The late Mrs Merton, bless her, would never have seen fit to ask Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt: ‘So, what first attracted you to each other?’ Perhaps the most beautiful film stars of their generation, they also possessed a devil-may-care air which combined with their charity work to make them seem both reckless and righteous – not an easy look to pull off.
And then there was the Sex Angle. The bottom line about Classic Hollywood is that you knew the stars were having far better sex than you; what Lana and Gable and Ava got up to barely bore thinking about without benefit of a waterproof sheet. These days, though, it seems very unlikely indeed that Hollywood’s finest are having anywhere like as much, or as weird, sex as you, your friends and neighbours. Try to imagine, say, Gwyneth Paltrow shooting Chris Martin in a fit of pure, passionate love/hatred over Jennifer Lawrence. Brangelina were the exception that proved the rule – early in their alliance, for instance, they reputedly made such a racket while romping in their room at an African beach resort that armed guards – believing that wild animals were attacking the stellar pair – were about to knock the door down when it all went quiet and Pitt reportedly drawled ‘Everything is cool, guys. We’re O.K!’
Well, they’re not O.K now, but it’s fair to say that a lot of lawyers will have a spring in their step at the thought of the sheer volume of fiscal and physical bounty to be lawfully divided between the warring couple – and despite the usual mealy-mouthed statements we can expect about mutual respect, war is very much what it will be. With six children and a combined fortune of $400 million to fight over, no one is going to sit down, split everything exactly equally, shake hands and go out for a celebratory kale smoothie afterwards.
The Jolie-Pitts (and even their combined name seems to mock them now, roughing translating as the ‘pretty mess’) have been together for 12 years. Time measured mostly in Jennifer Aniston’s tears, if the media is to be believed, when Brad bounced straight from America’s Sweetheart to the Sweetheart of Darkness – a smirking vamp with a penchant for collecting blood and snogging her brother. Not since Liz Taylor nabbed Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds had such a flagrant morality play of virtue vs vice been acted out by the famous.
It was the exact opposite of Pitt’s previous squeeze Gwyneth Paltrow’s subsequent ‘conscious uncoupling’ from her Coldplay boy, with much more-ish malice on both sides. Brad and Ange posed as an idealised married couple in a glossy magazine before the ink was dry on either Jen’s divorce papers or Ange’s arm; Jen said Brad had ‘a sensitivity chip missing’, which always struck me as something you’d say about an absent-minded robot. But the imminent Jolie-Pitt divorce has every chance of making the Pitt-Aniston severance look like the Teddy Bear’s Picnic – not so much a conscious uncoupling as a couple doing their very best to knock each other unconscious, albeit metaphorically through the ever-ready, willing and able media.
Unlike a lot of media mavens, I’m not going to even attempt any moral stance on this. I’ve been married three times myself and believe divorce to be a far greater invention than either the wheel or the Pill. I far prefer Jolie to Pitt (a friend of a friend worked with her on a refugee project and said that she appeared extremely genuine and engaged, unlike certain other celebrities who seem keen to parade their social consciences) but if the rumours about him having a bit of Marion Cotillard are true, I’m afraid that my response reminds me of the awful thing I said to my ex-BF when her husband did a runner with Ayaan Hirsi Ali: ‘If my husband got a chance to have sex with a woman like that and didn’t take it, I’d divorce him anyway for being a DAMN FOOL!’.
There will be the usual lip-licking hypocritical blather about how the rich and famous seem unable to stay married, but if you consider the fact that around 40 per cent of British marriages between the non-rich and un-famous end in divorce, is this really true? Yes, more people stayed married for life in the past – but only because life was so short and divorce so hard for women to obtain. Yes, some people these days have the tenacity to stay sexually faithful to one person all their lives but many do not – and do not wish to. Most of us don’t expect to have the same job or the same friends forever, and this doesn’t render us moral degenerates – but perhaps people who are simply more curious than the constant about the vast possibilities and adventures which life has to offer. Maybe, looked at in this way, most divorces are blameless – but for the sake of the gaiety of nations, let’s hope this blame-game runs and runs.