Robin Wright has had a lot of film roles over the years, from The Princess Bride to Forrest Gump, but it wasn’t until she took on House Of Cards‘s Claire Underwood that she became a bonafide star.
The Hollywood Rollercoaster
Robin Wright may finally be on top of Hollywood, but her rollercoaster Hollywood romances have had anything but fairytale endings. Between her long, rocky marriage to Sean Penn, and the fizzling flame that was her almost marriage to Ben Foster, Robin Wright has a lot of stories to tell.
State Of Grace
Robin Wright met Sean Penn when they were costarring in the thriller film State of Grace. Though the two quickly developed an on-set romance, it came on the heels of Penn’s divorce from his first wife, Madonna. Jumping impulsively into a new relationship immediately after a divorce is never the best idea. It should have clued Wright in to the rocky road ahead of her, but nevertheless, the already divorced Wright dove into the new romance head first.
Playing Princess Buttercup
Robin Wright was desperate to become an actress as a teenager living in San Diego. While her otherworldly beauty helped her land a modeling contract as a teenager, she was struggling to make the leap to film. After years of Hollywood struggles, Wright finally landed a recurring role on the soap opera, Santa Barbara. But her real big break was landing the role of Princess Buttercup in the classic 1980s romance, The Princess Bride. But for Wright’s budding career, it wasn’t enough.
The Early Days
Robin Wright has a history of on-set romances. When she first arrived on the set of Santa Barbara, she met Dane Witherspoon, who was cast as Robin’s character’s love interest. But a real life love also blossomed between the two. Witherspoon told reporters that he fell in love with Robin the very first day they met. When his character was killed off of the show, the two love birds would have to work to keep their romance alive behind the scenes.
She Hated Television
In a 1986 interview with the French language magazine, Télé Star, Robin Wright expressed her dissatisfaction with being a soap opera star. Though she and earned a good income, it was a grueling work schedule, but most frustratingly, she hated how inconsistent soap opera story lines were. She also felt their work was entirely at the mercy of the fans, rather than the story. But Wright had signed a contract, one that even The Princess Bride couldn’t get her out of.
She Wanted Fame, He Wanted Out
Despite their fateful on-set meeting, Dane wasn’t really cut out for Hollywood. He may have expressed some fantasies of film making early on in his career, but he also dreamed of leaving La La Land behind him. As much as Wright talked about moving elsewhere, which she eventually did, her film career was moving forward, while Dane’s stalled out at soap operas. It seemed the couple couldn’t compete with Robin’s newfound fame, and the young couple was embroiled by tension.
She Was Too Young
Wright was only 20 years old when she married Dane Witherspoon. But she didn’t let the heartache of her divorce get her down, though the couple was only married for two short years. Wright was still riding high on the break out success of The Princess Bride, which brought her into close proximity with more famous actors, like the ornery talent, Sean Penn. Penn’s volatile marriage to the pop star Madonna had come to an end, leaving Penn open to the beautiful, young Robin Wright.
Penn’s Violent Past
Sean Penn does not have the best track record when it comes to his romantic partners. His first marriage to Madonna was marked by extreme violence. Though she reported being hit more than once, she chose not to press charges at least at first in order to keep her lover out of jail. Following another incident, Madonna apparently appeared at a police station visibly distraught. She retaliated by filing for divorce. While it’s possible Wright was unaware of his past, she should have stayed away.
Cementing Their Union
Both Wright and Penn were happy not to jump straight back into marriage, though their new relationship still moved quickly. The pair moved in with one another shortly after their introduction. Their film, State of Grace, however, was not as successful. While critics may have liked it, it was a commercial failure, especially since it was unfortunately released around the same time as Goodfellas, which was too similar to the Penn and Wright helmed crime drama. It wasn’t enough to dampen their spirits…yet.
From the early days of their relationship, there were whisperings around Hollywood that it was hard for Wright to compete with Penn’s fame. He may not have been quite the star he is now, with a number of Academy Awards under his belt, but he had won a fair amount of critical acclaim for some of his early films. It didn’t help that the relationship had consequences for Wright’s career without having the same affect on Penn’s career.
