Celebrity feuds are a dime a dozen in Hollywood. Some are real (Elton John and Madonna, Kanye West and, well, everybody), some are played for laughs (Jimmy Kimmel and frenemy Matt Damon), and some have transformed into philanthropic catapults from which worldwide charitable campaigns are launched.
We’re talking about Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman, two A-listers wielding their considerable clout for good – and bringing us all a bit of joy in the process.
Reynolds and Jackman began their friendly rivalry on the set of X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2008. Jackman was fully entrenched in the superhero universe, gaining an impressive fandom thanks to his turn as the mutant anti-hero with bushy sideburns. Reynolds was newer to the game, playing the smart-mouthed mercenary-turned villain, Wade Wilson – a character he’d reprise in the Deadpool franchise. The two struck up a friendship.
“I used to ream him because I was very close friends with Scarlett [Johansson], and Scarlett had just married Ryan, so when he came on set I was like, ‘Hey, you better be on your best behavior here, pal, because I’m watching,’” Jackman told The Daily Beast. Reynolds would divorce Johansson two years later, but his adversarial back-and-forth with Jackman would go on, reigniting with every People’s Sexiest Man Alive crowning, blockbuster premiere, and box office bomb.
Reynolds, as Deadpool, would mock Jackman in a climactic action sequence of his cult action flick.
Jackman would accuse Reynolds of stalking him on Twitter.
Reynolds would pose as a journalist during the press tour for Jackman’s biopic Eddie the Eagle and accuse him of faking his Australian accent.
Jackman would post a viral video urging fans to urinate on Reynolds’ newly christened Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
@VanCityReynolds asked me to post this 100% real video by him on being honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame today. pic.twitter.com/LE4dQXpTuV
— Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) December 15, 2016
Like all good comedic bits, the feud took on a life of its own. Studios marketed films off it. The actors gained new followings because of it, and it could’ve easily continued to exist as just another long-running joke paraded around the internet to make two famous, removed-from-real-life icons seem more down-to-earth, more likable. Instead, Jackman and Reynolds, both humanitarian figures and philanthropic role models, decided to harness the attention (from the fans and the media) to do some good in the world.
Jackman launched his Laughing Man Foundation in 2011 after a trip to Ethiopia sparked a friendship with a local coffee farmer named Dukale. The actor shot a documentary, Dukale’s Dream, to shed light on the poor working conditions and malpractices when it came to coffee farming in third world countries before creating his own brand of beans and expanding his charitable endeavors to communities in Columbia and Peru. Jackman’s Laughing Man Cafe has two locations in New York City and 100% of the profits from all coffee sales go back to these communities, where his foundation aids in everything from building housing for farmers in South America to purchasing new equipment for farmers in Ethiopia.
When Jackman and Reynold’s decided to “end” their feud last year, they did so by offering to fund and shoot commercials for each other’s budding brands. For Jackman, that was Laughing Man Coffee. For Reynolds, that was his newly formed Aviation Gin — which has contributed to charities like the Air Force Association to help military families in need and recently donated 30% of its proceeds to helping bartenders hit hard by global lockdowns.
In a viral video, Reynolds can be seen using his marketing skills — he owns his own agency, Maximum Effort Marketing after all — to craft a beautiful ode to Jackman’s charity and all the work it does. Jackman’s ad for Aviation Gin was a bit less … inspiring.
The war may have raged on but the publicity the pair received thanks to this skit benefitted their charitable endeavors perhaps more than your average donation campaign ever could. And it’s success has led the two leading men to pursue more fundraising campaigns to contribute to causes close to their hearts.
After Jackman roped Jake Gyllenhaal into pranking Reynolds, convincing him to wear an ugly sweater to his annual Christmas party two years ago, the actor got revenge by recycling the tacky knitwear to raise money for the SickKids Hospital — an organization he’s donated to in the past. His promise to match donations up to $100,000, and his ability to get Jackman to participate in the campaign in a hilarious way, meant Reynolds and company were able to raise over $300,000 for the hospital. (He’s partnering with Samsung to bring the ugly sweater back this year for the organization’s fundraising efforts if you’d like to donate.)
And this year, as a pandemic upended the status quo and millions lost their jobs, both Jackman and Reynolds have fanned the flames of their conflict with the hope we’ll get some joy and those struggling will get some much-needed aid from it. After calling a “truce” to participate in the All-In challenge to raise money to feed hungry families, the actors have now partnered with Sam’s Club to force fans to choose sides in this eons-long war. Each purchase of Jackman’s Laughing Man Coffee and Reynolds’ Aviation Gin counts as a point for their respective “teams” and a portion of proceeds will be directed to their charities (Laughing Man Foundation and SickKids) though even if you don’t buy a product, you can still vote for which actor you like more. The company plans to pick five winners to attend a virtual party with the stars and, no matter who wins the popularity contest, they’ll donate an equal amount to each nonprofit.
Will this latest battle be the one to end the feud? Not likely, but it looks like that might be a good thing for the world right now.