WASHINGTON• It is hard now to remember a time before Brangelina, or to even think of them as they were then, circa 2004. He was already a big deal, and so was she: two A-listers occupying equal but separate swathes of the celebrity stratosphere.
Then Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie got together and something happened. The tabloids lost their minds - and they each, magically, became bigger, better, more elevated versions of their famous selves.
Pitt, who had been stuck in Sexiest Man Alive mode, became a formidable producer of Oscar winners like 12 Years A Slave (2013). Jolie, an exotic beauty notorious for her outrageous antics and lucrative action flicks, evolved into one of the world's most respected advocates.
Now, unexpectedly, their 12-year relationship is ending the way it started, amid tabloid accusations and uncomfortable scrutiny.
Attorney Robert Offer announced on Tuesday that Jolie, 41, had filed for a dissolution of her two-year marriage to Pitt, 52. Mr Offer said in a statement: "This decision was made for the health of the family. She will not be commenting and asks that the family be given its privacy at this time."
Pitt said in a statement: "What matters most now is the well-being of our kids."
Jolie listed Sept 15 as the date of their separation and cited irreconcilable differences, according to TMZ.com. She is seeking physical custody of the couple's six children aged eight to 15 while granting Pitt visitation, the outlet reported.
TMZ.com reported unconfirmed claims that she filed for divorce over his consumption of alcohol and marijuana and anger issues. Attorney Peter Walzer, who represented actress Katie Holmes in her divorce from superstar Tom Cruise, said it was unusual for Jolie to seek sole physical custody of the children and it was equivalent to saying Pitt was not a competent parent. "It's an insult," Mr Walzer said.
Brangelina had not started well, by traditional public relations standards. Pitt was married to actress Jennifer Aniston in 2004 when he and Jolie filmed Mr & Mrs Smith, the story of married assassins unknowingly assigned to kill each other.
They denied whispers of an affair, which grew louder when he split from Aniston in 2005.
In hindsight, the savvy rollout of their relationship seems like the start of greater image makeovers to come. They were photographed together on a beach in Kenya, but paparazzi images of the new couple were anything but salacious: They were playing with her son, Maddox, whom she had adopted from Cambodia. They went to Ethiopia months later to adopt her daughter, Zahara. Before they even acknowledged their affair, they were already seen as a family.
And then the Jolie-Pitts were off and running. She gave birth to their daughter, Shiloh, in 2006 and twins, Knox and Vivienne, in 2008. They adopted their son Pax from Vietnam. When they finally got around to marriage in 2014, it seemed like an afterthought.
Jolie's vixen persona was quickly supplanted by an earth-mother image. She travelled to Darfur and Kabul to call attention to the plight of people displaced by conflict, created a wildlife reserve in Cambodia and lectured at the London School of Economics.
She continued to cash big cheques for blockbusters such as Salt (2010), but also moved into directing - In The Land Of Blood And Honey (2011), a small, indie film, followed by a big prestige flick, Unbroken (2014).
Pitt, too, became something like the best version of himself. He produced Oscar winners and contenders such as The Departed (2006) and Selma (2014) and graduated into weathered, wisdom-dispensing roles in Moneyball (2011) and The Tree Of Life (2011) - characters perhaps only a dad could credibly play.
But recently, it seemed as though the stars had faded a bit.
Had they pulled away from the spotlight - protecting their now-adolescent children or perhaps working through their own issues?
Or had the public just stopped paying as much attention? Last year, Jolie directed her third feature film, starring herself and her husband. In By The Sea, they played an unhappily married couple drifting further and further apart during an extended beach vacation. No one went to see it.
WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE