Worse Than a Lump of Coal: George Clooney, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig and 40 Celebrities Remember the Truly Terrible Gifts They’ve Received (Plus a Few of the Best)

Celebrities, they receive terrible, horrible, totally inexplicable gifts during the holidays, too! From an empty gerbil cage (the critter had escaped before Christmas morning) to bewildering contact lens solution (the recipient doesn’t wear them), find out which Hollywood A-listers from George Clooney to Elle Fanning suffered the most while having to maintain their holiday cheer face. As in life, though, within the worst presents often hide the best (see: Andrew Garfield)—and sometimes, it’s hard to decipher if something is in fact the best or the worst idea. Plus, there are the lucky few famous people who have received unambiguously life-affirming great gifts. Let’s indulge them a little.

George Clooney

“Jerry Weintraub gave me a 1972 station wagon, beat to hell. It was terrible. What do you do with it? It’s sitting in your driveway, you can’t really give it away right away, so you’re stuck with it. It’s huge. And to make it run costs you another four or five thousand—it’s the gift that keeps on taking.

“What do I give? I give people puppies.”

Charlie Hunnam

“These German people showed up to this hotel in London, and they had made me a life-sized doll of myself. They’d driven all the way from Germany, so they had that road trip funk to them. And they gave me this thing and I had to carry it through the very, very busy hotel and I was sort of sketched out about it. Then my little brother came to see me and was like, “Whoa, dude, what the f—? That’s so creepy.” And I’m like, “I know, I just got it!” And of course my little brother was like, “It’s so anatomically correct, I wonder if it’s got [genitalia].” I hadn’t even thought about that. So he went and pulled the doll’s pants down and there was a big, dirty set of [genitalia] there. I was really, really disturbed.”

Sarah Silverman

“The present from my on-again-off-again lover Michael Sheen last year for my birthday. I open it up and it’s a portrait of himself, in an outfit I wore in eighth grade. And I knew exactly what it was. I said, ‘How is this possible?’ He said that, like, six months ago in the middle of the night I was laughing and he asked why and I said, ‘I had an outfit in eighth grade and I loved it so much that I said, ‘Mom, take a picture of me.’’ And he said, ‘What was it?’ And I said, ‘Gray corduroy knickers, a cable knit pink sweater, a white turtleneck, white knee socks, boat shoes.’ He locked it in, got everything in his size on eBay, without ever seeing the picture. There’s no way the picture even still exists, I’m thinking. He has a professional photo shoot with it. He said the photographer never laughed, which was very uncomfortable. And I open it. So I send a picture of it to my sister and she says, ‘I’m finding this picture.’ She found it. And they’re exactly the same.”

Elle Fanning

“I once received contact solution. My sister and I talk about this all the time; we were really young girls and it was Christmas and one of our relatives gave us contact solution. Neither of us had contacts or wore glasses.”

Priyanka Chopra

“I’ve gotten some shitty gifts. There was one guy who wanted to take me out on a date. He was a professor at a college, so I was kind of intimidated by the fact that he was taking me out. He didn’t know what to get me as a gift, so somebody told him that I like candles. So he got me a candle, like a small candle that you’d get at Walmart or something. I was like, ‘No, boo. This is not going to work.'”

Allison Janney

“My friend Steven Rogers, who wrote I, Tonya, has a Christmas party every year where you have to bring the worst gift you’ve ever gotten—it’s a re-gift party. So there have been so many that I’ve gotten: Once, I got a wine caddy that was sort of like a Victorian doll. You put the wine bottle in the cavity of the doll and then you put the head back on. It was just a very odd-looking, creepy thing.”

Ben Schwartz

“What’s the best gift I’ve ever gotten? Love.”

Kaitlyn Dever

“If you’ve seen the first Santa Claus movie with Tim Allen—they’re my favorites, I watch all three of them every year—the guy who plays Neil in the film, his dream is a Weenie Whistle and he gets the Weenie Whistle at the end of the movie. Me and my sister love that movie so much, and she was walking around a flea market in Long Beach and she saw a Weenie Whistle, so she got it for me for Christmas.”

