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Couple Bomb

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"Bandit and Carrie have an utterly bland chat about their relationship, and all I can say is that there’s a very good reason to not cast two people who were once an item as a couple in your movie. I’ve seen more heat in my freezer."

For whatever reason, when married couples (or even just couples who are known for being together) make a movie, it rarely works. Who knows why? In some cases, it's public backlash against the couple. Sometimes the couple's Real Life chemistry just doesn't show up on-screen (or it does, and it becomes somewhat unsettling when you realize you're watching an actual couple during a love scene). Sometimes, it's just a Vanity Project with no real direction. In any case, even though Couple Bombs have a track record of not succeeding, they somehow still get made anyway.

Subtrope of Real-Life Relative. Might be related to Creator Couple if the Love Makes You Uncreative trope is factored in. Could also be a result of Yoko Oh No. Should not be confused with Battle Couple.


Examples:

  • Gigli is probably the most notorious example. Even though Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck weren't married at the time, they were the hot couple, and the movie was significantly rewritten during production to capitalize on their relationship. In a twist which surprised no one, Bennifer called it quits shortly after the movie bombed.
  • Overboard (Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn) - though the film has been Vindicated by Cable.
  • Swept Away, sort of. It starred Madonna and was directed by Guy Ritchie, and was almost universally panned as being terrible, and led to Madonna's declaration that she would never act again.
  • Shanghai Surprise starred Madonna and then-hubby Sean Penn. The original script probably didn't set the world on fire, but the decision to include the couple was a fatal one, on multiple levels. Shooting began in Hong Kong and problems soon arose: the exposure produced by such a hot tabloid couple served as catnip to Chinese gangsters, who sabotaged equipment and even extorted money from Madonna and Penn before they'd allow them back on set. Penn, like clockwork, went berserk every time a paparazzo snapped a picture of him, culminating in an assault charge. Eventually Penn and Madonna stopped cooperating altogether, causing the budget to balloon as directors and actors were replaced on Penn's decree, and the couple were labeled as poison.
  • El Cantante (Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez).
  • Dirty Love, written by and starring Jenny McCarthy and directed by her then husband John Mallory Asher. They divorced shortly before it went down in flames.
  • In 1959, Audrey Hepburn starred in Green Mansions, directed by her then-husband Mel Ferrer. It was one of the least successful movies of her career.
  • Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had a string of flops starting with the notorious Cleopatra (1963) and continuing on with The Sandpiper (1965), The Comedians (1967), Doctor Faustus (1967), Boom! (1968), and Hammersmith Is Out! (1972). Their turn in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? shines even brighter by comparison.
  • The Marrying Man and The Getaway for Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.
  • In The X-Files, Mulder had a one-night stand with David Duchovny's then-partner. The crew later noted that it was to the detriment of the love scene, because there was just no tension between them.
  • Peter Sellers had couple bombs with his second and fourth wives: The Bobo with Britt Ekland (they also did After the Fox together, but in that film they play siblings, not lovers) and The Prisoner of Zenda (1979) with Lynne Frederick.
  • A father-son variant happened with After Earth. Will Smith basically approached M. Night Shyamalan to write and direct a movie featuring him and his son, Jaden. The movie bombed spectacularly and was reviled by pretty much every critic except Matt Zoller Seitz (who many consider to be Roger Ebert's Poor Man's Substitute anyway).
  • Discussed Trope on Friends. Chandler is worried that his actress girlfriend Kathy is cheating on him with her co-star after seeing their steamy sex scene, but Joey assures him that actors that are actually together have no chemistry with their co-star.
    Joey: Look, you guys have seen me in a lot of plays. Have I ever had chemistry on stage?
  • Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson with Paradise and the remake of Born Yesterday.
  • By the Sea, a 2015 film written and directed by Angelina Jolie and starring herself and Brad Pitt as a couple in a dying marriage. The film was a critical and commercial failure, and soon became Harsher in Hindsight when Jolie filed for divorce in the next year.
  • The view of many fans regarding Soap Opera couples that hook up in Real Life at some point. As stated in the page description, love scenes become uncomfortable to view. Conversely, arguments fail to ring true or have any impact on the viewer. And on the handful of occasions where a couple's Real Life breakup coincides with an on-screen one, those arguments get even more painful to watch.
  • Cutthroat Island, starring Geena Davis and directed by her husband Renny Harlin, underwent a severe Troubled Production and became one of the biggest box office bombs in film history. The two released The Long Kiss Goodnight the next year, which was also unsuccessful, if not as spectacularly so, and then divorced a few years after that.
  • The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc was the first film Luc Besson and Milla Jovovich made as husband and wife (they had worked together on The Fifth Element but only started dating afterwards) - and it underperformed at the Box Office. Luc Besson especially was criticised for casting his wife as the lead, in a role it was agreed she was not up to playing.
  • Stephen Mangan starred in the short-lived Houdini & Doyle where his wife Louise Delamere played his wife in the show. He commented on how weird it was to film love scenes with his real wife.
    "It's what I imagine dogging feels like..."
  • The film Shelter, where Paul Bettany directed his wife Jennifer Connelly, wasn't received well by critics and quickly faded from public consciousness. They had fared a little better when they starred together in Creation but still only at 46% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Kenneth Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter got together while making Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It was a bomb that led to the former sticking to Shakespeare adaptations until Thor came along.
  • Zigzagged with Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter - since she starred in many of his films. The ones that didn't fare so well included Alice in Wonderland (2010), Dark Shadows and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory 2004 (it was financially successful but has amassed a hatedom in recent years). On the other hand successes were Corpse Bride, Big Fish and Sweeney Todd.
  • Darling Lili was Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews first collaboration together. They fell in love while filming but the result was a Box Office Bomb that cost Paramount millions. They did have aversions though.

