One may be the loneliest number, but in Hollywood two people together can cause absolute pandemonium, with enough media buzz to jump-start both stars' careers.
Take, for example, Spice Girl Victoria Beckham. She might be nothing more than a has-been pop star, no more newsworthy than, say, the 1980s band Bananarama. But thanks to her hotshot, sexy, soccer-playing husband, David, Posh Spice is tabloid royalty.
Let's face it, would all these other famous twosomes, such as TomKat, be so hot to trot over to Vic's house if she just married a plumber from Tarzanna? Probably not. But her relationship has scored her a reality TV special and plenty of press. Is there anything there — is there really anything she has to share?
If sharing is caring, then the gorgeous J. Lo, whose star power eclipses that of all mere mortals and most celebs, is a serial caregiver. After her first marriage to an unknown went fairly unnoticed, Jennifer Lopez, the modern-day equivalent of Liz Taylor, decided to up the dating decibel to a roar.
First, she dated P. Diddy, who helped hype her hip-hop career by giving her the urban street cred necessary to blow up her brand with fragrance and fashion lines. Once the ghetto-glamorous girl realized all that glittered was not gold with her bad boy, her personal fantasy became a public PR nightmare with police chases, guns and courtroom drama. She was back in Hollywood, leaving the West Side story in a New York minute for a more bankable Beantown boy: Ben Affleck.
Though Affleck had his own box-office bling bling (Oscar calling), he didn't win points or major awards for the movies — "Gigli" and "Jersey Girl" — he made while with J. Lo. The first was a box-office embarrassment; the second, a public catastrophe.
While the world drowned in the overexposed and oversaturation of "Bennifer," J. Lo was sapped of her movie star power and Affleck publicly dissed and distanced himself from her.
One would hope that once burned, twice cautious. J. Lo hoped that the third time doing a movie with a leading man — this time, husband Marc Anthony — would be the charm. And it did seem that audiences were enchanted with "El Cantante." But the film didn't do well at the box office and got mixed reviews for a plethora of faults.
Which raises the questions: Do we know too much about our stars today? Does all the tabloid coverage of the personal lives of Hollywood's A-list make us less inclined to care about what they do onscreen or in the studio?
Madonna is another diva adept at finding a talented leading man/director, but her celeb couplings bring no mojo at the movie theater. In 1986, she made the flop "Shanghai Surprise" with then-hubby Sean Penn. Guy Ritchie probably wishes his movie with Madonna, "Swept Away," would get swept away into a garbage bin in Maui.
Though Warren Beatty pumped up Madonna's persona and power with "Dick Tracy" and a cameo in her concert, biopic "Truth or Dare," he outed her style of thrusting herself in front of cameras constantly and conspicuously with no real gain or acclaim of thespian credit.
The other day in an interview, Leonardo DiCaprio told Oprah Winfrey that he liked to keep his personal life a secret to keep a bit of believability in the characters he portrays. Let's face it, he's believable and successful, so I guess he got that point right. Maybe other Hollywood hotties should follow his example.
Legendary Power Couples of the Past
It wasn't always like this. In eras gone by, the chemistry of certain celebrity couples captured the imagination and hearts of audiences. Like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in "Key Largo," Liz Taylor and Richard Burton in "Cleopatra," Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw in "The Getaway," Warren Beatty and Annette Benning in "Bugsy," and Courteney Cox and David Arquette in "Scream."
The most recent supersize, sexy screen couple that captured our hearts, minds and wallets was Brangelina in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." Although no big competitor in the summer box-office bonanza, "A Mighty Heart," which Angelina Jolie starred in and Brad Pitt produced, was also a critically acclaimed success.
So, what's the intangible secret that makes a celebrity couple a success onscreen, and why is it so elusive? Is it the talent quotient, chemistry, looks, hype, or something as simple as the quality of the film? (Sadly, I doubt it's that — the public isn't always so discerning.)
What is it that drives an audience to a movie? Usually, by the time a film from an offscreen couple comes out, we feel as if we've experienced so much of their problems, partying, kissing and canoodling that we can't accept them, and are not compelled to see them as different characters.
Rare is the case of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. They first appeared in 1990's "Days of Thunder," at the beginning of their careers and relationship, the latter of which ended soon after 1999's "Eyes Wide Shut." It showed Cruise and Kidman as the public wanted to see them, steaming up the screen, contrary to Kidman's public aloof presence and her frosty ice queen glamour. (Personally, I love her. She is warm, girly, sweet and sincere. Just goes to show you can't believe every image that is conceived in Hollywood.)
So, maybe this sort of star power is a booster shot to keep the press machines in motion. Are actors so caught up in their own hype that they would sell their personal happiness to the studios for scripts with the best bid or best co-star? Or are they so caught up in their acting ability that they forget these romances aren't real?
It is abundantly clear that actors are acting, and they are emotionally vulnerable while undertaking, absorbing and living a character, and that closeness happens.
Co-stars can quickly ruin real-life relationships, as what happened with Meg Ryan and Russell Crow when they starred in "Proof of Life," or with Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson in "You, Me & Dupree."
By the time the director yells cut, the devastation and damages are done, and by time these films hit the theater, we are overdosed and over it.
So, take a hint from Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, or Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher: You can share the light and sparkle brighter, but you don't always have to share the screen to live the dream.