An­gelina Jolie

What’s next, travel and fam­ily

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Although An­gelina Jolie en­joys the finer things in life – the pri­vate jets, the man­sions, the exclusive hol­i­days – she is a woman who knows her­self and what she was born to do. Lan­guish­ing in op­u­lence is not high on her agenda. What does top her pri­or­ity list is clear: to of­fer her chil­dren a se­cure and happy home, and to do all she can to ease the suf­fer­ing she’s wit­nessed around the world.

So com­mit­ted is Jolie to worth­while causes that she now uses the mil­lions she earns to fi­nance her goals. She saves a third of her money, spends a third of it on liv­ing, and uses the rest to sup­port the causes she cares about.

With both Jolie and hus­band Brad Pitt so of­ten travers­ing the globe for their var­i­ous projects, they have to make a con­certed ef­fort not just to keep the magic alive be­tween the two of them (they write ro­man­tic notes and post them to each other dur­ing times apart), but also to keep things as sta­ble as pos­si­ble for their six chil­dren.

The kids are home­schooled, and have no short­age of helpers to look af­ter them. They are used to mak­ing a home wher­ever their par­ents hap­pen to be work­ing. They might spend months abroad with their mother while she’s work­ing on a film, for ex­am­ple, fol­lowed by time at home in LA (com­plete with pro­fes­sional-grade skate park and mul­ti­ple swim­ming pools) or at one of their other homes – Jolie and Pitt mar­ried last year at their sprawl­ing villa in the south of France. When Sig­na­ture asks where home is for her, Jolie says: “We don’t ac­tu­ally know! We have a lot of our stuff in Los An­ge­les but we’re look­ing for a home out­side of that. We just went back to Cam­bo­dia, which I con­sider home.”

Jolie and Pitt also make sure they have plenty of down­time to­gether as a fam­ily. So, whether it’s en­joy­ing a hol­i­day to­gether in a lav­ish 16th-cen­tury mansion in the coun­try­side of Scot­land, liv­ing it up at the theme parks of Malta, or play­ing in the aqua­ma­rine wa­ters of the Whit­sun­days, this well-trav­elled fam­ily man­ages to com­bine busi­ness and plea­sure with ap­par­ent ease.

“With my fam­ily, I’m try­ing to raise them to have re­spect for all peo­ple and to make friends around the world and to feel at home around the world,” Jolie tells Sig­na­ture. “It’s what’s form­ing them. Of course, I make sure they do their math and their sci­ence, but the world per­spec­tive is the most im­por­tant thing.”

Travel has be­come al­most an ad­dic­tion for glo­be­trot­ting Jolie. “Any­time I feel lost, I pull out a map and stare; I stare un­til I have re­minded my­self that life is a gi­ant adventure, so much to do, to see,” she says. “If you don’t get out of the box you’ve been raised in, you won’t un­der­stand how much big­ger the world is. Wher­ever I am I al­ways find my­self look­ing out the win­dow wish­ing I was some­where else.”

Jolie pre­pares for a trip some­what dif­fer­ently from her hus­band.

“When we travel, Brad packs at the last minute while I pack three days ahead with all the kids’ stuff … I like to or­gan­ise each mo­ment of our travel but he likes to be more spon­ta­neous. But we ap­pre­ci­ate each other. We need it. I need to be not so crazy about things.”

She says Pitt is very good at mak­ing sure none of the kids feel stressed when the fam­ily is mov­ing around, quite a feat given that the pa­parazzi seems to ac­com­pany them wher­ever they go.

Board­ing a yacht is one of the fam­ily’s favourite things to do. “I think there’s a per­cep­tion that hav­ing yachts is a way of celebri­ties putting dis­tance be­tween them­selves and the press,” Jolie says. “It’s not, it’s just a nice way to spend time; a place where you can chill out and en­joy unique sur­round­ings, and I love that.”

Jolie is as com­fort­able up in the air as she is on wa­ter – she learned how to fly her own plane a few years ago. “It cer­tainly gives me a free­dom that I don’t have on the ground … it’s the only place I’m com­pletely alone – up in the air, de­tached from ev­ery­thing.”

A road less trav­elled

Hav­ing stud­ied act­ing from the age of 11, and even­tu­ally en­joy­ing the con­sid­er­able suc­cess that this ca­reer choice can bring, Jolie is well aware of her priv­i­leged po­si­tion in the world, some­thing that came into fo­cus af­ter film­ing ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ in Cam­bo­dia in 2001. When film­ing ended, she ap­proached the United Na­tions to find out more about hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion for refugees, and has since made more than 50 field mis­sions to the likes of Sierra Leone, Pak­istan, Afghanistan, Tan­za­nia and, of course, Cam­bo­dia.

“We can­not close our­selves off to in­for­ma­tion and ig­nore the fact that mil­lions of peo­ple are out there suf­fer­ing,” she says. “I hon­estly want to help. I don’t be­lieve I feel dif­fer­ently from other peo­ple. I think we all want jus­tice and equal­ity, a chance for a life with mean­ing. All of us would like to be­lieve that if we were in a bad sit­u­a­tion some­one would help us.”

