04/21/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT
It may have run its course after only six months, but the romance between Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe lasted long enough to spoil their movie's chances at the box office, claims "Proof of Life" director Taylor Hackford. "It had an indelible and very destructive effect on the release of the film in the U.S., because the real life story overpowered the film," Hackford, referring to the affair, told reporters in London, where he was promoting the British release of the quasi-romantic movie. (Reviews for it in the U.S. were mixed, and the box office was unimpressive.) During filming, Crowe, 37, and Ryan, 38, began a much-publicized affair, during which Ryan ended her nine-year marriage to Quaid. She and Crowe broke up earlier this year.