Actors Who Had To Film Love Scenes With Their Real-Life Ex

It's a small world, as the saying (and the Disney ride) goes. Now, factor in the fact that Hollywood is only a teeny tiny percentage of the population and you have a sure recipe for awkward run-ins. For most of us mortals, running into an ex can be quite daunting — when it happens, how it happens, what you're wearing when it happens — are all important factors.

Things can get really awkward really fast, however, when mega stars meet and fall in love, but then break up and have to continue working together. Being co-workers is one thing, but then having to feign a romp in the sheets with your ex can make for some ultra cringe-worthy moments on and off the screen. While we won't be expecting Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to star in a film together again, there have been some former flames who have managed to push through and still steam up the screen together.

Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki's low key love turned into on-screen steam

While their characters were playing the game of cat and mouse on The Big Bang Theory, sparks were flying between Kaley Cuoco and Johnny Galecki off screen. The pair quietly dated for two years during the early seasons of the hit show, with the relationship ending in 2009. Coincidentally, after their real-life breakup, Leonard and Penny, who had fans on the edge of their seats wondering, "Will they or won't they," got together on the show around the same time. Though there was no drama that ensued from the pair working together — as evidenced by the fact that the show went on for another 10 seasons after Cuoco and Galecki broke up — Cuoco later admitted that shooting those love scenes with her ex-boyfriend was very awkward.

"When we broke up, obviously it was a little sensitive for a minute, but I remember those weeks that [show creator Chuck Lorre] had written these episodes where all of a sudden our characters were, like, sleeping together every other second," Cuoco said on the Armchair Expert podcast. "Johnny and I would talk and I'm like, 'I think he did that on purpose' ... just to f*** with us... That came out of nowhere. All of a sudden these characters were all up on each other."

Cuoco and Galecki took it all in stride however, with Galecki even attending his ex's wedding to equestrian Karl Cook.

Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev's post-split love scenes were award-winning

He played the troubled, bad boy vampire with a soft side. She played a damsel in distress and his love interest. So when Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev became an item back in 2010, they immediately became every tween's dream couple. Between the various appearances at Coachella, the smitten ways they spoke about each other in interviews, and, of course, that undeniable on-screen chemistry as Damon and Elena, these two were a sight to behold.

When they broke up in 2013, so much was at risk, with questions lingering about what would happen to their characters and those steamy love scenes on The Vampire Diaries. However, like the consummate professionals they are, the exes were still able to so convincingly portray lovers that they won a Favorite On-Screen Chemistry Award at the People's Choice Awards in 2014, a year after their breakup. Somerhalder and Dobrev came out of the split so smoothly that their acceptance speech made fun of their precarious situation. They pointed out how despite their real-life break-up, their characters were still together, with Dobrev joking, "It's a good thing it's not awkward!" Somerhalder even planted the biggest smooch on his former lady love, breaking our hearts all over again. 

This real-life breakup couldn't stop an epic O.C. wedding

If the Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears' break up was an earthquake in early 2000s pop culture, the split between Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson was equivalent to an apocalypse. It may seem like hyperbole, but InStyle wrote an entire piece about how painful the break up was, and judging by the fact that she offered a cheeky apology, Bilson understands the gravity of the situation.

As with many Hollywood love stories, Brody and Bilson fell in love on the set. They played high school sweethearts, Seth and Summer, on The O.C. and began dating in 2003, close to the inception of the show. They were together for three years, but stunned their young fandom when rumors of their split began circulating. The final dagger was placed on teenage hearts all over the nation when a source confirmed the news to People. "It was a typical romance and they just grew apart," the source revealed. "They've been on and off for awhile now."

Adding some very bitter salt to the injury, a few weeks later, FOX announced that The O.C. would end its run after four seasons. Not all of it ended in tragedy however, Brody and Bilson remained amicable enough that they maintained their on-screen romance. Lovebirds Seth and Summer got the beautiful, tear-jerking wedding they (and we) deserved.

Penn Badgley and Blake Lively's kept it professional

After the flaming loss of Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson, out rose Penn Badgely and Blake Lively's romance from the ashes. Rumors that the two were an item offscreen began circulating almost immediately after Gossip Girl began airing. Though Lively tried her darndest to dampen fanfare surrounding her and Badgley, ultimately she had to give in after paparazzi caught them livin' la vida en amor while vacationing in Mexico.

The pair is reported to have begun dating in 2008, but split sometime in 2010. Their breakup was apparently so silky smooth that co-workers didn't even know it had happened. Show writer and producer Joshua Safran famously told Vanity Fair, "The shocking thing was, I found out on the set of the Season 2 finale that Blake and Penn had broken up months before. They kept the breakup hidden from the crew, which you could never do now. I don't even know how they did it. They kept it from everybody which is a testament to how good they are as actors. Because they did not want their personal drama to relate to the show."

Though their breakup was seemingly cordial, it still made things secretly uncomfortable. In 2015, Badgley admitted on Watch What Happens Live that when they were going steady, kissing Lively on Gossip Girl was great. However, post-break up, not so much.

Did One Tree Hill exploit this romantic implosion?

They say if the fairytale has a happy ending, that means it's not over. Unfortunately, such was the case for Chad Michael Murray and Sophia Bush. This stunning couple met on — you won't believe this — the set, while working together on One Tree Hill. According to People, sparks began to fly and they started dating in 2003. The two took things to the next level two years later and tied the knot.

It all sounds lovely right? Well, the honeymoon phase ended with the quickness when the pair announced they were getting divorced five months after their wedding. Aiding to what Murray called a "very difficult time" was the fact that not only did they have to continue working together, but producers on One Tree Hill reportedly made the experience unbearable.

