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Brad and Jennifer breakup big news

Donna Freydkin USA Today

In the biggest celebrity breakup since Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman parted company in 2001, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston announced their separation Friday after four years of marriage.

“I’m shocked. My jaw dropped,” actress Fran Drescher told CBS’ “The Insider.”

The news is so big that celebrity bible People magazine rushed a full issue on newsstands Monday, four days ahead of schedule, with Pitt and Aniston on the cover.

Not to be outdone, Us Weekly is publishing a day early, with the new issue hitting New York and Los Angeles newsstands today and everywhere else on Thursday.

“People believed in this relationship, and they wanted it to go the distance, so they are reacting very personally and with a lot of sadness and curiosity,” said People’s West Coast editor, Todd Gold. “The announcement generated such a big reaction that we asked ourselves, ‘Why wait a week to come out?’ “

In a joint statement, Pitt, 41, and Aniston, 35, said: “After seven years together we have decided to formally separate. We would like to explain that our separation is not the result of any of the speculation reported by the tabloid media. This decision is a result of much thoughtful consideration. We happily remain committed and caring friends with great love and admiration for one another.”

The timing of the announcement was startling, coming as the couple wrapped up a seemingly cozy New Year’s holiday on the island of Anguilla with pals Courteney Cox Arquette and David Arquette.

“The decision to separate had been in the works for several weeks, if not longer, and they only needed to decide when to announce it,” Us editor Janice Min said. “They didn’t want it to cast a shadow over the premiere of ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ or the end of ‘Friends.’ “

Eyebrows were raised when Aniston, who has been shooting movies nonstop since “Friends” ended, did not attend the L.A. premiere of “Ocean’s Twelve” with her husband.

“Their relationship suffered a slow death this year,” Min says. “They barely spent time together.”

The reason for the breakup, Min said, was Pitt’s very vocal desire to start a family.

Children were an issue in the split, but for a different reason, said Gold, who talked to friends of the couple: “Jennifer did not want to get pregnant and have a child until she was absolutely certain about the relationship.”

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