Angelina Jolie: The Joy of Being Jolie
Angelina Jolie goes right over the top in beauty, in talent, in accomplishments, in love and in public. She just might go over the top in stardom, too, as action heroine Lara Croft in this summer's Tomb Raider.
I interviewed Jon Voight at my house in L.A. in 1978 when he was filming The Champ. Now, 23 years later, I'm talking to his 25-year-old daughter, Angelina Jolie, who, having won an Oscar at an extraordinarily young age, stands a good chance of becoming a huge star in this summers action adventure Tomb Raider, I'm curious to see if she's at all like her father, who was (and still is) intense, focused and original in his thinking. I already have a good idea of what Jolie might be like based on the public image she's created in the four years since she showed up in TNT's George Wallace. This is a woman who admitted to reciting her marriage vows to her Hackers costar Jonny Lee Miller in a blood-stained shirt and rubber pants. Who, after playing a bisexual junkie in HBO's Gia, didn't deny rumors that she fancied women. Who once said in an interview, "You're young, you're drunk, you're in bed, you have knives, shit happens." Who kissed her brother on the mouth at the Oscars last year, and during her acceptance speech for winning Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted, told the world she was in love with him. Who abruptly decided to marry Billy Bob Thornton, her Pushing Tin costar, in a Las Vegas chapel, much to the surprise of her family and Thornton's girlfriend, Laura Dern.
But unlike many headline-grabbing actresses, Jolie is even more interesting on-screen than off. The dangerously screwed-up beauties she has played in George Wallace, Gia, Playing by Heart, Pushing Tin and Girl, Interrupted have all been tangible, believable creations. In her first big-budget thriller, The Bone Collector, she easily matched the skill and intensity of Denzel Washington. She's likely to stun audiences as the take-no-prisoners action heroine Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, a fantasy adventure adapted from the video game by director Simon West (see story on p. 54). And who isn't looking forward to watching her later this summer when she plays the sex-obsessed femme fatale who enraptures Antonio Banderas in Original Sin?
When Angelina Jolie greets me for this interview, she strikes me as someone fully capable of doing all that she has done offscreen and all that she's expected to do on-screen as Lara Croft. She's dressed in a black T-shirt and black leather jacket, and she looks like she might throw a mean right if provoked. "Call me Angie," she says, reaching out to shake my hand. I can tell she is indeed something like her father--intense, focused. And I have little doubt that, like her father, she'll be original in her thinking.
LAWRENCE GROBEL: You've already won an Oscar and you're starring in a huge action movie that could make you even more powerful. Do you feel you're living a fantasy?
ANGELINA JOLIE: Yeah, I feel extremely blessed. But it wasn't only about getting here. I enjoyed all the steps that got me here.
Q: You've said that playing Lara Croft in Tomb Raider was one of the hardest things you've ever done as an actor.
A: I said that because it was such a challenge physically, and because playing the character was difficult, too. It's easier to act crazy than to hold your head up high, stand up, make an articulate speech, and be lovely. Nobody wants to do that without laughing.
Q: Your father plays Lara Croft's father in Tomb Raider, and it's an interesting coincidence that both he and the character he plays were largely absent from their daughters' childhoods.
A: I never remember a time in my life when I needed my father and he wasn't there. But he's an artist, and it was a certain time in his life. And it was the '70s, a strange time for everybody. To this day, I think my parents really love each other. It's a beautiful love story. I saw them at Christmas--they came to our house. They helped put the house together because Billy and I were both away working. When we came home, they were finishing off the Christmas tree. They're wonderful to each other.
Q: Do you think your dad is an intense person?
A: He's always been very intense. We sat in my office the other night and just talked about amazing things: great people in history, great artists, great work, great music. We can talk for hours. Or we'll call and we'll each be in character and we'll tell each other what scene we did that day and why it was funny, and we'll act it out for each other.
Q: Did you have many battles with him over the years?
A: My dad and I are a lot alike. We can push each other's buttons.
Q: Your father said that he took a lot of his work home with him, which wasn't necessarily a virtue. Do you do that as well?
A: I do that, but thank God I'm with Billy. While preparing for Tomb Raider, I went through a slow change to play this strong woman. Billy was playing a neurotic, unstable person at the time, so the two of us together were just very funny. [Laughs] My character loved to attack his.
