If she didn't have a movie to promote it is highly unlikely Angelina Jolie would be sitting in a hotel suite talking ---albeit reluctantly---about her personal problems and her life since separating and filing for divorce from Brad Pitt last September.
But she is a show business veteran and the movie she directed, the Cambodian-set drama First They Killed My Father, needs publicity. So she is submitting to a long weekend of interviews and photographs while admitting: "This is the first time I have been doing this for a long time. It’s not easy. I am a little shy at this time, because I am not as strong inside as I have been in the past."
|Angelina directing on the set in Cambodia|
The past year, with its emotional and physical problems, has clearly taken its toll on the 44-year-old actress who is looking thin and gaunt.
"It's been difficult," she acknowledges. "I don't enjoy being single. It's not something I wanted. There's just nothing nice about it. It's just hard.
"Sometimes maybe it appears I am pulling it all together, but really in fact I am just trying to get through my days.
"Emotionally it’s been a very difficult year and I have had some other health issues. So my health is something that I have to try to monitor ."
|with Angelina at the Four Seasons hotel|
Four years ago she caused a worldwide stir by announcing she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy after learning she had an 87 per cent risk of developing breast cancer. Her mother had breast cancer and died of ovarian cancer in 2007 at the age of 56 while her grandmother had ovarian cancer and died aged 45.
Two years later she had her ovaries removed and last year, in addition to hypertension, she developed Bell's palsy, causing one side of her face to droop. She recovered from that through acupuncture.
"So much in life you just focus on how much worse it could be," she says. "And I am so happy I don’t have cancer, and I am so happy that I have had the surgeries and hopefully that will prevent me from getting cancer. And if I get it, it will be delayed a few years and chemo will be delayed a few years and the exchange for that peace of mind is quite good. I feel sometimes yes, that my body has taken a hit with all of the things that I had to do, but I try to laugh as much as possible .
"We tend to get so stressed that our children feel our stress and they need to feel our joy and have joy and I think for everything that we go through, just living every day, and while you are healthy and even if you are going through chemo, find the ability to live and love and laugh."
She paused and smiled. "It may sound like a postcard, but it’s true."
Her six children clearly feature prominently in her thoughts as well as her conversation and she is applying for sole custody of them while negotiating the terms of her divorce from Pitt.
All six---Maddox, 16; Pax, 13; Zahara, 12; Shiloh, 11; and the nine-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne---were with her in Cambodia for the four-months she spent directing First They Killed My Father, based on Loung Ung's 2000 memoir of the Khmer Rouge genocide, in which Ung's parents and two of her siblings perished along with an estimated two million other Cambodians.
She has been a Cambodian citizen for a decade and owns a house in the country near the Thai border, so the time they spent there was of special significance to her and Maddox, who was born there and whom she adopted when he was three months old. "I had met Loung and I asked her how she would feel, as a Cambodian orphan, if I adopted a Cambodian orphan. She was very supportive and had she not been my life would have been very different.
"So she has known Mad his whole life and Mad has known of Loung’s story his whole life, and I told him, 'One day son you will be ready and you will tell me when it’s time to go deeply into your country. But I need your help and you have to do it with me and you have to work and you have to be there every day and you can’t say no and that you are tired.' And one day he said, 'I am ready.'
"I really wanted Maddox to learn about Cambodian history, so I felt that this movie was a journey that we could take. And he went really deeply into the research, into the daily work and into the edit, and also having somebody younger in there to say, 'you are losing my attention,' or 'that is too complicated,' was really helpful."
He is credited as an executive producer, Pax did still photography and the other four were on set every day and were playmates of the child actors. "Seventy per cent percent of Cambodians are under 30, and so they will be the future of the country. And if they watch this film and they don’t want what happened to repeated and if they want to learn from it and move forward then they will be the ones to take the country forward."
She talks swiftly and quietly with mainly good humour. The only time she seems to become testy is when I ask her about the controversy which surrounded her casting methods for the movie. (It was reported that her team gave the impoverished youngsters money and then pretended to take it away from them, awarding roles to the children who looked the most upset.)
