Angelina Jolie Pitt (/d?o?’li:/ joh-LEE; née Voight; born June 4, 1975) is an American actress, filmmaker, and humanitarian. She has received an Academy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards, and has been cited as Hollywood’s highest-paid actress. Jolie made her screen debut as a child alongside her father, Jon Voight, in Lookin’ to Get Out (1982). Her film career began in earnest a decade later with the low-budget production Cyborg 2 (1993), followed by her first leading role in a major film, Hackers (1995). She starred in the critically acclaimed biographical television films George Wallace (1997) and Gia (1998), and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the drama Girl, Interrupted (1999).
Jolie’s starring role as the video game heroine Lara Croft in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) established her as a leading Hollywood actress. She continued her successful action-star career with Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Wanted (2008), and Salt (2010), and received critical acclaim for her performances in the dramas A Mighty Heart (2007) and Changeling (2008), which earned her a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Beginning in the 2010s, she expanded her career by directing and producing the wartime dramas In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011) and Unbroken (2014). Her biggest commercial success came with the Disney fantasy Maleficent (2014).
In addition to her film career, Jolie is noted for her humanitarian efforts, for which she has received a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and an honorary damehood of the Order of St Michael and St George (DCMG), among other honors. She promotes various causes, including conservation, education, and women’s rights, and is most noted for her advocacy on behalf of refugees as a Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). As a public figure, Jolie has been cited as one of the most influential and powerful people in the American entertainment industry, as well as the world’s most beautiful woman, by various media outlets. Her personal life is the subject of wide publicity. Divorced from actors Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thornton, she is now married to actor Brad Pitt. They have six children together, three of whom were adopted internationally.
Early life and family
Born in Los Angeles, California, Jolie is the daughter of actors Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand. She is the sister of actor James Haven and niece of singer-songwriter Chip Taylor. Her godparents are actors Jacqueline Bisset and Maximilian Schell. On her father’s side, Jolie is of German and Slovak descent, and on her mother’s side, she is of primarily French-Canadian, Dutch, and German ancestry. Like her mother, Jolie has stated that she is part Iroquois, although her only known indigenous ancestors were 17th-century Hurons.
After her parents’ separation in 1976, Jolie and her brother lived with their mother, who had abandoned her acting ambitions to focus on raising her children. As a child, she often watched films with her mother and it was this, rather than her father’s successful career, that inspired her interest in acting, though at age five she had a bit part in Voight’s Lookin’ to Get Out (1982). When Jolie was six years old, Bertrand and her live-in partner, filmmaker Bill Day, moved the family to Palisades, New York; they returned to Los Angeles five years later. Jolie then decided she wanted to act and enrolled at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, where she trained for two years and appeared in several stage productions.
Jolie first attended Beverly Hills High School, where she felt isolated among the children of some of the area’s affluent families, because her mother survived on a more modest income. She was teased by other students, who targeted her for being extremely thin and for wearing glasses and braces. Her early attempts at modeling, at her mother’s insistence, proved unsuccessful. She then transferred to Moreno High School, an alternative school, where she became a “punk outsider,” wearing all-black clothing, going out moshing, and experimenting with knife play with her live-in boyfriend. She dropped out of her acting classes and aspired to become a funeral director, taking at-home courses to study embalming. At age 16, after the relationship had ended, Jolie graduated from high school and rented her own apartment, before returning to theater studies, though in 2004 she referred to this period with the observation, “I am still at heart–and always will be–just a punk kid with tattoos.”
As a teenager, Jolie found it difficult to emotionally connect with other people, and as a result she self-harmed, later commenting, “For some reason, the ritual of having cut myself and feeling the pain, maybe feeling alive, feeling some kind of release, it was somehow therapeutic to me.” She also struggled with insomnia and an eating disorder, and began experimenting with drugs; by age 20, she had used “just about every drug possible,” particularly heroin. Jolie suffered episodes of depression and twice planned to commit suicide–at age 19 and again at 22, when she attempted to hire a hitman to kill her. When she was 24, she experienced a nervous breakdown and was admitted for 72 hours to UCLA Medical Center’s psychiatric ward. Two years later, after adopting her first child, Jolie found stability in her life, later stating, “I knew once I committed to Maddox, I would never be self-destructive again.”
Jolie has had a lifelong dysfunctional relationship with her father, which began when Voight left the family when his daughter was less than a year old. She has said that from then on their time together was sporadic and usually carried out in front of the press. They reconciled when they appeared together in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), but their relationship again deteriorated. Jolie petitioned the court to legally remove her surname “Voight” in favor of her middle name, which she had long used as a stage name; the name change was granted on September 12, 2002. Voight then went public with their estrangement during an appearance on Access Hollywood, in which he claimed Jolie had “serious mental problems.” At that point, her mother and brother also broke off contact with Voight. They did not speak for six-and-a-half years, but began rebuilding their relationship in the wake of Bertrand’s death from ovarian cancer on January 27, 2007, before going public with their reconciliation three years later.
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1991-97: Early work
Jolie committed to acting professionally at the age of 16, but initially found it difficult to pass auditions, often being told that her demeanor was “too dark.” She appeared in five of her brother’s student films, made while he attended the USC School of Cinema-Television, as well as in several music videos, namely Lenny Kravitz’s “Stand by My Woman” (1991), Antonello Venditti’s “Alta Marea” (1991), The Lemonheads’s “It’s About Time” (1993), and Meat Loaf’s “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” (1993). She began to learn from her father, as she noticed his method of observing people to become like them. Their relationship during this time was less strained, with Jolie realizing that they were both “drama queens.”
Jolie began her professional film career in 1993, when she played her first leading role in the straight-to-video science-fiction sequel Cyborg 2, as a near-human robot designed for corporate espionage and assassination. She was so disappointed with the film that she did not audition again for a year. Following a supporting role in the independent film Without Evidence (1995), she starred in her first Hollywood picture, Hackers (1995). The New York Times critic Janet Maslin wrote, “Kate stands out. That’s because she scowls even more sourly than [her co-stars] and is that rare female hacker who sits intently at her keyboard in a see-through top.” Hackers failed to make a profit at the box office, but developed a cult following after its video release.
After starring in the modern-day Romeo and Juliet adaptation Love Is All There Is (1996), Jolie appeared in the road movie Mojave Moon (1996), of which The Hollywood Reporter said, “Jolie, an actress whom the camera truly adores, reveals a comic flair and the kind of blatant sexuality that makes it entirely credible that Danny Aiello’s character would drop everything just for the chance of being with her.” In Foxfire (1996) she played a drifter who unites four teenage girls against a teacher who has sexually harassed them. Jack Mathews of the Los Angeles Times wrote of her performance, “It took a lot of hogwash to develop this character, but Jolie, Jon Voight’s knockout daughter, has the presence to overcome the stereotype. Though the story is narrated by Maddy, Legs is the subject and the catalyst.”
In 1997, Jolie starred with David Duchovny in the thriller Playing God, set in the Los Angeles underworld. The film was not well received by critics; Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert noted that Jolie “finds a certain warmth in a kind of role that is usually hard and aggressive; she seems too nice to be [a mobster’s] girlfriend, and maybe she is.” Her next work, as a frontierswoman in the CBS miniseries True Women (1997), was even less successful; writing for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Robert Strauss dismissed her as “horrid, a fourth-rate Scarlett O’Hara” who relies on “gnashed teeth and overly pouted lips.” Jolie also starred in the music video for the Rolling Stones’s “Anybody Seen My Baby?” as a stripper who leaves mid-performance to wander New York City.
Jolie’s career prospects began to improve after she won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in TNT’s George Wallace (1997), about the life of the segregationist Alabama Governor and presidential candidate George Wallace, played by Gary Sinise. Jolie portrayed Wallace’s second wife, Cornelia, a performance Lee Winfrey of The Philadelphia Inquirer considered a highlight of the film. George Wallace was very well received by critics and won, among other awards, the Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film. Jolie also received a nomination for an Emmy Award for her performance.
Jolie’s first breakthrough came when she portrayed supermodel Gia Carangi in HBO’s Gia (1998). The film chronicles the destruction of Carangi’s life and career as a result of her addiction to heroin, and her decline and death from AIDS in the mid-1980s. Vanessa Vance of Reel.com retrospectively noted, “Jolie gained wide recognition for her role as the titular Gia, and it’s easy to see why. Jolie is fierce in her portrayal–filling the part with nerve, charm, and desperation–and her role in this film is quite possibly the most beautiful train wreck ever filmed.” For the second consecutive year, Jolie won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Emmy Award. She also won her first Screen Actors Guild Award.
In accordance with Lee Strasberg’s method acting, Jolie preferred to stay in character in between scenes during many of her early films, and as a result had gained a reputation for being difficult to deal with. While shooting Gia, she told her husband, Jonny Lee Miller, that she would not be able to phone him: “I’d tell him: ‘I’m alone; I’m dying; I’m gay; I’m not going to see you for weeks.'” After Gia wrapped, she briefly gave up acting, because she felt that she had “nothing else to give.” She separated from Miller and moved to New York, where she took night classes at New York University to study directing and screenwriting. Encouraged by her Golden Globe Award win for George Wallace and the positive critical reception of Gia, Jolie resumed her career.
Following the previously filmed gangster film Hell’s Kitchen (1998), Jolie returned to the screen in Playing by Heart (1998), part of an ensemble cast that included Sean Connery, Gillian Anderson, and Ryan Phillippe. The film received predominantly positive reviews, and Jolie was praised in particular; San Francisco Chronicle critic Peter Stack wrote, “Jolie, working through an overwritten part, is a sensation as the desperate club crawler learning truths about what she’s willing to gamble.” She won the Breakthrough Performance Award from the National Board of Review.
In 1999, Jolie starred in the comedy-drama Pushing Tin, alongside John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, and Cate Blanchett. The film met with mixed reception from critics, and Jolie’s character–Thornton’s seductive wife–was particularly criticized; writing for The Washington Post, Desson Howe dismissed her as “a completely ludicrous writer’s creation of a free-spirited woman who weeps over hibiscus plants that die, wears lots of turquoise rings and gets real lonely when Russell spends entire nights away from home.” Jolie then co-starred with Denzel Washington in The Bone Collector (1999), playing a police officer who reluctantly helps Washington’s paraplegic detective track down a serial killer. The film grossed $151.5 million worldwide, but was critically unsuccessful. Terry Lawson of the Detroit Free Press concluded, “Jolie, while always delicious to look at, is simply and woefully miscast.”
