Angelina Jolie: The Biography was written by Rhona Mercer and published in 2009. It's about 300 pages long in paperback and has a decent amount of photographs of the willowy star. I first became an Angelina Jolie fan when I saw her in an eccentric 1995 film called Hackers on television. She looked very pixie comic book and like a supermodel female Vulcan from Star Trek - famously having lips that look like they've been stung by a million bees. I've gone off her a bit because she ended up very mainstream (she's probably the most famous actress in the world today) and I don't like that huge windswept hair thing she often has on the red carpet. Still, she's good in the right role and was the only thing worth watching in Tomb Raider (or most of her films generally), Tomb Raider being the picture that made her a bona fide leading woman. She was born in 1975 in Los Angeles. Her father is the Midnight Cowboy actor Jon Voight and her (late) mother was producer, (brief) actress and activist Marcheline Bertrand. She gets her dark sultry looks from her mother and that slight scrunchy face handsome quality from her father. What is interesting about Jolie is her family background and the fact that by all accounts she was completely bonkers when she was younger. She's very much a part of the Hollywood establishment now and a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations but it's interesting to read that she was once a notorious Gothic druggy mosh pit wild child who collected knives and was prone to weating vials of blood around her neck. She seems very poised and coiffured in interviews she does so this duality in her persona is quite curious. It wasn't that long ago that she seemed fairly crackers while she was married to Billy Bob Thornton. The book is a fairly standard biography that reads as if it was rattled off quite quickly but is always quite interesting if you are interested in Jolie and competently written. Clearly, Angelina Jolie did not sit down and unburden her soul to the author over cheese and biscuits so it's a book that often reads like it was culled from interviews but it's fair enough as far as these things go.
There are a few interesting questions that always float around Angelina Jolie that the book answers them with varying degrees of success and depth, sometimes appearing rather speculative. What exactly is the source of her difficult and perpetually on/off relationship with her famous father? What on earth did she see in Billy Bob Thornton? How mad was she when she was younger? The author explains how her parents divorced in 1976 and she then lived with her mother so was at once closer to her than her father. Her relationship with Jon Voight has been complicated to say the least ever since. They've gone for long periods without speaking and occasionally reconcile for a time. The author's view is that Jolie never really forgave him for infidelities that ended the marriage and was also furious when he went on television once and said his daughter had serious mental problems. Jolie has been incredibly contradictory when she has spoken about her father, sometimes saying how great he is and how important he's been and other times suggesting he has been peripheral and that she's always been independent. "The press likes to use the family angle, because then they get to include this whole other aspect of my life, but they're always disappointed to hear I'm not trying to hide anything about some huge, sordid estrangement between us. The fact is, he's a part of my life, but I've always been pretty independent of him, too." The author says that Voight and Jolie have sometimes been estranged for years at a time and that he was once ejected by her bodyguard when he tried to see her.
Despite taking umbrage at his public concern about her mental state she later admitted that she had been suicidal before she adopted her son Maddox and that being a mother gave her balance and a focus and saved her life. It's hard to know what exactly is going on between them, even after reading the book, but she did pointedly change her name after being known as Angelina Jolie Voight when she was younger. This of course though can also be construed as her wanting to stand on her own two feet and not use this famous connection. Jolie dreamed of being an actress from a young age and enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute as a teenager. She dropped out in the end and had a rather lost period, acquiring tattoos and taking every drug known to man. She self-harmed and felt gawky because she was very skinny and had braces. She did though work as a fashion model and of course get back into acting, eventually becoming the highest paid actress in the world. Her film debut was with her father in a 1982 picture called Lookin' to Get Out. Her debut as an adult though was in a sci-fi film called Cyborg 2 that no one remembers now. It was made for $5 million dollars and Jolie played a beautiful cyborg named Casella Reese. I enjoyed reading these early tentative Jolie tiptoes into a flm career. It was the 1995 film Hackers that first started to get her noticed although the picture didn't do nearly as well as they'd hoped it would. It was all about a bunch of computer whizz kids who battle a cyber villain (or something) and sort of fun despite being hopelessly dated, charming in its own way because it was so rubbish.
She married her Hackers co-star, the geeky British actor Johnny Lee Miller, and they were together for four years until 1999. The book never really explains why they slit up but does stress that they remain friends to this day. The 1998 biographical television film Gia about the life of model Gia Marie Carangi truly put Jolie on the map. She won a Golden Globe and began to appear in Hollywood films like The Bone Collector and Pushing Tin, winning an Academy award for Best Supporting Actress in Girl, Interrupted (an overrated adaption of Susanna Kaysen's memoir). Lead actress Winona Ryder was none too pleased because Girl, Interrupted was her dream pet project but Jolie stole the show. It was 2001's Tomb Raider though that established Jolie as a world famous star and someone who could headline a picture. It was critically panned but boosted her profile considerably. The author says Jolie wasn't too sure about Lara Croft at first and had no idea what it was but soon got into the swing of things, performing many stunts herself. She was nominated for a Razzie for that film which is highly unfair in my opinion. Her English accent was excellent and no one has ever carried off a pair of black shorts so well!
In 2000, Jolie married the hellraising actor Billy Bob Thornton and stories about them (they wore pendants with each other's blood and were a rather wild nutty couple by all accounts) kept the trashy American gossip columns going for a couple of years. Once again it was a film that brought them together, the insipid 1999 romantic comedy Pushing Tin all about feuding air traffic controllers. According to the book, Jolie was linked to the actor Timothy Hutton in between Miller and Thornton. I like Timothy Hutton, but I digress. What did Jolie see in the grungy Thornton, a man who looked like her grandfather sometimes when they were out together? Well, apparently the fact he was a bit of a bad boy was appealing and he is a funny and intelligent (he wrote and directed acclaimed fims like Sling Blade) man in real life.
It was though Brad Pitt who was destined to become the longest and most stable of Jolie's husbands. I actually lost tack reading the book of how many children Jolie has adopted or had. She's almost as bad as Mia Farrow. I started to lose interest in the book too when it got to Brad Pitt to be honest. Somehow, it was more interesting reading about Jolie before she was world famous or less stable in her life. I think I like the Angelina Jolie who was somewhat unfathomable and made eccentric films that few people saw best. Angelina Jolie: The Biography is a decent enough read but won't tell you too much you don't already know and the author is not exactly Roger Ebert when it comes to the films. I did find that it held my attention for most of the way though and it passes the time if you are a fan and stuck for something to read. At the time of writing you can buy this new for just over a fiver and used for a lot less.