March 13, 2000 12:00 PM

Last May, a few months after shooting Bringing Out the Dead, Patricia Arquette talked about the difficulty of costarring with her husband, Nicolas Cage. To keep things professional, she confided, “we went to work in separate cars and had separate trailers on the set.”

They may have led separate lives as well. According to a divorce petition Cage filed in L.A. superior court on Feb. 24, which cited irreconcilable differences, the couple separated on Jan. 10, 1996, only nine months after their April 1995 wedding. Arquette, 31, has a home in Studio City, and Cage, 36, has divided his time among homes in Bel Air, Malibu and the Hollywood Hills.

Nonetheless, the couple showed little sign of strain. At a dinner party last month at an L.A. steak house, “they seemed absolutely fine, talking together and being very attentive to each other,” says a waiter.

Great performances? Well, the two do share a showbiz gene: He’s the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola and actress Talia Shire; she’s the daughter of actor Lewis Arquette and sister of actors David, 28, Rosanna, 40, Richmond, 36, and Alexis, 30. Within hours of their first meeting, at L.A.’s Canter’s Deli in 1987, Cage proposed (she declined). Eight years later—she now had a son, Enzo, by musician Paul Rossi in 1989; he had a son, Weston, by actress Christina Fulton in ’90—they met again at the same deli. Soon after, she proposed, and they wed two weeks later. By all accounts their split has been amicable. “They’re two very good people who did their best,” says Richmond. “They really tried.”

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