An­gelina Jolie Pitt isn’t one to shy away from a chal­lenge. As a mother of six who vol­un­teers her time to high-pro­file hu­man­i­tar­ian ef­forts off screen, to her award-win­ning on­screen work (she’s also a writer and di­rec­tor), Jolie Pitt proves you can have i


An­gelina Jolie Pitt on life as a hu­man­i­tar­ian, di­rec­tor, and mother.

An­gelina Jolie Pitt may for­ever be etched in our minds as the quin­tes­sen­tial movie star; from the pouty lips and doe eyes, to the mul­ti­ple ti­tles as “Sex­i­est Woman Alive,” and, of course, her mem­o­rable turn on the 2012 Os­cars red car­pet wear­ing the black, leg-baring Ver­sace dress that launched a thou­sand In­ter­net memes. But it’s be­come in­creas­ingly clear that a care­fully crafted Hol­ly­wood im­age is not a role that de­fines her—it is but a mere slice of the woman she has be­come.

These days, Jolie Pitt’s real life looks more like that of a diplo­mat, se­ri­ous film­maker, and, yes, some­thing of a mother of the world, not only to her six chil­dren, but to the mil­lions of global refugees whom she cham­pi­ons on be­half of the United Na­tions. “A lot of peo­ple in this life have fo­cused on things that don’t mat­ter,” says Jolie Pitt, speak­ing on the phone from her tem­po­rary home in Lon­don, Eng­land. “You get in the mid­dle of a refugee sit­u­a­tion, and a refugee camp, and you very quickly know what mat­ters and what doesn’t.”

It would seem there’s noth­ing Jolie Pitt, 40, can’t do, and now she’s tak­ing on yet an­other multi-hy­phen­ated role: that of writer, di­rec­tor, ac­tor, and co-pro­ducer of her new­est film, By The Sea (in theatres No­vem­ber 13), in which she stars along­side her hus­band, Brad Pitt. It’s a chal­leng­ing role to take on, not least be­cause of the film’s dark sub­ject mat­ter and ex­plo­ration of grief. In the film, she and Pitt play an es­tranged cou­ple trav­el­ling in the south of France in the 1970s, where they meet var­i­ous in­hab­i­tants of a sea­side town, each of whom grap­ples with var­i­ous stages of grief.

Jolie Pitt wrote the screen­play for the film back in 2010, just after writ­ing In The Land of Blood & Honey, which she also di­rected. “I wrote By The Sea very pri­vately to ex­plore grief and ex­plore writ­ing, to see what it is to be a writer,” she says. “As a writer, you chal­lenge your­self with dif­fer­ent themes. I wanted to see where it would go and to try and un­der­stand my own com­ing to terms with grief, mainly my mother’s death. It was very ther­a­peu­tic.”

Jolie showed Pitt the script and they dis­cussed it off and on for a few years, but it stayed on the back burner un­til 2014, when she found the op­por­tu­nity to make the film. “If I knew I was go­ing to be act­ing and di­rect­ing in it, I would not have writ­ten so boldly,” she ad­mits. “So, when I knew I was go­ing to [make the film], I re­fused to al­low my­self to change any­thing be­cause I felt that it was a writer’s truth, be­cause now it’s you in the scene. So, we [with hus­band Pitt] kind of had to bravely do all those things that were imag­ined or those heavy scenes that were not writ­ten with us in mind, re­ally.”

Jolie Pitt says the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing on set for By The Sea— di­rect­ing and act­ing with her hus­band through scenes of ver­bal ar­gu­ments, shout­ing matches, and hints of violence—was like be­ing in a box­ing ring. “It was re­ally hard,” she says of shoot­ing these scenes, which coin­ci­den­tally were filmed dur­ing the cou­ple’s hon­ey­moon in Malta, days after mar­ry­ing in France. “You’re not able to pro­tect each other be­cause a lot of the piece in­volves the char­ac­ters clos­ing off or at­tack­ing each other. It was chal­leng­ing to di­rect my­self in scenes—it was not a plea­sure, be­cause you don’t have that per­son to lean on. You have to find a new re­la­tion­ship—a new way of speak­ing to each other that you hadn’t had be­fore.”

But Jolie Pitt says the cou­ple came out of the ex­pe­ri­ence bet­ter for it. “It was a great chal­lenge. Like any great chal­lenge, ar­tis­ti­cally, the harder it is, the more you con­nect, and then when you come out the end of it, you’ve been through some­thing to­gether. It makes you closer.”

