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June 8, 2007

Angelina Jolie Unbound

Angelina Jolie has morphed before our eyes from wild child to humanitarian and mother of four. An intimate chat with a woman of much importance.


Photo Credit: Cliff Watts

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On this clear afternoon in early spring, Hollywood Boulevard is crammed with tourists jostling for a glimpse of a celebrity -- any celebrity -- as black cars pull up to the Blades of Glory premiere. If only they knew that at this very moment, the starriest of them all was at a hotel close by. The lobby is dark and quiet, the restaurant empty. A booth in the back has been prepared with two place settings. I've done this with Angelina Jolie before, so I know enough to take the seat that faces the room. She'll be down in a moment, I'm told.

Soon she is striding across the floor wearing...well, do you really think you'd notice, with That Face proffering a cordial hello in your direction? Up close, Jolie's fabled eyes and lips aren't the carnival attractions you might expect -- without some wicked thought to animate them, they don't seem overtly suggestive -- but there's no mistaking her world-class allure. The dark jacket she's wearing over a sleeveless blouse and pants mutes her curves; my initial impression is that she seems both thinner and livelier than the last time we met, two years ago.

Jolie slides into the booth -- a perfectly normal-size woman, despite the statuesqueness she projects on film. The photographs that serve her up as a haughty vamp don't capture her conviviality one-on-one; warmth and good humor aren't qualities typically ascribed to Hollywood's archangel of passionate crusades. Furthermore, she's got that how-are-you gene generally not associated with the world-famous.

Which is to say, Jolie is something quite other than the cartoonish vixen she's been portrayed as in the tabloids. Judging from her choice of roles (riveting train wrecks in both Girl, Interrupted and Gia; the tomb-raiding ass-kicker in the Lara Croft films) to her well-chronicled offscreen adventures (challenging world leaders on humanitarian issues; piloting her own plane; giving birth by Cesarean section in Namibia), she's a heedless daredevil. In reality, however, she's a meticulous planner. "Brad always makes fun of me because I do that," she says. "I prepare for everything to go completely wrong. As I say to him, 'It's because I don't want anything to take me by surprise.'"

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