Life vs Art: does making a film about a marriage affect your relationship?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Her experience on the set of 'Revolutionary Road' has been blamed for the end of Kate Winslet's marriage. But can the production process really make or break a relationship? Geoffrey Macnab investigates

When the split between Kate Winslet and her husband, Sam Mendes, was confirmed earlier this week, many commentators attributed the break-up to their experiences working together on Revolutionary Road. The 2008 film, for which Winslet won a Golden Globe, offers a very dark account of a marriage in 1950s America coming apart at the seams. The seemingly devoted husband (Leonardo DiCaprio) and wife (Winslet) realise that they're not quite as compatible as they had thought. A deadening sense of disappointment and anticlimax clouds their lives together as they contemplate the life they once dreamed of having.

In the film's aftermath, the Mendes/Winslet marriage itself reportedly began to fray. This, though, is far from the first instance of a couple working together and then drifting apart. Movies make and break couples. In the hothouse atmosphere of a film set, tensions are exposed and emotions unleashed that can't always be suppressed once the cameras stop rolling.

When Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman split up after 10 years together in early 2001, it was claimed by their publicists that their respective work commitments had prevented them spending time together. However, it wasn't so long before their split that Cruise and Kidman had been working alongside one another over many months in intense circumstances for Stanley Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut, released in 2001. This adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's Dream Story was itself a claustrophobic psycho-drama about a marriage coming under intense strain.

There was a ferocious intensity in the performances that Ingrid Bergman gave in films like Stromboli and Voyage to Italy for Roberto Rossellini. She had scandalised Hollywood by starting an affair with Rossellini while married to another man. She subsequently married Rossellini, but they divorced in 1957. Combining their private and professional lives was clearly more than their marriage could withstand.

"Drama and film are incontrovertibly two professions that are immensely erotically charged," the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman said in an interview late in his life. He talked of the "incredibly pleasurable tensions" that the quest for perfection shared by him and his actors could cause. The tensions may have been pleasurable, but they were potentially destructive, too. As is well chronicled, Bergman had several affairs with his collaborators. He also made many films, most notably Scenes From a Marriage, which took the attrition between husbands and wives as their starting points.

Sometimes, movies have helped keep couples together. During her marriage to Jean-Luc Godard in the 1960s, actress Anna Karina used to feel far more stable when they were working on a movie. It was in the lulls between films that cracks began to appear.

Godard would tell her he was off to buy a packet of cigarettes – and then would vanish for weeks on end. The filmmaker went abroad on mini-pilgrimages to meet famous writers and directors without telling Karina where he was going. "I'd sit and wait in front of the phone. At that time, there were no answering machines," the actress recalled. By contrast, when they were on set together, she at least knew exactly where he was.

Gena Rowlands gave some searing performances in her husband John Cassavetes' films, invariably playing women on the edge. Whatever emotional turbulence characterised films like Opening Night and Gloria, it didn't seem to spill into domestic life.

In the heyday of the studio era, Hollywood specialised in stories that brought together the man and the woman by the end of the final reel. And what happened on-screen was often reflected behind the cameras. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton began an affair during the making of Cleopatra that would eventually lead to their marrying, not once but twice. When they hurled insults at each other in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, they brought a venom to their roles that only a couple who know each other intimately could hope to match.

Movie stars or filmmakers getting divorced is hardly a shock. It comes with the territory. Lana Turner, for example, ran through seven husbands. ("There is something ridiculous about a woman who takes seven husbands, as if she had rummaged through the drawers of masculinity and come up with seven dwarfs," John Updike wrote of her.)

Nonetheless, the Mendes/Winslet split seems to have taken the British by surprise. The reaction to their separation has been almost as anguished as it was to the other big rupture of the week – that of David Beckham's Achilles tendon. Alongside the prurient curiosity about what triggered their separation, there has been dismay. The Reading-born Mendes and Winslet may both be Oscar winners, but they weren't a flamboyant pair living their private lives in the public eye. He liked cricket. She was ready to send herself up on Ricky Gervais's Extras. They seemed grounded, self-deprecating and very British. Not a typical Hollywood couple at all.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone