28 of the best on-set pranks
Brad Pitt loved to play pranks on costar Jonah Hill on the set of Moneyball, particularly involving Hill’s golf cart. One day, Hill arrived on set to see that his golf cart had been transformed into a vehicular tribute to Wham!, complete with a sign that read “I’m Jonah Hill and I Love Wham!” and a photo of the band superimposed with Hill and Pitt’s faces.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
On the set of Star Trek Into Darkness, Simon Pegg teamed up with members of the makeup department and convinced various actors that they would have to wear “neutron cream” inside the laser room, to avoid “neutron damage.” He got Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Cho, and Karl Urban to carefully dot their faces with it.
The Hunger Games (2012)
On the set of the first Hunger Games movie, Josh Hutcherson staged a dummy in Jennifer Lawrence’s trailer bathroom. “When she opened the door, she peed her pants,” Hutcherson proudly reported. “Or so I was told. She told me later. I did not get visual confirmation on that one.”
Parks and Recreation (2009)
Sometimes simple is best. In a Parks and Rec scene where Amy Poehler’s Leslie was shocked to find Chris Pratt’s Andy completely naked when she opens a door, Pratt felt that Poehler’s surprise wasn’t authentic enough. So he lost his nude underwear and bared all for Poehler. The take made it to the final cut.
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Get pranksters George Clooney and Brad Pitt together and anything can happen. On the set of Ocean’s Eleven, they covered Julia Roberts’ hotel door in shaving cream.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when all the students of Hogwarts are lying in the Great Hall in sleeping bags, Alan Rickman had a fart machine placed inside Daniel Radcliffe’s sleeping bag, which Michael Gambon set off at the end of a take. It was especially humiliating for the teenage Radcliffe, who had specifically requested his sleeping bag be placed near a girl he liked.
Forever Young (1992)
Mel Gibson just loves to frighten his female costars: On the set of Forever Young, he showed up at Jamie Lee Curtis’ door wearing a hockey mask and holding a knife.
Lord of the Rings (2001)
On the set of Lord of the Rings, the crew gave Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd (who played hobbits Merry and Pippin) an alternate script which included a scene of them losing all their clothes and snuggling together, naked, to keep warm.
We're the Millers (2013)
In the blooper reel for We’re the Millers, in a scene where everyone sings “Waterfalls” in the car, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, and Will Poulter pranked Jennifer Aniston by playing and singing along to the Friends theme song, “I’ll Be There For You,” instead.
Larry Crowne (2011)
Leave it to Tom Hanks to deliver the most pleasant prank possible. On the set of Larry Crowne (which Hanks directed), when he learned about Julia Roberts’ love of knitting, Hanks arranged for every single member of the crew to be knitting when Roberts arrived on the set one day.
The Office (2005-2013)
Jim Halpert may have been The Office’s biggest on-screen prankster, but it was Mindy Kaling behind the scenes. She would tell B.J. Novak elaborate lies — like that a guest director had previously dated the showrunner — that Novak would believe.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
That Peeta! Josh Hutcherson pulled another prank on the set of the second Hunger Games movie when he sprayed a bunch of toilet paper with something that Sam Claflin described as a “can of skunk poo,” then hid the sprayed paper in Claflin’s trailer bathroom’s trash can. It made the trailer stink, and Claflin couldn’t for the life of him find whatever was producing the foul odor (though he accused everyone on set of using his toilet).
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Jonah Hill apparently learned from Brad Pitt’s Moneyball antics because he played an effective prank of his own on Leonardo DiCaprio on the set of The Wolf of Wall Street. In a scene in which their characters dine on sushi, Hill was scripted to eat the last piece, but offered it to DiCaprio instead during every take. By the end of the night, Leo was throwing up all the sushi — but don’t feel too bad for him! Just a couple of years later, DiCaprio got back at Hill with a paparazzi prank that went viral.
