Thursday, November 30, 2006

Is Angelina Jolie Getting a Bad Rap?

I think Angie Jolie's been getting a bad rap...when one considers the time of the year it is (and how everyone waxes nostalgic about giving and loving thy neighbor, til it hurts)...I'm reminded that girlfriend really walked it like she talked it and was trying to make a difference long before anyone in the mainstream media knew what a Jenjuid is or where Darfur was on a map...I did a roundtable with her a few months before her relationship with Brad Pitt went public and all hell broke loose in the tabloids. Having spoken to her in person, I never really accepted the "knife-throwing-home-wrecker" tag that collegues in the press got all Pavlovian with. Although I rode up with her on the elevator -- she got on with some of her people halfway up to the press rooms at the St. Regent Hotel in Century City -- we didn't really get to talk until we got off the lift. Even though it hadn't become a topic of newsroom chatter until a while later -- she was doing press for Oliver Stone's Alexander at the time -- I dove right into the sessions with questions about her work in Africa -- a subject she was far more passionate about than what was her favorite color...which is why she still gets all the dap in my book...

Q: So Angelina, why where you in the Sudan?

Angelina Jolie: I was in the Sudan because I worked with the UN and I'd been to Chad in June to try to understand the situation that was happening in Darfur and I wanted to follow-up inside Darfur. Because the agency I was working with has now been given the mandate to really be hands-on in that area because there's over a million internally displaced people. So [I went] to go and to see the situation that they're in, what they're up against and to try to be outspoken [about it] while I was there and to bring attention to what everybody [was dealing with], all the aid workers' field needs and what direction things were moving in.

Q: Was it genocide?

AJ: You know I think, as a lot of people were saying in that country and a lot of people involved in the groups, I think that you could label many different things [genocide] going on there, I think. Is it genocide? What's the definition of that is, it's probably quite a few things but I think it's not as simple, in fact, as that. It's the worst thing I've seen. [pointedly] It's disgusting, it's thousands of women who have been raped, there's the way [that] the people have destroyed these homes and these villages. And the way it was systematically done, how it was done and, you know, the question of the government's involvement in it and how no place is safe now. And this idea of bringing people back from [refugee] camps when there's no place that's safe and there's still so much damage being done and still villages being burnt the day I was there and people being raped [still] so, it's going to take a lot to settle that area and I think we won't know for a while what to call it.

Q: Have you ever come into contact with the Jenjuid at all?

AJ: I was sitting on the floor with a bunch of kids - I went there to one area - and while I was asking them questions , because they didn't have any medical [supplies] and their clothes were just torn and falling apart. There were many different areas. There were certain areas where MSF have gotten there and there are some camps where UNICEF has -- a lot of areas there are no access to, so there's still areas where it's really bad. So, it's kind of different. You'll see people with medical, with no medical, with aid, without food...but in the one area where I went to where the Jenjuid were present -- so I was talking to the kids and I was asking them "why don't they have any [supplies]? Did they have any medical?" And they explained that the Jenjuid were BASED at their medical center nearby so they go near there. They had bad water because the pipe from their water [source] was used as a flagpole by the Jenjuid. And while I was interviewing the kids they got really quite and the Jenjuid walked by and smiled at me and said "hi" and I said "hi" and then I was told by several different aid workers that the problem is [if] you ask women about rape, you ask kids about medical supplies and that kid that was telling me that could have been beaten up that night because he was talking to the outsider; they're very present and they're not gone.

Q: How do you do that? There are very few actors who, with such a successful career, would take time to do the kinds of things that you're doing. How do you do it and why?

AJ: I couldn't NOT do it. It gives me, just that I became aware of it and found myself learning about these areas [of the world]. I didn't plan to become as active as I have or political but I've just seen enough to know -- I just couldn't help myself. And I'm blessed that I've met these people in my life who are SO strong and surviving [through] so much and really so I can understand the world that I actually live in. It's only hard because I get frustrated because I just see so much damage.

Q: Does that knowledge make you a better actress?

AJ: I suppose, just any deep life experience makes you a better actress.

Q: How do you think being a mom has changed you?

AJ: Its just made me a more playful person -- I'm much more peaceful because as long as he's healthy, I don't worry about anything. Nothing else can shake me. I don't stress about things that don't matter...

Q: What would you think if your son grew up and said that he was bi-sexual [as is implied with her son's role in Alexander] what would you think? Would that bother you?

AJ: Of course not! Why would it?

Q: You think that life would be harder for him?

