The countdown

11 films that ended actors’ marriages

From ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’ to ‘Cleopatra’, Helen Coffey rounds up the movies that saw their stars get caught-up in illicit romances on and off screen

Wednesday 15 May 2024 06:18
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie starred in Mr and Mrs Smith when he was still married
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie starred in Mr and Mrs Smith when he was still married (Youtube/Twentieth Century Fox)

Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling; Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis; Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. Countless famous couples have fallen in love and started relationships while working together on-set. It’s the acting version of an office romance, and the frequency with which less-than-professional connections blossom between stars is perhaps unsurprising, especially in films where the leads spend every day in close quarters “pretending” to fall for one another. It’s the ultimate example of life imitating art.

But what if one of the stars in question is hitched? The fact that actors might already be spoken for doesn’t always stop sparks from flying off, as well as on, screen.

Even A-list marriages that seemed rock solid have been derailed by an undeniable frisson with a co-star. One of the most famous cases is Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, whose red-hot chemistry in Mr & Mrs Smith appeared to continue after the cameras stopped rolling – despite the fact that Pitt was already one half of Hollywood’s golden couple, married to Jennifer Anniston.

It’s not the only time a movie has jeopardised the sanctity of holy matrimony. Here are 11 films that saw wedded bliss traded in for divorce papers.

Mr & Mrs Smith

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie starred in this big-budget vehicle as a couple who were both secretly hit-wo/men back in 2005. Pitt was still married to America’s sweetheart, Friends actor Jennifer Anniston, at the time. The pair had always seemed one of the most secure couples in Hollywood – but it wasn’t long before the sizzling sexual tension between Pitt and Jolie on screen sparked rumours that they were turning up the heat even after the director yelled “cut!”. Although they both vehemently denied having an affair, Pitt divorced Anniston the same year as the film’s release, and he and Jolie announced they were expecting their first child in January 2006. The pair married in 2014 and filed for divorce just two years later – and are currently engaged in a number of acrimonious legal disputes, with Jolie alleging that Pitt has previously verbally and physically abused her and their children (allegations he has denied) and Pitt suing his ex-wife over their jointly owned winery.


Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of ‘Cleopatra’ (Getty Images)

One of Hollywood’s most legendary romantic pairings kicked off on the set of this 1963 epic. Elizabeth Taylor starred in the title role, with Richard Burton as her Mark Antony. Both actors were married to other people at the time – Taylor to her fourth husband, the singer Eddie Fisher, Burton to fellow actor Sybil Christopher – but their existing ties were no match for the all-consuming pull that the leads felt for one another. They fell in love, abruptly divorced their spouses, and wed – all while still filming. They then got divorced themselves in 1974, remarried in 1975, and divorced again for good in 1976. Phew!


This scandal doesn’t involve two leads – but rather a director and a supporting actor. James Cameron was already married to Linda Hamilton, who he’d fallen for while directing her in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, when shooting commenced on Titanic. But the blockbuster, released in 2000, provided him with a new muse and love interest in the form of Suzy Amis, who plays Rose’s granddaughter when she’s an old lady. He began a relationship with Amis during filming; Hamilton announced their divorce a week after Titanic cleaned up at the Oscars; and Cameron and Amis got hitched the following year (and are still together 24 years later).

Titanic trailer

Green Lantern

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds met while filming ‘Green Lantern’ (Getty Images)

Hollywood power couple Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are such an institution that people often forget that he was already married to an even more famous actor when they first met – Scarlett Johanson. When Lively played his love interest in superhero flop Green Lantern, filmed in 2010, it signalled the end of Reynolds’ three-year marriage to the Black Widow actor. Although they didn’t start dating until the following year, sparks clearly flew between Lively and Reynolds, who have now been together for 12 years (and counting) and share four children.

Proof of Life

At the time of filming this 2000 thriller about a kidnapping, leading lady Meg Ryan had been married to actor Dennis Quaid, with whom she has a son, for nine years. But it wasn’t solid enough to survive an off-screen romance with her co-star on the film, Russell Crowe, who – somewhat ironically – played a hostage negotiator trying to save the life of Ryan’s character’s husband. Ryan and Quaid separated the year the film was released and divorced the following year.


Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston at the premiere of ‘Daredevil’ in 2003 (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were engaged the first time around when he starred in 2003 superhero flick Daredevil opposite Jennifer Garner. The latter was also spoken for, married to TV actor Scott Foley. But the sparks between their characters of Daredevil and Elektra weren’t confined to filming: both broke off their existing relationships and married one another in 2005. They had one child together before getting divorced in 2018 after 13 years of marriage. Affleck clearly decided he had unfinished business with Lopez – the couple reunited and finally made it to the altar, marrying in 2022.

Pushing Tin

This nonsensical action movie about air traffic controllers brought Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie into each other’s orbits back in 1999. The pair quickly fell so head over heels for one another that they decided to secretly elope to Vegas – while Thornton was still engaged to fellow actor Laura Dern. The couple divorced three years later.

Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton, loved-up in 2000 (Getty)

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

This infamous on-screen romance translating to a torrid off-screen affair broke the heart of one of Britain’s most beloved actors. Emma Thompson was married to Kenneth Branagh when he directed and starred in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, casting Helena Bonham-Carter as his love interest. It wasn’t long before the chemistry spilled over into real life; Thompson divorced Branagh, who continued a relationship with Bonham-Carter for five years.

House of Wax

This roundly panned 2005 horror film may have been responsible for breaking up a marriage and a relationship. It starred Chad Michael Murray, who was married to his former One Tree Hill co-star, Sophia Bush, and Paris Hilton, who was dating Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. The two of them were rumoured to have an on-set fling, putting paid to both previous relationships.

Stage Beauty

Billy Crudup and Claire Danes starred opposite each other in ‘Stage Beauty' (YouTube/Lionsgate Films)

Billy Crudup, the male lead in this 2004 Shakespearean theatre drama, was in a seven-year relationship with actor Mary-Louise Parker. Not only that – she was seven months pregnant with his child. But that didn’t stop him leaving her for his co-star, Claire Danes, and embarking on a two-year relationship.

The Rum Diary

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard arrive for the European premiere of ‘The Rum Diary’ in London (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

This 2011 film didn’t just end a relationship – it also kickstarted one of the most high-profile and controversial celebrity legal battles of the century. It starred Johnny Depp – who was in a 13-year relationship with French singer Vanessa Paradis, with whom he has two children – alongside Amber Heard. She played his love interest, a role that was to be mirrored in real life, and Depp announced his separation from Paradis the following year. He and Heard married in 2015, filed for divorce in 2016, and have since been involved in highly publicised trials after Heard alleged he was physically abusive towards her and Depp sued her for defamation.

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