The secrets of Hollywood marriages

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Marriage is a difficult proposition under normal circumstances, but the odds of failure are infinitely higher for Hollywood couples. Notwithstanding the statistical evidence that 50% of all couples divorce within ten years, movie star marriages seem inherently doomed and far more fragile. Whether it’s a clash of egos, too much temptation for co-stars who can’t resist each other on far flung film sets, or simply the added stress of constant media attention, there’s no doubt that most movie star marriages are destined to crash and burn. But many top stars have found a way to navigate the marital minefield and enjoy the kind of blissful long-term happiness that the wedding vows “for as long as you shall live” imply.

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MERYL STREEP & DONALD GUMMER (35 YEARS MARRIED)
WHAT’S THEIR SECRET? SHARED SENSIBILITIES, BEING A GOOD LISTENER

The 66-year-old Streep lives with her sculptor husband Donald Gummer in a sprawling penthouse apartment in the Tribeca area of New York, having moved out of their Connecticut countryside estate after their children had left home for university. Her eldest daughter Mamie, 32, co-starred with her in Ricki and the Flash while Grace, 29, has appeared in films including Margin Call and Frances Ha. They also have a son, Henry, 35, a musician, and another daughter, Louisa, 24, who works as a model.
“A lot changes when your children are gone. It takes a while to settle into a different kind of life but then you discover you have to find new ways to fill your day and get to enjoy that time together. You start seeing your friends more often and get to do many more things together that you weren’t able to do when you’re living with your children. So we have been able to use this time in our lives to get closer in some ways.
“I’m not an expert on marital relations…but I can say that just like when you’re rehearsing or playing a scene, it’s important to listen to the other person. You should also do the things that you enjoy. I am lucky to love my job and I’m still able to work at an age when most women don’t have this kind of opportunity.
“But I think one of the things that has helped us (remain married) is that he’s an artist and we have similar sensibilities.”
“He feels that he’s seen it all before. Each time I begin a film, I drive myself crazy with fears and doubts. From my husband’s perspective, he thinks I need to torture myself and worry myself to death in order to get ready for a part. He tries not to get involved in that aspect because he knows he can’t do anything about it. (Laughs)”

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TOM HANKS & RITA WILSON (28 YEARS MARRIED)
WHAT’S THEIR SECRET? TELLING THE TRUTH, MAINTAINING A STRONG FAMILY SPIRIT

Hanks has long credited his wife, actress/singer/producer Rita Wilson for having given him “the peace of mind to be able to achieve far more as an actor” than he ever imagined: “By the time I met Rita, I knew a lot more about myself and how to handle a relationship as opposed to my first marriage. So once we settled down, I spent a lot more time thinking about how I was going to make things right and how we could have a happy time together.
“Rita also brought so much to me and she’s always been a tremendously positive force in my life. The rest of our story just becomes too mushy and sweet to tell so I’ll stop with that.
“We’re still married because I’m not an idiot. The secret of happiness is to tell the truth. If you tell the truth, its solves a lot of problems right there. So don’t be stupid and make things more complicated.
“I’m a lucky man to have had such a wonderful woman like Rita in my life…although I think that anybody that who gets married is partaking in an act of bravery.
“My wife knew she was marrying an actor and not a dentist. And my children learned from a young age that their dad had a funny job. They always knew that I was working on a film because my haircut would be different or I’ve had to grow a moustache. But this is the kind of a job that gives us the opportunity to spend free holidays in Budapest or Morocco. But I think the best way that I’ve been able to have a good and balanced home life is to have eaten breakfast together.”

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HELEN MIRREN & TAYLOR HACKFORD (30 YEARS TOGETHER, 19 YEARS MARRIED)
WHAT’S THEIR SECRET? RESPECT AND UNDERSTANDING, LESSONS LEARNT FROM PREVIOUS RELATIONSHIPS

The independent-minded Dame Helen Mirren, now 71, has enjoyed a three decade-long relationship (they married in 1997) with director Taylor Hackford, whom she fell in love with while he directed her in 1986’s White Nights.
Best known as Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison and as the Oscar-winning actress for The Queen, Mirren is unequivocal about what brought her and Hackford long-term happiness: “What was wonderful about meeting Taylor was that things were very easy and harmonious between us from the beginning. It was one of those things where you know that this person is right for you and you can get along very well together.
“Though we both had strong characters, we had this very close connection that is hard to define but which we both recognised. We were also both at an age and at a time in our lives where we had gone through several relationships and lived a bit. All that gives you such a much better perspective on how to live and what you want from your work and what you expect in a relationship. We were very lucky to have found each other and we still feel the same way.
“What made things work between us was the kind of respect and understanding that we had for each other’s work. I would let him do his thing… and we gave each other the space we needed.
“I also liked the fact that he was a strong individual because I knew I needed that in any man I was going to spend time with because I could be very strong-willed myself. Instead of creating friction between us, it actually enhanced our relationship.”

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COLIN FIRTH & LIVIA GIUGGIOLO (21 YEARS MARRIED)
WHAT’S THEIR SECRET? HAVING A PARTNER WHO KEEPS ONE CALM AND CENTERED, ALWAYS BEING THERE FOR YOU.