Q: What's the best aspect of making an action film on this grand a scale?
A: We were able to film in amazing countries. In Angkor, Cambodia, I met monks who performed a ceremony for us. We also went to Iceland.
Q: Did working in foreign countries broaden your world view?
A: I've just started to travel a lot with Tomb Raider. We filmed in London, and while I was in Europe I had an awakening. The news is very different there, and I heard a lot about what was going on around the world. I was seeing how other people lived. I hadn't been educated about things that I now think are very important--like Pol Pot. I didn't understand what was going on in Sierra Leone--and when I'd see something about it, I couldn't stop crying. The world is so much bigger than I had thought about before. Then I realized that it doesn't take a lot to help out--and I'm in a place where I can do that. Selfishly, it feels really good to do something important with your life.
Q: So, I understand you're about to leave for Africa. What will you be doing there?
A: I'm working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Q: What is the U.N. asking of you?
A: They didn't ask me to do anything. I called them and explained that I wanted to get to know their organization. I was asking them to help educate me--and to let them know that if I could help them in the future, I'm willing. I have no idea what's going to happen.
Q: Are you prepared for all the bugs and mosquitoes?
A: Yeah, we had a lot of that in Cambodia. We were all on malaria pills very quickly.
Q: An action star rarely gets through a film without an injury. What did you experience on the set of Tomb Raider?
A: I got every different possible injury. I pulled ligaments, burned myself on a chandelier. I just went to a masseuse recently who said, "Your shoulders are clicking." Well, no surprise. But the most difficult thing was learning how to do bungee ballet. It took a while to learn how to work with the harnesses.
Q: Did you take the harnesses home so you could put them on Billy Bob?
A: We don't need harnesses! But I do have a fur-lined harness at home, yes.
Q: HOW happily married are you?
A: Very. It hit me the other day when I was at home with Billy and his children. My dad stopped by, and then my mom came by, and I was baking with an Easy-Bake Oven. And Billy and I looked at each other and smiled.
Q: An Easy-Bake Oven? Isn't that a toy?
A: [Laughs] It's a fake oven, yeah, but you can make small cakes with it. I'm very excited by my oven.
Q: What other odd things do you have in the house?
A: I have a rat, Billy has a mynah bird. Our life is perfect. [Laughs]
Q: What are the two of you like when you're alone together?
A: We open up to each other, talk about painful things we've gone through, the times when we felt like failures. We'll hold each other and we feel like things are going to be OK.
Q: When you met Billy Bob on the set of Pushing Tin, was there an immediate attraction? A: Uh-hmm.
Q: John Cusack was also on that set. Did you notice him?
A: He's a cute guy as a friend. Billy's my kind of cute, know what I mean? When I met him, my first thought was, Oh, God, that's the kind of person I was hoping existed. The way he talks to people, the things he laughs at, the way he looks, the way he dresses. And just the smile in his eyes, his sense of humor, his mind when he talks about his work. I'm so happy to have met somebody that makes sense to me. I'm just happy to know he's alive. It's like discovering an author who speaks to you. You think, Thank God, that's exactly what I've been trying to say.
Q: Did you sense Billy had a thing for you?
A: No. I understood right away that he was with someone, and I would never have assumed that he liked me.
Q: You've said that Billy is the most amazing man you've ever met. What's so amazing about him?
A: He's just an amazing person and it could be the thing that will drive him mad. It's hard for him to live in himself sometimes. We all have a bit of that, but he has it to an extreme. He feels everything. He notices everything. And he can't help but be completely honest.
Q: What makes him so sexy to you?
A: Oh, God. You ask me that and you want me to stay here and talk to you? [Laughs] He's an amazing lover and he knows my body. He knows things that I don't know. Somehow he just brought me to life. [Laughs] Just the way he walks. The way his boots look in the closet. The way he looks first thing in the morning, when he's just half-awake and I can jump on him. He's just sexy being who he is. When he's passionate about something and he can't get off the phone or he can't stop writing. He used to sit in his car and listen to music and think until he ran the battery down. That kind of intensity translates in every way, and when it's directed towards you, it's the most amazing feeling in the world.