Angelina Jolie travels at warp speed. Since our last interview, nearly three years ago, she’s tracked more than 100,000 air miles, traveling to places as far-flung as Thailand and Chad.She’s partnered with Brad Pitt, who shares her drive to leave a mark on the world. She’s adopted more children, had a baby, started a foundation and made nine movies. And there’s no sign she’s ready for a break.
This month, Jolie stars in A Mighty Heart, portraying freelance journalist Mariane Pearl, whose husband, Daniel, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan while reporting on Islamic militants. Produced by Pitt, the movie reflects Jolie’s international interests, which took hold after she won the Oscar for Girl, Interrupted at age 24. A regular on “most beautiful” lists, the actress, a UN Goodwill Ambassador and now mother to four children, seems to have left the glamour life far behind. In addition to Maddox (Mad), a Cambodian boy she adopted in 2002, Jolie brought Zahara (Z) home from Ethiopia in 2005. She and Brad had baby daughter Shiloh (Shi) in May 2006.
She adopted Pax from Vietnam this spring. Just nine days after bringing him home, Jolie, 31, took a rare break to talk with RD about her growing family and wanting to make a difference.
Jolie: I met this amazing person, and we realized we had very similar views on how we wanted to live our lives. It’s happened quickly, with so many children. Yesterday, picking up the kids from school, Brad turned around in the car, and there were three of them. He couldn’t stop laughing. We love them and are having a great time.
RD: Was your pregnancy with Shiloh intentional?
Jolie: It was. Before I met Brad, I always said I was happy never to have a child biologically. He told me he hadn’t given up that thought. Then, a few months after Z came home, I saw Brad with her and Mad, and I realized how much he loved them, that a biological child would not in any way be a threat. So I said, “I want to try.”
RD: Tell us a little about Pax. Why did you decide to adopt a toddler?
Jolie: As kids get older, it’s harder for them to be adopted. I wasn’t prepared a few years ago, but I felt now our home was stable, and I could balance that.
RD: Is adopting a toddler different?
Jolie: Pax is almost three and a half and has never made a real decision for himself because everybody does everything in a group in the orphanage. There were all these things he’d never had. The first time I gave him a bath, he was suddenly laughing, out of his mind. He took five baths in one day. We’d be talking and he’d take his clothes off and run into the bathroom.
RD: How did he come to adjust to you?
Jolie: The first two days, he cried a lot. I hired a translator, and he would explain what was going on. The first night, I slept alone with him. I was expecting him to wake up and scream, but he woke and just stared at me. I handed him a stuffed animal, and we walked around the room pointing at things. By day three, he didn’t want me to put him down. I think he got used to the reality that somebody loves you and that’s what a mommy is.
RD: How do you introduce a new child into this family without sibling rivalry?
Jolie: We had a long talk with Mad about the fact that his brother is going to be scared and that Mommy is going to have to give him attention. And we’ve tried to figure out a lot of private time for each of them. When everybody goes to bed, we give Mad time. When everybody is at school, we give Shiloh time. In between, Z and Pax each get special time. And on Sundays we have a big family sleep, when the boys get in bed with us and we watch a movie. It started with Mad, then Pax, and now Z is desperate to move into the bed. We’re talking about having to build a bigger bed!
RD: How has Brad been with this?
Jolie: He couldn’t go with us to Vietnam to get Pax because he was working. But they got together very quickly. I think Pax, after seeing how much Zahara and Mad and Shi love Brad, understands that he’s his daddy. Everybody seems to be safe in his arms. He makes everybody laugh. He helps everybody.
RD: Do you want more children?
Jolie: Yeah, yeah. More biological, more adopted.
RD: Is it true that you adopted Pax so Maddox would have a brother who looked like him?
Jolie: Something changed for me with Shiloh. We had Mad and Z, and neither looked like Mommy or Daddy. Then suddenly somebody in the house looked like Mommy and Daddy. It became clear to us that it might be important to have somebody around who is similar to the other children so they have a connection. Mad’s been very excited that his brother is from Asia.
RD: Who’s the disciplinarian?
Jolie: When it comes to the boys, it’s Brad, and with the girls, it’s me. It’s not intentional, but Z can pretty much get anything she wants from her dad. Brad’s like a strong father with the boys.
RD: You lost your mother a few months ago. How are you coping?
Jolie: I’m one of those people who walk around as if it’s fine, and then suddenly I don’t know why I’m crying over my breakfast. My mother was my best friend. I’m so grateful I had her as a mom. She had cancer for seven years, but she lived long enough to see my brother and I grow up to be quite happy. You almost get the feeling she held on until it was okay.
RD: You like to do risky things like flying planes and riding motorcycles. Do you think more about your safety now that you have four kids?