Focusing On Her Family
Wright was willing to continue to work in Hollywood, but after moving in with Penn, her fledging career was derailed when she became pregnant with their first child. She had enough Hollywood clout now to be offered roles in films, such as Maid Marion in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but she had to turn it down in order to concentrate on her growing family. Penn of course had no such issues, which could cause tension in any relationship.
Becoming A Young Mother
Wright was 24 when she gave birth to her first child, daughter Dylan Frances Penn, in 1991. By 1993, she found herself a mother of two, when their son, Hopper Jack – named for friends of the couple, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson– was born. The couple had a decision to make. Who would work, and who would take care of the kids. They were adamant that it shouldn’t be a nannying who spends all of their time with them. Could Robin leave it all behind for Hollywood?
Wright didn’t have to wait very long for her career to fall back into place, and she hopped right back in front of the camera not long after Hopper’s birth to star as Tom Hanks’s love interest, the flighty, but loyal, Jenny in Forrest Gump. Wright’s performance won her new accolades, including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Wright was at a crossroads in her career and personal life, the role, it seemed, wasn’t enough to choose her career over her kids.
The Couple Made A Choice
In the March 2015 cover story for Vanity Fair, Wright looked back on her marriage to Penn and explained why she let her career slow to a crawl. “We were learning as we were going along. We agreed as parents that we’d not work at the same time, so that one of us was always with the kids. He was making more money than I was at the time, so it was a simple decision: ‘You go work—I’ll stay with the kids.’”
Working At Snail’s Pace
Just because Wright agreed to take career of her and Penn’s young children didn’t mean that she was going to stop working entirely. Penn had decided to start focusing more on directing, and throughout their marriage, they collaborated on a number of films, including 1995’s Crossing Guard. They also co-starred together in She’s So Lovely in 1997. Their work chemistry may have been great career wise, but when the cameras weren’t rolling, their relationship was already on the rocks.
A Bump In The Crosswalk
Penn and Wright may have enjoyed working on Crossing Guard together, but during their professional union, they decided to take a break from their personal one. Penn has never been shown to be an easy man to get along with, despite apparent personal charm that also draws others in. While it may seem exciting to be with someone whose passions get the better of them, there are two sides to that coin, and Wright could only handle so much.
In the mid 1990s, Jewel was still an up and coming musician. She only received national attention after playing Conan in the run up to the release of her first album. Penn was among the many of her new fans, and he instantly began to pursue her. Jewel called the eventual, slow burning tryst a “secret”, though Penn was publicly on a break with Wright. While it’s doubtful that Wright never found out about the romance, she hasn’t ever publicly spoken of betrayal.
Making It Official
Penn left Jewel heartbroken after less than a year together, rushing back into Wright’s arms. The break seems to have reinvigorated the couple’s relationship, and they decided to finally marry, after two kids and nearly 6 years together. Wright was so committed to their union that she even took on Penn’s last name professionally, working as Robin Wright Penn. Wright said she decided to add his last name in order to make things easier for their kids, both of whom have the surname Penn.
He Dropped Everything
What was it that made Wright take Penn back? Even in the mid 90s, he was known as a bad boy of Hollywood. But when Wright was rushed to emergency surgery, Penn couldn’t stand to be away from her. He had been nominated for an Academy Award for his work in Dead Man Walking, but skipped the ceremony to be at Wright’s side. The gesture didn’t go unnoticed by Wright, who decided it was time to make things official.
Appearing And Disappearing
Robin Wright continued to pop up in a movie or two over the years, but she was adamant about putting her kids first. She shared in interviews that it was just too heartbreaking to hear her kids crying for her over the phone when she was away on shoots, so more often than not, she turned down the roles that were literally falling into her lap. She said, “I turned down so many films because I wanted to be a mom that…they stopped offering.”
