Allied: what happens when a cinema gets eclipsed by gossip

Will Allied be remembered as a war classic or for the feverish speculation about the relationship between Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard? From Burton and Taylor to Titanic, heres what happens when Hollywood loses control

The film world approaches its awards season, and is experiencing a recurrent phenomenon concerning the way press promotional comment becomes dangerously unhelpful and unmanaged. The errant publicity takes up as much cultural space as the film, a distracting alternative narrative. It is cognitive hype dissonance.

Robert Zemeckiss forthcoming Allied is set fair to be a great big blockbuster, a swooning second world war romantic drama. Brad Pitt is Max Vatan, a handsome Allied intelligence agent who has a steamy affair with French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour, played by Marion Cotillard. But then he is told that she is a Nazi spy and he must kill her. It sounds like a gripping tale, full of passion, transgression, suspicion.

The problem is that the public, disobediently giggling over their social media accounts, reckon theyve already got the scoop without needing to see the film. As reports came in of Brads upcoming divorce with Angelina Jolie, fans convinced themselves he had been cheating on Ange with Marion Cotillard while away shooting this very picture. Mischievous bloggers and tweeters are jujitsu-ing the Allied publicity machine with gags about how its Ange who is going to come on to whack Marion. Allied might be upstaged by the gossip, and become best known for something other than itself.

And why shouldnt it happen? Cotillard and Pitt have denied any affair, but the rumours have been fuelled by how Pitt and Jolie first met. When the couple were filming Mr and Mrs Smith a decade ago they were married to other people. The film ignited their romance. The publicity worked in the films favour, just about, though with lingering sympathy for Jennifer Aniston. This kind of spontaneous fact-meets-fiction hype mirage is hardly new. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor met while filming Cleopatra in the late 1950s, and both were married. Their affair was considered hardly less sensational and world-historically important than that of the characters they played.

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