Every actor has at least one incredibly uncomfortable audition story. In some cases, it’s the actor who makes it weird (by getting TOO into character and taking off their shirt, for example). But more often than not, it’s the director who casually blurts out a sexist slur. Either way, no star is immune to it.
We’ve laid out some of the most cringe-worthy auditions for you. Ones that would make us bawl our eyes out from humiliation. Ones that would make us pack our bags and get as far away from Hollywood as possible. Some are funny, others are sad, and others are just flat-out rude.
Chris Klein’s Eyebrows Were All Over the Place
If you’re ever in a bad mood, just watch Chris Klein’s audition for Mamma Mia. It’s four minutes of pure gold. Four minutes of an off-tune, psychopathic-looking Klein, hanging on for dear life as the role of Dominic Cooper slowly slips further and further away from him. To be fair, his singing wasn’t all too bad.
His facial expressions creeped us out. His dancing eyebrows, his maniacal stare, his creepy Mandy Moore fixation: Everything was just too much to take in. Luckily, Klein was a good sport about his leaked audition and even made a parody video for “Funny or Die.”
Scarlett Johansson Sighed Out Her Lines
Nine-year-old Scarlett Johansson walked into her Jumanji audition looking like someone forced her into it. In between the sighs and eye rolls, she managed to mutter a few of her lines, “I’ve got sixty-seven dollars and eight cents,” she says like she’s a tired, working, single mother of five.
We know being a kid is hard and all, but sheesh… Johansson could have at least tried to muster a little bit more enthusiasm when reciting her lines. Ultimately, Kirsten Dunst got the desired part. And after watching Johansson’s audition, it’s easy to see why.
Meryl Streep Wasn’t Pretty Enough for King Kong
Putting Meryl Streep in the same sentence with “bad audition” seems like the start of a bad joke. But no, we assure you that this happened. Unlike the first two auditions on this list, Streep’s cringy audition had nothing to do with her acting skills and everything to do with one tasteless Italian producer named Dino De Laurentiis.
The story goes as follows: It was 1976, and Streep entered the room to audition for the role of Dwan. De Laurentiis looked at the then-unknown Streep and whispered to the guy sitting next to him in Italian, “Why do you bring me this ugly thing?” Streep, who knows Italian, understood his every word. “[The experience was] very sobering, as a young girl,” she recalled.
Lucy Hale Couldn’t Bring Herself to Read Her Lines
The erotic drama, Fifty Shades of Grey is an uncomfortable book and an even more uncomfortable movie. So, hearing that Lucy Hale’s audition for Anastasia Steele was terribly awkward comes as no surprise. In a 2014 interview with Cosmopolitan, the actress spilled the beans:
“That audition was so uncomfortable! It’s exactly what you thought it would be: a big monologue but very, very sexual. There were some things that I was so embarrassed to be reading out loud, but it’s one of those things where you have to commit wholeheartedly, or you’re going to make a fool of yourself.”
Zac Efron Smiled Too Much
There’s no such thing as smiling too much, right? Especially when you’re auditioning for a bubbly, amusing musical like Hairspray. Really, being happy is probably the last thing you’d think would tick a director off. Well, think again. Apparently, Zac Efron’s jolly mood creeped everyone out.
As he recited his lines, Hairspray’s director complained he was smiling too much. When he tried to force his mouth back to a straight line, he couldn’t. “It was impossible. Because I was such a smiley kid, I couldn’t do it. It took me like four or five tries, and he [director Adam Shankman] was just shaking his head and making fun of me the whole time.”
Jake Gyllenhaal’s British Accent Was Bloody Terrible
If you’re looking to play a young hobbit with a curious spirit and a heart of gold, you need to come well prepared. Clearly, Jake did not. The wannabe Frodo Baggins absolutely bombed his audition for Lord of the Rings. It was so bad that the movie’s director flat out told him, “You are the worst actor that I have ever seen.”
Here’s what went wrong. Number one, his agents forgot to tell him he needed to read his lines with an English accent. Number two, he was asked to walk up to a box and take out a ring (THE ring) and unsure what the director wanted, Gyllenhaal casually took it out as if it was just another mediocre item.
