7 Celebrity couples who starred on screen together

James Luxford 4 February 2021

We look at seven real life couples who shared the screen together, how their bond helped (or hindered) the production, and what happened after to see if a romantic spark ignited some movie magic

Valentine’s Day, and February in general, is normally a time when love and relationships are on our minds. It’s fair to say that, for better or worse, many of our ideas about love come from the movies. Usually, these are fictional romances played out by two actors who are not romantically involved, but what happens when the chemistry on screen is real? 

 

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman 

The biggest celebrity couple of the 1990s, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s marriage drew as much attention as their movies from the tabloid press. The pair met on the set of 1990’s Days of Thunder, but the first project they entered into as a couple was the period piece, Far and Away. The 1992 film featured the actors playing a couple emigrating to the US from Ireland, and garnered mixed reviews both for the slim plot and shaky accents. Their most significant work together would come in 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick’s complicated tale of adultery and mistrust. 
The illicit nature of the story made headlines, and the teaser trailer leaned heavily into the stars’ connection (The words ‘CRUISE’ and ‘KIDMAN’ flash before our eyes as we see Kidman’s character undressing). The actual film was less interested in titillation, playing out as an obscure examination of the human psyche. The couple would divorce in 2001, but the opaque thriller remains an interesting chapter in a relationship that came under so much scrutiny. 

 

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor

Before Tom and Nicole, no two actors blurred the lines of life and art quite like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The elegant British-American icon and the gruff Welsh leading man met on the set of Cleopatra, where they carved out one of the great movie romances while scandalising the press with their on-set affair.

Marrying twice, the pair worked together on 11 films, including an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew (1967) and perhaps their finest work, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). While their roles as an ageing couple who have fallen out of love is not the most romantic, the film was the high point of both stars’ careers, and a fine example of the brilliance the couple was capable of coaxing from one another. The performances were so intense that the film gained a controversial reputation, with even the trailer teasing the shocking drama to come. It earned 13 Oscar nominations, winning five (including Best Actress for Taylor). 

 

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

The celebrity power couple of the 2000s would be “Brangelina”, with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s chemistry proving so intense in action-comedy Mr and Mrs Smith (2005) that it fuelled rumours that Pitt, who was married to Jennifer Aniston at the time, had an affair with Jolie (who denied that anything happened while he was still in a relationship). Nevertheless, a year later the pair were confirmed as together, marrying in 2014. 

Despite the public interest, The Jolie-Pitts would only act in one other film together—2015’s By The Sea…, where they played a married couple vacationing in 1960s France who attempt to save their ailing marriage. The film, directed by Jolie, is not particularly interesting, with pretty visuals glossing over a shallow story and detached performances lacking the energy of their previous collaboration. They would separate in 2016, meaning this story of a union in disarray gained an unfortunate parallel. 
 

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson 

While her three-time Oscar-winning husband may take the limelight, Rita Wilson has been a hit on the screen with films like Jingle All The Way and Now and Then. The husband-and-wife team have worked behind the scenes together regularly, producing hits Mamma Mia and My Big Fat Greek Wedding

In front of the camera, their most notable collaboration came in 2011’s Larry Crowne, with Hanks in the title role as a man rebuilding his life after losing his job. Wilson plays an employee at the bank who uses a mixture of corporate sternness and fake sincerity to ensure Larry keeps up his mortgage payments. While only a small role, their scenes together are energetic and fun, indica-tive of the trust two actors have built over three decades of marriage. 
 

Jada Pinkett-Smith and Will Smith 

Despite both having thriving acting careers, Jada Pinkett-Smith has only acted opposite her husband Will Smith once, in 2000’s Ali. With Will taking on the ambitious role of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, he encouraged Jada to audition for the part of the late athlete’s first wife, Sonji Roi.

Initially, the Matrix Reloaded and Gotham star didn’t want to play the role, telling People in 2018 that she felt the sight of them together on-screen “would take people out of the movie”. Eventually her husband and director Michael Mann convinced her, and the result is an impressive performance from two seasoned actors, who clearly had no trouble giving the impression that they were in love. 
 

Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz

Spanish acting royalty Bardem and Cruz both had their own glittering careers showered in awards prior to their marriage in 2010, and had also acted together prior to becoming a couple. Bardem played Cruz’s love interest in 1992 hit Jamón Jamón, and the pair reunited 16 years later for Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Clearly, working together produced results—Jamón Jamón was seen as Cruz’s breakthrough film as a star, while Allen’s film earned her an Oscar. As a married couple, the pair have mainly worked together on crime dramas such as The Counsellor (2013), Loving Pablo (2017), and Everybody Knows (2018). The latter two in particular portray passionate relationships that are given an extra dimension from their personal connection. 

 

Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan 

Independent film stars Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan have been together since 2007, appearing together in 2012 romantic drama Ruby Sparks. Kazan wrote the script and played the title role of a character from a book written by a struggling author (Dano) who comes to life. 

While the film is an intelligent swipe at romantic idealisation, the two actors sparkle on screen together as the high concept relationship unfolds. Ruby Sparks was a modest hit but remains the couple’s only acting collaboration to date, having worked together as writers on 2018’s Wildlife starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal. 

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