Discovery Europe

A series which looked at famous rivals in films, love, music and sport.


‘There were three of us in the marriage’.  One of the most famous love triangles of the century, two more different rivals can hardly be imagined.  Princess Diana, beloved of the people and darling (though sometimes demon) of the press, blonde, beautiful, elegant, fragile.  Her rival: blonde, yes.  Beautiful?  Likened to the horses she likes to read, Camilla Parker-Bowles has attracted anger, ridicule and blame for her role in the break up of the Royal marriage.  Diana almost called the wedding off at the last minute when, rooting through the office of Charles’ private secretary, she found a ‘Gladys and Fred’ bracelet her fiancé was planning to give his former girlfriend as a farewell token.  On the night of their pre-wedding ball Charles danced only one dance with his fiancé, who was observed to be weeping. He danced the whole night with Camilla, eventually – according to his valet –  leaving with her.  Charles spent the night before his wedding with the other woman.  While Camilla may have won in life, Diana may have ultimately triumphed in death as there continues to be real doubts about whether Charles and Camilla can ever marry.   And will Camilla ever win the hearts of the rest of the world?  Saint Diana will almost certainly stand in her way.


They were the two most iconic women in post-war America.  They shared a love of fashion, gossip and charismatic men, from Mitchum to Brando.  And of course the President of the United States.  For eleven years Marilyn Monroe was the Second Lady in the presidential relationship, blonde bombshell to Jackie’s brunette grandeur, blowsy working girl to the glacial queen.  But from the start they were enthralled by each other.  When she was working as a young reporter in Washington, Jackie invariably asked men: ‘If you had a date with Marilyn Monroe, what would you talk about?’ And Marilyn’s fascination with Jackie was such that she even dressed as her for a Life magazine shoot, donning a black wig and pearls for the occasion.  As rivals for the heart of America’s famous president they achieved notoriety.  But as contrasting icons of an age they achieved immortality.


Together they made beautiful music.  Better music than they ever made in their solo careers.  But the united facade of the Beatles masked one of the greatest rivalries in the music industry.  They vied for superiority in their partnership, and both wanted to write, record and sing their own songs.  The surprise isn’t that their partnership broke down, but that it lasted as long as it did.  When the band split in 1970 after fourteen years, McCartney filed a suit to dissolve the artistic and commercial partnership – divorcing John Lennon for good.  The split wasn’t amicable.  A year later John was to ask Paul ‘How do you sleep at night?’ More than twenty years after Lennon’s death McCartney has embarked upon a crusade to rewrite history, by changing their immortal credit to McCartney/Lennon.


Teammates can make the bitterest rivals.  The story of Prost against Senna is the stuff of myth, turning on the conflict between experience versus youth, honour versus ambition on one of the most dangerous battlegrounds in the world.

Prost was the undisputed top dog of the Grand Prix circuit throughout the 80s.  By 1987 he had beaten Jackie Stewart’s 13-year record of twenty-seven Grand Prix wins.   But in 1988 he met his most dogged rival.  From the moment Ayrton Senna joined the McLaren team he made it clear that he was in it for no one else but himself.  The primary target standing in the way of his bid to be the best: his teammate Alain Prost.

The combination of two of the best drivers in the world and the new Honda powered McClaren meant that as the 1988 season wore on the only question was which McLaren would win.  The season ended with eight wins for Senna and seven for Prost. Fifteen out of the sixteen races went to McClaren.
Senna’s naked ambition affected Prost’s performance.  He became increasingly paranoid about Senna in 1989, and while he found competing with his teammate stressful, Senna seemed to revel in the confrontations, using them as a means of polishing his skills.  Things came to a head in Estoril. At the end of the opening lap Prost swooped out of Senna’s slipstream as they passed the pits. Senna reacted by swinging out and trying to force Prost into the pit wall. Senna kept his throttle floored and got through.  When the race finished a heated argument almost led to a fistfight.

In a 1989 race at San Marino Senna acted in what Prost claimed to be a breach of a pre-race agreement not to overtake for the first few laps.  The McLaren boss intervened by insisting that he be party to any pre-race deals.  He also forced Senna to apologise.  The rift between the two men was deepening, and the effect on Prost was dramatic.  He began to consider the idea of retiring from racing.  The younger man had taken on the pack’s Alpha male and had slowly squeezing him out.  In the middle of the 1989 season, only a year after Senna had joined the team, Prost signed up to drive for Ferrari for the following season.