Jolie next took the supporting role of a sociopathic mental patient in Girl, Interrupted (1999), an adaptation of Susanna Kaysen’s memoir of the same name. While Winona Ryder played the main character in what was hoped to be a comeback for her, the film instead marked Jolie’s final breakthrough in Hollywood. She won her third Golden Globe Award, her second Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. For Variety, Emanuel Levy noted, “Jolie is excellent as the flamboyant, irresponsible girl who turns out to be far more instrumental than the doctors in Susanna’s rehabilitation.”
In 2000, Jolie appeared in her first summer blockbuster, Gone in 60 Seconds, which became her highest-grossing film to that point, earning $237.2 million internationally. She had a minor role as the mechanic ex-girlfriend of a car thief played by Nicolas Cage; The Washington Post writer Stephen Hunter criticized that “all she does in this movie is stand around, cooling down, modeling those fleshy, pulsating muscle-tubes that nest so provocatively around her teeth.” Jolie later explained that the film had been a welcome relief after her emotionally demanding role in Girl, Interrupted.
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2001-04: International success
Although highly regarded for her acting abilities, Jolie had rarely found films that appealed to a wide audience, but Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) made her an international superstar. An adaptation of the popular Tomb Raider videogames, the film required her to learn an English accent and undergo extensive martial arts training to play the archaeologist-adventurer Lara Croft. Although the film generated mostly negative reviews, Jolie was generally praised for her physical performance; Newsday ‘s John Anderson commented, “Jolie makes the title character a virtual icon of female competence and coolth.” The film was an international hit, earning $274.7 million worldwide, and launched her global reputation as a female action star.
Jolie next starred opposite Antonio Banderas as his mail-order bride in Original Sin (2001), the first of a string of films that were poorly received by critics and audiences alike. The New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell questioned Jolie’s decision to follow her Oscar-winning performance with “soft-core nonsense.” The romantic comedy Life or Something Like It (2002), though equally unsuccessful, marked an unusual choice for Jolie. Salon ‘s Allen Barra considered her ambitious newscaster character a rare attempt at playing a conventional women’s role, noting that her performance “doesn’t get off the ground until a scene where she goes punk and leads a group of striking bus workers in singing ‘Satisfaction.'” Despite her lack of box office success, Jolie remained in demand as an actress; in 2002, she established herself among Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses, earning $10-$15 million per film for the next five years.
Jolie reprised her role as Lara Croft in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003), which was not as lucrative as the original, earning $156.5 million at the international box office. She also starred in the music video for Korn’s “Did My Time”, which was used to promote the sequel. Her next film was Beyond Borders (2003), in which she portrayed a socialite who joins an aid worker played by Clive Owen. Though unsuccessful with audiences, the film stands as the first of several passion projects Jolie has made to bring attention to humanitarian causes. Beyond Borders was a critical failure; Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times acknowledged Jolie’s ability to “bring electricity and believability to roles,” but wrote that “the limbo of a hybrid character, a badly written cardboard person in a fly-infested, blood-and-guts world, completely defeats her.”
The year 2004 saw the release of four films featuring Jolie. She first starred in the thriller Taking Lives as an FBI profiler summoned to help Montreal law enforcement hunt down a serial killer. The film received mixed reviews; The Hollywood Reporter critic Kirk Honeycutt concluded, “Jolie plays a role that definitely feels like something she has already done, but she does add an unmistakable dash of excitement and glamour.” Jolie made a brief appearance as a fighter pilot in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a science fiction adventure shot entirely with actors in front of a bluescreen, and voiced her first family film, the DreamWorks animation Shark Tale. Her supporting role as Queen Olympias in Oliver Stone’s Alexander, about the life of Alexander the Great, was met with mixed reception, particularly concerning her Slavic accent. Commercially, the film failed in North America, which Stone attributed to disapproval of the depiction of Alexander’s bisexuality, but it succeeded internationally, for a total revenue of $167.3 million.
In 2005, Jolie finally returned to major box office success with the action-comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith, in which she starred opposite Brad Pitt as a bored married couple who find out that they are both secret assassins. The film received mixed reviews, but was generally lauded for the chemistry between the two leads; Star Tribune critic Colin Covert noted, “While the story feels haphazard, the movie gets by on gregarious charm, galloping energy and the stars’ thermonuclear screen chemistry.” With box office takings of $478.2 million worldwide, Mr. & Mrs. Smith was the seventh-highest grossing picture of the year and remained Jolie’s highest-grossing live-action film for the next decade.
Following a supporting role as the neglected wife of a CIA officer in Robert De Niro’s The Good Shepherd (2006), Jolie starred as Mariane Pearl in the documentary-style drama A Mighty Heart (2007). Based on Pearl’s memoir of the same name, the film chronicles the kidnapping and murder of her husband, The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, in Pakistan. Although the biracial Pearl had personally chosen Jolie for the role, the casting drew racial criticism and accusations of blackface. The resulting performance was widely praised; Ray Bennett of The Hollywood Reporter described it as “well-measured and moving,” played “with respect and a firm grasp on a difficult accent.” She received nominations for a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Jolie also played a shape-shifting seductress, Grendel’s mother, in the epic Beowulf (2007), created through motion capture. The film was critically and commercially well received, taking in revenues of $196.4 million worldwide.
