Bette Davis, Joan Crawford
Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

The Most Notorious Co-Star Feuds in Movie History


Everyone loves celebrity conflict, which is why we’re assuming our post a couple of weeks back on actor/filmmaker feuds generated such a huge response. It’s humanizing to see that cultural icons squabble about the same petty stuff that we do in the workplace. Performers and auteurs aren’t the only source of on-set friction however; the Hollywood history books are filled with cases of co-stars going after each other with everything they’ve got.

Bette Davis vs. Joan Crawford

Few stars got along as poorly as Davis and Crawford on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, though they brought decades of rivalry and ill will to the set. The stories of their fights are legendary: Davis reportedly kicked Crawford in the head “accidentally” during one scene, while Crawford put weights in her clothes for a scene where she was dragged by Davis. But it got even uglier when that year’s Oscar nominations were announced — and Davis was nominated for Best Actress, while Crawford was not. Davis said later that her bitter co-star not only campaigned against her, but reached out to the nominees who were not able to attend and graciously offered to accept their awards for them. When Anne Bancroft won, Crawford pushed her way past Davis to triumphantly accept the trophy.

Reports of these dust-ups didn’t hurt Baby Jane at the box office — in fact, the free and juicy publicity probably helped. The stellar box office led to a reunion of the two stars (and director Robert Aldrich) for Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, but Crawford only lasted four days before quitting the production, claiming illness. The rumor mill had it that Davis had a Coca-Cola machine installed on the set — and this was the last straw for Crawford, whose husband was Pepsi president Alfred Steele. Crawford was replaced on Hush by Olivia de Havilland.

Bill Murray vs. Chevy Chase/Bill Murray vs. Lucy Liu

Co-writer/director Harold Ramis was well into the shoot of his 1980 comedy Caddyshack when he realized he had a serious problem: the movie’s two biggest stars, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, had no scenes together. There was a reason for this — the pair were not exactly the best of buddies. Murray had basically been Chase’s replacement on Saturday Night Live when Chase left the show after its first, wildly successful season. He had been able to depart because he only had a one-year writer’s contract (he’d never been signed as a performer), and the remaining cast members (locked in to four-year commitments) were bitter about his hasty departure. So when Chase returned to the show in the second season to host, he and Murray got into a physical altercation mere minutes before the show went live. The brawl was, according to Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller’s invaluable book Live from New York, partially about the two men’s egos and partially about the sour grapes of his former castmates, with John Belushi in particular goading Murray into the fight. Years later, on the Caddyshack set, Ramis got the two men to sit down with him and work out their single shared scene, which is both funny and subtly tense.

Murray has a reputation for being both aloof and warm — he’s a bit of a tough nut to crack, but reportedly loyal and kind to the co-stars and filmmakers gets along with. When he doesn’t, though, watch out. Early reports from the set of the 2000 film adaptation of Charlie’s Angels held that Murray and Lucy Liu were “at odds,” but years later, the gossip site Derober reported “Bill Murray stopped a scene in progress and pointed to Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu saying in order, ‘I get why you’re here, and you’ve got talent…but what in the hell are you doing here. You can’t act!’ At that, Liu blew her lid and attacked Murray, wildly throwing punches. The actors had to be separated to opposite corners of the room while they lobbed verbal hand grenades at each other.” Murray didn’t care for director McG either, so when the time came for a sequel, the actor bowed out and was replaced by Bernie Mac.

Shirley MacLaine vs. Debra Winger

Few movies of the ’80s inspired more heartfelt tears than James L. Brooks’ Oscar-winning mother-daughter comedy/drama Terms of Endearment, which is why it’s a bit of a surprise to learn that MacLaine and Winger, who played said mother and daughter, absolutely hated each other during the production. Even a softball MacLaine profile in People at the time of the film’s release was mostly about their disharmony — a shoot spent fighting, snapping, and, in Winger’s words, “playing games.” Writer/director Brooks admits in the piece, “No one can get a fix on their relationship, not even the participants.” People hinted that there were rumors of a physical altercation; reports since have blamed Winger’s erratic behavior (which included, some say, an incident where Winger lifted her skirt and broke wind at MacLaine) on her cocaine use. More recently, Winger has downplayed their fighting, telling CBS, “There was no blood drawn. There might have been a scuffle. I don’t remember. I mean, we were wild, you know. She’s not a wilting violet. She’s tough, too.”

Peter Sellers vs. Orson Welles

The 1967 version of Casino Royale is, politely put, a bit of a train wreck; it was made outside of the purview of regular Bond producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, by producer Charles K. Feldman (who had acquired them through a convoluted series of transactions, most of which took place before the wildly successful Broccoli-Saltzman Bond pictures were made). Feldman, fresh of the success of the swinging sex comedy What’s New Pussycat, decided to make his Royale an everything-but-the-kitchen sink spoof of the Bond movies, engaging five (credited) directors and several screenwriters. He also hired an all-star cast, including David Niven, Ursula Andress, Deborah Kerr, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, and Orson Welles. Sellers was immediately unhappy on the set — according to Roger Lewis’ biography The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, he was angry that Feldman had chosen to turn the movie into a satire, because he wanted to do a serious Bond movie. The famously opinionated Welles had little patience for Sellers, referring to him as “that amateur,” while Sellers resented Welles’ insistence on doing whatever the hell he wanted in the movie, including inserting a magic routine for his character. The tensions between the two reached such a boiling point that they finally refused to work together, and their shared scenes were shot on different days, with dummies as stand-ins.

