Angelina Jolie: 'Johnny has seen me with my kids. He has seen me giggling...'
With their new film topping the box-office charts, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp talk candidly to Gill Pringle about life in the spotlight
Friday 17 December 2010
Like old-fashioned stars of a forgotten era, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie dress up and put their make-up on – yes, both of them – and sit down to talk about their lives, the very absence of hovering publicists signalling that no question is taboo.
Of course they're promoting their new film, but this is most definitely not the usual state of affairs. Few celebrities, even the lowliest of reality-TV stars, conduct interviews today without the presence of their handlers, guiding prying journalists with frequent interruptions like "No personal questions" or "Keep on topic".
And they don't come any bigger than Depp and Jolie, whose collective star wattage is of supernova proportions.
For sure, each has their own retinue of bodyguards, but as the world recently mourned the 30-year anniversary of John Lennon's assassination, it would be insane not to take precautions. And while The Tourist has not been favourably reviewed, no one can accuse its two stars of shirking from promotional duties, setting off on a veritable tourist trip of their own, from Paris to New York, Rome and Tokyo.
Jolie is possibly the most talked about woman on the planet, so when she walks into the room and greets you with a sunny hello, one almost expects a round of applause to follow. This is the Jolie who looks you in the eye, who laughs frequently, who doesn't take herself too seriously, who chats about her kids and Brad, and who politely thanks you for a compliment. Yes, she's an actress; but critics have often said that her screen appeal is more about her beauty than skill, therefore it's doubtful she reserves her best performances for chatting with journalists.
Acutely aware of her public image, she says, "But none of that is real. My real life is 90 per cent contained in my house with my kids, who just think I'm weird. When we are at our best, we are just nutty. And the kids want to go out shopping at the market, but you've got 20 people behind you, so you just can't. But sometimes we try to sneak out – and sometimes for us the easiest thing to do is sneak out of the front door, because everybody is checking the back door! But you try not to live your life that way – it would drive you nuts."
Home, of course, is wherever the Jolie-Pitt clan happen to be at the time, be it Budapest, Paris, Venice, Malibu, Bosnia or the south of France.
In casting Jolie in his glossy thriller The Tourist, the very real problem for director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck was finding a male lead to play opposite his leading lady, saying, "We really needed someone who wouldn't be eclipsed by Angelina." The man has a point.
Jolie today laughs off the notion that she may in any way "eclipse" most male movie stars, suggesting instead that she would love to reunite on screen with her own personal leading man, Brad Pitt, the pair having famously met on the set of Mr & Mrs Smith almost six years ago.
"I would love to work with Brad again," she says. "I think that sometimes audiences like to see real couples on screen and sometimes it throws them, so we'd have to find something that we'd love to do – but something that would also be welcome for audiences. More importantly, we'd have to figure out who'd watch the kids. They'd probably have to be on set; somehow we've never done that – we've always had a parent at home."
As for her Tourist leading man, remarkably she had never met Depp prior to their screen-test last year. "He was cooler and even more interesting than I'd imagined. I've seen him with his family; he is a great family man, a funny, lovely person who is gracious to people. A real Renaissance man."
Depp was likewise impressed, telling Entertainment Weekly that Jolie and Pitt were like the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton of this era.
"It's such a funny thing for Johnny to say. I take that as a very high compliment. I think he and his wife are such an extraordinary couple that I can't even imagine a comparison. You pretty much get a sense that this person [Depp] must have a good sense of humour and a good heart because all his characters seem to have a sensitive side and sense of fun, but you just never know until you meet somebody.
"Sometimes people think of me as being darker, but Johnny has seen me with my kids, he's seen me on set giggling; I think maybe a bit of my mom has rubbed of on me – and hopefully I'm a little softer and more female than I'm assumed to be," she says, referring to her beloved mother, Marcheline Bertrand, who died four years ago after a long battle with ovarian cancer.
If The Tourist is as much a love affair with Venice than anything, then it was equally romantic for Jolie, who brought Pitt and their family – Maddox, nine; Pax, seven; Zahara, six; Shiloh, four-and-a-half and two-and-a-half-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne – on location with her.
"We'd sneak out and go through the cobblestone streets, get in the boat and go to the park and play soccer or go to museums. And then to great restaurants in the middle of the night. As a family, we always stay together, so Brad was with me and the kids in Venice and they went to school and had an Italian teacher.
With six children and a thriving career, as well as addressing humanitarian issues around the globe, Jolie credits insomnia for enabling her wonder-woman lifestyle. "I really don't get much sleep, but I fortunately don't need much. Insomnia has become a bonus.
"It always sounds like I do more than I do, but I'm very fortunate in that I can work for two months on The Tourist and be off for five months. Most working mothers work a lot more hours than I do. I think I'm just like most other women, and every woman has a side to them that's just extremely nurturing, and has a side to them that's behind closed doors," she says coquettishly. "I'm down to earth in many ways. I'm a mom, first and foremost, and that's what keeps me grounded and happy. And I know every morning that this is the most important job I'm doing and that their health and happiness is all that matters. But am I capable of being completely irreverent and a little wild? Yeah, absolutely.
