When Benjamin Bratt started dating Julia Roberts in the late 90s, she was the highest-paid actress in the world. In 2000, she was named Time Magazine’s Most Beautiful Person. For four years, Bratt was viewed by many fans as the world’s luckiest boyfriend.

But when Roberts and Bratt broke up in 2001, Bratt soon reconnected with his old co-star Talisa Soto at the Montreal World Film Festival. Within 14 months after their reportedly acrimonious split, in an unexpected twist, Bratt wed Soto and Roberts married Danny Moder – and both remain in these marriages to this day.

“It was like something hit me over the head with a bat”

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Benjamin Bratt (perhaps best known as Detective Rey Curtis on TV’s Law & Order) first met Julia Roberts in a restaurant in 1997. “He walked in, and I looked up at him, and it was like something hit me over the head with a bat,” Roberts would later recall to Vanity Fair.

Remarkably given Roberts’ fame, she was able to keep Bratt a secret at first (the actress sent gossip columnist George Rush a bouquet of white tulips after he learned about the relationsip but respected Roberts’ request to not write about it), but inevitably it soon became public. Walking the red carpet at the Screen Actors Guild Awards alongside Bratt, Roberts told the press, “Come to our house. We’re happy all the time!”

The pair resided in Greenwich Village and were often photographed on dates around New York City. “They were extremely loving,” Robert’s friend Howard Rosenman has commented. “They were into each other’s heads and souls. They were supportive of each other. They looked like they were in love.”

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However, by May 2001 the couple shocked many by announcing their split. Neither commented on the cause of the split, with Roberts telling the David Letterman Show: “It’s come to a kind and tender-hearted end.”

Amid the mystery, rumours began to fly and every tabloid sought quotes from the former couple’s mutual friends, with one reportedly commenting, “Look at her history with her co-stars!” It was rumoured that Roberts was having an affair with George Clooney, with whom she appeared in the Ocean’s Eleven movies (and more recently Ticket to Paradise).

Roberts strongly denied this, describing Clooney as “a kind and lovely man, though not my boyfriend.” Clooney, meanwhile, quipped, “I didn’t have time. I’ve been too busy breaking up Tom and Nicole,” nodding to similarly baseless gossip surrounding the recent split of another Hollywood golden couple of the time, Cruise and Kidman.

“He wanted her to be there with him”

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While infidelity claims seemed unfounded, some suggested Roberts and Bratt’s split was less than amicable. “She is having a very, very hard time with this,” one unnamed friend told the tabloids.

Another anonymous friend claimed Bratt wanted to settle down, and was frustrated with Roberts’ busy schedule: “With each movie [she made], he got more angry. He didn’t want her to give up her career, but the reason they fought was that he wanted her to be there with him.”

In the aftermath of the breakup, Bratt reconnected with an old friend – Talisa Soto, best known for her role in 1989 James Bond movie License to Kill. The pair first met at an audition in the early 90s, before co-starring in 2001’s Pinero. That summer, they reunited to promote the film at the Montreal World Film Festival.

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“They suddenly clicked,” one friend told the National Enquirer. “They went from friends to lovers in a matter of a few months.” The pair began dating and in April 2002, less than a year since his split with Roberts, they tied the knot in a small, private ceremony in San Francisco. Some reports claimed the pair hurried into marriage because Soto was pregnant: their first child, Sophia Rosalinda Bratt, was born that December.

“Ben really feels he’s trumped Julia once and for all,” the National Enquirer quoted one friend as saying. “He felt betrayed by Julia when they split. He thought she cheated on him with Danny Moder [Julia’s new boyfriend]. But he didn’t sulk for long. And now he’s found love, marriage and soon, the baby carriage with beautiful Talisa!”

“It was a lot nastier than anyone ever knew,” another insider noted on the Bratt-Roberts breakup. “They accused each other of cheating, and Ben finally said he’d had enough… Julia claimed she ended the relationship because he couldn’t commit. That had Ben seeing red. HE was the one who wanted to settle down and start a family, but Julia refused.”

“The secret is, we just dig each other”

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Although Bratt never mentioned a feud with Roberts, he did describe the joys of a more peaceful life with Soto – comparing it favourably with the furore around Roberts. “It’s like being in love for the first time,” he said of his new wife. “It has also been very quiet and low-key, which has suited us both.”

Bratt has indicated that the press attention surrounding Julia Roberts was part of why things didn’t work out between them. “Living at that level of visibility is something that doesn’t appeal to me. And I discovered it can’t really appeal to anyone. Even she, as well as other people of that magnitude of fame, doesn’t enjoy it… When you live your life at that level of fame, it gets beyond your control. By the time you realize it, you’re stuck.”

Similar to Bratt, Roberts moved on to a relationship with a far less public figure, cinematographer Danny Moder (the two having met on the set of The Mexican in 2000). They were married in July 2002, less than two months after Bratt married Soto, and likewise they remain married today.

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Both Bratt and Roberts downplayed their romance in the following few years. Just as Bratt described his marriage as “like being in love for the first time,” in 2003 Julia was asked if she’d been in love before Moder, and she replied: “Yes and no. I’ve had that sort of first-enamored, butterfly-like feeling. But it wasn’t connected to reality.”

Julia Roberts and Danny Moder are parents to three children: twins Phinnaeus and Hazel (born in 2004) and Henry (born in 2007). Bratt and Soto, meanwhile, greeted their second child, son Mateo Bravery Bratt, in 2005.

Asked about the longevity of his marriage to Soto in 2023, Bratt remarked, “The secret is, we just dig each other. We have a tremendous respect for one another, our kids are the center of our universe. She makes me laugh. She’s funny, she’s very caring. She reminds me every day how lucky I am.”