How much does being difficult to work with a detriment to artists' careers?

I’m wondering if being difficult to work with* usually impedes an artist’s career or if it has little impact.

Does it happen commonly that someone would have gotten a job in a big production if they didn’t have a reputation for being difficult to work with?

  • which can take many forms. I am purposefully leaving this open and hoping that the way in which someone can be difficult to work with is spelled out so that we may see if different ways of being difficult to work with have different impacts.

As with everything in life… it depends.

Football coach Vince Lombardi used to tell problem players, “I’ll put up with your crap until I can find someone good enough to replace you.” I think that’s the philosophy of bosses in most lines of work.

Which means, if you’re a quarterback who throws for 4,500 yards and 50 touchdowns, the coach will overlook your partying and insubordination.

If you’re an actor whose movies always rake in $300 million, producers will overlook your heavy drug use.

If you’re a singer who sells out hockey arenas, you can get away with being an obnoxious prima donna.

If you’re REALLY good at your job and make a lot of money for the people you work with, you can be an asshole and no one will punish your for it.

But all those things will come back to bite you when you go through a slump. Once you STOP performing at a high level, no one is going to be eager to give you second chances. Val Kilmer and Terrell Owens are among the people who’ve found that out the hard way.

Opera singer Kathleen Battle pretty famously got herself dismissed from the Metropolitan Opera roster in 1994 for bad behavior in rehearsal. While she still sings concerts and records, she hasn’t worked in opera since.

It’s a very fine line you can be an asshole up to the point you are a profitable, productive commodity. The tipping point is when the balance goes the other way open doors close immediately and assholes tend to go into freefall whereas nicer people will sometimes get second chances or some side work by people they were nice to on the way up.

Here’s a news story that (if true) is an example of a B-list celebrity sabotaging themselves.

EXCLUSIVE: 'An ungrateful b****." Fans walk out on The Help actress Octavia Spencer at book signing as she rolls her eyes, complains about her aching feet and REFUSES to take pictures

Gelsey Kirkland was a great ballet dancer, but she wasn’t the best the US had ever seen, and you have to work really hard to stay on top in ballet, so her drug lifestyle caught up with her, and she had a much shorter career than a lot of dancers who started out at the same time she did. Her name also became a by-word for being a screw-up in the dance world. She tried doing guest appearances-- she’d hire herself out to regional venues, like ballet companies that weren’t in New York or LA, or universities that had ballet departments, to join a production, supposedly to attract a bigger audience, but she left a long trail of trashed hotel rooms and disappointment.

She tried writing her “recovery” autobiography, which had the double punch of drug use and anorexia, and also tried a comeback with the Royal Ballet, but she was probably just too old for a fresh start, because once you get out of shape for ballet, that’s pretty much it.

The greatest dancers, like Maya Pliesetskaya sometimes dance into their 50s (I saw her when she was 52, and she was astounding). I think Kirkland is teaching now, and she’s been married 3 or 4 times.

Now, one question is whether she would have been as screwed up as she was if she weren’t in such a high pressure job. Maybe not. But obviously not everyone gets screwed up. Darci Kistler danced for almost 20 years, and managed to have a child, without drugs or as far as I know, an eating disorder, and she was dancing around the same time as Kirkland. She’s quietly retired now. Her marriage has had some real weirdness, but she hasn’t gone through a string of them.

I think it’s always going to be a detriment. There’s always going to be a “what if?” Some people will put up with difficult, but some people won’t, and there will always be missed opportunities. Directors who go over budget don’t make more films, unless they can find their own backing for the next project, and that requires a lot of extra work, plus selling someone on their vision, so maybe they do have be better than other people.

There’s probably a threshold, though, where you are so difficult, you can’t possibly be that good, because no one can.

The CBS News correspondent Charles Kuralt had a reputation of being aloof and difficult to work with (after his death he was discovered to be living a double life), but he was beloved by viewers. When Kuralt came up with the idea of traveling around in a Winnebago, reporting on whatever caught his fancy, management jumped at the idea, partly because it would keep him far away from headquarters.

Kuralt’s other famous assignment was CBS Sunday Morning. While it was a prestigious show, it also kept him away from the Monday-Friday people. Despite his gifts as a writer and his popularity with viewers, Kuralt was never in the running to anchor the CBS Evening News, host 60 Minutes or take a leading role in high status projects like election coverage.

Well, true artists won’t want to agree with this, but I’d say it simply depends on how much money you’re still able to make for others associated with you. In terms of this I think actors are the best example. You can be as insufferable as you like, but as long as your films still make a lot of money you’ll continue to work. Ultimately it’s the fans that decide, and only a small percentage of the most fanatical ones give a shit about what kind of a person you really are.

Linda Fiorentino has a rep of being hard to work with. I read that she was supposed to be in Men in Black 2 but the producers changed their mind and had to bring back Tommy Lee Jones.

Several years before he died, SNL did a piece where the actor who played Kuralt talked about how the best thing about being on the road was…the sex :eek: and then goes into graphic detail about some of the things he did with the people he interviewed (and I think some animals too). It was hilarious at the time, but not so much so when that double life was revealed.

Gelsey Kirkland’s Wiki page says she’s in her second marriage, although she has had relationships with several prominent men.

It sounds like she does not have any children.

That was Norm MacDonald. The bit is on YouTube and SNLtranscripts.

As for the main thread question, I can easily imagine a director weighing how easy or difficult he finds certain actors to work with in making his casting decisions.

I think the converse is also true, that some actors will always be in in work because they’re not hard to work with. Harrison Ford’s box office pull might have waned over the last couple of decades, but apart from his star cachet he has the reputation of being a total professional, always on time, knows his lines and hits his marks, and never causes trouble on or off set. If the casting choice for the grizzled FBI agent on the verge of retirement comes down to him, Mel Gibson or Alec Baldwin, guess who gets the call?

Lash Larue once took out an ad in Variety adminning he had been a jerk when he was a star and that he’s changed. Didn’t help.

Actors/artists can do anything they want when they’re at the top. Once deman for them wanes, however, a bad reputation is going to kill you. Actors who have long careers usually are known to be easy to work with and when putting together a project, their attitude is one factor in getting the job.

I thought Katherine Heigl’s decline was due to being hard to work with.

Third Birch I understand essentially disappeared because her father was difficult to work with.

I doubt she was ever slated to be in any MIB sequels. She was only in the first one because she won the role in a poker game with director Barry Sonnenfeld. Kevin Smith also said he’d never hire her again (although he did ultimately praise her performance in Dogma).

Linda Fiorentino became a man in black in the first movie. That seems to be a pretty big clue she was scheduled to be in the sequels.

Michael J. Pollard’s the one I always think of when this sort of question pops up. My understanding is he basically scuttled his career with his prima-donna behavior.

If you’re very talented and bankable enough - say, Christian Bale - you can get away with being famously prickly. If you’re pretty talented - say, Val Kilmer - you can fall off in a hurry once you’re no longer that bankable.

Also, if you’re the boss, you can get away with a lot more. Buddy Rich and Stanley Kubrick come to mind.

In sports Bobby Knight was a total jerk but he won and graduated players. When he was fired he wasn’t winning as much so it was not hard to ax him.