Fame can have a variety of strange effects on married couples. Some famous pairs become “Hollywood power couples” or build media empires, while others find themselves in weird positions of trying or trying not to outshine each other.
Some star-centric unions deliver a healthy career boost for both parties, while other actors suffer the collateral damage of a partner’s much-publicized bad behavior. Whatever the outcome, there’s no question that movie-star pairings usually mark a career course-change for both parties.
Sometimes it seems that the security of a celebrity union depends on how much public scrutiny a couple is forced to endure. When private life is kept separate from the professional sphere, actor couples seem much more likely to survive a shared celebrity status. When the two worlds begin to blur together, that’s when things can get shaky.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for couples to successfully work together in Hollywood. Several have helped boost each other’s careers, sacrificed career advancement for family life, or joined forces in furthering the careers of others.
Even the most established Hollywood stars walk a thin tightrope throughout their entire careers. Star couples arguably walk an even thinner one.
To show you what we mean, here are the 7 Actors Who Hurt Their Spouse’s Career, and 8 Who Helped It.
15 15. Helped: Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon
Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon were a gorgeous pair of Hollywood darlings in the early 2000s. The Cruel Intentions co-stars married young (not to mention early in their careers) and had kids soon after.
Their adorable domestic bliss was cut short, however, when Phillippe and Witherspoon divorced in 2006. At the time, Witherspoon had become an A-list star, completely outshining her soon-to-be ex. Since their split, Phillippe’s career seems to have fizzled out a bit.
Witherspoon’s career, on the other hand, only skyrocketed after her divorce. Yes, her talent and starpower have been the undeniable source of her success over the past decade, but her journey of self-empowerment after the breakup with Phillippe certainly helped.
Today, Witherspoon is happily married to agent Tim Toth and maintains a healthy co-parenting relationship with Phillippe.
14 Hurt: Chris Pratt and Anna Faris
Ana Faris was already a huge star when she met future husband Chris Pratt in 2007. Pratt, though building a steady career, was far less widely known at the time.
The couple married in 2009 and gave birth to a son in 2012. It was around this time that Faris began to retreat slightly from the spotlight and Pratt became a mega-star with the surprise Marvel hit Guardians of the Galaxy.
Last year, Faris and Pratt announced their divorce. Their joint public statement portrayed a largely amicable separation, but fans were still upset over the split.
We can only speculate as to what exactly led to the divorce, but the fluctuating status of the couple’s individual careers certainly couldn’t have helped their marriage.
13 Helped: Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon
Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani has had a very good couple of years. His supporting role on HBO’s Silicon Valley put him on the map, and his Oscar-nominated movie The Big Sick made him a star. Co-written by Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, The Big Sick has been a huge career-booster for both of them.
The Big Sick is based on the real-life story of Nanjiani and Gordon’s courtship, detailing the couple’s navigation of cultural differences and Gordon’s coma-inducing illness.
Though Nanjiani starred in the movie as a fictional version of himself, while Gordon’s alter ego was played by actress Zoe Kazan, Nanjiani and Gordon have been a united front in promoting and talking about the movie, which has made it a much bigger success for them as a married couple.
12 Hurt: Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards
When Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards got married in 2001, both actors were sitting on top of the world. Sheen was in the middle of a successful sitcom run on Spin City, and Richards was just coming off a string of hit movies, including Starship Troopers, Wild Things, and The World is Not Enough.
Their wedding was a beautifully curated media spectacle that, in hindsight, was a mirror image of the dark media massacre that their marriage would become.
Sheen and Richards’ domestic bliss was incredibly short-lived. In 2006, Richards filed for divorce from Sheen, alleging infidelity and verbal abuse. The divorce was messy, and Sheen’s scandalous public life in the interim has clearly had a negative impact on both his and Richards’ careers.
The two seemed to have patched things up for a while, making cameo appearances in each other’s projects and reaching amicable custody agreements for their children. Then Sheen came out as HIV-positive in 2015 and kickstarted a whole new round of gross media frenzy for his ex-wife and children.
