Angelina Jolie: When Does a Legend Become?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Angelina Jolie in "Hackers"Angelina Jolie in as “Acid Burn” in “Hackers” 

I had just flown back Saturday night from a week swatting mosquitoes on a movie set in Georgia, so I wasn’t  over-excited when a guy from my PR company called to tell me I was going to another movie set on Monday.

“What’s it called?”

“’Hackers.’ It’s about a group of young computer hackers, trying to stop a virus or something.”

“Who’s in it?”

“Mostly kids you’ve never heard of… Oh yeah, the female lead is Jon Voight’s daughter.”

The next morning at crew call I was upstanding in front of Stuy High waiting for things to get started. And then I saw her. She didn’t look like any computer hacker I’d ever seen.

My question to Andrew Morton, who has just written an unauthorized biography, “Angelina,” or to anybody, is: when did Angelina Jolie become Angelina Jolie? When did all the elements that make everyone so fascinated with her—her otherworldly beauty, her acting talent, her oddness, her instincts for marketing herself—when exactly  did all those ingredients stir up a superstar?

To put it simply, when did  this 14 year old

Angelina Jolie at 14

become this?

Angelina Jolie

She was 19 years old when she made “Hackers,” but was very experienced in the world of showbiz by then.



She’d made her film her film debut at 7 in Hal Ashby’s “Lookin’ to Get Out,” which her dad co-wrote and starred in.




From ages 11-13 she studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, and appeared in several stage productions. But at 14, she decided she dropped out of acting classes, starting dressing goth and dreamed of being a funeral director.  Later on,while she was at Beverly Hills High she was teased for being thin, wearing glasses and having braces. She collected knives and cut herself.  But you would think she’d gain some self-esteem by 16 from the modeling work she did.  Of course, who knows?  Just because you realize you can turn men into quivering Smuckers, doesn’t necessarily make you happy or give you confidence.

Angelina Jolie at age 16













A few years later, she did this video with the 47-year-old Meatloaf.  I don’t know what you think, but  I think it’s kind of creepy.


She’d starred in this straight-to-video-movie:

 Cyborg 2 

And played a supporting role in this one (despite the repackaged advertising)

Without Evidence

“Hackers” was going to be her first theatrical release. She’d meet her husband, the pre-“Trainspotting” Jonny Lee Miller on it.

But none of this meant she could act.  Beauty and connections only get you so far.  Did she inherit acting genes from her Dad?   Because she was around the world of acting from childhood?  Her Dad wasn’t part of her life after she was pretty young.  Was it because she had put the time in acting classes?  What about her freaking weirdness? Funeral Director?   Knives?  Where did that come from?

Look at that picture above from “Hackers.”  She looks like she’s in a Godard movie, half Jean-Pierre Leaud in “Masculin-Feminin” and half Anne Wiazemsky in “La Chinoise.”   I think she had it by then, whatever it is. 19 years old and I will argue that she already booked her ticket on the Monica Vitti express.   Show me one 19-year-old actress today who can pull off that kind of attitude.

Somewhere in her late teens, I don’t know exactly when, she had put it all together from her beauty, innate talent, the hurt of her childhood, and who knows what else, and invented herself.  

By the time I saw her,  she had that whipsmart thing about her like she’d seen it all knew it all and wasn’t telling. It was just something she owned, it was all there, and it was unnerving.  Most people take a lot longer to find themself before they are able to find success.  She had the package and she knew it.  Let success find her.

A lot of the film involved the hackers rollerblading around the city, pursued by bad guys. We were able to block off traffic for many blocks for some of these scenes. One day I had “Entertainment Tonight” on the set and it didn’t make sense for Angelina to take off her blades for the interview. But when she tried to do the interview with them on, she couldn’t stay still. A good publicist has to be able to improvise. I put my foot out so she could lean her wheel on it and I tried to prop her up with the side of my arm, or anything I could figure out to do to keep her in place without actually touching her. Some of you might think I’d enjoy being that close to her, but I couldn’t wait for the interview to be over. Yuck!  It made me think of too many things I’d rather not think about .  What would my life have been like if I was  her?  Thinking about myself at 19 was surreal.  She was so young, and she already knew so many things I would never know, and would experienced so many things I would never experience. Even if I was young, this is not the kind of girl I would ever have approached. 

A few years later, I was waiting to meet a client in front of the Mayflower Hotel. Shortly after I got there, Angelina came out and lingered by the door.  Maybe she was being picked up to go to the set of “Gia,” which was filming at the time.  It was just the two of us, standing there for ten minutes.  But she wasn’t all made up, in costume, an actor on the set--she was just an attractive young woman, the kind you see all the time in New York.  She was anonymous as a  prima ballerina strolling down Amsterdam Avenue in sweats, knowing she had that power within her.   I was real proud of myself, thinking, “she’s going to be  a huge movie star, but right now nobody’s paying any attention to her.”   And it was true, nobody knew who the hell she was.

But she did.  Hell yeah, I’m sure she did.