Hollywood A-listers Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, one of Tinseltown’s most high-profile couples, have decided to take a break from their 13-year marriage, representatives for the pair said on Wednesday.

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones announce separation

The 68-year-old US actor and his 43-year-old British wife have had a rough few years health-wise, while cancer survivor Douglas made headlines earlier this year with comments to a British newspaper about oral sex.

The couple – who have two children, Dylan, 13, and 10-year-old Carys – decided to live apart after Douglas returned from the Cannes Film Festival in May, shortly after his wife checked in for a second round of treatment for bipolar disorder, People magazine reported.

“Michael and Catherine are taking some time apart to evaluate and work on their marriage. There is no further comment,” Douglas spokesman Allen Burry told AFP, confirming the cover story in the latest issue of People.

A spokesman for Zeta-Jones, Cece Yorke, issued an almost identical statement, also without elaborating. Neither star has filed for divorce or legal separation, according to People Magazine, which featured the couple of its cover with the headline: “Their Marriage Crumbles.”

Michael and Catherine love each other very much, (but) they’re taking a break,” a close confidant told the magazine, adding: “No legal people are involved whatsoever.” The movie star couple have not been photographed together since April, appearing on red carpets solo and vacationing separately.

The pair has faced a tumultuous few years, with Douglas fighting off throat cancer and Zeta-Jones undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder.

Then Douglas made waves in June when he attributed his throat cancer to the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), saying he caught it by performing oral sex. He later backtracked, saying he did not know what caused his cancer. Zeta-Jones found her husband’s comments “embarrassing,” and was upset he didn’t clarify that he was exposed to the virus before the couple met, according to a long-time friend cited by People.

She was also angry that he revealed she was coming home from bipolar treatment, which she wanted to keep private. “Things went downhill from there,” the friend told Hollywood’s celebrity bible, adding: “The stress has taken a toll on their marriage.” Douglas has also been stressed by his son Cameron’s jailing for drug dealing. “He loves Catherine, but she has her own issues .. it’s sad,” said a friend.

Zeta-Jones and Douglas married in 2000 in a lavish and star-studded wedding in New York. His contentious divorce from his first wife Diandra Luker reportedly cost him more than US$45 million (S$57.4 million). He and Zeta-Jones have a pre-nuptial agreement, according to People.

The Welsh actress won an Academy Award in 2003 for her supporting role in Chicago and has appeared in films such as Traffic and Ocean’s Twelve. Douglas is an actor and producer who has won two Oscars and four Golden Globes in a career spanning more than four decades. His most well known films include 1987’s Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct in 1992.

More recently he reprised his Oscar-winning 1987 Wall Street role as ruthless stockbroker Gordon Gekko, in 2010’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. This year the veteran actor, son of Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, was widely praised for playing flamboyant entertainer Liberace in the biopic Behind The Candelabra, co-starring with Matt Damon.

People magazine quoted a family friend as saying the couple hoped to work out their differences.

“They want the best for their kids, no matter what happens,” said the friend. “I hope they work it out… They were really good together.”