Laura Dern recalls how fiancé secretly left her for Angelina Jolie

In 1999, the unexpected marriage of Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie took everyone by surprise, creating a media frenzy.

The couple’s significant 20-year age gap wasn’t the only shocking element; both were involved with other partners at the time, adding layers to the drama.

Actress Laura Dern, Billy Bob’s fiancée, was among those caught off guard. Laura discovered Billy Bob’s wedding to Angelina at the same time as the public, completely derailing her relationship plans.

Billy Bob and Laura began their relationship in 1997. Laura had recently split from Jeff Goldblum, while Billy Bob was in the midst of his divorce from his fourth wife, Pietra Dawn Cherniak. After two years together, they were engaged and planning their wedding. However, Billy Bob met Angelina on the set of “Pushing Tin” in 1999, and their whirlwind romance led to a spontaneous Las Vegas wedding in May 2000, leaving Laura blindsided.

Reflecting on the situation, Laura shared (via InStyle): “I left our home to work on a movie, and while I was away, my boyfriend got married, and I’ve never heard from him again.” The abrupt end to their relationship left her feeling sudden loss and confusion, without any closure.

Although Billy Bob never explicitly admitted any wrongdoing, he expressed regret in a 2001 interview, stating, per the Mirror: “Others may say that you left our girl and married someone else. But it made me happy and somebody else happy. I’m sorry it caused pain.”

Adding a strange twist to the story, Laura and Angelina had a prior connection. Laura had babysat Angelina when they were children, as detailed by Yahoo.

Laura’s father, Bruce Dern, recalled this time: “Jon Voight’s a friend of mine, so I remember Laura babysat one night for Angelina when Angelina was 2 and Laura about 8 … because Jon and I were doing Coming Home,” Bruce said, referring to the 1978 movie. “They were staying over at [director] Hal Ashby’s house, so they asked [Laura] to come over [to watch Angie].”

Following the breakup, Laura received support from her friend Melissa Etheridge. Melissa recounted helping Laura move out of her shared home with Billy Bob, speaking with Andy Cohen on his SiriusFM radio show (via the Sun): “I was around when Angelina was not doing nice things with Billy Bob to Laura Dern. I went through that on a personal level, and then to know the side of Jennifer and Brad. I helped Laura move out of her house with Billy Bob — I like broke into their home to get their stuff out because it was so nasty.”

In the aftermath, everyone involved moved on with their lives. Laura married Ben Harper, with whom she has two children, and has since been linked to former NBA player Baron Davis.

Billy Bob and Angelina divorced in 2002, leading Billy Bob to avoid dating celebrities due to privacy concerns. He later married a puppeteer in 2014, seeking a quieter life away from the spotlight.