By 2008, Jolie was considered the highest-paid actress in Hollywood, earning $15-$20 million per film. While other actresses had been forced to take salary cuts in recent years, Jolie’s perceived box office appeal allowed her to command as much as $20 million plus a percentage. She starred alongside James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman in the action film Wanted (2008), which proved an international success, earning $341.4 million worldwide. The film received predominantly favorable reviews; writing for The New York Times, Manohla Dargis noted that Jolie was “perfectly cast as a super-scary, seemingly amoral assassin,” adding that “she cuts the kind of disciplinarian figure who can bring boys of all ages to their knees or at least into their theater seats.”
Jolie next took the lead role in Clint Eastwood’s drama Changeling (2008). Based in part on the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, the film centers on Christine Collins, who is reunited with her kidnapped son in 1928 Los Angeles, only to realize the boy is an imposter. Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips noted, “Jolie really shines in the calm before the storm, the scenes when one patronizing male authority figure after another belittles her at their peril.” She received nominations for a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BAFTA Award, and an Academy Award for Best Actress. Jolie also voiced the DreamWorks animation Kung Fu Panda (2008), the first work in a major family franchise, later reprising her voice role in the sequel Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) and two television shorts.
After her mother’s death in 2007, Jolie began appearing in fewer films, later explaining that her motivation to be an actress had stemmed from her mother’s acting ambitions. Her first film in two years was the thriller Salt (2010), in which she starred as a CIA agent who goes on the run after she is accused of being a KGB sleeper agent. Originally written as a male character with Tom Cruise attached to star, agent Salt underwent a gender change after a Columbia Pictures executive suggested Jolie for the role. With revenues of $293.5 million, Salt became an international success. The film received generally positive reviews, with Jolie’s performance in particular earning praise; Empire critic William Thomas remarked, “When it comes to selling incredible, crazy, death-defying antics, Jolie has few peers in the action business.”
Jolie starred opposite Johnny Depp in the thriller The Tourist (2010). The film was a critical failure, though Roger Ebert defended Jolie’s performance, stating that she “does her darndest” and “plays her femme fatale with flat-out, drop-dead sexuality.” Despite the poor critical reception, after a slow start at the North American box office, the film went on to gross a respectable $278.3 million worldwide, cementing Jolie’s appeal to international audiences. She received a Golden Globe Award nomination for her performance, which gave rise to speculation that it had been given merely to ensure her high-profile presence at the awards ceremony.
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2011-present: Professional expansion
After directing the documentary A Place in Time (2007), which was distributed through the National Education Association, Jolie made her feature directorial debut with In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011), a love story between a Serb soldier and a Bosniak prisoner, set during the 1992-95 Bosnian War. She conceived the film to rekindle attention for the survivors, after twice visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina in her role as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. To ensure authenticity, she cast only actors from the former Yugoslavia–including stars Goran Kosti? and Zana Marjanovi?–and incorporated their wartime experiences into her screenplay. Upon release, the film received mixed reviews; Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “Jolie deserves significant credit for creating such a powerfully oppressive atmosphere and staging the ghastly events so credibly, even if it is these very strengths that will make people not want to watch what’s onscreen.” The film was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and Jolie was named an honorary citizen of Sarajevo for raising awareness of the war.
After a three-and-a-half-year absence from the screen, Jolie starred in Maleficent (2014), a live-action re-imagining of Disney’s 1959 animation Sleeping Beauty. Critical reception was mixed, but Jolie’s performance in the titular role was singled out for praise; The Hollywood Reporter critic Sherri Linden found her to be the “heart and soul” of the film, adding that she “doesn’t chew the estimable scenery in Maleficent–she infuses it, wielding a magnetic and effortless power.” In its opening weekend, Maleficent earned nearly $70 million at the North American box office and over $100 million in other markets, marking Jolie’s appeal to audiences of all demographics in both action and fantasy films, genres usually dominated by male actors. The film went on to gross $757.8 million worldwide, becoming the fourth-highest grossing film of the year and Jolie’s highest-grossing film ever.
Jolie next completed her second directorial venture, Unbroken (2014), about World War II hero Louis Zamperini (1917-2014), a former Olympic track star who survived a plane crash over sea and spent two years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s biography of the same name, the film was scripted by the Coen brothers and starred Jack O’Connell. After a positive early reception, Unbroken was considered a likely Best Picture and Best Director contender, but it ultimately received mixed reviews and little award recognition, though it was named one of the best films of the year by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute. In a typical review, Variety ‘s Justin Chang noted Jolie’s “impeccable craftsmanship and sober restraint” as a filmmaker, but found the film “an extraordinary story told in dutiful, unexceptional terms.” Financially, Unbroken far outperformed industry expectations in its opening weekend, eventually earning over $160 million worldwide.
Scheduled for a 2015 release, Jolie’s third directorial effort, By the Sea, is a romantic drama about a marriage in crisis, based on her screenplay. She stars opposite her husband, Brad Pitt, in their first collaboration since 2005’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Jolie is next expected to direct Africa, about Kenyan conservationist Richard Leakey’s fight against the illegal ivory trade.
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Jolie first witnessed the effects of a humanitarian crisis while filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) in war-torn Cambodia, an experience she later credited with having brought her a greater understanding of the world. Upon her return home, she contacted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for information on international trouble spots. To learn more about the conditions in these areas, she began visiting refugee camps around the world. In February 2001, she went on her first field visit, an 18-day mission to Sierra Leone and Tanzania; she later expressed her shock at what she had witnessed.
In the following months, Jolie returned to Cambodia for two weeks and met with Afghan refugees in Pakistan, where she donated $1 million in response to an international UNHCR emergency appeal, the largest donation UNHCR had ever received from a private individual. She covered all costs related to her missions and shared the same rudimentary working and living conditions as UNHCR field staff on all of her visits. Jolie was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva on August 27, 2001.
