July 2003 By PhilipBerk
Two years after Angelina Jolie adopted Maddox we met in a hotel foyer where she was proudly showing off her two year old son
Unaccompanied, she was happy beyond words.
The occasion was the press junket for the Lara Croft sequel.
I always knew she would make a wonderful mother. I remember when she was married to BIlly Bob Thornton and I asked her how she got along with his children, she enthused, “They have a wonderful mother, and she’s been very kind to me about making it comfortable for all of us to get to know each other as a family; so I am very grateful to her. They’re amazing children. They’re really great, two little boys, they’ll be seven and eight this year. They’re a lot like their dad, so it’s great to be around little Billys. It’s fun for me. It’s like having three of him. They’re very sweet, and they think I’m just silly.”
Does she enjoy having them over for a weekend?
“I’m finding that a real blessing. It has been beautiful. It’s like the simple things in life. I’m learning how to make pancake animals.”
At the Lara Croft Cradle of LIfe she has an (adopted ) child of her own.
Has becoming a mother changed her as an actress?
“I think it has because it affected me as a woman. I felt freer as a woman out of my marriage. Not freer in a careless way but freer to do little things like choosing my wardrobe. Before I needed to ask my husband (Billy Bob) for an opinion. And (while filming) I felt sexier. I felt like I could be more sexual as Lara because I wasn’t somebody’s wife. I had more fun with her because I had my son with me, and he enjoyed coming to see me hang off things, and when we weren’t shooting , we were able to go swimming in Greece and on safari in Africa. So this film was a much better experience than the first. I was much happier on this film.”
And as a woman?
“It’s helped to encourage the independent side of my spirit, to take care of myself and have confidence in myself and not look for protection or stability from other people.”
How was she able to adopt Maddox?
“I had applied for adoption. I knew I was going to adopt. So when I went to Cambodia for Beyond Borders and later for the U.N. I fell in love with the country and its people. I had always been told that if you adopt an orphan, you should have a connection to the country he’s from, because that’s the history you’re going to have to share with him. I wanted to make sure I loved the history; so I chose Cambodia. I went home, and I went through the process of becoming an adoptive parent, getting approved to do that, and then I went to Cambodia, and I went to one orphanage. I didn’t want to go to fifteen different orphanages and see 1,000 children. I wanted to go to just one and bring a child home from that orphanage. And Maddox was there. There were lots of kids, some were babies. He was the last one I saw. He was three-months-old at the time, and he was asleep when I met him and then they put him in my arms and he was still asleep and I thought that’s strange, but eventually he woke up – he smiled at me and that was it for me.”
Where did her need to adopt children come from?
“I don’t know really, but ever since I was a little kid my mom tells me I’ve wanted to adopt. I don’t know if it was because I had heard about what being an orphan was. All I know is I cared and wanted to adopt, and it just feels very natural to me. The idea that we’re finding each other across the world, that’s so wonderful. And Maddox and I intend to find another brother or sister one day soon because it’s meant to be. It just feels right, but I have no idea where it comes from really.”
Has she no desire to give birth herself?
“I think it’s so beautiful when two people meet and they love each other and they have a child, or when anyone has a child. Pregnancy is such a wonderful thing. I was never against it for myself. Now, however, I feel if I had a child there would be one less child I would be taking out of an orphanage, and that would haunt me.”
Not even one?
“Well, if I end up pregnant, we’ll see.”
Disillusioned by her marriage to Billy Bob, she says she’ll never marry again because she finds motherhood much more fulfilling?
Asked if she could change her mind, she responds, “Well, it’s not two different things. I’ve discovered that we’re all meant to do different things in this life. I love to travel and I love to feel useful and I want to learn about the world and I want to do good things. I love being a mom and I want to raise my son. And that feels really right to me. Finding the perfect partner for all of that would just enhance all of that and not hinder it, but I am not counting on it.”
Does it worry her that Maddox might grow up without a male influence in his life?
“No, because he will have many male influences in his life. A lot of my close friends are men. A lot of the people I work with in UNICEF are men. There are many wonderful men who I work with and who are around me that love Maddox. They play soccer with him and talk to him. So I’m not at all concerned.”
A year later again we talked. The papers are filled with stories about her adopting another child.
“I can’t really talk about it because I’m in the process of being evaluated again, so we‘re doing the home study things, they check your fingerprints.”