Eddie Redmayne Lacked His Own Voice
Here’s another Lord of the Rings fail, this time, by Eddie Redmayne, who auditioned for the role of Bilbo Baggins in LOTR’s prequel, The Hobbit. The filmmaker’s main issue with Redmayne was that he tried way too hard to copy how Ian Holm played the character in LOTR.
As Redmayne waved his hands around like a spazzing elf and recited his lines in a creepy, high-pitched voice, the casting director interrupted with “No, no, no. Own voice! Own voice!” Needless to say, Redmayne never got a call back.
January Jones’ Pole Dancing Fail
January Jone’s audition for Coyote Ugly was, you guessed it, ugly. But we don’t blame the Mad Men star. It was her second audition ever, and she was caught completely off guard. After reciting her lines, producer Jerry Bruckheimer asked her to dance on top of a table to Prince’s Kiss.
He told her, “You’re going to pole dance, but there is no pole.” Jones did her best, awkwardly maneuvering her body around the invisible prop. But after she wrapped up her graceless show, Bruckheimer said something along the lines of, “Honey, you did a great reading, but you’ve got no rhythm.”
Jennifer Garner Wore the Same Clothes Again and Again
Back when Jennifer Garner was a Hollywood newbie, she followed a strict callback protocol, making sure to put on the same clothes she wore for her first audition. But when she appeared at her second, third, and fourth callback with the same navy mini skirt and white t-shirt, the casting directors were puzzled.
“We do want to bring Jennifer back,” they told Garner’s agent, “but does she have any other clothes?” Ultimately, the actress didn’t get the part. Horrified by the memory of her limited wardrobe, Garner told Jimmy Fallon, “I didn’t get the job.”
How One Director Bombed Aaron Paul’s Audition
It’s hard to picture cool, laid-back Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad ever break a sweat over anything. But when Aaron Paul was reminded of an awkward blast from the past mid-audition, he was caught off guard, lost his train of thought, and struggled to bounce back.
He was auditioning for Cloverfield when director J.J. Abrams asked him to recall a hilarious magic trick he failed to get right a year before on the set of Lost. “He has me tell the story about the card trick, and now I’m super awkward,” he told Variety, “He’s like, ‘Now, let’s get started,’ and I start doing this monologue and I completely lose my train of thought and I stop, and I apologize to J.J. He’s like ‘That’s okay. Thanks for coming in.’”
Dave Franco’s Word Jumble
You know that uncomfortable feeling when you’re talking to someone and suddenly miss a word they said? Usually, you either nod your head and ignore it, or ask them to repeat it. Being new to the scene, Dave Franco went with the first option in one of his early auditions and made quite the impression.
The casting director asked him to slate, but he mistook the word for sleep. And because he didn’t quite get what she said, he got comfortable, threw his head back, shut his eyes, and started to drift off. Terribly puzzled, she asked, “what in the world are you doing?”
David Harbour Was Forced to Sing
If there’s one thing David Harbour doesn’t do, it’s musicals. So, when the Stranger Things actor was asked to audition for the jukebox musical, The Boys from Oz, he made it very clear that wearing leg warmers and belting his heart out on stage was a huge no no for him.
His agent assured him no singing would be done and that all they wanted was to see him act. But lo and behold! When Harbour arrived, they rushed him on stage in front of eight casting directors, a piano started playing in the background, and he had no other choice but to sing his lines clumsily.
Emmy Rossum’s Sexist Nightmare
While it’s true that actors aren’t necessarily models, we understand why filmmakers want to cast good-looking people. It’s more pleasant on the eye and all that jazz. That being said, offering someone a role ONLY if they agreed to come into your office in a bikini is out of line.
The director who gave Emmy Rossum that ridiculous ultimatum told her he wanted to know if she had put on some fat. He basically told her, “We really love your work, but we just want to see how tight your ass is.” Rossum considered it for a split second but quickly came to her senses and pulled back.
Gwyneth Paltrow Was Offered to Finish the Audition in the Bedroom
Back when she was just starting out, Gwyneth Paltrow learned firsthand how creepy the people in showbiz can be. In one of her early auditions, someone from the film’s crew suggested they finish the meeting in the bedroom.