”I have explained it and you can look it up," she says sharply. "It was a mischaracterisation and it didn’t happen in any way that wasn’t absolutely with the thought of what is best for the child, the family and the situation."
First they Killed My Father is the fourth movie she has directed after In The Land of Blood and Honey, Unbroken and By the Sea and at the moment she has no plans either for acting, directing or both.
She and the children recently moved into an 11,000 square feet mansion once owned by Cecil B de Mille and for now she is concentrating on domesticity.
"I am actually spending most of my days just taking care of the children. I will eventually balance more and do more work, but I haven't been able to because of family issues.
"The children have been amazing," she says. "It’s been so moving to see how much they have helped each other, stood together, the big brothers helping the little kids and all of them helping me.
"They have really come into their own during this time and they are finding themselves and their voices. I know that they will have each other for life and it gives me great peace to know the day I pass away that they will have each other and they will take care of each other."
All six are taking flying lessons and their mother is spending time in the kitchen. "I am going to cooking classes," she says. "I am not sure how good I am at it. Cooking is one of those things that when you are settled in your life and you take the time and you can enjoy food and cooking but somehow I am just very impatient and I am a little bit erratic, so it’s very hard to stand in the kitchen.
"But I am getting into it now. I am really trying, because I feel like if I cook, the kids all hang out and they just love it but they often take over and tell me that they can do it better and they can all cook really well." She laughs.
Since finishing the movie she went to London as a guest lecturer at the London School of Economics, talking to the students taking the post-graduate course Women, Peace and Security about her experiences and what motivated her work as a UN special envoy.
"It's an extraordinary school, the students are so brilliant and part of the reason I wanted to teach was that I wanted to learn, too. I really wanted to hear from the generation coming up what questions they have, what their goals are and what they are finding at their age.
"I've only taken one big class so far and I'm really looking forward to going back. I'm very excited about the programme because there aren't enough programmes where you can get a Masters in this subject. and there need to be more."
If and when she returns to filmmaking the chances are it will again be as a director rather than an actor. "I get quite a lot from directing I don't get from acting," she says. "When you are an actor you emote, you have your character and you want to help the story but you're not able to sculpt the final story and pull all the pieces together so you are not telling the story, you are tell your character's part of the story.
"But to be able to oversee everything, even from the music that goes into the edit and make sure that all the pieces come together to express the story that really matters to you is something that feels very, very different. "Of course it takes much more out of you and you commit to something that is going to take a year and a half of your life whereas as an actor you maybe do two months and you think 'I like it, I'll have some fun.' But as a director you have to say, 'I love it, it has to take over my life and has to really matter to me. It has to be something that I am going to be totally immersed in.'"
In her teens and twenties Angelina Jolie was a wild child who developed a reputation for outrageous off-camera antics. Married twice, to Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thornton, she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1999 for playing a girl with borderline personality disorder in Girl, Interrupted. She talked freely about having dabbled in heroin and self-mutilation and her love of knives and she and Thornton wore each other's dried blood in pendants around their necks and publicly bragged about their wild sex.
She met Brad Pitt in 2004 on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith when he was still married to Jennifer Aniston although she has maintained they didn't become romantically involved until after he and Aniston split up.
She has devoted the past 15 years of her life to motherhood, 12 of them with Brad Pitt. But her life has changed dramatically during the past year and now she is thinking about changing with it.
"I think now I need to rediscover a little bit of the old me," she says. "I think we lose our way a bit and we get quite overwhelmed, and I have had a lot happen in my life, from certain people passing to health issues to raising the children and a lot of things.
"And it’s been a very good time to absorb a lot and kind of develop and grow. But maybe it’s also now that my kids are growing up that I am starting to realise my own sense of play and my sense of joy have been put on hold for a while. And maybe them hitting their teens is going to bring out a little more fun in mom." She laughs.
"So maybe I am going back. It may be time."