When it comes to the dissolution of a celebrity couple, most Hollywood types like to give the press similarly vague and diplomatic causes for their separation. “Irreconcilable Differences” is a popular catchall phrase that serves to describe the impetus for many Hollywood divorces. It can be a stand-in for all sorts of common relationship enders, such as infidelity, physical abuse, and substance issues. Sometimes, it’s as simple as their individual goals and needs changing or their lives taking different directions. But occasionally, the reasons can be a lot more complicated, and every once in a while, the inciting incidents are downright outrageous.
Some of the couples on this list experienced shocking betrayals by their partners, or succumbed to unusual addictions, taking their loved ones down with them. In other cases, they discovered they didn’t really know each other at all and were appalled to discover the truth about who they married. Sadly, children were often involved, either getting hit by the shrapnel of their parent’s explosive breakup, or occasionally even being the catalyst for the relationship’s end.
Whatever the case, buckle up and hang on to your butts as we bring you some mind-blowing revelations about 18 celebrity couples that broke up for shocking reasons!
18 Morgan Freeman and Myrna Colley-Lee
Morgan Freeman has a reputation for being a kind and soft-spoken Hollywood star. That’s why he's almost always hired to play the calm voice of reason in films. Freeman’s second marriage, to costume designer Myrna Colley-Lee, lasted twice as long as his first. But after 23 years, 2 biological children, and 1 adopted child (his first wife’s daughter from another marriage) they called it quits. The red flag here is that Colley-Lee, received a $400 million divorce settlement. That kind of money smacks of reparations.
There are many rumors about what Freeman was apologizing for, including infidelity (though both claimed to be in an open marriage by the end), and a lawsuit related to an alleged DUI. But the most disturbing allegation is that he was having a decade-long affair with his (non-biological, but still) granddaughter, E’Dina Hines, which began in her teens. The story gets even more disturbing because Hines was murdered in 2015 by her mentally troubled boyfriend.
17 Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney
“I forgot about that. It’s a pretty big thing to forget, isn’t it?” That's what Renee Zellweger had to say last year about her 2005 marriage and subsequent annulment to country singer Kenny Chesney. Annulments are inherently dramatic. But theirs became especially provocative when they cited “fraud” as the reason for negating their vows. At the time, the couple refused to elaborate; though Zellweger’s statement identified the term as “simply legal language and not a reflection of Kenny's character."
Of course, that didn’t stop anybody from speculating. The most popular conclusion was that Chesney was gay. In 2007, the country star opened up about the split, telling Anderson Cooper that at the time, he and Zellweger believed that fraud was the “least harmful” option (amongst choices like force, bigamy, and insanity). He didn’t speak out then because he “didn't have to prove to anybody that [he] wasn't [gay]”. Chesney explained the real reason was more nebulous, but basically amounted to the fact that he wasn’t ready to be a husband.
16 Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva
Mel Gibson was in the midst of a public downward spiral when he met Russian singer-songwriter Oksana Grigorieva. He was struggling with alcohol abuse, having been charged with a DUI and recorded making anti-Semitic remarks about the arresting officer. Then, he left his wife of 29 years (and their seven children) to be with Grigorieva, who was pregnant with his child.
In 2009, she gave birth to a daughter, but broke up with Gibson 6 months later. Those wondering what caused the split got their answer a few months on, when Grigorieva released audio recordings of Gibson using racial epithets and threatening to kill her. She then, wisely, filed a restraining order against the actor. It’s safe to say they’re never, ever, getting back together.
15 Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter
Director Tim Burton is famous for re-using actors for his various projects. But he mixed business with pleasure when he fell in love with Helena Bonham Carter on the set of Planet of the Apes. Closeness sometimes breeds contempt, and as they went on to make 6 more films during their 13-year relationship, they were spending nearly all their waking hours together. Despite never marrying, they had 2 children and lived in separate-but-adjoining houses.
In 2014, they announced their breakup. Rumors circulated that Burton had slept with a production assistant, but trouble had already been brewing. Working together in a stressful business for long hours and then coming home and raising children together eventually took its toll. Carter said they will of course continue to co-parent, and their working relationship hasn’t gone to its grave just yet. “It might be easier to work together without being together any more. He always only cast me with great embarrassment.”
14 Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale
Busting your cheating spouse: there’s an app for that. Rockers Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale were tabloid and red carpet darlings for 13 years, often photographed out and about in domestic bliss with their 3 beautiful children. But their seemingly perfect union came to an end when it turned out Rossdale had been boning the nanny.
That alone isn’t uncommon, particularly in Hollywood, but the real shock is that Stefani uncovered the truth about their 3-year affair when Rossdale accidentally synched his texts with the family iPad. The nanny had sent Rossdale naked photos, and there were numerous text exchanges planning secret rendezvous. Said Stefani, “My life basically blew up in my face.” But she’s better now with a new job (The Voice) and boyfriend (Blake Shelton). “Now I’m in this new life, and it’s pretty awesome I have to say.”
