There’s always been a public interest in behind-the-scenes showbiz feuds. There’s something exciting about two actors fighting behind the scenes. It’s especially interesting when that animosity supposedly leaks into the finished product. Sure, plenty of backstage beef is cooked up by rumors, lies, and hyperbole, but where there’s smoke, there’s often fire. The latter is what we’re here to discuss.
While studios, production companies, and agents often try to keep a lid on bad blood between stars, the dirty truth tends to reveal itself sooner or later. In this case: much, much later. Were the ladies of Sex and the City and The Golden Girls besties when the cameras weren’t rolling? Find how who socked Tom Cruise in the face, who had a nasty nickname for Marilyn Monroe, and which Star Wars stars wanted to stay far far away from each other. These nasty on-set feuds were kept quiet for years, but we’re about to spill the tea.
Betty White and Bea Arthur prove that silence is golden
It’s easy to watch The Golden Girls and buy into the on-screen relationships. The stars look like they’re having a blast and, to hear them tell it, they really were. Well, for the most part. When the show ended in 1992, largely because Bea Arthur wanted out, the talk about off-camera drama picked up. Most whispers spoke of a rift between Arthur and Betty White, but nothing was confirmed for years. Then, in 2007, Rue McClanahan dished the dirt in her memoir, My First Five Husbands…And the Ones Who Got Away.
According to McClanahan, Arthur was bothered when White won the first Emmy for The Golden Girls in 1986 and called White some unsavory names. In 2011, two years after Arthur passed away, White finally opened up about the situation. Arthur « was not that fond of me, » White said (via the Village Voice). « …She found me a pain in the neck sometimes. It was my positive attitude — and that made Bea mad sometimes. Sometimes if I was happy, she’d be furious! »
Arthur’s son, Matthew Saks, tried to downplay the feud between the two women, but he agreed that Arthur wasn’t White’s biggest fan. Speaking with Closer Weekly, Saks said, « My mom unknowingly carried the attitude that it was fun to have somebody to be angry at. … It was almost like Betty became her nemesis, someone she could always roll her eyes about at work. »
Dustin Hoffman vs. Meryl Streep on Kramer vs. Kramer
Despite Meryl Streep’s Emmy win and her Tony and Academy Award nominations, when she was cast in 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer, she was seen as an inexperienced rookie next to Dustin Hoffman. On camera, Hoffman and Streep shared undeniable chemistry, evidenced by their Academy Award wins for their respective roles. Off-camera, however, the two actors went about their business very differently. We just didn’t know about until years later.
In 2016, Michael Schulman’s unauthorized Streep biography and subsequent Vanity Fair piece included shocking claims about Hoffman’s treatment of the beloved actress. According to Schulman, Hoffman, a known-method actor, used some shady tactics to draw a more emotional performance from his co-star, including slapping her across the face. Streep addressed the alleged slap in a 2018 interview with The New York Times. « This was my first movie, and it was my first take in my first movie, and he just slapped me, » she said. « And you see it in the movie. It was overstepping. »
This wasn’t the only unsolicited « help » Hoffman supposedly gave Streep. According to Schulman’s interview with producer Richard Fischoff, Hoffman also mocked the recent death of Streep’s partner, John Cazale, to incite her. « He was goading her and provoking her, » Fischoff said. « [Hoffman was] using stuff that he knew about her personal life and about John to get the response that he thought she should be giving in the performance. »
A rocky road for Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino
Few people noticed any tension between Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino before 2018. They seemed a perfect match while working together on Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill films. In a 2014 Rolling Stone interview, Tarantino called Thurman his « muse » and no one batted an eye. No one, except maybe Thurman.
« I don’t think I did any musing, » she said in that Rolling Stone interview. « I think I listened to a lot of scenes and gave Quentin my opinions and killed myself trying to help him make the movie great. » Years later, in February 2018, those veiled comments came into focus. In an interview with The New York Times, Thurman described (and posted footage of) a car accident she experienced in 2002 while filming a scene for the saga. Driving a reportedly unsafe vehicle, Thurman was injured in the crash. It took Thurman 15 years to get the footage because the incident was allegedly covered up.
