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Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 03/19/2010

The Oscar love curse: Is Sandra Bullock the latest victim or is it total bunk?

By Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly

Kate Winslet (left) and Sandra Bullock -- the Oscar love curse's latest victims? (Getty Images/Reuters)

Murmur has it that Sandra Bullock is the latest victim of the best actress Oscar curse. (And yes, that's despite the fact that Thursday's bombshell rumor about husband Jesse James's infidelitous affair with a buxom, tattooed model hasn't been officially confirmed.)

What's the best actress curse? It's the well-tread theory that when a woman wins an Academy Award for her stellar leading performance, that same woman should expect to split from her significant other sometime shortly after they return from the Vanity Fair after-party. And when we say well-tread, we really aren't kidding; every media outlet and Web site imaginable has glommed onto the Oscar curse story during the past 24 hours. Including this one. And this one. Oh, and this one, which features the following commentary from HollywoodLife.com (and former Us Weekly) editor Bonnie Fuller: "A lot of guys cannot handle a strong, successful woman, and the Oscar has to be one of the ultimate accolades one can receive."

But hang on a second. Bullock, who won this year's top honor for her role in "The Blind Side," was allegedly cheated on while that movie was still filming, long before a gold statuette was even a gleam in anyone's eye. So, if the affair really happened, it seems unlikely that it has anything to do with Sandy's success.

Still, enough other recent best actresses have severed relationships with their spouses and boyfriends post-Oscar win to make it tempting to mistake trend for proof of a hex. Among them: Kate Winslet ("The Reader," 2009), who announced her split earlier this week from husband Sam Mendes; Reese Witherspoon ("Walk the Line," 2006), who separated from Ryan Phillippe in October of that same year; and Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball," 2002), who separated from hubby Eric Benet the year after blubbering from the Oscar podium.

But not every example being cited as evidence of the curse is valid. Hilary Swank stayed with Chad Lowe after her first Oscar win ("Boys Don't Cry," 1999); it was only after her second ("Million Dollar Baby," 2004) that the marriage dissolved, which may shoot down that "men can't handle successful women" theory. And pointing to Charlize Theron's break-up with longtime beau Stuart Townsend -- a relationship that didn't end until more than five years after she snagged her Academy Award for "Monster" -- is ludicrous. Saying that her Oscar win was a factor in the break-up is like blaming the Super Bowl for the deaths of any football players who may pass away at some point after earning a ring. Please.

In other words, this curse business may be getting blown out of proportion. Nevertheless, all the hubbub prompted us to examine Oscar's other big three acting categories -- best actor and best supporting actress and actor -- to determine whether those winners have been "similarly afflicted."

For sanity's sake, we've confined our research to the last 10 years.

Best actor
Score: 1 in 10
Curse Factor: Negligible

Alleged Victim: Sean Penn
Arguably, Penn -- who won Oscar gold twice -- has tempted fate one time too many. Maybe that's why shortly after he won his second statuette for 2008's "Milk," Penn filed for legal separation from wife Robin Wright Penn in April 2009 -- a mere two months after his Oscar win. Penn also won the best actor award in 2004 for his lead role in "Mystic River," but it seems a stretch to tie that to his first separation from Wright, in 2007.

Still, Oscar's powerful mojo may explain why at this year's ceremony, when presenting the best actress award, Penn made sure to appease the Academy gods by apologizing for failing to mention Wright in his acceptance speech a year earlier.

Winners not affected: Russell Crowe (in fact, he married wife Danielle Spencer two years after his "A Beautiful Mind" Oscar), Denzel Washington (he's been married to wife Pauletta Pearson for 27 years), Adrien Brody (notoriously private, but his split with Spanish actress Elsa Pataky came seven years after his Oscar for "The Pianist"), Jamie Foxx, Philip Seymour Hoffman (he's been with girlfriend Mimi O'Donnell for 11 years), Forest Whitaker (he's been with wife Keisha Nash since 1996), Daniel Day-Lewis (married to actor/director Rebecca Miller for 14 years) and -- so far -- this year's winner, Jeff Bridges (who has three daughters with his wife of 33 years). (Full list of best actor winners)

-----------
Best supporting actor
Score: 2 in 10
Curse factor: Slight (for love, at least)

Alleged Victim: Tim Robbins
Is Oscar really to blame for the breakup of Robbins's longtime relationship with Susan Sarandon? Unlikely. Robbins logged his win for 2003's "Mystic River" but gave every appearance of being happily coupled with Sarandon until December 2009, when the couple announced the end of their two-decade relationship. (For the record, Sarandon also had an Oscar in-hand as of 1996, for her role in a movie Robbins himself directed: "Dead Man Walking." And that didn't seem to put up any roadblocks in their romance either.)

