15 biggest talk-show clashes: ‘I’m not your slave and you’re not my master’

There are many moments when celebrities haven’t seen eye to eye  (Getty)
There are many moments when celebrities haven’t seen eye to eye (Getty)

We can’t all get along as well as Hollywood star Ryan Gosling and British comedian Greg Davies did on The Graham Norton Show. (If you haven’t seen the footage of Gosling getting the giggles so badly he struggled to breathe during one of Davies’ anecdotes – treat yourself.)

While those two appeared to be a chat-show match made in heaven, there have been plenty of excruciating encounters over the years. Whether it was Tom Cruise giving Matt Lauer the death stare and calling him “glib”, or Miriam Margolyes wanting to “teach” Lily Allen “how to behave”, there is a long history of talk-show disasters.

Here are 15 of the biggest clashes to date…

Tom Cruise vs Matt Lauer

We can only assume that by the time Tom Cruise sat down with Matt Lauer on Today in June 2005, he was already feeling a little, er, tense. In April, he’d gone very public with his relationship with Katie Holmes, snogging the actor in front of paps in Rome. In a notorious interview in May, he declared his love for Holmes and jumped up and down on Oprah Winfrey’s sofa. He was ridiculed. Then at the start of June, Brooke Shields and Cruise clashed after he branded her “irresponsible” for using antidepressants to treat postpartum depression.

So when Cruise arrived in the Today studio, and Lauer started to ask him about his relationship with Holmes, his affiliation with Scientology, and the Shields row, Cruise was not impressed. “Matt. Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt. You’re glib,” said Cruise, fixing the host with a hard stare and defending Scientology’s stance against anti-psychotic drugs. “You don’t even know what Ritalin is.”

Years later, Lauer donned a wig and recreated the awkward interview on Watch What Happens Live, and Lauer said that he and Cruise are now friends. “We have a good friendship. It was just one little moment, OK?”

Miriam Margolyes vs Lily Allen

Miriam Margolyes does not mince her words when it comes to celebrities who grind her gears. At Hay Festival last month, she slagged off John Cleese (“a***hole”) and Bill Oddie (“not a nice man”). And that was all in one day.

During the same interview, Margolyes also revealed that she is not a fan of Lily Allen, who she met when they both appeared on The Graham Norton Show in 2014. “She thought when she was on the programme that it was all about her,” Margolyes said. “She thought, ‘Who is this woman? Miriam who?’”

Margolyes added of the singer-turned-actor: “She wasn’t friendly and I didn’t like that and so I showed my dislike, which wasn’t very nice of me because she was much younger than me and I should have just taught her how to behave.”

Miriam Margolyes didn’t enjoy meeting Lily Allen on ‘The Graham Norton Show’ (BBC / Getty Images)
Miriam Margolyes didn’t enjoy meeting Lily Allen on ‘The Graham Norton Show’ (BBC / Getty Images)

Dakota Johnson vs Ellen DeGeneres

Oooh it gives me shivers just thinking about it. Excruciating. In 2019, an interview with Dakota Johnson on Ellen DeGeneres’s show went viral after an awkward conversation about birthday parties between the two stars.

Shortly after Johnson sat down, DeGeneres raised the fact that the actor had just turned 30, and claimed she had not been invited to the party. Johnson frostily replied: “Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen, you were invited. No, last time I was on the show, last year, you gave me a bunch of s*** about not inviting you, but I didn’t even know you wanted to be invited.”

“Well, who wouldn’t want to be invited to a party?” DeGeneres responded. “But I didn’t even know you liked me,” Johnson protested, to which DeGeneres insisted Johnson had to have known she liked her because she had appeared on her show numerous times.

It didn’t stop there. We all wish it did, but it didn’t. What followed was an agonising back and forth that only ended when DeGeneres’s producer was asked to settle the row once and for all. He told DeGeneres: “You were out of town.” “Oh yeah, I had that thing,” she said.

More awkwardly still, “that thing” was watching football with former US president George W Bush in Texas. Nice.

Paris Hilton vs David Letterman

Paris Hilton felt “humiliated” during her 2007 interview with David Letterman, who later sent her a crate of wine to apologise for how he treated her on his show.

In footage that resurfaced in 2021, Letterman can be seen interrogating the socialite about her 23 days behind bars for parole violation. “How did you like being in jail?” he asked her. Hilton tried to brush off the questions, telling him she “didn’t really want to talk about” the “very traumatic experience”.

Hilton later called Letterman’s behaviour “very cruel and very mean”. Then along came the crate of wine, plus a big apology when she returned to his show. “I found out afterwards I had offended you,” Letterman said. “I felt horrible about it because I’m not here to make enemies, honestly. So I called you, and you took the call, which I thought was very nice of you, and now you’re back and thank God, and I’m terribly sorry.”

