Hollywood Feuds Are Having a Moment, Thanks to Clooney, DiCaprio, andDowney Jr.
Like their charismatically inferior human counterparts, Hollywood entertainers also have conflicts with their co-workers and peers. Only unlike the rest of us, these public figures keep their workplace issues remarkably private. Curiously though, in the last week, several A-list actors—the type who don’t need to manufacture a feud for attention—have broken this code of celluloid silence to go public with their grievances.
This month Esquirepublished a George Clooney cover story in which the usually unflappable actor bristled when discussing several of his fellow actors. After recounting a former feud with Russell Crowe, whom he accused of "insulting the shit out of me," the Oscar-winner told a story about a pick-up basketball game with Leonardo DiCaprio and his trash-talking friends, who proved less talented than advertised. Clooney said, “[T]he discrepancy between their game and how they talked about their game made me think of how important it is to have someone in your life to tell you what’s what.” Of DiCaprio’s inner circle, he added, “I’m not sure if Leo has someone like that.”
Meanwhile, on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live!—a late night series that plies its usually tight-lipped actors with liquor and a clubhouse vibe—Terrence Howard unloaded on “friend” Robert Downey Jr., whom he claimed pushed him from the lucrative Iron Man franchise after Howard appeared in the first installment. Without referring to Downey Jr. by name, Howard candidly answered a viewer’s question about why he left the franchise with a response he admitted would “get [him] into a lot of trouble.”
“It turns out that the person that I helped becomeIron Man, when it was time to […] re-up for the second [film] took the money that was supposed to go to me and pushed me out,” Howard explained. “We did a three-picture deal. So that means, you did the deal ahead of time. It was going to be a certain amount for the first one, a certain amount for the second, certain amount for the third.”
He continued, “[The studio] came to me [for] the second and said, ‘We will pay you one-eighth of what we contractually had for you, because we think the second one will be successful with or without you.’ And I called my friend that I helped get the first job, and he didn’t call me back for three months.”
The public accusation was so unprecedented, and the S.E.O. potential of an Iron Man in-fighting story was so great, that the media overlooked a more risqué cricticism of Downey Jr. the same week. During an interview with indieWire, filmmaker James Toback candidly recalled why he cast Downey Jr. in his 1997 film Two Girls and A Guy shortly after the actor was released from prison:
Let me tell you a story. Two Girls And A Guy grew out of very specific circumstances. I wanted to make a movie. I hadn’t made a movie in a while and was getting restless. Downey [was just] getting out of prison and knowing most of those guys—it’s true of Mike Tyson too—when they’re getting out of prison is the best time to get them.
In the case of someone like Downey, who was filled with these sort of precious cute fake mannerisms, they’re purged of them. You know now Downey can’t have an authentic moment if you fucking sit there for three weeks. He’s not capable of it. He goes on Jimmy Kimmel, everything’s fucking air, it’s all, “Yes maybe that could be. I was with the Mrs. the other day...” I mean everything is just completely phony bullshit from beginning to end. But right after 11 months of prison with about 200 dicks sucked in return for a lot of crack, you know there’s a totally different reality and that Downey is fascinating to watch.
We’ll just let that one sit with you for a while . . .
Elsewhere last week, while promoting her turn in the Disney picture Saving Mr. Banks, Emma Thompson found herself making some very un-Disney admissions to media. Nearly two decades after her divorce from Kenneth Branagh, the actress confirmed that her Oscar-nominated ex-husband did indeed cheat on her with Helena Bonham Carter during their marriage, as tabloids had long suspected. Thompson waved off the erstwhile drama as “blood under the bridge” and made a good-natured dig at her former husband’s former girlfriend. “Being slightly mad and a bit fashion-challenged,” she told The Telegraph, “Perhaps that’s why Ken loved us both.”
Why now though, when proliferating media outlets are waiting to jump on any stray celebrity diss, are these entertainers suddenly loosening their their lips to the media? Surely it can’t just be something in the sparkling water. Some theories:
Too many interviews. Perhaps George Clooney could only resist recounting that Russell Crowe feud with 1,000 journalists, before cracking under the questioning of the 1,001st reporter who tried to pry the truth about that long-forgotten beef. Or maybe he grew tired of offering journalists the same charming subject-changers. If hell for an actor is “answering the same interview questions” over and over again, their junket infernos are only getting worse with proliferating outlets and so-called reporters. Maybe it is up to the actors, then, to find ways to spice up this media monotony.
Savvier interviewers. Maybe the change of pace has less to do with the interview subject and more to do with today’s S.E.O.-versed reporters, who walk into an interview with a blue print designed to organically move their conversation from the project they are hawking to the holy grail of page-clicks: relationship or colleague dirt.
Award season. We hate to be cynical but Clooney, Thompson, and Howard all have films that are being pushed this early in the Oscar lead-up—Gravity, Saving Mr. Banks, and The Butler. Perhaps the three actors were acutely aware that tossing off a bit of gossip chum to the media sharks could work in their favor. After all, increased headline mentions, regardless of the outlet or the sensational headlines, could subconsciously sway Academy voters.
What do you think—are these coincidental disclosures? Or do you think that, because of one of the above theories, our Hollywood stars are beginning to ease up in interviews? Hypothesize in the space below.