11 Helped: Mia Farrow and Woody Allen
Throughout the '80s and early '90s, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow were arguably Hollywood’s most respected couple. Farrow first appeared in Allen’s A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, followed by Zelig and had a particularly notable starring role in Broadway Danny Rose.
Though never officially married, Allen and Farrow were life partners for the next decade, and made a number of memorable movies together, including Hannah and Her Sisters, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Another Woman, and Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Allen clearly owed a great deal of his continued success throughout the '80s and '90s to Farrow. The actress was more than a muse-- she set the tone for Allen’s movies and commanded them through her brilliant performances.
It’s a shame that her relationship with Allen ended up costing her so much when it clearly boosted Allen’s career for so many years.
10 Hurt: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones have been a Hollywood power couple for nearly two decades now. In recent years, the significantly older Douglas has continued to turn out high-profile performances (most recently as Hank Pym in Marvel’s Ant-Man), while wife Zeta-Jones’ professional output has all but dropped off.
This seems kind of unfair, considering that it was Douglas who started some weird rumors about the allegedly cancerous effects of his wife’s nether regions.
In 2013, Michael Douglas revealed that he had throat cancer. When asked if he regretting smoking or drinking, Douglas responded, “No. Because, without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV, which actually comes about from cunnilingus.” T
his now-infamous statement, however unintentional, has made both Douglas and wife Zeta-Jones the brunt of a lot of jokes.
9 Helped: Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos
Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos have been married for over 20 years, and over two decades they’ve built a media empire together. The pair met on the set of All My Children in 1995 and eloped the following year. Since then, Ripa and Consuelos have been crushing it in both private and public life.
Ripa and Consuelos operate a powerful media production company, MILOJO (named after their three children, Michael, Lola, and Joaquin). The company began with the successful ESPN documentary The Streak, and took off with TLC projects like Masters of Reception and Homemade Millionaire.
Today, the company is thriving with new projects, and Ripa is more popular than ever on Live! with Kelly and Ryan—the fourth iteration of ABC’s Live! morning show property with Ripa at the helm.
8 Hurt: Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates
Actress and model Phoebe Cates was the talk of tinseltown after her "revealing" performance in the 1982 comedy hit Fast Times at Ridgemont High. She followed up her iconic debut with a number of successful '80’s comedies like Gremlins and Bright Lights, Big City.
In the early '90s, Cates starred in smaller movies like Drop Dead Fred and Bodies, Rest and Motion. Since then, she’s only appeared in one movie (2001’s The Anniversary Party), while husband Kevin Kline has maintained a prolific career.
Kline and Cates married in 1989 and started a family soon after. The couple have kept their family life private over the years, so it’s hard to say whether Kline’s career advancement coincided with Cates’ career drop-off.
However, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that family life forced Cates to back away from the spotlight.
7 Helped: Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
Separately, Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman are both veterans of hit TV shows. Together, they’re one of America’s favorite comedy power couples.
Mullally was already starring in the hit sticom Will & Grace when she met Offerman. They married after 18 months of dating. Offerman’s first big break came soon after their marriage when he appeared in a Will & Grace guest role.
He continued to work regularly in limited roles on TV shows like The King of Queens, Deadwood, and Gilmore Girl,s before landing his star-turning gig as Ron Swanson in Parks & Recreation.
Offerman is a singular talent who was destined to become a huge star, but who knows how his career would have gone had he not met his soul mate at just the right time.
6 Hurt: Phil Hartman and Brynn Hartman
Phil Hartman was a household name in comedy in 1998. He had helped create Paul Reubens develop the Pee-Wee Herman character, crushed it for nearly a decade on Saturday Night Live, and was in the middle of a successful run on the NBC sticom NewsRadio.
His success was cut short when wife Brynn shot and ended the life of Hartman in their Encino, Los Angeles home.
