Calendars had barely flipped from 2004 to 2005 when Hollywood’s golden couple, “Friends” funny woman Jennifer Aniston and People magazine’s twice-voted Sexiest Man Alive Brad Pitt, announced their separation following a New Years’ vacation in the Caribbean. While rumors of infidelity had dogged Pitt ever since he teamed up with Angelina Jolie to shoot the action-comedy “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” the January prior, the break-up sent shockwaves across the world at large. It was no longer quite so good to be Brad and Jen!
Though the duo remained “committed and caring friends with great love and admiration for one another” (at least according to the formal statement they released to People magazine), things soon turned less than amicable. On March 25, the very day that Aniston filed divorce papers, Brad posed for an extensive W magazine pictorial depicting scenes of an unhappy 1960s-era marriage with Jolie, the very woman purported to be at the crux of the split! It was a shocking move on the actor’s part, one that led the first ex Mrs. Pitt to lament to Vanity Fair, “Is it odd timing? Yeah. But it’s not my life. He makes his choices. He can do – whatever. We’re divorced, and you can see why . . . There’s a sensitivity chip that’s missing.”
Sensitivity chip notwithstanding, the shoot certainly served its purpose, setting fans’ tongues wagging over what W deemed “the biggest off-screen drama of the year” and movie-goers straight to the box office to see “Mrs. and Mrs. Smith,” which quickly became the highest-grossing film for both Pitt and Jolie following its release that June. Seventeen years later, the spread, titled “Domestic Bliss,” remains one of the most talked-about in history!
To capture the 60-page “portfolio,” as it was described on the cover of W’s July 2005 issue, the soon-to-be christened “Brangelina” gathered with photographer Steven Klein at the Kenaston Residence, a low-slung modernist estate situated about 10 miles outside of downtown Palm Springs and far from the prying eyes of Hollywood at 39767 Desert Sun Dr. in Rancho Mirage. (Please remember this is a private home. Do not trespass or bother the residents or the property in any way.)
One of the Coachella Valley’s most famous dwellings, the pad’s pristine mid-century aesthetic proved the perfect backdrop for the shoot, which was set in 1963, Brad’s birth year and, as explained by W, “a time when the last traces of the squeaky-clean Fifties were giving way to something more complicated.”