real life

Confessions from a celebrity divorce expert.

There are whole PR agencies involved in Hollywood divorces.

No one was particularly surprised when A-listers Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner announced their decision to divorce after a decade of marriage.

Why? Well, it was preceded by months of speculation that their relationship was on the way out – despite denials by publicists and public displays of unity by the couple, who didn’t announce the split until the timing was just right.

The celebrity break-up is a highly orchestrated operation – and according to a Hollywood divorce expert, sometimes the spurned member of the couple is the last to know about it.

Ben Affleck and jennifer Garner wouldn’t announce their split until they – or their publicists – were good and ready.

Rob Shuter, a Hollywood publicist who handled the split of Ben Affleck and his previous number-one Jennifer, Lopez, says breaking up in Hollywood is carefully managed in consultation with PR people.

“I’ve known instances where a member of that couple has told their publicist before they’ve told their significant other. I can’t tell you who, but it’s happened at least once to me, and once to a friend of mine. The hair and makeup people, they always seem to be the first to know,” he told New York Magazine.

“What happens when celebrities decide they are pulling the plug is that they’ll call their PR teams and the two different publicists — hers and his — will get on a phone call and negotiate a statement. Often you know which outlets these people prefer because they’re always the ones that get it first.”

There’s no time for mourning a lost relationship on Hollywood – you’ve got to organise who gets the photos, the scoop and the post-break-up interviews.

Shuter says the Affleck/Garner announcement would have be scheduled to fit in with the release of Ben Affleck’s new Batman film.

“Sunshine Sachs is a major PR company. They’re really smart with it. They don’t want to overshadow the movie. Now that it’s out there, he will probably have a very firm, carefully crafted answer,” he said.

Shuter, who was working for Lopez when she and Affleck broke up, speculates that Bennifer no. 1 could reunite (scandalous!).

Jennifer Lopez with her current squeeze, friendly ghost Caspar.

Lopez, he says, has a history of returning to past romances.


“She dated Marc, she broke up with him, she fell head over heels with Ben Affleck, and then when they broke up, she ran back to the arms of Marc, and within months they’re married. Would it surprise me if they talk to each other? They’ve got each other’s emails and phone numbers,” he said.

He says that Lopez and Affleck courted the press, most notably when he “was on a boat, rubbing cream on her fantastic bottom”.

Ben Affleck famously rubbed sunscreen into J.Lo’s butt and everyone was scandalised instead of congratulating them for sun safety.

The type of break-up strategy will depend very much on the personality of the divorcees.

For example, says Shuter, a reality star might alert the press to photo opportunities.

“You’ll stage the paparazzi when they’re walking down the street looking very sad, wearing black,” he said.

“Even Princess Diana was not above this. She went to the most romantic building in the world, the Taj Mahal, and cried on a bench by herself in front of the press.”

Shuter says Princess Diana organised to be photographed weeping for her failed marriage to Charles in front of the temple to love, the Taj Mahal.

The relationship between paparazzi and celebrity is symbiotic. They’ve both got jobs to do, so it makes sense if they coordinate schedules.

“It’s totally overt, to the point where you tell them the time to be there. ‘She’ll be in Central Park, wearing black, sitting on a bench, and she’ll be there for ten minutes. Fine, see you at 12:01.’”

His predictions for the art of the celebrity break-up are bad news for publicists though. With a whole generation of social-media savvy stars promoting themselves, their work and their personal lives on social media, which is then reported on in mainstream media, they’re getting kind of redundant.

If Taylor Swift and her Scotsman Calvin Harris split, it’s unlikely they’d bother hiring a publicist. Tay would simply post a heartbreaking Instagram image and write a Grammy-award winning song about it.

Publicists, Shuter says, are very worried about Twitter.

“Publicists are absolutely terrified that celebrities have figured out that they don’t need to pay eight, ten thousand dollars a month to put out a statement that they can just do themselves.”

The marriage of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner…

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The very civilised development in the Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner split.

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