Richard Pryor vs. Harvey Keitel vs. Yaphet Kotto

Paul Schrader was one of the hottest screenwriters of the ’70s, so when he got the chance to direct, he and his brother wrote the tough, difficult, uncompromising auto factory drama Blue Collar. For the three leads, he chose Pryor, Keitel, and Kotto, but set them up for friction from the time they signed on. According to Peter Biskind’s terrific book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls , “To get them to commit, Paul had assured each actor he was the star of the movie. Once the shooting started, each one thought he was playing second fiddle to the others and concluded he had been lied to — not far from the truth.” Schrader reflected, “Richard was starting to coke up again. He was in this whole mode of, I’m gonna be the sidekick to Terry Malloy, you set me up to be the funny nigger, while Harvey’s take on it was just the opposite: I’m gonna be Ed McMahon to his Johnny Carson. So they wouldn’t talk to each other. Right after you said, ‘Cut,’ a fight would start.” Schrader couldn’t do much about it — he was famously uncommunicative, even with friends, and found himself ill-equipped to control his actors. However, in this case, the on-set tension may well have helped the picture, which is a brilliant, gripping portrait of three friends torn apart by outside circumstances.

Julia Roberts vs. Nick Nolte

On the other hand, if you’re making what is intended to be a sparkling screwball romantic comedy, having two leads that hate each other probably won’t translate into onscreen magic. Such was the case in 1994, when some mental case decided Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte would make a good on-screen couple, and teamed them up for Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers’ I Love Trouble. Reports of set strife got out before the movie did; “The discord was so intense,” sources told the LA Times, “the two played more to stand-ins than to each other.” The stars kept mum at the time, as you do when a movie you’re headlining is on its way to theaters, but such niceties went out the window in the years that followed; in 2003, Roberts called Nolte a “disgusting human being,” to which he responded, “It’s not nice to call someone ‘disgusting.’ But she’s not a nice person. Everyone knows that.” In a 2009 Late Show appearance, Roberts alluded to a foul-mouthed, temperamental co-star; OK! gets no points for unmasking the unnamed collaborator as Nolte.

Jamie Foxx vs. LL Cool J

Foxx and Cool J played team rivals in Oliver Stone’s 1999 football drama Any Given Sunday, but the ill will of their characters transferred to the actors during a fight scene, where the blows weren’t staged and continued after Stone called cut. The beef continued after shooting, with Cool J recording the Foxx diss track “U Can’t Fuck with Me” the following year, and the feud lasted a full six years before the two men finally made up in 2006. After reconciling at a Miami Heat game, Foxx turned up on Cool J’s song “Best Dressed,” and the rapper returned the favor by guesting on Foxx’s “All This Love.”

Charlie Sheen vs. Sean Young

Neither Sheen nor Young have wound up looking like the picture of professionalism or mental health in the years since they worked on Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street, but these birds of a feather did not flock together on the set. The primary issue was casting: Young, who played the wife of Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko, felt that she should have been placed in the much larger role of Sheen’s girlfriend (played, rather poorly, by Daryl Hannah). Young was so sure she had been miscast, in fact, that she began openly campaigning for a switch once the film was already underway, claiming Hannah was unhappy in the part as well. When Stone didn’t oblige, Young reportedly started showing up late and unprepared for her scenes — and Sheen got so sick of her bad behavior that he reportedly taped a note to her back that read “I am a c***.” Young walked around with the note for hours before noticing. And that’s the kind of high school wit that made Sheen the man he is today.

Tyrese Gibson vs. James Franco

Annapolis wasn’t much of a career highlight for either James Franco or Tyrese Gibson, but it left a mark on the latter; in 2007, Gibson gave an interview to Playboy in which he said of Franco, “I never want to work with him again, and I’m sure he feels the same way. It felt very personal. It was fucked up.” Franco responded in an interview with Complex, “We’ve made up, or I tried to make up with him. Maybe I was too into that role. I don’t try to be mean to anybody on a movie. In the past I’ve tended to isolate (myself), and maybe people take that as me being rude or me not liking them, but it’s really a way for me to stay in my character. I really had nothing personal against Tyrese, but I guess there were a lot of misunderstandings.” The reports of this off-screen friction may very well spoil the memories of the fifteen people who saw Annapolis.

Kenny Baker vs. Anthony Daniels

Yes, friends, when even the actors who play R2D2 and C3PO can’t manage to make it work off-camera, what hope is there for anyone? In a 2005 interview to promote the last of the Star Wars prequels, Baker, who plays R2D2, was asked if he got along with Daniels. “Not really,” he replied. “I thought it was just me he didn’t get on with but recently I’ve found out he doesn’t get on with anyone. He’s been such an awkward person over the years. If he just calmed down and socialized with everyone, we could make a fortune touring around making personal appearances. I’ve asked him four times now but, the last time, he looked down his nose at me like I was a piece of shit. He said: ‘I don’t do many of these conventions — go away little man.’ He really degraded me and made me feel small — for want of a better expression. He’s rude to everyone though, including the fans.”

Those are just a few of the famous co-star dust-ups–which ones did we forget? Let us know in the comments.