Love and marriage can be tricky in Hollywood. Especially if you’re famous — or want to be — and you get hitched to someone who’s more famous than you are.
Remember when Jada Pinkett was one of the most promising young black actresses, thanks to roles in early career hits like Set It Off and The Nutty Professor? Then, in 1997, she became Jada Pinkett-Smith (after marrying Will Smith) and decided that being a wife and mother was more important than having a huge Hollywood career. It was an admirable move (though as Angelina Jolie seems to prove, it’s not impossible for women to have it all in Hollywood: family, fame and their own fortune), but I’ve always wondered how huge Pinkett’s career might have been had she not added the Smith — the name and the husband.
And what about the famous women — past and present — in Tom Cruise’s life? Nicole Kidman is a fine actress, one of the best, but would she have spent more years on the outskirts of stardom, like her best friend Naomi Watts, if she hadn’t become Mrs. Cruise in 1990? Becoming the second ex-Mrs. Cruise (after Mimi Rogers) in 2001 worked even more in favor of her career. She’s now an Oscar winner and one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood, despite having a relatively poor box-office track record.
As for Penelope Cruz, she was doing just fine before she began her three-year romantic entanglement with Cruise, and she’s been doing even better since they split, scoring three Academy Award nominations and one Oscar.
Then there’s Katie Holmes. Poor Katie Holmes. She gets so little respect these days. So much of her press coverage seems to focus on the fact that she’s the third Mrs. Cruise and mother of Suri (her too-adorable-for-words 4-year-old daughter with Tom), and she probably owes most of the attention she gets to her marital status. Now she might follow in the footsteps of Jennifer Aniston — whose marriage to Brad Pitt and their subsequent divorce may not have made her career, but it certainly bumped her up the Hollywood food chain — as Adam Sandler’s upcoming costar. Aniston and Sandler will portray colleagues pretending to be a couple in next February’s Just Go With It(costarring, incidentally, Nicole Kidman), and Holmes is reportedly in talks to join Sandler and Al Pacino in the comedy Jack and Jill.
Sandler would play another hapless sap whose twin sister (also played by Sandler) becomes the house guest from hell, Pacino would appear as himself, and Holmes would costar as the brother’s wife, despite not previously having shown any particular proficiency for comedy. (Neither did Patricia Arquette before Little Nicky, and look how poorly that Sandler film did.) Still, it would be a great gig if Holmes gets it, especially since I’m not convinced that marrying Cruise was such a good career move.
In some ways, in fact, I think it’s worked against her. Her marriage has overshadowed her career to the extent that people forget that there was a time, pre-Tom Cruise, when Holmes was a rising star in her own right. After Dawson’s Creek ended, she was just as likely to succeed as her costar Michelle Williams. In fact, Holmes worked with Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (in The Ice Storm) years before Williams did (in Brokeback Mountain). She also worked with acclaimed directors Curtis Hanson (in Wonder Boys), Sam Raimi (in The Gift), Christopher Nolan (in Batman Begins), Jason Reitman (in Thank You For Smoking) and headlined Pieces of April (which finally brought Patricia Clarkson an Oscar nomination) before she became best known as Cruise’s other half in 2005.
Since then, her work has been sporadic, in part, I imagine, for the same reason that Pinkett-Smith’s post-Will Smith filmography is slightly flimsy. I still can’t believe she turned down The Dark Knight to do Mad Money (speculation blames her husband’s objections to the love scenes in the Batman sequel), and her 2008 Broadway debut in a revival of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, a great move on paper, earned mixed reviews. Portraying Jackie Kennedy next year in The Kennedys, the History Channel’s first scripted series, feels unnecessary — especially since her performance no doubt ultimately will be upstaged by Rachel Weisz’s in Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming Jackie O biopic — but maybe Jack and Jill and her upcoming role in Son of No One (with Channing Tatum, Ray Liotta and Juliette Binoche and, once again, Al Pacino), will be the first steps in saving her from being best known as Tom Cruise’s wife — and Suri’s mom.
And if not, there’s always life after Cruise. As Kidman and Cruz proved, it’s full of potential.