Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Stuart Heritage

‘I love you, I hate you’: the on-screen couples whose TV roles tore them apart

Falling out … Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac in Scenes from a Marriage.
Falling out … Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac in Scenes from a Marriage. Photograph: HBO

There are a couple of reasons why you might still think about HBO’s 2021 divorce drama Scenes from a Marriage. First is its hubris in assuming it could improve on Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 original. Second is that viral clip from its Venice film festival premiere, in which Oscar Isaac pulls a face like a hungry wolf and sort of sniffs Jessica Chastain’s armpit. The actual show itself? Not so much.

That said, though, it appears to have had a lasting effect on Chastain, in that she doesn’t seem to like Isaac any more because of it. In an interview with Vanity Fair, she says: “Scenes From a Marriage was very tough. And I love Oscar, but the reality is, our friendship has never quite been the same. We’re going to be OK, but after that, I was like, I need a little bit of a breather. There was so much I love you, I hate you in that series.”

Now, it is worth pointing out that Chastain is an Oscar-winning actor who has been nominated for an Emmy for her role in last year’s Paramount+ series George & Tammy. So it is in her interest to paint herself as a total-submersion actor who gives so much of herself to her roles that it can ruin her real-life friendships. There is a chance that this revelation exists within the same parameters as Lady Gaga saying her method acting approach to playing that ridiculous Italian lady in House of Gucci made her struggle to tell the difference between fiction and reality – she thinks there might be some silverware in it for her.

Blurring emotional lines … James Gandolfini and Edie Falco in The Sopranos.
Blurring emotional lines … James Gandolfini and Edie Falco in The Sopranos. Photograph: Hbo/Kobal/Shutterstock

However, this would not be the first time that playing characters on TV has made actors fall out. In an interview for Vanity Fair in 2012, Edie Falco said that playing Tony Soprano’s wife for so many years caused various “emotional lines” to blur, to the point that she would start to feel physical pain if she was asked to attend a table read with an actor who was playing one of Tony’s girlfriends. “I remember when I saw Jim [Gandolfini] in God of Carnage on Broadway, and he was Marcia Gay Harden’s husband, and I had this, ‘How come I have to be OK with this?’ kind of feeling,” she said.

You will notice that these revelations happened long after Chastain and Falco’s respective shows were over. They had room to decompress and to analyse the effect that filming had on their friendships, once they didn’t have to turn up to work and see their scene partners every day. This is for good reason: if people are open about falling out when their shows are still running, it tends to complicate things.

The most high-profile recent example of this is Succession’s Jeremy Strong, who had his working practices assassinated in a New Yorker profile that revealed he took his role so seriously that he refused to participate in group rehearsals. In the piece, Strong admitted that this attitude might not have made him popular with his castmates; something backed up by the quotes they gave about him. Kieran Culkin said of Strong that his approach “might be something that helps him. I can tell you that it doesn’t help me,” while Brian Cox suggested that Strong “has to be kinder to himself, and therefore has to be a bit kinder to everybody else”.

Hate between the takes … Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis in Moonlighting.
Hate between the takes … Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis in Moonlighting. Photograph: Abc/Sportsphoto/Allstar

At least the Succession crew kept it together enough to make it to the finale. There have been situations where inter-cast friction has ended shows long before their time. One of the reasons Moonlighting ended after just four seasons was that Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd hated each other so much, they would spend their time between takes screaming at each other. A real-life relationship between Jerome Flynn and Lena Headey ended so badly that their characters didn’t share a scene for years in Game of Thrones.

But these stories aren’t quite as interesting, because they revolve around simple personality clashes. What marks Chastain’s out is the fact that she fell out with Isaac through the sheer power of her acting ability. In Scenes from a Marriage, she acted so hard that she lost sight of herself through her character and ended up losing a friend. This should be a cautionary tale for all actors. Unless they are up for an Emmy, in which case they should go nuts.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.