October 22, 2001 12:00 PM

Relaxing on Florida’s St. George Island last spring, betrothed lovebirds Minnie Driver and Josh Brolin seemed headed for a distinctly sunny future. “I would see them riding bikes or walking on the beach,” says Ada Sporn, a resident of the island where Brolin spent two months filming the upcoming big-screen crime drama Coastlines. Accompanied by Brolin’s two children from his previous marriage—son Trevor, 13, and daughter Eden, 8—”they looked like any other family,” says Sporn. But when Driver departed after the first few weeks, she adds, “that was the last we saw Josh around town. He was a hermit once she was gone.”

As a couple, it seems they’re gone for good. Six months after announcing their engagement, Brolin, 33, and Driver, 31, called off their wedding—and their three-year relationship. “Their decision is mutual and amicable,” a Driver publicist announced on Oct. 4. “Their careers were taking them in different directions.” Adds a source close to Driver: “They both got cold feet. But I think she really, really got cold feet.”

For some, news of the breakup came as no surprise. “There had been problems,” says a longtime family friend of Driver’s. “They say, ‘If in doubt, don’t,’ and that’s exactly what Minnie did.” Her social schedule might have fueled her indecision. While Brolin was stateside, the London-born Driver (who had moved into Brolin’s 97-acre ranch in Paso Robles, Calif.) was spotted with British millionaire Ferdy Unger-Hamilton on the Spanish island of Ibiza this summer. In July she checked into an English country hotel under the name Hamilton, where, according to one observer, she spent much of the weekend “laughing and larking about in the pool” with an unidentified man. Driver’s publicist Lisa Kasteler insisted at the time that Driver was just having some “very innocent” fun with some “platonic friends. She had her own room.” Since then she has been linked with 35-year-old Scottish actor Dougray Scott. “She’s been out with Dougray,” says a source close to the actress. “She’s been out a lot.”

Whatever caused the split, there’s laughter at the suggestion that it had anything to do with Driver’s prospective stepmother-in-law, Barbra Streisand, 59, who’s married to Josh’s father, James Brolin, 61. Reports of friction caused by Streisand’s muscling in on the wedding plans were dismissed by Driver in July. “She so hasn’t,” the Oscar-nominated actress (for 1997’s Good Will Hunting) told a British TV host. “I haven’t spoken to her since we got engaged and she phoned up to offer congratulations.”

Which at the time seemed appropriate. Driver met Brolin—whose mother, Jane, died in a car accident in 1995, 10 years after divorcing his father—in 1998 on the set of the straight-to-video movie Slow Burn. “He’s so without any kind of pretense or bitterness,” she told Jane magazine in 1999, “just a very honest, funny man.” The match came a year after Driver suffered a public kiss-off from ex-beau and Hunting costar Matt Damon, whom she later charged with announcing the end of their seven-month-long relationship on Oprah—a move Driver has called “fantastically inappropriate.”

Divorced from actress Deborah Adair, Brolin maintained joint custody of their children—with whom Driver, by all accounts, got along fine. “No matter what happens, she’ll stay strong,” says another family friend, Margaret Leacock. And, from the sounds of it, busy. “I don’t believe that there’s just one person out there who’s perfect for you,” Driver told Britain’s Sunday Express in May. “I think there are many people you are capable of falling in love with and spending your life with.”

Michelle Tauber

York Membery in London, Steve Helling on St. George Island, Don Sider in Miami and N.F. Mendoza in Los Angeles

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