At a loss for words, Paltrow got up and left. But despite her strong character, the actress confessed how she could easily see someone with a little less confidence agree to that ridiculously inappropriate offer. She told Vogue, “I could see how someone who didn’t know better might worry, “My career will be ruined if I don’t give this guy a BJ!”
Emma Stone Blew Her Nickelodeon Audition
Before Emma Stone became a lovable Hollywood figure, she was just an aspiring little kid trying out for Nickelodeon’s hit comedy, All That. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Stone admitted she came to the open call completely unprepared because she assumed that they would be giving her a few sketches on the spot.
As it turns out, she was supposed to prepare her own characters ahead of time. So, with the few short minutes she had until it was her turn, Stone made up some ridiculous characters like a cheerleader who didn’t know how to spell and a possessed babysitter.
Drew Barrymore Had to Suck Her Own Finger
The most embarrassing audition story in Barrymore’s repertoire is hands down the one where she was asked to suck on her own finger. Originally, she was supposed to do this seductive oral thing with another actor, but there was no one there with her, so she had to do it to herself.
“It was by far the most humiliating experience. I thought, ‘They think I’m such sh** that I’m here on a Sunday with the [casting] assistant, giving myself a finger in the mouth. This is a low point.” She recalled, “I don’t even think the director watched the tape.”
They Turned Tina Fey Down Because of Her Scar
As a kid, Tina Fey jumped from audition to audition, hoping to land even a small part in a commercial. She tried out for McDonald’s once, an audition which ended up being a humiliating nightmare and waste of time. Fey’s noticeable face scar didn’t look good on camera, so they turned her down.
After almost three hours of waiting around, she finally realized there was no way they were going to give her the part. “I was just like, ‘Hi, I’ll have a Big Mac, and my scar will have an orange soda.’” Fey told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.
Nicolas Hoult’s Hispanic Accent Fail
There are certain auditions I’d love to be a fly on the wall in just to see them live, like Nicolas Hoult’s try-out for Prince Caspian. The English actor was asked to put on his best Hispanic accent, which ended up sounding like a really messed up parody of Shrek’s Puss in Boots.
“I was doing the scene, but in my head before saying each line, I was trying to do my Antonio Banderas impression, saying [in a Desperado voice] ‘I am Prince Caspian!’” Hoult told E! News, “It was horrendous, it sounded more like Borat.”
Thandie Newton’s Horrifying Experience
Thandie Newton’s audition story is probably one of – if not – the worst on this list. She was asked to sit with her legs apart as the crew adjusted the camera in a position where they could film right up her skirt. And before starting her dialogue, she had to think about making love to the character she was supposedly talking with.
But that’s not all. Years later, at a film festival, a drunk producer bumped into Newton and sloppily slurred, “Oh, Thandie, I’ve seen you recently!” Turns out, the director was showing her audition tape to all his friends on poker nights at his house.
A Producer in Pajamas Harassed Charlize Theron
At 19 years old, Charlize Theron was a Hollywood newbie who had just moved from South Africa. Not knowing much about how things work, she agreed to all sorts of sketchy meetings. One such “audition” was held on a Saturday night at a hotshot producer’s house. While she thought the arrangement was a bit unusual, she didn’t dwell on it too much.
Her true wakeup call was when she arrived to find him lounging in his pajamas. She told NPR, “I go inside and he’s offering me a drink, and I’m thinking, my God this acting stuff is very relaxed. But it soon becomes very clear what the situation was. I was like, ‘Not going to happen! Got the wrong girl, buddy!’”
Susan Sarandon’s Disgusting Casting Couch Experience
Yet another #MeToo story (no surprise there). This time, it happened to Susan Sarandon in her early days, as an aspiring actress in New York. “I just went into a room, and a guy practically threw me on the desk,” the actress revealed in an interview with Elle.
“It was really disgusting. It wasn’t like I gave it a second thought, it was so badly done. It was not successful — for either of us,” she added. Thankfully, Sarandon has managed to rise up despite her trauma and has made a name for herself in the industry thanks to her hard work and talent.
Helen Mirren Was Treated Like a Piece of Meat
English Actress Helen Mirren was asked to prance around the room and flaunt her body in front of director Michael Winner. “I was mortified and incredibly angry,” she revealed; “I thought it was insulting and sexist, and I don’t think any actress should be treated like that – like a piece of meat – at all.”