And the Jolie Pitt fam­ily is, with­out ques­tion, a tight-knit group. The cou­ple and their six chil­dren, Shiloh, 9, Za­hara, 10, Mad­dox, 14, Pax, 11, and twins Vivi­enne and Knox, 7, all travel to­gether, with Pitt and Jolie go­ing where their work takes them. The Jolie Pitts have homes in both Los An­ge­les and France, but the fam­ily won’t be go­ing to ei­ther in the next while, as Jolie Pitt will be film­ing in Cam­bo­dia for four months, bring­ing four of the cou­ple’s chil­dren with her. She and son Mad­dox, who hails from Cam­bo­dia, are work­ing to­gether on the Net­flix orig­i­nal film First They Killed My Fa­ther: A Daugh­ter of Cam­bo­dia Re­mem­bers. “It’s his coun­try and his­tory; he’s go­ing to learn about it,” she says. Mean­while, Pitt will be film­ing in Lon­don, and tak­ing care of the twins. “We home school [the chil­dren], and we stay as a group,” says Jolie Pitt. “At worst, mommy and daddy have to sep­a­rate them for a few weeks. So we kind of hop­scotch and then all of us are back to­gether again.”

Of late, the chil­dren have been ac­com­pa­ny­ing Jolie Pitt on hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sions. Shiloh re­cently joined her mother on a mis­sion to Turkey, after be­com­ing in­ter­ested in her ef­forts and hear­ing Jolie Pitt speak about a lit­tle girl she’d met on a pre­vi­ous ex­cur­sion. “I brought Shiloh out to meet her and they hung out and played and got to know each other. Now, we write let­ters back and forth.” Mean­while, when Jolie Pitt was prep­ping for a trip to Myan­mar, her son Pax ex­pressed in­ter­est in ac­com­pa­ny­ing her to meet the coun­try’s op­po­si­tion leader and No­bel Peace Prize win­ner, Aung San Suu Kyi. “He un­der­stood who she was and that it was an honour,” she says. “I didn’t even tell him how to get dressed or what he should wear, but he re­ally took the time to get dressed up that morn­ing. It was some­thing that he wanted to do.” For her chil­dren, she adds, “The most im­por­tant thing that they un­der­stand is that what they see in their own home and what they see on movie sets is one very small as­pect of life. Their world needs to be full— more to the bal­ance of what life is.”

Through her hu­man­i­tar­ian ef­forts and role as Spe­cial En­voy of UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees An­tónio Guter­res, Jolie Pitt knows all about that bal­ance. She’s learned that change doesn’t hap­pen overnight and her ex­pe­ri­ences work­ing in the field are all about gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion that she can use to fight for spe­cific so­lu­tions at the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, within her own gov­ern­ment, or work­ing on laws that help pro­tect vic­tims of sex­ual violence. The most re­ward­ing as­pect of the work, though, has been the peo­ple she has met, par­tic­u­larly among refugee fam­i­lies. “In many ways, they’re a guid­ing light; some of the great­est peo­ple I’ve ever met,” she says. “They’re sur­vivors, and they’ve sur­vived so much and they keep their heads up—they have so much dig­nity un­der so much duress. They have taught me so much be­cause, of course, you meet peo­ple in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions and you imag­ine how you would han­dle it, and they al­ways han­dle it bet­ter than I know I would. They are for­ever in­spir­ing to me. For that, I hate what they go through, but I love be­ing in the field with them.”

Back in Hol­ly­wood, which seems a world away from her UN work, is the pro­mo­tion of her films, com­plete with press jun­kets, and, of course, the red car­pet. De­spite her smoul­der­ing turns for the cam­eras, get­ting glammed up is all in a day’s work for Jolie Pitt. “There are worse jobs, but it’s not my favourite part of it all,” says the star, whose daily off-duty uni­form con­sists of all black and boots. Her red-car­pet strat­egy goes a lit­tle some­thing like this: reach out to a few de­sign­ers she has re­la­tion­ships with, brain­storm a few ideas and then the cho­sen de­signer will bring one or two cre­ations to life. “I might call and say, ‘I’m think­ing some­thing black’ and we’ll talk for five min­utes about a gen­eral idea, de­pend­ing on what the event is,” she says. “The [de­signer] makes one or two things and we’ll all pick a favourite.” On the up­side, if she and Pitt at­tend a film pre­miere or awards show to­gether, it’s an op­por­tu­nity to spend some qual­ity cou­ple time. “We’re usu­ally busy do­ing other things, and so it’s an ex­cuse to go on a date night,” she says.

And so comes the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion: how does Jolie Pitt, whose life seems to be ever ex­pand­ing, man­age to keep it all to­gether? “I’m an ob­ses­sive sched­uler,” she says with a laugh. “I must drive my hus­band crazy with it, but you have to. You have to map out your days. You have to plan months in ad­vance so there’s al­ways room for all things. It isn’t just some­thing that falls into place, so some­one has to be on top of the sched­ule—trav­el­ling and mov­ing and birthdays. I spent most of yes­ter­day fig­ur­ing out Pax’s birth­day. It’s some­thing that has to be, lo­gis­ti­cally, re­ally or­ga­nized.” And with that, Jolie Pitt is sum­moned to her next call of duty: vis­it­ing her hus­band on set, just down the road. All is go­ing ac­cord­ing to plan.

“I wanted to…un­der­stand my own com­ing to terms with grief, mainly my mother’s death. It was very ther­a­peu­tic.”

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