Faye Dunaway has long been labeled as difficult. With some even accusing the acclaimed actress of taking her role in Mommie Dearest home with her. Her defenders contended that she was a strong woman, and strong women are always labeled as difficult divas by those who want to keep them down.
What will her defenders say now? Dunaway was playing acting legend Katherine Hepburn in the new play Tea At Five until producers started wondering if it worth keeping her on the production. In the end, they decided it wasn’t and fired her.
Diva At Five
Tea At Five is a one-woman show about Katherine Hepburn’s recovery from a 1983 car accident. With that in mind, Hepburn would have been 76 years old when the play takes place. However, Dunaway insisted on plucking the grey hairs from the wig she wore on stage because she wanted to appear younger. What? Yes, Dunaway wanted to age down a Hollywood icon. That is only the tip of the iceberg of the antics that happened off stage.
A photoshoot to help promote the play turned into a disaster of epic proportion. An assistant brought her a salad for lunch. The leafy lunch was thrown to the floor in a huff, and Dunaway loudly declared she was trying to lose weight. She also said the floor would get more enjoyment from the salad. No one knows what that means, probably not even her.
When actors rehearse, it is generally for the directors to give them notes on their performance. Dunaway, however, decided that no one should be looking at her while she rehearsed.
Adding even more unprofessionalism to this, Dunaway had the script for six months but decided not to learn the lines. One source told The New York Post, “98 percent of the play came through the earpiece.” That included feeding the Oscar-winning actress her lines and where she was supposed to be on the stage.
Things got to a point where producers called Dunaway’s former assistant to find out what could be happening. The answer was not what they were hoping. The former assistant told them, “It sounds like she’s not complying with her medication.” This led them to ask the Actors’ Equity union if it was “ethical” to allow her to perform the show in front of an audience.
They got their answer when just before a performance, Dunaway threw combs, mirrors, and anything else she could get her hands on at the crew. As if throwing things weren’t enough, she then began physically assaulting people. Producers promptly fired her.
Back in the 1990s, Dunaway was playing Maria Callas in the touring company of Terrence McNally’s Master Class. Things were not going well back then. The diva would show up to PERFORMANCES an hour late. One time she was late because the limo company sent a white car and she hates the color white. The company sent a black car but by the time it arrived, she had asked the hotel for a rental car and was heading to the theatre. She refuted the reports to one journalist: “Your story sounds like a Fellini movie,”
Another story that will be a movie at some point is the situation with Andrew Llyod Weber’s musical Sunset Boulevard. Dunaway was set to play the iconic role of Norma Desmond. However, she asked for a delay in her taking over the character in order to take more vocal lessons. This delay bumped up against an already scheduled hiatus, so she could finish filming a movie. Alarm bells went off and the production was scrapped.
Maybe the next set of producers will learn from history.