2020’s summer blockbuster season has been put on hold because of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the movies from the past that we flocked out of the sun and into air conditioning for. Welcome to The Ringer’s Return to Summer Blockbuster Season, where we’ll feature different summer classics each week.
You could reasonably claim that Dirty Dancing is the horniest PG-13 movie ever made. The film had to go through several rounds with the Motion Picture Association of America to get knocked down from an R rating; it seems there were some reservations about the camera lingering on gyrating hips and sweaty muscles more than a home workout video. But as tantalizing as Dirty Dancing’s setup may be—a rich girl falling for the hunky dance instructor at a picturesque summer resort in the Catskills—what really makes things click is the palpable chemistry between Jennifer Grey and the late Patrick Swayze. I mean, c’mon.
But while Baby and Johnny had the time of their life, the same can’t be said for the actors. Somewhat infamously, it appears Grey and Swayze absolutely did not vibe on the Dirty Dancing set. “We did have a few moments of friction,” Swayze wrote in his memoir. “She seemed particularly emotional, sometimes bursting into tears if someone criticized her.” Ouch! (They did make up over the years, and Grey fondly reminisced about working with Swayze on Red Dawn and Dirty Dancing a few years ago.)
Whatever problems Grey and Swayze had with one another on the Dirty Dancing set did not reflect in their on-screen performances—if nothing else, their tension enhanced them. For behind-the-scenes feuds between costars, Dirty Dancing is the best-case scenario—although sometimes actors dislike each other so much that they’ll basically refuse to be in the same scenes together. (Looking at you, Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson.) And so, to celebrate the time-honored tradition of actors not getting along, let’s revisit some of the biggest (alleged!) on-set feuds.
A couple of notes: For the sake of brevity we’re going to include only post–Dirty Dancing feuds, but we formally recognize shade king Marlon Brando and the feud between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis that was spicy enough to turn into an FX miniseries. We’re also limiting our scope to incidents on the set of movies, not TV shows, but let the record show Sex and the City stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall’s hatreds are palpable enough to get an honorable mention. Let’s jump in.
Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey, Batman Forever
Tommy Lee Jones’s default expression can be described only as “curmudgeon-y,” which stands in stark contrast to Jim Carrey’s whole “I just had four cups of cold brew” energy that carried him through the ’90s. (The Mask forever.) Their on-screen presences couldn’t be more different, but hey, sometimes opposites attract? In 1995, both actors played villains in Joel Schumacher’s campy masterpiece Batman Forever; Jones as Two-Face and Carrey as the Riddler.
Though the two didn’t come to blows on set, Carrey recounted how he ran into Jones at a restaurant, and, well, it seems his costar had to get something off his chest. “I went over and I said, ‘Hey Tommy, how are you doing?’ and the blood just drained from his face,” Carrey said on Norm Macdonald Live in 2017. “And he got up shaking—he must have been in mid kill me fantasy or something like that. And he went to hug me and he said, ‘I hate you. I really don’t like you.’ And I said, ‘What’s the problem?’ and pulled up a chair, which probably wasn’t smart. And he said, ‘I cannot sanction your buffoonery.’”
I cannot sanction your buffoonery. If that wasn’t something that supposedly came from the mouth of Tommy Lee Jones, it wouldn’t even sound like a real quote. But I believe it, and while Carrey didn’t do anything to deserve that treatment, this is tremendous content. Jim Carrey, don’t worry, the American public still loves and sanctions your buffoonery.
Bill Murray and Lucy Liu, Charlie’s Angels
In case you ever wondered why Bill Murray’s John Bosley was replaced with Bernie Mac’s Jimmy Bosley, John’s “adoptive brother,” in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, it might have something to do with the actor hating director McG so much that he wants him to be “pierced with a lance.” McG claims that Murray, at one point, was so heated on the Charlie’s Angels set that one day the actor headbutted him. And somehow, things between Murray and costar Lucy Liu might’ve been even worse.
The two figuratively butted heads on set, which apparently stemmed from Murray not being a fan of Liu’s acting talents. It got so bad that—allegedly!—Murray said “You can’t act!” in the direction of Liu, who was standing with Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz; Liu then proceeded to punch him repeatedly. This is one of those juicy tidbits that neither actor has addressed head-on (no pun intended), but Murray had this to say about his costar: “I will dismiss you completely if you are unprofessional and working with me.”
Counterpoint: It’s unprofessional to (allegedly!) headbutt a director, even if he’s not that talented, and the same goes for telling your costars they aren’t good at acting. It’s also probably not a good idea to piss off Lucy Liu: Have you seen Kill Bill?!
Josh Hartnett and Harrison Ford, Hollywood Homicide
Harrison Ford being grumpy? I know it’s hard to believe, but on the set of Hollywood Homicide, Josh Hartnett didn’t have the best experience with his (in)famous costar. (Maybe it had something to do with Hollywood Homicide being the peak of Ford phoning it in for a check.) In an aspiring buddy-cop comedy where the lead detectives really dislike one another, the hatred part of Ford and Hartnett’s on-screen dynamic apparently didn’t require much in the way of acting.
As Hartnett put it: “There were times we would end up just sitting in the car when we were supposed to be doing a scene and neither of us would say anything for like an hour.” Sounds fun. There are also less-substantiated claims that Ford called Hartnett a “punk,” while Hartnett’s rebuttal included calling Indiana Jones an “old fart.” [Extreme X-Files voice] I want to believe.
Wesley Snipes and the World(?), Blade: Trinity
What I would give to have been on the set of Blade: Trinity and witnessed Wesley Snipes’s personal vendetta against, for some reason, every single person involved with the movie. As costar Patton Oswalt recounted for The A.V. Club, Snipes “wouldn’t come out of his trailer, and he would smoke weed all day.” (You can get paid to do that?!)
