Oscars 2012 and the Best Actress Curse: Did Natalie Portman Kill It?

Natalie Portman is still going strong, but other winners haven't been so lucky.

ByABC News
February 23, 2012, 5:42 PM

Feb. 24, 2012— -- intro: Actresses know to hang onto their men when Oscar comes to call, but has the dreaded curse associated with the Academy Award been broken?

A startling number of Best Actress Oscar winners have ended their relationships within a year or two after taking home the award, a trend that has come to be known as the "Oscar curse."

"It's not a theory, it's been scientifically proven," said Bradley Jacobs, a movie editor for Us Weekly. "Sometimes they end right away, other times it takes six months or a year, but they do end."

Natalie Portman, who won the Best Actress Oscar last year for her role as a deeply disturbed ballerina in "Black Swan," is one of the few whose relationship hasn't been doomed by the award, yet.

Portman met dancer Benjamin Millepied while they were filming "Black Swan" in 2009. Soon after the film wrapped, the couple announced their engagement and pregnancy. Portman gave birth to their son Aleph Portman-Millepied last year. But can their seemingly whimsical romance last? Some are skeptical.

"That relationship doesn't seem totally on solid ground," Jacobs said. "I'm pulling for her, but I'm worried for her relationship because of the curse."

Check out the Oscar Dailies preview show

Researchers at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and Carnegie Mellon University produced a study last year that looked at married women nominated for Best Actress from 1936 to 2010. They concluded that 60 percent of Best Actress winners got divorced after going home with Oscar.

Shannon Fox, a relationship expert and author of "Last One Down the Aisle Wins," said while winning an Oscar can take its toll on a relationship, there are numerous reasons why a Hollywood marriage, which has a "shorter shelf life" than most, would fail.

"The movie was probably made two years before it ever made it to the Oscars so the issues have probably been going on for a while, whether they won the award or not," Fox said. "[But] the person knows when they shoot it and they know after they've seen it, it's an Oscar contender ... so there is definitely a pressure on the spouse to stay with it until the Oscars are over, let that breath out, then figure out what's wrong with the marriage."

One of the biggest reasons celebrity marriages fail, Fox said, is because actors are away for months at a time, so there's a lack of physical contact -- several of the Best Actress nominees who divorced their spouses were once married to other actors or people in the entertainment industry -- but also a lot of intimate time spent with other people while filming.

"Most marriages that I have ever worked with would never be able to withstand another partner kissing or even fake making love with another person," Fox said. "The fact that you're on set with that person and your partner isn't there, and you're acting like you're in love with them and you're physical with them and those feelings happen."

Another reason is the incredible, emotional drain an actress goes through when she is getting into character, Fox said, and sometimes, that actress can come back to her spouse a completely different woman.

"An Oscar-winning role is a very demanding role," she said. "Not just demanding of time ... it's a very emotionally demanding role ... you really have to be completely inhabited by your character and a lot of women will experience different emotions than they have before."

Not to mention that winning an Oscar greatly increases an actress' asking price, and marriages across the board can buckle when the woman is the breadwinner.

Jacobs of Us Weekly predicts that Viola Davis will take home the Oscar for Best Actress Sunday for her role in "The Help," which would be a big deal, he said, because she would only be the second African-American woman to ever win the award, after Halle Berry.

Six Degrees of Best Actors: Unexpected Pairings

But if Davis were to win, could she be stricken with the curse? She has been married to actor Julius Tennon since 2003. He has two sons from a previous relationship, and the couple just adopted a baby girl in October.

"It takes a real man to be married to an Oscar-winning actress," Jacobs said. "She's in demand ... everyone wants to meet you, and be the only one on the red carpet with you ... and for the men to hold your purse. Men don't want to hold purses. Men want to also be vibrant."

Here are just some of the Best Actress Oscar winners who have been hit with the curse since 1938.

quicklist: 1category: title: Sandra Bullockurl: media:15779455text: Sandra Bullock won the Best Actress Oscar in 2010 for her critically acclaimed performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy in "The Blind Side," a biopic about Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher.

Bullock mentioned her husband, "Monster Garage" host Jesse James, in her Oscar acceptance speech, saying, "I love you so much, and you're really hot. And I want you so much."

The Oscar Curse: Mere days after Bullock secured her Oscar win, rumors emerged that James had an 11-month affair with tattoo model Michelle "Bombshell" McGee. The affair led to a nasty, public divorce, all the while the couple had been in the process of adopting a baby. Bullock filed for divorce in April 2010 and began raising their adopted son, Louis, now 2, on her own.

In an interview with "Nightline" last year, James revealed that while he and Bullock both have houses in Austin, Texas, they don't speak to each other.