That supposed cover-up took a toll on Tarantino’s relationship with his muse. « It affected me and Uma for the next two to three years … a trust was broken, » he told Deadline. « She blamed me for the crash and she had a right to blame me for the crash. I didn’t mean to do it. I talked her into getting in the car, I assured her the road was safe. And it wasn’t. »
Lara Flynn Boyle and Sherilyn Fenn battle over a guy
When Twin Peaks: The Return came and went in 2017 without Lara Flynn Boyle making an appearance, the long-rumored tensions between the actress and some of the cast and crew seemed all but confirmed. While Boyle remained quiet about the alleged conflict on the set of Twin Peaks in the early ’90s, Sherilyn Fenn, the actress who played Audrey Horne, started talking.
In an interview with The A.V. Club, Fenn claimed Audrey and agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) were supposed to get together on the show, but that story arc was canceled « because people got mad and jealous. » Apparently, the jealous one was Boyle. « What happened was that Lara was dating Kyle, and she was mad that my character was getting more attention, » Fenn said. « So then Kyle started saying that his character shouldn’t be with my character because it doesn’t look good, ’cause I’m too young. » Showrunners supposedly cast new love interests for both Fenn and MacLachlan to keep the peace — a move that angered Fenn. In the « Twin Peaks Unwrapped » podcast, Fenn blamed Boyle for ruining « an astonishing thing. »
The magnificent feud between Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen
During filming of The Magnificent Seven, a number of reports surfaced about a feud on the set between Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. Brynner vehemently denied any bad blood. « I never feud with actors. I feud with studios, » he said (via Michelangelo Capua’s biography about Brynner). Brynner supposedly ordered McQueen to follow suit, thus keeping their power feud under wraps for years.
According to the book, Brynner was already an established star in 1960, and he apparently utilized some creative tactics to assert his dominance over McQueen, such as building mounds of dirt on his marks to make him appear taller than the rising star. Word is that McQueen would kick at these mounds whenever he passed by, thus gradually bringing Brynner back down to size.
McQueen allegedly tried to even the playing field in other ways too. When he realized he had very few lines in the original script, he reportedly insisted director John Sturges give him more. McQueen supposedly worked to draw more attention to his character every chance he got. Even when standing in the background, McQueen would flip a coin, play with his hat — anything to allegedly upstage Brynner.
McQueen saw it differently. « When you work in a scene with Yul, » he said, « you’re supposed to stand perfectly still 10 feet away. Well, I don’t work that way. »
Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker wanted to stay far far away
Many Star Wars fans have dreamed that Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker, the men inside the C-3PO and R2-D2 costumes, respectively, were real-life comrades. Unfortunately, that fantasy was shattered nearly three decades after the first film’s release. Rather than grow closer over the course of the franchise, the rift between these two continued to widen.
In 2005, Baker finally got the public mudslinging started when he suggested Daniels was rude and antisocial. « He never wants to have a drink with any of us. Once when I said hello to him he just turned his back on me and said, ‘Can’t you see I’m having a conversation?’ I was blazing with rage, » Baker told Hollywood.com. When asked about attending a Star Wars reunion, Baker said, « It depends. If you invite his lordship, the one with the golden balls. If he comes, I won’t be there. »
Daniels claims he didn’t distance himself from the rest of the cast to be antisocial. « I was actually signed to secrecy. The studio wanted people to believe C-3PO was a real robot, » he said (via the Mirror). That doesn’t mean Daniels isn’t above taking a shot at Baker. « I never saw him, » he said. « I mean, R2-D2 doesn’t even speak. He might as well be a bucket. »
Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise threw down in The Outsiders
One of the most amazing things about The Outsiders is the incredible cast, a who’s who of ’80s superstars. While fans may enjoy watching all that burgeoning star power on screen, Rob Lowe said the film set was a competitive and, sometimes, violent place to be.
