10 real-life couples who have played love interests on screen
Sometimes, an on-screen couple is simply that – actors convincing their audience of burning passion through sheer talent.
On other occasions, the performance ends up sparking real-world romance that leads to wedding bells and the pitter-patter of small feet.
And then, there are some TV and film pairings that began in reality, long before they transferred to our screens.
ITV’s Stonehouse offers one of 2023’s first examples of an on-screen relationship being rooted in a real-life connection. Based on the true story of Labour MP John Stonehouse, who faked his own death in 1974, the drama stars Matthew Macfadyen in the title role, while Keeley Hawes plays his wife, Barbara.
The two actors have been married since 2004 and have two children together, as well as Hawes’ son from an earlier relationship.
Here are 10 more examples of real-life couples who have also played romantic partners.
Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone (Bridesmaids)
After meeting as friends in the early 1990s, Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone became an item in 1998 after taking a writing course together at an LA improv theatre.
They married in 2005, and though Falcone also shared a scene with McCarthy in a 2003 episode of Gilmore Girls, they portrayed a couple for the first time in the 2011 comedy, Bridesmaids. McCarthy played Megan, the boisterous sister of the groom, while Falcone was an undercover air marshal who eventually succumbs to her charms.
Since then, they’ve also appeared together in the films Identity Thief and The Boss.
Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog)
The set of Fargo was the starting block for Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons’s love story. After beginning their roles as high-school sweethearts Peggy and Ed in 2015, they weren’t romantically linked until the following year.
Their next adventure on screen came in the 2021 film, The Power of the Dog, for which Dunst received a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Oscars, while Plemons was nominated for Best Actor. Though neither took home a statuette from the March 2022 ceremony, they had much to celebrate a few months later, when they got married in Jamaica. Dunst and Plemons have two sons together.
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith (Ali)
Now one of Hollywood’s best-known (and widely discussed) couples, the Smiths’ story began in 1994, when Pinkett Smith unsuccessfully auditioned for a role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. They began dating the following year and married in 1997.
In 2001, they appeared on-screen as a couple once more in Ali. Pinkett Smith played Sonji Roi, the first wife of Muhammad Ali, while the boxing great was played by Smith in an Oscar-nominated performance.
The couple share two children: Jaden and Willow, as well as Smith’s oldest son, Trey, from his first marriage.
Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman (Eyes Wide Shut)
One of the foremost A-list couples of the Nineties, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman first got together after playing lovers in the 1990 film, Days of Thunder. They married within months of meeting, and by the time of their divorce in 2001, they’d also starred as a couple in the romantic drama Far and Away (1992) and the erotic thriller, Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
Faith Hill and Tim McGraw (1883)
Though they’ve spent a lot of their careers making music together, country stars and actors Faith Hill and Tim McGraw only made their acting debut as a couple in 2021’s single-season drama, 1883.
A spin-off of ratings hit Yellowstone, 1883 told the story of the Dutton family’s ancestors and their tough journey from Texas to the western states. Hill and McGraw play married couple Margaret and James Dutton. Since the pair have been married since 1996, and share three daughters, one may assume that it’d be easy for them to transfer their relationship to screen.
However, Hill said that to ensure she fully immersed herself in the character, she refused to run lines with her husband at home. “For me, it was off-limits, and it had to be that way,” she explained to The Independent in 2022. “When you’re with someone for so long, and know him so well and vice versa… I wanted to know James, and he needed to know Margaret.”
John Krasinski and Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place)
After they began dating in November 2008, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt married in Como, Italy, in 2010. Despite them both being frequently cast actors in Hollywood, it took until 2018 for them to bring their romance to the screen in the post-apocalyptic horror, A Quiet Place.
Directed and co-written by Krasinski, the film features the couple as parents who must keep their family safe from blind killer monsters that possess acute hearing abilities.
Viola Davis and Julius Tennon (How to Get Away with Murder)
Viola Davis married fellow actor Julius Tennon in 2003. Though most of their professional collaborations are off-screen, by way of their production company JuVee Productions, the pair also had a fictional romantic connection on a season four episode of How to Get Away With Murder in 2018.
Davis’s character, Annalise Keating, meets a handsome stranger, played by Tennon, on a flight, and they later visit a hotel room together.
Edward Burns and Maxine Bahns (She’s the One)
Edward Burns wrote, directed and starred in the 1996 romantic comedy She’s the One, and cast his then-girlfriend Maxine Bahns as his character’s love interest. Though the film received middling reviews, most of the critique was saved for Bahns’s performance.
“Throw a rock out the window, and it’s sure to hit someone with more acting talent than Bahns,” wrote critic Mick LaSalle at the time, adding: “In a way, it’s rather sweet that Burns keeps casting Bahns. But She’s the One would have been much improved had Burns given Jennifer Aniston the Bahns role.”
The relationship wasn’t to last. Burns married model Christy Turlington in 2003, while Bahns is still acting, her most recent role being in Nicholas Winding Refn’s 2019 film Too Old to Die Young.
Angela Bassett and Courtney B Vance (ER)
Angela Bassett first met her husband, fellow actor Courtney B Vance, while they were students at Yale School of Drama in 1986. However, their romance didn’t blossom until a decade later, and they married in 1997.
2009 marked their first appearance as a couple on screen. Bassett was playing Dr Cate Banfield in ER, and Vance joined the cast for a multi-episode arc as her husband, Russell, in the 15th and final season of the medical drama. Prior to this, they’d played a couple in a production of His Girl Friday at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2005.
Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor (Zoolander)
Comedic actors Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor met at work while filming the pilot episode of the never-picked-up series Heat Vision and Jack in 1999. They began a relationship and went on to star in several films together, the first being Zoolander in 2001.
Stiller played the eponymous dim supermodel, while Taylor was the journalist who eventually sparked a romance with the fun fashion figure. Other projects they’ve worked together in include Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Tropic Thunder and Zoolander 2, as well as the TV series Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The couple announced their separation in 2017, but reconciled while living together during the Covid lockdown in 2020.