Hollywood's Super Woman Angelina Jolie, In 'A Mighty Heart'


Once branded a siren, Angelina Jolie is now known as a peace activist. She tells Ivor Davis about playing Mariane Pearl, whose husband was murdered by terrorists.

Not so long ago, Angelina Jolie was cast as Hollywood's scarlet woman.

The headline-hugging actress had stolen Billy Bob Thornton from the arms of his actress fiancee Laura Dern. Jolie and Thornton then married, spoke endlessly about their choice of jewellery - vials of each other's blood as a token of undying love - and then swiftly divorced.

Soon after, she ran off with her Mr And Mrs Smith co-star Brad Pitt, leaving his wife, Jennifer Aniston, bitter. Thereafter, Jolie was portrayed as a man-eating seductress with all the morals of an alley cat.

What a difference a few years and a ton of good publicity can make. The 32-year-old star with legendary pouting lips has turned it all around. She's more likely to be seen on a list of the world's most admired women than vamping it up with a new lover. She's Hollywood's No.1 female superstar but also a much-publicised humanitarian.

And Jolie has also managed to turn Pitt from another handsome Hollywood leading man into father-of-the-year material as they travel the globe with their four children - three adopted and their biological daughter, Shiloh.



It was a romance many predicted would quickly combust. On the contrary, it seems to go from strength to strength, as does Jolie's respectability. She donates a third of her income to charity, she is goodwill ambassador of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and is undertaking philanthropic work all over the world.

As if this were not enough, Jolie is tipped to win her second Oscar when the little gold men are handed out next year. Jolie won a best supporting actress Academy Award in Girl, Interrupted and is a contender for another trip to the podium, this time for best actress, for her new drama A Mighty Heart, based on the book by Mariane Pearl.

In the movie, produced by Pitt and directed by Englishman Michael Winterbottom, Jolie plays Mariane, wife of The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. In 2002 Daniel Pearl was on assignment in Karachi, Pakistan, with his wife. He was investigating the case of Richard Reid, the British shoe bomber, and alleged links between al-Qaeda and Pakistan's intelligence services. He went off to interview a source and never returned. He had been kidnapped by Islamic militants and, despite worldwide efforts to have him released, he was executed by his captors who circulated a video of the killing.

Five years later and thousands of kilometres away, Jolie settles back in a suite at a luxury Beverly Hills hotel to discuss Daniel Pearl's fate and the impact it had on Mariane, who was expecting the couple's child at the time of the kidnapping. Toys are littered on the suite's floor, although Jolie's children, Maddox, 6, Pax, 3, Zahara, 2, and Shiloh, 16 months, are nowhere in sight.



Jolie admits that being a mother helped her understand some of the pain Mariane must have endured after Daniel's kidnapping and the birth of their son, Adam, three months after her husband's death.

"I think it just made me that much more aware of the great loss that she suffered at a time when she was pregnant," Jolie says. "And then having that son. And thank God she was pregnant and she had Adam, which made everything deeper.

"Knowing there's a little boy - that makes me think of my son - and knowing that one day he would see this film made us all work that much harder."

However, she says it was by no means easy for her to play Mariane, a Paris-based journalist of Dutch-Jewish, Afro-Latino-Cuban-Chinese ancestry.

Even before filming, Jolie and Mariane had become friends after Pitt introduced them when he bought the rights to Mariane's book.

There was a furore when it was announced that Jolie would play the part because earlier stories had suggested Pitt had bought the book so Aniston could play the part of Mariane. It seemed the Friends star, who divorced Pitt in 2005, had not just lost her husband but had been cheated out of a role that might have helped her campaign to be taken seriously as an actress.

Pitt now says: "I always thought Angelina would be perfect to play Mariane but even as the producer I knew it might be tricky to make it happen."

Jolie says she, too, was very apprehensive about stepping into the role.

