WHEN Jane Goldman was five, she tipped a pot of red paint over her head. It was the beginning of a lifelong desire to mark herself out from the crowd, one that has culminated in the past week with a semi-deliberate wardrobe malfunction and accusations that she is corrupting the young women of the world.
It can't be easy being Mrs Jonathan Ross. Yet 39-year-old Goldman has made an art of it, standing devotedly by her husband throughout the BBC scandal (it was she, it is rumoured, who finally persuaded him to leave the corporation) and swishing her distinctive red mane of hair whenever they are seen in public together.
But she is unused to the full beam of the spotlight, and is usually to be found off to one side of her jocular, publicity-courting husband. But with Kick-Ass, a movie about ordinary superheroes for which she wrote the screenplay, it is suddenly she, rather than he, who is making the headlines.
Perhaps this is unsurprising given that the film includes an 11-year-old girl assassin who wields guns and machetes, shoots to kill and whose opening line includes the C word, sparking outrage among the conservative press. That Goldman chose to turn up to the movie's London premiere in a dress that made so little attempt at covering her pneumatic 32FF cleavage that Fleet Street's Photoshop editors were pressed into overtime, has merely added more grist to the tabloid mill.
Life for Goldman, however, has always been about pushing boundaries. The five-year-old, who covered her hair in red paint on her first day at school, came from a liberal, middle class background in north London. Her father, Stuart, was a wealthy Jewish property developer. Both he and her Buddhist mother Amanda were laid back and permissive with their only child, failing even to raise an eyebrow when, despite being precociously intelligent, she quit the prestigious King Alfred School in Hampstead at 15 with eight O Levels and disappeared off to the United States to follow Boy George around on tour.
On her return she was offered a job as a showbiz reporter with the Daily Star. Her then boss, Rick Sky, described her as "incredibly spoilt, but invaluable to me" – as she was good at inveigling her way into the confidence of every new young band on the block. Aged 16 and at a party in the nightclub Stringfellows one night, Goldman spied Ross – then a 25-year-old up-and-coming TV presenter – on the other side of the room. Within 15 seconds of meeting him she was on the phone to her mother, telling her he was the man she was going to marry.
Ross – clean-cut and affable – was initially unsure, given the pair's nine-year age gap, and it was six weeks before he called her after their first date. Soon though, he was smitten, and they married in Las Vegas when Goldman was barely 18. The pair were besotted, with Ross frequently describing her as his "ideal woman" and having her name tattooed on his arm in Scrabble letters. And while they could easily have become a media power couple – many within the industry tipped Goldman as a future magazine editor or TV presenter – she took an altogether more traditional path: having babies. Indeed the arrivals of Betty Kitten, now 18, Harvey Kirby, now 16, and Honey Kinney, now 13, meant that by the time she was 26, Goldman was a mother of three.
"Having children at a young age really worked well for me," she said once. "When they were little, I wouldn't have wanted to be away from them so much. Now it's lovely having these little people in the house." Still, it seems to have created other pressures, and in 1999, Goldman suffered a mental breakdown which saw her enter the Priory.
"I was in a daze, feeling wretched," she said later. "It was a horrible state and scared the hell out of me. I seemed unable to control my behaviour. Suicide is not something I would consider being in my makeup. But it wasn't a rational thing. My behaviour seemed so irrational, and I seemed so unable to control it, I was worried there might be some subconscious level where I may do something stupid."
After two weeks she emerged from hospital, but the incident had clearly affected her marriage, and soon afterwards she and Ross briefly separated.
"I had to move out because we were fighting and arguing a lot at that point," she explained once. "It had been immensely stressful for Jonathan, with me suddenly going to pieces and him having to hold the fort." They reconciled six weeks later, seemingly stronger than ever, and soon afterwards renewed their wedding vows.
While she embraced full-time motherhood (the family, unlike many of their showbiz peers, have never employed a nanny) she never stopped writing, with a succession of non-fiction guides for teenagers, and a novel, Dreamworld, published in 2000.
In 2003 she even filmed Jane Goldman Investigates, a series on the paranormal for Living TV which involved her casting spells and attempting to read Tarot cards. Then, in 2007, she wrote the screenplay for Stardust, a Neil Gaiman novel. The film, directed by Matthew Vaughn and starring Claire Danes, didn't win huge audiences, but her talents were noticed. The screenplay for Kick-Ass, also directed by Vaughn, soon followed.
She is an avid reader of manga magazines and plays World of Warcraft, the role-playing computer game more usually popular with 15-year-old boys. She, Ross and their family lead a decadent, quirky and almost child-like life in north London – the house is packed full of pets such as ferrets and cats, they throw lavish fancy dress parties and decorate the house in their highly individual gothic style – just last week it was reported that Goldman had bought the replica of a two-headed child's skeleton.
Now appears to be Goldman's time to shine. There is another screenplay in the works, this time an adaptation of Susan Hill's classic novel The Woman In Black, as well as talk of more books. While her husband's remark last week that when he leaves the BBC later this year – "I'm going to be relaxing and let Jane earn all the money" – was made light-heartedly, there is probably an element of truth about it.
If so, she had better get used to the limelight. She claims not to be attention-seeking, saying she and her cloud of fire engine hair are often misinterpreted.
"In some way it's less courageous because it's essentially saying, 'I've opted out'," she said once. "It's saying 'Please don't judge me against society's standards! I know I don't measure up, I've opted out, I'm playing a different game.'"
Whatever game she's playing, right now, she appears to be winning.
• Her vivid hair colour is known as "Poppy Red". "As a teenager I always dyed it gingery red, but it was never red enough," she once said. "Then I found this colour."
• Goldman and Ross renewed their wedding vows in Sanrio in Japan, home of the cartoon cat Hello Kitty. The themed ceremony was performed by a talking tree, and the couple repeated their vows in Japanese in front of a life-sized Hello Kitty.
• Although she loves outrageous clothes, Goldman insists she is not a girly girl. "I don't really go in for 'treatments'. I'm the kind of person who will sleep in her make-up."
• She doesn't mind being known as Jonathan Ross's wife."I am perfectly happy to be Mrs Ross. Call me whatever you like. Call me Doris, I really don't care."
• In 2008 she won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, for her screenplay Starlight.