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10 celebrity shockers to cap off another year in Tinseltown

US actress Kristen Stewart (L) British actor Robert Pattinspose prior German premier 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2'

US actress Kristen Stewart (L) and British actor Robert Pattinson pose prior to the German premier of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" film premier in Berlin on November 16, 2012. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC LAFARGUE (Photo credit should read FREDERIC LAFARGUE/AFP/Getty Images)

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Updated: January 26, 2013 6:16AM

In our current world of celebrity culture obsession, each year brings with it happy reports of stars’ engagements, weddings, babies’ births and career highlights, including winning Oscars, supporting worthy causes or launching new projects.

Of course, we also hear about the downside of fame — everything from drug and alcohol abuse to barroom brawling, divorces to ill-conceived comments. They all go viral now, thanks to our social media-drivenworld of instant communications.

Every year, there are a number of celebrity stories few of us saw coming. As a bona-fide professional celebrity chronicler, I offer the Top 10 biggest star surprises of the past year.

1. Kristen Stewart cheating on Robert Pattinson

While the “Twilight” co-stars had never officially confirmed their romance, it was one of Hollywood’s worst-kept secrets — with even engagement, marriage or even pregnancy rumors touted regularly by the supermarket journals. Therefore, when photos surfaced of Stewart smooching with her “Snow White and the Huntsman” director Rupert Sanders, the world — and clearly Pattinson — were caught very much off guard. Even more surprising, Stewart — known for being obsessed with protecting her privacy — made a public apology for her fling. It was a statement that clearly confirmed her relationship with Pattinson, who immediately went into hiding.

Over the ensuing months, Sanders himself apologized for his serious misstep and struggled to save his marriage to Liberty Ross, the English model, actress and the mother of his two young children. As for Stewart, she did everything she could to regain Pattinson’s confidence. Apparently, it worked as by late fall — just in time to promote their final “Twilight” film, “Breaking Dawn, Part 2” — the duo were back together. According to sources, the Sanders scandal actually has led Stewart and Pattinson to a better place in their relationship — again fueling rumors of a pending engagement.

2. George Lucas sells to Disney

It likely had a lot to do with personal estate planning, plus huge tax issues, but many in Hollywood were surprised when “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” mega-filmmaker George Lucas quietly and seemingly quickly inked a deal with the Walt Disney Company in early November to sell his own Lucasfilm empire to the Mouse Kingdom for $4.05 billion. The iconic filmmaker was to be paid half in cash and half in Disney stock — making him one of the largest individual shareholders with a 2.2 percent stake in the company. Equally surprising was the announcement Disney will continue the “Star Wars” film franchise, by beginning to release new movies from that famous brand, beginning in 2015. In his own words, Lucas simply stated, “It’s now time for me to pass ‘Star Wars’ on to a new generation of filmmakers.”

3. Elmo puppeteer forced out in sex scandal

First it was one, then two, then — as of this writing — four — men who came forth accusing veteran “Sesame Street” mainstay Kevin Clash, the voice and puppetmaster behind the beloved Elmo character, of having engaged in sex with them while they were minors.

After first backing Clash — who initially angrily denied the charges (when it was simply one or two accusers) — Sesame Street Workshop honchos quickly realized Clash’s position as in the world of children’s entertainment had become untenable, as others came forward. Clash resigned Nov. 20.

4. Ann Curry ousted from ‘Today’

Only one year after Ann Curry was named Meredith Vieira’s replacement as “Today” co-anchor — finally snaring that coveted seat next to Matt Lauer — Curry was out in late June, and Savannah Guthrie was in.

Reasons for Curry’s ouster ranged from never completely developing on-screen chemistry with Lauer to bearing part of the responsibility for ‘Today” losing its long run as the No. 1 network morning show to fierce rival “Good Morning America” at ABC.

While the longtime NBC star has gracefully stepped into her new role as a roving correspondent, rumors persisted that if NBC would release her from her contract, Curry might jump to CNN, where ex-“Today” honcho Jeff Zucker is the incoming top boss of the cable network.

5. Katie Holmes divorces Tom Cruise

While star splits are common, Katie Holmes’ carefully orchestrated exit from her five-year marriage to mega-star Tom Cruise caught him — and most of the world — slack jawed. Helped by her divorce lawyer father, Holmes craftily got her legal affairs together and pounced June 29, while Cruise was in Iceland filming the upcoming sci-fi thriller, “Oblivion.”

As with all big stars who can sell celebrity magazines, Cruise and Holmes have been targeted with splitsville rumors, almost since they tied the knot in an Italian castle in November 2006. However, even close associates were taken by surprise, both by the speed of Holmes filing and how quickly the divorce was concluded and settled.

As for reasons? It’s likely Cruise’s total devotion to the Church of Scientology and Holmes’ concerns about their daughter Suri being swept up by the controversial religious organization’s teachings played a big part in the couple becoming estranged.

6. Seth MacFarlane named Oscars host

He really only has been involved with one big screen movie — the hilarious “R”-rated comedy “Ted” — but the Motion Picture Academy’s ongoing crusade to regain young viewers for the annual Oscars show led them to tap the creator of such animated TV hits as “Family Guy,” “American Dad!” and “The Cleveland Show” to host the 2013 Academy Awards. While veteran Oscar emcee Billy Crystal was generally praised for his performance this past February — stepping in as a familiar and popular host after Eddie Murphy exited — the Academy knows putting a hip, young face to its annual worldwide production is key to attracting the younger viewers.

7. Young TV stars’ personal crises

While the behind-the-scenes drama involving Charlie Sheen and “Two and a Half Men” show creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre caused huge headlines in 2011, few people saw an arguably less-contentious, yet surprising brouhaha in the fall involving longtime “Half” star Angus T. Jones. The devout Christian and disciple of controversial online spiritual leader Christopher Hudson released a video calling the show “filth” and urging the public not to watch it. The 19-year-old actor is still under contract to the show for another year, but even before his video rant, his role in the show had diminished: His character, Jake Harper, is now in the army and he does not appear in every episode.

Equally surprising was the news that “Modern Family” star Ariel Winter is dealing with issues involving her mother, Chrisoula Workman. Since October, the young actress, who plays Alex Dunphy on the award-winning hit ABC sitcom, has been living with her sister, soap actress Shanelle Gray. Workman has been accused of both physically and emotionally abusing her younger daughter, and on Dec. 12 a court ordered the actress’ father, Glenn Workman, to have temporary control of Ariel’s finances, estimated to be in the area of $2 million. Both parents were also ordered to undergo counseling with both daughters in hopes of reaching a long-term solution.

8. Surprising star splits

Certainly marriages and relationships can collapse at any time, but the breakups of these longtime couples seem more of a shock.

† One of the uglier splits came when supermodel Heidi Klum and the English singer Seal went their separate ways at the beginning of 2012. Together for seven years, they are the parents of three biological children, plus Seal adopted Klum’s daughter Leni, who was born after the couple got together in 2004.

Seal’s anger over the breakup of his marriage led him to charge Klum’s bodyguard Martin Kristen with having an affair with her — leading to the couple’s split. Klum denies that, but does admit she and Kristen began dating in September.

† Though there have been no fireworks — yet — many were surprised by the news Oscar winner Russell Crowe and his wife, fellow Australian Danielle Spencer, were ending their marriage. Sources indicate the usual reasons were responsible: The actor’s many film commitments have led him to spend little time at home with his wife and family.

† Perhaps the biggest surprise was the separation of long-married Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman. Married 30 years and the parents of three grown children, there were rumors Perlman had tired of her husband’s roving eye. However, in November, DeVito told the press he and his wife were trying to work things out and he was hopeful there might be a reconciliation.

9. Sports stars and Hollywood stars align

There were some intriguing connections this year involving Chicago Bears and a couple of well-known beauties.

† Not only did Bears quarterback Jay Cutler begin dating — then briefly splitting with — TV reality star Kristin Cavallari, the couple (who are now engaged) welcomed son Camden Jack on Aug. 8.

† It didn’t last long, but the Chicago media — this reporter included — had a field day chronicling the comings and goings and dining locations of Jenny McCarthy and Brian Urlacher as they dated over the summer. The actress and Sun-Times Splash columnist and the burly Bear decided they were better friends than lovers and parted amicably.

10. Senator Judd?

There certainly have been numerous examples of actors becoming politicians — Ronald Reagan being the most famous. However, many were surprised when actress Ashley Judd’s name was touted for a possible U.S. Senate run in her native Kentucky in 2014. While the chances of a very liberal Democrat like Judd would be very challenging in firmly conservative “red” state Kentucky, Judd did not dismiss the idea out of hand. Instead, she said she was honored to be considered and would give it some thought. Her opponent would be Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

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