Respected Hollywood Stars Who Were Actually Terrible People

Behind Hollywood's glitz and glamor is the seedy underbelly resulting from the often-sordid personal lives of its greats. It is well known that many of Hollywood's greatest — even the ones with squeaky-clean images — were not necessarily the greatest people off-screen. It's not much of a surprise in an industry that requires a good dose of ego and selfishness to achieve success and gives people access to and power over society's beautiful people.

The criteria for defining a terrible Hollywood celeb are fairly broad. On one end there are those who made out-of-line comments on race or have behaved in an entitled or boorish manner. On the other end are the truly disgusting people — those guilty of awful crimes such as rape. And then of course there is everything in between, mostly philandering that leaves behind a trail of broken families, spouses, and children. Here are some of Hollywood's enfants terribles and the sins that lurked behind their fame and fortune.

Clint Eastwood

Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood had a lax view of marital fidelity, telling Playboy that his first wife, Maggie Johnson, was "a woman who [knew] how much room [he needed]" (via People). His philandering began even before they married. During their engagement, Eastwood nearly wrecked the relationship by impregnating a woman in Seattle. Johnson probably did not find out about that one because the child was adopted out to prevent scandal — Eastwood was not even aware of the child. Eastwood then had his second child in 1964 with mistress Roxanne Tunis. He did not have any children by his wife until 1968 — 15 years after their wedding. They ultimately divorced in 1984, several years after Eastwood had begun a long-term affair, this time with Sondra Locke.

Eastwood has since married several more times and amassed his share of extra-marital relationships. Many of the women, even those he cheated on, generally stayed on good terms with him, saying he was not the bad man his actions suggested. Ex-wife Dina Eastwood called him "the sweetest ... loving, kind, low-key person so my intuition was still great on marrying a good person." Locke, however, said the opposite. In a 1989 palimony suit, she accused Eastwood of making her get two abortions and consenting to tubal ligation — effectively sterilization — because he did not want more children. Eastwood denied the allegations, which were eventually dropped in return for a settlement that included the home they shared, $450,000, and a $1.5 million Warner Bros. development deal. 

George Reeves

Compared to Hollywood's worst offenders, original Superman George Reeves was not the worst of the bunch. In fact, he was considered a role model of sorts for America's children as a promoter of everything moral and right. Nevertheless, according to Dean Shapiro's "The Mysterious Death of Superman," "Reeves' private, off-screen persona was, in many ways, 180 degrees removed from the virtuous, morally upstanding character he portrayed on TV."

Beautiful, older women who knew what they wanted were Reeves' weakness. In 1951, he made the morally dubious decision to involve himself with Toni Mannix, the wife of MGM producer and famed Hollywood "fixer" Eddie Mannix. Eddie was okay with this, since he had a mistress of his own, and kept the affair private for the benefit of all parties involved. Reeves had a squeaky-clean image to maintain, and his behavior risked his career.

Although Reeves was generally faithful when he was committed, once he strayed, he strayed. While he was still involved with Toni, he started sleeping with the much-younger Leonore Lemmon. Having allowed his lust to place him between two jealous and protective women, Reeves opted to marry Lemmon and break up with Toni — probably the best way to avoid worsening an already bad situation. But he did not get to enjoy the wedding, as he was found dead in his bed, naked and shot in the temple execution-style.

Amy Schumer

Amy Schumer is not the worst of Hollywood, but she has accumulated her share of sins — confirmed and alleged. These include allegedly stealing jokes, off-color humor, and being a hypocrite. Much of her most-criticized material has centered on race. She defended herself, saying, "Playing with race is a thing we are not supposed to do, which is what makes it so fun for comics," per The Washington Post. She has, however, crossed the line more than once, most notably when she said, "I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual." The joke here was that all men of Hispanic extraction were rapists — no laughing matter for such a serious crime.

While Schumer has frequently discussed female empowerment and women lifting each other up, she has on more than one occasion done the opposite. In the most recent case, she inexplicably posted a picture of Nicole Kidman minding her own business at the U.S. Open on Instagram to make fun of the way she was sitting. In the caption, Schumer implied the actress looked like a robot. She later issued an "apology" that actually doubled down on the initial insult, writing "I want to apologize to all the people I hurt posting a photo of Nicole Kidman and alluding to her being an alien" (via OK!).  

John Wayne

John Wayne, star of Westerns such as "The Searchers" and "Fort Apache," spoke his mind in his 1971 interview with Playboy Magazine. But with his bluntness came criticism for his comments on race and his support for the Vietnam War, especially since he never served a day as an enlisted man in World War II.