In his 2011 memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography, Lowe reveals that he and co-star, Tom Cruise, came to blows during rehearsal. While preparing for one of the brawl scenes, Lowe accidentally punched Cruise in the nose. Cruise didn’t take too kindly to it. « He goes into a rage, » Lowe said, « and begins to pummel me mercilessly in the chest and ribs. It’s getting way out of hand, and finally Emilio [Estevez] and Tommy Howell step in and stop the fight. »
According to Lowe, physical altercations were commonplace on set. « We all beat the living s**t out of one another, » he told The Telegraph. « We were all competitive. It wasn’t just Tom. We were hardcore. »
Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe loathed one another
Long were there rumors of Sir Laurence Olivier’s contempt toward certain actors, but it wasn’t until Philip Ziegler published the biography, Olivier, in 2013, that some of the most some controversial stories were confirmed. In his research for the book, Ziegler scoured through unpublished Olivier interviews to reveal that the actor despised many stars of the day, but perhaps none more than Marilyn Monroe.
Olivier and Monroe’s alleged feud blossomed in The Prince and the Showgirl. According to Ziegler (via The Independent), Olivier described his hatred for Monroe as « one of the strongest emotions [he] had ever felt. » Cinematographer Jack Cardiff claimed Olivier referred to Monroe as the « b***h » for the rest of his life. Monroe didn’t take Olivier’s abuse lying down. According to The Telegraph, she called him « a pain in the arse » and mockingly referred to him as « Mr. Sir » because he’d been knighted. Co-star Jean Kent, who witnessed this feud firsthand, told The Telegraph, « I think poor Larry must have aged at least 15 years during the making of that film. »
No glee for Naya Rivera and Lea Michele
Over the course of Glee‘s six seasons, there were plenty of rumors about cast feuds and most of the stories involved stars Lea Michele and Naya Rivera, who played Rachel Berry and Santana Lopez, respectively. The tabloids went into overdrive when Rivera was reportedly let go from the show prior to the Season 5 finale following an alleged fight on set. Though she did return for the show’s sixth and final season, unconfirmed gossip about a strained relationship between Rivera and Michele continued. Michele tried to diffuse the situation on the Late Show with David Letterman in 2014. « It’s really frustrating, the way people like to pit women against each other and it’s really annoying and really sad, » she said. Shame on us for thinking otherwise, right?
Not so fast. Rivera finally broke the case wide open when she released her memoir, Sorry, Not Sorry (via Perez Hilton). In the book, Rivera said her friendship with Michele broke down as « Santana moved from a background character to one with bigger plot lines and more screen time. I think Rachel — erm, I mean Lea — didn’t like sharing the spotlight. » Rivera also claimed Michele « blamed [her] for anything and everything that went wrong, » adding that during the entire final season, Michele « didn’t say a word to me. »
Beef and the city starring Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker
Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker kept the details of their strained relationship private for years. They continually denied reports of a feud on the Sex and the City set, but in 2008, The Telegraph reported that Cattrall and Parker weren’t speaking to one another. There was also talk that Cattrall sat alone during mealtimes on set, much like she did at the 2004 Emmys. Meanwhile, the actresses continued to scoff at the rumors. Cattrall told the Daily Mail the public was to blame, claiming people « have too much invested in the idea of two strong, successful women fighting with each other. »
By 2017, Cattrall was singing a different tune, telling Piers Morgan that she and Parker have « never been friends, » adding, « I don’t know what [Parker’s] issue is. » The jig was up. When Cattrall’s brother died, Parker sent her condolences, and Cattrall responded: « Your continuous reaching out is a painful reminder of how cruel you really were then and now. Let me make this VERY clear. (If I haven’t already) You are not my family. You are not my friend. »