Colin Firth is married to the Italian documentary maker Livia Giuggioli, whom he met in 1995 in Columbia while making Nostromo. Their first child, Luca, was born in 1997, and in 2003 Giuggioli gave birth to the couple’s second son, Matteo. They divide their time between homes in West London and a country estate in Italy.
Although his time in Italy “has been incredibly stimulating and fascinating,” the 56-year-old Firth credits his wife Livia for having turned his life around in a fundamental way: “It’s more that I met my wife Livia that has really made me a much happier man. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without her.
“We met in Cartagena, Columbia. I was acting in a film called Nostromo and she was the production designer. I was standing on the steps of a very old Church and I saw her coming through the crowd and it was a bolt through the heart. When I saw her coming close I wasn’t sure I could cope with it, She had this complete guileless air about her, she tried to speak to the local people in their own language, and I was smitten immediately…. She has made my life truly wonderful.
“Livia does an outstanding job of keeping me calm and centred. She keeps my feet on the ground and helps me deal with all the ups and downs that actors experience in terms of the great roles that you don’t get.”
“So Livia is always there for me when I need to have a good cry and feel very sorry for myself. She just gives me a kiss and a cup of tea and the world feels good again when my children come running up to me for a hug.”

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JULIANNE MOORE & BART FREUNDLICH (20 YEARS TOGETHER, 13 YEARS MARRIED)
WHAT’S THEIR SECRET? BEING GOOD FRIENDS WITH YOUR PARTNER, GETTING ALONG ON A DAILY BASIS

Julianne Moore is a remarkable woman from every perspective. Having finally won an Oscar for Still Alice last year, she has long been recognised as one of Hollywood’s most gifted actresses. She has also been one of those rare Hollywood female stars to have enjoyed a long and happy marriage. She has lived with director Bart Freundlich for 22 years, and were married in 2003.
The 56-year-old Moore lives in New York together with her director/husband Bart Freundlich and their children, Caleb, 18, and Liv, 14. She recently appeared in the critically-acclaimed indie film, Maggie’s Plan.
“Before meeting Bart, I worried for a long time that I would never really find happiness. That I would always have this side of me that was hard and cold and not open to other people in a very deep emotional way. But somehow, I forced myself to break down that emotional wall I tended to put up in front of me. And I think that being an actress and playing different characters taught me to open myself up emotionally in my own life.
“The main thing which works between us is that we really enjoy being together and have a friendship thing going on as well as a relationship thing. By that I mean that we just really get along well on a daily basis and we don’t get on each other’s nerves.
“That doesn’t mean we never argue or we never get angry with each other. But when we do have minor flare-ups we both feel terrible and we almost immediately want to fix things. We never stay mad at each other – we just can’t – for more than a few hours. We just love each other and care about each other too much to want to inflict stupid pain on each other.”

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CLIVE OWEN & SARAH-JANE FENTON (21 YEARS MARRIED)
WHAT’S THEIR SECRET? PUTTING TIME INTO FAMILY LIFE, SHARED PARENTING AND HOUSEHOLD RESPONSIBILITIES

Clive Owen was raised by a working-class father who worked for British rail and a homemaker mother in Coventry, a factory town north of London. He is married to former actress Sarah-Jane Fenton (whom he met on the stage while playing Romeo to her Juliet) and they live in London with their two daughters, Hannah, 19, and Eve, 15.
“I’ve had a brilliant time all the way through our marriage. I value it and appreciate it and put a lot of time into it. If I’ve been away for a certain amount of time, then I’ll put it back into the family and stay at home for a while.
“(Years ago) I decided that I don’t want to keep making films back to back or spend long periods away from my family. By the end of every film shoot, I’m desperate to get back to London and spend time with my wife and kids.
“Parenting has been a priority for me. I don’t have boys, but I’ve got two girls and I’ve always considered my role as a father when it comes to raising them to be very separate from my life as an actor. I go off and make movies and then I come home and I’m a father. I look after my girls.
“I’m very hands-on when I’m home and not working. My wife and I divide our parental duties very evenly, and I have no problems doing the housework when I’m at home. We’re pretty good, really. It’s all very even. I do the washing up, I do the laundry. I don’t let the place go…It’s important to share those things with your wife.”
When asked whether he relied on his charmer’s instincts (Owen was known as a big-time seducer prior to getting married) to win over Fenton: “How do you think I became involved with my wife in the first place! (Laughs) It wasn’t blind luck!”

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CATE BLANCHETT & ANDREW UPTON (19 YEARS MARRIED)
WHAT’S THEIR SECRET? BRINGING OUT THE BEST IN EACH OTHER, CALMING INFLUENCE OF ONE’S PARTNER

Now 47, Cate Blanchett is one of Hollywood’s greatest actresses and most vibrant personalities. She has also found enormous personal “comfort and joy” in her marriage to fellow Australian Andrew Upton, a director/screenwriter who ran the Sydney Theatre Company for five years together before moving to New York where they currently live with their four children, Dashiell, 15, Roman, 12, Ignatius, 8, and adopted 2-year-old daughter, Vivienne.
Asked to explain the secret of her long-term marriage to Andrew Upton, Blanchett is typically direct and unhesitant in her answer: “We make our lives better by being together. We share a lot of interests but most of all we laugh about everything. That counts more than anything else.
“It’s not always easy (managing with her busy film schedule), but Andrew is such a good man and such a strong man that he won’t let me feel too stressed or tormented when I have a tendency to get worked up or stressed.
“He’s been the great calming force in my life and I’m a much happier woman for that. I also think that having children has radically altered my typically selfish actor’s mentality.
“I have the feeling that many people look upon us with horror by wondering how we have been able to work together on a daily basis, but we love it. We have great respect for each other even though we rarely have the same ideas! (Smiles) I always found it very stimulating to listen to his opinions which were generally very distinct from mine while we were preparing projects for the theatre company. But ultimately those differences brought us even closer together because you get to enjoy the give and take of those discussions and in theatre, you never want to work with people who think exactly the same as you do. You want a clash of ideas because that’s going to achieve a better result in the end.”

Catherine Devane