Wayne disliked the Civil Rights Movement. He stereotyped Black people as broadly irresponsible, saying that while he understood their resentment toward the U.S. government due to their status as second-class citizens, segregation, and the history of slavery, Americans couldn't "all of a sudden get down on [their] knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the Blacks." He then said he believe[d] in white supremacy until the Blacks [were] educated to a point of responsibility." In another interview, he appeared to justify slavery by claiming Black people enjoyed a higher standard of living in the United States than they did anywhere else.

Then there was Vietnam. Wayne fervently supported the war that cost tens of thousands of young American men their lives. During World War II, however, he took advantage of every deferment, citing worries about his career and fitness for combat duty. It is said that hypocrisy ranks among the worst vices, and Wayne was certainly guilty in that department — combat vets would jeer him at public appearances. Thus, per his wife, he adopted his unapologetic Americanism to compensate for his failure to serve in World War II.

Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin, who is facing manslaughter charges over the shooting death of "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, is known for his sense of entitlement, temper tantrums, and occasional violence. Baldwin's ugly side has often come out when he has been held to the same standards as everyone else. For instance, in 2011, Baldwin was on an American Airlines flight. As is standard procedure, a flight attendant asked him to put away his cell phone for takeoff. Instead of doing so, Baldwin threw a tantrum, locked himself in the lavatory, and was kicked off the flight.

Baldwin decided to make himself the victim by attacking the flight attendant in a Huffington Post op-ed instead of admitting he was in the wrong​​. "I guess the fact that this woman, who had decided to make some example of me ... did get the better of me ... The lesson I've learned is to keep my phone off when the 1950's gym teacher is on duty." While one could forgive one incident, examples of such conduct, both alleged and confirmed, are legion. A waitress alleged he yelled at her and called her a peasant at the PEN Gala in 2023, while he was accused of punching a guy in the face over a parking spot in 2018. When he was arrested for biking against traffic, instead of owning up to doing something extremely dangerous for himself and others, he blamed the police for enforcing the law.

Wallace Beery

1930s Hollywood icon Wallace Beery ranks perhaps among the worst of the film industry, and not just because he might have been involved in the death of Ted Healy. His behavior toward his first wife, Gloria Swanson, was nothing short of sociopathic.

Seventeen-year-old Swanson married Beery in 1916 in an on-the-fly wedding at the house of a minister whose dinner they had interrupted. Swanson was living her childhood dream, according to her 1980 memoir "Swanson on Swanson." "When Wally put the ring on my finger, I remembered my first real ring, which Daddy had given me when I was seven. As a child I had turned the tiny pearl around in my hand and pretended I was married." The honeymoon atmosphere, however, ended on their wedding night when Beery assaulted her.

Despite believing the marriage to have been a mistake, Swanson concluded Beery would treat her better if they had children. When she became pregnant, Beery got her some pills, ostensibly to help her with morning sickness. Instead, they made her pass out. When she woke up, she had lost her baby. The nauseated Swanson went to the druggist for a refill, still believing Beery's claim they would help her. Instead, the pharmacist replied, "Anyone who told you that couldn't be much of a friend, miss ... If I were you, I wouldn't take a chance on killing myself." Realizing Beery had given her abortion drugs, Swanson filed for divorce in 1917.

Jerry Lewis

Comedian Jerry Lewis was beloved for making Americans laugh, but his family life was no laughing matter. He was regularly unfaithful to his wife Patti Palmer and reportedly cut ties with his sons after adopting a daughter with his second wife. He crowned the nasty relationship by disinheriting his sons — and he left no doubts that he meant it. "I have intentionally excluded [my sons] and their descendants as beneficiaries of my estate, it being my intention that they shall receive no benefits hereunder," the will read (via LA Times). His children were sad but not surprised by their father's actions, given the way he had treated them before.

Lewis' biological children had little good to say about him. His youngest surviving son, Anthony, recalled he was both physically and emotionally abusive. "When he would show up and park right in front of the big front door, my mom would get on the intercom and say, 'Your father is home!' We scattered," he told Inside Edition. When Anthony's brother Joe died from an overdose, Lewis did not even bother to pay for his son's funeral because Joe had gone public about his father's physical abuse. He rarely if ever answered his children's letters while he was away and refused to acknowledge an out-of-wedlock daughter, Suzan, who was homeless as recently as 2017. Even in death, Lewis never reconciled with his children; three of them were banned from his funeral.

James Gunn

Writer and producer James Gunn was at the center of one of Marvel's biggest scandals. After he got into an internet spat with then-president Donald Trump in 2017, some Trump supporters dug up a handful of extremely disturbing tweets Gunn had made between 2008 and 2010. In the tweets (via Daily Mail), Gunn flippantly wrote about sexual depravity and illegal acts, including pedophilia, child rape, forcible sodomy of a female friend and children, masturbating to Justin Bieber (a minor at the time), and making light of rape. He also posted a link to a video captioned "100 pubescent girls touch themselves."