13 Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green
Finding that work/life balance is a challenge for everyone. But Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green found it especially difficult because their respective careers were at odds when they started a family. Fox met Green when he guest starred on her 2004 sitcom, Hope & Faith. Then 18, Megan didn’t know 30-year-old Brian from his heyday on 90210. But they fell in love, breaking up several times before finally tying the knot in 2010. Megan acknowledged problems, but said she couldn’t “imagine a scenario we couldn't work through.”
Two kids and 5 years later, Megan filed for divorce citing that old “Irreconcilable Differences” chestnut. But after Megan learned she was pregnant with baby #3, they reconciled their differences. Later, Green admitted their problems stemmed from watching his career stall just as hers was blossoming. He didn’t want to be a stay-at-home dad, and longed to get his own career back on track. Green has several projects in line for 2017, so it seems they did indeed work it through.
12 Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt
But when stress from the Mad Men actor's rising career took its toll, he turned to alcohol, and Westfeldt unwittingly took on a new role. She increasingly found herself cleaning up after his hard partying, and supporting him emotionally and physically. The couple had long since agreed that children weren’t in the cards. So Westfeldt was frustrated to realize she had become a “mother” to her partner of 18 years. Hamm lost his own mother to cancer when he was a boy.
A source told People that Hamm “has always had demons and needed a mother figure in his life”, and that Westfeldt was tired of feeling more like his mother than his girlfriend. They split in 2015.
11 Halle Berry and Eric Benet
Halle Berry and R&B singer Eric Benet fell hard and fast, marrying shortly after meeting at the premiere for Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Berry even adopted Benet’s daughter India from a previous marriage. But things went south almost immediately.
Benet repeatedly cheated on Berry, even after she supported him during his recovery for sex addiction. He admitted to at least 10 affairs, two of which involved the actress' friends. When Berry finally had had enough, filing for divorce, Benet tried to have their prenup overturned, demanding she pay his legal bills and spousal support.
Despite such appalling treatment, Berry never stooped to his level, stating, "Eric and I have had marital problems for some time now and have tried to work things out together. However, at this point, I feel we need time apart to re-evaluate our union. We ask that you respect our privacy as we are going through this emotional time." Too bad you can’t get an Oscar for press announcements.
10 David Duchovny and Téa Leoni
David Duchovny and Téa Leoni called it quits after 17 years because creepy Mulder couldn’t stop creeping on his wife. They were married in 1997 and hit their first rough patch in 2008, when David went to therapy for sex addiction. They tried to keep it together for their two children, but he fell back into old habits and they separated in 2011.
They stayed quiet for another 3 years before officially pulling the plug. When they finally signed the papers, Leoni cited “irretrievable breakdown” as their reason for divorcing. Still, Leoni says she can never truly hate Duchovny because he “gave me the two greatest gifts on the planet. We’ve always loved each other, and we adore these kids.”
9 Morena Baccarin and Austin Chick
It’s not often that a father has grounds to dictate custody in a divorce, but that’s what happened in the case of Monica Baccarin and the XX/XY director. Chick filed an "ex parte" request, implying that Baccarin posed an immediate physical or psychological danger to their son, Julius.
In 2015, Baccarin was ordered to pay Chick $23,000 a month in child support, and they devised a shared custody agreement. But Chick claimed Baccarin failed to stick with the plan and had been manipulating Julius during exchanges to make him reluctant to leave his mother. Chick also accused Baccarin of withholding Julius’ passport, making Chick fear she would abscond with their son. Baccarin's attorney described Chick’s approach as “gamesmanship” and said he was attempting to “vex and harass” her client. Now married to her Gotham co-star Ben McKenzie, Baccarin’s divorce from Chick was messy from the start, as he became estranged when he learned she was pregnant with McKenzie’s child.
8 Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman/Katie Holmes
Tom Cruise's emersion in the Church of Scientology has colored all of his relationships since he joined with his first wife, Mimi Rogers. Church head David Miscavige is rumored to have a heavy hand in Tom’s personal life, and doesn’t want him with anyone opposed to conversion. Miscavige reportedly facilitated the actor's divorce from Nicole Kidman by tapping her phone and poisoning the minds of their children against her.
Many Scientologists consider all non-members “Suppressive Persons”, and they’re encouraged to cut all ties. Kidman, who wasn’t invited to her Scientologist daughter’s wedding, was shocked when Tom served her divorce papers. Despite marital issues, Kidman repeatedly expressed a desire for counseling.
In 2012, it was Katie Holmes who ended their 5-year marriage after the lifelong Catholic allegedly felt increasing pressure from the church to convert. During divorce proceedings, Cruise admitted that he believed Holmes' motivation for the split was to protect Suri from Scientology, and stated that his daughter is no longer a practicing member. There’s no word as to whether or not Cruise considers his daughter an SP.
