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Looking back at the year in celebrities

Expert panel analyzes the best of 2005 and who may be hot in 2006
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Hollywood had a big 2005, full of babies, break-ups and surprises right up until the very end. 

Nick and Jessica called it quits.  Ben found his new Jen.  Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston gave way to Branjelina, and who can forget the antics of Tomkat, Tom Cruise, going bananas over Katie Holmes?

On Monday, 'Live and Direct' Guest Host Jane Velez-Mitchell welcomed a panel of celebrity experts to discuss the most important stories of 2005. On the panel: celebrity and legal reporter, Pat Lalama; Jeanne Wolf from, and 'US Weekly' reporter Katrina Szish.

To read an excerpt from the conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL: Katrina, let's start with this big break-up.  We're going to talk about money in a second, but we're talking about Jessica and Nick.  Why did they break up?

KATRINA SZISH, "US WEEKLY":  Well, Nick and Jessica met when they were both fledgling stars.  We might even want to call them D-list stars.  Then both of their stars rose together.  And then one of them, Jessica's, kept going a little bit further.  Nick's didn't rise.  And I think they were both at such different points in their lives, they just grew apart.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  So Jeanne, is Nick going to taking the midnight train to Georgia?

JEANNE WOLF, MOVIES.COM:  I don't know about that.  But you know, Jessica summed it up very well.  She said that their reality show, she told me, made them seem so happy together, and they were happy together.  And she said it was almost like letting people in our lives.  We almost asked for problems.  And the rumors got too much, and the competition between them got too much, and the separations got too much.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  I have to ask you a follow-up question on that one because I don't know how any of these celebrities survive married with the kind of scrutiny they're under.  If they go to lunch and they have a spot on their dress, it's blown up into a full-page photo and there's a circle around it.  How can anybody withstand that kind of scrutiny?

WOLF:  Look, most marriages can't withstand just the day-to-day problems.  So add to that the pressures of fame, the pressures of scrutiny, and you've summed it up very well. 

Fame is not something you can control.  You wish for it.  It makes you money.  It makes your dreams come true.  But you can't turn it off when you want to, and that's including the spot on the dress or the spat with a spouse. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Pat Lalama, I understand that Jessica Simpson made $35 million in 2004 and, apparently, there is no prenuptial agreement.  Is this true?  Is it possibly true? 

PAT LALAMA, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST:  Well, it probably is true.  And you know what?  Smart chick, that's all I've got to say.  I mean, you know, good for her.  But I think we're forgetting one thing about these people.  They're all incredibly young by the world's standards. 

And I've always said that, when really young people fall into a pot of so much fame, so much fortune, so much scrutiny, the temptations of being on screen and everybody who thinks you're the hottest thing around, I mean, you are not psychologically prepared for what this brings you. 

And I think it's hard enough, as Jeanne said, for people, you know, to withstand the troubles and tribulations of marriage.  These are people who I don't believe are psychologically prepared to handle all of this.  They all need their own special guru and psychologist to walk around with them at all the restaurants where that spot of soup might fall on their dress. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right, but, Katrina, if there's no pre-nup and your spouse made $35 million in one year alone, what incentive is there for the man in this case to stay in the relationship, if, according to California law, he can walk away with millions and millions, possibly, millions and millions of dollars? 

SZISH:  I don't think there is much incentive to stay.  I think that's the problem.  I think that if he sort of-this is his moment to not only get his names in all the papers but also to walk away with a nice chunk of change he never would have had, and it's a sweet deal for him. 

WOLF:  See, I'm less cynical than the rest of you about this one.  I do think this couple was in love.  And I do think this is a very sad break-up about a lot more than money. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  It always is a lot more than money.  And I refuse to believe that people are motivated strictly by money. 

Now, this is my other favorite, what, should I say, foursome?  We're talking about, let's see, Jen, Vince, Brad and Angelina, or Brangelina, as they're calling him.  Now, I have to ask you, Jeanne, there have been reports that Angelina is possibly preggers? 

WOLF:  Listen, there are reports describing the wedding rings for the wedding that didn't happened.  There are reports about her pregnancy, reports that they're already married.  And we've got to give these people credit.  For people who are under such intense scrutiny, they're keeping a lot of secrets, aren't they? 

I guess they had to come public with the fact that Brad was adopting her children.  But beyond that, anything that's not legal, we're not knowing about it.  And it's driving everybody crazy.  It's costing a lot of money having all of those paparazzi stake them out. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Well, what about it, Pat Lalama?  We know that the two children of Angelina, Zahara and Maddox, are now going to be known as the Jolie-Pitts.  Why not come out and say, "Hey, we're getting married," or whatever the story is, tell the world so we can kind of leave them alone? 

