Still friends? The art of divorce, celebrity-style

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston speak of love and commitment, an odd way, perhaps, to reveal their marriage is finished. Jonathan Brown examines how celebrities tell the world: "It's over"
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The Independent US

BRAD PITT AND JENNIFER ANISTON 2005

The word divorce, said the comedian Robin Williams, himself no stranger to the experience, is "derived from the Latin meaning to rip out a man's genitals through his wallet". But it needn't always be so uncivilised. For the Hollywood "A list" celebrities Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, this weekend marked not so much the end of a marriage but the start of something equally beautiful.

Their decision, after a "make-or-break" Caribbean holiday ended in rupture rather than reconciliation, was made in a statement to "those who follow these sorts of things". It said: "After seven years together we have decided to separate. We would like to explain that our separation is not the result of any of the speculation reported by the tabloid media. This decision is the result of much thoughtful consideration. We happily remain committed and caring friends with great love and admiration for one another."

Four days earlier they had been going out of their way to put negative speculation on the state of their marriage to rest, posing arm in arm for the paparazzi that had followed them on holiday.

Of course, many people had seen it coming. At Christmas, Ladbrokes was offering odds of 2/1 on the couple splitting this year after the star of Friends was photographed without her wedding ring. The problem at the heart of the failed relationship was, according to what newspapers describe as "informed" sources, 41-year-old Pitt's pressing desire to start a family. His wife, 35, is more determined to make movies than babies, it is claimed, and has signed up to make six films in a row. Aniston is reported to have said:"I don't want to be remembered for playing a fashionable airhead in Friends. I want to make serious movies. No one remembers Robin Williams from Mork and Mindy."

The couple's claim to be determined to remain as pals was given credence with pictures published yesterday showing them returning to Los Angeles from Anguilla together on Pitt's Lear jet. They were both wearing their wedding rings - exchanged during a lavish wedding in Malibu in July 2000 - and, according to some observers, were spotted cuddling shortly before their return. But that showbusiness writer's "source close to the couple" said they had spent the holiday discussing how they would explain their split while working out "how they would protect the brand they've built up". Their statement said that no third party was involved - a reference to reports that Pitt has become close to his latest co-star Angelina Jolie. Experts blame the booming divorce and re-marriage rate on the failure of married life to live up to romantic notions of love. For Brad and Jennifer it could well be a case of better luck next time.

THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF YORK 1996

Sarah Ferguson's claim on the day of her divorce that the Duke of York, her ex-husband, remained her "bestest friend" may have raised a few sneers. But unlike his older brother, the Prince of Wales, whose "amicable" split from the Princess of Wales was announced in a statement in the House of Commons and led to a spectacularly rancorous divorce and ultimate tragedy, Prince Andrew is still remarkably close to his former wife.

A year after the divorce the Duchess moved back into the family home at Sunninghill Park. The couple continued to share family skiing holidays with their two children and he stuck by her as she dug herself out of a deep pit of personal debt. In the statement announcing their divorce, released by their respective solicitors, Henry Boyd-Carpenter of Messrs Farrer & Co and Douglas Alexiou of Messrs Gordon Dadds, the couple insisted the decision was a personal one - rebutting press claims that the Queen had ordered them to sever links after two years of separation.

But as part of the deal, she could no longer style herself Her Royal Highness, continuing under the less grand title of the Duchess of York - a move described by her friends as a cruel snub by Buckingham Palace. Neither has remarried.

ROBIN AND MARGARET COOK 1997

As Foreign Secretary in a new Labour government, Robin Cook was one of the most powerful men in the country, possibly even the world. But, according to Westminster legend, it took just one call from Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's former director of communications, and an hour to think it over, to persuade Mr Cook to divorceMargaret.

Mr Cook, who dismissed the story as a "myth", was at Heathrow preparing to board a holiday flight as news of his affair with his Commons secretary, Gaynor Regan, was about to hit the pages of the News of the World. Mr Campbell was said to have told Mr Cook he should make a decision forthwith - to promote "clarity in news management".

Mrs Cook, who has two sons by Mr Cook, said her husband turned to her and said: "I am afraid there won't be any holiday, Margaret. It's cancelled. I think you and I should part." Mr Cook, who later married Gaynor, 47, said: "Alastair called me at the airport, but it's quite wrong that he told me I had to choose between my wife and Gaynor. That was my decision. I chose Gaynor."

RICHARD GERE AND CINDY CRAWFORD 1995

When Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford took out a full-page advertisment in The Times in an attempt to quell rumours that their four-year relationship was on the rocks, seasoned Hollywood observers knew the end was in sight.

That the couple felt the need to confirm they remained "very married" was bad enough, but the assertion "we are heterosexual" seemed somewhat to undermine the statement "we both look forward to having a family".

They said they had shelled out the £21,000 cost of the advertisment in May 1995 to "alleviate the concerns of our friends and fans" in the wake of an article in the French magazine Voici that the relationship was a sham.

Three months later the couple had made the "personal and painful decision" to go their separate ways. But it took a further three months, amid intense conjecture in the press, for their publicist to issue an official statement sending fans' hopes of a reconciliation crashing.

Crawford married Rande Gerber in 1998 and became a mother two years later. Gere began a relationship with the actress Cary Lowell. They had a son in 2000.

RICHARD BURTON AND ELIZABETH TAYLOR 1974 & 1976

As she prepared to split from her husband Richard Burton for the first time, Elizabeth Taylor told her public: "I believe with all my heart that the separation will ultimately bring us back to where we should be - and that's together."

She was right. But it was staple fare for the most famous, attractive and tempestuous couple of their age, whose two divorces were as glamorous as their lives. They met in 1963 on the set of Cleopatra in which she played the title role and he co-starred as Marc Antony. They married the following year.

Within a year of their first divorce, they were remarried, only to divorce the following year. Taylor married twice more, bringing her total to eight marriages. Burton, who also remarried, died in 1984.

IMRAN KHAN AND JEMIMA GOLDSMITH 2004

The failure of Imran Khan's marriage to Jemima, the daughter of the late billionaire Sir James Goldsmith, was announced through the unlikely offices of the former Pakistan cricket captain's political party.

A spokesman for Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice) in Islamabad said on his behalf: "I sadly announce that Jemima and I have divorced. My home and my future is in Pakistan. While Jemima tried her best to settle here, my political life made it difficult for her to adapt to life in Pakistan."

There was, of course, no mention of the actor Hugh Grant, who had a relationship with Jemima, 30, shortly after the divorce last June. Nor did the statement refer to the paternity suit filed by Mr Khan's former lover, Sita White, over her 12-year-old daughter, Tyrian.

Mr Khan later told Hello! magazine: "Jemima married a romantic, an idealist, a man with big dreams. She did not marry a London socialite, some lounge lizard or man who lived simply to make money."

Perhaps it was doomed. Sir James forecast at the time of the wedding that Mr Khan would make "a wonderful first husband" for Jemima.

NOEL AND HELEN EDMONDS 2005

The decision had been "difficult and painful" his spokesman said this weekend, but the creator of Mr Blobby was divorcing his wife of 18 years.

The news that Noel Edmonds, a former Radio 1 DJ who now runs his own communications enterprise in between his charity work, was divorcing his wife was widely reported. Like Brad and Jennifer, they too promised to remain "close friends".

Unlike the Hollywood couple, Edmonds, 56, and his wife, Helen, 42, have four children. "No other party is involved and they intend to remain close friends, focusing on the well-being of their children whose happiness and security will continue to be their main priority."

The couple wed on the banks of Loch Lomond, Scotland, in 1986 after Edmonds' divorce from first wife, Jill.

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