When a person says that they've been "ghosted," it generally means that someone they've gone on a date or two with has stopped responding to them. But, in Laura Dern's case, it meant her fiancé leaving her to marry another woman while she was away for work. As the Big Little Lies actor later put it, the unexpected end of the relationship was "like a sudden death."
From 1997 to 2000, Dern was in a relationship with Billy Bob Thornton, and the couple even got engaged. But, as Dern later explained it, when she was away filming a movie, Thornton married another famous actor, leaving her to find out that her relationship was over because her fiancé was now someone else's husband. Read on to find out more about the shocking situation and what both actors have said about it.
Dern and Thornton were together for three years.
Dern and Thornton got together in 1997 after meeting when they both guest-starred on the sitcom Ellen. The actors were on "The Puppy Episode," which is the famous episode in which Ellen DeGeneres' character came out as gay. The pair were also in the movie Daddy and Them together.
Dern and Thornton were so serious about each other that they began an engagement, but they would never make it down the aisle.
Thornton left Dern for another star.
In May 2000, Thornton married Angelina Jolie in Las Vegas. The two also met at work, filming the movie Pushing Tin together in 1999. When they were making the movie, Jolie was still in a relationship with actor Timothy Hutton, as reported by People.
Thornton and Jolie's marriage came just two months after their relationship was made public. People's May 2000 write-up about their nuptials mentions Dern, explaining, "[N]o one could have been more stunned than actress Laura Dern, with whom Thornton had recently shared a household."
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Dern said it all happened while she was away.
In a 2000 interview with Talk magazine (via ABC News), Dern, without naming Thornton, explained that her fiancé got married while she was away for a role.
"I left our home to work on a movie, and while I was away, my boyfriend got married, and I've never heard from him again," Dern said. "It's like a sudden death. For no one has there been any closure or clarity."
Thornton said he did what made him "happy."
In a February 2001 interview with The Guardian, Thornton briefly commented on leaving Dern for Jolie.
"Others may say that you left our girl and married someone else," the Sling Blade star said. "But it made me happy and somebody else happy. I'm sorry it caused pain."
Jolie and Thornton stayed together until 2002. During their relationship they made headlines for wearing vials of each other's blood on necklaces, her large "Billy Bob" shoulder tattoo, and their over-the-top red carpet PDA.
The exes have crossed paths in the years since.
In 2017, Dern and Thornton made headlines once again when they both attended the Golden Globe Awards. Fans noticed that when Thornton went to the stage to accept his award for Best Actor in a Drama Series, he walked right past Dern, who seemed to look away. As reported by Us Weekly, Twitter reactions included, "I'm convinced Billy Bob Thornton walked past Laura Dern just to piss her off. #GoldenGlobes" and "Laura Dern's face when Billy Bob Thornton walked past her. Yikes."
After her relationship with Thornton abruptly ended, Dern went on to marry musician Ben Harper and welcome two children. Their marriage lasted from 2005 to 2013. Thornton entered into a relationship with special effects artist Connie Angland after his split from Jolie. The couple got married in 2014, and she became his sixth wife.