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What does it mean when stars claim they left the set because of "creative differences"?

By: Damien, Chicago

A.B. Replies: There is no one-to-one straight translation of "creative differences." Instead of laboring over Da Vinci Code-like deciphering, think of the phrase the same way you think of "scheduling conflicts," which is just as much BS, only carved into a different shape. The phrase is a catchall, a fallback invented by shifty rich people and accepted by entertainment reporters too lazy or demoralized to press any further. Doing so would only get the writers uninvited from the Vanity Fair Oscar party, and nobody wants that kind of tragedy. Not in today's times.

According to managers, producers and other insiders wrangled by this B!tch, the most common gist behind creative differences is that two people--a producer and a director, a star and a supporting actor, Tom Cruise and the other Tom Cruise--got into a fight and want to light each other's hair on fire. Most of the time, the person with the greater power gets to stay on a project.

The loser gets to take his--oftentimes much smaller--balls and go home. Then some scurrying rodent in a linen suit issues a press release citing creative differences.

The only other consistent thing about the phrase is that it is commonly used when filmmakers want to avoid courtroom drama. The smaller-balled people can sue those who defame them in the press, especially if a nondisclosure agreement is hanging over the whole affair. But wording like creative differences leaves no one injured, at least, not publicly.

"It's a way to say, 'We don't see eye to eye on the project,' " says Susan Silver, one of the original writers of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Square Pegs and other TV projects. "It's a nonderogatory way to say goodbye that will not lead to a lawsuit."

For example, last month, Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin left an upcoming movie project costarring Adam Sandler and Kevin James. The film, called I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, is about straight firefighters who pose as a gay married couple for insurance purposes.

Per Variety: "Dobkin dropped out abruptly on Wednesday, citing big creative differences, studio sources said. Word is Dobkin ankled because there was a gap between the Sandler vehicle the studio expected to make and Dobkin's view of what the film should be. Studio reps said there were no creative differences--he simply passed."

Good thing the poor man escaped before anyone got their hair lit on fire.