Angelina Jolie Biography
While most Hollywood stars do everything they can to appear cool, professional and squeaky-clean, diligently concealing all their nasty little secrets, Angelina Jolie appears wholly unconcerned by controversy. Ever-keen to talk about her breakdowns, her disorders, her fantasies and her world-famous penchant for S&M, many would say she’s built a career on titillating public confession.
But she’s also an increasingly fine and award-winning performer, her Oscar for Girl, Interrupted being only the first in a string of prestigious honours. Onscreen, as in bed, she is a risk-taker, and perhaps deserves to be seen as the spiritual sister of such greats as Streep, Pfeiffer and Lange. Beyond this, her international efforts on behalf of children and refugees have made her the most public-minded superstar since Audrey Hepburn.
She was born Angelina Jolie Voight in Los Angeles, on June 4th, 1975 – her name meaning Pretty Little Angel. Her father, Jon, was already an established superstar, having topped the bill in such classics as Midnight Cowboy and Deliverance. When Angelina was 2, he’d scoop the Best Actor Oscar for Coming Home. By then though, he’d already split from her mother, the part-Iroquois actress and model Marcheline Bertrand (now Angelina’s manager), who’d moved with Angelina and her brother James to the East Coast – to the Palisades, New York, to be more precise.
Living here, Jolie was a happy child. She collected snakes and lizards – her favourite lizard being named Vladimir, and her favourite snake Harry Dean Stanton – and, oddly, like many females of her age, she had a major crush on Mr Spock. She would wear glittery clothing, including sparkly underwear, and flounce around, already performing, keen to make people laugh, to make them like her. She was a member of the Kissy Girls, who hunted boys down and kiss them till they screamed – until the school was forced to call the parents and the gang broke up. Marcheline would take the kids to the movies often, and Jolie claims this is where she got the notion to be an actress – not from her uncle, Chip Taylor (an actor and composer), not from her godmother Jacqueline Bisset, and definitely NOT from her father, though at age 7 she did appear in Lookin’ To Get Out, a movie about inveterate gamblers, co-written by and starring Jon Voight.
When Jolie was 11, her mother moved the family back to Los Angeles. They had already moved often, making the young girl feel constantly uprooted “I always dreamed”, she says “of having an attic of things that I could go back up and look at”. Now Angelina decided she wanted to act and, as ever jumping in at the deep end, enrolled at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, where she trained for two years, appearing in several stage productions.
As a pupil at Beverly Hills High School, she was not alone in her cinematic ambitions. But she certainly FELT alone in the midst of all those good-looking, pampered children, children who teased her mercilessly for wearing braces and glasses and being so painfully skinny. Unlike the other parents, Marcheline was not rich – so Angelina also had to seek her clothes at thrift stores like Aardvark. Her confidence received a further battering when her attempts at modelling proved fruitless. She never got picked – too short, too thin, too fat, too scarred.
Scarred – yes. Perhaps it was the many moves, maybe it was to do with her father, a lonely, detached figure who did not want to live with his family (Angelina always feared she would be like that herself). Maybe it was the relative poverty, or the taunting, or the way she felt that -with her big eyes, big lips, big everything – she looked like a muppet. But Angelina had come to hate herself, to feel absolutely worthless. She felt unworthy, didn’t like to be touched (she still has this problem sometimes). So, like too many young girls, she started to cut herself. At 14, she dropped out of acting classes and began an existence of fast-living and active self-loathing. She wore black, dyed her hair purple and went out slam-dancing with her live-in punk boyfriend. They experimented heavily in S&M, Angelina once asking him to draw a blade along her jawline (the scar is now faint, but still there).
At 16, her relationship ended. She moved to an apartment opposite her mother and went back to theatre. Now committed to acting, her first role was, unsurprisingly, as a German dominatrix. She began to learn from her father, noticed how he would watch people, talk to them, become like them. She stopped fighting with him so much too, realising that they were both “drama queens”. For his part, Voight noticed her talent, being moved to tears by her reading of the part of Catherine in A View From The Bridge.
