Directors and Marriage Longevity
March 7, 2013 9:46 PM   Subscribe

How many successful Film Directors are happily their first wife (or husband)? Answers may be given as an estimated percentage if that's easier.

Considering a change in profession, with reservations.
posted by mousepad to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Directing is a high-pressure profession that can put a strain on a marriage, to be sure, but so are many professions in and out of the film industry, the arts, etc. Do you have specific concerns about how pursuing a film career would affect your marriage? I think that might be a more answerable question.
posted by scody at 9:51 PM on March 7, 2013

I was once the assistant to a very successful and prolific TV director who is still married to his first wife.
posted by Sara C. at 10:00 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bruce Paltrow, aka Gwyneth's dad was married to Gwyneth's mother Blythe Danner at the time of his death.
posted by dfriedman at 10:04 PM on March 7, 2013

If we look at directors who have won the Best Director Oscar since 2000 you have the following:

Still married to first spouse (6): Ang Lee, Michel Hazanavicius, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Peter Jackson, Ron Howard

Divorced at least once (5): Kathryn Bigelow, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Roman Polanski, Steven Soderbergh

Never married (2): Tom Hooper, Danny Boyle

Boyle has three children by his ex-girlfriend, so he's something of a special case.

Mathematically, it doesn't seem much different than any other occupation to me.

If you add the winners in the 90s, it makes things look worse since those would be 1 still married (Anthony Minghella), 8 divorced. The 80s are 3 still married (Sydney Pollack, Richard Attenborough, Warren Beatty), 6 divorced, although it seems amusing to count Warren Beatty amongst the one marriage crowd.

Disclaimer: All of my "research" was from wikipedia, so I may have goofed up my analysis. I don't actually know any of these folks, although I had a very pleasant conversation with Richard Attenborough in the lounge at Heathrow once.
posted by Lame_username at 10:25 PM on March 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

Stanley Kubrick was married to his 3rd wife for 40 years. His first two marriages lasted about 2 or 3 years, each.

I'd count that!

Frederico Fellini was married to his wife and muse Giuletta Masina from 1943 until his death in 1993. She died 5 months later.
posted by jbenben at 10:29 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Considering a change in profession, with reservations."

Ok. I'll bite. What's your hesitation? Go ahead and memail me if you want me to espouse more than I am about to.

I work in Hollywood. I no longer work in entertainment or film, but weirdly, I'm close with many that do and are very to fairly prominent in the industry.

I feel like there are 3 sides to Hollywood:

- Those that are both talented a good people, so they schmooze bu maintain their integrity.

- Those that are insecure, shallow, sociopathic, etc. - they do well or don't, but man do they get ground up by chasing the dream or trying to stay on top.

- Those that fall between the two above, typically they by-pass some scandal, but they are always teetering on the brink.

I know many grounded people who don't fuck around, but are also reliable and talented, so they are very successful. I know a few others who maintain a veneer of respectability who fuck around discreetly, they do well enough, too.

Especially in this age of hyper-media, being overt about your dalliances does not win you favors or more money for projects.

I think the answer to this question has everything to do with the communication skills you and your spouse possess, and nothing about the industry in question, itself.

If the relationship is shitty, or someone is a flirt or known cheater - this is not a good industry or place to make your fortune, but that will be true of anywhere, if one or both spouses are flirts or cheaters.

Hope that answers your question.
posted by jbenben at 10:43 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to become a film director, possible divorce is the least of your worries.

I work in Hollywood, and I don't think directors are that different from people in other high pressure jobs, divorce-wise. Super successful people in any profession are more likely to be total nutjobs.

This is - obviously - just my anecdotal observation.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:53 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I imagine that the numbers work out about the same no matter the profession. Yes, directing is a high-stress job, but that doesn't, in itself, create cheaters/divorces.

For what it's worth, I have four friends who are directors, two very high profile, two poised to become high profile. All are married (well, one is in a long-term same sex relationship). All are happy.
posted by mrfuga0 at 2:16 AM on March 8, 2013

You realise that the statistics don't tell you anything at all about your own chances of remaining married if you change career, right?
posted by altolinguistic at 2:22 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Louis Malle was married to Candice Bergen until his death.

