that her body could not handle the physically demanding conditions she was allegedly put in on set. 

"I quit because ... I've been so programmed to be a good girl and to be a workhorse and to be a tugboat that I have always prioritized tugging the ship for the crew, for the show, for the group ahead of my own health," Bush said. "... The reality was that my body was like falling apart, because I was really, really unhappy." She went on to claim that while the show was filmed in Chicago, creative decision makers in Los Angeles would apparently want the cast to film outside in weather conditions that were "62 degrees below freezing" because the "snow look[ed] so cool on camera." Noting that she endured "being abused at work" because she didn't want to jeopardize a job for the crew members and that "the culture protected" what was happening on set, Bush alleged that she gave her bosses a whole season to fix the issues that they knew she had with the working conditions in Chicago. When they did not comply, she exited "Chicago P.D."

Meanwhile, the head of NBC at the time, Jennifer Salke, let Bush out of her contract with no issues.

Andrew Kreisberg allegedly created a 'toxic' work environment

Andrew Kreisberg was an executive producer and showrunner on four CW shows in the DC Comics universe — "Arrow," "The Flash," "Legends Of Tomorrow," and "Supergirl" — in 2017 when he was suspended from Warner Bros. TV Group amid allegations of "inappropriate behavior" that included "a pattern of alleged sexual harassment and inappropriate physical contact over a period of years," per Variety. The publication reported that 19 people in total came forward with stories of alleged abuse and all of them requested anonymity because of "fear of retaliation." They were current or former employees in a wide range of positions. Variety reported that its sources told claims of Kreisberg "frequently touching people without their permission, asking for massages from uncomfortable female staff members, and kissing women without asking." Nearly every insider accused Kreisberg of making sexualized comments about women, with other sources alleging that he created such a "toxic" environment that they left rooms when he entered.

Warner Bros. TV Group issued a statement to Variety: "We have recently been made aware of allegations of misconduct against Andrew Kreisberg. We have suspended Mr. Kreisberg and are conducting an internal investigation. We take all allegations of misconduct extremely seriously, and are committed to creating a safe working environment for our employees and everyone involved in our productions." 

Kreisberg's own statement read: "I have made comments on women's appearances and clothes in my capacity as an executive producer, but they were not sexualized. Like many people, I have given someone a non-sexual hug or kiss on the cheek."

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).

Charles in Charge co-stars made troubling allegations against Scott Baio

"Charles in Charge" was a sitcom about a college student who becomes a housekeeper for a family that ran from 1984 to 1990. Scott Baio played the titular character, and Nicole Eggert and Alexander Polinsky portrayed two of the children in the family for which he worked. But in 2018, Eggert and Polinsky came forward with allegations that Baio sexually harassed and abused them on set, per The Hollywood Reporter.

In a series of now-deleted tweets posted in January 2018 (via THR), Eggert claimed that Baio molested her for about three years when she was 14-17 years old. She referred to herself as a "molested child" in one tweet and told a Twitter user, "Ask @scottbaio what happened in his garage at his house when I was a minor. Creep."

Weeks later, Eggert's co-star, Polinsky, made claims of his own at a press conference with Eggert and their lawyer, Lisa Bloom, present (via The Hollywood Reporter). He described what he called "a pattern of abuse that was unrelenting" at Baio's hands, claiming that he witnessed the older actor abusing Eggert and was tortured as a result of it. "Scott pulled down my pants in front of over 100 people," Polinsky reportedly claimed, recounting one instance of alleged abuse. Another time, Polinsky claimed that Baio "assaulted [him] by throwing a burning hot cup of tea in [his] face," and regularly called him homophobic slurs. 

For his part, Scott Baio denied these allegations via a Facebook Live video.

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).

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.

Charisma Carpenter claimed Joss Whedon 'abused his power'

Showrunner/producer/director Joss Whedon now has a long line of celebrities who have come forward and accused him of abuse. One of the most disturbing accounts comes from former "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" star Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia Chase in Whedon's "Buffy" universe. She was inspired to speak up after years of remaining silent when "Justice League" actor Ray Fisher tweeted about the abusive work environment Whedon allegedly fostered on the 2017 DCEU flick.

In a statement of her own shared on Twitter in February 2021, Carpenter called Whedon "casually cruel," while citing on-set examples, like allegedly "calling [her] "fat" when she was four months pregnant. Claiming that she was forced to "report to work at 1:00 A.M." against medical advice, and that Whedon asked her inappropriate questions about her pregnancy, she wrote, "Due to long and physically demanding days and the emotional stress of having to defend my needs as a working pregnant woman, I began to experience Braxton Hicks contractions." Whedon later fired Carpenter the season after she gave birth. "All that promise and joy sucked right out [of new motherhood]," she wrote. "And Joss was the vampire." 

Carpenter noted that Whedon's alleged "abus[e] of power" resulted in her continuing to struggle with a "chronic physical condition," writing, "While he found his misconduct amusing, it only served to intensify my performance anxiety, disempower me, and alienate me from my peers." As of this writing, Whedon has not responded to the allegations.

The women of the One Tree Hill cast banded together against Mark Schwahn

In 2017, the female cast and crew members of the hit teen drama, "One Tree Hill," were one of the first groups to band together and make abuse and sexual assault allegations against their former boss: the series' showrunner, Mark Schwahn. The statement was a response to writer Audrey Wauchope's now-deleted tweets alleging inappropriate behavior like unwanted touching from Schwahn (who wasn't named at the time). 19 women — including Wauchope and actors Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton, and Bethany Joy Lenz — gave a joint, open letter statement to Variety.

"Many of us were, to varying degrees, manipulated psychologically and emotionally. More than one of us is still in treatment for post-traumatic stress. Many of us were put in uncomfortable positions and had to swiftly learn to fight back, sometimes physically, because it was made clear to us that the supervisors in the room were not the protectors they were supposed to be," the statement read in part. "Many of us were spoken to in ways that ran the spectrum from deeply upsetting, to traumatizing, to downright illegal. And a few of us were put in positions where we felt physically unsafe." After facing similar allegations during his time on "The Royals," showrunner Schwahn was fired from the E! series.

Bush has since talked about her experience on the set of "One Tree Hill" frequently. Calling the show a "gross older man's fantasy" in May 2021, she said on the "Chicks in the Office" podcast that Schwahn's attitude toward women can be seen onscreen. 

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).