An­gelina row

How Jolie found her­self at the heart of a child ex­ploita­tion furore


VAN­ITY Fair magazine adores An­gelina Jolie and has re­peat­edly put her on the cover. The in­ter­views, car­ried out in lo­ca­tions like Venice, Malta, Bev­erly Hills and Syd­ney Har­bour, have al­ways gone well. She’s a can­did in­ter­vie­wee with a cap­ti­vat­ing story, and her He­len of Troy beauty makes for a great splash.

The lat­est in­ter­view, how­ever, has not gone well, pro­vok­ing a mon­u­men­tal fall­out be­tween the star and the magazine.

At the heart of it is the al­leged treat­ment of chil­dren in the mak­ing of Jolie’s first film for Net­flix – First They Killed My Fa­ther, which is based on a real-life mem­oir of life un­der the Kh­mer Rouge in the 1970s, when Pol Pot’s geno­ci­dal regime killed up to two mil­lion Cam­bo­di­ans. Jolie de­scribed to Van­ity Fair how di­rec­tors had car­ried out role­play with chil­dren where the young­sters were to steal money on cam­era then be caught. The in­ter­view caused a furore, but the ac­tress has fiercely de­nied play­ing tricks on chil­dren with money, say­ing they were fully aware it was a re­hearsal for a scene in the film. Af­ter the magazine ar­ti­cle ap­peared, wide­spread con­cern was ex­pressed on so­cial me­dia and else­where. Van­ity Fair went on to say that it had re­viewed the au­dio­tape of the in­ter­view – and that it “stands by [the] story as pub­lished”.

Jolie was born in Los An­ge­les in 1975, the daugh­ter of ac­tors Jon Voight and Marche­line Ber­trand, and she grew up to be­come one of Hol­ly­wood’s lead­ing ac­tors, as known for her pri­vate life as for her ac­claimed work. “Her power is vol­canic, it’s huge, it’s elec­tric,” said James Man­gold, who di­rected her in Girl, In­ter­rupted.

Jolie was once known as a Hol­ly­wood wild child, a rep­u­ta­tion fu­elled by her “two failed mar­riages” (as she later termed them) to Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thorn­ton, as well as her re­la­tion­ships with model and ac­tress Jenny Shimizu. She and Thorn­ton fa­mously wore pen­dants con­tain­ing each other’s dried blood.

As Van­ity Fair ob­served early in her ca­reer, Jolie talked of be­ing “a self­cut­ter, said she wanted to be a vam­pire, and once con­tem­plated hir­ing some­one to kill her”. Dull and ret­i­cent she is not.

Jolie had ap­peared in a string of films and other projects – in­clud­ing, it is said, a cou­ple of Meat Loaf music videos – be­fore find­ing a break­through in a cou­ple of TV films, Gia, and Ge­orge Wallace, for both of which she won Golden Globes. In 1999, she starred in The Bone Col­lec­tor op­po­site Den­zel Wash­ing­ton – and she won a Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress Os­car for her mes­meris­ing role in Girl, In­ter­rupted.

In 2001, she be­came a global pin-up af­ter ap­pear­ing as Lara Croft, the in­domitable and pneu­matic video-games hero­ine, in the box-of­fice hit Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (a se­quel ap­peared two years later).

She sub­se­quently showed off the breadth of her act­ing skills in A Mighty Heart, in which she played Mar­i­ane Pearl, wife of the mur­dered US jour­nal­ist Daniel Pearl; in Clint East­wood’s Changeling, which earned her a Best Ac­tress Os­car nom­i­na­tion; in Wanted, along­side James McAvoy; in the dark Dis­ney fan­tasy Malef­i­cent, and in Salt, a high-oc­tane ac­tion thriller in which she was a CIA op­er­a­tive on the run – a role ini­tially writ­ten for Tom Cruise. She has also voiced roles in Kung Fu Panda films.

In 2004, Jolie and Brad Pitt costarred as so­phis­ti­cated mar­ried as­sas­sins in Doug Li­man’s film, Mr and Mrs Smith. Pitt was mar­ried at the time to Jen­nifer Anis­ton. The tabloids had a field day, spec­u­lat­ing that Pitt and Jolie had had an af­fair on-set. Pitt later ad­mit­ted he fell in love with Jolie at that time.

Pitt and Anis­ton were divorced in 2005, and Jolie and Pitt were to­gether for years be­fore mar­ry­ing in 2014, but she filed for di­vorce in Septem­ber of last year, cit­ing ir­rec­on­cil­able dif­fer­ences.

There was even a cus­tody bat­tle over their six chil­dren – Mad­dox, 15, Pax, 13, Za­hara, 12, Shiloh, 11, Knox, 9, and Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, 9. The three el­dest ones were all adopted – from, re­spec­tively, Cam­bo­dia, Viet­nam and Ethiopia.

In re­cent years, Jolie has worked tire­lessly on be­half of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. She be­came a Good­will Am­bas­sador in 2001, trav­el­ling to more than 50 coun­tries and meet­ing refugee fam­i­lies in places that were fre­quently re­mote and dan­ger­ous.

She was ap­pointed Spe­cial En­voy in 2012, and in this ex­panded role, says UNHCR, she “fo­cuses on ma­jor crises that re­sult in mass pop­u­la­tion dis­place­ments, un­der­tak­ing ad­vo­cacy and rep­re­sent­ing UNHCR and the High Com­mis­sioner at the diplo­matic level, and ... also en­gages with de­ci­sion-mak­ers on global dis­place­ment is­sues”.

Three years ago, at the an­nual Gover­nors Awards in the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences, Jolie was pre­sented with the Jean Her­sholt Hu­man­i­tar­ian Award for her work on be­half of the forcibly dis­placed and vic­tims of sex­ual vi­o­lence.

That same year she was praised for her courage af­ter re­veal­ing she had un­der­gone a dou­ble mas­tec­tomy af­ter dis­cov­er­ing she car­ried a mu­ta­tion of a gene which in­creased her risk of de­vel­op­ing breast can­cer and ovar­ian can­cer.

Jolie has also proved her­self as a film di­rec­tor pre­pared to tackle dif­fi­cult sub­jects.

Cam­bo­dia fea­tures in her new film. She set her de­but, In The Land Of Blood And Honey, in 1990s Yu­goslavia. Un­bro­ken was based on a real-life Sec­ond World War story of a US air­man shot down over the Pa­cific and tor­tured in a Ja­panese pris­oner-of-war camp.

The one-time “wild child” has long been left be­hind. Still only 42, an ac­tor, di­rec­tor and hu­man­i­tar­ian, Jolie’s most in­ter­est­ing years may lie ahead of her – but it may be a while be­fore she talks to Van­ity Fair again.

Photograph: Net­flix

An­jelina Jolie’s drama about life un­der the Kh­mer Rouge, First They Killed My Fa­ther, is re­leased on Net­flix in Septem­ber

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