The other day Fresh Air replayed an interview with Werner Herzog, in which he talked about his life, documentaries, and working with high-strung actor Klaus Kinski. At one point Kinski—who Herzog says was given to paranoid delusions and screaming tantrums—threatened to walk off the set. Herzog responded in the way that most people would when faced with a coworker who is being difficult and failing to listen to reason: by threatening him with murder-suicide:
I'm speaking of " Aguirre, the Wrath of God" - so my first film together with him. And he packed all his things into a speedboat and he was just about to leave. Of course, that would destroyed the entire film, and I told him that I had, somehow, made up my mind months ago what would be the borderline of what could be acceptable and not. And, of course, the film, in my fill opinion, was at more value than his or my private feelings and disgust or whatever. And I said to him, if you leave the set now, you will reach the bend - the next bend of the river and I will shoot you - will have eight bullets through your head, and the last one is going to be for me. So the bastard somehow realized that this was not a joke anymore. It wouldn't have taken me one second to deliberate. And he sensed that. And he screamed for help. He screamed for the crew to help him - assist him against this madman - and he meant me. He screamed for police. But, of course, the next police station was 450 miles away. Result was that he was very docile during the last 11 days of shooting, and we finished the film.
I've not tried this technique myself, but I'm assuming that telling someone you'll put eight bullets into them probably does tend to result in better behavior. But at least now he can admit that he was just bluffing, right?
GROSS: You really think you would have shot him?
HERZOG: If I tried to put myself into the situation, and that was back in 1972 - beginning of '72 - so 27 years ago - yes, I think so.
Remember, at this point he's explaining what it was like to work with someone he found unreasonable.