Olivia Wilde and Tao Ruspoli, Son of the Prince of Cerveteri, Eloped on a School Bus
Who: Director, photographer, and low-key Italian prince, Tao Ruspoli, 44, and actress, director, and producer Olivia Wilde, 36.
How They Met: According to an interview Wilde gave to Women’s Health, she and Ruspoli met through a friend of her family’s in late 2002.
Wilde wasn’t initially eager to meet her match. "He wanted to introduce me to this Italian guy who made films and lived on a school bus,” she recalled. “I said, 'Whoa! I don't want to meet a dude who lives on a bus!’"
But differences in lineage (and real estate preference) aside, their views aligned. “We’re from completely different worlds, but we have the same mission: to bring film and art together with some sort of political activism,” she told The Observer.
Just six months later, Wilde and Ruspoli eloped … on the very school bus Ruspoli called home.
"My dad did have a minor heart attack, and it was hard to imagine settling down at the time," Wilde told Women’s Health of her decision to wed Ruspoli at 19 years old. "But there was this wave of romantic excitement and an overwhelming sense that we were supposed to be family. We were very open to the idea that if it didn't work, we would let it go its course. No pressure."
Why We Loved Them: Despite Ruspoli’s royal heritage, the filmmaker wasn’t exactly attending state dinners and kissing babies. Wilde had to elucidate exactly what her husband’s princedom meant in interview after interview, and it was strangely endearing.
“Everyone expects him to pick me up in a limo or a yacht," she told Women’s Health. "Then Tao rolls up in this old Thunderbird, wearing flip-flops, his hair all crazy. People are like, 'He's a prince?’"
And no, marrying a prince didn’t grant Wilde access to the crown jewels. “No special parking spaces or tiaras,” she told TV Guide. “Since it's only a papal title, it doesn't carry a lot of weight, but his family does have a beautiful castle and palazzo in Italy, so that makes me feel like a princess.” Good answer.
“It’s kind of hilarious because my husband and I are so not concerned with it,” she told Fox News of Ruspoli’s royal status. “All it means to us is having an incredible family history.”
When They Peaked: In 2007, Wilde and Ruspoli collaborated on a film together, Fix. When the project hit theaters in 2009, Wilde spoke about working with her husband in the most loving terms. “No one understands me better than Tao, and therefore I felt completely liberated under his direction,” she told Gothamist. “We also shared a common vision for the film, and so we were able to help each other achieve that by offering advice from our unique perspectives.”
And though it seemed they worked well together, they also worked well, er, not together. Wilde highlighted how independence was key in their relationship.
“Tao is great about saying, 'You go. Have fun. I'm staying home.' It's so important to have that independence,” she told Men’s Health in 2010.
That same year, when Women’s Health asked Wilde how Ruspoli felt about seeing her share kisses with onscreen love interests, she said, “I think he likes it,” adding, “It's a turn-on that I get to do these things. The confidence that comes with doing well only makes you more desirable."
The Breakup: In March of 2011, 8 years after eloping, Wilde filed for divorce from Ruspoli.
A few months later, Wilde opened up about her divorce to Marie Claire, explaining, "I'm a case of arrested development, in a way — from spending your 20s with someone who really loves to take care of you, as my husband did. But I think it's very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.”
She went on to say she thought the divorce had made her a better actress — and she wasn’t the only one who thought so. “It makes you a more empathetic person, and I think it's made me a better actress,” she said, recalling the words of House creator David Shore: “You should get divorced every year; your acting's never been better!”
“Even though it didn't work, there's nothing I regret about any of it," she clarified. "We're friends; his family is my family. You always have a choice to feel angry and not be friends. But I can't handle the idea of walking into a room and seeing someone I have bad blood with. I can't keep any negative relationship with anyone. Our deal from the beginning was, 'We're crazy to do this, but we're doing it because we're in love and it makes us happy. The only reason to divorce is if one of us isn't happy. Life is too short.' After really trying to make the relationship evolve in the way our lives had, I realized it wasn't a natural evolution. When the relationship becomes about working to make it work, it's lost that beauty and that optimistic bohemian sense that brought us together. I don't think love should be work. My parents have been married for 35 years. They said, 'You have to work at it. That's what it takes.' But we tried, and it wasn't making us happy.”
Wilde expanded on the reasons behind her split in an interview with Amanda de Cadenet the following year. “I really had a sense that I had stunted my growth. I think that’s one of the things that made me feel so uncomfortable in my marriage. It was really no fault of my husband.”
"You don't want to break up with someone, you don’t want to end a marriage, especially if you really like the person — you just know that something's off so you try to change everything else," she explained. ”We basically built a new house and it was perfect — just a glorious house — and the day it was finished was the day I knew it wasn't the house.”
Still, Wilde focused on the positive. In a 2012 interview with Town & Country she said, "The good thing about getting divorced young — if there is a good thing — is that it makes you realize there's no schedule in life," she said. "It blasts you wide open and frees you to be honest with yourself."
Later that year, the press latched onto quotes she’d given during a night of monologues hosted by Glamour. According to Vulture, Wilde had discussed another reason her marriage had come to an end: the death of her vagina. “I felt like my vagina died,” she said on stage. “Turned off. Lights out … And you can lie to your relatives at Christmas dinner and tell them everything on the home front is just peachy. But you cannot lie to your vagina.”
When said quotes began to circulate, Wilde clarified the situation on Twitter. “The 'These Girls’ monologues at Joe's Pub were not meant for publication, and, in context, were a celebration of LOVE, girls, and honesty,” she wrote. “Sneaky recorders are everywhere these days, but performance art doesn't always translate accurately to tabloid interpretation.”
"[I] wouldn't be this person without that first marriage," Wilde told Glamour in 2014. "I really grew up with my first husband. Now I'm in a much wiser, more centered place in life.”
"I think if we can see people in our lives as chapters, we have a much healthier perspective about the whole thing. It's like it had to happen the way it happened.”
Ruspoli had a similar outlook on the end of his and Wilde’s marriage. In 2016 he told Tatler he had “nothing but good feelings towards her and nothing but gratitude for the time we spent together,” adding, “[It was] amazing to see her propelled into stardom and a fascinating front-row seat at something not many people get to witness.”
That said, Ruspoli did make a documentary called Monogamish, which was seemingly inspired by his heartbreak over the divorce. “My wife has just left me after nearly 10 years together and my whole world has crumbled,” he says in the film.
"I'm so grateful for the pain and the heartbreak,” Wilde told Marie Claire. “It gave me the courage to leave and brought me to the great love of my life."
Where They Are Now:
Ruspoli has adeptly avoided the spotlight in recent years. In 2015 he and two friends founded the Bombay Beach Biennale arts festival in Bombay Beach, Calif.
Wilde met her current partner, Jason Sudeikis, soon after her divorce. The couple shares two children: Otis, 6, and Daisy, 3.
Next up for Wilde is directing Don’t Worry, Darling, which stars Harry Styles, Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, Dakota Johnson, and features an appearance from Wilde herself.
#TBT: Check in every Thursday as we throw it back to some of our favorite celebrity couples of all time.