Gunn responded to the media storm, saying he was just joking, and then scrubbed the statements from the platform X, formerly known as Twitter. "I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo ... I wasn't living them out," he wrote in a multi-part apology. After he was briefly fired from his role in Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy," he managed to get his job back, and the furor died down as the internet moved on.

Harvey Weinstein

When he wasn't hanging out with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, self-professed champion of feminist causes Harvey Weinstein was abusing his position to get sex. The New York Times blew open his predatory behavior with interviews with a series of A-list actresses and ex-employees from his production company — including Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, and Asia Argento. Among the accusations were sexual harassment, offering career advancement for sexual favors, and having actresses meet him privately in his hotel room, where he would undress in front of them. More serious allegations of rape soon followed. Although top-ranking employees at his production company knew, NDAs ensured word never got out.

Weinstein initially denied the charges, but admitted to offering career advancement in return for sex. He was then hit with rape convictions in both New York and California, receiving 23 and 16 years respectively. To cap off his predatory behavior, Weinstein employed ex-Israeli Mossad agents from a company called Black Cube to harass and intimidate his victims. According to a New Yorker investigation, the agents met with Weinstein's victims and recorded them without their knowledge. Their purpose was likely to build character profiles and find dirt on the victims, all with the intent of keeping them quiet. Weinstein victim Annabella Sciorra told the outlet this was the most terrifying part of Weinstein's modus operandi. "It scared me because I knew what it meant to be threatened by Harvey. I was in fear of him finding me."

Roman Polanski

Famed Paris-born actor and director Roman Polanski makes the cut for drugging and raping 13-year-old Samantha Geimer and allegedly assaulting 16-year-old actress Charlotte Lewis. Polanski had invited Geimer to model for the French edition of Vogue in 1977. During the second shoot, he plied her with alcohol and Quaaludes, then raped and sodomized her.

Following this despicable act, Polanski was arrested. Instead of confiscating his passport, however, as any competent authority would have done, he was allowed to travel first to London and then France. French law protected him from extradition because the country did not extradite citizens accused of crimes abroad. He knew it, too, bragging to writer Martin Amis in 1979 that his crime was justified because everyone, including the judge and jury, wanted to have sex with young girls. Instead of quitting while he was ahead, Polanski then allegedly raped Charlotte Lewis in his Paris apartment in 1983. She sued him for defamation for claiming in a 2019 interview that she lied about the assault.

Instead of blackballing Polanski, Hollywood luminaries embraced him with a standing ovation at the 2003 Oscars. People like Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, and Martin Scorsese petitioned against his extradition to the U.S. Polanski himself has never taken responsibility, instead blaming antisemitism for the backlash over his crime, comparing himself to victims of antisemitic persecution like French military officer Alfred Dreyfus.

Errol Flynn

"I have been in rebellion against God and Government ever since I can remember," wrote Australian-born actor Errol Flynn in his autobiography "My Wicked, Wicked Life." The 1940s old Hollywood actor, by his own admission, was a scoundrel — and he started young. He got involved with a wealthy married woman named Madge Parks while he was engaged to another woman. While he knew what he was doing was wrong, he explicitly said in his autobiography that he didn't care — sex was irresistible. But he realized there was no future for him with Parks. Instead of exiting like a gentleman, however, he repaid her attentions by stealing a bunch of her jewelry after a romp and making out like a bandit for Europe.

Flynn went on a world tour in the company of a Dutch doctor doing all sorts of seedy things. In the Philippines, they rigged cockfights by poisoning rival roosters. But when he got to Macao, Flynn got a taste of his own medicine when a woman got him high on opium at a casino and scammed him of his money. Hollywood stardom did not stop the behavior, which turned into juvenile pranks gone mad. In one case, he stuffed starlet Olivia de Havilland's underwear with a dead snake. She disliked him after that day — even though he claimed he was just trying to show affection.

Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey has seen his share of troubles, often for his alleged relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. But what lands him on the list is his reaction to accusations he sexually assaulted fellow actor Anthony Rapp in 1986 when the latter was 14. Initially, Spacey did not explicitly deny the allegations. Instead, he issued a "sorry it happened" type of statement. "But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior ..." he wrote on the platform X, then known as Twitter. In the same statement, he said, "I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man."

Spacey was pilloried, especially within the LGBTQ+ community. Activist and columnist Dan Savage slammed Spacey on X, writing, "Nope. There's no amount of drunk or closeted that excuses or explains away assaulting a 14-year-old child." Others accused him of trying to hide behind discrimination against LGBTQ+ people to justify his alleged behavior, with Wanda Sykes telling him, "You do not get to 'choose' to hide under the rainbow!"

Spacey's statement nearly returned to haunt him once the case went to trial, but a New York jury acquitted on all counts in 2022. "I've learned a lesson, which is never apologize for something you didn't do," he said following the verdict.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).