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April Fools: Our Favorite Crazy Celebrity Pranks

Turns out they’re just like us … but with bigger budgets!

spinner image Paul Newman, George Clooney and Barbra Streisand
(Left to right) Paul Newman, George Clooney and Barbra Streisand
Mikki Ansin/Getty Images; Dave J Hogan/Getty Images; Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic

We often celebrate the artistic achievements of famous actors and musicians. For April Fools’ Day, let us take a moment to honor some of their achievements in the art of the practical joke — because there are some doozies. Here are 12 of the best celebrity pranksters ever:

spinner image George Harrison at the 2000 Billboard Awards and Phil Collins posing for a portrait near a body of water
(Left to right) George Harrison and Phil Collins
Kevin Mazur Archive 1/WireImage; Lionel FLUSIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

George Harrison ruins Phil Collins’ day — then makes it

When Phil Collins was 18, George Harrison asked him to play congas on “All Things Must Pass” — but heartbreakingly, his parts didn’t wind up on the record. In 2001, Harrison sent him what he said was a tape of Collins’ 1969 performance. “Just awful,” Collins told Classic Rock in 2021. “And at the end of the tape you hear George Harrison saying: ‘Hey, Phil [Spector, the producer], can we try another without the conga player?’” Collins was crestfallen to hear his dreadful teenage performance — until Harrison phoned to tell him it was all a prank. “Don’t worry, it was a piss-take!” confessed the mischievous musician. “I got Ray Cooper to play really badly and we dubbed it on. Thought you’d like it!” Collins retorted, “You f------ bastard!” Later, he said, “I couldn’t believe that a Beatle had actually spent that much time on a practical joke for me.”

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Dumbledore and Snape punk Harry Potter

When he played the titular wizard in 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Daniel Radcliffe was 14, and he asked director Alfonso Cuarón to place him next to an actress he fancied, in a scene where the students were all dozing in sleeping bags in Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Michael Gambon, who played Dumbledore, conspired with Alan Rickman (Snape) and Cuarón to put a fart machine in Radcliffe’s sleeping bag. They waited as the camera zoomed in for a dramatic closeup of Radcliffe, then triggered the stentorian flatulence sound. “Very unexpected,” Radcliffe said later. “I laughed a lot, was probably a bit embarrassed, but it was really, really funny.”

Barbra Streisand gives Harrison Ford a tongue-lashing

Streisand pranked Ford as he filmed 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In a scene where a Thuggee bad guy whips him, Streisand made a surprise appearance in the role, brandishing the lash in dominatrix leathers and shouting that Ford deserved punishment for his film flops Force 10 From Navarone and Hanover Street — plus, “This is for all the money you’re going to make on Return of the Jedi!” Then The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner walked in and criticized Ford’s acting: “You call that shouting? You call that pain?” The scene did not appear in the finished film, but an extremely low-quality video of the prank is on the web.

spinner image Salvatore Corsitto, James Caan and Marlon Brando in the hand kissing scene from The Godfather
(Left to right) Salvatore Corsitto, James Caan and Marlon Brando in "The Godfather."
Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Marlon Brando gets crazy heavy with the ‘Godfather’ cast

“I had a lot of laughs making The Godfather,” Marlon Brando wrote in his memoir Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me. For the scene where Don Corleone’s family hauls him upstairs on a stretcher in a hospital to elude assassins, Brando hid 300 pounds of lead weights under his blankets, “which made the stretcher weigh over 500 pounds… they were wringing with sweat, huffing and puffing and unable to get up the stairs. I said, ‘C’mon, you weaklings!’ ” After five or six takes, he raised the blanket and revealed the weights. “The camera operator nearly fell off his stool laughing.”

Thandiwe Newton grosses out Simon Pegg 

On the set of 2007’s Run Fatboy Run, Thandiwe Newton smooshed a Mars bar and placed it in the toilet of costar Simon Pegg’s trailer “with a little apple juice around the edge for authenticity. ... It was a prank and a snack all in one,” Newton gloated.

