Angelina Jolie is WSJ. MAGAZINE’s December January digital cover star! Known the world over for her Hollywood career and humanitarian work, Jolie is now at a crossroads: “I wouldn’t be an actress today.”
Cover and inside images photographed by Annemarieke van Drimmelen, with styling by Tonne Goodman, feature Jolie exclusively in her new Atelier Jolie collection.
Angelina Jolie has found her voice. But first, she says, she lost it.
It was during hours of training to portray the opera singer Maria Callas in her turbulent final days, for an upcoming movie in which Jolie’s voice will be blended with the diva’s famously dramatic renditions of operatic arias.
“I’m a little terrified to do it,” says Jolie, 48, who has never considered herself a singer. “I’m the one who whispers ‘Happy Birthday’ at the party,” she says. During the 2018 filming of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, she noticed that her voice had changed register since she first played the fairy queen. “My body reacts very strongly to stress,” she says. “My blood sugar goes up and down. I suddenly had Bell’s palsy six months before my divorce.”
It’s been seven years since Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt, the father of her six children. It’s been seven years of negotiation and court filings on everything from custody to the partial sale of their Provençal Château Miraval property and winery. Seven years, she says, of being mostly at home, of thinking, of avoiding work that pulls her away from her family.
In that time, Jolie has appeared in only five films, nothing compared to the multiple-premieres-per-year pace she had maintained pretty consistently since playing a pixie-cut punk in 1995’s Hackers. The last time she walked a red carpet was to promote the 2021 Marvel movie Eternals, and she has made few public appearances since. Her newest venture, which launched in November, isn’t a celebrity beauty line with ads bearing her face—it’s a sustainable-fashion company where the names of tailors and customers may appear on tags alongside that of the brand, Atelier Jolie. Her next movie is a highbrow international film, not a big-budget blockbuster. Yet she remains overwhelmingly famous, a bona fide global movie star—remember those?—breaking through the vaporous fog of social media. She is indelible despite her best attempts to disappear.
Jolie on her family’s healing over the past seven years: “We had to heal,” she says. “There are things we needed to heal from.”
Jolie on expectations placed on actresses today: “I wouldn’t be an actress today,” says Jolie. Maybe theater, she caveats, but not Hollywood. “When I was starting out, it wasn’t as much of an expectation to be as public, to share so much.”
She doesn’t read anything about herself, she says. “I’ve just been around so long, and there’s been everything said.”
Jolie on being unimpressed with Hollywood: “Because I grew up around Hollywood, I was never very impressed with it,” says Jolie. “I never bought into it as significant or important.”
Jolie on her early fame: Early fame felt crushing. She was depressed and, at points, suicidal, she says. The height of her career arrived as her mother was dying of cancer. Bertrand had taught her to throw on a back- pack and head off on adventures, Jolie says, and this became a coping mechanism. “I wanted to escape,” she says.
Jolie on her connection to survivors and refugees: “There’s a reason people who have been through hardship are also much more honest and much more connected, and I am more relaxed with them,” says Jolie. She reflexively answers an inevitable question: “Why do I like spending time with people who’ve survived and are refugees? They’ve confronted so much in life that it brings forward not just strength, but humanity.”
Jolie on her social life: “I don’t really have…a social life,” says Jolie. She says she isn’t currently dating.
“I realized my closest friends are refugees,” she says. “Maybe four out of six of the women that I am close to are from war and conflict.”
Jolie on her children being her closest friends: Her children have grown up since their days as tabloid fixations, with the oldest out of college and the youngest in high school. Their voices are ones she trusts. “They are the closest people to me and my life, and they’re my close friends,” she says. “We’re seven very different people, which is our strength.”
Jolie on how the public views her: The public – meaning, in her case, essentially the entire outside world—has given her a career, she says. “They’ve also chosen how they want you. “Since I was young, people liked the part of me that’s pretty tough and maybe a bit wild—that’s the part that I think people enjoy,” she says. “I’m not the one [who] you want to hear about my pain or my sadness. You know, that’s not entertaining.”
Jolie on planning to leave L.A.: Jolie plans to eventually leave L.A. “It’s part of what happened after my divorce. I lost the ability to live and travel as freely. I will move when I can,” she says, and spend more time at her home in Cambodia.
“I grew up in quite a shallow place,” she says. “Of all the places in the world, Hollywood is not a healthy place. So you seek authenticity.”
Jolie on her compulsive need to work: “I can’t stop,” she says. “I always think there’s like a fight coming.”
Jolie on Atelier Jolie: “If it’s easily explained, it’s probably not going to be as fulfilling as it could be,” she says. “In my life, I’ve never been understood right away.”
Jolie on what those around her said when she told them about her new venture: “You, in fashion? No.”
“I’ve never been to a fashion show or Met Ball my entire life,” says Jolie. She has often worked with Versace on custom dresses for major red-carpet moments. Instead of closely following fashion trends, she says, “I love individuality and I love freedom.”
“I’ll probably lose money, maybe even for a while,” says Jolie. “If I can eventually put into practice some things that I think are improvements and I just break even, that’s a huge victory.”
Jolie on the philosophy behind Atelier Jolie: “What would be an ethical business? We are trying to reverse-engineer it a little bit,” says Jolie, who began by consulting human rights lawyers before tackling sustainability and circular design. She and her team established a committee to guide the brand’s approach to sourcing and production.
“I don’t know the answers,” says Jolie. “Can we avoid doing real damage—not only to the earth, but the garment workers? … Is it possible that I could go somewhere and enjoy making clothes, enjoy wearing clothes and not hurt anybody? And actually maybe treat people well?”
Jolie on what her daughter thinks of her style: Day-to-day, Jolie admits to having a busy-mom uniform that’s more practical than playful: throwing on a coat with her lounge clothes to look elegant while running errands. “My daughter jokes that I wear too many trench coats,” she says, laughing. “It’s just like a hiding thing.”
Jolie on her “mom” style: Jolie often relies on Saint Laurent and Celine for a battery of shift dresses, slacks, sweaters and tote bags—chosen, she says, to project an image of unflappable, ladylike safety to her children. For nearly 22 years, she says, “I’ve been a mom, and I’ve fully absorbed that into who I am.”
Jolie on being more comfortable than ever in her body: “It’s like I see my scars and my things, and I feel like I’ve lived. And I’m having these big experiences, and I have this map of this complex body that’s changed over time.
“You and I both know that a woman with a full life is very sexy.”
This article is featured in WSJ. Magazine’s December/January 2024 Issue available Saturday, December 9th.
[Photo Credit: Annemarieke Van Drimmelen for WSJ. Magazine]
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