January 08, 2001 12:00 PM

They seemed to be two stars sharing one orbit. On Nov. 8, at the L.A. premiere of Jim Carrey’s Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Renée Zellweger deferentially ducked out of the couple’s limousine to allow her beau to make a big entrance (“It’s his night,” she said) before rejoining him to cuddle for the cameras. Seven days later the pair were sparkling side by side again at the film’s London opening, where they even outshone the Queen.

But in the following weeks Carrey, 38, and Zellweger, 31, somehow fell out of romantic alignment. On Nov. 30 he turned up at the film’s Tokyo premiere alone, before jetting off on a vacation. And last month, representatives for both actors confirmed that their yearlong romance was over, surprising even their closest friends. “I thought they were the perfect couple,” says Carrey pal Laugh Factory comedy club owner Jamie Masada. As for how his friend is faring: “Jim is all right,” he says. “I mean, he’s hurt. But who comes out of [a relationship] and doesn’t get hurt?”

Carrey, who split from Melissa Womer (mother of his daughter Jane, 13) in 1993 and from actress Lauren Holly in ’97, “was clearly smitten” with his costar when they met in 1999 on the set of Me, Myself &c Irene, director Bobby Farrelly said in June. Just what went wrong is unclear. “They just wanted different things,” says a rep for Zellweger, who has finished filming Bridget Jones’s Diary, due this spring. Grinch director Ron Howard, who has talked with Carrey since the split, says the dual strains of work and fame are hard on relationships. “In this case, the media attention just heightened the pressure,” he says.

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