There's no interrupting Angelina Jolie when she's talking about her new movie "Girl, Interrupted." Based on Susanna Kaysen's best-selling 1993 memoir about borderline personality disorder and the two years she spent in the psychiatric hospital during the late 1960s, the film stars 28-year-old Winona Ryder as the 17-year-old Kaysen. But it's Jolie, 25, who's stealing the show with a flashy co-starring role as the sociopathic ringleader of a veritable cuckoo's nest of other patients Kaysen meets and befriends.
During a recent interview with JEZEBEL in Los Angeles, Jolie talked at length with all that actorly analysis about character motivation and such. Ask her the slightest something about herself, though, and she turns into one of those proverbial deer in the headlights, smiling awkwardly and confessing, "I feel funny talking about myself," or, "I'm not very good at being me." She swears she's not usually so serious and remote: "I know it's probably hard for you to believe, but I'm completely nutty by nature. It's just that I've been talking about this movie so much lately, it sort of puts me back into the frame of mind I was in while we were making it," the actress insists.
And so it goes. What does she do for fun? "I work." No, exactly how "nutty" is she? "Well, I like to get dirty, so I'm always dressed in black, generally in black leather because it wipes off with a little spit," Jolie offers with a grin. (Hollywood legend has she wore a black leather pantsuit when she married British actor Jonny Lee Miller in 1996.) Sure enough, on this day she's in her trademark black leather jacket, plus faded jeans with a matching T-shirt too worn to be read. "I've never known how to dress. I'm always wearing the same thing, always spilling stuff on me. I mean, just look at my hair," she notes exasperatedly, shaking it out with her fingers. Having bleached it blonde for her last movie, "Gone in 60 Seconds" (due out this summer), it's now "under attack" from decidedly darker roots.
So how did Jolie begin her career, then? Why, as a high-priced fashion model, of course-to which she quips, "Go figure." The modeling led to appearances in a couple of music-videos (by the Rolling Stones and Meat Loaf, among others), essentially making Jolie a graduate of the same MTV-as-acting training school which also gave us Liv Tyler, Alicia Silverstone and Courteney Cox. Her few feature films were lamentable, like the botched David Duchovny drama "Playing God" and the hackneyed computer caper "Hackers," in which she and Miller first met as co-stars. Miller, who would become better known for his turn as a flamboyant punk in "Trainspotting," more recently appeared in the screen version of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park." The couple divorced in 1999. Jolie, however, is sporting something that resembles an engagement ring on her finger. "No, no it's a ring my mom gave me," she offers matter-of-factly. "God, no, I don't need to be married again right now," Jolie smiles wryly. "I'll be married to Jonny forever in my heart, but believe me, I'll be fine on my own."
Since distinguishing herself with award-winning performances in two startlingly made-for-cable films-personifying Southern gentility in "George Wallace" and portraying a heroin-addicted supermodel in "Gia"- Jolie has fared most favorably in her last several big-screen outings, including the romantic ensemble piece "Playing by Heart" (with Ryan Phillipe), the air-traffic-controllers comedy "Pushing Tin" (co-starring Billy Bob Thornton) and the serial-killer thriller "The Bone Collector" (opposite Denzel Washington).
"The thing about this business is they like sticking you in one direction. They like telling you, 'You're the dark person,' or 'You're the sexy person,' or, "You're the girlfriend.' It's like you're not allowed to be anything else, so you just have to keep fighting against it," Jolie observes.
In other words, she admits she jumped at the chance to follow-up an "emotionally draining" experience like "Girl, Interrupted" with a good-ol'-boy drag-racing movie like "Gone in 60 Seconds."
"Absolutely," she gushes. "It's just what I needed at the time, the equivalent of taking time off or having a recess, doing this movie about cars, something that wasn't emotionally draining in the least. I need to be silly like that every once in a while, just hanging out with a nice bunch of guys like (co-stars) Nicolas Cage, Robert Duvall, Giovanni Ribisi and (producer) Jerry Bruckheimer. I'd never want to get to a point where I thought I couldn't feel free to do something like that if I really wanted to."
Jolie pauses to light a cigarette, so it seems as good as any to ask her about her father, the Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight (of "Midnight Cowboy" and "Coming Home" fame). She rolls her eyes good-naturedly and replies, "Oh, do we have to? What if I tell you upfront that my favorite Jon Voight movie is 'Conrack', that the best advice he ever gave me was to be bold in my choices and always be honest with myself and that it's true when I was 3 or 4 and saw (his death scene in) 'The Champ', I cried like a baby because I thought my father was really dead."
Before embarking on her own career, she opted to drop the famous moniker. (Jolie's her middle name.) After all, she was only an infant when her parents divorced. As she puts it, "I'm my mother and my father's child, and I'm also my own person. From the very beginning, I didn't want to feel like I was walking into a room and automatically being compared to him, or feeling like I was being let into any rooms because of him, you know? This is me sitting here with you right now. My father isn't here. I'm all you've got." (Her mother, the former actress Marcheline Bertrand, serves as Jolie's business manager.)
"The press likes to use the family angle, because then they get to include this whole other aspect of my life, but they're always disappointed to hear I'm not trying to hide anything about some huge, sordid estrangement between us. The fact is, he's very much a part of my life, but I've always been pretty independent of him, too," Jolie maintains.
"My brother's having the same problem right now at school. He has the name and he says sometimes he gets so tired of all the questions, he feels like shouting, 'Hell, no, I'm not related to Jon Voight!"
Jolie seems no more interested in the short-term fame and fortune of being Hollywood's "It" girl du jour than she is in capitalizing on her father's name.
"I'm just trying to completely ignore all the hype right now, and above anything else, I feel so fortunate to have been noticed for my work," acknowledges Jolie, a two-time Golden Globe winner (for "George Wallace" and "Gia"), whose performance in "Girl, Interrupted" recently brought her another Globe nomination and now has her surrounded in lots of Oscar buzz.
"If I didn't feel like I was working hard and expressing what it is I want to express through my work, then all the peripheral celebrity stuff would just kill me, because I wouldn't feel worthy or deserving of any of that attention," she elaborates. "I'm proud of the work I've done lately. I just want to focus on that and not look to fame or fortune to find contentment."