Over the next decade, she went on more than 40 field missions, meeting with refugees and internally displaced persons in over 30 countries. In 2002, when asked what she hoped to accomplish, she stated, “Awareness of the plight of these people. I think they should be commended for what they have survived, not looked down upon.” To that end, her 2001-02 field visits were chronicled in her book Notes from My Travels, which was published in October 2003 in conjunction with the release of her humanitarian drama Beyond Borders.
Jolie aimed to visit what she termed “forgotten emergencies,” crises that media attention had shifted away from. She became noted for travelling to war zones, such as Sudan’s Darfur region during the Darfur conflict, the Syrian-Iraqi border during the Second Gulf War, where she met privately with U.S. troops and other multi-national forces, and the Afghan capital Kabul during the war in Afghanistan, where three aid workers were murdered in the midst of her first visit. To aid her travels, she began taking flying lessons in 2004 with the aim of ferrying aid workers and food supplies around the world; she now holds a private pilot license with instrument rating and owns a Cirrus SR22 and Cessna 208 Caravan single-engine aircraft.
On April 17, 2012, after more than a decade of service as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Jolie was promoted to the rank of Special Envoy to High Commissioner António Guterres, the first to take on such a position within the organization. In her expanded role, she was given authority to represent Guterres and UNHCR at the diplomatic level, with a focus on major refugee crises. In the months following her promotion, she made her first visit as Special Envoy–her third over all–to Ecuador, where she met with Colombian refugees, and she accompanied Guterres on a week-long tour of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq, to assess the situation of refugees from neighboring Syria. Since then, Jolie has gone on a dozen field missions around the world to meet with refugees and undertake advocacy on their behalf.
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Conservation and community development
In an effort to connect her Cambodian-born son with his heritage, Jolie purchased a house in his country of birth in 2003. The traditional home sat on 39 hectares in the northwestern province Battambang, adjacent to Samlout national park in the Cardamom mountains, which had become infiltrated with poachers who threatened endangered species. She purchased the park’s 60,000 hectares and turned the area into a wildlife reserve named for her son, the Maddox Jolie Project. In recognition of her conservation efforts, King Norodom Sihamoni awarded her Cambodian citizenship on July 31, 2005.
In November 2006, Jolie expanded the scope of the project–renamed the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation (MJP)–to create Asia’s first Millennium Village, in accordance with UN development goals. She was inspired by a meeting with the founder of Millennium Promise, noted economist Jeffrey Sachs, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where she was an invited speaker in 2005 and 2006. Together they filmed a 2005 MTV special, The Diary of Angelina Jolie & Dr. Jeffrey Sachs in Africa, which followed them on a trip to a Millennium Village in western Kenya. By mid-2007, some 6,000 villagers and 72 employees–some of them former poachers employed as rangers–lived and worked at MJP, in ten villages previously isolated from one another. The compound includes schools, roads, and a soy milk factory, all funded by Jolie. Her home functions as the MJP field headquarters.
After filming Beyond Borders (2003) in Namibia, Jolie became patron of the Harnas Wildlife Foundation, a wildlife orphanage and medical center in the Kalahari desert. She first visited the Harnas farm during production of the film, which features vultures rescued by the foundation. In December 2010, Jolie and her partner, Brad Pitt, established the Shiloh Jolie-Pitt Foundation to support conservation work by the Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary, a nature reserve also located in the Kalahari. In name of their Namibian-born daughter, they have funded large-animal conservation projects as well as a free health clinic, housing, and a school for the San Bushmen community at Naankuse. Jolie and Pitt support other causes through the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, established in September 2006.
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Child immigration and education
Jolie has pushed for legislation to aid child immigrants and other vulnerable children in both the U.S. and developing nations, including the “Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act of 2005.” She began lobbying humanitarian interests in the U.S. capital from 2003 onwards, explaining, “As much as I would love to never have to visit Washington, that’s the way to move the ball.” Since October 2008, she has co-chaired Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a network of leading U.S. law firms that provide free legal aid to unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings across the U.S. Founded in a collaboration between Jolie and the Microsoft Corporation, by 2013, KIND had become the principal provider of pro bono lawyers for immigrant children. Jolie had previously, from 2005 to 2007, funded the launch of a similar initiative, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants’ National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children.
Jolie has also advocated for children’s education. Since its founding at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in September 2007, she has co-chaired the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which provides policy and funding to education programs for children in conflict-affected regions. In its first year, the partnership supported education projects for Iraqi refugee children, youth affected by the Darfur conflict, and girls in rural Afghanistan, among other affected groups. The partnership has worked closely with the Council on Foreign Relations’ Center for Universal Education–founded by the partnership’s co-chair, noted economist Gene Sperling–to establish education policies, which resulted in recommendations made to UN agencies, G8 development agencies, and the World Bank. Since April 2013, all proceeds from Jolie’s high-end jewelry collection, Style of Jolie, have benefited the partnership’s work.
