Now, Lost actor Doug Hutchison and his aspiring actress-singer wife, Courtney Stodden, are giving their side of the story, telling ABC's Good Morning America in their first interview that when they met it was strictly for professional reasons.
"At first, [the relationship] was just really about business," he said. "Totally innocent," she said.
It began through an e-mail correspondence when, at a time Stodden was looking to expand her career that her mother was managing, she learned that Hutchison was holding some acting workshops.
The only problem: distance. Hutchison was in Hollywood, Stodden in Washington state – until, he says, she made the first move toward something more than e-mail.
"Did I?" Stodden responded with a laugh. "Yeah," confirmed Hutchison, "she was being very flirtatious." (Stodden explained, "Well come on, he's so handsome.")
Asked Her ParentsWithin four months, Hutchison sensed "a struggle inside my heart … because I had already started falling for her."
Contacting her mother, Hutchison recalled, "I said, Krista, I don't know if you know this or not, but your daughter and I are falling in love. … If you and [Courtney's father, Alex Stodden] have any misgivings whatsoever about this … I will respect you, and Courtney will respect you. And we will step back."
The parents, GMA reports, were long aware and accepting of their daughter's mature looks. At 15 she had already earned a crown in a local Donald Trump Miss Universe pageant.
'I Was a Virgin'According to GMA, " Beneath the beauty, her parents said, is a deeply Christian girl." Krista and Alex gave their blessing to the marriage.
"I was a virgin," said Courtney. "I knew that if I kept that, I would really be blessed with a beautiful gift. And God did. He blessed me with my soulmate. So I'm really thankful for that."
The marriage will work, she predicts, because "I'm an old soul."
'Yeah," insisted her husband, "I always joke with Courtney that one of the reasons we worked is 'cause she's 16 going on 36, and I'm 51 going on 21."
And while public condemnation of their marriage has been wide and loud, "it's okay," insists Hutchison. "I've been called worse than a pedophile in my life."
What hurts, they said, is not what is coming from strangers, but from those closest to them. Because of the couple's union and 35-year age difference, Hutchison has been dropped by his agent and manager, his brother has severed their relationship, and his mother will have nothing to do with them.