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Seen too much of Meg and Russell and Gwyneth and Ben?

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Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, ...
Affleck: Eric Lee

Seen too much of Meg and Russell and Gwyneth and Ben?

Could we be MORE hypocritical? We think we need to know everything. Meg Ryan leaves Dennis Quaid for Russell Crowe? Tell us more. Are Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck together or apart? (Hey, we asked that very question on the cover of Entertainment Weekly) And what’s the deal with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, anyway? We want to know, or at least we think we do — until we actually have to watch a real life couple on screen, at which point we become like 5 year olds, sticking our fingers in our mouths and pretending to gag.

Admit it: Watching real life couples do, well, real life things, can be plain ol’ grody. Once upon a time, there was a love scene between Crowe and Ryan in ”Proof of Life.” But when test audiences saw it, they couldn’t stomach watching reality and fantasy collide, and — poof! — the scene was cut. I’m not arguing that the movie would have been better with the love scene, but you have to feel for the director, Taylor Hackford, who’s being told how his movie should look because too many of us have read the National Enquirer — and every other publication or TV show that chronicled the beyond the screen details of ”Proof of Life.”

The romantic drama ”Bounce” also suffered, I think, from too much knowledge about Gwyn and Ben. They can act their asses off, but I bet most audiences still aren’t going to buy that their characters had never met. As for last year’s ”Eyes Wide Shut” — both the much hyped teaser trailer and the movie itself — it was impossible to watch Cruise and Kidman’s ”characters” making out, and not wonder, ”Is that really how they do it? Are they acting? Are they for real?”

All right, maybe you’re far more sophisticated, and can relegate gossipy chatter to the back of your mind. But for the rest of us, watching real life couples’ public displays of affection turns us from viewers into voyeurs, and that’s an experience I’d pay $9.50 NOT to have. Obviously, the solution is for us to grow up, get on it with it, and perhaps consider the fact that actors are entitled to their privacy. We would duck our heads the next time we walked by the newsstand and saw the SO AND SO TELLS ALL headlines; we would turn off Entertainment Tonight as soon as it even threatened to reveal personal details about a celebrity’s life. But, cynical as this may sound, that just ain’t gonna happen.

So I would plead with actors — if you’re getting it on in real life, could you abstain from doing it with your significant other on celluloid? And should you, like Crowe and Ryan, find yourself in a situation no one could have predicted, well, let’s just hope the story doesn’t have too many obvious parallels to real life.

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