Strange but true story. Producer Joseph E Levine once took Bette Davis to trial because she refused to reshoot the climatic courtroom scene of a Harold Robbins potboiler entitled Where Love Has Gone. Levine wanted Miss Davis to go crazy in the witness stand. Miss Davis declined, saying she hadn't played her character as unstable in the rest of the picture, so it was a bit late to be measured for a strait-jacket now. Miss Davis won her real-life case and was very happy.

The point of this tale? Most other actors would go to court to demand the right to play mad.

Everyone thinks you're brave for rolling on the floor, weeping uncontrollably and chewing through everything except your agent. They pelt you with awards: Joanne Woodward took her Oscar for The Three Faces of Eve, Ronald Colman gained his for strangling Shelley Winters, Olivia de Havilland renewed her career by descending into The Snake Pit and Richard Gere (above, with Lena Olin) is currently courting the critical vote by shuttling between the manic and the depressive in Mr Jones.

Which is fine, but not exactly helpful. If you actually do suffer from a mental illness, it is not glamorous (unlike Richard Gere, your therapist is unlikely to fall in love with you) and not particularly melodramatic. Despite Fatal Attraction telling the world otherwise, the mentally disordered seldom chase their one-night stands with kitchen knives . . . even when they do deserve it. But then we're talking about true chaos and real pain and lives dismantled rather than sure-fire career opportunities . . . and who in their right mind wants to hear about that?

(Photograph omitted)

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