Jolie: I don’t do drugs. I don’t intentionally ride a motorcycle without a helmet. I will always be careful. But I live a bold life, and I’m a happy mother because of that. I think the bigger question is, Am I living the life that I want my kids to see? If something happened to me doing something I believed in, then I suppose that’s the legacy I would leave as a mother.
RD: I just read A Mighty Heart, on which your new film is based. What drew you to make this film?
Jolie: We’re living in a time when there’s so much anger and a lack of faith in our ability to find solutions together. Mariane is a person who has every right to be full of hate, and yet she’s completely the opposite. She wants to have dialogue with people; that’s how Danny was, with his appreciation and interest in that side of the world. To shoot the film, people from Pakistan, India, Britain, America, Muslims, Christians came together. It’s an example of what is possible.
RD: Mariane was six months pregnant when her husband was kidnapped, and I understand that you were pregnant during preproduction of the film. What effect did that have?
Jolie: When we worked on the script, I was six months pregnant. Mariane sat with me and held my hand and told me what was happening to her when she was six months pregnant. I thought, My God, I know what I’m feeling right now and I can’t imagine handling that. It was so important for me to have my family and Brad with me at the time, and to understand it’s that life — Adam, Mariane’s child — that clearly pulled her through.
RD: The story is anguishing. Was it hard to re-create what happened?
Jolie: It was difficult thinking, What if Adam sees this one day? The pressure normally is wondering what the audience is going to take out of it. It’s very different when you feel the story represents a family you want to honor.
RD: You seem equally committed to philanthropy. Do you truly donate a third of your income to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees?
Jolie: Not to the UNHCR. I was making a lot of money for something that is a pleasure and realizing how a third of that would end up doing a lot of good. I just don’t need that much. It’s a simple decision. And now Brad and I have started the Jolie-Pitt Foundation. The first thing we focused on was AIDS orphans around the world.
RD: There’s a saying that it’s not your job to fix the whole world; it’s your job to do your part. What’s your part?
Jolie: As my mom did, raise the kids with a lot of love and make sure they grow into the individuals they were born to be. Separate from that, I want to continue to educate myself. I’m trying to learn more about international law to understand why we don’t have better solutions for conflict — for dictators or aggressors that are hurting or raping children or using them as child soldiers. Why can’t we have an international community handle these things in a swift, efficient manner?
RD: You’ve said that A Mighty Heart is also a love story. Did Danny and Mariane Pearl’s partnership have parallels to yours with Brad?
Jolie: They are what we strive to be. They met with a common goal that was so noble. They dedicated their lives to studying other cultures and trying to make a better world through honest journalism. They clearly set each other on fire to do really wonderful things in the world.
RD: Is that true with you and Brad? It didn’t seem he had the passion to do the humanitarian work before you.
Jolie: I discovered a man who’s extremely thoughtful, intelligent and invested in many issues. He’s just more quiet in his way. I think that’s the reason I love him. If I’m curious about something, I put my boots on and I’ll go tomorrow. I’ve been too outspoken. He’s the person who methodically figures out what he believes in and how he’s going to handle something, then does it seamlessly.
RD: Between your kids, your careers and your causes, how do you and Brad carve out quality time together?
Jolie: Right now, that’s our problem! We hang out. We try to talk over the swing set. We’ll have a date night once everybody is settled.
RD: How about a date weekend?
Jolie: No. Especially now with Pax; he still gets scared if I’m gone more than a few hours. But we’ll get them occupied with a movie and popcorn and try to run off and lock the door for a bit.
RD: Do you and Brad ever have a conflict or a fight?
Jolie: Not really. We’ll get into issues about global events or something that was just on the news.
RD: The gossip is unrelenting. You’re fighting, you’re jealous, he’s going back to Jennifer. Does it get to you?
Jolie: Our first question is what paper is it in. The New York Times? If not, do we really need to worry?
RD: But at the Golden Globes, you seemed in a bad mood, and that was in The New York Times.
Jolie: Yeah. And that was when my mother was about to die. Others have said we were getting married. We are people who want a good newspaper and television report, so when it’s lies about us, it makes us wonder what else are they not double-checking.
RD: So have you and Brad thought about getting married?
Jolie: There’s no big conspiracy behind our decision not to. We’ve both been married before. Our focus when we got together was family, and we are legally bound to our children. That really seems to be the most important thing.
RD: You said you wanted a partner who would urge you to be better. Does Brad do that?
Jolie: He encourages the right things. If I’ve had a full day and just really been a hands-on mom, he’ll make a point to let me know that’s something he’s proud of. If I’m writing an Op-Ed, he’s the first person to want to read the drafts. I could be dressed up in the sexiest outfit for a photo shoot, and by his behavior, he’ll let me know that’s nice, but it’s nothing as sexy as when I’m home surrounded by the kids or reading books, educating myself. He slows me down to kind of get it right, to relax into the strength of my family and the love.