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

By Isabel Jones
Updated Mar 19, 2020 @ 4:00 pm
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Who: Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts, 52, and Emmy-nominated actor Benjamin Bratt, 56.

How They Met: The actor pair met in a restaurant in 1997. “[Bratt] walked in, and I looked up at him, and it was like something hit me over the head with a bat,” Roberts described the encounter to Vanity Fair. Fine Manhattan dining became as emblematic of Bratt and Roberts’s relationship as the iced coffee run was for Ben Affleck and Lindsay Shookus. They were spotted often, at N.Y.C. hotspots like Le Madri, Cafeteria, and Cafe Lure.

Why We Loved Them: While the unrelenting spotlight wasn’t easy on the relationship (more on this later), Bratt and Roberts did a great job of maintaining a distance between their romance and the public while also giving placating us with fun soundbites. “All that I have to say about Julia couldn’t possibly fit into one or two sentences,” Bratt told People. “She’s an incredible woman.” Roberts told InStyle, “He’s very good-looking, and his handsomeness pales in comparison to his kindness. That is all a girl could ask for, really.” He gave her a purple mountain bike for her birthday! He got her a copy of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer (?!?!?)! But our favorite is quote is one Roberts gave to Oprah Winfrey: “We’re just ecstatically happy. We’re drunk with joy 24 hours out of the day. We’re sickening.” Ah, to be famous and sickeningly in love.

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When They Peaked: While Bratt was on the set of The Next Big Thing in L.A., in which he was shooting a love scene with co-star Madonna, Roberts was filming Erin Brockovich. According to Roberts’s co-star Mag Helgenberger, the actress would call and teasingly “quiz” Bratt about his on-screen romance. “She would report back to us after she quizzed him,” Helgenberger told People. “‘So, was it a good kiss? And did you like it? And how long was the kiss?’” America’s Sweetheart is officially a far more chill girlfriend than I could ever be.

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The Breakup: In June 2001, after nearly 4 years together, Bratt’s publicist confirmed that he and Roberts were “no longer together.”

Rumors of an ensuing split circled nearly a year prior, with New York Magazine reporting, “At this point, they haven’t seen each other in months. It’s not necessarily over, but it’s certainly hit a crisis point.” The constant media speculation about the state of their relationship certainly didn’t help. “We have decided to live our lives according to what the latest tabloid headline is,” Bratt told reporters in 2001. “Last week we were engaged, and this week we are broken up, and next week she will be abducted by aliens, and the following week we will marry and she will give birth to an alien child. We try to keep it right.”

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Bratt touched on the media intervention during a 2002 interview with Vanity Fair as well. “I wasn’t so naïve as to go into that relationship thinking, 'this will be an entirely normal experience,'” he began. “You don’t build your house in a redwood grove if you don’t like shade.” That said, “I experienced that living at that level of visibility is something that doesn’t appeal to me. And I discovered it can’t really appeal to anyone. Even she, as well as other people of that magnitude of fame, doesn’t enjoy it,” he continued. “It’s like a fly that won’t leave you alone,” Bratt said of the spotlight. “It’s that mosquito that buzzes in your ear when you’re trying to sleep at night. You turn the light on and you can’t find it. You turn the light off and it comes back again. It’s constant and ever present and it disrupts any chance of peace ... When you live your life at that level of fame, it gets beyond your control. By the time you realize it, you’re stuck.”

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Soon after her split from Bratt, Roberts set the record straight on the Late Show with David Letterman. “It’s come to a kind and tenderhearted end, and my only regret is that the media can't accept that it's tenderhearted and kind,” she said of the breakup. “[The media] has to make it messy and ugly.” Continuing in a wonderfully diplomatic fashion, Roberts said, “I love Benjamin. He’s a good man, he’s a fine man. He is, to the exultation of the female single population, not my man anymore. Sad, but true, and not ugly, not because of anyone else, parting of the ways. There you go. We’re both just two kids trying to find our way in the world.”

Where They Are Now: One of said females “exulted” by Bratt’s singledom was actress Talisa Soto, whom he wed less than a year after splitting from Roberts. The pair shares two children: Sophia, 17, and Mateo, 14.

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Next up for Bratt is musical Best Summer Ever, out later this month, and Ava DuVernay’s DMZ alongside Rosario Dawson.

Roberts also wed in 2002 — tying the knot with cinematographer Daniel Moder, whom she met on the set of The Mexican in 2000. They welcomed twins Hazel and Phinnaeus in 2004, followed by son Henry in 2007.

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The Pretty Woman star has several projects in pre-production, including an adaptation of Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee, and Sam Esmail series Gaslit.