After a year of personal turmoil, during which her story book relationship with Brad Pitt disintegrated amid sordid accusations of drunkenness and child abuse, Angelina Jolie emerges unscathed at her recent press conference for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Imperious, beautiful as ever, kindly cheerful, gracious. What more can I say about the world’s most enigmatic celebrity.
The 42-year-old star is awaiting the release of her latest directing effort, First They Killed My Father – the story of the Khmer Rouge’s four-year reign of terror and genocide in Cambodia – told from the perspective of one of its victims, Loung Ung.
Obviously Jolie’s son, Cambodian-born Maddox, inspired her to tell this story, but she also has a close relationship with the author of the book.
Does she agree with me that her life truly began after she adopted Maddox?
I remind Jolie of her first press conference following that event. It was in New York for Tomb Raider; at the end of the day, she surprised everyone by coming downstairs and showing off her six-month-old son.
A memory of pure innocence.
She agrees with me.
At the time, Jolie thought she’d never have any children of her own and looked forward to adopting others.
But then Pitt happened.
So, now Jolie is the mother of six, nurturing a racially diverse family, all also Pitt’s children, and living in a new house.
So how are the kids adapting to a home without Brad there?
They have been amazing. They have been there for each other. It’s been so moving to see how much they have helped each other, stood together – the big brothers helping the little kids – and all of them helping me.
They really have come into their own during this time, and they are finding themselves and their voices. I now know that they will have each other for life and it gives me great peace to know the day I pass away that they will have each other, and they will take care of each other.
What are the greatest challenges you face now as a single parent?
I am not very good at just letting things happen. I am somebody that just has to jump in.
As far as challenges facing a parent, it’s interesting that we focus so much on many things, but making sure our children have a sense of joy is not a small thing.
There are a lot of heavy things going on daily in their lives. I have many teenagers now and there are all the complications that come with that.
I just hope that nobody will ever be as difficult as I was. So far they are not.
What do you enjoy most about being single again?
I don’t enjoy it. It’s not something I wanted. There’s just nothing nice about it. It’s just hard.
Are you apprehensive about being in the spotlight again?
It is hard. This is the first time I have actually been doing this for a really long time. It’s not easy. I am a little shy at this time, because I am not as strong inside as I have been in the past.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now and how would you have answered that question 10 years ago?
Ten years ago I would never have envisioned where I am today. I would have thought very differently about my family life, my marriage and I would have thought very differently about my career. I would have never thought that I was going to be a director.
I would however have bet on all the kids and all the travel and continuing that work.
But 10 years from now, I don’t know, you get to that age and you just want to be healthy. So, I hope I am still able to be creative. Mad will be 26 … he just turned 16, and I couldn’t stop crying as I was reading him his birthday card, while he couldn’t stop laughing at me.
So, I don’t know. I guess in 10 years, they are all out of the house. So I have no idea what I will be doing. Chasing them around, I suppose. Hopefully no grandkids yet.
For most people forgiveness is a real challenge. How about you?
Well it’s a very good question because I believe in justice and I believe that without any form of justice, it’s very hard to ask for complete forgiveness.
I speak to the kids often and I say, “I don’t want you to hold ill will towards anybody in your heart, or wish anything bad for anybody or have hate towards anybody.”
But there is a right and a wrong, there is justice and there is criminal behaviour.
And so in order to get to a place of peace and forgiveness, you have to address the crime and you have to make sure that the crime does not repeat itself.
Is reconciliation possible?
Only if I feel that there has been some form of justice done and some lesson learned. I believe we must do that, or else we are just staying in the cycle.
You’ve always had an adventurous spirit. Are you still flying?
I do still fly; it’s been a while because life takes over. But my kids, my boys are all flying. They are all taking lessons.
Maddox likes it, even though you have to help him with the pedals. They are flying this weekend. In fact, they are flying so much that there is no space for mum.
What was your best adventure?
I don’t know, I suppose those trips that were life changing and slightly dangerous, but I always feel like the best adventure is the next one.
Is your cancer-scare behind you, or are you still very much aware of it?
So much in life you just focus on how much worse it could be. I am so happy I don’t have cancer, and I am so happy that I had the surgeries which hopefully will prevent me from getting cancer.
Even if I get it, it will be delayed a few years; chemo will be delayed a few years, and the exchange for that peace of mind is quite good.
Sometimes I feel that my body has taken more than a hit with all of the things that I have had to do.
I have also had other health issues in the last few years. And on top of that, emotionally it’s been a very difficult year. So my health is something that I have to try to monitor.
But the only thing I really do is try to laugh as much as possible and experience joy.
We tend to get so stressed that our children feel our stress; they need to feel our joy. So you have to live and love and laugh. It may sound like a postcard, but it’s true.
There are two Angelina Jolies – the one we met 20 years ago and the one today.
Well, there’s probably 12 of us (laughs). But maybe I need to rediscover a little bit of the old me. I think we lose our way a bit, and we get quite overwhelmed.
I have had a lot happen in my life from overcoming health issues to raising the children.
But maybe with my kids growing up, I am starting to realise my own sense of play, my own sense of joy, which has been put on hold a little bit.