IT was a look that nearly broke the internet.
Pictures of former golden couple Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes on Sunday had fans across the globe hyperventilating.
Could this still impossibly beautiful duo — who divorced in 2005 — be on the verge of a reunion? Are they about to rekindle the romance that had the world hooked — then devastated when it collapsed after just five years?
Certainly the signs seem to be there. Sunday night’s PDA backstage at the SAG Awards is the second time in as many weeks that they have looked besotted with each other.
It follows their love-in at the Golden Globes earlier this month when the single stars sat inches apart and were seen applauding their respective successes — his for Quentin Tarantino flick Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and hers for Apple TV’s The Morning Show — before they were pictured at the same after-party.
Friends of Jennifer suggest the 50-year-old actress has always said she would entertain a reunion if Brad beat his demons, namely booze and weed. Brad, 56, has certainly done so — albeit not for Jennifer’s benefit. His personal reboot has been a lifestyle choice following a brutal end to the last decade which saw the collapse of his two-year marriage to Angelina Jolie.
After they split in 2016, having dated for 12 years, Brad revealed he needed therapy to deal with drink and drugs, which he used to help him cope with missing the couple’s six children.
In an astonishingly open and honest acceptance speech at last week’s National Board of Review Annual Awards, he credited Bradley Cooper with getting him sober.
After Bradley handed him the award for best-supporting actor for his role in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Brad said: “He’s a sweetheart. “I got sober because of this guy and every day has been happier since. I love you, and thank you.”
He also added, tellingly: “My goals in life right now are simple — just to be happy, stay healthy and not get into a financial situation where I have to do Ocean’s 14.”
1995: Adam Duritz The Counting Crows frontman was Jennifer’s first public relationship during her early days in Friends.
1995-1998: Tate Donovan Jennifer dated her Friends co-star, who played love interest Joshua, for three years. They were engaged before breaking up.
1998-2005: Brad Pitt After meeting through pals, they eventually made their red carpet debut in September 1999 at the Emmys.
2005-2006: Vince Vaughn, inset, Met on the set of romcom The Break-Up but the relationship didn’t last long.
2008 John: Mayer They met at an Oscars party but the age gap proved to be an issue. The rocker is eight years younger than her.
2011-2018: Justin Theroux Met on the set of the film Wanderlust and had a 15-month whirlwind romance. Got engaged in 2012, married in August 2015 and separated in 2017.
Those who know him say the fact that his dry humour is back is further evidence that the old Brad is back too.
Indeed, as he won the Best Supporting Actor gong on Sunday — again for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood — he let loose a volley of quips, starting with: “I’m going to add this to my Tinder profile.”
He then poked fun at Tarantino’s notorious foot fetish, saying: “I’d like to thank my co-stars, Leo (DiCaprio), Margot Robbie, Margot Robbie’s feet, Margaret Qualley’s feet, Dakota Fanning’s feet. “Seriously, Quentin has separated more women from their shoes than the TSA (the US transport police).”
He then said of his film role: “Let’s be honest, it wasn’t a difficult part — a guy who gets high, takes his shirt off and doesn’t get on with his wife. It’s a big stretch.” And as Brad waited for the laughs and applause to die down, the camera panned to Jennifer, who grinned broadly as she clapped along.
Both Brad and Jennifer are clearly revelling in the fact that they can now interact again so publicly. Friends insist this would never have happened if he was still with Angelina.
Every award show they attended during their Brangelina period was littered with stories of how he and Jennifer avoided awkward run-ins on the red carpet and backstage, and how they had to be seated away from each other at the ceremonies.
But post-Angelina there has been an obvious change in tact, which was clear at the Globes. As well as sitting at adjacent tables, they were happy to be quizzed about each other and the subject of getting back together.
Over the past year they have seen each other socially — which helped to ramp up talk of a reunion — at Jennifer’s 50th birthday party in February and before that at an intimate Christmas bash which she organised and whose guests included Tom Hanks, Reese Witherspoon and Gwyneth Paltrow, another of Brad’s exes.
1988: Sinitta. Some still find this hard to believe but Brad dated the So Macho singer and was her guest at the 1988 Smash Hits Poll Winners Party.
1989: Jill Schoelen They met on the set of horror movie Cutting Class before he popped the question. They were engaged for three months in 1989 before Jill broke it off.
1989-1993: Juliette Lewis Brad dated the actress when she was 17, enjoying four years together before splitting and his career subsequently taking off.
1994-1997: Gwyneth Paltrow He proposed to her in 1996 after they met filming Se7en.
1998-2005: Jennifer Aniston Married in July 2000. All was rosy until 2004 when Brad filmed Mr & Mrs Smith with Angelina Jolie. He admitted later that was when he started to fall for his future wife.
2004-2016: Angelina Jolie She and Brad were together for 12 years, married for two and have six children. She filed for divorce in September 2016.
When told by a reporter that “the world was waiting” for a photo of the two of them, Brad replied: “I’ll run into Jennifer, she’s a good friend,” before adding: “The second most important reunion of her year? I understand. That was a play on Friends. They were saying that.”
And Jennifer responded with “It’s hysterical” when asked if there was a chance she might get back together with Brad. It has also not gone unnoticed that Brad is starting to resemble the person Jennifer fell for in the first place.
Gone is the bushy beard and haggard complexion that he developed while married to Angelina, which sparked countless “Has Brad Pitt finally lost his sex symbol status?” features.
Now he has the look of a Disney prince that he is most commonly associated with — and which he had while married to Jennifer. Moreover he is clearly still besotted with her.
Following his award win, Brad was seen backstage at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles watching Jennifer accept her gong on a television screen, mouthing the word “Wow”, sparking further excitement on social media.
So fans have good reason to believe an unlikely reunion could be on the cards.
In June last year Jennifer insisted there would always be a place in her heart for Brad, saying he was the love of her life. She said: “I still feel so lucky to have experienced it."
"I wouldn’t know what I know now if I hadn’t been married to Brad. I love Brad. I really love him. I will love him for the rest of my life. He’s a fantastic man. I don’t regret any of it, and I’m not going to beat myself up about it.”
Even so, taking Brad back will be genuinely hard for Jennifer, given the way that their five-year marriage ended. The split happened the following year after he met Angelina on the set of the film Mr And Mrs Smith, and the co-stars went official with their relationship months after his divorce from Jennifer.
And sources close to Brad are indicating that a reunion with Jennifer is some way off happening, if ever, implying that they have not seen each other on their own away from awards shows or showbiz parties.
Indeed, as far is Brad is concerned, getting himself back on track is his major priority and it’s certainly one which he is winning. Yet that won’t stop fans worldwide debating whether Branifer, Anipitt or Braniston is the best nickname for them.
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