"The pressure was so much that I didn't sleep the night before we began filming," she says. "I questioned myself through the entire shooting. I respected Mariane before I met her, particularly the way she handled things in TV interviews. And when I met her I discovered what a lovely, gracious woman she is and what a great mother she is."

Jolie was impressed by the way Mariane responded to her husband's death, even going on television shortly after he had been murdered to say she knew that the families of 10 other Pakistanis killed were also suffering.

"I couldn't understand how she was able to come to that place so quickly," says Jolie, who lost her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, to ovarian cancer this year. "But when I got to know her I understood how she was able to cope."

As a result, the actress felt she had an obligation to portray her friend correctly.

"She's the last person I would want to disappoint in any way and it was a huge responsibility to not just try to be her in the film, but to be her during the most difficult time in her life and to try and interpret her pain and love for her husband.

"She had faith in me that I would be the right person to do it and I think without that I would never have ever taken the role."

Jolie says she learnt a lot about herself from playing Mariane.

"I learnt to be even more tolerant. I think of myself as quite an open and tolerant person but I'm quick to anger and with situations like this I don't know if I would have had the strength to do what she did."

With her full schedule and her large brood, Jolie says she and Pitt know how important it is to have their priorities in order.

She insists that their youngsters have adjusted to their jet-set lifestyle and their multiple homes in different continents.

"The children seem to like travelling," she says. "And we try to never leave them with too many things. Here we have video games but we don't have video games in any of these other places. This hotel has a pool and that's nice. And we make sure that they spend chunks of time with us."

She says she often jokes about their lifestyle with Maddox .

"We'll go somewhere like Cambodia," she says. "We'll take our shoes off and walk across the rocks. There was a time when he was starting to whine about little things like that. And I'll tell him, 'Everybody in Cambodia can walk like that. They get tough Cambodian feet, so we'll take our shoes off and walk across the rocks and go eat a cricket.'
"With young kids you can make the differences of the world not uncomfortable and not weird but really exciting and really tough, cool and fun. So they seem to have a real joy. When we were preparing for this film we were in Namibia and they went to the bushmen's school for a while and loved it."

But despite her over-subscribed life, her ceaseless globe-trotting, her movie career and her other roles as a partner and mother, she claims she is firm about her goals.

"I like to take time off and try to do the things I want to do," she says. "Like right now learn to speak French properly."

And she wants a bigger family: "I want to have more kids and I want to get to know them and spend time with them and be home and make a lot of school lunches."

But a busy lifestyle has its drawbacks, a fact Jolie acknowledges.

"I have lots of goals," she says. "But at the end of the day I just want to keep going ... I tend to make my life very crowded and I don't give the things that matter as much time as they need sometimes. I try to do too much. That's something I need to conquer."

The rise and rise of Angelina

The daughter of Oscar winner Jon Voight, Angelina Jolie was destined for stardom at an early age.

She made her screen debut opposite her father in the 1982 comedy Lookin' To Get Out, before taking acting classes at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Los Angeles.

After two years of studying "the method", she dropped out to pursue a modelling career, which proved less than successful.


She returned to acting, hitting the big time in the 1997 telemovie George Wallace, which earned her a Golden Globe Award.

But it was not until the following year that she gained wide recognition for her portrayal of doomed, drug-addicted model Gia Carangi in the mini-series Gia.

Typically, the quixotic actress decided to quit acting after her breakthrough role, moving to New York to study writing and filmmaking and "collect" herself.

However, it was not long before casting directors were beating a path to her door and she took a role in Pushing Tin, opposite Cate Blanchett and Billy Bob Thornton, who was to become husband No.2 after her split with her Hackers co-star Jonny Lee Miller.



Then came her scene-stealing role as the psychotic Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted, which won her the Oscar for best supporting actress.

But the part that earned her international success and a permanent place on the bedroom walls of teenage boys the world over was the video game heroine Lara Croft. The two films in the series made millions at the box office and catapulted Jolie to becoming one of Hollywood's highest-earning actresses, commanding $10 million to $15million a film.

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