SHOCK TREATMENT - An afternoon with Angelina Jolie: cars, knives, sex with women, adopting kids. Nice of her to tone things down for Suzan Colon.
"I am so sorry I'm late."
I've only been occupying the slightly filmy table at Johnie's - a L.A. diner so low-rent they don't even include the second n in the name - for about 10 minutes. This is where I'm to meet Jolie, the 24-year-old actress whose considerable talent is frequently overshadowed by both her beauty and her eccentricities. But that just makes her more alluring, right?
I turn around to tell her not to worry about being late, and for a long couple of seconds, nothing comes out of my mouth; now I know what they mean by stunned silence. I was not prepared for this woman.
ANGELINA, THE ACTRESS
For some of you, your first experience with Jolie might have been the movie Lookin' To Get Out, which she did when she was 7. More likely it was The Bone Collector, Angelina's first starring role in a big movie. But most people first saw Angelina in HBO's Gia, based on the messed up life of supermodel Gia Carangi.
Acting is the family business. Angelina's father is Jon Voight. Her favorite movie of his is Anaconda, but people generally prefer him in the classic Midnight Cowboy. Angelina's mom, Marcheline Bertrand, is also an actor, but less well known the Jon.
"I've gone to things where my father's with me and my mother and brother get pushed out of the way," Angelina says. "My father has made a choice to speak about me every time he dose an interview. I've made a choice to not have it be about that. I got in a big fight with this interviewer. I sad, 'I don't want to talk about him.' He said, 'Because you don't like talking about him?' And I said, 'Okay, I'll talk about him, but answer this - how's you relationship with you father? Do you feel like he loved you?' It's strange, isn't it, for somebody to just come up to you and ask that. But if I didn't mention my mom, nobody would care."
In light of all that, it's important to point out that it was Angelina's mother who encouraged her to act. We would've loved to have gotten her take on her career, but Marcheline doesn't do interviews. Angelina used her middle name to avoid accusations of getting by on her father's legacy. (Actually, their parents gave Angelina and her brother interesting middle names - Jolie and Haven - for just that purpose.) Angelina studied acting at some pretty prestigious places, including New York University, where she enrolled after her movie career was in full swing, not the other way around.
Whether she's in minor movies like Foxfire, or outright disasters like Playing God, Angelina is invariably the one bright spot mentioned. Occasionally competing with her on-screen successes are the things she dose offscreen. She's won two Golden Globes, on for Gia and another for George Wallace. At one of the ceremonies, she celebrated by drinking tequila and jumping into the hotel pool in her fabulous dress. Can you blame her?
THE WILD WOMAN
These are things you're most likely to read about Angelina: She collects knives and has alluded to using them in - or as - foreplay (I have no idea). When she married her Hackers costar Jonny Lee Miller, her wedding outfit included a white T-shirt with his name written in blood. She has said she's done every drug imaginable. She is not shy about nude scenes or kissing women. She's got quite a few tattoos, including one going across her stomach that reads 'Quod me nutrit me destruit' - Latin for "what nourishes me also destroys me."
Which brings us to today, to Johnie's restaurant, where hissing noises are coming not from the grill but from the cooks, where truck drivers are ramming cheeseburgers for lunch, and everything kind of stops when Angelina walks in.
Of course, you're expecting me to say that, because she's so gorgeous, which is what I was expecting, too.
But when I turn around to tell her not to worry about being late, I'm speechless. Angelina's hair is white blond and her face is competing with it in terms of paleness. Makeup tries to cover her troubled skin (alas, it works about as well for her as it dose for me). She's taller than most actresses, around 5 feet 7 inches, which only accentuates her narrowness; she's seeming in black leather pants and her black T-shirt hangs on her. Her eyes seem sleepy, but her gaze is direct. She's beautiful, but in a rough, dangerous way. She looks like a tall, blond razor blade.
Angelina is already talking before she sits down, about Gone in 60 Seconds, where she plays a car thief along side Nicolas Cage, Robert Duvall and Giovanni Ribisi. She pauses just long enough to give a huge order to our waitress: steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn on the side and a salad. She's not a fast talker, but a steady one, kind of a rambler. So when her salad comes, I tell her to feel free to ear, she doesn't have to talk the whole time. "Oh, this is, like, so not food to me," she says. Granted, a wilted salad doesn't make the best breakfast. "oh, nooo," she says, "this isn't the first thing today. I've been eating. I'm trying to put some weight on. That's why this [the offending salad] feels like a waste of time.
This has been a really tough time in my life," she says, "so, getting nervous, I don't eat much, even though I remind myself. And just, like, five pounds will look so different," she continues. "I'm hoping to get on a program soon. When I was in the hospital with a friend who had an IV in her arm, I was like, maybe if you stick that in me, just actually inject pure protein, you know? I would love to have my figure back. I always felt like I didn't have one." That's strange, considering the amount of Web Sites devoted to Angelina's nude film appearances alone. But I guess people's views of themselves are often different from the reality.
Angelina's perception of herself is that she's trying to be expressive. Other people think she's a little destructive. "I wanted to go to a premiere with the Hell's Angels," she says, now stabbing at her gnarly looking steak, "But the press said, 'Oh, you can't do that.' People have said to me, 'You're too outspoken. Why are you talking about being gay?' and I'm like, 'I'm not gay, I played a gay character, Gia. It's great when you discover that you love other women.'"
(I'm glad she brought this up. In our entertainment poll, many of the people who nominated her for Female Actor Who Makes Your Knees Weak - and by that I mean girl people - wrote things like "If I was ever to switch teams, I'd want to play her every position." And the reason I'm glad she brought this up is because I didn't know how to say, "You know, you really bring out the latent lesbian in our readers!"
