Sunday Times: Mr & Mrs Split

Why should we care that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are divorcing? Because if a couple with global fame, talent, beauty and £300m can’t make it last, who can?

When did love die? According to Vogue, it was five days ago, with news that Hollywood’s golden couple, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, have filed for divorce. Brangelina — perhaps the world’s clunkiest portmanteau — is no more. Fans flooded Twitter in a deep state of mourning. “Today has been cancelled,” one sorrowfully wrote.

After 12 years as half of Hollywood’s hottest pairing, and just two years after tying the knot, Jolie, we learnt, had filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences”. She is asking for custody of the six children, granting Pitt visitation rights, and is reportedly being comforted by Johnny Depp. For a couple once considered romantic idols, it didn’t sound good.

No wonder fans were in turmoil: at ­Madison Square Garden, Adele, the high priestess of heartbreak, led a “group Brangelina break-up therapy session” (as one tweeter described it). Pausing her concert to collect her thoughts, she de­clared: “It feels like the end of an era, so I’m ­dedicating this show to them.” While half the internet mourned #Brangelexit, others (#teamJen) wryly speculated about how Pitt’s former wife, Jennifer Aniston, might be responding.

We had plenty of questions. Did they split because, at 52, Brad is still a stoner? He has spoken before about his taste for weed. The gossip website TMZ claimed Jolie ended the marriage because she was “fed up” with Pitt’s habit as well as his drinking and how it affected their kids.

Was it because, despite looking incredible at 41, Jolie was jealous of either a nanny or the actress Selena Gomez, who looked smitten in a photograph with Pitt?

Did Brad cheat with Marion Cotillard, the leading lady from his new film, Allied, as one publication suggested? The rumour was strongly denied by Cotillard, who — in what could have been a plot twist from Bridget Jones’s Baby — revealed she was pregnant by her partner, Guillaume Canet.

Or was it the other way round? Was Pitt consumed with jealousy by the thought of Jolie snuggling up to the former foreign secretary William Hague’s shiny pate? Jolie met Hague through her work as a goodwill ambassador for the UN after being introduced by his former special adviser, Lady Arminka Helic.

Perhaps it’s even Helic that Pitt resents? Earning £300,000 a year heading Jolie’s charity, she has allegedly grown so close to the star that she was with her when news of the divorce broke.

While some obsessed over the details, others wondered why anyone would care that a couple they didn’t know were breaking up. As with the hashtags that trend on Twitter when celebrities die, some questioned the sincerity of the grief.

FOR many people, the Jolie-Pitt break-up matters because they invested in the couple from the start. From the moment the two met filming the action romcom Mr & Mrs Smith, it was a Burton-Taylor romance, ghostwritten by Jackie Collins, featuring sex, scandals, Hollywood and spurned wives.

Pitt later claimed it was his favourite film “because I fell in love”, while Jolie confessed that after they met on set she couldn’t “wait to get to work”. It was a revelation that Aniston suggested was pretty “uncool”, given that at the time she was still married to Pitt.

Just months after meeting and before Pitt and Aniston’s divorce was even finalised, Jolie and Pitt shot a now-infamous W magazine spread in which they posed as the perfect American family playing with blond children in a paddling pool on the lawn. A shocked Aniston later remarked that the shoot suggested her ex lacked “a sensitivity chip”.

For the next 12 years Pitt and Jolie appeared on red carpets together and cooed adoringly over each other in interviews. They created a wine together at Château Miraval, their south of France estate, and flogged it at £19 a bottle in M&S. When they married in 2014 they sold their wedding pictures jointly to People and Hello! for a reported $5m. (Although they also reportedly donated the money to charity.)

Having bought into this idyllic public love story for more than a decade, fans now want to know how it ends. And so they should. If Hollywood is going to sell us fairytale romances, it also has an obligation to tell us the truth when they flop.

For some people Brangelina’s break-up offers a prism through which to understand their own lives. The suggestion Pitt cheated, that Jolie got jealous of a woman her husband worked with, and the claim that Brad and Angie were seen fighting in Legoland are so pedestrian that they seem indicative of our ­desperation to believe celebrities are just like us.

This, however, is a couple worth £300m, facing unique pressures we’ll never know. One report suggests that Jolie filed for divorce after Pitt got into a row with their Cambodian son Maddox mid-air on their private jet. Not a situation many of us will face.

This is a couple with three biological and three adopted children, born on different continents, flying between multimillion-pound homes as they juggle filming schedules, charity work and Oscar wins. Not problems most couples I know have.

A family who jet their kids to Cambodia so they can hang out with their mum while she’s shooting a film; who visit war zones and refugee camps for fun. A family who some sources claim have six minders — one per child — and take a dozen nannies on holidays. And who, one former nanny claims, run their home like a hippie commune, with no rules and no formal schooling but a therapist for each child.

Jolie has enlisted a celebrity divorce lawyer, Laura Wasser, who charges $850 an hour, requires a $25,000 retainer and whose clients include Kim Kardashian and Johnny Depp. Meanwhile, some sources accuse Pitt of child and substance abuse.

As part of the PR war, two unnamed staff have already told The Sun that Pitt “is distraught, pacing, nervous — totally terrified . . . He is scared of losing his kids over something that he hasn’t done and him being made out to look like a bad father. He is far from a bad father”. Now Pitt is apparently holed up in the couple’s 5,228 sq ft Hollywood Hills compound while Jolie and the children stay in a Malibu rented home. This is not divorce on a scale any normal couple knows.


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