When it comes to sexism, time doesn’t heal all wounds. Helen Mirren confessed she is still angry about the incident, and we don’t blame her. The filmmakers who treat these actresses like a piece of meat are fully aware of what they’re doing, yet they go ahead and do it anyway.
Chris Evans Was So Starstruck He Forgot How to Speak
When Chris Evans met Ben Affleck on the set of his film Gone Baby Gone, he was so starstruck that he started babbling a bunch of nonsense about his car, only to slowly recoil into one-word answers. “I just wanted to get the f—k out of the room… I was so mortified that I started this meeting off that way,” he recalled.
Whatever questions Affleck asked the nervous actor, Evans responded with awkward “goods” and “yeahs.” The actor’s nerves clearly got the best of him, ruining his ability to focus and form normal sentences. He didn’t get the job.
Alison Brie Was Asked to Take Her Top Off
For her Entourage audition, Alison Brie had to wear teeny tiny shorts and read her lines in a bikini. But the real cherry on the top was when they asked her, “Okay, can you take your top off now?” Sadly, Brie believes that the audition process is still as sick today as it was when she first started out.
She also complained about how, in addition to the sexist treatment, there aren’t many interesting roles out there for women: “I’ve gone through auditions for Marvel movies and auditioned a million times for roles with three lines, and you are begging for them. And I’d be glad to get them! It’s brutal, it just is.”
David Tennant Was Asked to Strip Naked
David Tennant’s humiliating audition is clear evidence that women aren’t the only ones being objectified in Hollywood. The actor recalled when he was once asked to strip naked and improvise in front of the whole casting crew. He would have to be naked on-screen anyway, so they thought, hey, why not ask him to do it now?
As if the situation wasn’t unpleasant enough, they had an actress stay in the room with him the whole time. “I drew the line. I didn’t go in for that one,” Tennant stated. We get that actors need to get comfortable if they’re going to strip in front of the camera, but, come on, Tennant’s audition was out of line.
The Tape Ryan Reynolds Is Terrified Of
If there’s one audition tape Reynolds is terrified will surface at some point, it’s the one of him singing. The actor described himself as one of those people who, when they sing in the shower, they feel like they have a decent voice, but when they get out in the real world, their voice “turns into a hammer that hits everybody in the face.”
He told Variety Studios, “So I did an audition where I had to sing, and it was pretty bad. It’s one of those auditions that was so bad that I look back and I think, ‘What if that tape surfaces at some point? That’ll be the death of me.’ Yeah. That was pretty awful.”
Jared Leto’s One Line Audition Was the Worst
I’ll admit this made me giggle a bit. Jared Leto managed to bomb a one-line audition. Just one line. To be fair, it was one of his first auditions, and if you know anything about stage fright, you know that managing even one word can feel like an impossible task.
“[I] definitely didn’t get the part. I remember being so bad, just so embarrassed reading. Like, how can you be so bad?” Leto told E! News. Since his nerve-wracking audition, Leto has performed in front of millions with Thirty Seconds to Mars and has appeared in award-winning films. Stage jitters aren’t for life guys! Practice makes perfect.
Emilia Clarke Chicken Danced Her Way to Game of Thrones
Even though Emilia Clarke landed the part of Khaleesi in Game of Thrones, getting it was a tad uncomfortable. During her audition, she asked the executives at HBO if there was anything she could do to help, like “make them some tea or something.”
The show’s co-creator David Benioff responded to her polite gesture with, “Yeah, how about you dance for us?” Not knowing what to do with herself, Clarke clumsily began to move around, starting with the funky chicken dance and slowly morphing into the robot.
Kit Harington’s Black Eye Came in Handy
The night before Harington auditioned for Game of Thrones, he got into an ugly fight at McDonalds. Some guy at the place was shooting nasty remarks at his (Harington’s) girlfriend, so the actor got up, punched him in the face, and suffered one right back in his eye.
The following day, he walked into his Jon Snow audition looking messy and tired. But, as luck would have it, the show’s producers were quite impressed by his bruises, which added just the right touch of heroism and ruggedness.
