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Actress Angelina Jolie is one of the biggest icons in modern-day Hollywood, because of her extensive filmography as well as her personal life. Hailed as a sex symbol, a humanitarian, feminist, and an LGBTQ+ icon, Jolie has done it all. While her journey to her success wasn’t easy, Jolie managed to handle fame with creating a family, a hard feat for anyone. As one of the biggest celebrities in the world, Jolie will be a timeless icon for Hollywood.
Early Life and Career
Angelina Jolie was born in 1975 to actors Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand. She was pushed into the public spotlight at a very young age and made a name for herself as a wild character. Routinely, she answered questions about sadomasochism, knives, and sex. Some people say that contributed heavily to her career in the 1990s and 2000s. She began her career as a supporting cast member in 1990, often playing a nameless character or only briefly in the film. Most of these films received mixed or negative reviews, but they were more directed toward story issues or production issues.
Jolie’s biggest career (back then) moment came when she starred in ‘Girl, Interrupted’ alongside Winona Ryder and received an Academy Award for her performance. After that, she secured her place as one of the newest and most talented up-and-coming actors. In ‘Girl, Interrupted’, Jolie played the antihero turned antagonist against Ryder’s characters. Both actresses played girls in a psych ward, each with their own problems. Jolie played an archetype she would continue to embody in other roles: sexy, dangerous, and cunning. Jolie’s character is ruthless in the movie, seemingly cold-hearted and manipulative up until the very end, where she has a change of heart. Jolie’s performance was outstanding, earning her critical acclaim and attention. Even over twenty years later, people still adore ‘Girl, Interrupted’ and Jolie’s acting in the film.
Only two years later, Jolie starred as Lara Croft in ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ becoming the face of the iconic video game character. Though the film received mixed reviews, Jolie’s athleticism and charm were praised, along with her range of emotions. ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ made Jolie an action movie star, and her later films would only cement that title, including the sequel ‘Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life’. This film received mixed reviews but like the first film, was a huge commercial success. Jolie’s time as Lara Croft was monumental, becoming the first real female action star. She brought life to the video game character, and it was a rare time where a female protagonist was able to wield guns, kick butt, and also command an audience. Jolie is perhaps the biggest female action star there ever was, especially after the early success with the Lara Croft character.
‘Mr. And Mrs. Smith’ And Beyond
The film ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ changed Jolie’s life, both professionally and personally. The film became an instant classic and was a box office hit. Besides that, it began the relationship between Jolie and her now separated husband Brad Pitt. In the early 2000s, Jolie had already cemented herself as an A-lister thanks to her role as Lara Croft. By this point also, Pitt had found early success with some of his films like ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Thelma & Louise’. Together, the two began to take Hollywood by storm, firstly with their movie ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ which was a huge commercial success, as well as made Jolie more well-known in the action genre. Pitt and Jolie began a relationship and became the “It Couple” in Hollywood. They were a pair of heartthrobs, men and women wanted them both, and were the most powerful couple in Hollywood.
Eventually, “Brangelina”, as they were dubbed by the media, broke up over a decade later, but while they were together, nothing could stop the momentum of Jolie’s career. She guest-starred on the show ‘Entourage’, starred in dramas like ‘A Mighty Heart’ and ‘The Good Shepherd’, and was nominated again for an Oscar for her performance in ‘Changeling’. Jolie embodied a grieving mother in ‘Changeling’, going through her own metamorphosis. She really showed her skill set in this movie, flipping between anger and sadness with a snap of a finger. It was such a raw, moving performance and deserved the nomination if not the win.
In the same year, Jolie lent her voice to the Kung-Fu Panda series. The Kung-Fu Panda series was widely successful, and each film in the trilogy was the most financially successful animated film that year. As well as that, the series has been nominated for Academy Awards and the second movie holds second place for the biggest worldwide box office debut for a solely female director. ‘Kung-Fu Panda’ released in 2008, carried in a new era of change and diversity, one that Jolie heavily contributed to. It was a film heavily inspired by Chinese culture and gave representation to people of Asian descent.
Angelina Jolie – Latest Work
Jolie starred in a few other dramas between 2008-2014, but her biggest film to date was released in 2014. Disney’s ‘Maleficent’ became Jolie’s highest-grossing film to date and introduced her into the world of Disney. It also marked a different time in her career, where she pushed the boundaries with fantasy, as she had done with ‘Beowulf’ earlier in the 2000s. ‘Maleficent’ was praised for Jolie’s performances, though critiques for story issues. However, it garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume design, although it didn’t win.
