PARIS (AFP) - The end of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's marriage on Tuesday (Sept 20) provoked such a worldwide media storm precisely because this "socially engaged" couple had given the impression that theirs was a partnership which worked both publicly and privately, according to a leading celebrity magazine editor.
Like legendary Hollywood couples before them including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, love blossomed on set, the actors falling for each other in 2004 while filming Mr & Mrs Smith - a movie about marriage. In an ironic final twist given how many celebrity unions end in tears, the two married assassins were tasked with killing each other.
With such a backstory, the public's obsession with the couple was inevitable, said Laurence Pieau, editor of the French edition of Closer magazine.
"This was a couple that was born under the eyes of the cameras in the most dramatic of circumstances," said Pieau.
"Brad Pitt was then married to the actress Jennifer Aniston, who was very much America's sweetheart. Angelina Jolie had two failed marriages behind her. But being together seemed to strengthen both of them.
"She hugely increased her range and began to get involved in humanitarian causes and began directing films. He also took more risks and abandoned his image as a pretty boy. Then their family began to grow, we saw them all going to toy stores together and playing the game of promoting each other's work on the red carpet.
"They were a couple who looked established, and it seemed they were capable (of) doing it all. It was a real alliance of beauty and talent, a family that seemed at ease wherever in the world they were together.
"They had a status that made them stand out from other actors because they were so socially engaged, and they also had a real aura about them. Jolie's very brave decision to make public her double mastectomy was widely praised. Afterwards, there was a rise in breast cancer detection as her revelation inspired other woman to have themselves checked.
"We all got very attached to her because she seemed to have problems just like the rest of us. There was also a real intelligence at work in the way they chose not just their films but in what they revealed about themselves. It was a very American way of sharing their life, their hopes and their struggles.
"That is why it is all the more stunning that in separating she is demanding custody of the children. That shows that it can happen to everyone, that trying to juggle work and home and different opinions on how children should be brought up (can lead to conflict for everybody)...
"The future will tell. The fact that she wants custody of the six children (with visiting rights for Pitt) possibly means that there is something behind this break-up.
"Maybe in the next few days we will learn there is another story..."