For Kate Winslet, it unraveled after The Reader. For Halle Berry, it came after Monster’s Ball. With Reese Witherspoon, it was Walk the Line. And for Hilary Swank, it dissolved after Million Dollar Baby.
A long line of best actress winners have divorced shortly after taking their Oscar statuettes home, and the cause may be power imbalance, says a study from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and Carnegie Mellon University.
The study, which looked at 751 nominees in the best actor and actress categories between 1936 to 2010, revealed that best actress winners are 63 per cent more likely to divorce than actresses who do not take home the honour.
The average marriage lasted 4.3 years for best actress winners and more than twice as long at 9.5 years for non-winners.
The “Oscar curse” has struck scores of actresses, from Joan Crawford and Bette Davis to Charlize Theron and Gwyneth Paltrow. For Swank, it happened five years after she famously forgot to thank husband Chad Lowe when she won for Boys Don’t Cry. Most recently we had Sandra Bullock and Jesse James – although he was an exceptional kind of train wreck.
“Men may eschew partners whose intelligence and ambition exceeds their own,” the authors hazard in their abstract.
“Research has shown that, in the general population, gender differences have historically given roles with greater power and status to men and roles with lesser status and power to women,” study co-author Tiziana Casciaro said in a release.
“Studies have demonstrated that breaching this social norm within a marriage—for example, when a wife earns more than her husband—can strain the relationship,” said Casciaro, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Rotman School.
“It appears that even the marriages of Hollywood actresses at the top of their careers are not immune to the consequences of violating social norms that affect the wider population. Our results suggest that the sudden success reduces the longevity of their marriages,” added co-author Colleen Stuart, a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University.
Best actor winners did not appear to suffer the same fate.
“This asymmetry is consistent with gender dynamics documented in marriages among the general population,” the authors write.
Still, they allow, an insecure hubby might not always be to blame. Sometimes, it’s the woman moving on up.
“...After a status increase, the wife may grow dissatisfied with her current marital arrangement either because she has outgrown the relationship or because she now has the confidence and opportunity to move away from a bad marriage,” the authors note in their conclusion.
Pundits are already wondering who’s next – will it be Nicole Kidman ( Rabbit Hole) and hubby Keith Urban, or Annette Bening ( The Kids Are All Right) and Warren Beatty?
Or will it be Natalie Portman, who is pregnant and newly engaged to her Black Swan choreographer Benjamin Millepied? (He reportedly left his live-in girlfriend and ballet dancer girlfriend Isabella Boylston for the actress.)
Blue Valentine star Michelle Williams is off the hook: she’s single and sleeps with her sister in a Brooklyn home she also shares with her mother.
Way to beat the curse.