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Win an Oscar, Lose a Spouse?

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For any actor or actress, winning an Oscar is undeniably an ideal accomplishment and desired career booster. Although placing an Academy Award on your mantel may induce more jobs, higher pay and an increase in notoriety, people have recently begun to speculate that it also unfortunately disturbs the relationships and marriages of the Hollywood couples to which it is awarded. News of this so-called “Oscar Curse” has been circulating the media following the emergence of rumors regarding this year’s Best Actress Winner, Sandra Bullock, and her husband, Jesse James (former host of Discovery Channel’s “Monster Garage”). According to reports, Bullock is leaving James because he maintained an 11-month affair with a tattoo model and stripper while Bullock was busy working on “The Blind Side,” the film for which she won an Oscar.

Bullock is not the only actor to see the end of a relationship following an Oscar win; in fact, the list is quite long.

In 1997, Kim Basinger won for her part in “L.A. Confidential” and a year later divorced her husband, Alec Baldwin. In 1999, Angelina Jolie won for her role in “Girl, Interrupted” and divorced Johnny Lee Miller. Julia Roberts won in 2000 for “Erin Brockovich” and split with then-boyfriend of four years, Benjaminn Bratt, shortly afterward. Similarly, Halle Berry won in 2001 for “Monsters Ball” and divorced her husband, Eric Benet, within the same year. After winning her second Oscar in 2004 for “Million Dollar Baby,” Hillary Swank and Chad Lowe divorced. Reese Witherspoon won in 2005 for “Walk the Line” and then divorced Ryan Phillippe. Sean Penn recently divorced his wife, Robin Wright Penn, after winning Best Actor in 2009. And, also in 2009, Kate Winslet won for “The Reader” and separated this year from director Sam Mendes.

Because of this extensive record, the media has made failed Hollywood relationships the result of a glorious Oscar win. It kind of makes sense. By winning an Oscar, these lucky actors and actresses place themselves in the spotlight and increase their rank in the extremely critical and competitive piranha tank that is Hollywood. This attention has to put some strain on any relationship, which explains why the numerous relationships listed above floundered shortly after one partner won the award.

However, this theory is by no means foolproof. It does not account for the significant amount of Hollywood marriages that do last and the higher number of Hollywood marriages that don’t last even without an Oscar. Elizabeth Taylor’s two Oscars could not have produced all seven of her divorces. While an Oscar may expedite the eventual dissolution of actor relationships, it does not directly cause them. Hollywood relationships rarely work because both parties are often in the spotlight and separated for long periods of time. Also, the lifestyle that these individuals are a part of does not particularly accommodate stable, faithful romance. In all likelihood, Sandra Bullock and Jesse James would not have stood the test of time, Oscar or not. Does winning an Academy Award mean that a marriage is doomed? Probably not; it just means people care enough to want to read all about the scandal when it breaks.

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