As things were spiraling in Jessica Simpson’s marriage to Nick Lachey, she was filming ‘The Dukes of Hazzard,’ and developed intense feelings for her co-star, Johnny Knoxville. She opened up about their ’emotional affair’ in her new book.
Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey’s marriage was falling apart long before they announced their separation in 2005. “We had become actors in our own lives, playing ourselves,” Jessica admitted in her book, Open Book. “Worse, we slowly acted out our parts even when cameras weren’t rolling. When we did appearances, we didn’t want to disappoint people by not doing the whole act. It didn’t feel wrong, because it was just exaggerated, idealized versions of ourselves. Heck, I wanted to be that happy.” Jessica opened up about the intense fights that she and Nick began having, which she described as “vicious cycle.”
“We would yell at each other and he would go out of town and not answer his phone — Vegas or Miami with the boys,” Jessica revealed. “Or he would just stay out ate to teach me a lesson. He had a group of guy friends who used to get him into places and enjoy VIP treatments at strip clubs and bars.” She added, “He barely looked at me anymore, and I had Newlyweds to remind me how much had changed” and “We were in a place where we loved each other fine, but we just didn’t like each other. I could feel him trying to like me, but everything I did seemed to annoy him.”
Around this time, Jessica auditioned for The Dukes of Hazzard, and felt an instant connection with her co-star, Johnny Knoxville, during the very first audition. “I immediately felt something I didn’t understand, something literally attracting me to him,” Jessica admitted. “He was magnetic and just so charming.”
Like Jessica, Johnny was married during filming, and things never got physical between the two. “But to me, an emotional affair was worse than a physical one,” Jessica said. “It’s funny, I know, because I had placed such an emphasis on sex by not having it before marriage. After I actually had sex, I understood that the emotional part was what mattered. And Johnny and I had that, which seemed far more of a betrayal to my marriage than sex.”
While spending time with Johnny on set, Jessica experienced something that she never had with Nick. “He made me feel that spirit of adventure as he asked me about my life,” she said. “Not just my present, but abut who I wanted to be. I could share my deepest authentic thoughts with him, and he didn’t roll his eyes at me. He actually liked that I was smart and embraced my vulnerabilities. He didn’t make fun of me, he laughed with me. He believed in me and made me feel like I could do anything. The only person who ever made me feel that way was my dad. Certainly not my husband.” After a bitter Christmas spent with Nick, Jessica said she returned to the Dukes of Hazzard set and flirted with Johnny more than ever.
When filming ended, things did not improve in Jessica’s relationship with her husband, and she had a big secret — she was still keeping in touch with Johnny. “We wrote these flowery love letters back and forth, often at night with Nick passed out in the bed next to me,” she revealed. “We talked about music and I would listen to Johnny Cash songs he suggested to feel like we were still together. It was like Johnny and I were prison pen pals, two people who wanted so much to be with each other, but were kept apart.”
At one point, as she and Nick tried therapy and were working on their marriage, she deleted Johnny’s number, but he eventually got in touch with her again via e-mail. “I began to realize that contact with him was an addiction, and I would make these grand pronouncements that each time was the last time,” she said. “I was grateful that he had expanded my worldview and made me appreciate so many things about culture, but I needed to walk away. This wasn’t a game.”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to save the relationship. Jessica and Nick announced their separation in 2005, and their divorced was finalized by the next summer. He is now married to Vanessa Lachey, while Jessica wed Eric Johnson. They both have three kids with their significant others.