Hartman’s death shook the comedy world, igniting a wave of tributes from friends and fans alike. Though not a huge star like other SNL cast-members of his time, Hartman was well respected for his ability to shine in an ensemble.
His wife was an actress with drug problems and mental illness, and her frustration with her husband’s success resulted in the actor’s tragic and sudden death.
5 Helped: Annette Bening and Warren Beatty
Warren Beatty and Annette Bening have been one of Hollywood’s most glamorous power couples for over 25 years. The couple met and fell in love on the set of Bugsy, Barry Levinson’s biopic of mobster Bugsy Siegel. They married in 1992, just as Bening’s star power was growing to match her husband’s.
Between two memorable performances alongside Harrison Ford and Michael Douglas in Regarding Henry and The American President, respectively, Bening rejoined Beatty on the big screen in Love Affair, a remake of the 1939 movie and subsequent 1957 Cary Grant-starring remake An Affair to Remember.
Both Bugsy and Love Affair came at just the right moment for both Bening and Beatty, elevating the former to superstar status and revitalizing the career of the latter.
4 Hurt: Woody Allen and Mia Farrow
Mia Farrow may have single-handedly made Woody Allen’s career during the '80s and '90s, but Allen certainly played a role in ruining Farrow’s in the aftermath of their breakup.
The couple split in 1992 after Allen’s affair with Farrow’s 21-year-old adopted daughter Soon-Yi came to light. Farrow also brought forth allegations that her daughter Dylan had been abused by Allen.
Ultimately, the allegations were dismissed by the testimony of a doctor who questioned the validity of Dylan’s accusations. In 2014, Dylan Farrow wrote an open letter in The New York Times, giving a harrowing, detailed first-hand account of Allen’s abuse.
Mia Farrow kept working after her breakup and subsequent legal battles with Allen, but her career never quite recovered from the scandal. Allen, meanwhile, has continued to make critically acclaimed movies for decades, and public outcry has only recently had any effect on his career.
3 Helped: Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann
Few modern Hollywood couples are more beloved than Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann. Over the course of the last 10 years, the pair have built a media empire that has single handedly changed the face of comedy.
Of the two, Apatow may be the writer/producer/media mogul on paper, but his life with and input from Leslie Mann has undoubtedly played a huge role in the success and has affected how relatable his movies are.
Meanwhile, Mann has become a comedy star as a result of her performances in her husband’s films. The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People, and This Is 40 all feature incredible performances from Mann.
It would be easy to say that Mann is the muse to Apatow’s comedy genius, but it’s probably more accurate to say that the two are equal partners in an enormously influential comedy oeuvre.
2 Hurt: Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
Hollywood legends Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward met in 1953. Newman was married at the time, but divorced his wife shortly after starring with Woodward in 1957’s The Long, Hot Summer. In 1958, Newman and Woodward were married and remained together until Newman’s death in 2008.
Newman and Woodward were one of the first Hollywood couples to move way from LA to raise a family. However, even after moving out of Hollywood, they continued to work steadily.
Newman became one of the biggest stars of all time, drastically outshining his wife. Though Woodward continued to turn out critically acclaimed performances for decades, it’s wholly possible that her husband’s insatiable star power had an adverse effect on her own notoriety.
1 Helped: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
They’re arguably the most famous (or infamous) Hollywood couple of all time. The turbulent, decades-long, on-and-off relationship between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton is the stuff of legend.
The pair began their epic affair in 1962 on the set of Cleopatra. Both actors were married at the time, but eventually married, divorced, remarried, and re-divorced over the course of the next 15 years.
The “Liz and Dick” media scandal surrounding the pairs comings and goings from each other’s lives only elevated their careers. Their tempestuous relationship arguably created the tabloid industry as we know it today, and only contributed to their celebrity status as a couple, as well as individually.
For a vivid, albeit abstract representation of Taylor and Burton’s relationship, check out Mike Nichols’ Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
So what do you think? What are your favorite Hollywood power couples, and how have their careers been impacted by their marriages? Join the convo in the comments!