When Jack Stoltz saw his actor son Eric (Pulp Fiction) with Eric's longtime love Bridget Fonda (Jackie Brown) at a Los Angeles film festival in April, he had no inkling the couple were soon to be no more. The retired schoolteacher got the "very sad news" that Eric, 36, and Fonda, 34, had called off their eight-year romance in an e-mail from Eric a month later. Jack says he wrote to Fonda "saying I would always consider her a sort of daughter."

The breakup, which became public last week, surprised many who thought the gen-X poster couple were perfectly cast. "They certainly got along really well for an awfully long time," says screenwriter Roger Hedden, who worked with them on 1993's Bodies, Rest & Motion. Though Fonda told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1992 that Stoltz was "the love of my life," they never wed. "I don't know if I have the strength of character," Stoltz told USA Today in 1993.

Stoltz first met Peter Fonda's daughter in 1986. After a short fling fizzled, they reunited in 1990, playing house at a New Mexico ranch and at L.A. and New York City pads.

Now, Fonda is heading to Vancouver to film the action adventure Lake Placid, while Stoltz has been appearing in The Glass Menagerie in Williamstown, Mass., with pal Tate Donovan, who recently split with Jennifer Aniston. "Tate and Eric can rant and rage and cry," says Jack Stoltz, "and handle this all by themselves."