With the braces and glasses gone, she became a model too, working in Los Angeles, New York and London. She also appeared in the video for Meat Loaf’s Rock’n'Roll Dreams Come Through – she’d later turn up in promos for Lenny Kravitz, Lemonheads and The Rolling Stones.
Her confidence rose, though it would often plummet back down. She tells a story of how once she was so down she actually tried to hire a man to kill her. Being a compassionate sort of assassin, he told her to think about it for a month. Obviously, she didn’t call him back.
Jolie had appeared in five of her brother’s student films, made while he attended the USC School of Cinema (he was now known as James Haven), but her movie career proper began in 1993, when she starred as Casella “Cash” Reese, alongside Elias Koteas and Jack Palance in Cyborg 2. Here, a near-human robot-thing, she was designed to seduce her way into the HQ of her creators’ rivals and blow up. Already, her sexual charisma had been noted.
Next came Hackers, where she met her first husband, Jonny Lee Miller, then riding high after his performance as Sick Boy in Trainspotting. Miller played a computer whizz-kid on the wrong side of the law, trying to save the world from a swine intent upon unleashing a vicious virus, while being pursued by the Secret Service. Jolie was Acid Burn, one of his team.
The pair fell for each other big-time and were married, Jolie possibly looking for some kind of stability in her life. Now began her explicit openness in the press, as she told lurid tales of their sexual exploits. “You’re young, you’re drunk, you’re in bed, you have knives; shit happens”, she said jokingly. It was also announced that, when getting married, Jolie had worn black leather pants and a white shirt with Miller’s name scrawled across the back in her own blood (well, who else’s blood would she use?). In interviews, Jolie explained that her interest in blood and death was of long standing. She not only collected knives, she said, but had a fascination with mortuary science and, as a child, had dreamed of becoming a funeral director. Less Maude than Harold, then.
Now the roles started coming fast and thick. Jolie starred with David Duchovny in the nasty, stylish thriller Playing God (she’d later date her other co-star, Timothy Hutton). Then, in the road-movie Mojave Moon, she was a youngster, named Eleanor Rigby, who falls for Danny Aiello, while he takes a shine to her mother, Anne Archer. In Foxfire, she was one of a group of teenage girls who kill a teacher who harasses them, then gradually go wholly out-of-control. Directed by Annette Haywood-Carter, this was very much a girl-thing, as was Jolie’s next release, the TV movie True Women, a Herstorical romantic drama set in the West, based on the book by Janice Woods Windle.
As a child, Jolie had always been encouraged to express her feelings, and now it really began to work for her. In biopic George Wallace, she played the wife of the segregationist Governor of Alabama who was shot and paralysed while running for President. This starred Gary Sinise and was directed by John Frankenheimer, but she more than held her own, picking up a Golden Globe and an Emmy nomination. Next came Gia, another biopic, this time of Gia Carangi, a lesbian supermodel from the Seventies.
This was crammed with sex, drugs and fearsome emotional drama, as Carangi crashed, burned and was eventually taken by AIDS. For the second consecutive year, Jolie won a Golden Globe, and was nominated for an Emmy. At the Golden Globes, by way of celebration, she jumped into a swimming-pool, clad in a hand-beaded Randolph Duke gown.
The emotional extravagance of these parts, added to her own confusion and pain, made living with Jolie an impossibility. She was breaking down and Miller could take no more. The couple split, Jolie living alone in Manhattan, getting her head together, and attending film classes at NYU. Now notorious for her candid quotes, her name stayed in the papers. The sexuality of Gia had got tongues wagging, and Jolie had made them wag some more by admitting to bi-sexuality, and a relationship with actress Jenny Shimizu.