Jolie has funded a school and boarding facility for girls at Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya, which opened in 2005, and two primary schools for girls in the returnee settlements Tangi and Qalai Gudar in eastern Afghanistan, which opened in March 2010 and November 2012 respectively. In addition to the facilities at the Millennium Village she established in Cambodia, Jolie had built at least ten other schools in the country by 2005. In February 2006, she opened the Maddox Chivan Children’s Center, a medical and educational facility for children affected by HIV, in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. In Sebeta, Ethiopia, the birthplace of her eldest daughter, she funds a sister facility, the Zahara Children’s Center, which is expected to open in 2015 and will treat and educate children suffering from HIV or tuberculosis. Both centers are run by the Global Health Committee.
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Human rights and women’s rights
After Jolie joined the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in June 2007, she hosted a symposium on international law and justice at CFR headquarters and funded several CFR special reports, including “Intervention to Stop Genocide and Mass Atrocities.” In January 2011, she established the Jolie Legal Fellowship, a network of lawyers and attorneys who are sponsored to advocate the development of human rights in their countries. Its member attorneys, called Jolie Legal Fellows, have facilitated child protection efforts in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake and promoted the development of an inclusive democratic process in Libya following the 2011 revolution.
Jolie has fronted a campaign against sexual violence in military conflict zones by the UK government, which made the issue a priority of its 2013 G8 presidency. In May 2012, she launched the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) with Foreign Secretary William Hague, who was inspired to campaign on the issue by her Bosnian war drama In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011). PSVI was established to complement wider UK government work by raising awareness and promoting international co-operation. Jolie spoke on the subject at the G8 foreign ministers meeting, where the attending nations adopted a historic declaration, and before the UN security council, which responded by adopting its broadest resolution on the issue to date. In June 2014, she co-chaired the four-day Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, the largest-ever meeting on the subject, attended by 123 nations. It resulted in a protocol endorsed by 151 countries.
In February 2015, Jolie and Hague launched the UK’s first academic Centre on Women, Peace and Security, based at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The Centre aims to contribute to global women’s rights issues, including the prosecution of war rape and women’s engagement in politics, through academic research, a post-graduate teaching program, public engagement, and collaboration with international organizations.
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Recognition and honors
Jolie has received wide recognition for her humanitarian work. In August 2002, she received the inaugural Humanitarian Award from the Church World Service’s Immigration and Refugee Program, and in October 2003, she was the first recipient of the Citizen of the World Award by the United Nations Correspondents Association. She was awarded the Global Humanitarian Award by the UNA-USA in October 2005, and she received the Freedom Award from the International Rescue Committee in November 2007. In October 2011, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented Jolie with a gold pin reserved for the most long-serving staff, in recognition of her decade as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.
In November 2013, Jolie received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an honorary Academy Award, from the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In June 2014, she was appointed an Honorary Dame Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (DCMG) for her services to the UK’s foreign policy and campaigning to end sexual violence in war zones. Queen Elizabeth II presented Jolie with the insignia of her honorary damehood during a private ceremony the following October.
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Relationships and marriages
Jolie had a serious boyfriend for two years from the age of 14. Her mother allowed them to live together in her home, of which Jolie later said, “I was either going to be reckless on the streets with my boyfriend or he was going to be with me in my bedroom with my mom in the next room. She made the choice, and because of it, I continued to go to school every morning and explored my first relationship in a safe way.” She has compared the relationship to a marriage in its emotional intensity, and said that the breakup compelled her to dedicate herself to her acting career at the age of 16.
During filming of Hackers (1995), Jolie had a romance with British actor Jonny Lee Miller, her first lover since the relationship in her early teens. They were not in touch for many months after production ended, but eventually reconnected and married soon after on March 28, 1996. She attended her wedding in black rubber pants and a white T-shirt, upon which she had written the groom’s name in her blood. Jolie and Miller separated in September 1997 and divorced on February 3, 1999. They remained on good terms, and Jolie later explained, “It comes down to timing. I think he’s the greatest husband a girl could ask for. I’ll always love him, we were simply too young.”
Jolie began a relationship with model-actress Jenny Shimizu on the set of Foxfire (1996). She later said, “I would probably have married Jenny if I hadn’t married my husband. I fell in love with her the first second I saw her.” According to Shimizu, their relationship lasted many years and continued even while Jolie was romantically involved with other people, though it had ended by 2005. In 2003, when asked if she was bisexual, Jolie responded, “Of course. If I fell in love with a woman tomorrow, would I feel that it’s okay to want to kiss and touch her? If I fell in love with her? Absolutely! Yes!”
After a two-month courtship, Jolie married actor Billy Bob Thornton on May 5, 2000, in Las Vegas. They met on the set of Pushing Tin (1999), but did not pursue a relationship at that time as Thornton was engaged to actress Laura Dern, while Jolie was reportedly dating actor Timothy Hutton, her co-star in Playing God (1997). As a result of their frequent public declarations of passion and gestures of love–most famously wearing one another’s blood in vials around their necks–their marriage became a favorite topic of the entertainment media. Jolie and Thornton announced the adoption of a child from Cambodia in March 2002, but abruptly separated three months later. Their divorce was finalized on May 27, 2003. When asked about the sudden dissolution of their marriage, Jolie stated, “It took me by surprise, too, because overnight, we totally changed. I think one day we had just nothing in common. And it’s scary but… I think it can happen when you get involved and you don’t know yourself yet.”
