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Return to Sender

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Explaining the charms of his wife-to-be, Lisa Marie Presley, on the Tonight Show last year, Nicolas Cage told Jay Leno, “She’s a very honest person. I admire that quality.” On Nov. 26 he may have felt more honesty than he cared to. Responding to Cage’s divorce filing the previous day, Presley didn’t waffle: “I’m sad about this, but we shouldn’t have been married in the first place,” she said in a statement. “It was a big mistake.”

Few would disagree. Cage, 38, and Presley, 34, who wed in Hawaii on Aug. 10, seemed to face steep odds against happily ever after. Their ride to the altar was troubled—they broke up in February after 10 months of dating before recoupling in June. And their previous stabs at matrimony (Presley’s 1994 marriage to Michael Jackson lasted 20 months; Cage and Patricia Arquette secretly separated just nine months after their ’95 nuptials and divorced 5½ years later) didn’t bode well. This time around, says a friend of Cage’s, the problem was simple: “They spent enough time together to fall in love—and not enough time together to make it work.”

Elvis’s daughter and Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew met two years ago at a birthday bash for punk guitarist Johnny Ramone (Presley had shown up with her fiancé, musician John Oszajca, whom she soon left). When Cage and Presley wed, they were thrilled enough to have not just one reception but two: the first for about 30 guests in Hawaii, another a month later for 300 pals in a vineyard in the Santa Monica Mountains. In October the couple popped up hand in hand at a Paul McCartney concert and at Kelly Preston’s 40th-birthday party. And just last month Presley, shopping for lingerie at an L.A. boutique with her mother, Priscilla, told the clerk with a smile, “What do you expect? I’m still a newlywed.”

But by the time they attended a Nov. 23 screening of Cage’s new movie Adaptation in L.A., the pair hadn’t seen much of each other for two weeks and “were very unhappy with each other,” says Cage’s friend. “The bottom line is she has her own life and own world that revolve around Scientology and her children.” (Presley is mom to Danielle, 13, and Benjamin, 10, from her six-year first marriage to musician Danny Keough; Cage has a son, Weston, 11, with his former girlfriend Christina Fulton.) Not that Cage—who has hired Nicole Kidman‘s divorce lawyer, Sorrell Trope—doesn’t share the blame. “He has been on the [work] treadmill for 10 years now and is only just now getting off,” adds his pal.

Which should give him plenty of time to reflect on what went wrong. “I did not talk about the marriage, and I am not going to talk about the divorce,” Cage said in a statement. “But I loved her.”

Samantha Miller

Rachel Biermann and Michael Fleeman in Los Angeles