When might it happen?
“Hopefully when Maddox starts school. It will be a good time for me to take a break and prepare Mad for a new sibling. He’ll be more independent of me, and I could spend more time with another baby.”
What else can she say about Maddox?
“He’s shown a real independence which is remarkable. So I know he’s going to be fine in life. If he falls over or scrapes his knee on the ground, he just gets right up. He doesn’t want anybody touching him. He sits in silence and plays by himself for long periods of time. His imagination is growing and his independence is growing, and it’s really good.”
Is he learning Cambodian?
“He doesn’t speak it, but he’s still two and a half, so he’s just speaking English. I’m trying for English and French first because Khmer is tonally different.”
Does he have a Cambodian tutor?
“He’s going to have that, but if you hit a kid with too many languages it’s not fair; so I’m starting him off with two first.”
After that her career seemed to flatline with a succession of flops (Beyond Borders, Taking LIves, Sky Captain, and Alexander.)
But then… Mr. and Mrs. Smith changed everything.
During filming she and Brad fell in love.
Brad divorced Jennifer Aniston.
Brad adopted her two children and revealed that he and Angelina were expecting their own biological child.
A daughter Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt was born May 27 in Namibia.
So imagine the anticipation when she arrived at her press conference in New York for The Good Shepherd.
Goddess like, beautiful beyond words, can this be the same actress I first interviewed ten years ago. At the time I called her “unremarkable.”
I remark on her uncanny resemblance to Brad. Looking at them in profile they could be mistaken for brother and sister.
“Thank God we’re not,” she responded
But then she admitted that someone else — the photographer Annie Liebowitz — had said the same thing.
Remembering how she adopted Billy Bob’s speech inflections when they were married, I noticed how carefully she chose her words, just the way Brad does.
Maybe that’s her hallmark, adopting the traits of a partner.
Even though she shares billing with Matt Damon, her role in The Good Shepherd is very minor. The character she plays is not well defined and gives her little to work with.
She however saw it differently.
“Women at that time (the 30’s) were unable to express their independence. There was no idea of ‘I’m leaving’ or ‘I want a divorce’ or, ‘I want that for my child.” It was all very claustrophobic.”
Which must have been difficult for her to play?
“As an actress I had to make myself less opinionated, less powerful, and less strong. I was actually sent to a manners class to learn how to hold a cup of tea, how to cross my legs, how to tilt my head because the way we hold ourselves today is not as gracious and elegant as women of that time. The film was a reminder of how far we’ve come.”
Then jokingly she added, “You know me pretty well. I don’t know how I would have survived at that time.”
As the wife of a CIA agent in the movie, she is spied on. Obviously something she’s gotten used to?
“Fortunately that element was lost on my character who was just drinking or ignoring it. But in my life there is that element. Just going out with the kids or planning for the holidays — when I was pregnant and just wanting to go to my doctor’s appointment, you had to find some ways to get there without people following me.”
Looking back on the past two years, what would she say was the high point, the low point of that journey?
“I suppose coming together with Brad, Brad and Maddox coming together, and Zahara coming into our family. The low point or the scarier point was when she was sick. Her surviving, that was a high point. And having a baby, now that her personality is coming out, it’s fun. All three kids together, that has been my focus and deciding to work a lot less and spend a lot more time at home, has also been a welcome decision.”
Will that mean she’ll be devoting less time to her humanitarian work?
“I’ve been a member of the UN for five years now. I have been working in Cambodia for four years. I’m still pushing for different bills in Washington. It’s nice to have that focus, but I am now able to handle those situations better.”
But it must be overwhelming! How does she do it all?
“Brad would say I’m obsessive with schedule. I can only say I’m very fortunate to have him in my life. He’s a great father, really dedicated father. We take turns, and we both love being with our kids. It’s a decision we made, and it’s something we’ve wanted so we’re enjoying that.”
How about the paparazzi, don’t they get in the way?
“We try not to let it affect us. It does occasionally when we want the kids to have more freedom, but other than that we ignore them.”
By always being on the go, is that how they escape being followed?
“I guess. We were recently in Cambodia, and nobody was there. But there are other reasons. We visited Brad’s parents for five days, and that was lovely and quiet. Hopefully in years to come if we work less we will have more of a quiet life, but certainly there are worse problems in the world.”