Damon Wayans Jr. Tripped and Fell Into the Curtains
There’s nothing like a night of heavy partying to ruin any auditions you had planned for the following day (unless you got into a fight and the blue marks on your face suit your character). But in Damon Wayans Jr.’s case, his crazy night out ruined his chances of getting the part.
He woke up for one of his auditions terribly dehydrated and hungover, his head pounding at every little sound. As he read his lines, he stumbled into the blue curtains. He tried to play it off like it was their fault, crying out, “Guys this room is crazy. What is this, a moving room?”
Toilet Paper Came Flying Out of Felicity Huffman’s Shirt
When Felicity Huffman put on a dress for one of her auditions, she realized it “wasn’t quite chesty enough.” So she went for the ole’ toilet paper trick and stuffed some down her bra. But the magic trick did little to boost her confidence, and her audition ended up being a total fail.
But that wasn’t the worst part. The real nightmare happened when she leaned down to get her bag, and, somehow, the toilet paper came rolling right out of her dress and all over the floor. Huffman confessed she had to “pick up my ego and my toilet paper and walk out of the room.”
Dakota Johnson Took Off Her Shirt, Even Though She Didn’t Have To
You would think that getting TOO into character would be harmless, right? I mean, there’s nothing producers appreciate more than creativity, spunk, and unwavering dedication. Well, not really. And Dakota Johnson’s audition is the reason why.
She got so invested in the dramatic scene that she ended up taking off her shirt. The casting director shot her a glance and told her, “You didn’t have to do that.” Johnson confessed to The Hollywood Reporter, “It was inappropriate. And embarrassing. It’s still embarrassing, and I’m more embarrassed that I just told that story.”
They Weren’t Sure if Gina Rodriguez Was Pretty Enough
It’s practically impossible not to fall in love with Gina Rodriguez, the starlet best known for her endearing role as Jane in the satirical telenovela Jane the Virgin. But even Rodriguez suffered her fair share of rude comments. Like the casting directors who asked her to come to the audition in a little black dress.
Rodriguez shook her head in confusion because she knew that their wardrobe requirement had little to do with the character. But their response was, “We need to know if you’re pretty enough to be on the cover of a magazine.”
Tiffany Haddish Wasn’t “Urban” Enough
Some actors stay put in their chairs despite the snarky remarks and rude feedback. But others have little patience for ignorant comments. When Tiffany Haddish overheard someone say she “wasn’t as urban as [they] thought she’d be,” she got up and left.
On a different occasion, Haddish overheard someone saying as she left the room, “I really think we should just go with a white girl. This role should be changed to white.” Ouch. But don’t worry, Haddish has a clever way of getting back at nasty people. She records their snooty gossip with her phone.
Lana Condor Was Asked to Be More Like Hello Kitty
The Vietnamese-American actress Lana Condor was asked to be more like an animated cat. We’re not sure whether to laugh or cry or get upset over this unreasonable request. Lana Condor didn’t know what to do either. “What the f—k does that mean? That’s so insanely ignorant and racist,” she recalled.
For one, Hello Kitty doesn’t have a mouth. Two, Hello Kitty is Japanese. So, at the very least, get the country right. Condor was deeply insulted by the remarks and said she put the casting director on the spot by asking her to clarify exactly what she meant by telling her to look like a mouthless, animated Japanese cat.
Sophia Bush’s Sexiness Was an Issue
There was a lot of unnecessary confusion surrounding Sophia Bush before she got the part of Brooke Davis on One Tree Hill. At first, they told her she didn’t look sexy enough. But then, when she auditioned for the second time, they told her, “whoa, you look too sexy.”
She ended up auditioning three times before she got the part. We wonder what happened. Was she finally the right amount of sexy? Looks like One Tree Hill’s rating scale was… dubious, to say the least. At least she ultimately got the part because it’s hard to picture OTH without her.
Judi Dench Was Told Everything Was Wrong With Her Face
When you think the insults on this list can’t get any worse, they can. Exhibit A – Judi Dench. In her early years, the well-respected actress was told that she would never be accepted onto any movie because she had “every single thing wrong with her face.”