It only gets wilder from there. Snipes appeared only for close-ups—the rest of the time his stand-in was performing the scenes—and tried to strangle(!!) director David Goyer for being a “racist motherfucker” because a Black extra in a scene had a T-shirt that said “Garbage” on the front. Goyer then paid a bunch of bikers to pretend to be his security for a day, which freaked Snipes out: For the rest of the shoot, the two only communicated through Post-it notes that the actor signed “from Blade.”
Snipes also greeted Oswalt and other costars by referring to himself only as “Blade,” and got very uncomfortable when Natasha Lyonne tried to touch his face in a scene. (“He just recoiled,” Oswalt said.) If even half the stuff Oswalt is saying about Blade: Trinity is true, Snipes’s antics deserve to be a part of On-Set Meltdown Mount Rushmore. I honestly think about Wesley Snipes on the set of Blade: Trinity every day.
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, The Notebook
The movie that [check notes] almost everyone’s high school partner has forced them to watch—not complaining, it’s good!—The Notebook’s production was not nearly as romantic as its on-screen product. While its two stars would go on to have a real-life romance of their own, director Nick Cassavetes told VH1 in 2014 that, during filming, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams’s mutual disdain nearly derailed the entire movie.
“Maybe I’m not supposed to tell this story,” Cassavetes said, which always means you simply have to tell this story, “but they were really not getting along one day on set. Really not. And Ryan came to me, and there’s 150 people standing in this big scene, and he says, ‘Nick, come here.’ And he’s doing a scene with Rachel and he says, ‘Would you take her out of here and bring in another actress to read off camera with me?’ I said, ‘What?’ He says, ‘I can’t. I can’t do it with her. I’m just not getting anything from this.’”
Cassavetes added that an impromptu shouting match between Gosling and McAdams helped to clear the air, and put The Notebook back on track. Given how both actors will forever be associated with one of the great romantic dramas of the 21st century—and then Gosling and McAdams dated for three years—not being able to kiss (heh) and make up could’ve been one of Hollywood’s biggest what-ifs.
Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf, Lawless
Full disclosure: I love both Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf. They’re both weird as hell and more than willing to overcommit to a role, even if it’s for a trashy movie. (Lest we forget LaBeouf tatted up his entire chest in a straight-to-video David Ayer movie; Hardy deserved an Oscar nomination for his sweaty work in Venom.) But I can also see how these two actors might not vibe: putting them together in the same room seems like staging the pointing Spider-Man meme.
Alas, their relationship on the set of 2012’s Lawless appears to confirm this theory, because the tension between them was so bad that LaBeouf knocked Hardy unconscious?! As ridiculous as that sounds, Hardy retold the story several times, calling his costar a “bad, bad boy.” But while I’d love to live in a world where the kid from Even Stevens knocked out Bane, it turns out the specifics of the altercation were fabricated.
LaBeouf cleared the air in 2019 during an appearance on Hot Ones, saying that Hardy ran into LaBeouf’s bedroom, wrestled with his naked costar, and then fell down a flight of stairs. “For the rest of the shoot, he told everybody that I knocked him out,” LaBeouf says. (LaBeouf’s then-girlfriend was apparently present for the entire incident.) As absurd as that all sounds, I totally believe that Tom Hardy would engage a naked Shia LaBeouf in a wrestling match and fall down the stairs while his presumably horrified girlfriend looked on. If LaBeouf doesn’t show up in a Venom sequel, we riot.
Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
The first encounter between Max and Furiosa in Fury Road is full of rage—which, it turns out, wouldn’t be that far off from Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron’s chemistry on the set of George Miller’s film. As both actors told The New York Times in a Fury Road oral history, the challenges of the production brought out the worst in them.
Costar Zoë Kravitz said both actors were angry and frustrated during production because of general confusion about the shoot and how everything was coming together. “I was in over my head in many ways,” Hardy said. “The pressure on both of us was overwhelming at times. What [Theron] needed was a better, perhaps more experienced, partner in me. That’s something that can’t be faked. I’d like to think that now that I’m older and uglier, I could rise to that occasion.” (Nice.)
Theron, meanwhile, says she now understood the stress Hardy felt having to step into Mel Gibson’s shoes, and it does seem like whatever bad blood stemmed from working together on Fury Road is now in the rearview mirror (sorry). I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that Fury Road became a modern action movie masterpiece that won six Oscars, either. Rad grandpa George Miller stays undefeated.
Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel, The Fate of the Furious
It all began with a cryptic Instagram post, and two immortal words: candy asses. We could smell that the Rock was cooking up some shade after production had wrapped on The Fate of the Furious, but it wasn’t clear who was on the receiving end of his ire. Could it be Tyrese? Franchise newcomer Scott Eastwood? Do we have to cancel Kurt Russell? Could more than one person in the Fast franchise be a candy ass?!
Well, the air was eventually cleared. The beef was between our two bald, overly oily leads: Johnson and Vin Diesel. Diesel tried to downplay the tension as a matter of “two alphas” locking horns, but that doesn’t quite explain why they were reportedly separated for the entire Fate of the Furious shoot. (In case you were wondering why Dominic Toretto and Luke Hobbs were barely on screen together, well, there you go.)
For what it’s worth, the rest of the main cast—especially Tyrese—appears to be on Team Vin. Everyone seems especially upset that, in their mind, Johnson finagled a spinoff movie that pushed back the release of Fast 9, which goes against #FastFamily values(?). But whether you’re Team Vin or Team Rock, there’s no denying this makes the future of the Fast franchise highly intriguing. I can’t wait to see what flimsy excuse they come up with for Hobbs being absent the next time the fate of the world is at stake—even though he’s really not very good at his job.