Hunky Brad Pitt doesn't look like someone who'd be into long-term love. And baking a pie to impress a guy isn't what you'd expect of Juliette Lewis. But being a committed couple has changed both their lives. Rachelle Unreich finds out why.

In this world, there are guys who don't get freaked out if their girlfriend uses words like 'forever' when discussing their relationship. These guys have learned to look for emotional compatibility instead of physical perfection in their partners. They don't mind if their beloved grows her underarm hair, and they're handsome to boot.

Brad Pitt is such a man.

The love of his life, Juliette Lewis, is aware of her good fortune, and makes sure her boyfriend is aware of his. For instance, she's learned how to cook: not as a submissive-female thing but rather as an I'll-do-anything-for-you-even-if-it's-against-my-feminist-values thing.

'Before being with Brad and being in love, I'd never experienced that womanly side of me before,' gushes Juliette. 'You know, like wanting to make him a pie. I'm not real domestic. But that side of me just naturally comes with Brad. I finalled learned how to steam rice for him. I made it for a week straight. And at first he was like, 'Oh God, that's so sweet.' Then he was totally like, 'Hon, couldn't you learn something else?'

But being in a relationship isn't easy, especially where there are two in-demand actors involved. Both have held their own in movies opposite Oscar winners (as Juliette did in Cape Fear with Robert De Niro, and as Brad did in Thelma & Louise with Geena David). Both have new films out soon. Juliette appears in That Night with C Thomas Howell (due in December), playing a teenage girl who finds out she's pregnant. Brad has two new flicks coming up in November. In Johnny Suede, he plays a dead-beat muso trying to cope with life and love. In Cool World, which co-stars Kim Basinger, he plays a detective caught up in a cartoon universe. Later this year, you can also catch him in A River Runs Through It. So there's bound to be some competition between the pair, right?

'No,' insists Brad. 'Our lives are not our work. I'm not saying it's not difficult, 'cause your ego will slip in. But you catch yourself and cut it off. You communicate. You say, 'Hey, I gotta tell you, I'm having this problem here.' It takes it all away. And I'm completely proud of her. If I'm going to be with someone, it's got to be somebody I'm proud of.'

At first glance, this seems to be a pairing of opposites--on one hand, there's Brad, the epitome of pretty-boy good looks, with his angular face, blue eyes, and redder-than-red lips. Even a three-day growth can't disguise those feminine features.

On the other hand there's 18-year-old Juliette, a self-confessed tomboy who's 10 years Brad's junior. While she isn't ugly, she isn't Hollywood's idea of babedom either. One wonders what her publicists must think when she poses for photos with her unshaven armpits deliberately exposed.

She dropped out of school and became legally emancipated from her parents at 14 (to avoid laws limiting her acting hours); he went on to college to study journalism. She talks (on and on and on) about everything; he stays silent about almost everything, and doesn't like discussing his age.

Yet somehow, they've stayed together for more than two years. As Juliette puts it, 'I have found, like, my mate for life.'

The couple met on a TV movie called Too Young To Die?, where she played a sexually abused runaway who turns to murder, and he played a drug addict. 'It was quite romantic--shooting her full of drugs,' Brad says sarcastically. "We got together for research, 'cause we had a shooting-up scene,' explains Juliette.

'Then we went for a drive together--two hours of good quality driving. We didn't say much. We listened to music. After that, we both knew we liked each other. We didn't even kiss. I was expecting it, because you move so fast these days. But he didn't; he gave me a hug. I tortured my best friend over this for three weeks! Three weeks of, 'Oh, God! What's he thinking?'

Things progressed enough for the two to become a steady item, but rumours of co-habitation are untrue. 'I don't feel like we should live together just yet,' says Brad.

The two seldom attend big-time events together-they've been to two premieres in two-and-a-half years. 'I'm really naive when it comes to the LA scene,' says Juliette. 'I have to hear from my agents what the hottest spots are. I don't know anything about the life of a hot young Hollywood actor.'

Both Brad and Juliette will have to learn that lesson fast. They're the topic of much conversation in the movie industry. But the two are blase about fame. Both recall when the paparazzi went wild over them at the Cape Fear premiere. 'Brad Pitt,' they shouted. 'Can we ask you a few questions? How does it feel to be on Beverly Hills, 90210?' They laugh at the memory. It sums up their whole approach--the only thing that makes you a hot actor is somebody else's perception.

'Work is not the basis of our relationship,' says Brad. 'It's what we have fun doing, but it's what drives us crazy also.' As if to prove the point, Juliette adds: 'I am crazy. I dance in my living room naked... OK, maybe I don't dance, but I walk around naked a lot.' Brad looks at her and smiles. If his girlfriend's crazy, he'll be committed right alongside her.