There's something about Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes' just-announced breakup that is bringing out the heretofore-invisible US Weekly in me. Just look at this photo! If only we knew then what we knew now. What secrets lie behind those eyes?
Just imagine the missed headline opportunities for this Vanity Fair shot. "CLINGY SAM DESPERATE OVER KATE'S WANDERING EYE," was Jessica's suggestion. "THE HAUNTING LOOKS EVERYONE BUT ANNIE LEIBOVITZ MISSED," was mine.
But seriously, when it came to those two, it was easy for a girl of certain leanings — normally indifferent to celebrity entangements — to fall for real-life headlines like these:
A family man — and he likes sports! (I guess the assumption that being "slowed down" is a good thing was at that point unexamined).
That's from the Times Of London. A Telegraph headline, also from last summer, called them "Hollywood's golden couple". If the British press was leading the charge on de-throning Brad and Angelina in favor of a touch of Shakespeare with six Oscar nominations, well, it was about more than shared nationality. They were an upper-middlebrow (lower-highbrow?) couple you didn't have to feel bad about ogling, because they seemed both brilliant and normal.
And so nice. They spoke respectfully of another's work and successes without seeming smug. They were at the top of their games, but they seemed to live real lives. A typical Winslet interview went like this:
"I need to be looked after," she says. "I'm not talking about diamond rings and nice restaurants and fancy stuff-in fact, that makes me uncomfortable. I didn't grow up with it and it's not me, you know. But I need someone to say to me, ‘Shall I run you a bath?' or ‘Let's go to the pub, just us.' I mean, the things that make me happiest in the whole world are going on the occasional picnic, either with my children or with my partner. Big family gatherings, and being able to go to the grocery store—if I can get those things in, I'm doing good."
And unlike other celebrity protestations of normalcy, we believed it. Mendes could strike a similar note. His fondness for portraying suburban dystopia aside, he said things to interviewers like, "I'm not someone who believes men and women are destined to forever be apart and everything will eventually dissolve." He took four years after the birth of his son, during which he only directed one play, in order to be with his son, saying, "Really, spending time with the kids is the defining… You know how it is, I just don't want to go away." He's as well-regarded as ever, the mixed records of Revolutionary Road and Away We Go aside, and he's maintained his theater cred. (Sam, I loved As You Like It!)
Can you blame me for being disappointed it wasn't as perfect as it seemed? Or for both dreading and longing for the same old pseudo-explanations — she was bored, or he was bored, and was that another dude with her in Mexico?
And I'm not alone. Comments on yesterday's post on the news were pretty united in the sentiment: "I could not care less about 99% of celebrity relationships, but they seemed down-to-earth, sharp, and emotionally invested in each other. Bummer," said one. Another echoed, "They both seemed so self-aware and insulated from the typical show business crap that tends to bust up marriages."
In other words, they were like the famous people we thought we would be if, you know, we could act like Kate Winslet and direct like Sam Mendes. We would effortlessly manage success without being odious, and without sacrificing our lives or a perfect marriage. How cruel to have it proven to us how little, after all, we really knew about them — how little you can know about any marriage or relationship from the outside. And if it's any comfort, they so far seem to be having a really classy, respectful divorce. At least from what we can tell.
Related: How Sam Mendes Became The Man [Guardian]
Kate Winslet And Sam Mendes Split By Mutual Agreement After Seven Years Marriage [Daily Mail]
Sam Mendes Interview [The Scotsman]
Kate Winslet And Sam Mendes: Hollywood's Golden Couple [Telegraph]
Sam Mendes: How Kate Winslet And The Kids Have Helped Me Slow Down [Times UK]
Isn't She Deneuvely? [VF]
The 2009 Actors And Directors Portfolio [VF]