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.