Total Recall

Total Recall: Love, Hollywood Style

In honor of Valentine's Day, we look at stars who shared romance on and off the silver screen.

by | February 11, 2009 | Comments

We’re just a few days away from Valentine’s Day, and love — or at least the sound of the nation’s florists counting this year’s profits — is in the air. In the Valentine’s spirit, we decided this week’s Total Recall would be the perfect place to celebrate love, Hollywood style.

The movie business has a long, rich tradition of on-set romances — some of which have gone on to produce impressive bodies of work (Bogie and Bacall), some that sparked professional partnerships that lasted longer than the relationships themselves (Keaton and Allen), and some that, well, sold a lot of tabloids (Bennifer). This is only a very partial list, of course, but we take a look at 10 of our favorite on- and off-screen partnerships here, celebrating both the films that endure (Brokeback Mountain) and those that perhaps didn’t turn out as planned (Days of Thunder). Sit down with a box of your favorite chocolate and enjoy!


Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck

Ah, Bennifer. What good times we all had together, devouring column inch after column inch of breathless speculation on the extremely tabloid-friendly exploits of the Armageddon actor and his singing, dancing, film-starring paramour! Affleck and Lopez’s relationship was paparazzi catnip from the start, making its public debut as the seeming cause of the dissolution of Lopez’s marriage to her second husband, and the tabloids’ love affair with the couple continued right on up through their last-minute wedding postponement and subsequent breakup. Their brief two-year union managed to produce two films — Gigli (2003, 6 percent) and Jersey Girl (2004, 40 percent) — but their most critically respected collaboration was probably their joint appearance in Lopez’s video for “Jenny from the Block.”


Ali MacGraw and Steve McQueen

When tongues wagged over Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie starring together in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, it was at least in part because of the long Hollywood tradition of falling for one’s co-star — a tradition established by infamous on-set romances such as the one that flared up between Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw during the filming of The Getaway (1972, 82 percent). When the cameras started rolling, McQueen was one half of a 15-year marriage and McGraw was the wife of Paramount chief Robert Evans, but even that wasn’t enough to contain the spark between the stars; they went on to become one of the most hotly scrutinized couples in the industry. Of course, their union was always just as notable for its off-screen aspects as anything that went on in front of the cameras, and their troubled five-year marriage never made room for another co-starring vehicle — but their work in The Getaway left enough of an impression that it served as the inspiration for a remake more than 20 years later — starring another couple that met on a movie set, Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.

Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith

Never let it be said that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air contributed nothing of lasting value: Jada Pinkett took her first step toward walking down the aisle with Will Smith when they met on the set of the long-running sitcom. Pinkett didn’t land the guest-starring role she sought, but her career didn’t suffer for it — and neither did Smith’s, obviously; these days, Will and Jada are two of the biggest, brightest stars in the Hollywood firmament, responsible for billions of dollars in box office moolah. Since marrying in 1997, the couple has only starred together in one movie, the Muhammad Ali biopic Ali (2001, 68 percent), but they’ve been very busy behind the scenes with projects such as the short-lived UPN sitcom All of Us — and as we learned in The Pursuit of Happyness, in which Will co-starred with their son Jayden, the Smiths aren’t shy about getting together in front of the cameras for the right reason.


Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger

They both rose to prominence thanks to roles in relatively middlebrow fare — he in 10 Things I Hate About You, she in the long-running nighttime soap Dawson’s Creek — but Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams always had higher aspirations for their careers, and by the time they met on the set of Brokeback Mountain (2005, 87 percent), they’d acquired reputations for being two of the braver and more unconventional young actors in the industry. Brokeback‘s same-sex love story reinforced that, particularly for Ledger, whose no-holds-barred portrayal of Ennis del Mar proved how gravely his talents had been wasted in projects like A Knight’s Tale. Ledger and Williams’ relationship lasted only a few years, but the daughter they bore together — as well as Ledger’s shocking death in 2008 — ensures that its (albeit tragic) legacy will endure.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

After years of providing an unbeatable answer to the question “which celebrities would make the cutest kids?” Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie joined forces for Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005, 58 percent) — so naturally, despite Pitt’s marriage to Jennifer Aniston, the duo inspired an incredible amount of speculation about whether their palpable onscreen chemistry had carried over into their offscreen lives. Though both stars denied any behind-the-scenes monkey business, they eventually caved into peer pressure and became the Brangelina we know and love today, and arguably the last of the Hollywood supercouples to carry the old-fashioned aura of mystique that the paparazzi has all but destroyed. They’ve been too busy building a football team-sized brood to plot a cinematic reunion, but if and when they ever get around to it, you can bet on plenty of publicity buildup; as Michelle Alexandria of Eclipse Magazine wrote, “Pitt and Jolie sizzle together.”


Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have two of the most down-to-earth public personas in Hollywood, so it’s only fitting that they’d also be partners in one of the industry’s most quietly successful marriages. After meeting on the set of Hanks’ short-lived ’80s sitcom Bosom Buddies, Hanks and Wilson fell for each other while co-starring in Volunteers (1985, 50 percent) and finally wed in 1988. Since becoming Mr. and Mrs. Hanks, they haven’t exactly made a habit of starring in each others’ projects, but they have made time to work together occasionally, both appearing in Bonfire of the Vanities (1990, 25 percent), and Sleepless in Seattle (1993, 74 percent); Wilson also made a brief cameo in That Thing You Do! (1996, 91 percent). They’ve also worked together behind the scenes, most notably as producers of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002, 76 percent), which provided an astronomical $241 million return on its $5 million budget.

Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise has had multiple high-profile relationships — he was married to Mimi Rogers before meeting Nicole Kidman on the set of Days of Thunder (1990, 41 percent) and wed Katie Holmes after divorcing Kidman in 2001 — but none of them boast the extensive filmography he enjoyed with Kidman; after filming Thunder, they reunited onscreen for Far and Away (1992, 50 percent) and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999, 78 percent). Though few would argue that either Cruise or Kidman delivered their finest performances in any of these films — of the three, only Eyes Wide Shut is Certified Fresh, and it sharply divided critics — they all made money, which is, as we all know, the most important benchmark for success in Hollywood, and one the post-couch-jumping Cruise seems unlikely to try and match.


Diane Keaton and Woody Allen

Unlike most of the couples on this list, Diane Keaton and Woody Allen’s working relationship far outlasted their romance; although they were involved for only a year, they worked together on a long list of films, including a six-picture run that started with Play It Again, Sam (1972, 97 percent) and continued through Sleeper (1973, 100 percent), Love and Death (1975, 100 percent), Annie Hall (1977, 98 percent), Interiors (1978, 77 percent), and Manhattan (1979, 98 percent). It’s a period that includes much of Allen’s best work — and some of the performances that Keaton is most closely identified with, led, of course, by her Academy Award-winning turn as the lovably ditzy Annie Hall. Keaton and Allen have worked together sparingly since finishing their hot 1970s streak, but when the project is right — as it was with Radio Days (1986, 95 percent) and Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993, 86 percent) — Keaton can still help bring out the best in her old partner.

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman

As one of the most well-respected actors in the business, Paul Newman enjoyed a long line of on-screen partners — Robert Redford, Tom Hanks, Steve McQueen, and Elizabeth Taylor among them. But his best work — his life’s work — was created with his wife of 50 years, Joanne Woodward, whom he met during their 1953 stint on a Broadway production of William Inge’s Picnic. Newman and Woodward starred together in 10 films: The Long, Hot Summer (1958, 87 percent), Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys! (1958, 33 percent), From the Terrace (1960, 38 percent), Paris Blues (1961), A New Kind of Love (1963, 0 percent), Winning (1969, 50 percent), WUSA (1970), The Drowning Pool (1975, 62 percent), Harry & Son (1984, 22 percent), and Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (1990, 71 percent) — a long list that doesn’t take into account the projects Newman directed or produced for Woodward, or the HBO miniseries Empire Falls. Clearly, their work together had its ups and downs, but their marriage remained exceptionally steady over the five decades leading up to Newman’s death in September 2008 — a lovely exception to the flashy-but-brief unions seen all too often in Hollywood (and on this list).


Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart

Of all the couples on this list — heck, in all of Hollywood’s history — few can approach the legendary status of Bogie and Bacall, either in terms of star power or quality of work. Meeting on the set of To Have and Have Not (1944, 100 percent), the 45-year-old pro and the 19-year-old rising star quickly threw sparks; though Bogart resisted the temptation to end his unhappy marriage for Bacall, by the time they were finished with their second picture, The Big Sleep (1946, 95 percent), there was no turning back. After their 1945 marriage, Bogart and Bacall reteamed for two more features, Dark Passage (1947, 100 percent) and Key Largo (1948, 96 percent) — a track record almost as impressive as the marriage itself, which lasted until Bogart’s untimely death from esophageal cancer in 1957, just five years after the birth of their second child. In an industry that often makes love seem even more fleeting than it really is, Bogart and Bacall proved a pleasantly enduring exception.


Check out the rest of our Total Recall archives here.

Finally, we thought we’d end by highlighting one of cinema’s most enduring and glamourous couples: Jay and Silent Bob.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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