LALAMA:  Because I think, I mean, come on.  Do you think that they don't love all of the mystery that they're creating?  It's the best kind of publicity, the sins of omission, not saying anything, letting you guess. 

Every time I'm in the grocery store, all you got to do is look at the cover.  The story changes every five minutes. 

But, Jane, can I just offer one thing about this couple?  You know, I really want to come to the defense of Angelina.  I mean, all of a sudden, Jennifer Aniston-and, God love her, I'm sure she's a nice woman-but one magazine said she had the biggest-they called her man of the year because she handled this with such courage and strength. 

Jennifer Aniston handled this break-up like millions of women are forced to handle break-ups every single year.  I don't think that necessarily makes her superhuman.  I don't think Angelina's a home-wrecker.  And I'm sick and tired of people making her out to look like this horrible woman because Brad dumped her.  It took two to tango. 

I mean, yay, Angelina.  And I'm sorry for you, Jen.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Pat feels very passionately about this.  We have to move on, but do you disagree?  Should we all be crying for Jennifer?  Or, you know, should we be worried about the starving children around the world or some of the real problems that we have on this planet? 

WOLF:  You know who's the first person say it?  I've interviewed Jennifer Aniston several times recently, because she's got a couple of movies coming out.  "Rumor Has It" is about to open.

I just interviewed her a week ago.  And she'd be the first to say it before all of you, that she had to go through something that made her stronger, but that it was a lot less tragic than what the rest of the world faces.  And people don't print that part of what Jennifer says. 

I do think she's grown as a person.  I do think she's been terrific about this.  But I think one of the things that makes her terrific is her putting the whole thing in perspective and saying, "Please don't make me talk about it anymore.  It's something I had to go through.  It's something personal, but look at the real tragedies in the world." 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  And we want to-speaking of babies, because Jen had a lot of baby issues, what about the baby craze in Hollywood, most notably TomKat, as they're calling them, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes?

SZISH:  Exactly right.  I think if 2005 was the year of breaking up, I think 2006 is obviously the year of settling down.  And that means babies.  Gwyneth is expecting her second.  Gwen Stefani is expecting her first.  TomKat, as you mentioned, is expecting their first. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Well, do they all do everything in clusters?  Do all these celebrities get together at a conference and say, "OK, now we're all going to go get pregnant?"

SZISH:  Well, it kind of reminds me of fashion.  Everything kind of goes in waves somehow together, and it's peaks and valleys of trends.  And I think we see the same thing in Hollywood. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  But TomKat's kind of cuckoo...

WOLF:  Hey, wait a minute, guys.  These people are human.  They're in love.  They're doing what millions of other people do.  And we forget that, because they're super-gorgeous and super-public, that they have all the same instincts...

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right, Jeanne, but OK...

SZISH:  I want to say one thing about that.  I mean, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes specifically, that is not necessarily a human-type, normal human-type thing.  I mean, these two are not married.  They just started dating.  Katie was, you know, a devout Catholic who said she wanted to wait until she got married to have sex, and so this is definitely something a little bit super-human. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  And we have to wrap up it.  I have to ask my good friend, Pat, very briefly, what is up with TomKat?  I mean, so many of these celebrities go out of their way to hide their love, to avoid the cameras, and they're just right out there in front of everybody. 

LALAMA:  Well, I'll put it to you this way:  I heard a critic today say that it was all the media's fault, that he was just showing, you know, his very edgy and interesting and unique way of feeling love.  And I say baloney!  There's something weird about all of this.  I'm not going to say what it is.  I have no idea, but it's just me thinks thou doth protest too much. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  ... Now, let's get to 2006.  Who's going to be hot and not?  Who's going to break-up?  And who will get together? 

If anyone can predict the future of Hollywood hot shots, it's our expert panel of celebrity journalists.  So let's start with gossip columnist Jeanne Wolf of 

OK, we want to know:  Who do you think is going to be the "it" girl and the "it" guy next year and why? 

WOLF:  Well, let me put it this way.  As long as we're start calling people by their first name, Britney, Paris, Lindsay, we'll still be talking about them. 

I think you should watch out for Rachel McAdams.  She made a big splash this year in several movies.  She's beautiful.  She's got a hot boyfriend.  I think Rachel McAdams is someone we're going to be talking about. 

We're going to be talking about Terrence Howard for sure.  He had a big breakthrough year.  And we're going to be talking about the two Toms, Tom Cruise, "Mission Impossible 3," and Tom Hanks in "Da Vinci Code."  Both of them are going to make a big splash on the screen. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Those are names that we've been hearing year after year.  Katrina is shaking her head.  She thinks that they're going to be some, well, maybe newer faces on the horizon. 