Alleged Victim: Morgan Freeman
Again, we're loath to blame a 2005 Oscar win for Freeman's 2008 split from his wife of 31 years. In fact, we're pretty sure that August 2008 car crash -- you remember, when Freeman flipped his car into a Mississippi ditch with a mystery woman in the passenger's seat -- might have been more of a deciding factor.

Winners not affected: Benicio del Toro (currently linked to Cuban actress Ana de Armas), Jim Broadbent (happily married), Chris Cooper (married since 1983), George Clooney (the guy's a playboy and that's never a curse), Alan Arkin (he's been married to his third wife since 1996), Javier Bardem (started dating fellow Oscar winner Penelope Cruz in 2007 -- maybe the double mojo canceled out the curse), Heath Ledger (although his relationship with Michelle Williams ended shortly before his win, sadly, so did his life), and Christoph Waltz. (Full list of best supporting actor winners)

-----------
Best supporting actress
Score: 2 in 10 (kind of)
Curse factor: Negligible

Alleged Victim: Renee Zellweger
A few months after her 2004 Oscar win for "Cold Mountain," Zellweger and her then-longtime boyfriend, Jack White of The White Stripes, called it quits. She then went on to marry Kenny Chesney ... for about five seconds. We chalk all this up to bad luck and -- potentially -- poor judgment more than evidence of a curse.

Alleged Victim: Jennifer Hudson
She triumphed for her role in "Dreamgirls" in 2007. Then later that same year, she and longtime Chicago boyfriend James Payton separated. Hudson rebounded just fine, though, getting engaged the following year to David Otunga, with whom she had a son in 2009.

Winners not affected: Angelina Jolie (married Billy Bob Thornton a few months after her win, and eventually moved on to life as one-half of Brangelina); Marcia Gay Harden, Jennifer Connelly, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Cate Blanchett (all still married); Rachel Weisz, who, as far as we know, is still engaged to Darren Aronofsky; and Tilda Swinton and Penelope Cruz, whose wins resulted in no break-ups of any kind. (Full list of best supporting actor winners)

So, in conclusion, we're pretty sure that next year's Oscar winners are more likely to be cursed by the creepy old gypsy from "Drag Me to Hell" than by any negative vibes a gold statuette may bring.

By Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly  | March 19, 2010; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Awards Season, Celebrities, Sandra Bullock/Jesse James  
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Comments

I think the win just increases any insecurities the man may have. We know about about the Tattooed Lady, but remember Tiger Woods started with just one mistress revelation too.

Posted by: epjd | March 19, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

1. I think we're being a bit too liberal with the term "buxom" these days. She's average at best. Let's save the term for those who deserve it, instead of calling every skinny girl with better than B-cups buxom.
2. Halle Berry gave a moving speech; she did not blubber any more than anyone else. The parade of comments for the last 8 years against her speech can only stem from racism - otherwise people wouldn't harp on it so much. Let it go. It was a good speech.
3. Lastly, please stop already with the attitude. If you want to make an argument, then just make that argument. No need for the attitude and the "Please." Again, let it go.

Posted by: Urnesto | March 19, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I thought Halle Barry gave the best speech - and of course she was crying (beautifully, I might add) - a first time at anything is an extremely proud moment. Especially one that was long overdue.

I'm not sure if there's any curse. I have a feeling that they were already on the rocks - the guys let the girls have their fun and enjoy and be their support for awards season then call it quits afterward so not to ruin their night.

Posted by: JenEFur | March 19, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Oh please, there's no such thing as a "curse," that's just superstition. I'd guess these relationships were all in major trouble before the film in question was even made.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | March 19, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse


Please take a moment and revisit this Bullock story. The players and the subject matter are so base and perverse and so widely reported the combination is a toxic milkshake. Yet no one on my street can summarize the Health Care bill or anything else that is going on in DC. Boy we are really in trouble. Ancient Rome never looked so good!

