BY GINGER STREJCEK

While the rest of the country is busy contemplating the state of affairs between Mr. Pitt and Ms. Jolie, Hollywood’s hottest heroine likely doesn’t give a damn. She has more important things on her mind, namely her real-life role as a mother and her goodwill work as a UN ambassador.

Beguilingly beautiful, exotically tattooed and totally uninhibited, Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie flies in the face of convention with a flagrant disregard for public opinion. These days, however, she’s raising almost as many eyebrows for her hand in the world’s fate, as she is in her choice of celebrity mates.

Parlaying her big screen fame into humanitarian aid, Angelina has become one of the most influential philanthropists in the world. Since being appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees four years ago, she has visited thousands of refugees, given millions of dollars for schools, hospitals and shelters, and lobbied before Congress. In 2003, she was honored with the first Citizen of the World award.

Who knew a superstar could be such a superhero off the screen.

“I am still at heart – and always will be – just a punk kid with tattoos, and I can’t ever understand how I’m allowed in certain buildings, security-wise," Jolie said in an interview with Vogue. "To actually realize that you don’t have to have an amazing education and perfect grades, that you can be valuable in this world – that seems so foreign to me. I’ve realized that if you speak from the heart and you really, truly care about something, you do have a place. If you really care…that’s enough. That was a really nice discovery for me."

Celebrating her 30th birthday this June, Jolie has much to be thankful for: a 3-1/2-year-old son, Maddox, whom she adopted from Cambodia; a sky-high salary, as one of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses; the humanitarian relief work that has stirred her soul; and, seemingly, her choice in movies and men.

Her latest flick, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," hits theaters June 10 with a big bang. Co-starring Brad Pitt, her much ballyhooed boyfriend, the sexy thriller is about a married couple who try to kill each other upon discovering that they’re enemy assassins working for competing organizations. Explosions, action sequences and high-tech spy gear set the stage for summer fun, under the direction of Doug Liman.

RIGHT: Angelina’s adopted son, 3-1/2 year old Maddox, was a Cambodian orphan. She says she fell in love with him the minute she laid eyes on him.

Twentieth Century Fox couldn’t have asked for better movie hype. The tabloids have gone crazy over the undercover romance of Jolie and Pitt – be it real or not. Their sensational spring fling was also rumored to be the reason behind the breakup of Hollywood’s former favorite couple: Brad and Jennifer.

It wouldn’t be the first time Jolie has made a scene with a co-star. Indeed, she has notched out quite a history with some of her leading men. She hooked up with Colin Farrell during Oliver Stone’s 2004 epic "Alexander." Before that, she was attached to ex-hubby Billy Bob Thornton, whom she lured away from long-time girlfriend Laura Dern after making the movie "Pushing Tin." She met her first husband, British actor Jonny Lee Miller, on the set of "Hackers" in 1995. Though none of the romances lasted – as impassioned as they were with his/her vials of blood (sported by she and Thornton) and wedding attire emblazoned with blood (for her nuptials with Miller) – her onscreen success has continued to sizzle.
She was, perhaps, destined to be a star. The daughter of actor Jon Voight and actress Marcheline Bertrand, Jolie was never a stranger to the film industry. At the age of 11, she started studying at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. By the time she graduated from Beverly Hills High School at 16, she was a professional model in London, New York and Los Angeles.

Music videos followed, for the Rolling Stones, Lenny Kravitz, Meatloaf and others. She further pursued acting at the Met Theatre Group in L.A. and became a film major at New York University. Somewhere along the line, she dropped her last name of Voight in favor of her middle one, Jolie (the French translation of beautiful) – maybe to make a go of it independent of her father’s repute.
Her first foray into film was a supporting role in 1993’s "Cyborg 2," followed by the lead in "Hackers." Though the flicks were largely forgettable, her acting skills weren’t. Critical acclaim came with the TV movie "George Wallace" in 1997 and HBO’s biopic "Gia" in 1998, both of which earned her Golden Globe awards. With 1999’s "Girl, Interrupted," she added an Oscar to the trophy case, as well as another Globe.

Jolie has since starred in a bevy of blockbusters, including "The Bone Collector" (1999) with Denzel Washington, "Gone in Sixty Seconds" (2000) with Nicholas Cage, "Original Sin" (2001) with Antonio Banderas, and, of course, the "Tomb Raider" series (2001, 2003), where she amply filled the combat boots of computer-animated fantasy fighter Lara Croft – stunts and all. So seductive was her incarnation of the action figure, Jolie’s earnings jumped from seven million for the first "Raider" to twelve million for the second.

In all the movie madness, "Beyond Borders" has likely had the most profound affect on her life. The script led her to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in August of 2001.

"I started to travel and realized there was so much I was unaware of. There were many things I hadn’t been taught in school and daily global events I was not hearing about in the news. So I wanted to understand," she said in an interview with National Geographic News. "I believe in what the UN has always stood for – equality and protection of human rights for all people. So I read many books. When I read about the 20 million people under the care of UNHCR I wanted to understand how in this day and age that many people could be displaced.”
Her subsequent effort to raise awareness and support for refugees led her to Cambodia, among other places, where she first laid eyes on her adopted son, Maddox Chivan Thornton Jolie, an orphaned baby whom she took custody of in March of 2002, during the filming of “Beyond Borders” in Africa.

Over the course of four years, she’s visited UNHCR refugee operations in the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya, Thailand, Pakistan, Equador, the Russian Federation and Jordan; and she has been a generous contributor to UNHCR’s programs around the world. Jolie’s daily journals to these post-conflict societies have been published into a paperback book, “Notes from My Travels,” by Simon and Schuster.

“My role as goodwill ambassador has made my work as a film star relatively dull,” Jolie said in an interview with CNN International Edition. “I can’t find anything that interests me enough to go back to work. I’m simply not excited about anything. I’m not excited about going to a film set.”

Hollywood’s loss would surely be the world’s gain.

From the Summer 2005 issue.

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catherine zeta-jones

jessica simpson


angelina jolie

deborah norville

denise richards

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