SZISH:  I think you're talking about young blood.  I mean, the Toms of the world will continue to be stars, but I do think we're going to be looking at people like Keira Knightley, and Scarlet Johansson, and, I agree, Rachel McAdams.  I think everybody is ready for some new, young blood.  And, of course, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal will certainly be part of that list. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  And that, of course, because of their amazing movie, "Brokeback Mountain."  Pat Lalama, I know you had some thoughts on that and how Hollywood should maybe take a message that how people want to hear and see stories that have meaning. 

LALAMA:  Absolutely.  But first, let me say I have to throw in my vote for Thomas Kretschmann from "King Kong."  I just have to say that.  I think the guy's got a big future and very interesting. 

By the way, also, I hope Hollywood executives get a clue, because of "Brokeback Mountain," that, you know, we're looking for a little bit of depth.  I don't know if that's necessarily the theme this person wants or that person wants, but give us a real story.  I'm so tired of remakes and bad ones at that.  Can they come up with something new, come up with something with a little bit of dimension?  That's what I'm bending for. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Well, Jeanne, I think we're all-everybody's in agreement here.  Everybody's tired of those remakes.  I mean, the TV shows themselves weren't that good the first time around.  What are they thinking?  Why don't they get that lesson earlier? 

WOLF:  Look, guys, they're only listening to one sound:  the gentle sound of ca-ching, which means who buys tickets.  And we do buy tickets for those sequels. 

So watch out for "X-Men."  Watch out for "Pirates," where you will see Kyra, and Orlando, and Johnny.  Watch out for "Rush Hour II."  Boy, I mean, "Rush Hour III."  We've been waiting a long time for that.

And on the question mark list, let's watch out for Daniel Craig, the new James Bond.  He's out in Munich, and he's a pretty edgy guy.  Will we fall in love with him with his martini glass in hand? 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Now, this next question, I almost don't want to ask it, because it seems like big luck, like I don't want to jinx it, but who's going to break up in the coming year?  It's kind of a mean question, and I'm acknowledging that straight off, bad, mean. 

Who wants to take a shot at it, Katrina? 

SZISH:  Oh, I'll start.  Sure, why not?  OK, well, I mean, I think we've already seen Britney and Kevin begin this break-up.  I think we're going to see it zig-zag for a while.  Britney's going to take him back.  She's going to kick him out, take him back, kick him out. 

Well, we're hoping, by the end of the year, she gets, you know, all of her faculties together and realizes this guy is not for me.  So Britney and Kevin, I think, is probably the most obvious one we'll look forward to. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  And break-ups can be good. 

SZISH:  That's what I mean.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  They can be a sign of growth.  That's what the experts and the psychologists say.  Pat Lalama? 

LALAMA:  Well, you know, yes, of course, it can be good for you if it's a bad relationship.  But, you know, this is hard to do.  I hate to say it.  I mean, you don't want to wish any kind of tragedy on anyone. 

But J-Lo, they've been quiet lately.  But J-Lo and Mark, I don't know.  I just don't see this made of substance.  And, yes, it's sad. 

But, hey, look at Mike Myers, for heaven's sakes.  Oh, my god, a guy I love.  He's getting divorced.  So, gee, it happens to the best of the people that we love the best. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Jeanne, you are in the know.  You're in there deep in Hollywood.  What's your prediction? 

WOLF:  My prediction for who will break up?  Oh, let's see.  A lot of studio heads will break up because the movies didn't do so well this year. 

Personally speaking, maybe people will get a grip, start talking things over, stop letting money rule, you know, breaking up because they can and figuring out that these headlines are not the best way to make a career. 

I don't know.  I don't know who'll break up, but I know, whoever it is, will be splashed all over the covers, and you and I will be talking about them. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Let's get a little more positive here.  How about getting together?  We've heard so much about Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn and that they are together.  Are they together?  How together are they?  Is she on the rebound, or is this the real thing? 

WOLF:  Well, they've spent-they spent the holidays together.  They went home to see his folks for Thanksgiving.  And they tried to be very quiet about it but, of course, there were Jennifer and Vince spottings everywhere. 

Don't forget, they've got a movie coming out called "Break Up," ironically.  And "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," with Angelina and Brad - we're back to those first names again-did big business, at least partly because we love the idea that we might be watching real romance. 

With Jennifer and Vince, it certainly won't hurt ticket sales.  And she certainly does seem happy.  But beyond that, I don't know how to test how close they are. 

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