In early 2005, Jolie was involved in a well-publicized Hollywood scandal when she was accused of being the reason for the divorce of actors Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. She and Pitt were alleged to have started an affair during filming of Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005). Jolie stated on several occasions that this was not true, but later said that they “fell in love” on the set. She explained in 2005, “To be intimate with a married man, when my own father cheated on my mother, is not something I could forgive. I could not look at myself in the morning if I did that. I wouldn’t be attracted to a man who would cheat on his wife.” Jolie and Pitt did not publicly comment on the nature of their relationship until January 2006, when Jolie confirmed that she was pregnant with Pitt’s child. They announced their engagement in April 2012, after seven years together, and married on August 23, 2014, at their estate Château Miraval in Correns, France. Jolie took on Pitt’s name following their marriage. As a couple, they are dubbed “Brangelina” by the entertainment media, and are the subject of worldwide media coverage.
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On March 10, 2002, Jolie adopted her first child, seven-month-old Maddox Chivan, from an orphanage in Battambang, Cambodia. He was born as Rath Vibol on August 5, 2001, in a local village. After twice visiting Cambodia, while filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and on a UNHCR field mission, Jolie returned in November 2001 with her husband, Billy Bob Thornton, where they met Maddox and subsequently applied to adopt him. The adoption process was halted the following month when the U.S. government banned adoptions from Cambodia amid allegations of child trafficking. Although Jolie’s adoption facilitator was later convicted of visa fraud and money laundering, her adoption of Maddox was deemed lawful. Once the process was finalized, she took custody of him in Namibia, where she was filming Beyond Borders (2003). Jolie and Thornton announced the adoption together, but she adopted Maddox alone, and raised him as a single parent following their separation three months later.
Jolie adopted a daughter, six-month-old Zahara Marley, from an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 6, 2005. Zahara was born as Yemsrach on January 8, 2005, in Awasa. Jolie initially believed Zahara to be an AIDS orphan, based on official testimony from her grandmother, but her birth mother later came forward in the media. She explained that she had abandoned her family when Zahara became sick, and said she thought Zahara was “very fortunate” to have been adopted by Jolie. Jolie was accompanied by her partner, Brad Pitt, when she traveled to Ethiopia to take custody of Zahara. She later indicated that they had together made the decision to adopt from Ethiopia, having first visited the country earlier that year. After Pitt announced his intention to adopt her children, she filed a petition to legally change their surname from Jolie to Jolie-Pitt, which was granted on January 19, 2006. Pitt adopted Maddox and Zahara soon after.
In an attempt to avoid the unprecedented media frenzy surrounding their relationship, Jolie and Pitt traveled to Namibia for the birth of their first biological child. On May 27, 2006, she gave birth to a daughter, Shiloh Nouvel, in Swakopmund. They sold the first pictures of Shiloh through the distributor Getty Images with the aim of benefiting charity, rather than allowing paparazzi to make these valuable photographs. People and Hello! purchased the North American and British rights to the images for $4.1 and $3.5 million respectively, a record in celebrity photojournalism at that time, with all proceeds donated to UNICEF.
On March 15, 2007, Jolie adopted a son, three-year-old Pax Thien, from an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He was born as Pham Quang Sang on November 29, 2003, in HCMC, where he was abandoned by his biological mother soon after birth. After visiting the orphanage with Pitt in November 2006, Jolie applied for adoption as a single parent, because Vietnam’s adoption regulations do not allow unmarried couples to co-adopt. After their return to the U.S., she petitioned the court to change her son’s surname from Jolie to Jolie-Pitt, which was approved on May 31. Pitt subsequently adopted Pax on February 21, 2008.
At the Cannes Film Festival in May 2008, Jolie confirmed that she was expecting twins. For the two weeks she spent in a seaside hospital in Nice, France, reporters and photographers camped outside on the promenade. She gave birth to a son, Knox Léon, and a daughter, Vivienne Marcheline, on July 12, 2008. The first pictures of Knox and Vivienne were jointly sold to People and Hello! for a reported $14 million–the most expensive celebrity photographs ever taken. All proceeds were donated to the Jolie-Pitt Foundation.
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Cancer prevention treatment
On February 16, 2013, at age 37, Jolie underwent a preventive double mastectomy after learning she had an 87% risk of developing breast cancer due to a defective BRCA1 gene. Her maternal family history warranted genetic testing for BRCA mutations: her mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand, had breast cancer and died from ovarian cancer, while her grandmother died from ovarian cancer. Her aunt, who had the same BRCA1 defect, died from breast cancer three months after Jolie’s operation. Following the mastectomy, which lowered her chances of developing breast cancer to under 5 percent, Jolie had reconstructive surgery involving implants and allografts. Two years later, in March 2015, after annual test results indicated possible signs of early ovarian cancer, she underwent a preventive oophorectomy, as she had a 50% risk of developing ovarian cancer due to the same genetic anomaly. Despite hormone replacement therapy, the surgery brought on premature menopause.
After completing each operation, Jolie discussed her mastectomy and oophorectomy in op-eds published by The New York Times, with the aim of helping other women make informed health choices. She detailed her diagnosis, surgeries, and personal experiences, and described her decision to undergo preventive surgery as a proactive measure for the sake of her six children. Jolie further wrote, “On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.”
Jolie’s announcement of her mastectomy attracted widespread publicity and discussion on BRCA mutations and genetic testing. Her decision was met with praise from various public figures, while health campaigners welcomed her raising awareness of the options available to at-risk women. Dubbed “The Angelina Effect” by a Time cover story, Jolie’s influence led to a “global and long-lasting” increase in BRCA gene testing: the number of referrals tripled in Australia and doubled in the UK, parts of Canada, and India, as well as significantly increased in other European countries and the U.S. Researchers in Canada and the UK found that despite the large increase, the percentage of mutation carriers remained the same, meaning Jolie’s message had reached those most at risk. In her first op-ed, Jolie had advocated wider accessibility of BRCA gene testing and acknowledged the high costs, which were greatly reduced after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a June 2013 ruling, invalidated BRCA gene patents held by Myriad Genetics.
