Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston have announced that they have split up after what they describe as "much thoughtful consideration".
Pitt and Aniston were seen as Hollywood's golden couple
In a joint statement issued by Pitt's publicist, the two actors said they had decided to formally separate after seven years together.
Pitt, 41, and Aniston, 35, were seen as Hollywood's golden couple, with a solid marriage and successful careers.
They were married in a lavish ceremony at a Malibu estate in July 2000.
The couple have no children. There is no indication whether they plan to file for divorce.
Their statement said: "For those who follow these sorts of things, we would like to explain that our separation is not the result of any speculation reported by the tabloid media - this decision is the result of much thoughtful consideration.
"We happily remain committed and caring friends
with great love and admiration for one another.
"We ask in advance for your kindness and sensitivity in the coming months."
The announcement of the split followed months of speculation in newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic, including reports that Pitt wanted to become a father but Aniston was reluctant to start a family.
A break-up was regarded as imminent after Aniston was spotted without her wedding ring in December, but the wedding band reappeared in later photographs.
Pitt and Aniston, shortly after their engagement was announced
Aniston's spokesman said the pair spent the New Year
holidaying in the Caribbean with her former Friends co-star Courteney Cox and her husband, David Arquette.
The couple met on a dinner date in 1998. Pitt was already among Hollywood's leading men after critically acclaimed performances in the thriller Seven and Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys.
Aniston was already a well-known face around the world for her role as the glamorous Rachel Green in the hit TV series Friends, which began in 1994 and ran for 10 years.
Prior to meeting Aniston, Pitt had dated Kalifornia co-star Juliette Lewis for several years and was engaged to his Seven co-star Gwyneth Paltrow for six months in 1997.
Pitt and Aniston dated for several years before marrying in a private ceremony in Malibu, California, in 2000.
Brad Pitt endured a critical drubbing playing Achilles in 2004 epic Troy
In 2001, Pitt called his marriage to Aniston a "merger".
"The thing with our marriage is that there was an opening in the Hollywood couple slot, and unfortunately we've fallen into it.
"Which I don't like very much...It doesn't leave us room to be human, to make our mistakes and have our struggles."
Pitt's recent roles have included well received performances in the thriller Fight Club in 1999 and playing a bareknuckle boxer in Guy Ritchie's Snatch (2000).
However, his turn as Achilles in this year's blockbuster Troy did not impress the critics.
He is currently starring in Ocean's Twelve, a sequel to Steven Soderbergh's rat pack remake Ocean's Eleven, with George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones.
Aniston with Friends co-stars Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow
With the finale of Friends in 2004, Aniston has concentrated on her film career with roles in the recent box office hits Bruce Almighty, opposite Jim Carrey, and Along Came Polly.
Last year the actress was voted "the most powerful celebrity on the planet" in an influential US poll.
She and husband Pitt are also partners in film production company Plan B - its first movie, Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, stars Johnny Depp and is due out this summer.
Asked about the state of her marriage in 2002, the actress said: "Everybody always asks if we're happy. Give me a break. We're married two years. In Hollywood years, that's forever."