There is a family home in north London where the shutters are down, the security gate is clamped and the signs outside warn anyone passing that the CCTV is on. The empty Georgian pile is just up the hill from Camden, where in 1998 some scruffy kids from Exeter played their first gig as Coldplay.
It is also round the corner from celebrity-soaked Belsize Park, where yummy mummies and yoga bunnies drink soya frappe lattes and shop for reiki healing kits, bespoke colonics and gluten-free fish and chips. The location seems a sad metaphor for the differences between the couple who lived here for most of their married life before “consciously uncoupling” last week.
“We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate”, said the statement on Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website as she announced her marriage to Chris Martin had come to an end.
IT WAS never going to last anyway, was it? Like any of us inclined to fall in love with someone they fancy, only to find out later that we have nothing in common, Paltrow and Martin seemed different people from the start.
She was a privileged 30- year-old Hollywood princess with an Oscar (for Shakespeare in Love), showbiz parents who were friends with Steven Spielberg and a roll-call of eligible former boyfriends that would make Lindsay Lohan weep — Ben Affleck, Scott Speedman, Bryan Adams, Luke Wilson and Brad Pitt, to whom she had been engaged.
He was a 25-year-old corduroy-wearing public-school geek who had studied Greek and Latin and not lost his virginity until he was 22. Paltrow was his first serious girlfriend.
Still, a year after meeting (just weeks after her father’s death) they tied the knot in December 2003 at a ceremony in Mexico so secret that even her mother was not there.
He was mad for her. Of course he was! What middle-class Devon boy would not be dazzled by a Hollywood blonde with a caramel body, steel abdominal muscles and a glossy posse of hot mates headed by Cameron Diaz and Madonna? Martin described marrying Paltrow as “like winning the lottery”.
“It is a big leap,” he once said. “What, from being a loser to going out with an Oscar winner? It’s a giant leap.” He repeated the sentiment in the song Moses, which he wrote for their wedding, including the line “you’re my golden opportunity” (not the most romantic of sentiments).
Sure, said Martin — whose family made their money in caravans and whose Christian parents have been described as “very much part of the cricket, jam and golf brigade” — he and Paltrow were different but “that’s love . . . think of Romeo and Juliet”.
He took on marrying a world-famous film star with an air of masochism: “I always felt it would be great to be with a very powerful woman, because it would always keep you in your place and remind you that you still weren’t very good. And being married to someone very successful and very powerful basically keeps you hungry to improve.”
Perhaps he had underestimated just how La-La-Land Paltrow’s world could be: over the decade or more they have been together she has managed to out-diva Mariah Carey and out-dull Anne Hathaway while contriving to be less appealing than both, a vacuous icon of womanhood with the same lifestyle choices as Malibu Barbie but less personality.
Paltrow is a macrobiotic maniac who works out for two hours a day and says things such as: “I’d rather smoke crack than eat [processed] cheese”, “I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a- Soup” and “When I pass a flowering zucchini plant in a garden, my heart skips a beat”.
She is a quinoa warrior whose idea of indulgence is a turkey burger and whose humourless health obsession allegedly annoyed Kate Moss so much that the supermodel reportedly threw crisps at her at Sir Philip Green’s birthday party, screaming: “Why don’t you eat some f****** carbs?” (although Paltrow’s publicist has denied this happened).
She is a smug millionaire eco-warrior with First World problems who fills Goop with inane pronouncements on how to knit your own heart chakra, while remaining so out of touch with real people that she described a French chateau available to rent at more than £9,400 a week as a “nice family getaway”.
Her cookbook It’s All Good, with its £190-a-day meal plans, was slammed as a “bible of laughable Hollywood neuroticism”. She posted a set of spring wardrobe essentials on her website that cost more than £300,000.
When not spouting new age blah she is saying stuff such as: “Sometimes Harvey Weinstein [the film producer] will let me use the Miramax [production company] jet if I’m opening a supermarket for him”, or whining that parenthood is “so much harder for me”.
“I think it’s different when you have an office job because it’s routine and you know you can do all the stuff in the morning, and then you come home in the evening,” she told the E! News entertainment website. “When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks’, and then you work 14 hours a day . . . I think to have a regular job and be a mom . . . of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.”
Meanwhile, as Paltrow became the kind of alpha mum who kept carbohydrates from her children and advertised for a private tutor to teach them ancient Greek, Japanese, philosophy, tennis, sailing and chess, an ever-more grungy Martin was snapped sneakily buying them ice cream.
She is reported to be so in control of her image that she crushed Vanity Fair’s attempt at an “epic takedown” of her by sending a “Kim Jong–un- style” email, demanding that her Hollywood family and friends refuse to speak to the magazine’s profiler and recommending “you all never do this magazine again”.
Not that Martin lacks flaws. Perhaps the only thing more irritating than the thought of a lifetime of living with Paltrow is having to listen to an entire Coldplay album. He writes lyrics so emotionally ersatz that they rival her lifestyle tips. Bono called him “a w*****”, which would really make you look at yourself.
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