Reading through the items at Blind Gossip gives you some interesting "behind the scenes" details that you would normally hear on a DVD commentary. But, not liking many of these movies, I'd never get to hear that commentary track, which might shed light on what exactly is crippling the world of film-making (distinct from money-making).
Here is a solved item about how Scarlett Johansson responded to Eric Bana showing wood during a kissing scene for The Other Boleyn Girl:
Actors usually don’t have a problem staying in control during love scenes. Since romance is blocked and rehearsed and shot under the hot lights and in front of a large crew, even the most intimate scenes are usually little more than a carefully choreographed, technical exercise.
However, on the set of this one period film, things got a little out of control. During a kissing scene between a handsome, foreign-born actor and a sexy American actress, the actress suddenly stopped and backed away a few paces from her co-star. The actor was left standing there alone. Well, he wasn’t exactly alone. He was accompanied by the incredible bulge in his pants. Filming had to be halted for several minutes while the actor cooled off...
When Bana started getting excited during a love scene, Johansson simply backed away and waited for assistance. According to our source on the set, Johansson was totally professional about the whole situation, and went right back into the scene after a brief “cool down” period.
What, was that the first boner she'd ever seen in her life of 23 years? She had to back away like he had cooties, or like any sign of red-blooded male libido is a threat of rape, and could only resume filming "several minutes" later, once he'd lost his lust? Warning: spontaneity level rising, initiating emergency cool down sequence. Wouldn't want the audience to feel that what they're seeing is real. Minimizing your awkwardness over a trivial surprise is more important.
I could see if she had been startled, like "Holy shit, there's an actor still left in Hollywood who would get hard making out with a chick," then composed herself and got back into the moment. But standing around for several minutes while the dude's dick deflates totally kills whatever they had going. Even a single incident like that while filming sends the message loud and clear to the other party: I don't want to open up to you, and you opening up to me is creepy, so let's please stick to just going through the motions.
Do actresses know how to "be adults" anymore? How to "suck it up," "take one for the team," etc.? I suspect this is a big reason why so many on-screen interactions feel so fake. There's an implicit understanding that each party has strewn all these mines around the field of their being, so that all the other parties don't even bother trying to let it all hang out and fully get into their roles without asking questions about "Can I go here? May I go there?" etc.
When actresses give off such a strong vibe of "omigod, i can't believe you just went there," it makes the other side close themselves off, and the result is two people talking at each other across a vast interpersonal chasm. It's lifeless.
If you listen to the commentary tracks on any of your favorite movies from the '70s or '80s, you'll regularly hear people tell stories about how much more trusting everyone used to be back in those days. They were willing to give more of themselves if they sensed it would make a better movie. And both the cast and crew were hungry, and not just financially -- there was a greater sense of urgency in the social atmosphere of the time. Give it your all since you might not get another shot. Cast and crew these days come off more complacent and even entitled.
What periods come to mind when you think of "Hollywood divas"? Obviously our Millennial era, but also the mid-century (Golden Age, Hollywood Glamour). Femme fatales on-screen, divas off-screen. They were comparatively rarer during the Silent period / Jazz Age, and during the New Wave Age.
I'm scratching my head trying to think of an "it's all about me" major actress from the '80s... Kathleen Turner, maybe? And she didn't project that vibe all too strongly anyway. Back then they were more giving toward the project they were working on, whether they were younger ones like Elisabeth Shue or more mature ones like Sigourney Weaver. They're more about "go with the flow" than grinding production to a halt over something trivial. They'd only stop things if they felt that what was going on wouldn't be true to the character, and had suggestions for how it might be improved -- not because it made the actress personally mildly uncomfortable. Or so I gather from all those commentaries I've listened to.
What accounts for these cycles in other-focused vs. self-focused acting styles? The part about trust goes along with cocooning, higher trust and more sociable vs. lower trust and more withdrawn. The hunger and feeling of urgency comes from the trend in the crime rate, rising crime making people feel like they'd better piss or get off the pot before it's too late, and falling crime making them feel like they've got all the time in the world to get around to their goals, so why invest very much energy in this particular one they're working on now? Cocooning and crime cycles are closely linked to each other, so no matter which influence is stronger, crime/cocooning carves history into the right cultural periods.