Her name is synonymous with movie star beauty and Hollywood gossip—no one has a more complicated reputation than Angelina Jolie. As she gets set to promote her latest passion project, directing First They Killed My Father for Netflix, we take stock of Angelina’s third act as a single mom, director and Special Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (Oh, and Brad Pitt’s ex.)
1. The Angelina we know today—globally-minded philanthropist and part-time movie star—was molded far from L.A. As a full-fledged 20-something A-lister, Angelina headed to Cambodia to film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and developed a deep connection to the country and its people. Prior to her trip, she was known for erratic and attention-grabbing behaviour—talking about sex in the limo with Billy Bob, kissing her brother after her Oscars win, speaking openly about drug use, jumping into the pool after the Golden Globes… Then in 2002, she adopted Maddox and began her transformation from “wild child” to Saint Angelina.
2. First They Killed My Father is Angelina’s fifth project as a director. Like Unbroken (2014) and In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011), the film will explore the unexplored, personal toll of war. First They Killed My Father is based on a book by the same name written by Loung Ung, a survivor of communist-led genocide that caused the death of three million Cambodians in the 1970s. Angelina has close ties to the birthplace of her first son; in 2003 she and Brad launched the conservation-minded Maddox Jolie-Pitt Project in the country. In 2015, she shot a Louis Vuitton campaign in the countryside.
3. Angelina didn’t sweep into Cambodia with a team of Hollywood execs to film a white saviour narrative with a green screen backdrop—the cast and crew are Cambodia natives and Angelina leaned on them for their experience and authenticity. The bulk of the filming was done in Battambang, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Filming was a family affair: Brad stayed in Siem Reap with the kids, and sons Maddox attended production meetings and Pax was spotted on set (wearing a cast from a skateboarding accident—daawww).
4. This is Angelina’s first project since her contentious split from Brad. The two are not officially divorced yet—they don’t even have a long-term custody agreement in place. Much of the public drama came from a reported incident on a private jet between Brad and Maddox, which also complicates the promotion of the film. Will Angelina allow Maddox to speak with reporters or walk a red carpet? And how will being back in the spotlight affect the children, who have been completely shielded from the public during the divorce.
5. For the past few years, Angelina has been deeply invested in her UN work, and recently penned an op-ed for The New York Times, giving more credence to the rumours she is beyond done with the typical Hollywood life. Now, we get to see how her legendary PR savvy and her passion project will intermix. She is a master at controlling her image (you’re more likely to see photos of her at a conference on war crimes than you are at a glam party) and handpicks journalists to get the most out of her press junkets. With a new film so close to her heart, we expect to see her A-game emerge when the film premieres in Cambodia next week.
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