Brangelina: The end of the affair

After five years and six children, the first couple of Hollywood are rumoured to be splitting up. Amy Jenkins pays tribute to the phenomenon
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The Independent Culture

The rumour hasn't been confirmed – but, tellingly, so far it hasn't been denied either. After five years and as many children, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are to split. Somehow it's the news we've all been waiting for. Because we have all been waiting – haven't we? Perhaps it was the way they got together, breaking another celebrity heart as they went, perhaps it was Angelina's volatile history, perhaps it was the frenetic way they seemed to acquire children – or perhaps it was just the whole crazy circus of it. But the thing had to end, didn't it?

With the Jolie-Pitt merger came the creation of a brand: "Brangelina", we call it. The pair met on the set of the film Mr & Mrs Smith when Pitt was married to Jennifer Aniston, a woman who was, fascinatingly, the polar opposite of Angelina. Aniston was the star of Friends; Hollywood's kooky sweetheart. She was cheerful, straightforward and girl-next-door pretty. Angelina, on the other hand, was sultry, dangerous and as beautiful as a rare snake.

Here was a story, then! A story so gripping that, unfortunately, it eclipsed any of the films the couple subsequently appeared in. There was the fact that Aniston's heart was so publicly broken. And that, when the film came out, we could all go and watch Pitt and Jolie falling in love on the big screen. Add to this Angelina's history...

She is the estranged daughter of cool, hard-man actor Jon Voight. She had a dark side she chose to promote; she talked about drug use and cutting herself in her teenage years. Her father even accused her publicly of having "mental problems". Next came a tempestuous relationship with Billy Bob Thornton – whose blood she carried in a vial around her neck.

Even the film Brad and Angelina met on was wonderfully significant. In Mr & Mrs Smith they played a married couple who were assassins and who beat each other up in a misjudged parody of domestic violence. The film was awful but the chemistry between Pitt and Jolie was obvious. You got the feeling that Pitt had tried to be a good boy with Aniston, but he wasn't quite ready to grow up. Jolie seemed to offer adventure and Pitt rushed headlong into it.

How ironic, then, that what Jolie actually turned out to be was Mom to the power of ten. The dangerous beauty led Pitt to a life of exaggerated domesticity. The couple both adopted and reproduced. They ended up with six children.

Pitt's career has been pretty much in the pits ever since. Jolie, arguably, has never made a good film, but Pitt had glory days in the Nineties before his love life got to him. That's when he made Thelma and Louise, A River Runs Through It, Legends of the Fall, Seven and Fight Club. The Noughties saw nothing to rival that list. The first half of the decade was spent with Aniston, the second half with Jolie.

There's a moment in an actor's life – if he's not careful – when he, not the acting, becomes the story. Then he becomes the kind of actor who plays himself in cameos. And, sadly, I don't think Pitt in any way intended any of this. I don't think he sought to raise his profile by pairing with Jolie. I don't think he thought he'd check out of the acting game and make easy money selling his life to celebrity magazines. No – in many ways, this was injudicious love. Pitt was foolishly, lustfully, excitingly in love with the beautiful Angelina – and we all sensed a tragic Romeo and Juliet element to the story.

So there was a kind of inevitability to this unhappy ending. And yet we must also pause to rue the passing of Brangelina because this might possibly be the last great Hollywood relationship. The star system is in its death throes. The big-money movies star only their special effects (witness Avatar) and the smaller films that make it big tend to feature unknowns (witness Precious). There are no vehicles for the stars these days and if we don't have stars, then we're not going to have Hollywood glamour couples with conjoined names. And wasn't Brangelina by far the best when it came to conjoining? Of course, there's Tomkat – Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes – but aren't they dull in comparison?

For five long years, they've kept our bums on the seats. Their story had everything you could ask for: glamour, passion, jeopardy and suspense. There were tear-jerking moments and great outfits. They seemed to have it all, but, crucially, they got their comeuppance. Now that's entertainment.

The big split: Who gets what

*Hollywood splits are fiendishly successful money-spinners for Los Angeles lawyers at the best of times, which makes the break-up of such a power brand as "Brangelina" potentially the divorce of the century. With estimated combined assets of £205m, and six children – three of whom are adopted – hammering out a Jolie-Pitt settlement will be far from easy.

*According to Forbes, which rates Hollywood actors on both their income and how much they bring in for movie producers, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are two of the world's most profitable stars. Analysts say that is partly down to their global appeal: of Jolie's box-office takings, 57 per cent come from outside the US. Last week, the magazine estimated that they were the third highest-paid couple in Hollywood last year with a joint income of $55m earned evenly between them. Only the Jay-Z/Beyoncé and the Harrison Ford/ Calista Flockhart power couples brought in more greenbacks, with $122m and $69m respectively.

*According to one Sunday newspaper, the couple have signed an agreement that splits their worth evenly and awards joint custody of the children who will live with their mother. Dividing up their fortune involves carving up huge numbers as well as working out who gets the houses in LA, New Orleans, Dubai and France.

*We can safely assume that Pitt's collection of motorbikes (he once admitted he had lost count of how many he owned) will follow their owner to a bachelor pad with a large garage. Who gets to keep the 3m-wide bed that was able to accommodate the Jolie-Pitts plus six children is anyone's guess.