After ‘Maleficent’, Jolie began to explore other avenues as a creative. She had previously directed ‘In The Land of Blood and Honey’ in 2011, but took a short break from directing. While the movie received mixed to negative reviews, it gave Jolie a good basis to grow from. In 2014, she directed ‘Unbroken’, a film based on the story of an Olympian who became a prisoner of war. It starred Jack O’Connell, best known for ‘Skins’, and managed to coax a haunting performance from him. It received mixed reviews, but gained positive remarks about O’Connell’s acting and Jolie’s directing by critics and fans alike.
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She wrote, directed, and starred in ‘By the Sea’ alongside her then-husband Pitt. The film portrayed a darker side to marriage and was noted as being an especially emotional piece. It was a fairly dark movie, and Jolie and Pitt worked well off of one another. After that, she directed ‘First They Killed My Father’, a documentary about Cambodian author Luong Ung. Fans stated that it was breathtaking and cited the cinematography as one of the best elements. Her newest movie recently came out in 2021 called ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’, an action and thriller. It was released in May 2021 and though it apparently bit off more than it could chew, it was fairly well-received.
Jolie has been at the center of a lot of media attention, especially because of her high-profile relationships. Her first husband, Jonny Lee Miller, was a British actor and they had reconnected after starring in a production together. They married in 1996 but divorced in 1999 though Jolie said they remained good friends.
After Miller, Jolie had an on-and-off-again relationship with Jenny Shimizu, something rarely talked about in the media. The 1990s were different than the 2020s, though each decade brings new progression. To have an LGBTQ+ relationship during that time was monumental, especially for such high-profile celebrities. Jolie was proud of her relationship and confirmed she was bisexual in 2003. Her strength and willingness to be herself has inspired millions of people around the world, and she’s respected as a strong, bisexual icon.
In 2000, after the divorce from Miller and breaking up with Shimizu, Jolie married Billy Bob Thornton in 2000, and became the biggest topic in public because of their loud declarations of love and other actions. They would, unfortunately, divorce a few years later. Jolie went public with a relationship with Brad Pitt a few years later. Together, they spent 12 years together and created a large family with many of their children being involved in the entertainment industry now. One of the most notable things they did was sell the pictures of their firstborn, Shiloh, to the media and donate the money to charity instead of letting the paparazzi fight for photos. The photos sold for over $4 million dollars to one company and over $3.5 million to another. All proceeds were donated to UNICEF.
Again, in 2008 Jolie and Pitt sold the first pictures to People and Hello! (the ones who bought the original photos of Shiloh) for a reported $14 million dollars, the most expensive celebrity photos ever bought. All of the money was then donated again.
Jolie has endured more negativity from the press than imaginable, specifically after Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were divorcing. Paparazzi are known for being invasive, which led Pitt and Jolie to other countries to give birth to their children. With such a crazy life, Jolie has maintained as private of a life as she can, while also bringing awareness to personal issues. For instance, she underwent a double mastectomy after learning she had a large risk of getting breast cancer. She also underwent a salpingo-oophorectomy after she found out she was at risk of ovarian cancer. She discussed the surgeries with The New York Times in hopes it would help other women learn about their bodies and explore preventive methods if they were at high risk for breast cancer. As well as that, Jolie commented that the surgeries never made her feel less of a woman, a common fear that women experience when they lose their breasts due to breast cancer.
Jolie has been much more open about her life than other celebrities, discussing everything from her sexuality to her sex life. However, it’s specific information that she chooses to share, while much of her personal life is hidden. In such a crazy world, it’s no wonder that Jolie wants a slice of life to herself.
Hailed as a sex symbol, a wild child, a bisexual icon, and many other crowns, Jolie has been a symbol of modern-day Hollywood. She represents many things, progression, feminism, and above anything else, a jack of all trades. She’s been an Academy Award-winning actress, a producer, a writer, and other things. No matter what she does, we know Angelina Jolie will be fantastic and she’ll have our support every step of the way.
By Jordan Qin
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Jordan Qin is a writer-director who’s currently pursuing a BA in Film and Media Arts at Temple University. She believes in quality over quantity and is dedicated to highlighting diversity and innovation in the film industry. As a part of the Hollywood Insider team, she strives to create conversational pieces that help bring positive changes in the entertainment industry.