Aversions:

  • Bogart and Bacall. They had a Romance on the Set of To Have and Have Not, their first film together (and Bacall's first film role). They went on to co-star in three more films, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage and Key Largo; all of them are well-regarded.
  • William Daniels and wife Bonnie Bartlett also avert this trope rather spectacularly. They both won Emmys (in the same year) for their work as a married couple on St. Elsewhere. In Boy Meets World, Mr Feeny (Daniels) falls for Dean of Pennbrook Lila Bolander (Bartlett), and it's one of the sweetest arcs in the series.
  • Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh in Much Ado About Nothing and Dead Again. They also appeared in the Harry Potter movies, but not in the same movie (Thompson as Professor Trelawney in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on, and Branagh as Professor Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets).
  • Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick in The Woodsman.
  • Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Taming Of The Shrew in between the above-mentioned flops.
  • Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut. Though they had the iron fist of Stanley Kubrick to guide them.
  • Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel in the likes of Irreversible, L'Appartement and Dobermann.
  • Mary Healy and Peter Lind Hayes in The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T.
  • Al Jolson and Ruby Keeler in Go Into Your Dance (1935). Two Broadway musicals also tried to capitalize on their relationship: Ziegfeld's Show Girl (1929) billed her as Ruby Keeler Jolson and for the first few weeks had Jolson (under contract to a rival producer) singing "Liza" to her from the audience; Hold on to Your Hats (1940) tried to revive the collapsing Jolson-Keeler marriage by having the two appear on stage together, but this backfired during the tryout, with Keeler leaving the production and divorcing Jolson.
  • Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft in Silent Movie and the remake of To Be or Not to Be. They were married from 1961 until her death in 2005.
  • Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski made the Crocodile Dundee movies together. She divorced her husband to be with Paul after the first one, they were dating during the second one, and by the third they had been married for a decade.
  • Fibber McGee and Molly on radio were great together.
  • Same goes for George Burns and Gracie Allen.
  • And also for Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone.
  • Just as Will and Jaden Smith have a straight example with After Earth, they also had an aversion before it with The Pursuit of Happyness, which put Jaden in the map in the first place.
  • Judi Dench and her hubby Michael Williams earned rave reviews for their multiple onstage pairings at the Royal Shakespeare Company and later went on to star in heartbreakingly lovely romantic sitcom A Fine Romance.
  • The two leads in Monsters were dating at the time (and have since married). The director wanted to cast a real-life couple because the chemistry between the two was so important. The film ended up making $4 million on a budget of under $500,000.
  • How do you get the (sane portion of the) Sherlock fandom to like Mary Morstan? Why, you cast Amanda Abbington, real-life partner of John Watson's actor Martin Freeman. Fans who hated the whole concept of Mary were ultimately won over by their incredibly natural and lovely chemistry, to the point where some have said that only Amanda could have made them like the character.
  • The Simpsons voice actor Dan Castellaneta and his wife Deb Lacusta have written several Simpsons episodes together.
  • Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh starred in a few successful films together, as well as acting together on the stage.
  • Woody Allen successfully cast his former partners Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow in his films. Heck, Annie Hall is about his relationship with the former.
  • Warren Beatty starred opposite his girlfriend Julie Christie in well-received films - McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Shampoo and Heaven Can Wait (1978). Reds with his other girlfriend Diane Keaton was also successful. Town and Country, not so much.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man movies showcase a genuine and convincing chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, who were an off-screen couple for four years and remain friends.
  • In the world of sports, it's believed that the tendency of Russian and Chinese pairs skaters/ice dancers to marry enhances the beauty of their performances.
  • Téa Leoni and Tim Daly's Romance on the Set of Madam Secretary has only enhanced the romantic intimacy and chemistry between Happily Married Official Couple Elizabeth and Henry McCord.
  • John Krasinski directed and wrote A Quiet Place, which starred himself and his wife Emily Blunt. The film not only was an unexpected smash hit with critics, but the film did very well financially, opening well above initial expectations and serving as a hit that Paramount desperately needed.
  • John Cleese and Connie Booth acted and wrote together on Fawlty Towers both while they were married and after they divorced, and the show was one of the most popular TV comedies of all time.
  • Already Tomorrow In Hong Kong is a 2015 movie starring husband and wife Bryan Greenberg and Jamie Chung as the leads. It was received quite well, with a respectable 75% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona stars husband and wife Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz - playing on-again off-again lovers to boot - and was a significant hit for Woody Allen. Penelope Cruz likewise won an Oscar for it. Hilariously they were going to star in Nine as well - which turned out to be a bomb - but Javier Bardem dropped out.
  • Primeval's third season featured Ben Miller's real life wife Belinda Stewart Wilson joining the cast - playing his Arch-Enemy. Although it had a Channel Hop after the season, it stayed on the air for two more years. Hilariously enough producers didn't even realise they were married until Belinda had been cast.
  • Artist Norman Lindsey used his wife Rose as a model in many of his paintings. She was one of his most recognisable models, and also helped him with the business side of his art.
  • Blake Edwards directed his wife Julie Andrews in the hit Victor/Victoria. The film S.O.B. wasn't well received initially but has become a cult favourite. Their first collaboration together - Darling Lili - was a huge bomb. But they weren't married when that was made.
  • William H Macy and Felicity Huffman both star in Cake (2014), which got good reviews and several awards. They're not the leads however.

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