Escaping The Spotlight
Penn and Wright needed to escape the glaring pressure cooker that is LA in an attempt to keep their marriage more grounded. So the pair packed up their two children and settled down in the Bay Area. Their decision also hinged on Robin being carjacked in 1996. While it may have helped their kids grow up more grounded, even San Francisco couldn’t save their marriage from its eventual demise. But it would be years of tumult before Wright reached her breaking point.
Rocky Road Ahead
By 2007, Wright couldn’t take it anymore. After years of trying to hold it together, and very likely dealing with Penn’s unpredictable rages, she filed for divorce. The media was sent into a frenzy at the news that the 11 year old marriage was on its last legs. Surprisingly, just four months after filing, Wright withdrew the petition, settling back into life with Penn. But their relationship following the uneasy reunion would never really be the same in the future.
When Penn won his second Oscar for his portrayal of Harvey Milk in 2009, he very publicly snubbed his wife, even though they had attended the ceremony together, failing to even mention her in his acceptance speech. Shortly after the snub, it was Penn who filed for divorce, but once again the couple reconciled a few months later. This reunion was to be for more short lived than their previous reconciliations, lasting only several months before Wright once again filed for divorce.
Wright’s final divorce filing dealt another blow to her turbulent husband. Sharing that she had no plans to reconcile again, she made their separation official even before the divorce was finalized by dropping “Penn” from her last name. She has since returned to working professionally as Robin Wright. Wright called her divorce to Penn devastating, but that she learned a lot about how to love from the nearly 20 year relationship. Lessons that she wanted to take with her as she began new romances.
The Fun Of Young Love
In 2012, Wright was starring in the film Rampart, where she met the youthful and infinitely more grounded Ben Foster, who asked her out on what she claimed was her first date ever. Foster is 14 years younger than Wright, and he seemed to be the breath of fresh air she needed after her protracted break up with Penn. Despite their notable first date, habits are hard to break, and the smitten actress claimed the pair were practically married ever since then.
A Forever Ring
After two years of dating, Foster asked Wright to marry him, and she agreed, sporting a glittering engagement ring in the days after the engagement. It seemed that the couple got swept up in holiday cheer late in 2013. But the ring didn’t seem permanent enough to the couple who took it a step further and got tattoos of the other’s first initial on their ring fingers as well. She told Telegraph, “[D]oing this felt right because we’re not that traditional.”
Another Breaking Point
The couple never managed to make it down the aisle. They split 10 months after their engagement as Wright realized that perhaps a third marriage was too much. Friends shared several possible reasons for their split, including their disparately busy schedules, as well as the 14 year age gap between them taking their tolls. One friend told US Weekly that supposedly, “Ben was kind of immature. She couldn’t deal with him anymore.” It’s a lot to ask for a man to suddenly have a family with grown children.
Off And On Again
If there’s one thing you can say about Robin Wright, it’s that she’s not a quitter. She bounced back to her ex-husband Sean Penn multiple times before ultimately kicking him to the curb, and Ben Foster was yet another that Wright just couldn’t quit. They got back together shortly after breaking off their engagement, after which Wright gushed about their passion for each other in interviews, saying that their intimacy with one another was off the charts.
Penn’s Still Bitter
In 2012, Sean Penn gave an interview with Esquire magazine calling his marriage, likely to Wright, “a farce” and claiming that he’d never been loved by his ex wives. Several years later, he did another interview with Esquire UK where he admitted, “I’ve been married under circumstances where I was less informed than I am today, so I wouldn’t even consider a third marriage, I’d consider it a first marriage on its own terms if I got married again. I mean, I like the tradition.”
Why She Stayed
So why did Robin Wright put up with such a narcissist for so long? She revealed in 2014, just as her fame was beginning to peak with her turn as Claire Underwood in House of Cards, that she tried to save the marriage for her kids. She told Telegraph,”If you’ve got kids, it’s a family, and you try again, and you try again. We did that for a long time.” Their kids luckily have a relationship with both parents, and Wright is happier without Penn.