The stardust is finally settling around Gwyneth Paltrow's feet now that she and actor Brad Pitt have gone their separate ways.

Even with photographers leering at them through telephoto lenses, headlines tracking their latest tryst and fans shrieking with adulation, Paltrow managed to keep her cool.She continued to make interesting movies such as "Emma," "The Hard Eight," "The Pallbearer," "Great Expectations" and now "Sliding Doors," which opens in 40 cities on May 1 and goes national on May 8.

"I felt really fortunate to get to play two really different roles," she says, "especially when everybody's paying attention to everything you do, who you're going out with and what you're eating," she says.

The two roles include the recent classic cold-hearted Estella of "Great Expectations" and the dual part she plays in "Sliding Doors" as a woman whose life follows parallel paths when the door of the London Underground closes, leaving her on the platform, vulnerable to the quirks of Fate.

From her perspective - inside that elegant 5-foot-10-inch body - Paltrow, 24, can't tell if tabloid scrutiny is less intense since her breakup with Pitt.

"I can't read any of it and don't look at any of it," she shakes her head. "I just think it's destructive and think that it takes me out of reality. I can't acknowledge. You can't go through life thinking you're different from the rest of the world, it really isolates you. I think it makes you start taking advantage of things and it starts obscuring who you really are. I try to keep as removed from all that as possible."

She's had the opportunity to observe others in similar predicaments. "You have to remain above it," she cautions.

"You have to be, otherwise you go insane. You hang out with some famous people and you're, like, they have no idea what it is to be a real person," she says.

"It's just years of slow erosion. They're getting pulled more and more out of reality. People are saying `yes' to them all the time, so they're positively reinforcing bad behavior and things that are kind of aberrant. You watch it, and you go, `This is insane.'

"I think it's a very hard place to live, in a way, because everybody projects all this stuff on you. You're supposed to fulfill all these responsibilities with everyone saying, `We now make you responsible for this,' " she says.

"Every time you go out, people want something from you or are watching you. You have to really actively pursue normalcy. If you sort of relax and just see what happens, you'll go off the deep end. It has to be something you really do on purpose."