"I've never seen Louie since everything happened," he said, adding that his daughter, Sunny, from a previous marriage has only seen Bullock "a couple of times," but that there has been "no contact at all for several months.

"I think, you know, a marriage ending, all this crazy stuff ... that was like a lesson to work on myself and fix what's wrong with me," James said. "So I don't transfer it and keep it going, like my parents did."

quicklist: 2category: title: Kate Winsleturl: media:15779510text: Kate Winslet won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as Hanna Schmitz in "The Reader" in 2009.

That same year, Winslet also won the Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Drama for her performance in "Revolutionary Road," directed by then-husband Sam Mendes.

In her Oscar acceptance speech, Winslet thanked her "wonderful husband and two beautiful children who let me do what I love and who love me just the way that I am."

The Oscar Curse: In March 2010, Winslet announced she was ending her almost seven-year marriage to Mendes.

"Kate and Sam are saddened to announce that they separated earlier this year," their lawyers said in a statement. "The split is entirely amicable and is by mutual agreement. Both parties are fully committed to the future joint parenting of their children."

quicklist: 3category: title: Reese Witherspoonurl: media:15779616text: Reese Witherspoon won the Best Actress Oscar for her critically acclaimed performance as June Carter in the Johnny Cash biopic, "Walk The Line," in 2006.

In her Oscar acceptance speech, Witherspoon thanked her "wonderful husband," actor Ryan Phillippe.

The couple first met at Witherspoon's 21st birthday in 1997, and later worked together on the 1999 film "Cruel Intentions," which included a steamy sex scene between bad-boy Sebastian, played by Phillippe, and the virginal Annette, played by Witherspoon.

The couple married when Witherspoon was 24, a "ridiculously young" age, she admitted to the U.K.'s version of Elle magazine in an April 2011 interview.

The Oscar Curse: After a seven-year marriage, Witherspoon, 35, and Phillippe, 36, who have two children together, Ava, 11, and Deacon, 7, divorced in October 2007. Three years later, Witherspoon tied the knot with Hollywood agent Jim Toth.

quicklist: 4category: title: Hilary Swankurl: media:15779659text: Hilary Swank won her second Best Actress Oscar in 2005 for her role as the amateur boxing star Maggie Fitzgerald in "Million Dollar Baby." Her first Oscar was for her performance in the 1998 film "Heartwood."

In her Oscar acceptance speech for "Million Dollar Baby," Swank told her husband, actor Chad Lowe, "you are my everything."

The Oscar Curse: In January 2006, 11 months after winning the Oscar, Swank separated from Lowe, ending their nearly nine-year marriage. At the time, Swank said his "substance abuse" played an important role in their sudden separation.

The Official 2012 Oscar Schedule

quicklist: 5category: title: Halle Berryurl: media:15779723text: Halle Berry won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Leticia Musgrove in "Monster Ball" in 2002, becoming the first African-American woman to win the award.

In her acceptance speech, Berry thanked her husband, R&B singer Eric Benet, calling him "the joy of my life."

The Oscar Curse: Seven months after receiving the award, Berry and Benet split. They reportedly tried to patch up their relationship but as rumors swirled that Benet had been unfaithful, the couple finally separated. In October 2003, Berry released a statement saying, "Eric and I have had marital problems for some time now and have tried to work things out together."

quicklist: 6category: title: Julia Robertsurl: media:15782280text:Julia Roberts, one of the most popular actresses of all time, won the Best Actress Oscar in 2001 for portraying the environmental crusader Erin Brockovich in the biopic of the same name.

While Roberts has had other Academy Award nominations, numerous Golden Globe wins and enormous success at the box office, this was her only Oscar win to date.

In her long Oscar acceptance speech, Roberts thanked several people and even joked for the "stick man" to sit back down "because I may never be up here again." But in rattling off her list, then-boyfriend actor Benjamin Bratt was mentioned in name only.

The Oscar Curse: Roberts has had several ups and downs with relationships over the years. In 1998, she began dating "Law & Order" star Benjamin Bratt, who escorted her to the 2001 Academy Award ceremony, where she won the Oscar.

Just a few months later, Roberts announced in June 2001 that the two were no longer a couple. "It's come to a kind and tenderhearted end," the actress told David Letterman during a taping of the "Late Show" in July 2001.

Oscars: Favorite Movie Moments

quicklist: 7category: title: Emma Thompsonurl: media:15782186text:British actress Emma Thompson won the Best Actress Oscar in 1993 for her performance in "Howards End."

In her Oscar acceptance speech, Thompson thanked everyone from the studio to her co-star actor Anthony Hopkins, but did not mention her then-husband actor Kenneth Branagh.

