Why do actors and actresses have sex with each other?

The answer seems obvious: because they can. Most actors and actresses are better-looking than average, with bodies they spend a lot of time starving and pounding into shape, so they’re not short of offers. And if you were kissing George Clooney/Scarlett Johansson/Ryan Gosling/[insert your personal favourite] on a film set all day, wouldn’t you get just a little bit frisky and keen to try some extracurricular practice?

Affairs between lead actors and actresses are the stuff of legend: Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Bogart and Bacall, Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, Taylor and Burton, Melanie Griffiths and Antonio Banderas, Pitt and Jolie, Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz. … Many directors encourage it for that extra verisimilitude in the performance. Besides, no matter the cultural credentials we as audience may claim, we turn up at cinemas in droves to watch the actors we would like to sleep with – so it does no harm to box-office receipts if the gossip mags confirm they are indeed highly sexed.

Scientists at Newcastle University have researched the personality types of actors and compared them with the general population only to find that they are A/ more extravert than the rest of us (which figures); B/more open to new experiences (I guess they have to be); and C/are much more narcissistic and neurotic than the average (ah-hah!). Maybe it’s that mixture of narcissism (“How wonderful am I!”) and neuroticism (“Can’t you see how wonderful I am? Do you not love me? Does the public not love me?”) that explains the need for the ego-massage of an affair with someone equally as hot as yourself.

I imagine the problem lies in distinguishing ‘real life’ from scripted make-belief. Do they fall for the other person or for the role they are playing? If they want to stay together, how do they make the transition into domesticity? What do they make of each other’s morning breath and the stray pubic hair in the shower?

UnknownCleopatra director Joe Mankiewicz described Burton and Taylor as not so much lovers as “two actors who didn’t know how to get off stage because there wasn’t a scriptwriter around to show them how”. And so they carried on with the performance through fourteen booze-fuelled, tempestuous years.

Burton had his feet slightly more on the ground with his Welsh valleys upbringing, but Taylor had been acting out the fantasy of ‘life as a Hollywood script’ from the age of ten. She hadn’t been exposed to anything else and it meant she would forever be choosing princes who couldn’t actually live up to the hype. She persevered through eight husbands and countless lovers but none could cut the mustard so she hankered after the ones she couldn’t have – Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash; and Burton, who got himself off the booze and found a flesh-and-blood intellectual equal for his final marriage.

Of course, actors and actresses are subject to all the usual complex reasons why any of us have sex with anyone else; but some of them make it much more tortuous – and a damn sight more public.

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Always the last to know…

Robert Pattinson found out that Kristen Stewart was having an affair after photographs were taken of her canoodling in a car with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders. Reese Witherspoon allegedly discovered incriminating text messages between husband Ryan Phillippe and Abbie Cornish. Tiger Woods tried to convince his wife he was completely faithful but the sheer number of women claiming to have had affairs with him meant he finally had to put his hands up.

It’s tough being a celebrity (or married to one). Not only do you have the shock and hurt of being cheated on, but there’s often the humiliation of the press or public finding out about it before you do.

Back in Rome in 1962, when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton got together on the set of Cleopatra, the cast and crew were in on the secret long before their spouses had a clue. When the script called for Anthony and Cleopatra to kiss, the pair lunged for each other and didn’t appear to hear the director, Joe Mankiewicz, calling “Cut!”. (“I feel as though I’m intruding,” he quipped.) Burton indiscreetly bragged in the men’s makeup trailer that he’d ‘nailed’ his co-star in the back of his Cadillac. They used her secretary’s apartment for secret trysts and were often seen sneaking to each other’s trailers for ‘cocktail hour’ with shawls thrown over their heads.

EddieElizabeth’s husband, the singer Eddie Fisher, heard the whispers but dismissed them: she was the most beautiful woman in the world and there had always been rumours but he trusted her not to cheat. Big mistake.

After a close friend phoned to tip him off, Eddie turned to Elizabeth as they lay in bed one night and asked her directly: “Tell me the truth: is there something going on between you and Burton?”

“Yes,” she replied quietly.

SybilIt all got a bit less dignified after that. Eddie went to tell Richard’s wife Sybil, who wasn’t greatly surprised because her husband had slept with pretty much every leading lady he’d ever worked with (apart from Julie Andrews). Sybil was prepared to put up with it so long as it ended when filming was over.

It was Richard who wanted Eddie out of the way. He turned up drunk at a dinner party Elizabeth and Eddie were throwing and insisted she had to choose between them.

“Who do you love?” he slurred. “Show me who you love.”

And in front of their friends, and Eddie, she walked over and gave Richard a deep passionate kiss.