Abbey Lee

“One year for Christmas, when I was about 11, my mother gave me a toilet seat. You know those clear ones that have shells and stuff in them? The whole family got to enjoy it. I never forgave her for that.”

André Leon Talley
Caitlin Cronenberg

“The best gift I’ve ever received was an Hermès leather-covered bicycle from Anna Wintour.”


“The best gift I’ve ever received was from [the director] Mike Mills. When I wrapped 20th Century Women, he gave me the original shooting script from John Cassavetes’ Woman Under the Influence, which he was given and he felt that it was good luck charm and he wanted me to have it, because he knew I was going to go and direct. I just have to find the next person I will bestow that token to.”

Steve Buscemi

“I’m a terrible gift-giver. But the best gift I got was a Jerry Mahoney ventriloquist dummy. Pretty good, right?”

Lola Flanery
All photos by Caitlin Cronenberg at ET Canada Festival Central, produced by Arthouse. Production design: @hawkeyesdesign.

“The worst gift I have ever received would have to be from my grandfather. For Christmas one year, he got me Poo Pourri. It’s something you spray when you go to the bathroom so it doesn’t smell anymore.”

Carmen Ejogo

“The worst? A lamp made out of salt, from Salzburg. It’s so cheesy.”

Imogen Poots

“The best gift I’ve ever received was an otter that was adopted for me at a zoo. Pretty nuts. But then we went to visit and I didn’t know which one it was.”

Douglas Booth

“I gave a gold ring with a diamond, sapphire, ruby, and emerald to someone who had brought so much color and wonder into my life. They were also the biggest Harry Potter fan, and I somehow managed to get tickets to the Harry Potter play, which is so hard.”

Bel Powley

“My granny gave me a sauce pan for Christmas last year. I’ve used it to, like, make soup and stuff, but it was a pretty boring present.”

Aya Cash

“The best present I ever got was a cavity filling from my now-husband. I had no insurance at the time and I was a full-time waitress. I went to the dentist after five years of not going, because I didn’t have insurance, and I found out I had a cavity and I sobbed on the street because it was, like, $350 and I didn’t have that money. And my now-husband was like, ‘I will take care of your cavity for you.’”

Rachel Weisz

“The best gift I’ve ever given was I gave my husband [Daniel Craig] a Bruce Davidson photograph. The best gift I ever received was a necklace that my son made me, out of wire and plastic beads. I wear it all the time around the house.”

Edie Falco

“Here’s the best gift my dad ever gave to my mom: my father was an artist and he made a little teeny box diorama of the first house they bought together out in Long Island. The detail was down to the doorway and he painted the thing. I still have it.”

Andrew Garfield

“My nana was a funny lady. I had asked for Michael Jackson’s album Bad on cassette when I was probably seven or eigh. And she said, ‘Well, I’ll see what I can do.’ The box was the wrong shape and I opened the wrapping and it was a blender. And I was like, ‘Thank you so much nana.’ And she’s like, ‘Well, open it, plug it in, and we can get blending!’ And I opened the box and the cassette was in the box, surrounded by chicken feet or something. So that was kind of a good/bad gift.”

Jake Gyllenhaal

“I gave Jeff [Bauman, the real-life marathoner Gyllenhaal plays in Stronger] a toilet. I gave him a super fancy, Japanese Toto toilet. It has its own bidet and a heated seat and as you approach it, the seat goes up.”

Zachary Quinto

“I feel like the best gift I ever gave was I told some family members they could go anywhere they wanted to go in the world and then I sent them there. They chose Austria and Germany, that region of Europe.”

Judy Greer

“Ugh, this is so tacky, but I guess it was my engagement ring, because I love him so much and when he gave it to me I was like, ‘Oh my god, I totally get to marry this guy. It’s going to be awesome.’”

Willem Dafoe

“Someone once gave me a not-housebroken, brand new puppy. That’s a very bad gift. I tried to live with it, but it was biting my feet at night, I couldn’t sleep, it was tearing up the place, it wasn’t housebroken, and I was just starting a movie so I had to return it. But one of the crew members on the film took the dog and I saw him 10 years later and he was like, ‘I’m going to kill you. That dog ruined my life. I got kicked out of a house, I had a lawsuit, the dog was terrible. Finally I had to put it down.’ That’s a bad gift.”

Nicolas Cage

“Somebody made me a sweater, stitched it by hand. Every stitch was informed with love. Best gift.”

Emma Thompson

“My husband gave me a wine course, so I went and did a wine course for a week and that was really good because I love wine and now I know a little bit about it. The worst gift I ever received was from my old Aunt Mill, who sent me a half-eaten candy bar at Christmastime.”

Christoph Waltz

“A Stephen Colbert t-shirt that fell apart after washing it.”

Margaret Qualley

“My sister’s five years older than me, so when I was three and my sister was eight, she saved up allowance for years to buy me a pair of ballet shoes, which is probably the sweetest thing on the planet.”

Alison Brie

“When I first started dating my husband [Dave Franco], I threw him a now notorious surprise party for his birthday that sort of was meant to be a small dinner party, but then grew out of control and became 150 people at my house and strangers and it was an 80’s theme and people crashed. Everyone had a great time at the party. The next day I learned he hates surprises. He was sufficiently traumatized.”

Jessica Chastain

“I surprised my entire family on Christmas morning—I told them we were all going to Disney World the next day.”

Ellen Page
All photos by Caitlin Cronenberg.

“I mentioned to my friend how much I loved Mighty Maxes. Do you remember these? They were like the, I hate to say this, but ‘boy’ version of Polly Pockets. And I just was obsessed with them, and then she got me them off of Etsy or something and I teared up when I opened it. That was a really great gift. “

Claire Foy

“The best I ever received was a piano. The worst I ever received was a jumper that had a sewed-in polo neck on it that my dad got from Costco, for Christmas.”

Chloë Sevigny

“The best gift I probably gave was an old boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, I took him on a helicopter ride around Manhattan.”

Diane Lane

“At the wrap of films I would often give custom-made cups that I made into a piece of memorabilia from the film. I’d put little sayings that you could only know if you were insular to the experience. They just weren’t very smart gifts, because people had to pack them up when they were wrapping up and they’re ceramic and they break. So it would be like, ‘Thanks for the difficult gift.’”

Bella Heathcote

“I’ve received a bunch of really good ones from my man. He’s really into coffee, and he had this really old coffee machine that was really beaten up, so I had it dredged up, got it serviced, and got an Australian barista to come to our house and teach us how to use it and how to clean the machine and everything. He was pretty excited about that, because that was the gift that kept on giving.”

Luke Evans

“It was holiday to the Maldives. That was a great present. The worst gift I ever received was a china frog that my mum got at a car boot sale, which I still have to get out when she comes to the house and put away when she leaves.”

Diane Kruger

“The worst gift I’ve ever gotten was a wine cooler thingy, from one of those stores in America that has inventions… Brookstone! So I got a wine cooler from Brookstone but it’s for one bottle and you have to plug it in and it takes 45 minutes to cool one bottle of wine. And it’s super big and it takes up so much space. So that was a regift. So I guess that’s also the worst gift I’ve ever given.”

Matthias Schoenaerts

“The worst gift I ever got was a pot of Häagen-Dazs that was already opened and eaten from. So you can imagine, my ex-girlfriend got fired after that. And the second worst gift was a stolen ashtray.”

Dominic Cooper

“The worst gift I ever received was an empty cage with gerbil poo in it. My mum had taken it out to play with it and lost it. So it was just a smelly cage of sawdust, and it was pretty depressing on Christmas day. It was a bad Christmas. The gerbil turned up 10 years later—it was just a skeleton in a boot.”