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Rows and romances – The inside scoop on cinema’s real-life dramas

6 August 2019 / Film /

As you settle into your cinema seat, popcorn in hand, it’s easy to forget that you are watching the result of anything up to a thousand people turning up to work each day, from the grandest star to the lowliest runner. And just as in workplaces the world over, both flings and feuds are all too common. Some of those flings, of course, turn into something much more. Many of cinema’s longest-standing couples met when they worked on a film together, with life often imitating art as fictional couples transform into real-life ones in front of the cast and crew’s very eyes.


Warren Beatty and Annette Bening met on the 1991 gangster movie Bugsy, and according to Beatty, it was love at first sight. Prior to this, Beatty already had quite the reputation for on-set romances, even briefly dating Madonna just a year earlier when they co-starred in Dick Tracy, which he also directed. Other matches made in celluloid heaven include Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, who met in 1958 whilst filming The Long Hot Summer, and who would remain together until Newman’s death 50 years later. Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem’s long-standing marriage began in 2008 on the set of Woody Allen’s steamy inspection of love and lust, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, where the two ironically played a pair of impassioned but embattled ex-spouses. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell are another romantic success of the silver screen – they went on their first date on Valentine’s Day in 1983, after playing young lovers in Swing Shift. While the film unfortunately tanked, Goldie and Kurt didn’t. (Hawn had much earlier been another of Warren Beatty’s conquests during the filming of 1971 heist move Dollars, but then who wasn’t?).


Some of cinema’s most iconic pairings were tragically not built to last, with perhaps the greatest cinematic couple of all time being the most famous example – Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. The two met in 1962 playing forbidden lovers in Cleopatra and soon began their very own forbidden love affair off-camera (Taylor was married to singer Eddie Fisher at the time). When the affair became a national scandal, the Vatican condemned them for “erotic vagrancy”, but the lovers persisted and were soon married in a private ceremony at a luxury hotel. The couple, with all their romance, glamour and scandal, ushered in a new type of celebrity. Two divorces later, the relationship finally ended in 1976, but not their love, with Taylor writing after Burton’s death in 1984, “From those first moments in Rome we were always madly and powerfully in love.”

Angeline Jolie and Brad Pitt

Following in their high-octane footsteps came the most famous power couple in recent memory, the mononymous Brangelina. After all, Hollywood loves a remake. Angelina Jolie and the then-married Brad Pitt met on the set of Mr & Mrs Smith in 2005, playing two married assassins going through a tough time, and the on-screen sizzle was clear for all to see. The two were no strangers to on-set romances, with Pitt having previously had a high-profile relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow after they worked together on Seven (1995), and Jolie marrying Billy Bob Thornton after co-starring with him in Pushing Tin in 1999 (vial of blood, anyone?). Brad Pitt ultimately left his wife (the world’s sweetheart, Jennifer Aniston) for Jolie, and the two produced many babies, and headlines, for years to come. And as it started, so did it finish: in 2015, they played a married couple on the rocks in By the Sea, and just a year later, announced their split. Then, of course, you have the couples who end up being more of a drama than a romance. Witness Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s relationship following 2003’s Gigli, with both film and marriage dubbed disasters, Jennifer Anniston and Vince Vaughn’s doomed relationship (sorry, Jen) after meeting on the forebodingly titled Breakup in 2006, or Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart breaking tween hearts everywhere when their 2008 Twilight-inspired romance ended in well-publicised catastrophe.


All of which takes us neatly to the rows. It will be no surprise to anyone who’s been privy to office romances that on-set love affairs can end in tears – and even more often, you get the tears without the romance. Co-workers don’t always get along, and under the intense creative pressure of a film production sometimes they really, really don’t get along. Many on-set disagreements come from repeat offenders, with control-freak directors perhaps unsurprisingly the biggest culprits. Hitchcock pelted actress Tippi Hedren with five days’ worth of live birds for the climax of The Birds (1963), to the point where she was prescribed a week’s rest after breaking down on set. Kubrick terrorised Shelley Duvall to such a degree that her hair fell out during the filming of The Shining (1980), an experience that also led Jack Nicholson to swear he would never work with the director again (a promise he kept), while James Cameron has such a difficult reputation that during filming of The Abyss (1989), the crew took to wearing t-shirts that read: You can’t scare me, I work for James Cameron.” One actor actually punched him. Perhaps the most famous on-set feud occurred during the making of 1962 psychological drama What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? After years of competitive animosity – and with both past the peak of their careers – Hollywood icons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford agreed to co-star in the movie playing antagonistic sisters, with the ensuing war played out on set. The feud came to a head at the 1963 Academy Awards when favourite Bette Davis was snubbed for Best Actress and Crawford went up to collect the Oscar on winner Anne Bancroft’s behalf, gleefully striding past Davis, saying, “Excuse me, I have an Oscar to collect.” But not all cinematic enmities result in crackling tension on camera; some co-stars have to dig deep into their thespian skills and act like they don’t despise each other.

Still image from the film 'Sex and the City 2' Featuring: Sarah Jessica Parker,Kim Cattrall,Cynthia Nixon,Kristin Davis Where: New York City, New York, United States When: 14 Jun 2013

Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall played half of one of the most iconic fictional friendship groups of all time in Sex and the City. However, off camera they were far from friends. In fact, the relationship became so strained that during the filming of Sex and the City 2, the actresses stopped speaking to each other on set, and the planned sequel was ultimately scrapped. And one of the best-loved on-screen romances of all time – between Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing – was anything but romantic on-set. Apparently the pair found each other deeply irritating, which just goes to show: actors can really act.

To catch a glimpse of some of the flings and feuds – book your beanbag at the Secret Garden Cinema this August. Click here to find out more.