16 March 2010

Behind an Oscar-winning actress is a man . . . who was just leaving

Surely, Sam Mendes isn't so insecure I thought. After all, he's won the Oscar for American Beauty

The announcement of the Mendes and Winslet split reminded me of this 2006 Maclean's magazine article listing a staggering number of women who split from their male spouse within a year of winning the Oscar.

The article begins with congratulating R&B singer for admitting that he couldn't stand being called "Mr. Halle Berry" anymore. 

None of us flinched when Julia Roberts split from actor Benjamin Bratt because although she'd been with him for several years, Ms Roberts was a renowned serial monogamist in her salad days. The timing of the end of the relationship, after she won for Erin Brokovitch could have been a fluke.

And Charlize Theron didn't exactly fit the post-Oscar winning split trend because her spouse wasn't an actor. She and Stuart Townsend broke up after she won the Oscar. They got back together and split again this year.

But then there's Helen Hunt. Her five year relationship and one year marriage with actor Hank Azaria ended shortly after she won her Oscar for As Good as It Gets.

And Hilary Swank. Much was made of Swank forgetting to thank her husband, actor Chad Lowe when she won for Boys Don't Cry in 1999. They couple held on for fourteen years, until a few months after Swank won for Million Dollar Baby in 2005.

Not persuasive enough? Reese Witherspoon and actor Ryan Phillippe were together from 1997, got married, had kids and stayed married — until five months after she won the Oscar for Walk the Line.

When they presented an award together at the 2003 Oscars, Phillippe handed his wife the envelope, saying, "You open it, you make more money than I do."

Macleans: "The Oscar curse is not a recent trend. It goes back as far as 1944, when Jennifer Jones, best actress for The Song of Bernadette, filed for divorce from Robert Walker the day after the awards. Jane Fonda left Roger Vadim within a year of her 1972 win for Klute; Marlee Matlin and William Hurt's relationship ended months after her win for Children of a Lesser God; and the six-year marriage of Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh suffered the same fate after her 1993 win for Howards End. But the pattern has undeniably intensified in recent years. It's now so common that actress/screenwriter Carrie Fisher admitted earlier this year that she and her friends used to bet on how long a marriage would last after the wife had won an Oscar and the husband hadn't. 'Regardless of how big the man's box office was,' she said, 'once the woman received the statuette, it seemed that the days of the marriage were numbered. For some men, at least, a woman flaunting an Oscar can feel like deliberate emasculation, and spell doom for the relationship.'"

If Fisher's right and it doesn't matter how well the man is doing, then the end of Kate's Oscar curse (nominated a zillion times and finally won only last year) could have marked the beginning of the end in other aspects of her life.

Six women in ten years, six out of nine women because Hilary Swank won twice. It's easy to overstate this trend but every output about Hollywood confirms the ambition and rivalry of its couples. Could the statuette be too much for Hollywood husbands when in the hands of their wives. And who are we to say Jackie Collins is making stuff up? As Elaine Benes once told Jerry: "Every time I think you couldn't more shallow, you manage to drain just a little bit more water out of the pool". 

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