Ac­cord­ing to the UN­HCR, Jolie shares the same rudi­men­tary work­ing and liv­ing con­di­tions as UN­HCR staff, peo­ple she calls her he­roes. She is now Spe­cial En­voy of the UN­HCR, en­gag­ing in high­level me­di­a­tion in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions.

“You go to these places and you re­alise what life’s re­ally about and what peo­ple are re­ally go­ing through,” Jolie says.

Jolie may seem like a saint now, but it took the adop­tion of her son Mad­dox from Cam­bo­dia to turn her trou­bled life around. Her his­tory of de­pres­sion,


sui­cide at­tempts and drug abuse be­came a thing of the past the minute she took charge of her adopted son, and be­fore long she had a brood of six – an Ethiopian refugee, Za­hara, and Vietnamese boy, Pax, among them.

“You learn that the only things which are mean­ing­ful is how much love you can bring to your world and what you can do to build a happy life for your chil­dren,” she tells Sig­na­ture. “It makes you for­get about all the self­ish con­cerns you might have had and which I had when I was younger and not at all at ease with who I was and what I wanted from life.”

Jolie says her chil­dren give her a sense of peace and ful­fil­ment when she sees how happy and healthy they are. “I feel truly at ease when I know I’ve helped give them a safe and hope­ful life. A big fam­ily can gen­er­ate a lot of chaos, but it’s also a source of in­ner peace.”

Her trou­bled past and con­tact with so many peo­ple en­dur­ing hard­ship is prob­a­bly the rea­son she feels so drawn to those with a past, and to film scripts fo­cused on over­com­ing hard­ship. Her most re­cent project, her sec­ond as di­rec­tor, had her cel­e­brat­ing the brav­ery of a man who en­dured un­speak­able ob­sta­cles and used his de­ter­mi­na­tion to sur­vive. ‘Un­bro­ken’ tells the story of Olympic ath­lete Louis Zam­perini who sur­vived a near-fa­tal plane crash in World War II, only to spend 47 days in a raft be­fore be­ing res­cued and sent to a Ja­panese pris­oner of war camp.

“I’m drawn to peo­ple who are able to sur­mount a lot of ob­sta­cles and go on to achieve many things,” Jolie says. “Louis was a re­mark­able and heroic man in so many re­spects … he taught me so much about hope and be­ing grate­ful for so much in life and sim­ply be­ing able to take time to en­joy ev­ery day of your life.”

Zam­perini died at age 97 be­fore the re­lease of the film, but not be­fore watch­ing it on Jolie’s lap­top in hos­pi­tal.

“Even though it was very hard for me to watch Louis slowly lose his strength in the hos­pi­tal, his face lit up when he was able to see scenes from his life reen­acted in the film,” Jolie says.

She ac­knowl­edges that some scenes in the film are emo­tion­ally try­ing, but was happy for sons Mad­dox (13), Pax (11) and Knox (6) to see it. Jolie says what chil­dren can han­dle and what they’re in­ter­ested in is much deeper than peo­ple as­sume. “They want to un­der­stand things that frighten them. They want to see dark things that hap­pen, and they want to see how to rise above them … they don’t want to be hid­den from all things and have ev­ery­thing sweet­ened.”

She and Pitt have al­ways been “very open and straight­for­ward” about the prob­lems of the world. Her chil­dren have been to post-con­flict sit­u­a­tions and to refugee camps, and spend time in the house the fam­ily has in Cam­bo­dia. “It’s not re­ally a house, but a room on stilts, sur­rounded by 100 Cam­bo­dian peo­ple who work with us to se­cure the area – it’s a project in the mid­dle of the jun­gle.”

“We found 48 land mines on our prop­erty. Our neigh­bours are land mine vic­tims. My kids play with the lo­cal kids and they swim in the pond and it’s part of what they know – part of their lives.”

Next steps

Jolie’s next movie, ‘By the Sea’, a project she di­rected and starred in with Pitt, is in post-pro­duc­tion for re­lease this year. She has also signed up to di­rect ‘Africa’, a film about con­ser­va­tion­ist Richard Leakey’s bat­tles with ivory poach­ers.

“Za­hara and Shiloh were born in Africa and we feel a strong con­nec­tion to that world,” Jolie tells Sig­na­ture. “I’ve loved meet­ing the peo­ple in dif­fer­ent re­gions there and it will mean a lot to me to be able to go and work there.”

Does that mean we’re near­ing the end of see­ing Jolie on the big screen?

“I find my­self be­com­ing more and more com­fort­able di­rect­ing and it’s much eas­ier for me to worry about telling a story than be­ing part of the story while I’m act­ing,” she says. “I en­joy get­ting to work with so many peo­ple and get­ting to con­struct a film from be­gin­ning to end. This is what I’m hap­pi­est do­ing.”


01 01 With the late Louis Zam­perini

02 02 Di­rect­ing Jack O’Con­nell as Zam­perini in ‘Un­bro­ken’

05 05 On set in Queens­land

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