Now came the comedy-drama Pushing Tin, about two air traffic controllers who engage in macho conflict. John Cusack was one, the other was Billy Bob Thornton, acclaimed director, writer and star of Sling Blade. Jolie played Thornton’s wife, an extremely sexy sort who sends the guys crazy and sleeps with Cusack. The film was excellent. More importantly for Jolie, she fell for Thornton, 15 years her senior, who proceeded to dump his longtime girlfriend Laura Dern. The pair became infamous for their salacious quotes, Thornton admitting that he liked to wear Jolie’s underwear, even to work, as it made him feel close to her. Actually, their quotes were often rude, but clearly loving.
Jolie was about to become a huge star. Winona Ryder has claimed that her character in Girl, Interrupted could have been her as a young girl. But Jolie’s character, Lisa Rowe – insanely ebullient then horribly depressed, hating but needing some form of structure to her life, even an institution – really WAS Jolie. Stealing the show entirely, she won the Oscar, and herein lies a sweet tale. At the time filming Original Sin down in Mexico, Jolie flew to the Oscar ceremony (she’d attended before, age 12 and all glammed up in lace and pearls, with her dad), won, then flew straight back, arriving at 4.30 am and going straight to sleep.
Suddenly, she was awoken by a mariachi band, hired by co-star Antonio Banderas and director Michael Cristofer. Stumbling from her trailer, she was handed a single rose by every member of the crew, many of whom, along with Cristofer, had worked on Gia and, remembering her at her lowest ebb, wished to recognise this moment of triumph. In the press, meanwhile, her victory was quickly overshadowed by freakish reports that she was having an affair with her own brother. They must have assumed she’d try anything once. This is a big part of the Jolie phenomenon – she has a searing reputation for being sexually voracious and promiscuous, yet says she’s slept with only a tiny handful of people.
After Girl, Interrupted came the psycho-thriller The Bone Collector, where she aided a bedridden Denzel Washington in his pursuit of a killer, then Gone In 60 Seconds, where Jolie played Sarah “Sway” Wayland, ex-girlfriend of super-car-thief Nicolas Cage. She didn’t have much to do but be charismatic, which she managed with ease – though she did look thin and drawn, something noted by Cristofer when Jolie moved directly from Gone In 60 Seconds on to the set of Original Sin. Based on Cornell Woolrich’s Waltz Into Darkness, this would be a steamy bodice-ripper where she played a mail order bride for Banderas’ coffee planter in 1900s Cuba, a bride who turns out to be dominating, manipulative and thoroughly untrustworthy. It was a wonder he didn’t mail her straight back.
Next would come the big one – Tomb Raider. To play videogame heroine Lara Croft, Jolie had to master a Brit accent and upper-class manners, plus kick-boxing, street-fighting, yoga, ballet, car racing and dog-sledding. Few actresses have the outlandish features and sheer physical power to pull off such a character, but Jolie managed it with some aplomb as Croft criss-crossed the globe, trying to prevent the Illuminati from using a magic triangle to control Time Itself. She would revisit the part in 2003 with the superior Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life.
Here a Chinese crime boss and evil mastermind would attempt to unleash a deadly plague that, for some reason, chose to remain in Pandora’s Box when all the other bad stuff sprang forth. Naturally, only Lady Lara Croft (in the original her aristocratic dad was played by Jon Voight) can save the day. Once again, Jolie impressed with her straight face, dry wit and comically unbreakable British resolve – she certainly gained more prestige than she would have done had she instead taken the role in Charlie’s Angels eventually filled by Lucy Liu.
Before the sequel, though, would come Life Or Something Like It where she played a Seattle TV reporter seemingly ambitious beyond her abilities. Stuck in a love triangle with a baseball pitcher and a cameraman, she’s informed of her own imminent death by a street preacher and must get her life in order before popping her clogs. It doesn’t sound good and it wasn’t, Jolie hardly being tested by such weak material.
