If you find Angelina Jolie more compelling than world hunger, drought and poverty, it's unlikely the actress would be a fan of yours. As a goodwill ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency, the first recipient of the UN's Citizen of the World Award -- and mother to a Cambodian son, she takes those things very seriously. But who, really, is more fascinating than Angelina Jolie?
The actress's bold personality and eccentric lifestyle are a riveting blend of extremes that challenge every notion of type. Jolie is edgy and unusual, but she is also open, honest and hardworking. She can be whimsical and worldly and wise, and while her sex appeal is legendary, her maternal energy will melt your heart.
Notwithstanding her own candid comments about her life and loves -- or Howard Stern's obsession with the actress's sexuality -- Jolie is unmoved by the petty judgment of others.
"I find it amazing," says the characteristically blunt and unapologetic actress. "I've traveled the world and I've been in situations with the UN that have to deal with such important issues, that are so dangerous and so intense, that have changed my life. And the fact that whether somebody picks up on whether I kissed a woman just says something about the press or society to me that I try not to think about...I have nothing to hide. I'm open and I'm not out to hurt anybody."
The force behind the Lara Croft film franchise -- which began as a computer-generated image in a video game -- will forever on be associated with Jolie's powerful persona, demonstrated again in her new film, Beyond Borders.
A love story between Jolie's character, Sarah, an American married to a bourgeois Londoner, and Nick, an international refugee doctor (played by British actor Clive Owen), Borders balances pride, passion and purpose among the teetering, tragic microcosms of refugee camps in Africa, Cambodia and Chechnya.
"Lara is a great character for travel and adventure, and to feel fit and strong. But it's not that thing that fills your soul in any way or teaches you something or really helps you come to terms with your own emotions about situations," says Jolie, who has devoted extensive time and money to aiding international refugees.
Notwithstanding, Jolie's life clearly revolves around her two-year-old son, Maddox, who accompanies her everywhere -- to movie sets and farflung film locations, press junkets and an assortment of hotels. (She is in the process of building a home in her son's native Cambodia.)
The actress, whose journals of her experiences traveling for the UN are available on the UNHCR Website, has indeed been all over the globe in the last few years. Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life was filmed at Pinewood Studios, in England (her homebase with Maddox), as well as locations in Greece and Africa (where she and her son were first united after adoption proceedings were completed).
Directed by Jan de Bont (Twister, Speed), Cradle showcases Jolie performing several serious stunts, including riding sidesaddle, stick fighting, jet skiing and taking a harrowing headfirst drop 150 feet over a cliff.
However, at the time Jolie was much preoccupied with her new baby, and says she learned a lot about motherhood on location in Africa during the production (including how to carry him in a sling).
"Shooting a film like Tomb Raider is a piece of cake in comparison to being a mom," the actress confesses. "That's the hardest thing I've ever done."
Jolie's three-year marriage to actor Billy Bob Thornton ended soon after Maddox joined her in Africa during production on Cradle, and while she has been vocal about her disappointment in her ex, she is philosphical about the breakup now.
"I think [your personal life] always [affects your work] in some way, you just have to figure out the best way," says the actress.
"Obviously it can't be just coming out all the time. But when you do think about it -- and it may sound really corny, especially when you've met people who are suffering through such extreme situations -- you tend not to whine about even a marriage breaking up. Because I was glad my son was healthy. I told myself, Mad's healthy and we're going to be fine, and it's all okay."
Asked whether the rawness of her failed union with Thornton enhanced her performance in Borders -- in which her staid marriage falls apart once she meets Nick and becomes involved in the UNHCR -- Jolie responds curtly, "That just made me really tired, to be honest. Having a baby and that happening, I was just exhausted."
Jolie insists on taking two months off between films to be with her son and travel for the UN; she has plans to adopt another child when Maddox turns three.
"He's really made me a woman," says the 28-year-old adoring mom. "And also he's reminded me to be silly, to play. So he's taught me how to be a woman, but he's also reminded me how to be a kid.
"Everyone of us has probably had that moment when something -- you read that book...or traveled somewhere or met that person.... You choose to take it as a path in your life," says Jolie.
"I really support the UN. I traveled for a year before I joined them. Certainly I've changed a lot in the last couple of years. My view of the world is different -- how I see things, what's important to me. And I have become a parent.
"I think I'm more me than I've ever been. And I'm finally on track with my life...if I died tomorrow, my son would know there was something that his mother accomplished that he can be really proud of -- not that she had a hit movie or she won an Oscar -- but that she was a really good person...or tried to be."