Posted by: 33jayave | March 19, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Philandering hit her blind side
So Bullock decided to hide;
For it caused her to think
Jesse'd hog all the ink
With henna-skinned angels he'll ride.

News Short n' Sweet by JFD8
http://twitter.com/JFD8

Posted by: jd121 | March 19, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Of course this idea of a curse is complete bunk. Just look at the statistics. It's hard to estimate the percentage of spouses that cheat (for obvious reasons), but using the divorce rate (about 55%) as a proxy for cheating, there is a high probability that a subset of Oscar winners (just like a subset of the general population) experience cheating spouses.

Please don't make something out of nothing here. There are already too many stupid people believing, deep in their hearts, that "11:11" has some kind of mystical significance. Use your position for good rather than evil, Liz. Spread the smart, not the stupid.

Posted by: anastasia2 | March 19, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

33jayave, I am with you on people not having knowledge. However, before you start wishing for ancient times, you should know that the ancient Romans were obsessed with sports and gossip just like we all are. They had gladiators, we have football stars and celebrities. Spectacle was, as it is now, a way to distract from government dealings. The difference is that it was government-sponsored then, whereas now, we just choose to distract ourselves.

That being said, I think you can enjoy celebrity news and still be up on what's really happening.

Posted by: anastasia2 | March 19, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

anastasia, great posts! Don't forget that the ancient Romans also had slaves. Not such a great time for them, eh?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | March 19, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Also don't forget that the Romans' entertainment involved killing people for sport. Thankfully, not much of that these days.

Posted by: JLRGG | March 19, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Wow ladies...this is EXACTLY the same "original" report that was broadcast on CNN two days ago.

Great job on your article. I can't wait to see which one of today's CNN reports you'll be writing about on Monday.

"Celebritology:" Yesterday's News, Tomorrow.

Posted by: ginabw | March 19, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Monday in Celebritology breaking news: forty-one forty or fight.

Posted by: ginabw | March 19, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

What is wrong with you horney little male twinks. Here you have very beautiful talented women as your partners and you go trippin over cheep bimbos.

Posted by: eaglehawkaroundsince1937 | March 19, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Celebritology: Fluff and a history lesson all rolled into one. Who says those who like gossip have no deeper side?

First one to use latin gets to use the p word on Monday.

Posted by: epjd | March 19, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

>>>Please don't make something out of nothing here. There are already too many stupid people believing, deep in their hearts, that "11:11" has some kind of mystical significance. Use your position for good rather than evil, Liz. Spread the smart, not the stupid.<<<

Anastasia -- if you read what Jen and I wrote I think you'll see that we agree, the curse is total hogwash.

Happy weekend and all,

- Liz

Posted by: Liz Kelly | March 19, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Possunt quia posse videntur

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | March 19, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

I speak for the divorced when I cry,

WHERE'S MY FREAKIN' OSCAR?!?!?!?!?

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | March 19, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Monday in Celebritology breaking news: forty-one forty or fight.

Posted by: ginabw

-------------------------------------
Ginabw, I think you're off by about 13 degrees of North Latitutde.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | March 19, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm with those who think the curse is a bit of whooey, the truth is that cheating is common, and I think (I've heard before) that breakups among celebrity couples are higher than that of the rest of us. There's a saying I've heard quite a few times "A man is only as faithful as his options" -more money, fame, increased options. Men out there, you know its true. Don't want to believe this one, but lack of denial points towards it being true, sad to say.

Posted by: EllenK1 | March 19, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

She could have her pick, yet chooses a sleezeball?? It must be hard for celebrities to find/date stable people in the zany circles they move in.
Same old story - appearances and material things can't guarantee happiness and fulfillment. All the nice single guys/gals are at church:-)

Posted by: jjj33 | March 19, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

EllenK, that bit of profundity was a Chris Rock line. Consider the source. Besides, the more that kind of sentiment permeates the culture, along with the Wilbons of the world who basically say it happens all the time, if you don't think it does you're an idiot, and it's no one's business anyway, what we wind up with is a return to giving men a pass for bad behavior ("they're just wired that way"--wasn't that the 80s?) or, just as bad, a culture where women are supposed to give them points for good behavior. Personally I don't want the responsibility of "civilizing" men. Not my job. And not fair to the decent guys out there who wouldn't touch one of those skanks with a barge pole.