American Hustle (2013)
Poor Jennifer Lawrence can’t catch a break from any of her costars. On the set of American Hustle, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper arranged to have a tombstone with her name on it placed in a graveyard set, just to freak her out.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Barbra Streisand is not, of course, in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but she was there for the making of it. In an elaborate prank, Steven Spielberg called Babs to come in, dressed as a dominatrix, and whip Harrison Ford while he was chained to a large stone. Then Carrie Fisher joins them and gives Ford a kiss. And yes — there is footage!
True Blood (2008-2014)
Jason Stackhouse may lack the brainpower to pull even the simplest of pranks, but that’s not true of the actor who played him. Ryan Kwanten was a known prankster on the True Blood set, and one time filled the cameraman’s car with ladybugs.
Ocean's Twelve (2004)
When it came time for the Ocean’s sequel, the film's A-list stars didn’t hold back on each other. Brad Pitt instructed the crew not to look George Clooney in the eye and to address him only by his character name. In response, Clooney put two bumper stickers on Pitt’s car: One that read “I’m gay and I vote,” and then another that said, “Small Penis on Board.”
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (2014)
On the set of Mockingjay — Part 1, Jeffrey Wright gifted Jennifer Lawrence with a Tiffany box. Jewelry! Very sweet of him, right? Wrong. The little blue box was filled with crickets, which Lawrence couldn’t get out of her trailer for months.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Did you think George Clooney invented the on-set prank? How wrong you were! Way back in 1939, Bert Lahr, who played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, stuck tomato can stickers all over Jack Haley’s Tin Man costume while the actor was asleep.
Paul Newman v. George Roy Hill
During the production of Slap Shot, Paul Newman staged a terrible car crash, with himself behind the wheel, to scare director George Roy Hill. He got Hill again on the set of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, when Newman cut the director’s desk in half so it collapsed on Hill’s lap when he sat down to it. But his greatest prank might have been on the set of The Sting, when Newman cut Hill’s car in half — then presented him with the keys to a fancy new one.
Run, Fatboy, Run (2007)
Thandie Newton didn’t hold back on Simon Pegg during the production and promotion of Run, Fatboy, Run. On the set, the actress dropped king-sized candy bars in his trailer toilet; later, at the film’s press junket, she got to the venue in advance and filled all the water bottles in his interview suite with vodka.
House of Cards (2013)
Love scenes are just so filled with pranking opportunities! This time, on the set of House of Cards, Kate Mara wore pasties with scene partner Kevin Spacey’s face on them in an effort to make him laugh. No such luck. “Of course, because Kevin wants to win whatever the game is and because he always wins, he did not laugh,” Mara said. Better luck next time!
Conspiracy Theory (1997)
When Julia Roberts arrived on the set of Conspiracy Theory, Mel Gibson had very kindly left a freeze-dried rat in her dressing room as a welcome gift.
The Ides of March (2011)
Even Ryan Gosling has fallen victim to George Clooney’s tricks. On the set of The Ides of March, Clooney would start a very serious conversation, then when he walked away, Gosling would realize that his pants were wet, and Clooney had been spraying him with a water bottle the whole time they were talking.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
The Thin Red Line is not exactly full of laughs, but you wouldn’t know it from the on-set hijinks. Woody Harrelson and Nick Nolte joined forces to prank Sean Penn, with Nolte calling Penn in the middle of the night and asking him to bail Nolte out of jail. When Penn arrived at the jail, he was shaken up by a gunshot and an angry fake guard, until Harrelson jumped out and revealed the plan.
The Vampire Diaries (2009-2017)
While shooting the season 3 premiere of The Vampire Diaries, Somerhalder conspired with the first assistant director and the prop master for a prank on costar Nina Dobrev. While shooting a nude scene, Somerhalder figured, “If I was completely naked and we had elephant ears and double-stick tape, and I put them on each of my thighs, and ultimately, she would be staring at a very small, young elephant,” Somerhalder explained. “The reaction that we got was f---ing amazing.”
The Monuments Men (2014)
Clooney strikes again! While working on The Monuments Men, the star hired a tailor to take in Matt Damon’s pants every day to convince Damon he was gaining weight.
Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
The cast and crew of Where the Wild Things Are went wild pranking director Spike Jonze, hiding his Vespa in the roof of the soundstage.