The then-24-year-old found herself ensnared in one of the year's biggest scandals.
TBT: Billy Crudup Claire Danes
Credit: Getty Images

Who: Emmy-winning actress Claire Danes, 41, and SAG Award-winning actor Billy Crudup, 52.

How They Met: This story begins with scandal.

In late 2003, Crudup and his girlfriend of 8 years, Mary-Louise Parker (who, at the time, was about 7 months pregnant with his son), broke up. The New York Post reported that Crudup had moved on to his Stage Beauty co-star Danes, a claim which Danes’s rep denied. “Claire has been friends with Billy for 10 years,” the My So-Called Life star’s publicist told People. It’s unclear then exactly when and where Crudup and Danes met, though they did both serve as voice talent in 1997 anime film Princess Mononoke.

Regardless of the timeline, Crudup and Danes’s friendship certainly evolved into something more. By the summer of 2004, the former co-stars had been “spotted nuzzling all over New York City.”

When They Peaked: You’ve got to love a PDA-filled courtside date. We are accepting any and all leads regarding where to purchase Danes’s unicorn turtleneck.

Claire Danes and Billy Crudup
Credit: James Devaney/WireImage
Claire Danes and Billy Crudup
Credit: James Devaney/WireImage

Why We Loved Them: Despite the obvious sensationalism surrounding the relationship (and the “nuzzling”), both parties worked hard to keep the details of their romance private. There was no couch-jumping and love-proclaiming on the Stage Beauty press tour.

In October of 2004, Crudup was pressed to address the delicate situation in a New York Times interview. In an email sent to the reporter, Crudup asked for “anything about the Mary-Louise Parker situation” to be excised from the piece. “First and foremost it is personal, painful and involves an infant, and does not deserve to be exploited to sate the appetites of circulation counters and bored readers,” Crudup wrote. “I have never indulged our society's misguided notion that my personal life is relevant to my work, so any reporting surrounding that is necessarily hearsay, speculation or fantasy. Each published report is based only on the trade of suffering.”

Billy Crudup and Claire Danes
Credit: John Shearer/WireImage

It wasn’t until years after their split that Danes said anything at all about her relationship with Crudup (and the media drama that followed it). “That was a choice I made to fall in love,” she told Blackbook in 2009. “It’s unpleasant to be cast in such an unflattering role [in the tabloids], but I just had to remain steadfast. I was living with the same kind of integrity that I had always lived with. It’s not nice to be ridiculed — nobody wants that — but it’s also unavoidable.”

She referenced Crudup again in 2013, telling Vogue that “dating Billy” was transitional in her adulthood. “I was segueing into: ‘I’m a grown-up now,’” she said.

Two years later, Howard Stern (naturally) coaxed even more from Danes regarding that tabloid-heavy time in her life. “That was a scary thing. It was really hard,” she said of the public backlash. “I didn’t know how to not do that. I was just in love with him, and needed to explore that, and I was 24 ... I didn’t quite know what those consequences would be. But it’s OK. I went through it.”

Claire Danes and Billy Crudup
Credit: Chance Yeh /Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The Breakup: About two years and one shared SoHo loft later, Crudup and Danes parted ways. Naturally, the ultra-private couple didn’t discuss the reason behind their breakup, but the tabloids were happy to do so for them. Gossip rags claimed that Danes had left Crudup for her Evening co-star (and current husband) Hugh Dancy. The truth? Well, we’ll probably never really know it.

Where They Are Now:

Danes wed Dancy in 2009. They welcomed their first son, Cyrus, in 2012, and their second son, Rowan, in 2018.

Crudup has been romantically linked to his Gypsy co-star Naomi Watts since 2017.

#TBT: Check in every Thursday as we throw it back to some of our favorite celebrity couples of all time.