Jennifer and Brad get the seven year itch and agree to separate

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The Independent US

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, the Hollywood golden couple whose too-good-to-be-true relationship has been the subject of endless column inches and boundless speculation, have announced they are splitting up.

In a joint statement released by Pitt's publicist late on Friday, the couple said: "After seven years together we have decided to formally separate. For those who follow these sorts of things, we would like to explain that our separation is not the result of any speculation by the tabloid media. This decision is the result of much thoughtful consideration."

The statement did not make clear whether they planned to divorce, and Pitt's publicist, Cindy Guagenti, declined to comment.

The separation comes four and a half years after the pair married in a $1m ceremony at Malibu, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The event was attended by 200 people and included four bands, a gospel choir and fireworks.

Part of the Pacific Coast Highway was shut down to deal with the flood of guests, which included actress Cameron Diaz and most of Aniston's co-stars from her Friends television series.

While the couple gave no reason for their separation, those in the speculation business have been suggesting for some time that the relationship was strained. Some suggested the issue of starting a family was the source of tension.

Pitt, 41, was reportedly close to tears when he told an interviewer last month that he hoped to have a family.

"I'm going to say it - kids, family, I am thinking family," he said.

"Yes, I have got family on the mind. Jen and I have been working something out. Little girls, they just crush me - they break my heart."

In 2002 Aniston, 35, told People magazine the couple would probably start a family, but "not for a while". Since then there has been wild speculation about a pregnancy. The magazine said she had recently been photographed without her wedding ring.

Pitt has long been one of Hollywood's most bankable stars, starring in films such as Ocean's Eleven, Troy, Fight Club, Seven Years in Tibet, Legends of the Fall and Thelma & Louise. He is currently starring in the Ocean's Eleven sequel, Ocean's Twelve.

The pair concluded their statement: "We happily remain committed and caring friends with great love and admiration for one another. We ask in advance for your kindness and sensitivity in the coming months."