Maybe one thinks the other is just a little too “method.” Maybe one took the last donut from the craft services table that one day near the beginning of shooting. Maybe one…uh…sent a live rat as a “Pumped to be working with you!” present.
Whatever the reasoning, big egos, differing viewpoints, and day after day, take after take, line reading after line reading can sometimes lead to the bad kind of chemistry between actors on set. You know, the kind of chemistry that leaves James Franco punching Tyrese Gibson for real for real, or C-3P0 actor Anthony Daniels derisively saying of R2-D2 actor Kenny Baker, “He might as well be a bucket.”
Here are seven famous instances in which co-stars just didn’t get along: the involved parties, the alleged transgressions, and what effect—if any—the feuds had on their finished work.
The Actors: Joan Crawford and Bette Davis
The Project: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
The Beef: It all started about 30 years prior, when Crawford announced her intention to divorce husband—and son of Hollywood royalty—Douglas Fairbanks Jr. on the same day in 1933 that Warner Brothers was going to start the publicity push for Davis’ first big starring role. Crawford’s news stole the spotlight, and the two starlets engaged in a pretty public cold war through the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. That set the stage nicely for Baby Jane, the only film they did together.
The Fallout: The plot synopsis itself set the two on a collision course for drama. Davis plays “Baby Jane” Hudson, a child star whose fame is soon eclipsed by her sister, Blanche, played by Crawford. Then, Jane is forced to care for Blanche after a car accident paralyzes Blanche from the waist down. So the script called for psychological and physical tension between the two. And, boy, did they deliver.
Crawford reportedly hired a body double for scenes that involved physicality with Davis, concerned that Davis would actually hurt her. Crawford also supposedly wore a lead-lined belt to weigh herself down for scenes in which Davis had to drag her, knowing Davis had a bad back. Davis, in turn, would later joke that the best time she ever had with Crawford was when she pushed her down some stairs in Baby Jane. Or was it a joke?
Director Robert Aldrich mined all the tension for gold, and the film was nominated for five Oscars. Davis was nominated for Best Actress, though she didn’t win. Crawford and Davis’ decades of iciness were also the basis of the first (and only) season of the FX series Feud.
The Actors: Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels
The Project: The Star Wars series (1977-2015)
The Beef: These droids just did not like each other. Baker, who embodied R2-D2, said Daniels, who clanged around as C-3PO, did not mix with any of the other actors on set and, in 2005, told Hollywood.com he was “the rudest man I’ve ever met.”
Daniels, for his part, seemed to hold Baker’s contributions to the Star Wars series in fairly light regard. “I remember one day, [Kenny] was in the costume, and I said to him, ‘When I say the line, can you turn the head to look at me?’” Daniels said in the 2008 television documentary Bring Back…Star Wars. “I was doing a typical stage actor thing, but he had no idea what I was talking about. So I just stopped, I didn’t bother.”
The Fallout: The films, obviously, did well. And the prickliness between the robot actors actually served their characters fine, as C-3PO was known for his curt asides to his compadre on wheels. The two could largely avoid each other over the years—except at conventions, where things would get testy once again. “If he just calmed down and socialized with everyone, we could make a fortune touring around making personal appearances,” Baker said in 2009, according to the New York Post. “I’ve asked him four times now but, the last time, he looked down his nose at me like I was a piece of s***.”
If you’re the one person in the universe who has yet to watch the Star Wars series, you can start your education on Amazon here.
The Actors: Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger
The Project: Terms of Endearment (1983)
The Beef: The actresses’ on-screen dynamic reflected some of the machinations happening on set. Winger, who played the free-spirited, independent daughter, was a little too wild for MacLaine, who played her mother in the movie. “I didn’t know who she was,” MacLaine told People Magazine in 1984 about their first meeting. “To see how my character would feel, I was wearing all my leftover movie-star fur coats. There was Debra dressed in combat boots and a miniskirt. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness.’” In her 1995 autobiography, My Lucky Stars, MacLaine wrote that Winger would yell at her to hit her marks on set.
One time, MacLaine wrote, Winger intentionally, erm, passed gas in her direction. Winger has confirmed that she and MacLaine weren’t on the best of terms while filming Terms—in 2018, she said on the Bravo show Watch What Happens Live that there “was something true in there” about rumors of the gas passing and other behavior, such as licking MacLaine’s leg during a love scene with Jack Nicholson.
The Fallout: Director/producer/screenwriter James L. Brooks helped shape the MacLaine/Winger dynamic into great performances, even if he was struggling to hold things together on a daily basis on set. The film won five Oscars, including a Best Actress nod for MacLaine. Winger was also nominated in the category. During MacLaine’s acceptance speech, she said, “I wanted to work with the turbulent brilliance of Debra Winger. She literally inhabited the character so thoroughly that I thought for four months I had two daughters.”