As the daughter of actor Jon Voight, Jolie appeared in the media from an early age. After embarking on her own career, she earned a reputation as a “wild child,” which contributed to her early success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Celebrity profiles routinely covered her fascination with blood and knives, experiences with drugs, and her sex life, particularly her bisexuality and interest in sadomasochism. In 2000, when asked about her outspokenness, she stated, “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.” Another contributing factor of her controversial image were tabloid rumors of incest that started when Jolie, upon winning her Oscar, kissed her brother on the lips and said, “I’m so in love with my brother right now.” She dismissed the rumors, saying, “It was disappointing that something so beautiful and pure could be turned into a circus,” and explained that, as children of divorce, she and James relied on one another for emotional support.
Jolie’s reputation began to change positively after she, at age 26, became a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, later commenting, “In my early 20s I was fighting with myself. Now I take that punk in me to Washington, and I fight for something important.” Owing to her extensive activism, her Q Score–the industry’s measure of celebrities’ likability–nearly doubled to 25 between 2000 and 2006. Her recognizability grew accordingly; by 2006, she was familiar to 81% of Americans, compared to 31% in 2000. She became noted for her ability to positively influence her public image through the media, without employing a publicist or an agent. Her Q Score remained above average even when, in 2005, she was accused of ending Brad Pitt’s marriage to Jennifer Aniston, at which point her public persona became an unlikely combination of alleged homewrecker, mother, sex symbol, and humanitarian.
Jolie’s general influence and wealth are extensively documented. In a 2006 global industry survey by ACNielsen in 42 international markets, Jolie, together with Pitt, was found to be the favorite celebrity endorser for brands and products worldwide. She was the face of St. John and Shiseido from 2006-08, and in 2011 had an endorsement deal with Louis Vuitton reportedly worth $10 million–a record for a single advertising campaign. Jolie was among the Time 100, a list of the most influential people in the world as published by Time, in 2006 and 2008. She was named the world’s most powerful celebrity in Forbes ‘s Celebrity 100 issue in 2009, and, though ranked lower overall, was listed as the most powerful actress from 2006-08 and 2011-13. Forbes additionally cited her as Hollywood’s highest-paid actress in 2009, 2011, and 2013, with estimated annual earnings of $27 million, $30 million, and $33 million respectively. A 2015 global survey conducted by YouGov in 23 countries, representing nearly two-thirds of the world’s population, found Jolie to be the most admired woman in the world.
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Jolie’s public image is strongly tied to her perceived beauty and sex appeal. Many media outlets, including Vogue, People, and Vanity Fair, have cited her as the world’s most beautiful woman, while others such as Esquire, FHM, and Empire have named her the sexiest woman alive; both titles have often been based on public polls in which Jolie places far ahead of other celebrity women. Her most recognizable physical features are her many tattoos, eyes, and in particular her full lips, which The New York Times considered as defining a feature as Kirk Douglas’s chin or Bette Davis’s eyes. Among her estimated 17 tattoos are the Latin proverb “quod me nutrit me destruit” (what nourishes me destroys me), the Tennessee Williams quote “A prayer for the wild at heart, kept in cages”, a Buddhist Sanskrit prayer of protection, a twelve-inch tiger, and geographical coordinates indicating the birthplaces of her children. Over time, she has covered or lasered several of her tattoos, including “Billy Bob”, the name of her second husband.
Professionally, Jolie’s status as a sex symbol has been considered both an asset and a hindrance. Some of her most commercially successful films, including Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Beowulf (2007), overtly relied at least in part on her sex appeal, with Empire stating that her “pneumatic figure,” “feline eyes,” and “bee-stung lips” have greatly contributed to her appeal to cinema audiences. Conversely, Salon writer Allen Barra agreed with critics who suggested that Jolie’s “dark and intense sexuality” has limited her in the types of roles she can be cast in, rendering her unconvincing in many conventional women’s roles, while Clint Eastwood, who directed her Oscar-nominated performance in Changeling (2008), opined that having “the most beautiful face on the planet” sometimes harmed her dramatic credibility with audiences.
Beyond her career, Jolie’s appearance has been credited with influencing popular culture at large. In 2002, AfterEllen founder Sarah Warn observed that many women of all sexual orientations had publicly expressed their attraction to Jolie, which she considered a new development in American culture, adding that “there are many beautiful women in Hollywood, and few generate the same kind of overwhelming interest across genders and sexual orientations that she does.” Jolie’s physical attributes became highly sought-after among western women seeking cosmetic surgery; by 2007, she was considered “the gold standard of beauty,” with her full lips remaining the most imitated celebrity feature well into the 2010s. After a 2011 repeat survey by Allure found that Jolie most represented the American physical ideal, compared to model Christie Brinkley in 1991, writer Elizabeth Angell credited society with having “branched out beyond the Barbie-doll ideal and embraced something quite different.” In 2013, Jeffrey Kluger of Time agreed that Jolie has for many years symbolized the feminine ideal, and opined that her frank discussion of her double mastectomy redefined beauty.