Posted by: sorcerers_cat | March 19, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Right so there can't be a curse since Jesse has been having the affair so long before any Oscars.

You never accept this behavior from any man and the reason is..it sends a bad messages to sons in that marriage and daughters. Sons to grow up and treat wives the same and daughters to accept that bad behavior.

Politician wives are bad for setting this bad example. Celebs--no.

Posted by: mac7 | March 19, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Late breaking celeb legal news: http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/03/19/anna.nicole.estate/index.html?hpt=T2

The case that would not die. Even if the plaintiff AND the defendant did.

Sas wins. I would have bet Byoolin. Yet another reason I am the one person in America without a March Madness bracket.

Posted by: epjd | March 19, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

A call for Latin when I was out for the afternoon. Of course.

So I'll add some related trivia to the history lesson. The ancient Romans would inscribe curses (called 'defixiones') into lead tablets and then throw them into springs, fountains, etc. Not aware of any that began "May your husband sleep with a tattooed lady..."

Posted by: mouse4 | March 19, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

It's probably less a curse, and more a combination of the following:

1. Hollywood relationships don't often last long
2. After an Oscar win, the press pays more attention to the winner's life.

Posted by: dkp01 | March 19, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Liz, thanks for taking the time to respond. You're right, I didn't read the entire post--I just skimmed the end. I guess I was more responding to yesterday's chat than today's column. So I amend my post to say: Thanks for spreading the smart, not the stupid! :)

Posted by: anastasia2 | March 19, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: rritkonlyyou | March 19, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Sandra likes Bad Boys -- so rumor goes, anyway. And Bad Boys will be Bad Boys. Bet your last dollar on it: when the cat's away, the rats will play.

What did she think would happen while her back was turned?

Did she think she could change him?

"Physician, heal thyself ....".

Posted by: hogsmile | March 19, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

I think winning the Oscar is going to many women's (and men's) heads. It really has nothing to do with a marriage. But being an actress with a demanding schedule, in Sandra Buttock's case, doesn't leave much time to devote to her partner.

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Posted by: rritkonlyyou | March 19, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Sandra Bullock's curse was marrying Jesse James. The man is a Satyr with money, looks, and time on his hands.

What did she think a guy that used to be married to a porn star was doing when she was away making movies? Pining away for her at the end of a long day of slaving over motorcycle builds and making TV shows?

Posted by: mi-ti-bear | March 19, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

They all married beneath them. Embrace your power ladies and find new, worthy partners.

Posted by: hakafos44 | March 19, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

If the rumors are true about Jesse James, and they must be, since he said he deserves every bad thing coming his way, then Sandra Bullock just must be beside herself for the interview on Letterman alone. Unless that was one heck of an acting performance.

Posted by: Xlnt | March 20, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

This is in the same category of intellectual worthiness as the superstition that celebrities ALWAYS die in threes. And, you know, it's absolutely true!! After the third celeb dies, people reset the counter and start again, and when the next third celeb dies, people reset the counter and . . .

Posted by: GaryD3 | March 20, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

There's another interesting thing: The actresses were all married to (or dating) other actors (or, at least in the case of James, television personalities). The only lead actor in the last 10 years to married to an actress? Sean Penn, who's the one lead actor to get divorced. I don't know that there's a curse, I tend not to believe in curses, but it's an interesting coincidence, anyway. http://bit.ly/bullock-james

Posted by: GinaWilhelmActress | March 21, 2010 3:54 AM | Report abuse

Something Jennifer Aniston, that put upon "girl", will never have to worry about. Every thing she's been in is her attempt to hide her face behind her hair. MEOW.

Posted by: sperrico | March 21, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Something Jennifer Aniston, that put upon "girl", will never have to worry about. Every thing she's been in is her attempt to hide her face behind her hair. MEOW.

Posted by: sperrico | March 21, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse


I think Sandra Bullock should quit being the victim of this inevitable mess!! It was bound to have happened. Instead of letting the wrongdoers have control of the media and letting them go on and on, Sandra could eliminate this circus by speaking up!!!

She's an abused woman and by staying silent, she's a personal affront to all women and this is why abuse of women continues!! They don't speak up and out! I hope she has the courage to recognize that she's giving them the power!!

Posted by: shanna_coast65 | March 22, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

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