Loose Women vs Ringo Starr

This Beatle was a little bitter when he went on Loose Women in 2012. Recalling the encounter, panelist Sherrie Hewson later said: “He just sat down, said, ‘OK then, girls, what are we doing here? Shall we just get Paul McCartney out of the way?’ This was live, by the way. Anyway, he carries on, ‘Let’s get Paul McCartney out the way. You want to talk about Paul McCartney?’ I said, ‘Well, no, you’re here.’ And he said, ‘No, you don’t. You want to talk about Paul McCartney.’”

She continued: “He was so angry. It was just so weird, I thought why? Why, why, why? And then, he said to the audience, ‘Can I tell you all, if anyone wants an autograph, you can’t have one, because I don’t do things like that.’ At the end of it, one of the producers came up with one of her little children, who was only four, and said that she knew he didn’t do autographs, but told him that her daughter was only four, and she really loves The Beatles. He just said, ‘Really?’ And then he said, ‘Did you not hear what I just said? I don’t sign autographs.’” Such a sweet guy.

Lorraine Kelly vs Kevin Spacey

When queen of ITV Lorraine Kelly was asked to name her worst guest, she didn’t hesitate: Kevin Spacey. “He was horrible,” she said. “Very arrogant, I didn’t like him at all.”

She said she interviewed the actor before any allegations of sexual misconduct – which he has denied – emerged. “The interview was about his series House of Cards, which I loved,” she revealed. “Isn’t it disappointing when you meet someone you really admire and think, ‘Isn’t he an a***hole?’ He didn’t want to be there. One word answers. Snapping at people.”

Kelly added: “He was rude and dismissive not just to me, but to everybody in the room.

He was very entitled and I was disappointed in him.” Not even mad, just disappointed. Ouch.

Piers Morgan vs Alex Beresford

The clash with the anchor and the weatherman was one of the biggest news stories of the year in 2021.

Alex Beresford accused Piers Morgan of being eager to “trash” Markle, prompting Morgan to storm off the set in a move that Beresford called “diabolical”. Later that day, it was confirmed that Morgan was exiting the ITV morning show after six years.

In a 2023 interview with The Independent, Beresford recalled the trolling he experienced after the clash. “When you share your experience, or give your opinion on something – and I’ve become very aware of this – someone’s always going to have something to say,” Beresford said. “If people disagree with you, that’s absolutely OK; everyone is entitled to their opinion. But throughout social media, you are susceptible to being trolled, racially abused. You’re accessible.”

Piers Morgan storming off, and Alex Beresford (ITV)
Piers Morgan storming off, and Alex Beresford (ITV)

John Cleese and Michael Palin vs Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood

Before the phrase “cancel culture” had even been invented, Cleese was fighting against it. In 1979, the comedian sat beside his fellow Monty Python star Michael Palin on the BBC’s Friday Night, Saturday Morning, and the pair of them eloquently defended The Life of Brian from attacks by satirist Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood.

The two creatives had made a subversive and hilarious piece of art targeting conformity, and the establishment didn’t like it. Cleese still rails against cancel culture, but it’s much harder to listen to than it was back then.

Preston vs Simon Amstell

In a moment that’s gone down in TV folklore, Preston from The Ordinary Boys stormed off Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

The anarchic music quiz show reached peak chaos in 2007 when the musician got angry with host Simon Amstell for reading out excerpts from his then-wife and fellow Celebrity Big Brother contestant Chantelle Houghton’s autobiography.

“Come on Preston, we’re having fun,” Amstell cried, as Preston exited the stage. Bill Bailey was forced to go into the audience and grab a random, unsuspecting man called Ed to fill Preston’s empty chair.

Tyra Banks vs Naomi Campbell

You could cut the tension with a knife during this 2005 interview between Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell.

The two women were pitted against each other by the fashion industry, which confected a rivalry between them, and it worked to depressing effect.

In a clip from the show, Banks can be seen reminding Campbell of an encounter they had where Campbell “turned”. Banks said: “You went from being the sweetest woman who was giving me vitamins to someone who terrified me on that trip.”

The whole time, Campbell’s face is arranged into a strained smile. When Banks is finished with her really fun anecdote, Campbell simply says: “Understandable.”

Gary Neville vs Ian Hislop

The schadenfreude feelings were strong with this one. Ian Hislop was praised for his “bang on” comments to Gary Neville on Have I Got News For You in 2022, when he called out the retired footballer over his plans to commentate at the World Cup in Qatar. It had been a controversial move due to the country’s human rights record.

Neville had asked Hislop if “it’s coming home”, to which Hislop replied: “What, your reputation?”

He continued: “The others have been very gentle with you, Gary, but the elephant in the room is still there. You’re commentating there, aren’t you?” When Neville replied in the affirmative, Hislop asked him what his “defence” was, to which he said: “Well, you’ve got a choice, I think, haven’t you?” Hislop fired back: “What, going or not going?”

