Hollywood's price for success: the mind

George Bell looks at the mental health impact cinema can have on actors.

George Bell
16th March 2020
In my previous article, I started talking about how working in Hollywood can negatively impact a person in terms of their physical health. However, the film industry is as much a battle of the mind as it is of the body, sometimes more so. How extreme can film making influence mental health?

Becoming the star of a blockbuster Hollywood film is great until it isn’t. You get thrust into the spotlight suddenly, under the scrutiny of many, so that social pressure to keep up an appearance is sure to be immense. A prime example of this is numerous actors from the Star Wars series, mostly due to how die-hard the fanbase is, to the point where the stars were harassed and bullied online. Jake Lloyd, who played a young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace, decided to quit acting entirely after the role due to the bullying he received. In an interview Lloyd stated that kids would “make lightsabre noises every time they saw me” and in general just be mean towards him so it’s definitely easy to sympathize with what he went to. And it’s not like he gave a bad performance, just did exactly what he was told to by George Lucas but as the movie wasn’t critically well-received it seems that Lloyd took a lot of the fan backlash.

Lloyd is just one example of the negative impact working in Hollywood can have on kids. Others include Macaulay Culkin and Lindsay Lohan who both were thrust into stardom early on with break out roles in Home Alone and The Parent Trap respectively. Soon after, due to various reasons, likely the pressure of the world watching them, caused them to turn to drugs and alcohol. A great example of this can be seen in 2019s Honey Boy, a Shia LeBeouf biopic which a highly recommend watching.

Lindsey Lohan's struggles with drugs & alcohol were well documented during her teenage years. Image:IMDB

Kids aren’t the only ones affected though, and in the same theme of Star Wars the voice behind the infamous Jar Jar Binks, Ahmed Best also received a huge amount of abuse for his performance as the clumsy Gungan. The backlash he received was insane with the actor even receiving death threats from “fans”. It got so bad one point that the actor was considering taking his own life. This alone shows how insane Hollywood can get. And if you think that because this happened over 10 years ago its old news, I’m afraid you’d be wrong.

You don’t even need to move out of the Star Wars universe to see a more modern example of this with Kelly Marie Tran in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Similar to Jar Jar in Phantom Menace, a lot of fans took their hatred of the film, which many didn’t like (myself not included), out on the character of Rose who was a newcomer to the series. She was harassed for months because of her performance, to the point where she removed all her posts from Instagram, and naturally, the hate must have had a severe impact on her health. And if not to make things worse it seems Disney took the side of the fans and reducing Tran’s role significantly in the sequel so she practically became a background character. And this is just Star Wars, thanks to the age of social media it’s becoming easier and easier to harass actors and actresses, especially when they are in more prominent films.

But the repercussions of a bad film aren’t the only way those in the film industry can suffer, there are significant challenges to face during production as well. Be it a stressful schedule like Peter Jackson and The Hobbit Trilogy or horrible work experiences as a result of bad crew members.

Shelley Duvall's experience on The Shining (1980) was so bad that she gave up acting. Image:IMDB

A prominent example of the latter is Shelley Duvall in The Shining (1980) who suffered greatly while working under director Stanley Kubrick. To say they had a bad relationship on screen is an understatement especially when combined with the perfectionism Kubrick had with all his films. He got Duvall to “cry 12 hours a day, all day long, the last nine months straight, five or six days a week” and Kubrick constantly diminished Duvall’s acting performance during filming. This was a clear sign of bullying as Jack Nicholson, who played opposite Duvall, has in the past drawn attention to the double standards Kubrick had with him and his co-star as while Nicholson was treated with respect, he was always critical of Duvall.

The abuse of Kubrick can be seen clearly in the infamous baseball-bat scene, which was done in 127 takes (the most takes ever with spoken dialogue), where Shelly has to defend herself against Nicholson’s character as he becomes more deranged. Shelly would be in tears between takes and the final shot Kubrick settled on, the distress was actually real. It's hard to argue with how talented Stanley Kubrick was with the numerous movies he has released but his methods were brutal and caused a serious trauma to those who worked with him, Shelly Duvall being at the forefront. To this day it is clear that Duvall still suffers from the effects of working with the director.

We previously covered Kubrick's demanding work habits which can be found here.

So, it’s clear Hollywood isn’t what many people paint it to be. As with any career, it has its downsides for both physical and mental health. Yes, it’s a great job to have but there are definite risks that should be taken into account. And Hollywood needs to take into account the health and well being of those apart of its industry.

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AUTHOR: George Bell
One half film addict, one part computer nerd. All parts Croc lover

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