AJ: No, I think what's harder is not admitting who you are. I'd be so excited if he was just confident about what he was, who he was and what he wanted to be -- that's great.

Q: It seems like it would've been a lot easier in those days...

AJ: Isn't that strange that we haven't evolved very much? [laughs]

Q: Going back to the mom question, did Oliver ever talk to you about why he cast you with you and Colin being so close in age?

AJ: I think Oliver cast people who he felt [best] represented the characters and I think he felt that I understood Olympias. And he didn't get stuck on the fact that, I mean you meet her when the boy's six [Alexander] and when Colin and I are seen together he's playing 19 and I'm playing 35. There maybe wasn't a perfect age for her because she had to be [consistently aged] across the board.

Q: You see any parallels to the history of Alexander and the political climate now?

AJ: That's like the question of the day but it was never the intention, Oliver had this concept [for the movie] thirteen years ago and it was, obviously, a story from [332 B.C.] I think if it raises questions and gets people talking; gets people looking at how we approach entering other cultures - what we do against them, what we do when we don't understand them, what Alexander did -- if it brings up questions I think that that's interesting. Personally, I think the most compelling thing for me was when I saw/ see how interesting that there was a time when the person who said "let's go to war" happened to be front and center IN THAT WAR and how different that would be if that was the case today...I think, depending on where your political slant is, you could try to turn this [movie] into anything. I think what the important thing is that Oliver DIDN'T. And I think that for all of those people who are like "he's got opinions or conspiracy [theories]" he really didn't. He made a film that is VERY open-minded with letting everything be out there - good and bad, all different sides of everything. Sex being a certain way, love being very present, war, good and bad sides of a brotherhood: everything. The really important thing is that he really struck a balance there, by not trying to impose his opinion and I think that should be commended.

Q: You've been through a lot over the years. When, would you say, was your toughest time?

AJ: [long pause to think] For me, tough times kind of came with good times, there was this wierd combination. I guess around the time when...when I...there were so many different times -- laughs -- that were difficult. I suppose when I first adopted Maddox, my marriage broke up and I divided with my father -- it was the hardest time. Other times, I think, were just like youth angst, feeling lost, that was a time of certain disillusionment and disappointment. Just real big life things happening [all] at once and trying to, in the middle of all that, take responsibility for being a parent and learning about being a parent - you trying to enjoy that and not have my son see me cry. That was a big thing, I remember my mom said, "when I was little that she cried too much in front of us."

Q: I seems like all troubles DO come in 3's, they say it does and it do. What helps to stabilize you when the problems arise?

AJ: One, the travels that I've made around the world are forever in my mind and any time I complain about anything, when I've met people who had their entire family killed or have been kidnapped as child soldiers with their limbs blown off. One moment of thinking "how dare I?" And just focusing on Maddox and spending time with him.

Q: Tatum O'neal has a book on the NY Times Best Seller's list, she's 42 and she had a childhood similar to yours, probably you didn't have as BAD an experience. Do you see yourself writing a tell-all book?

AJ: I'll let you write it for me. [laughs] I feel like I've been so outspoken that it's not like I have any secrets. You put enough of my interviews together, you have a book.

Q: Do you see yourself reconciling with your father?

AJ: No. And it's really not a fight, I just simply have, you know we've only go [but] so much energy in this life and so many things that we need to do, that we need to focus on. If there are people in your life that make your stomach go into knots or make you feel like you want to throw up from nerves or you see people you care about cry and there's tension and unrest - you can't have that. At some point you've got to decide [that] you are not going to allow that around. So, I will never have to worry about my son having to have a bad relationship with him. I will not ever have to worry about me being frustrated or upset or emotional or imbalanced for my kid or the things that I have to do because this person's again thrown me, we just DON'T understand each other as people and so we have this strange relationship. I have no animosity. I don't hate him. No anger. I just can't have that in my life -- I just can't. So I don't think there'll be a time where I'll want it.

Q: So who's your strongest family relationship with? Your mom?

AJ: My mom and my brother, we're all still close.

Q: What about romance?

AJ: Don't have a lot of it. [laughs] I'm a little like Olympias when it comes to that -- locked in my tower, playin' with my snakes...

Q: Are you willing to try again?

AJ: Somebody was saying to me, while we were talking about relationships and I agreed with this, they said that you have to find a person that you share the same values with and the same way of approaching life and family. And THAT takes a lot, I mean I'm just really coming to terms with what exactly THAT is for me. But I'd be looking for the best father in the world, a guy who was up at night trying to figure out how best to do some good things; make things better for other people.

Q: Good Luck!

AJ: Yeah! Until then.


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