During the spring of 2005, Mr. & Mrs. Smith was only months from release when Brad Pitt left then-wife Jennifer Aniston for his co-star Angelina Jolie. At the time, executives at 20th Century Fox and New Regency feared the affair might hijack box-office returns for the big-budget tentpole. But that summer, the film - thanks in part to a publicity deluge for "Brangelina" - amassed a huge $478 million globally. Cut to 11 years later, and Paramount executives apparently don't feel similar anxiety. The studio dropped a new TV spot for Allied, Pitt's romantic thriller with Marion Cotillard, on Sept. 20, the day Jolie's filing for divorce from Pitt was made public and gossip websites blamed an alleged Pitt-Cotillard affair.
Paramount insiders say the timing of the teaser trailer was a coincidence and there are no plans to change the publicity tour for the Robert Zemeckis film, set to hit theaters Nov. 23. They believe Pitt, 52, and Cotillard, 40, are more than capable of dealing with media inquiries. It's a challenge Tom Cruise faced when his pending divorce from Katie Holmes was revealed during the 2012 publicity push for Jack Reacher, which earned a solid $218 million for Paramount.
Similarly, Ben Affleck's star status didn't take a hit when he and Jennifer Garner revealed their split in summer 2015, just as Affleck was shooting Batman v. Superman. Still, there is a risk that the breakup of perhaps the world's most famous couple could hurt both at the box office - especially Pitt, who still is making movies like Allied that need strong opening weekends. "I think a film stands on its own merits, despite what happens in the personal lives of the cast or crew," says box-office analyst Jeff Bock.
Adds analyst Paul Dergarabedian, "In fact, the heightened awareness of a star's personal life may actually increase a film's novelty factor, must-see value and, yes, box office." So, will Pitt talk to the press about the pending divorce ahead of Allied? Says a source, "Brad won't address questions about any stupid rumors."
This story first appeared in the Sept. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.