Their last showdown as teammates was perhaps the most dramatic.  At the Japanese Grand Prix both men qualified on the front row. Despite being a second slower in qualifying, Prost, having modified his car for more straight line speed, got away cleanly into the lead. The race that followed was to be one of the epic battles of recent years. Senna attempted every trick in the book to better his rival.  With just six laps left he launched into the fast left-hand bend just before the pit chicane just inches from the Frenchman’s rear wing. He then pulled out and attempted to outbreak Prost going into the chicane. Prost assumed that Senna was relying on his good graces to make room for him but after two years of intimidation he was simply fed up of the Brazilian and closed the door on him in emphatic style. The two McLarens slithered to a halt in the middle of the track, their wheels locked together. Prost climbed out of the cockpit convinced that the championship was his. Senna signalled for assistance from the marshals and resumed the race. Unfortunately for him he rejoined the circuit at the wrong place and despite going on to win the race he was disqualified.

At the subsequent appeal Senna received a damning indictment of his driving style, was fined $100,000 and hit with a six month suspended ban. He vowed revenge, and threatened to exact it in their first race as competitors.  Once again the stage was the Japanese Grand Prix.  On the morning of the race he warned that ‘If he [Prost] gets to the first corner ahead of me, he’d better not turn in because he’s not going to make it.’  And Senna went for the jugular, shoving Prost off the road at the first corner.   Both cars were out of the race, and Senna was the World Champion.

The rivalry continued throughout 1991 and in 1992 Prost took a year off, having been dismissed from the Ferrari team.  On his return in 1993 he took the Williams seat recently vacated by Nigel Mansell. One condition he made was that Senna would not be his teammate. Senna stayed with McLaren for the season and won five races but the championship went to Prost. Despite this he was ousted from the team by his arch-rival – Senna. On the face of it Senna won the final battle.

In light of what had gone before it perhaps seems strange that when Prost arrived at Imola in his capacity of commentator for French television, Senna made time to talk with him. Many observers saw signs of old wounds being healed. Prost thought Senna had become less intense, but sadly their reconciliation would go no further, for during the race Senna was killed, crashing at high speed while leading. At his funeral in Brazil Prost was among the pall-bearers.


They were the Titans of Tinseltown.  Two of the most muscled and most powerful players Hollywood had ever known. Between them they made nearly 200 films in over three decades, commanding multi-million salaries per movie. But was Hollywood only big enough for one of them?

Arnie took the lead as Conan the Barbarian in the early 80s, cornering the market in historical brawn.  Sly retaliated with the modern hero, Rocky, and it seemed that in the mid 80s he would win this battle of the box office brawn, riding high on the Rocky franchise with two Oscar nominations under his belt.  But in 1984 Arnie landed a brutal double blow on Stallone: ‘Conan the Destroyer’ hitting him from the past and cyber-sensation ‘Terminator’ punishing him from the future.  This creation would literally terminate Stallone’s hold on Hollywood and ensure Arnie’s rise to the very apex of the American dream.

But where did these two strongmen come from?  Stallone’s first movie was the low-budget porno ‘The Party at Kitty and Stud’s’ for which he was paid $200 and which was later re-released and renamed ‘The Italian Stallion’ after his ‘Rocky’ success.  The wardrobe department were equally cash-strapped when it came to Arnie’s first outing in ‘Hercules in New York’ in the same year, and so it was to be until his change of image (and addition of sense of humour) in the 90s films Twins and Kindergarten Cop.

The battle to be the biggest man in Hollywood was thus ultimately won by the first man willing to put more clothes on for his art.  Arnie’s claim to the number one spot was cemented by the most recent Terminator instalment and his successful move out of movies into politics.  Sly tried to go the clothed route with his critically acclaimed turn in Copland in 1996, but has since disappeared off the box office radar. This was a battle of brains and brawn, of muscles and millions between two of the most powerful stars in the Hollywood skies.  The winner?  It could only be Mr. Universe himself.

Discovery Europe ▪ TX July 2004 ▪ 5 x 30 min
Co-producer: Monique Tollgard
Produced and Directed by Alex Dunlop
Executive Producer for Discovery Europe: Bettina Hatami
Executive Producer for Juniper: Samir Shah