• Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in The Notebook (2004).
We present some hard evidence that when the cameras stopped rolling for these big screen couples, life certainly didn’t imitate art.
SBS Film
13 Feb 2015 - 12:46 PM  UPDATED 14 Feb 2015 - 12:58 PM

You’re dying to know which romantic co-stars loathe each other in real life – and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Since the birth of Hollywood, viewers have tried to guess what’s real and what’s pretend. Is that sexy bedroom scene the start of real passion stirring in real loins? Or is it just two awkward strangers banging up against each other in front of a bunch of hairy men with cameras and boom mics? But the problem with actors (from a gossip perspective) is that they pretend to be someone else for a living. And when they’re doing media it’s in their best interests to play nice, say good things about each other and maintain the façade of getting along – all without threatening their real-life marriages.

Google ‘romantic co-stars who hate each other’ and you get the same sketchy examples repeated in list after listicle. Here, we’ve tried to gather a smidgen of evidence to back it up. Mostly, it seems that, like regular people who work together in stressful situations, actors can fight and have tantrums while still respecting each other professionally. Usually they feel some fondness for each other years down the track. Not always.

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, 50 Shades of Grey (2015)

In the ‘red room of pain’ they’re supposed to be so hot for each other that they can’t keep their hands (and whips and blindfolds) to themselves. But the infamously chilly 50 Shades of Grey press tour rapport between Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson has become a story in itself, with each red carpet appearance forensically examined for awkward poses and strained smiles – of which there are many. There’s nothing as concrete as a really quotable quote so we have to intuit they dislike each other from the body language of barely controlled boredom and contempt. It’s possible, of course, that they’re just ashamed of the film they’re promoting.

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Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, Romeo + Juliet (1996)

There was a rare sweetness and tenderness on show between the young lovers in Baz Luhrmann’s frenetic Shakespeare update. That swoon-worthy fish tank scene rates as one of the most romantic meet-cutes in cinema’s history. Yet off screen, the 18-year-old Danes reportedly considered the 22-year-old DiCaprio “immature”, disdaining his laddish antics with co-stars and friends on the wild Mexico City set. Talking to British Vogue in 1997, Danes said: “We have one of the most complicated relationships in history… We wouldn't talk to each other for long periods during filming, then we'd die together, or do something huge like that. It was very confusing." An awkward dual interview with Premiere magazine further demonstrated the different approaches of the two talented youngsters: she’s serious and intense, while he’s swaggery and casual. There’s no way they’d ever end up together – even as friends.

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Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, The Notebook (2004)

As Allie and Noah, young lovers from opposite sides of the tracks, Gosling and McAdams had the kind of on-screen chemistry that helped to make The Notebook a phenomenally successful weepie romance and cult hit – and turned Gosling into every girl’s dream date. (The film is the 14th highest-grossing romantic drama film of all time.) Yet, as director Nick Cassavetes revealed to VH1, the on-set dynamic between the two then-relatively unknown stars was fraught with tension. At one point during filming, Gosling asked for another actress to read off camera with him, saying, “I can’t do it with her [McAdams]. I’m just not getting anything from this.” After much yelling and screaming, they apparently found a way to work with each other – and later had a real-life four-year on-off romance of their own.

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Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, Dirty Dancing (1987)

They made an odd and slightly dangerous couple on screen: Baby (Grey), a sheltered teenage girl, falls in love with Johnny (Swayze), an older and sexually experienced dance instructor. Off screen, there were rumours they’d hated each other on an earlier project, Red Dawn (available now at SBS On Demand), and that those tensions carried over to Dirty Dancing. When Swayze was interviewed by the AFI in 2009 about his recollections, he was tactful but honest. “When we’re doing those dance sequences and she’s crying and she’s giggling, those moments really work because they’re real… and there’s my real frustration at trying to keep this girl serious; trying to keep her from crying and keep her focussed and get past her fear and her ego.” It was a similar story in his memoirs: “She’d slip into silly moods, forcing us to do scenes over and over. We did have a few moments of friction… she seemed particularly emotional, sometimes bursting into tears if someone criticised her.”  It hardly sounds like hatred, though, and Grey was famously tearful about Swayze’s death when she appeared on the US version of Dancing with the Stars in 2010.  

Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, Husbands and Wives (1992)

It’s impossible to watch this mockumentary-style drama about marriage breakups – the 13th and last collaboration between writer/director/actor Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow – without reading into it the real-life breakup that was unfolding during the final days of filming. After 12 years together, Farrow discovered naked photos taken by Allen of her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, with whom he was having an affair. By the time the film released, the scandal had erupted, developing into one of ugliest and most sordid celebrity breakup battles, complete with allegations of incest, paedophilia and emotional abuse. (In the most surprising development of all, Woody Allen and Soon-Yi remain together, apparently happily married all these years later.)

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Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe, The Prince and the Showgirl (1957)

“Try to be sexy,” Laurence Olivier is reported to have said to the world’s most famous sex symbol as he was directing and co-starring alongside Marilyn Monroe in this ill-fated romantic farce. A lack of chemistry was obvious both onscreen and off in the silly tale of a 50-year-old Balkan prince (Olivier, complete with monocle) and his attempted seduction of a wiggly-giggly showgirl. It could have been funny and cute, but a lacklustre script, together with the co-stars’ obvious contempt for each other, made The Prince and the Showgirl a total bore. The film’s Oscar-winning cinematographer, Jack Cardiff, revealed in his autobiography that Sir Olivier still called Monroe a “bitch” decades after filming.

Sean Young and Harrison Ford, Blade Runner (1982)

The shooting of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic was famously difficult and demanding – words also regularly applied to the film’s leading lady and man, Sean Young and Harrison Ford. It was rumoured that the love scene between the beautiful replicant and the rugged bounty-hunter was known in-house as ‘the hate scene’. Years later, Young tactfully recalled the dynamic:  “I was young and needy… When you’re in your twenties you hope that your leading man will be like, ‘that’s ok, you’ll be fine’… And Harrison wasn’t particularly generous that way.”

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Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte, I Love Trouble (1994)

They played rival Chicago newspaper reporters who race each other for a scoop in this 1994 comedy, and Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte continued sparring even when the cameras stopped rolling. She told the New York Times that Nolte was “completely charming and very nice, he’s also completely disgusting. He’s going to hate me for saying this, but he seems to go out of his way to repel people.” To which Nolte replied (via Flavor Wire): “It’s not nice to call someone ‘disgusting.’ But she’s not a nice person. Everyone knows that.” It’s possible they were just joking…

Sharon Stone and William Baldwin, Sliver (1993)

Sliver (1993) was supposed to be a sexy thriller, but Sharon Stone and William Baldwin openly loathed each other and rumours persist that she nearly bit off his tongue during a kissing scene. As director Phil Noyce told his biographer, Ingo Petzke, “I ended up having to shoot many of their close-ups with only one of them in the room at a time, because they didn’t want to look at each other.” The film’s writer, Joe Eszterhas, also recalled in his memoirs that Stone objected to the casting of Baldwin right from the start, saying, “He’s a boy. Give me a man. Give me Alec. I’d let Alec throw me over a table anytime.”

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Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando, A Countess from Hong Kong (1967)

It’s never a great start to a working relationship when your leading man gropes you, as Marlon Brando did to Sophia Loren on Charlie Chaplin’s final film as director. As Loren recalls in her memoir, Brando “… had absolutely no qualms about ruining our working relationship. One day, just before we shot one of the most romantic scenes, he suddenly reached out and grabbed me… He never tried anything again, but it became increasingly difficult for me to be near him.” Loren also objected to his massive weight gain, writing that “At the start of the shooting, he’d been in great shape, as handsome as only Brando could be. Then he decided that he was going to eat only ice cream. And, of course, he put on a huge amount of weight – to the point where his role was compromised.”


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