"They're right to think that about me, because I'm the person most likely to sleep with my female fans," Angelina smiles, her eyes narrowing coyly. "I genuinely love other women. And I think they know that.")
Back to Angelina's free-wheeling expression: "I'm trying to shake things up," she says, "I don't want to do something I've done before. I want to wear wings and colored contacts and tattoos in movies so I look different. I want to have an accent, cause I think it's important."
If Angelina is going to the trouble of wondering what color her character's eyes should be, imagine the research she's doing on their personalities. She gets so into it, that when she talks about her characters, she bounces back and forth between "she" and "I." This makes for great acting, but not for great living - especially if the person you're playing is a pot of trouble, like Gia, or Lisa.
"I'm like the bad gut, but I really do feel that she's right," she says of her character. "Lisa's just looking for people to be fucking straight with her. She didn't hold anything back. If she wanted to spit on somebody, she spit on somebody. She had no inhibitions and no feelings."
In a strange parallel with Lisa, Angelina confides, "I've gotten in a lot of fights with people because I need to get a reaction."
THE WOMAN WE CAN'T FIGURE OUT
Forty-five minutes and four bites of steak later, we head across the street to the Petersen Automotive Museum. A group of young girls recognize her and ask for autographs. For a person in her early 20's, Angelina has none of the girlishness associated with that age. She seems a bit serious, like she's seen a lot and not liked much of it. And yet she shows no attitude, as she signs her autographs - and it takes a while, because she wants to write something personal and different for each one of the girls: Call me the next time you want to skip science class - Angelina Jolie.
Angelina has a jones for kids, as in wanting one. She seems to be leaning toward adoption rather than giving birth because there are so many kids out there. There may also be a grain of doubt about the dependability of relationships. Her marriage to Jonny lasted three years. She's most recently had been with Timothy Hutton, her costar from Playing God, and the end of that relationship found her wondering what the definition of love is. But, surprisingly, not in a negative way.
"It should be a combination of thinking, 'I love you but I just want to rip that apart and eat you,'" she says. "I just haven't found that person to break through with. But I've just gotten signs. Certainly my husband and I were it was great, kind of an honest experiment. Maybe some people don't find another person, you know?"
"I don't need to be with a person, but I do want to start a family. I mean, selfishly, it would make my life so much fuller, worth living. I'll have to have inspections," she says of the adoption possibility. "People have said to me, 'You do the cover of Rolling Stone in a certain outfit [it was lingerie] and you talk about knives and being gay, the judge is going to see that. "I'm the dark horse, so it's like suddenly But" She slows down and frowns. The idea that there may be a price for being free, for being herself, seems to be tainting Angelina's thoughts for the first time.
The auto museum is a large, dark place filled with classic cars, ancient gas pumps and a very big gift shop. It's in here that Angelina really comes alive. She's so excited by the racing flags, the tiny model cars, the car books. She's still in her latest character's mind, still thinking "car thief." Poring over the merchandise, she buys two key chains, two pairs of fuzzy dice, two black and white racing flags.
"Here," she says, thrusting one of the shopping bags at me. "We'll have the same stuff. Now we're partners."
Once again, I don't know what to say.
Okay, you've seen the pictures, you've read the story, and now you're probably jumping to all sorts of conclusions about what could possibly be going on with Angelina. Because that's what was going on at the Jane offices. Addiction? Anorexia? Insomnia? It's just like a bunch of journalists to discuss every dire situation possible before coming up with a simple solution: Ask her.
"Oh, Godit's - everything has become overwhelming," she beings, over the phone two weeks later. "I did two heavy films - The Bone Collector and Girl, Interrupted - back to back, and I was emotionally wiped out. I though I was going to take some time off, but I got the 60 second script, and it looked fun. During filming, my divorce became final, so that was another thing.
"Also, a close friend of mine got very sick. I had stress from these things, obviously, and I didn't look well, my face broke out, I showed up on the set, and they said 'You go home.' Somehow it made a bunch of people very upset with me because they didn't know what was going on. I didn't feel like explaining somebody's private business, but you suddenly think, 'God, here I am looking really skinny, and I can't eat' I can now, I'm fine, I just went through an emotional time. But when you do that in this business, you realize the ugliness of what the worst in their eyes would be, that [people are] thinking that you're sick. If in the future I ever was, this is how little people would help me.
"And it's not this film - these people ended up being great to me. But it just made me yearn for a normal life.
It's strange to think that, even though Angelina will talk about almost anything, there are still rumors to be circulated. "This person asked me about cutting myself when they saw a scar," she says. "I'm very open, but because of that, people think that they know everything about me, and actually they don't know anything. I say things that other people might go through. That's what artists should do - throw things out there and not be perfect and not have answers for anything and see if people understand.
"But this person made the cutting sound interesting, like it was something I do now. [For the record, she did, but doesn't now, and doesn't endorse it] And then I met somebody who said they'd seem movies of mine and then showed me where they had cut themselves. I had to explain, first off, not to do that. But I make me really fucking angry at the people who represent me in a way that would get that person to do that and show me. I don't understand why people would want to use something so damaging. It's like, let's make me look 'cool' and worry a lot of people in my family."
I feel guilty for saying that Angelina looked to pale and thin, just as I would feel stupid if I'd said she looked perfect. Ultimately, though, she doesn't really care what ends up in this article.
"You just accept that you're going to hear rumors about yourself," she sings. "But I know that truth, and the people who love me know the truth. That's all that really matters.