The Shocking Way Steven Spielberg Lost $100 Million in His Divorce
His 1989 split from actor Amy Irving would prove to be costly.
When it comes to Hollywood, there's no shortage of stories about the astronomical amounts of money spent and earned. And when famous couples split, fortunes can be in play. But few expensive celebrity divorces can compare to that of director Steven Spielberg. The legendary director was married to actor Amy Irving from 1985 to 1989 and lost $100 million when they decided to part ways, all due to one costly mistake. Read on to find out more about their relationship and how it proved to have such a large price tag for Spielberg.
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The couple first met and dated in 1975.
Irving met her future husband through Brian DePalma, who had been with George Lucas when she auditioned for the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars and later advised Irving to audition for Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The actor and director hit it off and were soon sharing a home and a dog named Elmer.
However, Irving, herself the daughter of famed stage director Jules Irving, appeared to find life in growing shadow of the Jaws director difficult, stating in a 1977 interview with Femme Fatales magazine, "I do not ever want to be known as 'Steven Spielberg's girlfriend. First I want to be Amy Irving." This tension would lead to their breakup in 1980, as Irving took time to find herself, according to The Los Angeles Times. Their split also led to Irving losing the role of Marion Ravenwood, which would go to Karen Allen, in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
They reunited in 1985—and were soon drafting a strange prenuptial agreement.
Per the LA Times, Irving and Spielberg resumed their relationship in 1985 and decided to wed after getting pregnant with son Max. They were married later that year in a private ceremony. Somewhere in between, the couple reportedly drew up and signed a prenuptial agreement that outlined their income and property and limited how much Irving would walk away with should they divorce. While this itself isn't surprising, the agreement was drawn up without lawyers present—and was supposedly written on the back of a cocktail napkin.
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Their marriage finally crumbled.
After their marriage, Irving made a point to keep her professional life separate from her husband's, never playing a role in his films aside from providing the singing voice of Jessica Rabbit in the Spielberg-produced Who Framed Roger Rabbit? However, their relationship continued to buckle under the filmmaker's devotion to his career, according to Steven Spielberg: A Life in Films, and the intense shoots and meetings with studio executives it required. "During my marriage to Steven, I felt like a politician's wife. There were certain things expected of me that definitely weren't me," Irving told the LA Times in 1994.
In early 1989, rumors began spreading about Spielberg and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom star Kate Capshaw, who he would marry just two years later. On April 24, 1989, Irving and Spielberg announced they had made the decision to divorce "in the spirit of caring," as reported by the United Press.
Irving was awarded half of Spielberg's earnings from their time together.
Irving took Spielberg to court with the claim that the back-of-napkin agreement was invalid because she did not have an attorney when they had made the ad-hoc prenup, according to Forbes. The court found in the actor's favor, ruling that under California law, Irving was entitled to half of all Spielberg's earnings from the four years of their marriage—an impressive $100 million.
Subsequent celebrity divorces, including Mel Gibson's ($425 million), have since dwarfed Irving and Spielberg's settlement. However, it was the most expensive Hollywood divorce of its time. The split also cost Spielberg partial custody of son Max, who went on to trade off years with each parent in a joint custody agreement, according to The Chicago Tribune.
It was a drop in the bucket for the famous director.
Decades later, Spielberg remains married to Capshaw, with whom he has welcomed another six children. He also has a net worth of an estimated $4 billion, according to Forbes. Even at an inflation-adjusted $219 million, his payout to Irving is equivalent to just 5.475 percent of his current net worth—or about what he spent in 2015 to build his mega-yacht.