Personally speaking, this was a hard time for Angelina. Having in 2001 adopted a Cambodian boy named Maddox, and having made clear her sympathy for nations much poorer than her own, she was made a Good Will Ambassador for the United Nations. It was a role she took seriously, visiting Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan and the Western Sahara. She examined first-hand the plight of refugees from Thailand and Chechnia, called for peace in Sri Lanka and pledged $5 million to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia (having been paid $12 million for Tomb Raider 2, this was something she could well afford).
Unfortunately, her relationship with Thornton did not survive this burst of activity. He, she later claimed, was more interested in his career (he was at the time concentrating on his music) and left her and Maddox to go out on tour. The couple would officially split up in May 2002 and divorce a year later, after almost exactly three years of marriage. And the split would bring about another when father Jon Voight used TV interviews to reach out to a daughter he said had “serious mental problems”. Angelina did not appreciate his words or tactics.
Having worked extensively in the UK on the Tomb Raider movies, Jolie would buy herself a house in Buckinghamshire and often be seen out with former husband Jonny Lee Miller. Despite giving much of her time to the UN, she was still fairly prolific on-screen. After Tomb Raider 2 would come Beyond Borders, long delayed after the sacking of Kevin Costner (for being too demanding) and the subsequent departure of Oliver Stone. Interestingly, the movie would see her as the daughter of a rich industrialist, meeting a renegade doctor (Clive Owen replacing Costner) and, inspired by his impassioned desire to save lives, helping him do just that in war-torn Africa and beyond. There were clear parallels with her own life.
2004 would bring a welter of work and another tumult of rumors. Onscreen, she’d open the year with Taking Lives, playing an intuitive American detective called up to help Montreal cops track down a serial killer. Through a strange and near-psychic process (as well as dogged police work), she reveals that the murderer, a major self-loather, has been offing people of gradually increasing age, stealing their identities and thereby living a series of different lives.
Artist Ethan Hawke is able to sketch the killer, but will that do any good? The movie was quite complex, full of clues, shocks and sly cheats, but it was rather overshadowed by the break-up of Hawke’s marriage to Uma Thurman. Naturally, rumours abounded that Jolie was the scarlet woman – in fact, it was model Jen Perzow.
Next came Shark Tale, an animation where Will Smith’s funky fish took credit for the accidental death of the son of shark mobster Robert De Niro. Now famous, Smith would attract the amorous, glamorous Angelina (a fish called Lola, of course) who’d tempt him to betray his long-time gal Rene Zellweger. Critics would complain that the film’s welter of references to the likes of Jaws and The Godfather would put it beyond the ken of most kids. Nevertheless, without challenging the monolithic success of Shrek, it was still a big hit.
After Shark Tale would come a real oddity, Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow. Inspired by 1950s sci-fi comics, this would see a crazed German scientist kidnap the world’s greatest minds and then send giant robots rampaging through the streets of New York City. Teaming up to foil this megalomaniac would be Jude Law’s freelance buccaneer, Gwyneth Paltrow’s scoop-hungry hack and Angelina, a sexy, piratical pilot who may well have caused the break-up of an earlier relationship between Law and Paltrow. Really, you couldn’t blame him.
Sky Captain, an FX marvel that had seen the actors working mostly against green screens, was a cinematic wonder, but not a hit. Much the same could be said of Jolie’s next venture, Oliver Stone’s epic Alexander. This saw her as Olympias, mother of Colin Farrell’s great conqueror. Married to a drunken Val Kilmer, she’s beaten and banished, but returns when her young son acquires the crown of Macedon, henceforth acting as his inspiration as he subjugates the nations. It was an odd movie, glorious in its scope, thrilling in its battle sequences, but undermined by the complexity of its message and its shy handling of Alexander’s bisexuality. Indeed, it was undermined to the extent that, having cost $150 million to make, its US box office takings stalled at $34 million. Ouch.