Is their relationship enhanced by the fact that they’re very much alike?
“You know, it’s funny. When we first came together everybody commented on how different we were. To hear somebody comment on how similar we are, I think Omigod we’ve started to be that couple that morphs into each other. I feel we are different, but we’ve found things we’re both at home with. Brad handles things very different, and we balance each other quite well because of that.”
Could she give an example of how they are different?
“He’s very methodical and takes his time with things. I’m very impulsive. I like a decision made yesterday. He packs at the last minute. I pack three days ahead, all the kids’ stuff and five different things. But we both appreciate each other’s balance. I need not to be so crazy about things.”
(Does she realize how contradictory these statements are?)
Do they share spiritual values?
“We don’t talk about it; we’re not of any one faith ourselves, but we are teaching our children about different faiths. We both believe we should understand and learn about all faiths, teach your children and see where they fall, celebrate many different things so it’s about unity and understanding not something that separates and divides us.”
Do they argue?
“Oh, we argue!” is her emphatic answer.
Would she like to get married again?
“I’ve had two beautiful marriages in my life. Don’t feel I need to get married at this moment, but I am committed with another person. Two children. That’s the most important, and certainly it is for our family at this time. I think marriage is for people who want to be married. It’s a beautiful thing; it’s a wonderful thing. I’m all for it.”
Will she and Brad work together again soon?
“Does anybody want to watch a movie about a perfect happy marriage!” she jokes. “There was talk at one point of doing a sequel to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but it would just be too weird since it would reflect so much of our life. It would be like a documentary. We’d love to work together, but it’s tricky when you’re a couple. If we did, it should be something like a comedy. It’s easier for people to watch people in a relationship having fun, taking shots at each other, rather than being taken seriously. Nothing has crossed our paths yet, but it would be fun, yeah.”
People are said to take something positive from every experience in life.
Was that true of her movie experiences?
“I think it’s true for everyone. The best example for me would be Tomb Rider. It was about being physically strong and fit and focused, and so it got me healthy. I traveled to Cambodia, and Cambodia changed my life. My next film took me to Africa, which gave me the opportunity to work with the local people. Every time you work on a film you learn, but I would say the big one for me was Cambodia.
(I still haven’t figured out why she referred to only two kids; and why Shiloh doesn’t have a name?)
How different is it being the mother of a girl as opposed to a boy?
“They’re very different. I’d say it’s harder to be a mother of a girl when they’re teenagers. But they’re all interesting and crazy and wild in their way.”
But right now is there one she’s closer to?
“My son is very close to me. I don’t know if that’s because we were alone for a long time. I can see the relationship between a mother and a son as something special.”
And the difference between birthing a child and adopting?
“I didn’t expect there would be a different feeling, and there was absolutely none. Sometimes I look at Shiloh (finally she has a name) and I see Brad, and that’s sweet. But I don’t feel any differently. I was so happy to have Shiloh in Africa, and now that she has a Namibian passport and a connection to another country and to her sister’s part of the world, which ties them together, that’s very important to us and we’re happy to be able to do that for her.”
And the difference between being a single mother or having Brad to share her responsibilities?
“It’s easier to be with somebody, but I think it’s better to be single if you’re with the wrong person. Certainly there were so many times with Mad when he was growing up, I’d be exhausted in the middle of the night rocking him and there was nobody there to appreciate my efforts, and when he said his first word nobody was there to see me explode in excitement, and that made me a bit sad. But it made me very close to Mad. On the other hand there’s joy now waking up in the middle of the night and looking at the other exhausted parent sharing that burden. As a woman having a partner who appreciates you as a woman, as a mom, remembering your history with your children, that’s very special.”
What else has Brad brought into her life?
“Even though I had Maddox I didn’t have a family. Now I have a very small family. Brad has a wonderful way of investing in our daily life together. Just the way he parents. He makes the most of every single moment. I tend to move quickly through things; he’s slowed me down. To really enjoy this time is probably the greatest gift he’s given me. I assumed a lot of things about him before I met him. I knew nothing about him as a man except what I had read in the gossip columns. But then I found him to be a really kind, funny, down to earth, just wonderful man,” adding with a wink, “one you’d expect in maybe a different package. He really is a really wonderful friend and father.”