The Examined Life Of Angelina Jolie Pitt

Through her humanitarian work, she says, she also managed to find herself. Her father, actor Jon Voight, famously left her mother when Jolie Pitt was still a toddler and has been estranged from his daughter for most of her life. Jolie Pitt describes Bertrand, who lost her own mother at a young age and whose acting ambitions were never realized, as “the greatest mother.” But, she says, as a child, “I was always worried about her.” In her teens, Jolie Pitt suffered from depression, which she attributes in part to her “unhealthy” hometown. “I grew up in L.A., where focus is very inward. I didn’t know why I was so destructive and miserable. I didn’t appreciate or understand my life.” Her unhappiness was further compounded by guilt. “I was raised in a place where if you have fame and money and you’re decent-looking and have the ability to work in this industry, you have everything in the world. Then you attain those things and realize you still couldn’t be more empty. I didn’t know where to put myself.”

Since success came at an early age (she appeared in her first movie, alongside her father, when she was 7), Jolie Pitt also found herself sitting down to interviews and being treated as if her opinions mattered, even though, she says, “I hadn’t earned that. I wasn’t evolved yet.” In much of her early work, she says, she sought connection through characters in film. “It was an excuse to understanding behavior, understanding different people, walks of life. But it wasn’t fulfilling either.”

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If her work with the UNHCR finally gave her a place to “put herself,” the organization gave her validation of a different sort in 2001 by asking her to serve as goodwill ambassador. “It was during a time when there was a lot of gossip about me,” she says. “I told them I didn’t think they realized what they’d be bringing upon the agency, that a lot of people didn’t see me the same way they did, and I thought it would be a negative.” As it turned out, the high commissioner not only wouldn’t take no for an answer, he offered his sympathy. “He said he was sorry. It was the most amazing thing. I’d never had sympathy for something like that.”

Since then, Jolie Pitt has more than repaid the organization’s faith in her. Marie-Noelle Little-Boyer, a U.N. external relations officer who’s made almost 60 trips with the star, says they average five to seven trips to refugee camps a year, in addition to Jolie Pitt’s appearances before the Security Council or meetings in Geneva. “The trips are never about her; it’s about what she sees and how she uses it, how it feeds her advocacy work,” says Little-Boyer. “She has the rare ability to sit down and spend hours with refugees, but she has an equally deft touch when she advocates for them with political leaders.” The pair has spent countless nights in tents, army barracks, shared hotel rooms, even cars. “I sometimes think she spends more time in the field than a lot of my colleagues.” And certainly more time than the great majority of her fellow actors. Little-Boyer speaks with barely disguised disdain of the “massive circus groups” organized for Hollywood stars. “They stop at one tent and hold a baby,” she says. “That’s precisely not what these trips are with [Jolie Pitt]. It’s just refugees and her in this intimate space. There’s no place for anything Hollywood or celebrity.”

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The more time Jolie Pitt has spent on the ground, the more she has proven herself unafraid of taking the U.N. itself to task. But even then, she’s never a show horse. “I don’t want to speak up just to be on record,” she says. “I’m not somebody who believes that just to criticize is going to make a difference.” At an appearance before the Security Council in late April, she excoriated members for their “lack of political will” on the Syrian refugee crisis. At once quietly outraged and tragically prescient, she cited the “evil that has arisen from the ashes of indecision,” offering horrific examples as well as constructive suggestions. Since the crisis began in 2011—and unlike most people in the chamber that day—Jolie Pitt had made 11 trips to visit Syrian refugees in five countries, including Iraq and Turkey.

She wants her life to be meaningful and goes open-eyed into it. She’s someone who thinks very deeply about everything she does.

“She wants her life to be meaningful and goes open-eyed into it,” says Hillenbrand. “She’s someone who thinks very deeply about everything she does.” The author cites as a prime example Jolie Pitt’s decision to go public with her preventive double mastectomy in 2013 as well as the removal of her ovaries earlier this year. (She has a genetic mutation that puts her at an abnormally high risk for both breast and ovarian cancer, as well as a family history of both.) “She did not have to do that,” Hillenbrand says, “but that is who she is. She was willing to come forward and be raw and honest and intimate—and to become a mortal in people’s eyes. This is a public figure who has been measured by her physical self, by her sex appeal. Yet she took a very frightening thing and turned it into something that could save the lives of people who otherwise might have died. That she was willing to expose such a private and personal thing, I thought that was so brave.”

Pitt says he doubts his wife would call her choice to go public with her decisions brave, noting that “she’s never been a person who hides. She’s utterly forthcoming and sincere about who she is.” He adds that once she’s made up her mind, she’s always been unwavering about her choices. “I’ll tell you this about her surgeries: Once the decision was made, she was on the operating table two weeks later.”

If she was confident in her decision, she had painful reasons to be. “You have to understand that this is a woman who never knew she’d make it to 40,” Pitt says. “This is a woman who had watched her mother, aunt and grandmother become sick and eventually succumb, all at an early age. Her drive, her absolute value in herself, is defined by the impact she can have during her time here—for her kids and for the underprivileged and those suffering injustices.”

Jolie Pitt doesn’t just manage to make time for her own family or for displaced people around the world. In spring 2014, for example, when NBC dedicated the Brokaw News Center in Universal City, California, Jolie Pitt called the anchor, who’d been struggling with multiple myeloma, and said she and Pitt would love to meet his kids and show them clips from Unbroken. When the Brokaw family, including daughter Sarah, a single mom of a son, repaired to the house, it was, says Brokaw, love at first sight. “Angie sees this charismatic boy. He lights up, she lights up. Then she takes him in her arms and walks around with him for half an hour.”

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Though Brokaw was touched by Jolie Pitt’s sweetness, it’s her “quirky sense of humor” that he especially admires, he says: “She has a great sense of irony about herself. During one of our first interviews she was very frank about her past and had a charming ability to mock her rebellious childhood. She sort of shakes her head at what a wild child she was. When I’m with her now, I kind of can’t believe it either—she’s going around to refugee camps.”

No matter how many camps she visits, Jolie Pitt still gets plenty of reminders and questions about more trivial matters—everything from that vial of ex-husband Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck (really just a smudge on a locket) to her weight (if the tabloids have it right, she’s so skinny she’s on her deathbed pretty much always). Asked if she’s sick of the dredging of old issues and made-up new ones, she says, simply, “I don’t mind. I mean, I think you just have to look at whether or not you can still be effective with what you want to do. And if anything gets in the way of that, then you have a problem. But I don’t.”

One thing she says she wants to do more of is direct rather than act. Her career in front of the camera has featured a remarkably varied range of roles, including her Oscar-winning turn as a teenage sociopath in 1999’s Girl, Interrupted and a widely admired portrayal of Cornelia Wallace, the second wife of segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace. Then there is her action-hero side, which has served, she says, as a useful outlet. “I did Wanted after my mother died, and I did Salt after I had twins. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I go through these moments where I just want to pull the covers over my head, so I go get aggressive instead.”

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As fun and physically testing as her action roles are, she says that these days she prefers to “stay in my own space in my own clothes” with the camera pointed the other way. (“I’m not sure she ever really enjoyed acting, but was doing it more for her respect for artists and her mother, who loved the art,” Pitt says. “With writing and directing she has discovered her own joy within it.”) Since By the Sea involved the camera pointing both ways, it was a bit of a challenge, Jolie Pitt admits, “but we did have some hysterical moments where I’d hear that something was off, and I’d come racing down to the set in my slippers and curlers with half an eye made up and looking like a complete maniac.” She laughs. “The idea of Vanessa directing anything is just wrong.”

Equally comical is the image of Jolie Pitt, still in costume as her character Vanessa, joining the kids at the local pet store to acquire what ended up being “quite a few” hamsters. Pitt was out of town, and Jolie Pitt had been charmed by the sight of some chipmunks in the window, so she met the children there after work. “So I was Vanessa in the pet store, which was already a whole bunch of weird. And then I put my finger near a chipmunk, and it nearly bit it off. Then we saw these tiny little miniature hamsters, and somehow everybody wanted one or two. By the time Dad got home, they were running everywhere. And there are cats all over Malta, so we had the cats going after the hamsters and the hamsters escaping and it was hysterical.”

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At the end of the shoot, she says, they returned to Los Angeles with the new additions to the family menagerie (which also includes two dogs), and to their fairly bare-bones household. The children, who range in age from 7 to 14, are home-schooled, and there are three teachers on duty in the daytime. But, says Jolie Pitt, no one stays the night. “We wake up, we make breakfast. In our domestic life, we’re Mom and Dad,” she says. “And often we’re dorky Mom and Dad, which the kids find ridiculous.”

Says Pitt, “When Angie has a day off, the first thing she does is get up and take the kids out.  This is the most important ‘to do’ of the day.  No matter how tired she might be, she plans outings for each and all.  She has an incredible knack for inventing crazy experiences for them, something new, something fresh. I may be the bigger goof of the pair, but she invents the stage.”

More than anything, Jolie Pitt says, touching on her experience with her own mother, “I want to make sure my kids are never worried about me. Even if I’m going through something, I make sure they are very aware that I’m totally fine. I’ll stop and make a joke, I talk to them. I never, ever want them to have that secret worry and feel that they have to take care of me.”

It also doesn’t sound as though they have to worry much about Mom and Dad as a unit either. “When something happens in your life that’s a dramatic thing, you either pull together or you go into your own,” Jolie Pitt says, referring to By the Sea and the trauma that drives a wedge between Roland and Vanessa. “So many times, people divorce very quickly. To me, if this film has a message, it’s that you have to try to weather the storm together no matter what. And that’s a beautiful thing.”

Source : https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-examined-life-of-angelina-jolie-pitt-1446687750

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The Examined Life of Angelina Jolie Pitt
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