The Dating Games
In the ever-changing celebrity whirl, here are couples who have committed...to keep company
Melissa Joan Hart & James Fields
They fell under one another’s spell after meeting in 1995 at the Park City, Utah, home of a mutual friend. For nearly a year, then New York City-based Hart, star of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and Fields, a business major at the University of Utah, visited each other every month—and talked every day. “I kind of knew she was my girlfriend when I got that first phone bill,” says Fields. Moving in together—they now share a Spanish-style L.A. home with husky Misha and dalmatian Pele—ended the strain of long-distance romance. But important rules prevail: “I’m not allowed to wipe his face in a restaurant. He’s not allowed to leave wet towels on the bed,” says Hart, 22, who wears a silver ring Fields had made for her from one he wore in high school. “Melissa talks about marriage a lot, but I’ll admit it: I’m scared,” says Fields, 24, now an aspiring actor. Still, the handwriting may already be on the wall. “When our bathroom is steamed up from the shower, all over the glass is ‘I love Melissa,’ ‘I love James,'” Hart reveals. Says Fields: “There’s never any question of the way she feels. She always lets me know.”
China Chow & Mark Wahlberg
He bared almost all in Boogie Nights, but Wahlberg has kept his romance with Chow, his costar in The Big Hit, under wraps. “I asked her out, and she said no,” he told one news service. Still, the neophyte actress, 24, daughter of famed restaurateur Michael and the late model Tina Chow, has said Wahlberg, 27, “really pulled me through” last summer’s Hit shoot, and she evidently said yes on the April evening the New York Post spotted the two “canoodling into the wee hours.”
Liv Tyler & Joaquin Phoenix
After one screen test, Tyler, 20, knew that playing Phoenix’s girlfriend in the 1997 drama Inventing the Abbotts would be easy. “I fell in love the second I saw him,” she has said many times. “What I felt,” Phoenix, 23, has told reporters, “was that I have a new friend, a really great friend.” Despite recent rumors of a rift, sources confirm that the pair are still indeed best buds.
Drew Barrymore & Luke Wilson
Two years ago, Barrymore, 23, went to the L.A. home of director Tamra Davis and immediately fell for Wilson, 26, the man set to play her husband in Best Men. Their affair was “very fated,” she told the Houston Chronicle; “…before I’d met Mr. Wilson, I’d already been assigned to do two movies with him.” The two share screen time again in the forthcoming comedy Home Fries—but they don’t share a residence. Traditional courtship, she has decided, “is much more sensual and interesting.” Says Fries producer Mark Johnson: “It’s clear they adore each other. The romance really works.”
Kate Winslet & Jim Threapleton
Titanic star Winslet, 22, chose the Oscars for the American debut of her new boyfriend (and roommate) Threapleton, 24, an assistant director she met last fall on the set of the forthcoming drama Hideous Kinky. “He’s so dashing,” she exuberantly told Britain’s Daily Mail. “I love him. It’s that serious.” Last March the pair exchanged gold friendship rings. “Yes, it’s love,” Threapleton confirmed. “I feel very lucky.”
Fiona Apple & Paul Thomas Anderson
Since ending a relationship with hipster magician David Blaine last year, singer Apple, 20, has taken up with another gen-X wunderkind: Boogie Nights director Anderson, 27. The two have been spotted together since February, but Apple prefers to limit her confessionals to her songs. “I’m going out with Janeane Garofalo,” she said in the April Harper’s Bazaar, referring to the comic known for a scathing parody of Apple’s MTV Awards acceptance speech. “Could we just pretend I told you that?”
Matt Damon & Winona Ryder
The Good Will Hunting star walked away from the hit movie with more than a screenwriting Oscar. Fresh from an on-set liaison with leading lady Minnie Driver, Damon, 27, won the heart of the winsome Ryder, 26. Gwyneth Paltrow, the new girlfriend of Damon’s best pal and cowriter Ben Affleck, did the matchmaking. Folks, it doesn’t get any cuter than this.
Toni Braxton & Curtis Martin
“Not true!” says the “Unbreak My Heart” diva of reports she broke the one inside New York Jets running back Curtis Martin, 25. She didn’t say no to marriage, claims L.A.-based Braxton, 31—he didn’t ask. He does, however, “open doors, pull out chairs and make sure I’m always safe” during their transcontinental rendezvous. He also declared his affection via a Tiffany platinum-and-diamond heart necklace.
Claire Danes & Ben Lee
What the best thing about being a famous ingenue? “If you have a major crush on a boy, you can call your agent and get to meet him,” Danes exulted in the Scottish Daily Record. “Obsessed” with a CD by Aussie guitar whiz Lee, 19, the star of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet made that call. The two dated casually until April 1997, when pal Winona Ryder flew Lee in for Danes’s 18th birthday. “He came all the way from the other side of the world to sing to me,” Danes said.
Gwyneth Paltrow & Ben Affleck
The pair, both 26, don’t say much about their six-month love affair, but their actions speak loudly. At a press junket to promote her Sliding Doors, the gilded set of superstars treated the cameras to a three-minute kiss. Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant interrupted a more private moment when he dropped by to visit Affleck at his trailer on the set of Armageddon. “I just barged in and found them kissing on the couch,” he says. “They’re madly in love.”
Hank Azaria & Helen Hunt
When Godzilla director Roland Emmerich first met Hank Azaria, he told Azaria he loved Helen Hunt. “Me too,” Azaria, 34, replied, as usual offering no further details about their three-year live-in lovebird status. Hunt, 35, won’t explain the diamond ring she began wearing last year but did tell Cosmopolitan in 1996 that “I have been, and am, in a deep, complicated, loving relationship.” Is she mad to marry the man she called “my beloved” while accepting her Oscar? Said Azaria last year: “I should be so lucky.”
Richard Gere & Carey Lowell
After his much-publicized divorce from Cindy Crawford and a liaison with British model Laura Bailey Gere, 48, showing little primal fear of commitment, settled into a three-year relationship with Lowell, 37. Her two seasons as Law & Order‘s no-nonsense assistant district attorney Jamie Ross (a role she left in May) earned Lowell renown but little media glare. “I’m lucky that my privacy has been respected,” the onetime model and former Bond Girl (1989’s License to Kill) told The New York Times in December. “Richard and I haven’t been hounded by the press.” In November, Gere admitted to the Chicago Tribune that he’s “nuts about both” Lowell and Hannah, 8, her daughter by former husband, actor-director Griffin Dunne. “I’m not the child’s father,” he said. “I’m the crazy uncle, and I enjoy it. I’m told I’m really good at it; I’m goofy.” Maybe—but to Lowell, as she told TV Guide last year, Gere’s “a wonderful, straightforward, honest and unpretentious person” as well.
Taylor Hawkins & Minnie Driver
Minnie Driver’s antidote to her very public breakup with Good Will Hunting costar Matt Damon? Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. Not long after meeting at a Versace fashion show in Manhattan in March, Driver, 28, and Hawkins, 26, were madly making out during late-night club outings. “Yes, I really am” over Damon, Driver assured Barbara Walters in last month’s 6 to Watch special. “There is a new man in my life…I’m sooo happy.”
David Schwimmer & Mili Avital
After playing fiancés in the romantic comedy Kissing a Fool, Israeli-born Avital, 26, and Schwimmer, 31, became more than “Friends”. “Dating? Yes, you can certainly say we’re dating,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times in February. “That’s a nice word.” New York City-based Avital “only comes to L.A. to visit David,” a pal told PEOPLE. “He thinks she’s smart and gorgeous. She loves just hanging out with him. He’s generous and sweet.” In Avital’s words, “real and wonderful.’
Courtney Love & Edward Norton
Her 1996 role as the drug-addled wife in The People vs. Larry Flynt gained Love, 33, not just a new career but also a new boyfriend: costar Norton, 28. While clean-cut Yalie Norton and Love, the widow of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, sidestep questions about their relationship, the two often step out together. At a recent screening, they held hands in the comfortable, easy fashion of longtime lovers. “Edward is so brilliant, so chivalrous,” Love told Interview two years ago. “In terms of ethics and integrity, he transcends virtually everybody I’ve met in the entertainment world. Both as an actor and a person, he’s pure class.”
Julia Roberts & Benjamin Bratt
In May the pretty woman denied that she and Law & Order‘s Bratt had slipped off to Italy to make their amore legal. The trip was just a quick romantic getaway for a pair who have looked extremely simpatico since they were first spotted, dining out, in November. Since then they’ve taken in theater, snuggled at the circus and smooched all over Manhattan, where Roberts, 30, reportedly spends most of her time at Bratt’s Chelsea apartment. In TV Guide last month, the actress pronounced Bratt, 34, “a lovely guy” and their relationship “a fine subject” to talk about—just not to the media. “It makes it seem like fodder,” she said, “when it deserves more respect than that.”