With model looks and an impeccable acting pedigree, Angelina Jolie has been free to choose her own path. She explains to Jenny Peters the allure of the dark side.
There's something of the goth about Angelina Jolie. Before she became an actor she wanted to be a funeral director. She has an extensive dagger collection, read books on Vlad the Impaler and has the Japanese word for death tattooed on her shoulder. She's far from morbid, however. Quick, open and friendly, she channels her intensity into her acting. Only 24, she's already clocked up a slew of dramatic roles and glowing reviews with Gia, Playing By Heart and most recently Pushing Tin.
Acting's in her blood. She is the daughter of Jon Midnight Cowboy Voight (who has taken of late to playing the stock villain) and former actor Marcheline Bertrand. Voight separated from Bertrand when Jolie was one, and remained in California while the family lived in the east. "He was the perfect example of an artist who couldn't be married," she says. "He had the perfect family, but there's something for him that's very scary about that."
Jolie trained and performed at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute and then worked as a professional model in London, New York and Los Angeles. She has also appeared in music videos for Meat Loaf, Lenny Kravitz and The Lemonheads. Her first filmic break was the would-be-hip Hackers; she married her co-star Jonny Lee Miller (of Trainspotting fame) wearing a black rubber dress. They divorced recently, however, citing the pressures of the Hollywood scene.
Jolie has lately embraced a gamut of tough, gutsy roles. In the current Gone In 60 Seconds with Nicolas Cage and Giovanni Ribisi, she plays a car thief. Opposite Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted, she's an incarcerated sociopath. And in The Bone Collector, a gruesome variation on Rear Window and Seven, her character is a policewoman, the eyes and ears for Denzel Washington's quadriplegic cop. Excellent performances elevate a movie of questionable merit, but there's little doubt Angelina Jolie's star is about to burst forth.
black + white caught her on the ascent in L.A.
b+w Did you learn anything from playing a car thief in Gone In 60 Seconds?
aj I learned that all the very expensive cars are very fun to drive. Definitely.
b+w And how do you steal a car?
aj There are many different ways to steal a car. Each car is different. We had a thief on set. He was escorted by, I guess, a prison guard. I didn't know who they were at first, so when he walked in and he was talking about how you steal a car, I thought they were cops.
b+w Can you put a rumor to rest? Were you offered Charlie's Angels?
aj [pauses, laughs, stammers]
b+w I see. Why did you turn it down?
aj Well, the selling points were that there hadn't been good characters for strong women like that. And they said, "It'll make you a big star," which is frightening, and not exactly a plus. And they said something about it finally making feminism sexy. All very fun, but it would have just been a money thing for me. I didn't want to do it.
b+w You're known for intense roles. And in The Bone Collector your character, Amelia, is very highly strung.
aj Well, her father killed himself and she's worried that she's going to become her father, from being around this depression and darkness. There are lives at stake, and she can't take that on.
b+w As an actress, can you drop that intensity quickly?
aj In the beginning with Amelia there were certain times where she was a lot less intense than I would be. I thought that since she was a cop, she would be the strongest character I'd play. But she was actually, in many ways, the weakest woman I've played because she didn't have the freedom of certain women. She Actually had very little self-esteem, and was very emotional, and very soft.
b+w Are you more self-reliant than that?
aj I don't know if it's being self-reliant. Certainly I'm one of those people-I need to learn to let somebody hug me. I need to learn to need other people.
b+w Girl, Interrupted sounds harrowing as well.
aj My character gets a lot of shock treatment. The film takes place in the 60's, and that happened a lot. One of the characters, who I wish was focused on more, is in there because she's gay, and they think they can shock her out of it. It's very strange. When you see the movie, it's hard. My character is obviously sick in the film. But I had to [sympathize] with her.
b+w You need to play some nice people.
aj It's funny. She's not nice but I think she cares more about human beings in some weird way. People keep saying to me that she's Satan. But I see her as someone who just lives extremely honestly, and cannot tolerate anyone pretending to be something they're not. She's a sociopath-she lives on impulse and she tends to cross the line because she doesn't have that moral thing. So, I've had to find something very right about what she's doing.
b+w When you were in the room with all those rats in The Bone Collector, were they real?
aj Yeah. I don't have a fear of rats, though. Which is a good thing.
b+w What about snakes?
aj I used to have snakes. I think fluffy little things scare me.
b+w Did you have a pet mouse as a kid?
b+w But you fed it to the snake?
aj [laughs] I'm not saying.
b+w What was it like having to film in all those seedy New York locations?
aj The locations were just so dusty and dirty and dark. And the smell It's just being in there, day after day. That must be what it's like tough, for these cops. I'd come home on the weekends every once in a while, and everybody was just like, "Hey, how's it going?" And I felt like saying, "Don't you know what's going on in the world?"
b+w Did it make you feel paranoid?
aj Well, I've lost a little of my privacy recently, and that has ended up making me paranoid. Normally I'm never like that.
b+w Do you have a stalker? A nut?
aj I had a good nut guy. But I don't want to encourage nut guys, so
b+w What would you say is the connecting thread between your roles in Gia, The Bone Collector, Playing By Heart and Girl, Interrupted?
aj They were characters I believed in. It's very hard to find characters that are women that support things they believe in, and where the story supports them. And they all have a certain sense of justice. They're all people I'd sit down and have lunch with. I used to say that about characters: I'd never want to play somebody I wouldn't sit down and have lunch with." Even if it's a bad person, it comes from a certain place.
b+w You've said that becoming an actress has enabled you to communicate with your parents on a deeper level. What's the best advice they've ever given you?
aj I think to be honest with yourself, to be bold about your choice, and to be true to who you are. That no matter what I've done, whether it was good or bad, successful or not, if I was myself, it was okay.
b+w What's the best piece of advice your father gave you that you ignored?
aj The worst piece of advice, then! Well, I think my father has always been afraid of a darker side of me, whether it be getting tattooed, or going off and getting My marriage. That ended up being a beautiful thing, but they The darker things about you scare your parents. Things they would have loved for me to have avoided I had to learn myself. And it's also me. You know? I do characters who are in a darker space. Or [I] disappear for days, just living. They can translate it as dark, because they're your parents, but to me it wasn't dark.
b+w Could you imagine falling in love with a guy with physical limitations, like Denzel Washington's character in The Bone Collector?
aj Oh, yeah. I think I genuinely see past something. I really don't see anything physical. It doesn't even occur to me And then again if you don't ignore differences you see what's great about them, what's special. Someone who's quadriplegic or has gone through things like that is somehow so centered on what is important in life. They get right to the point of things.
b+w What is your tattoo?
aj Well, I have a few, but this one's a dragon. It's a long story but right before I got married I was in Amsterdam and got a little crazy and went to a tattoo parlor. I woke up in the morning and I had this really funny dragon. I got the wrong one, with this really funny blue tongue. But I always wanted a dragon because to me it's very much a woman, and it's strong and elegant.