There are also numerous high-profile actors who remained married for years and years - while these are not directors, they are working in the same industry and arguably have more lip contact with women/men to whom they are not married.

We could probably point to any entertainment industry and find examples to support either side. After all, Ben Folds has been married four or five times, and he's hardly a stadium rocker.
posted by mippy at 5:02 AM on March 8, 2013

I don't think this is a meaningful computation, as lame_username showed, unless someone's computing the divorce rate among directors in the same way as they do for the general population. The further you go back in time, the longer people have had to get divorced (plus there's no good way to distinguish a 'normal' divorce from a 'film-related' divorce). Neither Clint Eastwood nor Roman Polanski are exactly young. How many men their age have divorced at least once compared to 35 year olds?

(Granted, they're old enough that had they married at 20, they would have faced greater pressure not to divorce than the 35 year old married at 20. If they were in Ireland, their first marriages would have been likely to end in death before they had the right to divorce. Similarly for Italy.)
posted by hoyland at 5:45 AM on March 8, 2013

Coppola is married to his first and only wife, but it's hardly been a smooth path.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:34 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Paul Newman was married to his second wife (Joanne Woodward) for 50 years. I think that counts.
posted by devinemissk at 7:25 AM on March 8, 2013

Norman Jewison, married over 50 years until wife's death
posted by canoehead at 7:55 AM on March 8, 2013


I'm so sorry Anne Bancroft that I forgot you and Mel Brooks. You are one of my favorite married couples, ever.
posted by jbenben at 10:32 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry Anne Bancroft that I forgot you and Mel Brooks. You are one of my favorite married couples, ever.
Although I agree that they were an amazing couple, married for 40 years and charming as can be, they were both divorced before they married. In fact, when they first started dating, he was still married to his first wife (source). Technically speaking, he wasn't a director until well after all that went down anyhow.
Paul Newman was married to his second wife (Joanne Woodward) for 50 years. I think that counts.
Paul Newman really wasn't a director, but I have an amusing Paul Newman story. I worked for a military grocery chain and they didn't want to carry the full line of Newman's Own products, so he arranged to make a personal appeal to the managers of the commissary system to get them to pick up his products. Of course, this was quite successful and as he was heading out of the building, I happened to be on the same elevator with him on his way out of the building. The doors opened and there was a crowd of a few hundred folks in the lobby hoping to catch a glimpse of him. The doors opened onto the gathered crowd and he ended up making a brief speech to everyone who had assembled in hopes of seeing him. I hid behind the elevator while he made a series of charming and self-deprecating remarks. As everyone cheered him heartily, I made my escape murmuring my admiration for all he had done and he laughed and said "I'm just a monkey in a suit." I'd have bought anything he was selling.

I also note that he traveled in an ordinary rental car. Morris the Cat had a limo.
posted by Lame_username at 9:48 PM on March 8, 2013

Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss have been married over 50 years, but as others have said, I don't see how that's meaningful.

The most obvious point that hasn't been made yet is, how do you know they're happy (for values of happy)? Unhappy couples stay together for lots of reason, while presenting a happy veneer. Whether a director got married before, during, or after achieving success will also impact (with pros and cons on both sides) their chances of staying married.

Your definition of successful is important, too: Alan Alda has been married to his first wife forever, but he's mostly known as an actor, even though he's most certainly a successful director, too. Actually, Richard Benjamin might not fit your definition of successful, either.

On the other hand, look at Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman. Married 30 years, didn't make it to 31. Things probably weren't always so happy.

I think it's great that you are considering how the change might affect your present or future marriage, but it's just not knowable.

jbenben: "I'm so sorry Anne Bancroft that I forgot you and Mel Brooks. You are one of my favorite married couples, ever."

I'm pretty jaded, but one of my most exciting star sightings was on the Mother's Day that I took my mom to the same restaurant as the Brooks/Bancroft family. I was just giddy! (On preview, too bad they don't fit this question.)
posted by Room 641-A at 10:46 PM on March 8, 2013

Oh, Mel Brooks just made me think of Carl Reiner! Married to Estelle Reiner for 65 years before she passed away.

Also, the Rob Reiner connection made me think of Christopher Guest, who has been married to Jamie Lee Curtis for 30 years.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:55 PM on March 8, 2013

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