"They made practice of taking advantage of people's personal lives and not just for me and for my ex — for other actors on the show who would share, like as you do when you get close to people, deeply personal things that were happening in their lives and they would wind up in storylines — It wasn't okay," Bush said in an interview on Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast. Over the years, Bush and Murray have thrown shade at each other, and while they've never mentioned each other by name, it's safe to say we won't be seeing a reunion between these two anytime soon. 

The one with Jennifer Aniston and Tate Donovan's lingering breakup

Rachel and Ross. Ross and Rachel. No other couple was quite the rave as those two back in the 90s. However over the course of Friends, they took on other casualties before they eventually made their way back to each other at the end of the series. In comes Tate Donovan as Jennifer Aniston's love interest on the show, Joshua Burgin.

While their chemistry on-screen was great, behind-the-scenes, Donovan admitted that working with Aniston was quite painful. The pair met in 1995, according to InStyle and were together for two years before Donovan starred on Friends. However, his time as the recently divorced Joshua was short lived since he and Aniston were going through a break up in real life. 

"I was just happy to be on the team. The only bummer was Jennifer and I were breaking up at the time," Donovan told Us Weekly in 2018. "And so that was tricky to sort of act, and act like we are just meeting each other, and falling in love, or whatever, interested in each other, when we're sort of breaking up. That was just tough...It was just six episodes. I mean, only because we were breaking up. We were like, 'Hey, can we not keep doing this? 'Cause this is really painful and tough.'"

Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts kept it civil

Eleven years, two babies, and one split later, Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts have continued to be the perfect exes, with a breakup almost as poetic as their union. Though they were together for over a decade, the pair was never married. They announced their split in September 2016, just ahead of a press tour for their movie Chuck, in which they played husband and wife Chuck and Linda Wepner. In their joint split announcement, the exes said, "Over the past few months we've come to the conclusion that the best way forward for us as a family is to separate as a couple." That means although they weren't technically broken up at the time, things probably weren't great between the pair during production. 

Somehow, Watts and Schreiber saved face during their appearances at various film festivals, which they documented with seemingly genuine, intimate moments between them on their Instagram pages. 

While it seemed as though Schreiber took the breakup the hardest — the actor was "teary eyed" while speaking about his sons in an interview with a day before the break up was announced — he had nothing but rave reviews for Watts' role as his on-screen wife in Chuck. "I remember the first day that she came out of the trailer in the leopard print with the fake boobs and the hair," he told People in 2017, "She just went for it. I just knew it was going to be fun." 

Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper... and her husband?

Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper met on the set of Mama Mia! back in 2007, and became an item soon after, reports ET. The pair dated until 2011 and remained friendly. So, when the film's sequel was announced, fans were both elated and curious as to how the two would work together, given that they would be playing a married couple on screen, yet in real life, Seyfriend had a husband and a baby with someone else by this point.

It turns out, things between the two exes were pretty amicable, but it was actually Thomas Sadoski, Seyfried's husband, who had some reservations about their working relationship. "I think he has the same kind of issues that I would have if we were hanging out with his ex-girlfriend from long ago," Seyfried told the Mirror, "I'd guess he assumed Dominic is in love with me the way he's in love with me. And it's just not the case. It's sweet. I'd rather he be jealous than completely fine with it."

Though he had some minor qualms about Seyfried working with Cooper in the beginning, the actress revealed that everything went swimmingly during the filming of the movie, telling the Mirror that the two men "got along absolutely fine when we were shooting." All's well that ends well.

Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake's 'bad' reunion

It's one thing to work with your ex, but to do it twice? Either that check was looking really good or Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake liked and respected each other that much. According to InStyle, the two first met in 2003 at the Kids' Choice Awards and began dating sometime after that. They were on and off for a while until they put the final kibosh on their relationship in 2007.

Rumors about why they broke involved several other Hollywood elite actresses. The "SexyBack" singer was linked to Scarlett Johansson — though she vehemently denied they were ever in a relationship. Timberlake was also linked to Jessica Biel, which proved to be true since the two went on to have an on again off again love affair of their own which eventually culminated in marriage and two children.

While the specifics of Diaz and Timberlake's split have remained murky, the exes worked together twice post-break up. Their roles as cousins in Shrek the Third were all fine and dandy, however, their on-screen romance in Bad Teacher had tongues wagging. Their raunchy, fully clothed love scene in the film left us all feeling like we wanted to unsee it. In fact, famed film critic Roger Ebert even described it as "pathetic" and claimed it "had the preview audience recoiling." We can only imagine how strange it was for the exes who actually had to perform it. 

It took decades for Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan's awkward ex sex scene

Time doesn't seem to have made filming sex scenes any better between Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan. The actor admitted that portraying passion with his ex-girlfriend in Twin Peaks was très awkward. Dern and MacLachlan were an item, get this, 25 years before they played Dale Cooper and Diane Evans on Showtime's reboot of the hit show.

INSIDER reports that the two dated from 1985 to 1989 after meeting on David Lynch's classic masterpiece, Blue Velvet, and when they finally reconnected on-screen in 2017 for Lynch's Twin Peaks reboot, MacLachlan at least, felt it was worth the wait. Describing his ex as "wonderful" and "a very special person," he told Ellen Degeneres that while Lynch was effective in making them "pretty comfortable," when it was go-time, so-to-speak, it was still "pretty weird." Making things perhaps even weirder, MacLachlan felt the need to add, "She looked great by the way, I gotta say" and "We laughed, we did, we had a couple laughs for sure." Hey, at least they had a sense of humor about it, right?