Mr T’s iconic character BA Baracus was famous the world over for his surly bad attitude (and pathological fear of flying) on screen. Peppard’s cigar-chomping Hannibal Smith was rather smoother, if no less alpha. While the show about a team of falsely-accused Vietnam veterans seeking to clear their name became a worldwide smash, behind the scenes, the two stars frequently clashed.They once refused to speak to each other for four months.
The two men arrived on the show from two very different backgrounds, personally and professionally. Peppard had a middle class upbringing as the son of a building contractor and opera singer. Mr T was the youngest of 12 children, raised in community housing on Chicago’s South Side.
Peppard had been a big screen Hollywood leading man, most famous for 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, opposite Audrey Hepburn. He was already 55 when The A-Team began airing in the US in 1983 but his career had been in decline.
Mr T, real name Lawrence Tureaud, was, at the time, arguably a bigger star. He had just starred as boxer Clubber Lang in Rocky III, but his main claim to fame was as a WWE wrestler, working frequently with Hulk Hogan.
Their co-star Dwight Schultz, who played Captain “Howling Mad” Murdock also suggested that part of the problem was Peppard’s fury that Mr T was actually the bigger attraction at the time.
He said: “I think it created a lot of problems and tensions… I don’t think that George accepted the fact that T was the star of the show.”
Towards the end of the short-lived show, Peppard went on Terry Wogan’s chat show on March 3, 1987. The mischievous host was determined to find some juicy details about the much-rumoured feud and his guest happily obliged.
Peppard said: “Ah well the show is playing here in England I wouldn’t wanna say anything to make it less pleasurable for the audience. We did have some difficulty, because Mr T got into a quarrel with the producers and executive producers and he wanted to fire some of the crew.”
Peppard revealed that Mr T almost got his way until he stepped in.
He added: “Well you know, nobody likes to rock the boat in television and Stephen Cannell who was the owner and co-creator of the series was prepared to replace three people. We were all in a boat in the Mexican waters and when we got back they told me about it and I’d heard about it.”
This time in the clash of star-power, Peppard (according to his own story) won.
Peppard said: “He [Mr T] had refused to shoot, and I went into Mr Cannell’s office and said, ‘If you have a list of six you may put George Peppard’s name down as number seven, if you’re going to fire them.’
“He elected not to do that and that was the right thing to do because, as you know and as we all know, the power of stardom is really a load of crap – and should be dealt with, properly and as a fellow worker.
“It did irritate me. I didn’t speak to him for 16 weeks.”