They seemed as likely a couple as Much Ado About Nothing’s bickering Benedick and Beatrice. A former model, she first impressed movie audiences with her considerable, uh, presence as an onanistic vision in 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High. That year he, a Shakespearean stage vet, wooed Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice.
But on March 5, 1989, Phoebe Cates, 25, and Kevin Kline, 41, bridged their worlds in a private New York wedding.
The pair met in 1982 at a read-through for The Big Chill. Two years later, they ran into each other again when Cates, fresh from Gremlins, was rehearsing a Russian play at New York’s Public Theater; Kline was upstairs working on Henry V. ”When I first met Phoebe, I remember thinking, She’s too happy to be with me,” said Kline, whose self-deprecating wit has been mistaken for arrogance. ”She’s too enthusiastic about life…. What’ll we talk about?”
Sixteen years younger than Kline, the Manhattan-bred actress studied dance before a knee injury detoured her to the modeling track. A high school dropout who partied at Studio 54 and posed for Seventeen, Cates quickly followed her movie debut in 1982’s Paradise with Fast Times.
Kline — a St. Louis native who graduated from Juilliard, toured with John Houseman’s Acting Company, and always carried a copy of Hamlet — had already won two Tony awards before Hollywood took notice in the early ’80s. It was a heady time: Kline’s alleged dalliances made for hot gossip, and a national magazine noted the ”Kevin Kline crush” sweeping New York.
But The Pirates of Penzance’s swashbuckling Pirate King (a role Kline played on stage in ’80 and screen in ’83) fell for Cates, surrendering his title of confirmed bachelor, as Benedick does for Beatrice in Much Ado (a play the couple performed off Broadway in 1988). Now married for 13 years, the notoriously private Manhattan couple maintain a low profile. Virtually retired from acting, Cates has focused on raising their kids, Owen, 10, and Greta, 7. ”We have agreed to alternate so that we’re never working at the same time,” Kline told Playboy in 1998. ”[But] whenever it’s been her slot to work, Phoebe has chosen to stay with the children.” (The whole brood made an appearance in last year’s The Anniversary Party, codirected by Cates’ longtime friend and Fast Times costar Jennifer Jason Leigh.) Meanwhile, the Oscar-winning Kline has made it a priority to balance his work (Dave, In & Out, Life as a House) with family obligations like parent-teacher conferences. ”We’re both sensible, and we don’t separate for long periods of time,” Kline has said. ”We take care of the marriage.” And who can’t imagine that’s what Shakespeare had in mind for Benedick and Beatrice as well?