Angelina Jolie (4 June, 1975 – ) is an Oscar-winning actress, movie director, humanitarian and global celebrity. She rose to fame through her title role in the film “Lara Croft”. In recent years, she has moved into film production, acting as director, writer and producer. She is currently married to Brad Pitt, making them one of the best known celebrity couples in the world. She has six children, three of whom are adopted. She serves in a capacity as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR.
Angelina was born in Los Angeles, California. Her parents, Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand were actors, and this was a big influence on her early life. When she was 11, she enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute and performed in several theatre productions. This early training was important to her philosophy of acting. A major component of this acting school is to stay in part for the duration of the filming – taking on the characteristics of her characters.
She later studied film studies at New York University. When 16, she temporarily tried modelling and appeared in some music videos. However, this career did not take off. Ironically, for someone who would later be cited as the worlds ‘most beautiful women’, Angelina had difficult periods in her childhood. She recounts being picked on by other children for being very thin and wearing glasses.
More seriously she had a difficult relationship with her father Jon Voight. In her late teens, and early 20s she also suffered from depression and periods of self-harm. Looking back, she observed that she was
“just being a young girl who was experimental, bold and a bit nutty… I was absolutely self-destructive. I think a lot of young people in this business lose their way. You don’t know what is of value. You don’t know where you are. And you know something’s wrong, because it isn’t life as it actually is. It’s like living in some warped reality.” (Source: USA Today)
Angelina credits her first adopted daughter for helping her to pull out of depression and a tendency to self-harm. Jolie recounts then when she saw her adopted daughter she knew she would have to live more responsibly for her benefit. “I knew once I committed to Maddox, I would never be self-destructive again.”
In her teens, her acting career never really took off, as her demeanour was often considered too ‘dark’ and ‘punkish’
In 1993, she began her professional film career with her first major part in the sci-fi film ‘Cyborg 2’. Several roles in smaller films followed with Jolie receiving generally good praise, though the films did not go on to be major successes.
In 1997, she received her first Golden Globe Award for her performance in ‘George Wallace’ (1997). She played the second wife of Alabama segregationist governor – George Wallace.
In 1998, she starred in a biopic about Gia Carangi, a supermodel who struggled to deal with her fame and success – dying prematurely from AIDS as result of sharing drug needles. Jolie was praised for her performance; though by getting into character she became difficult to deal with, especially as there were some parallels with Jolie’s own struggles with depression.
In 1999, she starred alongside Denzel Washington in the successful film ‘The Bone Collector’ (1999). Also in that year she played a woman who spent time in a psychiatric hospital in ‘Girl Interrupted (1999)’. Her performance won her the triple crown of Golden Globe Award, the SAG and Academy Award for best leading actress. Jolie was gaining a reputation of producing strong acting performances and she became increasingly in demand. Her growing acting profile also led to increased media interest, especially because of her physical beauty, and colourful life.
In 2000, she was chosen to play the lead role in ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’. This was by far her most successful film commercially, becoming one of biggest grossing films of the year. The role involved considerable physical training to play the adventurous and athletic character, (often said to be a cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones.
It was filming Lara Croft in Cambodia that Jolie became more interested in humanitarian activities. She became an active participant in her role as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She has travelled extensively to areas such as Darfur, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. In 2012, she was appointed Special Envoy to High Commissioner Antonia Guterres. Jolie says she puts a third of her salary into savings, a third into living expenses and gives the final third to charity.
Speaking of her experience in visiting Afghanistan, she remarks
“Behind the labels — refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers — are people with the same hopes, fears, sorrow and happiness as anyone. Their life experiences are often deeply tragic but also uplifting. To survive what many Afghan families have experienced over three decades is testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. This shines through in their generosity, humour, and quiet determination to offer their children a better future.”
Jolie has become an advocate for children’s education and protecting the interest of child immigrants and other vulnerable children. She has also worked with the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict and has helped to establish education policies. In January 2011 she established the Jolie Legal Fellowship a network of lawyers who are sponsored to advocate development of human rights in developing countries. After she devoted more time to humanitarian work, her public profile changed from an image of a ‘wild child’ to a more positive image.
In 2004, Jolie began filming Mr & Mrs Smith (2005) with Brad Pitt. The film was noted for its on-screen chemistry between Jolie and Pitt (who was at the time married to Jennifer Aniston) Pitt later divorced Aniston and in 2014 the couple married.
Jolie has become one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. Her films are regularly commercially and / or critical success. With Jolie’s performances often being the stand out performance.
Successful films include:
- Beuwulf (2007) Jolie played shape-shifting seductress Grendel’s mother
- Wanted (2008) – an internationally successful action film
- Kung Fu Panda (2008) – Jol
- Changelings – Clint Eastwood drama
- Salt (2010)
- Maleficent (2014)
In 2007, she began her directing career with a documentary ‘A Place in Time’ (2007). Her full feature debut was a film ‘In the Land of Blood and Honey’ (2011) a love story set in the Yugoslav civil war between a Serb soldier and a Bosniak prisoner of war. She used only actors from the former Yugoslavia and the film was largely a critical success.
In 2014, she produced her second film ‘Unbroken’ about a World War II hero Louis Zamperini. Jolie admits she has a great interest in war movies, but was also attracted to tell this remarkable story of heroism and personal strength because of the personal qualities of Zamperini.
“I wanted them to be reminded of that thing inside of all of us, that rises up against these obstacles. That’s what Louie preached, to help in those dark hours to remember.” NY Times
In 2013, she had a preventative double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer. She wrote about her experience and choices she made, which she wrote about in a New York op-ed. Her doctors told her that her genes left her an 87% chance of developing breast caner. Her mother, Marchiland had died from Ovarian cancer. Jolie explained her decision to take preventative action.
“Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.”
Jolie remains one of the highest paid film stars and is one of the best known celebrities. This has led to highly paid endorsements, such as for a single Louis Vuitton production, which led to payment of a reported $10 million.
- Angelina Jolie – Notes from my travels at Amazon.com
- Angelina Jolie – Notes from my travels at Amazon.co.uk