Generally slating the movie, the critics paid special attention to the eastern European accent Angelina adopted. Fans would say this was a tad unfair – after all, Macedonia borders on Bulgaria which, like Russia, touches the Black Sea. She wasn’t THAT far off. But her career did not suffer. In fact, she moved on to another major release, 2005′s Mr And Mrs Smith, where she and Brad Pitt starred as a bored couple whose marriage is both stimulated and endangered when they discover they’re both secret assassins, now unfortunately hired to kill one another. Even before its release the film would cause something of a stir. Firstly, extra shoots meant that Jolie could not carry the Olympic torch through Athens – her work for the United Nations High Commission For Refugees was to have seen her represent the world’s refugees. And there were the inevitable rumours of sexual misbehaviour. With Pitt and Jennifer Aniston the world’s most famous couple and Jolie Hollywood’s most notorious femme fatale, the tabloids, understandably, went bananas.
Angelina would also make efforts to branch out artistically. The Fever, directed by Vanessa Redgrave’s son Carlo Gabriel Nero, would be an HBO take on Wallace Shawn’s play about a middle-class woman’s political awakening. Ambitiously switching from action to filmed theatre to into-camera monologues, it would see Redgrave educated in the world’s political hot-spots by journalist Michael Moore and Jolie’s angry, pistol-packing revolutionary. There was also the long-delayed Love And Honour, where Angelina was to follow that other controversial sex goddess, Marlene Dietrich, into the part of Catherine The Great.
Still struggling with herself, and still publicly discussing her pleasures and pains (as well as her ever-increasing charity work – covered in part in her 2003 book Notes From My Travels), Jolie is one of Hollywood’s more complicated characters. Where she goes now, what happens next, will hopefully not lend prophetic truth to two of her many tattoos. Alongside the Japanese sign for death, Billy Bob, H, two Native American symbols, a dragon and a black cross, she has written on her body a Tennessee Williams line “A prayer for the wild at heart, kept in cages”, and “Quod me nutrit me destruit” – What nourishes me also destroys me. Let’s hope she benefits from the nourishment. And the cage.
She next appeared in Robert De Niro’s The Good Shepherd (2006), a film about the early history of the CIA, as seen through the eyes of Edward Wilson, played by Matt Damon. Jolie played the supporting role of Margaret Russell, Wilson’s neglected wife. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Jolie ages convincingly throughout, and is blithely unconcerned with how her brittle character is coming off in terms of audience sympathy.”
In 2007, Jolie made her directorial debut with the documentary A Place in Time, which captures the life in 27 locations around the globe during a single week. The film was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and is intended to be distributed through the National Education Association, mainly in high schools.
Jolie starred as Mariane Pearl in Michael Winterbottom’s documentary-style drama A Mighty Heart (2007), about the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. The film is based on Mariane Pearl’s memoirs of the same name and had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The Hollywood Reporter described Jolie’s performance as “well-measured and moving”, played “with respect and a firm grasp on a difficult accent.” The film earned her a fourth Golden Globe Award and a third Screen Actors Guild Award nomination. Jolie also played Grendel’s mother in Robert Zemeckis’ animated epic Beowulf (2007) which was created through the motion capture technique.
Jolie co-starred alongside James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman in the 2008 action movie Wanted, an adaptation of a graphic novel by Mark Millar. The film received predominately favorable reviews and proved to be an international success, earning $342 million worldwide. She also provided the voice of Master Tigress in the DreamWorks animated movie Kung Fu Panda (2008). With revenue of $632 million internationally, it became her highest grossing film to date.
The same year, Jolie played Christine Collins, the lead in Clint Eastwood’s drama Changeling (2008), which had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. It is based on the true story of a woman in 1928 Los Angeles who is reunited with her kidnapped son — only to realize he is an impostor. Jolie received her second Academy Award nomination, and also was nominated for a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, and the Screen Actors Guild Award. The Chicago Tribune noted, “Jolie really shines in the calm before the storm, the scenes when one patronizing male authority figure after another belittles her at their peril.”Related Information: