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Orson Welles Called This Co-Star "Amateur" & Stopped Filming With Him

The set of Casino Royale sounds like it was uncomfortable, to say the least.

They're two movie greats, but in the late '60s, they were feuding on the set of a James Bond satire. In 1967, Orson Welles and Peter Sellers both starred in Casino Royale, which was not an official Bond movie, but a parody made by different producers. To place you in time, at this point, Welles was over 20 years out from Citizen Kane, and Sellers had already played some of his most memorable roles in The Pink Panther and Dr. Strangelove.

Welles and Sellers' Casino Royale feud is a Hollywood legend at this point, and there have been multiple reasons brought forth for why they didn't get along and why they, eventually, couldn't even film together. Read on to find out more.

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Things got off to a rough start on set.

Peter Sellers in "Casino Royale"
RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Apparently, Sellers wasn't happy on the Casino Royale set from the start. According to Flavorwire, he wanted to be in a serious Bond movie, not a comedic one. It's also been said that Sellers didn't like that Welles was allowed to have more control over his character than he was. Turner Classic Movies reports that Sellers even asked that an expensive set be destroyed because he had a nightmare about it.

In an interview with The Oldie, Joe McGrath, one of Casino Royale's five directors explained, "[Sellers] was very insecure. Orson was quite a presence, but he was great fun and the crew loved him. Peter took exception to that."

There was an incident involving a princess.

Princess Margaret and Peter Sellers on the set of "The Magic Christian" in 1969
Graham Stark/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

According to McGrath, "the last straw" for Sellers happened when Queen Elizabeth II's sister, Princess Margaret, visited with some of the cast after Sellers invited her.

"Princess Margaret came in and she did a curtsy to us all, and then we all bowed to her," McGrath said. "Then she passed Peter by and said: 'Hello, Orson, I haven't seen you for days.' She sat between Peter and Orson and spent the whole time talking to Orson. That infuriated Peter."

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They stopped filming together.

Orson Welles at the Cannes Film Festival circa 1968
REPORTERS ASSOCIES/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Sellers began refusing to film scenes with Welles, so they filmed separately and used stand-ins. When Sellers made this request, McGrath, who had worked with Sellers in the past, told him, "'Aw, Christ, Peter you are behaving like a spoilt child.'"

"Then he punched me in the face," McGrath continued. "So I hit him back."

Welles had an insulting name for Sellers.

Orson Welles in "Casino Royale"
RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images

According to Flavorwire, Welles referred to Sellers as "that amateur." Meanwhile, The Playlist reports that Sellers made offensive comments about Welles' weight and supposedly refused to get on an elevator for him for "safety" reasons.

Sellers eventually quit the film.

Peter Sellers and Ursula Andress in "Casino Royale"
Graham Stark/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

After deciding not to film with Welles, Sellers eventually stopped filming Casino Royale altogether, according to Turner Classic Movies, and the script was altered to make his character less important to the plot.

The tension between Sellers and Welles wasn't the only issue Casino Royale had, either. The movie was worked on by multiple directors and multiple screenwriters and wasn't cohesive. Roger Ebert's review of the film opens, "At one time or another, Casino Royale undoubtedly had a shooting schedule, a script, and a plot. If any one of the three ever turns up, it might be the making of a good movie."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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