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Flirty pranks on the set of ‘Game of Thrones’ 

Rose Leslie (Ygritte on Game of Thrones) must have loved her costar Kit Harington (who played Ygritte’s sweetie Jon Snow): Harington put a model of Jon Snow’s beheaded head in her refrigerator, and filmed her shrieking reaction when she opened the fridge and saw it on April Fool’s Day. And she married him anyway!

Schwarzenegger pranks his fans (for a good cause)

In 2015, Arnold Schwarzenegger pretended to be the wax replica of his Terminator character at Madame Tussauds Hollywood. “You look real,” one fan said. “That’s because I am,” he replied, making the fan scream. The jape was a stunt to raise awareness of the charity After-School All-Stars, which provides after-school activities for more than 90,000 low-income children.

spinner image Woody Harrelson and Sean Penn laughing on the set of the film The Thin Red Line
Woody Harrelson (left) and Sean Penn on the set of "The Thin Red Line."
TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy Stock Photo

Woody Harrelson wins a prank war with Sean Penn 

While filming the ultra-serious 1998 WWII movie The Thin Red Line, Sean Penn and Woody Harrelson had a prank battle going on. Harrelson filled Penn’s helmet with chewed gum and had costar Nick Nolte phone Penn asking to bail him out of jail. Penn arrived to find Nolte in handcuffs, and a menacing guard with a gun. The “guard” was Harrelson.

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spinner image Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra at Heathrow Airport in London
Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra (right) arrive at Heathrow Airport in London in 1961.
Daily Herald/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin rat-prank each other

When Dean Martin refused to stay up one night carousing with Frank Sinatra (Martin had an early tee time the next morning), Sinatra replaced Martin’s golf balls with ping pong balls. “To repay Frank,” wrote their friend Tony Oppedisano in his memoir Sinatra and Me: In the Wee Small Hours, “Dean paid one of the maids in the hotel to replace the shampoo with honey in the bottle in Frank’s room.”

King of the Hollywood prank: George Clooney

Of Clooney’s innumerable practical jokes — sending Meryl Streep condescending dialect advice allegedly from Brad Pitt; cheating Ocean’s Eleven producer Jerry Weintraub in a drinking contest by putting water in his own glass and vodka in Weintraub’s, so that Weintraub fell asleep and Clooney and Pitt could fill his underwear with M&Ms — perhaps the cleverest was the trick he pulled on The Monuments Men costar Matt Damon. “He took in my wardrobe by an eighth of an inch, every other day,” Damon said. “He had the wardrobe department do that because he knew that I was trying to lose weight … every time I came back my pants were tighter, and I was like, ‘Ugh, this is weird. I’ve been going to the gym!’ ”

spinner image Paul Newman visits Masada in Israel during the filming of Exodus
Paul Newman visits Masada, in Israel, while filming the movie "Exodus" in 1959.
Leo Fuchs/Getty Images

The first king of the Hollywood prank: Paul Newman

The list of Paul Newman’s Hollywood pranks matches — or perhaps surpasses — Clooney’s. He tossed a Paul Newman lookalike dummy to its apparent death while filming The MacKintosh Man, freaking out director John Huston, and pulled the same stunt on notoriously humorless Exodus director Otto Preminger, who was so shocked he required first aid. Newman sent a goat wearing a note to his Buffalo Bill and the Indians director Robert Altman: The note read, “Dear Bob, Since what [wine] you serve at dinner is goat piss you may as well have a goat handy.”

Newman also had toilet paper made with the slogan “Greetings from Robert Redford” and Redford’s picture, and delivered a crushed sports car to Redford’s driveway. While filming The Sting, he had director George Roy Hill’s desk sawn in half. Then Hill found his car sawn in half too. And when John Malkovich appeared late for rehearsals on The Glass Menagerie, Newman had someone break into his apartment and fill it with alarm clocks.

spinner image Tom Cruise stars in a scene from the film Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation."
David James/Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise gets his costar uncomfortably hot

While filming Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation in impossibly hot Morocco, Tom Cruise turned on costar Simon Pegg’s BMW seat warmer when he wasn’t looking. When Cruise wasn’t looking, Pegg one-upped the star by putting black tape over Cruise’s seat warmer light and turned it up to high.

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