“Well, I got to do a few films after that, so I’m very pleased he was wrong,” the actress told Jimmy Fallon of The Tonight Show. After all these years, Dench still hasn’t revealed the rude director’s name, who she says is a well-known figure in Hollywood.
Camila Mendes Was Told She Wasn’t “Glossy” Enough
Camila Mendes arrived at her Riverdale interview thirty minutes late with unruly hair all frizzy from the rain. They squeezed her in last minute, and after she auditioned, the casting director looked her up and down and said, “You’re a little matte right now. At the CW we’re glossy.'”
They asked her to come back in a few days after she made sure to get all glossed up (lips, eyes, cheeks, everything). With the help of her friend, Mendes got her makeup and hair ready to suit Riverdale’s required glossiness level.
Tracee Ellis Ross Wore a Mini Skirt to Play a Lawyer
While auditioning for the role of a lawyer, Tracee Ellis Ross was asked to wear a suit skirt and heels, which is somehow passable. But the audition took a ridiculously rude turn when they had her switch to a shorter skirt, a skimpy T-shirt, and a bra that was a size too small.
Ross remembers wondering, “What did I just allow myself to do?” Ultimately, someone else got the role. Ross recalled it was the one who was dressed up like she was going to a club. “It was one of those moments where you’re so confused and humiliated,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
Sandra Oh Was Told to Go Back to Canada
Grey’s Anatomy star Sandra Oh was basically shooed from Los Angeles after a casting director told her to “go back home (to Canada) and get famous, and then come back to L.A. and see how it goes.” The actress said it was definitely the worst piece of advice she was ever given.
We’re glad she ignored his rude comment because Oh nailed the part of Cristina Yang, and every other part she has taken on, for that matter. The skilled actress became the first Asian to win two Golden Globes and the first Asian to host a Globes event.
Kristen Bell Wasn’t Pretty or Quirky Enough
Kristen Bell was told on a few different occasions that she wasn’t good-looking enough to be the pretty girl, but she also wasn’t quirky enough to play the weird girl (as if those were the only two characteristics that define someone).
“I remember early on, getting feedback, that I wasn’t enough in either category,” she told Vanity Fair. “I was like, ‘Okay, does that just mean I can’t be an actor? What does that mean?'” Thankfully, nowadays, Hollywood has been adding a bit more unique and dimensional characters to their scripts.
Kerry Washington Was Told She Looked Like a Child
After arriving at an audition wearing overalls, casting directors disapproved of her simple clothes and told her she looked “too much like a child.” They were looking for sexy, and she was giving them little kid.
“I just remember that was horrifying to me,” Washington told Backstage. “I had a really hard time with that feedback, because I just wanted to tell stories. I didn’t want it to be about the commodification of me or my body or how I looked.”
Jessica Simpson Choked on Stage
Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake all got their start as young starlets on The Mickey Mouse club. And Jessica Simpson could have been among them if only she wouldn’t have completely flunked her audition.
The aspiring child star was set to audition right after Christina Aguilera (an impossible act to follow). Hearing Aguilera’s powerful voice, Simpson grew terribly nervous. “I froze and forgot everything,” she told People Magazine. She ran off the stage in tears.
Julie Andrews Was Too Pretty to Play Mary Poppins
P.L. Travers, the author of the cherished children’s book Mary Poppins, told Julie Andrews she was far too pretty to play Mary. But she said she “had the nose for it.” Apparently, an English nanny flying around in a magical umbrella has to be average-looking, with the right nose.
Andrews, who had just given birth to her daughter, received a call from Pamela Travers who told her, “I understand you’re going to play Mary Poppins? You’re far too pretty of course, but you’ve got the nose for it.’”
At 26, Elizabeth Banks Was “Too Old”
When Elizabeth Banks was 26 years old, she tried out for the role of Mary Jane Watson, Peter’s (Toby McGuire) love interest in 2002’s Spiderman. Being one year older than 25-year-old McGuire, the casting directors ruled her out, casting 20-year-old Kirsten Dunst instead.
“Tobey and I are basically the same age, and I was told I was too old to play her. I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, that’s what I’ve signed up for’,” she told Glamour U.K. Ultimately, instead of the main love interest, Banks got the supporting role of secretary Betty Brant.