The hot movie-star couple file for divorce after just two years of marriage. Why did the fire burn out so quickly? Friends say their passion couldn't overcome their differences

By Alicia Dennis
Updated January 10, 2011 12:00 PM

Laughing and chatting through a cozy meal at Blue Ribbon restaurant in downtown Manhattan the week before Christmas, Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson looked more like a couple in love than one in the throes of a breakup. Despite having announced days earlier they were ending their marriage, “they just wanted to connect and have a friendly chat while they were both in town,” says a source. “This was just two people who were married being civil.”

On Dec. 23 the movie-star couple made their split official just as civilly. Reynolds, 34, filed for divorce in Los Angeles with Johansson, 26, filing a response simultaneously. “We entered into our relationship with love, and it’s with love and kindness we leave it,” they said in a joint statement. So what went wrong? After two years of marriage, friends say, the pressures of intense careers and divergent personalities pulled the pair apart. Early on “they seemed to have a yin-yang kind of dynamic,” says a Reynolds pal. “She’s kind of dark and brooding and he’s very stable. He seemed to get a kick out of her.” But more recently, they seemed to clash more than mesh: “She’s been unhappy, which made him unhappy, and the rest is history.”

The pull of work-both filmed multiple movies during the marriage-made spending time together challenging. “It’s hard to be married when you are away from each other so much,” says another friend. “Couples with more established careers have the luxury of turning down roles. But this is when their careers are taking off.”

After marrying at a remote wilderness retreat outside Vancouver in 2008, PEOPLE’s current Sexiest Man Alive and his young bride kept a scrupulously low profile together, visiting each other’s sets and road-tripping cross-country. Reynolds told PEOPLE in December 2009 that marriage had changed him: “It’s made me a stronger, better person.” But their eight-year age difference played a role in their breakup, says a friend of Johansson’s: “She got married when she was 23. When you’re in your early 20s, you don’t know your place in life yet. He’s in a different place. This was a simple mistake.”

Despite speculative gossip, several sources maintain there was no third party involved in the split. “There’s no drama, there’s no cheating,” says a friend of the couple’s. “These are just two people who love each other who are not going to be together anymore.”