7 Chris Rock and Malaak Compton
Chris Rock split from his wife Malaak Compton of nearly 20 years in 2014, finalizing the divorce in 2016. In a rare example of celebrity self-awareness, Rock places all the blame onto his own shoulders. He used his divorce as material for what he called “The Alimony Tour”, describing the 3 women with whom he had affairs and calling himself “a piece of s***”.
Rock said that at the time that he believed he could pull it off because of his wealth and fame. He now knows that he screwed up big time. He won’t discuss his ex-wife or children, but he did say that he felt his fame magnified his faults in their marriage. “Your significant other, if they really love you, has a high opinion of you. And you let them down."
5 Balthazar Getty and Sienna Miller
In 2009, the tabloids blew up with steamy pictures of actors Sienna Miller and Balthazar Getty pawing each other all over Italy. What kept them from becoming Hollywood’s sexiest new couple was the icky fact that Getty already had a wife and 4 children. Getty’s co-stars on TV drama Brothers & Sisters sided with Rosetta Getty, and the press dubbed Miller a home wrecker.
Despite plenty of public shaming, the pair carried on for nearly a year. Miller told press, "I probably seem like not a particularly nice person, not a girl's girl.” But SiennAzar ended when Getty’s astonishingly forgiving wife took him back. Said Rosetta, “I chose not to act from ego because I just felt like it would be too crushing for my children.” Balthazar explained, “I loved and missed my family too much not to make it work,” adding, “Without going down, you can’t rise again.” Indeed.
4 Keshia Knight Pulliam and Ed Hartwell
In 2016, former NFL linebacker Ed Hartwell blindsided his wife, The Cosby Show actress Keshia Knight Pulliam, with divorce papers. However, he claims it was in response to a huge bomb she’d first dropped on him: she was pregnant. Though that’s not unusual news for a married couple, Hartwell was shocked because he and Pulliam hadn’t had sex in months.
Part of the reason for their abstinence was that Pulliam claimed Hartwell had been unfaithful shortly after their wedding. “The part that hurt me the most when he filed for divorce was that he had asked me to give him another chance,” she said.
Hartwell theorized, “I think we moved too fast. Our lives and wants are headed two different directions.” Hartwell has also ordered a paternity test, saying, “I can’t say she was unfaithful. I can say she wanted to get in vitro, I can say she wanted to do some things to make sure she got pregnant. I just want to make sure it is mine.”
3 Russell Brand and Katy Perry
At first, they seemed like two fashion-forward peas in a pod. But the 42-year-old British actor/comedian and the 32-year-old pop star ended their 14-month marriage in 2012 when Brand served Perry a divorce via text. In BRAND: A Second Coming, Russell elucidated, “I’m living, like, this life of the very thing I detest: vapid, vacuous celebrity.”
Perry had a different perspective of what went wrong. “I think a lot of times strong men do want an equal, but then they get that equal and they’re like, I can’t handle the equalness.”
Now the picture of domesticity with his civilian wife and child, Brand has tweaked his tune, blaming “the undulating nature of fame, living in those conditions.” He added, “I still feel very warm towards her. When I hear about her or see her, I think, 'Ah, there's that person…in the world.'" Said Perry in 2013, “let's just say I haven't heard from him since he texted me saying he was divorcing me.”
2 Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher
The world fell in love with this impossibly beautiful May/December couple when they hooked up in 2003, marrying 2 years later. They were spotted canoodling all over town and gushed about each other on social media. On their fourth wedding anniversary, Kutcher tweeted, "Happy anniversary @mrskutcher I'm not sure why we keep track of years in relation 2 an infinite love. But tradition wins 2day."
Kutcher’s attitude shifted come their 6th anniversary. With Moore out of town, Kutcher partied with friends at the San Diego Hard Rock Hotel, bringing 2 women (one of whom was dating actor Scott Eastwood at the time) back to his $2500/night suite, where they had sex in the hot tub. Ashton allegedly assured the women that he and Demi were separated. When Moore learned of the incident, she filed for divorce, saying, "As a woman, a mother and a wife, there are certain values and vows that I hold sacred, and it is in this spirit that I have chosen to move forward with my life."
1 Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger reportedly cheated on Maria Shriver numerous times during their 25-year marriage. But the one that broke the dam was a 12-year affair with the family’s housekeeper, Mildred Baena, which resulted in a son.
When the boy was 8 years old, Arnold noticed that he “started looking like me, that’s when I kind of got it. I put things together.” Schwarzenegger began slipping Baena child support and hoped to keep it under wraps.
It took Shriver another 6 years to notice the resemblance. When she confronted her trusted employee, Baena fell to her knees in tearful remorse. Shriver kindly allowed Baena to stay on until after the holidays. Shriver, who has 4 children with Schwarzenegger, never publically discussed the incident. But during a 2014 Reddit AMA, Arnold confessed, “I'm least proud of the mistakes I made that caused my family pain and split us up.”
What other shocking reasons for celebrity breakups did we miss? Let us know in the comments!