Movie sets can be pressure cookers, so sometimes cast members lighten the mood with the traditional practical joke. Some are better (and more prolific) jokesters than others. Here are six celebrities who have that reputation and their most successful tricks.
The wily comedian/actor/writer who shot to worldwide stardom with “Shaun of the Dead” won the role of a lifetime, that of Chief Engineer Scott in the rebooted “Star Trek” series. It was during the second film, “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” that he managed to prank not only the rest of the cast, but the guest star as well. Benedict Cumberbatch was handed a tube of “specially formulated neuron cream” and told that, for safety reasons, he had to apply it to his face due to the set’s background radiation levels. Cumberbatch didn’t even bat an eye; he thought it was something to do with American safety standards. But at least he wasn’t the only one. The rest of the bridge crew fell for the same prank (and there is photographic evidence!), but Cumberbatch was judged “most gullible” for his strict adherence to a nonexistent safety regulation, in that he actually signed a waiver mentioning the “neuron cream,” which was just regular old skin lotion.
Speaking of Simon Pegg, he is not immune to being on the receiving end of a prank. On the set of “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” when Pegg and Cruise were filming a scene that took place during a car chase in Morocco, Cruise seemed inordinately worried about Pegg being hydrated in the extreme heat, and kept giving Pegg water to drink. There was nothing wrong with the water. The problem was that Cruise kept cranking up Pegg’s automatic car seat warmer so he was sweating profusely the whole time, and chalking it up to the weather. Did we mention the scene was filmed over five days? Pegg finally sussed it out, and got back at him by taping over the light button on Cruise’s side of the car and giving him the hot seat treatment in return.
The late actor had a wicked sense of humor, and often stole whole movies from his co-stars in films like “Die Hard,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “Galaxy Quest,” and of course the entire “Harry Potter” franchise. “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe related the tale of an embarrassing moment early on in the series during a tense, quiet scene from “Prisoner of Azkaban.” When the Hogwarts students are huddled together sleeping in the Great Hall, the camera is supposed to zoom in on the titular hero… at which point a loud, prolonged fart sounded out from Radcliffe’s direction. No one was more mortified than Radcliffe, and the reason was that Rickman had set up a sound device near Radcliffe’s spot. Apparently, the brooding, morose Snape character Rickman had been cast as was the complete opposite of him.
During filming of “The Wolf of Wall Street” with Leonardo DiCaprio, Hill recalls one major scene where the pair are eating sushi and DiCaprio offers him the last piece. But Hill flipped the script and started saying, “No thanks, you take it,” leaving DiCaprio to eat it. They kept doing the take over and over, all the while DiCaprio is eating a disturbing amount of sushi under hot camera lights until he finally started vomiting. DiCaprio got Hill back later off the set, posing as a paparazzi and scaring the wits out of Hill on a public street. No word whether DiCaprio ever looked a piece of sushi in the face ever again.
Although there is a question whether Clooney or his pal Brad Pitt is the reigning king of Hollywood’s joke department, there’s no doubt that Clooney’s pranks are more prolific and display a certain finesse about them. During the filming of “The Monuments Men,” co-star Matt Damon was having a terrible time trying to drop a few pounds for the role. It was then revealed that Clooney had been asking the wardrobe department to slowly take in Damon’s waistband on his costume every few days. Damon hardly ate while filming the movie because he thought his metabolism had gone haywire, and didn’t learn the truth about the prank until well after the film came out.
What started the prank war between George Clooney and Brad Pitt? No one knows for sure. But it definitely escalated during their time filming “Ocean’s Eleven.” While filming in Italy, Pitt had letters drafted — in Italian — to contractors and local merchants telling them that Clooney was a “method actor” and was going to be so deep into the role he would only answer to his character’s name. So, Clooney kept getting called “Mr. Ocean” by everyone and he couldn’t figure out what was going on. Since then, Pitt and Clooney have done everything from sending other stars gifts “from each other” and slapping obscene bumper stickers on each other’s cars, trying to get them arrested. But Clooney did one prank that wasn’t against Pitt, it was for him: he set up a massive outdoor venue at his Italian villa, which paparazzi around the world were absolutely certain meant that Clooney was going to host Brad Pitt’s wedding to Angelina Jolie. Hundreds of hungry photographers wasted two weeks camped out near the property, all for nothing.