The Actors: Jamie Foxx and LL Cool J
The Project: Any Given Sunday (1999)
The Beef: Both were fairly new to the acting game when they were cast as foils in Oliver Stone’s football film: LL as the established star running back of the Miami Sharks, Foxx as the brash backup quarterback who gets pressed into duty after the starter goes down and soon starts to become the focal point of the team. So the script called for conflict, but the actors took it a step further. They were supposed to get into a bit of a scuffle. Foxx didn’t like how aggressive LL was being during the scene’s filming, LL told the Drink Champs podcast in 2017, and asked him to ease up. LL ignored Foxx and was rough with him again on the next take.
So Foxx responded with an unscripted punch to LL’s face. LL had no choice but to listen to Mama…and knock Foxx out. “He had his helmet on, and he was turned to the side. He said, ‘I told you before. Don’t put your hands on me. Period!’” LL told Drink Champs. “Yo, when he said that, my left hand grabbed the face mask and, as I was pulling his helmet off, my right hand was punching his chin. This was like ‘Pow!’ And then, you know, he was laying there, and I was like, I thought he was faking because he was [asleep]!”
The Fallout: Both actors have gone on to enjoy long, illustrious careers in the industry, LL on shows such as NCIS: Los Angeles and Lip Sync Battle and Foxx in an Oscar-winning turn as Ray Charles, a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Collateral, and other critically acclaimed roles. They also put the on-set fight behind them rather easily. “When you’re grown, you don’t really have time for all that,” Foxx told MTV in 2006. “When you’re young, it’s cool to have your emotions on your chest. But we’re grown now.”
The Actors: Lucy Liu and Bill Murray
The Project: Charlie’s Angels (2000)
The Beef: Murray has carefully curated his public image as a sort of zen, chill, easygoing dude. But he and Liu did not get along at all. The tension, basically, came from Murray’s sense that Liu was not a good actor. His criticism of her grew so pointed one day on set that, allegedly, she came at him, the two had to be separated, and filming shut down for the day. Both have downplayed the severity of the animosity over the years but, by way of partial explanation, Murray did tell the London Times this in 2009: “Look, I will dismiss you completely if you are unprofessional and working with me.”
The Fallout: Murray, apparently, did not have a very good time on the Charlie’s Angels set. Film director McG even told The Guardian in 2009 that Murray “head-butted” him during filming. Murray denied that in the Times but also added, “He deserves to die! He should be pierced with a lance, not head-butted.” By the time the sequel, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, came out in 2003, Murray’s role had (not-so) mysteriously transferred to Bernie Mac.
The Actors: James Franco and Tyrese Gibson
The Project: Annapolis (2006)
The Beef: Franco used to be really into the whole “method” school of acting, really losing himself in his characters. That’s not such a big deal when it only entails moving to Michigan for a couple of weeks to prepare himself for the role of a high school burnout in Freaks and Geeks. In Annapolis, though, a movie about U.S. Naval Academy cadets and boxing, that can be a little more problematic. Gibson, his co-star, was all about making the boxing scenes look real. Franco, apparently, was all about making them be real. “Whenever we’d have to get in the ring for boxing scenes, and even during practice, the dude was full-on hitting me,” Gibson said. “It felt very personal.”
The Fallout: The movie didn’t do too great with critics or at the box office. Franco has since apologized for his behavior. “I take full blame for any problems on that film,” he told GQ in 2008. “If [Gibson] had a bad experience working with me, I was probably a jerk. I was not purposely cruel to him, but I was probably so wrapped up in my performance that I was not as friendly as I could have been. …I think Tyrese is a sweet guy with a good heart. I wish him all the best.”
Franco has stepped back from the “method” edge a bit since then. Though he probably did a fair amount of “research” for his role in Pineapple Express.
The Actors: Jared Leto and, like, all of his co-stars
The Project: Suicide Squad (2016)
The Beef: Yet another feud stemming from method acting. To get into his role as The Joker, Leto set about making himself into about the biggest, weirdest jerk that he could.
Co-star Adam Beach told E! that Leto made prolific use of the U.S. Postal Service, sending Margot Robbie a live rat and Will Smith a bunch of bullets.
He apparently didn’t try to pull any of that stuff with Viola Davis, though. Perhaps because her husband, a former Division I college football player, would have had something to say about it.
“I did not receive any [gifts] personally, or else I would have got my husband—who was called ‘Headache Ball’ back in the day when he played football—and I would have said, ‘Take care of The Joker,’” Davis told E!. Leto stayed in character on set as well, to an annoying degree, making the assistant directors address him as “Mr. J” and having his “henchmen” assist in some of his eccentric behavior.
The Fallout: Like Annapolis, critics weren’t very kind to Suicide Squad, so all that method was pretty much for naught. Leto built up some cachet as an all-caps SERIOUS ACTOR after winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club in 2014—although that, in hindsight, has earned a bit of tarnish—and he seems to gradually be giving that esteem back with each new story that comes out about him.