Their Separate Ways

07/06/2001 at 10:00 AM EDT

So what went wrong? In the postmortems that followed news of the split, friends of the stars -- who are not in touch with each other at the moment -- agreed that their problems boiled down to career vs. commitment: He wanted to settle down, she didn't -- at least not in the same way. Sources say Bratt wanted Roberts to cut back on making the movies that kept them apart and move from New York City to his home base of San Francisco, where his mother and siblings live. (In fact, a source say Roberts turned down several projects in recent months to appease Bratt.) "He was putting her in conflict, having to choose between what she was doing and being on his set," says one source, who describes Bratt as a "traditional" guy eager to start a family. "With each movie (she made), he got more angry. He didn't want her to give up her career, but the reason they fought was that he wanted her to be there with him. He wasn't saying, 'Can't you be home and cook for me?' He was saying, 'I like it when you are home.' He wanted her to stay. Every weekend was not enough." In the end Bratt was the one who broke it off. "There is a deep love there," says the source. "But it was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. He realized she was a bit of a gypsy."

Tabloid tattle about Roberts dancing the night away in Las Vegas with her Ocean's 11 costar George Clooney couldn't have helped. (Clooney, 40, shot down reports that he was a third party in Roberts's split, announcing with a wisecrack, "I didn't have time (to break them up). I've been too busy breaking up Tom and Nicole.") "We had a dormitory life going there," Ocean's producer Jerry Weintraub explains of the high jinks that went on during the late winter shoot when Roberts, Clooney and their costars Matt Damon and Brad Pitt all stayed in adjoining villas at the Bellagio hotel. "We were in each other's rooms constantly, drinking, eating, partying and having a good time." Little wonder Bratt felt, as one source put it, that Roberts "was choosing other things besides him."

It was when Roberts left town to film Brockovich in California in mid-1999 that cracks apparently formed in the relationship. Over the next two years Roberts and Bratt worked on some nine more movies between them, with shoots taking them separately to L.A., Las Vegas, Texas, Montreal, Belize and Australia. One source says Bratt, whose movie career was just taking off, became frustrated when Roberts continued to accept work that would keep them apart. The two made efforts to visit each other on their respective sets. When Bratt was filming the USA Network movie After the Storm in Belize in the spring of 2000, Roberts air-freighted her homemade chocolate chip cookies to him and flew down herself for a five-day stay. Earlier this year Bratt was an occasional visitor to the L.A. set of America's Sweethearts, a romantic comedy about a fictional -- and estranged -- movie-star couple. "He would just hang out and watch her on the monitor, and then she'd come back out to see him," says producer Donna Roth. "They were very sweet to each other." Even on the prank-filled Ocean's 11 shoot, Bratt was never far from her thoughts. "She was very, very serious with the guy," says producer Weintraub. "She would talk about him a lot."

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