Angelina has sat down for yet another revealing interview while Brad looked after their six children, including four-month-old twins Knox Léon and Vivienne Marcheline.
“I can’t stand being away from them for too long,” Angelina admitted. “They’re part of me and I’m part of them. Actually, they’re upstairs – I’m surprised you can’t hear them.”
‘Upstairs’ is the penthouse suite of the luxurious Manhattan hotel in which she meets for the interview. Angelina arrives right on time, looking glamorous and perfectly groomed. She wore a tight-fitting, cream Ralph Lauren crew-neck jumper that emphasised how quickly she regained her figure after the birth of the twins in July. “Oh yeah, but you should have seen me a couple of hours ago when I was organising breakfast,” she laughed.
The interviewer comments that, “she looks like a particularly beautiful Manhattan mum on her way to meet well-heeled friends for brunch.”
“How did I get my figure back? Well, breast-feeding for a start. That and running around after six kids,’ she said.
Wherever they travel, the kids go with them – sons Maddox, 7, and Pax, 4, and daughter Zahara, 3, Shiloh, 2, and now the twins!
“It was a crazy amount of money,” Angelina conceded, referring to the baby pictures deal. “But look, we’re using the money for our charitable foundation and in that way it does some good.”
“You should never help somebody out of pity, or to get Brownie points in heaven,” she said. “You should genuinely find joy in making somebody else’s life better.”
The charity work and her travels around the world have changed Angelina from an unsettled, often wild young woman into a conscience-driven mother determined to use her fame – and money – for humanitarian causes.
It was while she was making her first Lara Croft film, Tomb Raider, in 2001 that she first travelled to Cambodia. She returned to the same country on a UN field mission and decided that she would adopt a child. She registered with an American-based adoption agency and returned to Cambodia again, in March 2002, to visit orphanages.
“I woke up the day I met Maddox thinking, “My son or daughter is here. They’re going to introduce me to a child and I wonder how I’m going to feel?” And the moment I met him [Maddox was seven months old at the time] I knew I was his mother. And I can’t explain it. I don’t know why, but it was absolutely meant to be.””
“As you get older you see more character in your face. Now, when I look at myself, I see somebody at peace and I see a mom – and that’s a kind of beauty.”
“I know this is going to sound corny, but I first became happy with the way I look when I became a mother. There’s this idea that beauty is when someone does your hair and puts a lot of make-up on you and sticks your face on the cover of a magazine. Is that beauty? You know what is beautiful? My mom. [Her mother was the French actress Marcheline Bertrand, who died aged 56 last January from ovarian cancer.] She was beautiful to me, and I look more like my mom as I get older. Something else comes out of you when you become a parent and, as you get older, you start to see more character in your face. Now, when I look at myself, I just see somebody at peace, and I see a mom, and I see my own relatives in my face – and that’s a kind of beauty that exists for everybody and doesn’t disappear.”
“I knew I had to find purpose and balance before I became a mother. I wouldn’t have jumped into it until I knew I was all right and could be stable.”
Her latest film, Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood, is based on a true story and was, she shared, the most harrowing role she has undertaken, causing nightmares and panic attacks. “I was wacko, emotionally, during this one,” she says. “I just couldn’t get the story out of my head.”
“During the filming of Changeling I was paranoid about my own children – where they were, what they were doing”
“I remember one weekend I’d taken a nap and Shiloh was asleep in her cradle, and when I woke up she was gone. I was freaking out. And nothing had happened – Brad had taken her and the rest of the kids to the park. But Walter’s story haunted me. Throughout filming I was hugging the kids and keeping them close to me.”
The similarities with the Madeleine McCann case are obvious. “My heart goes out to that family,” she says. “Not to know what has happened to your child is just the worst thing in the world. I love Brad and if anything happened to him it would wreck me, but if anything happened to my kids…it’s something I can’t even think about, it’s so upsetting.”
Changeling was filmed in California in August and September last year, just as Angelina and Brad were thinking of trying for another baby, so the subject matter was particularly traumatic for them.
“It was like, “Do you want to start a pregnancy in this high emotional state?” I felt so raw.””
“Now we joke that maybe we had too much energy because we ended up with twins! It was a huge surprise – we both got hysterical with laughter when we found out. Twins are on Brad’s mother’s side, so we had joked about the possibility, but didn’t think it would happen. But it’s been great.”
For her portrayal of Christine Collins, Angelina drew heavily on the memory of her own mother. “Mom was so gentle, just a very sweet person. And yet if you were to take her kids, she would have been just like Christine – she would have found the strength somehow to do what was needed to get her son back. I was feeling very frail [about my mother’s death]. But it was actually a time of reconnecting with her. When she first passed away, I couldn’t look at pictures of her – I would just start to cry. But then I looked in the mirror and I could see her in my face – the same brown hair, the way she’d smile. I kind of played her in this film. To spend time with her in that way was very healing. When Brad saw the film, the first thing he said to me was, “I can see your mom…””
“I have a wonderful family, and I occasionally go out and make a film, so I never read those magazines. There are things about me that are useful for people to read, and then there’s stuff that’s just silly. There are mistakes I’ve made, lessons I’ve learnt – which I’m happy to talk about – and I’d love to talk to other mothers about things I don’t know how to do.”
She and Brad live a nomadic life, with homes in LA, New Orleans and Cambodia. She hinted that, with school commitments, they could settle more, but said, “You know, we’re lucky, we can move around and the kids adapt and they can be with us – that’s the priority.”
She tries to embrace a green lifestyle, but admits that it’s difficult. “I would love it for every car to be greener. I would love them to recycle better, and I would love it if there were laws against packaging and too much plastic and stuff: you know, you buy a kid’s toy and I think it’s something like 80 per cent [of what] you buy is packaging. But I’m not as good about it as Brad. He teaches me a lot. And if we fly private, we buy carbon credits wherever we go.”
Pregnancy and the birth of the twins mean she hasn’t worked since making Changeling, more than a year ago. “I’m going to make a film [The Mercenary: Love and Honor] in February, and after that I won’t work again for another year. But it was hard even to decide that. I had a lot of discussions at home – can we balance things? Can Mommy go to work? Can it be all right? Maybe I’ll do a few months’ work every year or so. Brad and I are trying to balance our lives so that we raise our kids properly, and we are also trying to make sure we are fulfilled – as artists, as people. When we get film offers, we have to ask ourselves, “Will it be a good thing for the family?” Fortunately [Brad’s] such a great father, and when he goes to work, I’m home, and vice versa. And any mother knows that sometimes just a little time for yourself makes you a better mom. You get that one night’s good sleep and you’re so much better the next day.””
At home, she insists, they are just like any other family. The kids run and play and they watch DVDs – including Shark Tale, an animation for which Angelina voiced one of the characters.
“They haven’t seen a lot of our films yet, because they are a little young, but I’m looking forward to them one day discovering Mr and Mrs Smith,” she smiled. “They’re going to have a great laugh – to see when their parents actually met, and watch them fall in love and try to kill each other! And Madd was there while we were filming, so he was a part of it. It’s pretty extraordinary.””