Eddie finally took the hint but it would be another year and a lot more heartache on all sides before Richard decided to leave his wife and family to be with Elizabeth. And we all know how that ended…

Years later, Eddie Fisher developed a stage act in which he joked about his ex, calling her “Elizabeth, the nympho of the Nile”. Sybil Burton took all Richard’s money in the divorce settlement and maintained a dignified silence right up until her death on 7th March this year at the age of eighty-three.

Celebrities in Love

If you struggle to maintain a healthy relationship spare a thought for poor celebrities, who have the odds stacked against them when it comes to love.

First of all, there are four people in a celebrity relationship: him, her, his public image and hers. We all want someone who makes us feel better about ourselves, but celebs want someone who makes them feel good on a personal level and who enhances their public image at the same time. Agents and publicists often get involved in matchmaking celebrity clients, choosing partners who will generate the most favourable column inches. They don’t want their client to be with a man who makes her look needy or unloveable; if things go wrong, she has to be the one to leave because it’s not sexy to be left. It’s an arranged marriage based on the worst possible criteria.

Celebrities are narcissistic. Their egos are fed so much by the press and fans and their big bank balances that they genuinely believe they are better than the rest of us. But there’s a tiny part of them deep down that feels unworthy and this terrifies them, making them need more reassurance than most. It’s lonely at the top, and many celebrities have trouble finding people they can trust, when family members and old friends succumb to the lure of the tabloid chequebook. That means they have to put all their eggs in one basket and expect their celebrity partner to be all things to them: lover, parent, best friend… a pressure that would damage most relationships. Yet that very loneliness means that as soon as (or preferably before) one relationship breaks up, they are on a hunt for the next person to fall in love with. And that’s why they keep getting married again and again.

The more space a particular celeb takes up in the tabloid media, the more likely it is that their marriage will fail, according to John Tierney and Garth Sundem, who studied the subject for The New York Times. They even came up with a formula to predict the chances of a celebrity’s marriage succeeding http://nyti.ms/ZUbvfc.

Rule number one: if a woman is a sex symbol given to wearing skimpy clothing in public, the marriage is doomed. Sorry, Katie Price and Kieran Hayler…

Rule number two: there are bound to be problems if one partner is much more famous than the other, or much wealthier than the other, because it means there is an inherent imbalance of power. Sorry, Kate Winslet and Ned Rocknroll…

Celebrities don’t have time in their busy schedules for long courtships when they try out different things and get to know each other. They hook up, the press gets wind of it and starts asking “Will they wed?” and the pressure is on. But a whirlwind courtship is one of the clearest indicators that a marriage will fail. If there are less than six months before the big day, it’s likely they’ll be in the divorce courts within six years. They’re marrying because they have sexual chemistry instead of taking time to learn mutual respect, trust and affection.

It used to be said that selling coverage of the wedding to Hello! Magazine was a sure sign the marriage wouldn’t last, and this may well still be true. Other key signs include:

• Getting tattoos of each other’s names. When he broke up with Winona Ryder, Johnny Depp had the tattoo ‘Winona Forever’ turned into ‘Wino Forever’ but they can’t all be so neatly transformed.

• Having a lavish fairy-tale wedding lets them be prince and princess for the day but indicates they are living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

• Playing romantic roles in which they kiss other actors on screen is inevitably going to lead to infidelity sooner or later.  It’s an occupational hazard.

• If there have been several marriages before the current one, its chances are substantially lessened. Look at the previous relationships and you’ll see where the fatal flaws lie. (Will Tom Cruise ever stop trying to convert his wives to Scientology? Probably not…)

Dick and Liz on POST cover 001

I’ve been writing about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in my latest novel The Affair (due out on 23rd May). The odds were heavily stacked against their relationship working: she was much more famous and much wealthier than him; she was constantly photographed in low-cut gowns; she had already been married four times; she consumed her body weight in prescription drugs and both were at the start of a lifelong love affair with booze. The fact that their first marriage lasted ten years says something about their huge attraction to each other that clearly transcended the physical.

All her life she’d been praised for her beauty but Richard Burton was the first person to tell her she was intelligent, with opinions worth listening to. He even told her she was a good actress, which is pushing it some. On his side, he fell for her thoroughly modern outlook and her caustic, bawdy wit. She didn’t nag him not to drink; she let him be the dominant one and they had a lot of fun – while it lasted. Ten years first time round, then a quick remarriage of nine months duration.

He moved on to find happiness, peace and sobriety with wife number four, Sally Burton. Elizabeth Taylor remarried countless times but always looked back with nostalgia at the great love of her life, with the man who played Anthony to her Cleopatra.