Neville defended his decision, stating: “My view always has been, you either highlight the issues and challenges in these countries, and speak about them, or you basically don’t say anything and stay back home, and don’t go.”

However, Hislop was not finished. He told Neville: “There’s another option: you stay at home and highlight the abuses. You don’t have to go and take the Qataris’ money.”

Neville looked pretty stunned. It was all very awkward – but very satisfying.

Hislop and Neville clashed (BBC)
Hislop and Neville clashed (BBC)

S Club 7’s publicist vs Claudia Winkleman

This absolutely perfect slice of Noughties chaos resurfaced in 2023 when S Club 7 announced their reunion.

A year before she joined Strictly, and before the full fringe arrived, Claudia Winkleman was interviewing the band on BBC Three’s Liquid News in 2003, when she brought up the issue of money. “Let’s talk cash... please don’t look at me like you are angry,” she said. “Mr Simon Fuller [the music mogul who brought the group together] has £90m in the bank. There are rumours that you guys are grumpy because you guys haven’t made mint...”

When the band tried to joke away the question, Winkleman persisted: “Are you not grumpy about it at all?” Lead vocalist Jo O’Meara then replied: “I think we are all really, really lucky to be where we are today at our age and have the bank balances that we do have.”

Following this, the band’s then-publicist dramatically charged into the studio, halting the interview. “Can you not ask this question please... I’m not having it,” she told Winkleman, adding: “I’ve tried to stop this and I’ve had to walk in here... we are going.” In a gift to us all, the BBC aired the interview in full – sudden ending and all.

Robert Downey Jr vs Krishnan Guru-Murthy

In 2015, Robert Downey Jr walked out of an interview with Channel 4 journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy after he was asked about his past addiction to drugs and his relationship with his father.

He made it crystal clear what he thought of Guru-Murthy when he went on a radio show a week later. Speaking to US radio host Howard Stern, he said he did not regret the incident, and said he just wished he’d “left sooner”.

Downey Jr then went on to call Guru-Murthy a “bottom-feeding muckraker” after pointing out his history of run-ins with interviewees including director Quentin Tarantino (which we will get to in a moment). He said: “There’s an assumption that… because you’ve sat down there you’re going to be scrutinised like a kiddie fiddler who’s running for mayor.” He accused Guru-Murthy of having a “creepy dark agenda”.

Quentin Tarantino vs Krishnan Guru-Murthy

Guru-Murthy is the one lucky person to feature twice on this list. He also upset Quentin Tarantino when he interviewed him in 2013.

The director clashed with the Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan in an uncomfortable interview ahead of the London premiere of his film, Django Unchained. Tarantino repeatedly declined to discuss the link between onscreen violence and real-life violence, telling Guru-Murthy: "I’m shutting your butt down."

For context, the line of questioning came in the wake of a mass school shooting in Newtowm, Connecticut. Django Unchained, a slavery film that features characters being shot in the face and attacked with hammers, had its US premiere cancelled in the wake of the attack.

In the interview, Tarantino said: “It’s a movie, it’s a fantasy. It’s not real life.” On the question about the connection between violence on screen and in reality, he barked: “I’m not answering your question. I’m not your slave and you’re not my master… It’s none of your damn business what I think about that.”

Following the Channel 4 interview, Guru-Murthy tweeted that Tarantino had “slightly lost it”.

Meg Ryan vs Michael Parkinson

Michael Parkinson has previous when it comes to condescending his female guests. In the Seventies, his notorious interview with Helen Mirren saw him ask her: “You are – in quotes – ‘a serious actress’... do you find that what could be best described as your ‘equipment’ in fact hinders you in that pursuit?”

It was gobsmacking, and when Meg Ryan appeared on Parkinson’s BBC show in 2003 to promote her badly reviewed erotic thriller In the Cut, it also turned into one of the most memorable interviews (for the wrong reasons) of all time.

In the frosty 17-minute chat, Parkinson questioned the believability of Ryan’s character becoming involved with a “foul-mouthed New York cop”, and asked her how well she knew her co-star Mark Ruffalo before filming scenes in which “he kisses your backside”. “Jane [Campion, the director] treats eroticism in an incredibly artful way,” Ryan responded. “I disagree with you that it’s graphic.” Parkinson then feigned bafflement, and raised his voice when Ryan said that many of the film’s most sexual scenes were more “suggestive” than explicit. “You see the lot!” he cried.

Parkinson later said he wished he hadn’t “lost my temper” with Ryan and had dealt with the situation “in a more courteous manner”. “I was quite obviously angry with her and it’s not my business to be angry towards the guests. I came across as kind of pompous,” he said.

Ryan, meanwhile, described Parkinson as a “nut” and criticised him for speaking to her “like a disapproving dad”. She said she felt like he had been “berating” her for “being naked in the movie”.

From then on, an unfair narrative was perpetuated of Ryan as an unfriendly, cold American star being rude to a British national treasure, and it tarnished her career for years afterwards.