"I hope I'm a good mom. I had a really great mom who taught me a lot, and she was my best friend. I'm also a friend to my children; I love them and I talk to them honestly, and I encourage them to be who they are, but I'm learning every day to be a better mother – and your kids teach you, I think, to be a better parent," says Jolie, 35, who claims not to have ruled out the possibility of adopting more children.
Having written and directed her first feature film this year, an as-yet untitled love story set in Bosnia, Jolie surprises when she says she looks forward to a time when she will work less. "Certainly, I think I will do less film over the next few years. I have six kids and when they reach their teens I think I'll be taken out for a few years doing that. As they get older, their needs become more complex; you really need to be there, and deal with everything and everybody's problems very thoroughly. There's going to be a lot the older they get."
Wondering why she paints such a bleak portrait of the teen years, those much-photographed puffy lips part in laughter as she lets loose that familiar husky giggle. "My poor mother. If any of them are going to be like me than that's... " she says, running out of words to describe her own well-documented, turbulent youth. "But all kids do [rebel]. They're still so young; they have their time outs, they have their arguments amongst each other but, all in all, they're really great kids who we are very proud of."
Jolie's Tourist co-star Depp, who has two kids of his own, Lily-Rose, 11, and Jack, eight, with French pop singer Vanessa Paradis, holds unparalleled appeal for children owing to his endearing performances in family favourites such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland and Pirates of the Caribbean.
For a man who's spent his entire adult life before the camera, Depp, 47, possesses a sweetness and quirky eccentricity absent in your average thrice Oscar-nominated Hollywood actor. He almost tiptoes into our interview, as if he wishes to go unnoticed, but he's hard to miss with so much going on between the torn jeans, belt chains, multiple knotted neck-scarves, flashing silver teeth, bracelets, tattoos, silver skull rings, tinted Ray-Bans and artistically trimmed moustache and goatee. He's dressed like an elegant scarecrow – and whether the holes in his grey fedora are due to wear or there by sartorial design is anyone's guess.
Much like his boisterous celebrity pals Sean Penn and Noel Gallagher, Depp has long acted out his disdain for the mainstream media lifestyle, gratefully fleeing the Hollywood goldfish bowl lifestyle in exchange for his partner's native France, today dividing his time between the Parisian suburb of Meudon and a vineyard in Plan-de-la-Tour, north of St Tropez.
Discussing his adopted country, he says he no longer feels like a tourist in France. "Paris is one of the places I've always felt drawn to, and the south of France is most definitely more like home than anywhere else really, although we do have a nice life in Los Angeles, especially if we don't go out," he laughs. "But home is kind of wherever you are really. As long as you've got your kids and your girl.
"In my line of work, you're constantly on location and maybe you're in one spot for three weeks, constantly in motion. I grew up like that, so in terms of that Gitano sort of lifestyle, I don't mind it. Also, it's good for the kiddies, they learn about other places, other people, other cultures; it opens their minds up to being infinitely more accepting of things that are considered different or odd, so I like that. I guess I'm a professional tourist," says the actor, who also boasts his own private island in the Bahamas.
Picking up on an odd Liverpudlian inflection to his usual soft-spoken trans-Atlantic speak, he looks surprised when I ask if he's been spending time with anyone from northern England. "Umm, no," he says, suspiciously, at first. "Well, I have been talking to someone about a character I might play. It's horrible because it sort of seeps in and starts to take root," he says, smiling almost in relief that it's not some darker secret his accent has betrayed.
Whatever next? Johnny Depp, the Scouser.
Like any self-respecting thespian, he confesses to a certain Shakespearean longing. "Hamlet is one of those actor cliché things that bounces around in your head. Many years ago, Marlon Brando planted that seed in my skull and said, 'Kid, you really should play Hamlet before you get too long in the tooth'. He never got to play it, and so he kept hammering me to just take off, forget movies, and go do it. And so I've thought about it more and more lately; the thing I'd like to do with Hamlet is to do it as under the radar as possible, in a very tiny theatre, and if it caught on then you could just move it somewhere else, to a rec [recreational] hall somewhere."
If Depp has spent much of his life dodging paparazzi, then his co-star operates at an entirely different level of intrusion. "Brad and Angelina? It's quite a phenomenon; it's right in the neighbourhood of absurd what they have to deal with," he says. "And I got a taste of it when we were making the film together, because it's very rare that you leave your hotel to go into a boat to go to work and you find yourself asking the guy out front, 'how many are out there today?', and he says, 'Oh there's 30 of them, in boats...' But Angie and Brad handle it so beautifully, and with such dignity and class. I don't think I'm capable of controlling myself to that degree."
There's a line in The Tourist where Depp tells Jolie, 'I think there's people watching us,' although such exchanges have become irrelevant in his own personal experience. "I mean, you don't have to say it. It's been about 25 years now," he laughs. "Saying it is pretty redundant at this point. I guess it's a by-product of the gig, so you just deal with it."
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