When Kristen Stewart issued a public apology for her fling with “Snow White and the Huntsman” director Rupert Sanders, she joined the league of contrite celebrities, famous people who have been forced to express regret for a colossal screw-up via a carefully worded, media-disseminated statement.
As the Associated Press pointed out, plenty of high-profile figures have said “sorry” before, for acts ranging from saying stupid things at comedy clubs to tweeting pictures of their private parts. But there are a select few who have had to say sorry publicly after being unfaithful to a romantic partner in private.
It’s an awkward exercise, one that turns something very personal into a situation open to dissection by the masses. Is he/she sorry enough? Can we forgive said celebrity for doing something that, technically, didn’t hurt any of us yet still deeply offends us?
Some stars are better than others at this. Let’s look at which Hollywood figures have semi-recently succeeded in this dicey arena and which ones have not.
Note: I’m largely leaving politicians out of this, mainly because that adds more apologies than I can handle in a single blog post. I have, however, included one key athlete.
In 1995, shortly after Grant had charmed women the world over by quoting a David Cassidy song in “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” he was caught in the midst of an, um, intimate act with prostitute Divine Brown.
Grant, in a serious relationship with Elizabeth Hurley at the time, did not release a statement. Instead, he kept a scheduled appointment on “The Tonight Show” and candidly responded to Jay Leno’s questions about the matter, specifically the question, “What the h*** were you thinking?”
“I think you know in life what’s a good thing to do and what’s a bad thing,” Grant said. “I did a bad thing, and there you have it.”
Effectiveness of apology: This is the gold standard of post-cheating-scandal celebrity apologies. He spoke bluntly and owned up to his behavior. The fact that he wasn’t married and that he projected a natural British charm also didn’t hurt. He ultimately was forgiven by Hurley, who he remained romantically involved with for five more years. And Grant’s successful movie career continued, although the Divine Brown incident, admittedly, will always be a key element in any Grant bio.
After an affair with Daisy Wright — the nanny who looked after his two children with ex-wife Sadie Frost and sold diary entries recounting her relationship with the actor to a London tabloid — Law, then engaged to Sienna Miller, went the “issue a statement” route in 2005.
“Following the reports in today's papers, I just want to say I am deeply ashamed and upset that I've hurt Sienna and the people most close to us,” he said. “I want to publicly apologize to Sienna and our respective families for the pain that I have caused ... There is no defense for my actions, which I sincerely regret, and I ask that you respect our privacy at this very difficult time.”
Effectiveness of apology: Miller and Law attempted to repair the relationship, but ultimately called off their engagement and went their separate ways. Law’s career was not severely impacted but his sex symbol status fell a few notches.
The golfer who cheated on wife Elin Nordegren opted to hold one of the more awkward news conferences ever, on live television, to express his regret for his repeated extra-marital affairs.
“I want to say to each of you simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior that I engaged in,” he said during a speech that lasted 14 minutes and, yes, was live-blogged by Celebritology’s Liz Kelly and the Post’s Paul Farhi.
Effectiveness of apology: Not very. Woods waited two months to issue the apology and then, once he gave it, spent way too much in front of the camera delivering a speech that sounded decidedly programmed. He and Nordegren ultimately divorced. While Woods is still considered one of the greatest golfers of all time, his reputation as an American hero, arguably, never recovered. If Hugh Grant is the textbook example of how to handle this situation, Woods is the textbook example of how not to.
After the talk show host became the victim of an extortion plot, details that he had previously slept with some of his female staffers became public. In 2009, he addressed the matter from his “Late Show” desk, apologizing to his employees, peppering his comments with wry humor and speaking directly to his wife.
“My wife, Regina — she has been horribly hurt by my behavior,” he said. “When something happens like that, if you hurt a person and it’s your responsibility, you try to fix it ... let me tell you, folks, I’ve got my work cut out for me.”
Effectiveness of apology: It was far squirmier than it should have been. But Letterman is still married and most “Late Show” viewers have probably forgotten about this incident. So, in that regard, mission accomplished.
Days after news broke that Jesse James had cheated on his wife, then-recent Oscar winner Sandra Bullock, he attempted to apologize via a statement released to People. It said, in part: “There is only one person to blame for this whole situation, and that is me. It's because of my poor judgment that I deserve everything bad that is coming my way. This has caused my wife and kids pain and embarrassment beyond comprehension and I am extremely saddened to have brought this on them. I am truly very sorry for the grief I have caused them. I hope one day they can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”
Effectiveness of apology: Zero. He and Bullock divorced, and James — who was well-regarded in large part because America’s sweetheart seemed to love him so much — was left with a tarnished reputation and an on-again, off-again relationship with Kat Von D.
And this bring us back to Stewart, the rare woman who has had to apologize in a situation like this. As previously noted, her statement said, “I’m deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I've caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected. This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I'm so sorry.” (Sanders, who has a lot more to be sorry about as a married father of two, also issued an apology shortly thereafter.)
Effectiveness of apology: It’s too early to say. The words sounded like words Stewart would actually say, either because she played a key role in writing the apology or because her handlers purposely crafted the prose to sound Stewart-like. Either way, that was probably a good move. It also seems unlikely that Stewart’s career will be forever ruined. She’s young, she and Pattinson are not married and all the media attention may make her seem more intriguing to those who have criticized her for being uninteresting and awkward as a celebrity figure.
Ultimately, it’s the Twi-hard community who will have the hardest time forgiving her. As they are wont to do, they will likely look to Pattinson for answers. If he is willing to forgive, odds are they will, too. As Edward Cullen goes, so goes “Twilight” nation.