Everyone talks about “difficult” actors, but in my observation, inexperienced directors often refer to actors being “difficult” when the actors ask a lot of questions on set and “waste time” debating issues about the script. Firstly, this is not necessarily being “difficult”, but being professional and engaged - I want an actor to ask questions and debate, because you get a much better result from it. Yes, it’s bloody hard work to deal with, but it’s worth it. Secondly, this is why rehearsal time is so important. By spending time discussing and picking apart the script in rehearsal when time is cheap, you save time when it’s expensive on set. On one particular day on a recent film shoot, we shot 12 pages. This was only possible partly because of my excellent, efficient crew, but mostly because of the rehearsal time I had spent with the actors where we had agreed on what we were doing and there were no on-set arguments or debates as a result.However, on the last day of shooting of the film, we had a really tricky scene to shoot, which involved a stunt. The actors were being what could be described as a little “uncooperative” and starting to debate the merits of the scene. They started asking for script changes and “My character wouldn’t say that”, etc. Now, in the rehearsal, we had already agreed that this scene worked and had had no debates over it. Coming at the end of a tough shoot, I was exhausted and this on-set discussion really caught me by surprise. I found myself beginning to think of the actors as “difficult” and started worrying about the time we were wasting. I tried to humour them by discussing their issues, but we weren’t really getting anywhere. However, after a couple of minutes, it suddenly dawned on me that what was really happening here was that the actors were frightened about the stunt and they were showing this by “dissing” the scene. Once I’d realised this, it was very easy to calm the whole situation down by just reassuring them that the stunt would go smoothly (which it did).In 99 cases out of 100, a “difficult actor situation” is caused by something on their mind that they are unable to or afraid to vocalise. You need to get to the bottom of what that is as soon as possible and then sort that out.