After filming Some Like It Hot (one of my favourite films) Tony Curtis famously said that kissing Marilyn Monroe was like kissing Hitler. Owch. So what does a real life comment like that do for a star’s on screen persona?
I imagine everyone who went to see a Marilyn Monroe film after that comment couldn’t help but look at her onscreen love interest and see if he winced or not when she kissed him – it could have seriously damaged her ‘star’ image, if she hadn’t been such a bombshell.
It’s the same for Bette Davis and Joan Crawford – notorious for their rumoured hatred of each other off screen they joined together in the latter stages of their career to star in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962). The director, Robert Aldrich, knew that the rumours and whispers about their off screen relationship would ensure a big audience at the box office. After all, haven’t they taken this role because it’s the chance for them to live out their real-life feelings towards the other? The modern equivalent would be watching Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston staring in a film together where the characters hate each other. I’d pay money to see that!
The point I’m making is that if you know something about the star off screen then it’s going to alter their onscreen presence. Only a few ‘stars’ can act so well that you forget they are infact who they are (I think Ewan McGregor is good at this) because most of the time you’re aware of them as themselves, not the character. So if you watched Mr & Mrs Smith before you knew Pitt and Jolie fell in love on the set, then you’ll have watched it with a different perspective to anyone who watched it afterwards (and for the voyeurs out there, it might have been the reason you rented the DVD).
I guess stars themselves are aware of this too. It was rumoured Bette Davis did actually kick Joan Crawford during filming, and in revenge Crawford wore heavy clothing which put Bette Davis’s back out. It all adds to the acting after all.