Victoria Smurfit files for divorce with husband of 15 years
The golden couple who followed their dream to LA are dealing with marriage breakdown in the public eye, writes Bairbre Power
The Hollywood fairytale for Victoria Smurfit and her husband, Doug Baxter, has come to an end.
Four years after moving to LA with their three young children, the Irish actress and her media entrepreneur husband have filed for divorce in California.
It is a sad time for the couple who clearly adore their three children and regularly tweeted photos of happy times together.
In a statement issued to the Irish Independent from their home in LA, Victoria confirmed "we have always been a tight-knit family unit and we are both committed to maintaining that going forward.
"Our children are our highest priority, so to protect them we will not be discussing it further. Change is difficult enough."
Theirs was a dream romance, and after meeting at an awards ceremony, they married in July 2000 at St John's church in Windlesham in Surrey.
With the arrival of their three children - Evie Dorothy (10), Ridley Belle (7) and Flynn Alexander (6) - Victoria and Doug built a happy family life and it will be their children who will be high on their personal agenda this weekend as they deal with fall-out from the breakdown of the marriage in the public eye.
They won't be able to escape the inevitable publicity in California now that Victoria (40) is so well known in the States after a series of high profile roles, including Lady Jayne in the recent NBC series 'Dracula' opposite Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.
The 10-part series re-telling Bram Stoker's 1897 classic was dropped because of falling ratings and Victoria is currently filming 'Once Upon a Time' in Vancouver - an American fairytale in which the Dubliner plays Cruella De Vil.
Just last Tuesday, Doug tweeted "My most important job today" #Pancake Day and a pic of his two daughters and son.
Victoria has shared private family moments with her friends and fans and tweeted a picture of the kids 'driving' during a visit to Legoland in California last November.
Her own parents, Caroline and Dermot Smurfit, divorced when Victoria was still at school so family life with Doug (who comes from Co Waterford and went to Trinity College in Dublin) was especially important for the actress whose uncle Michael is the best known of the three Smurfit brothers.
The family wealth is without doubt - her paternal grandfather, Jefferson Smurfit, started a box business in Rathmines in Dublin in the 1930s and it went on to become the Smurfit Kappa Group, Europe's leading corrugated packaging company and one of the leading paper-based packaging companies in the world.
However, the privately educated Victoria loves a bargain, as she let her 18,570 twitter fans know last summer when she tweeted a pic of herself in the bathroom of the legendary Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood wearing a €30 dress from Dunnes Stores.
The tweet was full of irony, and cheek and Victoria loved it.
Later, in a phone conversation, Victoria clarified: "I'm not a style ambassador for Dunnes Stores but it is my guilty pleasure. I order it online and I tell everyone here that it is this exclusive label from Ireland."
There were clues of how she handled the whole 'silver spoon' and 'heiress' handles.
Far from playing the poor-little-rich-girl card, the couple poked fun at it when they agreed to pose for a spread in VIP Magazine a few weeks after Flynn was born.
Victoria explained to the Irish Independent's 'Weekend' magazine in October 2009 how the couple agreed to do the shoot with the proviso that they could "take the mick".
"That's what we did: we had fun with the concept of this Victoria Smurfit." So you had Victoria stiff-backed on a horse on the steps of uncle Michael's exclusive K-Club, Victoria in a ball gown with a woolly jumper over the top.
"I'm bizarrely proud of it because we took a running publication that has a particular style and did something different," she says. "I mean, I'm standing on a table in a sparkly dress and playing with the chandelier. It was ridiculous!"
With a young family to raise and Doug running his own businesses in Dublin - including Ocean PR, Ocean advertising and Birth Digital - you'd often spot the young mother-on-the move, frequently spotted on her bicycle around Ranelagh where they lived in Dublin, cycling to the shops and the schools.
Victoria returned home last September to be Ambassador for the inaugural Irish Champions Weekend. We spent the Saturday racing at Leopardstown and the following day, she brought Doug's parents as her guests to the second day of the event at the Curragh when she presented an award.
She told me how living in LA, the Irish ex-pats have their hangouts, like the King's Head, where they go for mugs of tea and rasher sandwiches before the rugby games. She loves rugby and Doug and Victoria were guests at Brian O'Driscoll and Amy Huberman's wedding .
All the couple's friends - in LA and at home - will be saddened at their break-up.
Joining the cast of RTE's 'The Clinic', Smurfit admitted that the role of Dr Edel Swift at the fictional Clarence Street Clinic was "the closest part I've ever played to myself."
The actress may have spent her childhood in a lofty pile in salubrious Dalkey, but she has a strong work ethic and has made it clear to friends that the break-up of her marriage in California will not trigger a move back home.
A talented photographer, Doug Baxter is CEO of the Santa Monica-based firm, Cut to the Content, which connects brands with a network of writers and creatives.
A life on screen
By Nicola anderson
SHE first lit up the small screen with a delicate portrayal of Princess Rowena in a BBC production of 'Ivanhoe' in 1997, which won plaudits from the critics.
But it was 'Ballykissangel' that really launched the career of Victoria Smurfit, alongside fellow co-stars Colin Farrell and Dervla Kirwin.
She captured hearts as the free-spirited Orla O'Connell, the priest's sister who returns to the small town of Ballykissangel after travelling the world.
It was no surprise when beautiful Victoria turned up alongside Leonardo di Caprio on Danny Boyle's millennium movie 'The Beach' in the small role of a weather girl.
A Hollywood career seemed inevitable. Except that Victoria found that it was not a proper fit for her.
She found the experience of making a big-budget movie to be "terribly lonely", preferring the energy and pace of frenetic small-screen productions.
"A lot of pushing and shoving and someone flying out of the sky," she said of many box office hits. "I find my brain rots slightly." She reached a point where she realised a superstar trailer and an entourage were not what she wanted.
"It was either this is something you pursue 100pc or I want to have a family, and I wanted to have a family," she said in an interview.
She had a recurring role in the massive British TV hit 'Cold Feet' and then had a role alongside Hugh Grant in 'About A Boy'.
And in between having her three children, she did some television work, with 'Trial & Retribution' and appearing in roles like Dr Edel Swift in RTE's 'The Clinic'.
But the Hollywood itch had returned and by 2011, she decided to move Stateside again, relocating with husband Doug and their children Evie, Ridley and Flynn.
She swiftly landed a role in ABC crime series 'Missing' starring alongside Sean Bean and Ashley Judd. And she also co-wrote a TV pilot.
TV reclaimed the golden-haired actress, with her portrayal of icy beauty, Lady Jayne Wetherby in the 2013 series 'Dracula'.
However, it was cancelled by NCB after one series and Victoria appeared in the hit series 'The Mentalist' and followed this with a steadier role in 'Once Upon A Time' as an extremely glamorous Cruella de Vil.