The Oscar Curse: Thompson and Branagh were married in 1989, and acted together in several films, including "Henry V" (1989), "Dead Again" (1991) and "Much Ado About Nothing" (1993), but the couple divorced in October 1995.

quicklist: 8category: title: Helen Hunturl: media:15779711text: Helen Hunt won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in "As Good As It Gets," in 1998.

She also became the second actress, after Liza Minelli, to win an Oscar, a Golden Globe and an Emmy in the same year.

At the end of her Oscar acceptance speech, Hunt turned to her then-boyfriend, actor Hank Azaria, and said, "and you, just the best man that I know." The couple was married the following year in 1999.

The Oscar Curse: Alas, it was not meant to be. Hunt, 48, filed for divorce from Azaria, 47, after being married for only 17 months.

quicklist: 9category: title: Liza Minneliurl: media:15782432 text:Liza Minnelli, who has been called one of the most versatile actresses of all time, won the Best Actress Oscar in 1973 for her lead role in the film adaptation of the musical, "Cabaret."

She is one of the only people to have won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony award.

Minnelli's Oscar acceptance speech was short and sweet, in which she simply thanked everyone involved with the film and concluded with, "thank you for giving me this award, you've made me very happy."

The Oscar Curse: Minnelli has been married and divorced four times over the course of her career. At the time of her Oscar win, Minnelli was married to her first husband, singer Peter Allen. The couple divorced in 1974.

quicklist: 10category: title: Jane Fondaurl: media:15782238text:Jane Fonda won her Best Actress Oscar for her role in the mystery thriller "Klute" in 1972.

"There's a great deal to say and I'm not going to say it tonight, I would just like to really thank you very much," Fonda said in her very short Oscar acceptance speech.

The Oscar Curse: Fonda has had three husbands over the course of her career, but married her first husband, screenwriter Roger Vadim, in 1965. The couple divorced in 1973, and shortly after, Fonda married activist Tom Hayden, who she later divorced in 1989.

quicklist: 11category: title: Ingrid Bergmanurl: media:15782322text:Ingrid Bergman is most well-known for her role as Ilsa, the beautiful, haunted wife of Victor Laszlo, in the 1942 film, "Casablanca," but she did not win an Oscar for this performance.

Bergman's first Best Actress Oscar win was for her role in the 1945 film, "Gaslight," and her second was for her performance in the 1956 film, "Anastasia," although she was nominated several times throughout her career.

The Oscar Curse: In 1937, Bergman married dentist Petter Lindstrom at age 21. However, in 1949, the actress struck up a friendship with famed Italian director Roberto Rossellini, and the two had an affair. The scandal was so enormous in the United States that it led to Bergman being officially denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate and Ed Sullivan refused to have the actress on his CBS show.

After a very public, nasty divorce, Bergman moved to Italy and married Rossellini in 1950, where she went on to star in several of his films. However, the couple divorced in 1957 within months of her receiving the Oscar for "Anastasia."

quicklist: 12category: title: Joan Crawfordurl: media:15782365text:Joan Crawford won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in the 1945 post-war film "Mildred Pierce." It was her only Academy Award win out of three career nominations.

Crawford was so terrified of losing the Oscar that night, that she claimed she was ill with the flu and needed to go to the hospital. She sent her make-up artist and hair stylist to the ceremony in her place. When she won, the statue was sent to her hospital room, where she posed for photos from her bed.

The Oscar Curse: Crawford was married four times over the course of her life. In 1942, she married actor Phillip Terry, who had starred along side her in the 1937 film, "Mannequin," but the couple separated in December 1945.

quicklist: 13category: title: Vivien Leighurl: media:15779868text: Vivien Leigh won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as the beautiful, yet stubborn, Scarlet O'Hara in the timeless classic, "Gone With the Wind," in 1940.

Her acceptance speech was brief, in which she joked that if she were to thank everyone who had supported her during the film, her speech "would be as long as 'Gone With the Wind' itself."

The Oscar Curse: At the time, Leigh was married to barrister Herbert Leigh Holman, a man 13 years her senior. The couple divorced in February 1940.

quicklist: 14category: title: Luise Rainerurl: media:15780037text: Luise Rainer, the first woman to win two Academy Awards and the first person to win them consecutively, won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as a Chinese peasant in "The Good Earth."

In her 1938 Oscar acceptance speech, Rainer said, "I have often heard the Academy Award to be a bad omen. I don't think it need be."

The Oscar Curse: Rainer had been married to playwright Clifford Odets, whose notable scripts included "Sweet Smell of Success" and "The Flowering Peach." The couple filed for divorce in 1938, and it was finalized in 1940.

Oscar History: Explore Our Past Winners