Jolie made her screen debut as a child alongside her father Jon Voight in Lookin' to Get Out (1982), but her film career began in earnest a decade later with the low-budget production Cyborg 2 (1993). Her first leading role in a major film was in the cyber-thriller Hackers (1995). She starred in the critically acclaimed biographical television films George Wallace (1997) and Gia (1998), and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the drama Girl, Interrupted (1999).
Jolie achieved wide fame after her portrayal of video game heroine Lara Croft in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), and established herself among the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood with the sequel The Cradle of Life (2003). She reinforced her reputation as a leading action star with Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) and Wanted (2008)—her biggest non-animated commercial successes to date—and received further critical acclaim for her performances in the dramas A Mighty Heart (2007) and Changeling (2008), which earned her a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Jolie made her directorial debut with the wartime drama In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011).
Divorced from actors Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thornton, Jolie now lives with actor Brad Pitt, in a relationship notable for fervent media attention. Jolie and Pitt have three adopted children and three biological children.
Early life and family
After her parents' separation in 1976, Jolie and her brother lived with their mother, who abandoned her acting ambitions to focus on raising her children. As a child, Jolie regularly saw movies with her mother and later explained that this had inspired her interest in acting; she had not been influenced by her father. When she was six years old, her mother and stepfather, filmmaker Bill Day, moved the family to Palisades, New York; they returned to Los Angeles five years later. She then decided she wanted to act and enrolled at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, where she trained for two years and appeared in several stage productions.
At the age of 14, Jolie dropped out of her acting classes and aspired to become a funeral director. She began working as a fashion model, modeling mainly in Los Angeles, New York, and London. During this period, she wore black clothing, experimented with knife play, and went out moshing with her live-in boyfriend. Two years later, after the relationship had ended, she rented an apartment above a garage a few blocks from her mother's home. She graduated from high school and returned to theater studies, though in recent times she has referred to this period with the observation, "I am still at heart—and always will be—just a punk kid with tattoos."
Jolie suffered episodes of suicidal depression throughout her teens and early twenties. She felt isolated at Beverly Hills High School among the children of some of the area's affluent families, as her mother survived on a more modest income, and she was teased by other students, who targeted her for being extremely thin and for wearing glasses and braces. She found it difficult to emotionally connect with other people, and as a result she started to self-harm; later commenting, "I collected knives and always had certain things around. For some reason, the ritual of having cut myself and feeling the pain, maybe feeling alive, feeling some kind of release, it was somehow therapeutic to me." She also began experimenting with drugs; by the age of 20, she had tried "just about every drug possible," including heroin.
Jolie has had a difficult relationship with her father. Due to Voight's marital infidelity and the resulting breakup of her parents' marriage, she was estranged from her father for many years. They reconciled and he appeared with her in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), but their relationship again deteriorated. In July 2002, Jolie—who had long used her middle name as a stage name to establish her own identity as an actress—filed a request to legally drop Voight as her surname, which was granted on September 12, 2002. In August of that year, Voight claimed his daughter had "serious mental problems" on Access Hollywood. In response, Jolie released a statement in which she indicated that she no longer wished to pursue a relationship with her father. She explained that because she had adopted her son Maddox, she did not think it was healthy for her to associate with Voight. In the wake of her beloved mother's death from ovarian cancer on January 27, 2007, Jolie again reconciled with her father after a six-year estrangement.
Early work: 1982; 1991–1997
When she was seven years old, Jolie had a small part in Lookin' to Get Out (1982), a movie co-written by and starring her father, Jon Voight. She committed to acting at the age of 16, but initially found it difficult to pass auditions, often being told that she was "too dark." She appeared in five of her brother's student films, made while he attended the USC School of Cinema-Television, as well as in several music videos, namely Lenny Kravitz's "Stand by My Woman" (1991), Antonello Venditti's "Alta Marea" (1991), The Lemonheads's "It's About Time" (1993), and Meat Loaf's "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through" (1993). She began to learn from her father, as she noticed his method of observing people to become like them. Their relationship during this time was less strained, with Jolie realizing that they were both "drama queens."
Jolie began her professional film career in 1993, when she played her first leading role in the low-budget, straight-to-video science-fiction sequel Cyborg 2, as Casella "Cash" Reese, a near-human robot, designed to seduce her way into a rival manufacturer's headquarters and then self-detonate. Jolie was so disappointed with the film that she did not audition again for a year. Following a supporting role in the independent film Without Evidence (1995), Jolie starred as Kate "Acid Burn" Libby in her first Hollywood picture, Hackers (1995). The New York Times wrote, "Kate (Angelina Jolie) stands out. That's because she scowls even more sourly than [her co-stars] and is that rare female hacker who sits intently at her keyboard in a see-through top. Despite her sullen posturing, which is all this role requires, Ms. Jolie has the sweetly cherubic looks of her father, Jon Voight." The movie failed to make a profit at the box office, but developed a cult following after its video release.
In 1997, Jolie starred with David Duchovny in the thriller Playing God, set in the Los Angeles underworld. The movie was not well received by critics; Roger Ebert noted that "Angelina Jolie [...] finds a certain warmth in a kind of role that is usually hard and aggressive; she seems too nice to be Blossom's girlfriend, and maybe she is." She then appeared in the television film True Women (1997), a historical romantic drama set in the American West and based on the book by Janice Woods Windle. That year, she also appeared as a stripper in the music video for "Anybody Seen My Baby?" by the Rolling Stones.
Jolie's career prospects began to improve after she won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in TNT's George Wallace (1997). She portrayed Cornelia Wallace, the second wife of Alabama Governor George Wallace, played by Gary Sinise. The film was very well received by critics and won, among other awards, the Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film. Jolie also received an Emmy Award nomination for her performance.
In 1998, Jolie starred in HBO's Gia, portraying supermodel Gia Carangi. The film chronicled the destruction of Carangi's life and career as a result of her addiction to heroin, and her decline and death from AIDS in the mid-1980s. Vanessa Vance from Reel.com noted, "Angelina Jolie gained wide recognition for her role as the titular Gia, and it's easy to see why. Jolie is fierce in her portrayal—filling the part with nerve, charm, and desperation—and her role in this film is quite possibly the most beautiful train wreck ever filmed." For the second consecutive year, Jolie won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Emmy Award. She also won her first Screen Actors Guild Award.
In accordance with Lee Strasberg's method acting, Jolie preferred to stay in character in between scenes during many of her early films, and as a result had gained a reputation for being difficult to deal with. While shooting Gia, she told her then-husband Jonny Lee Miller that she would not be able to phone him: "I'd tell him: 'I'm alone; I'm dying; I'm gay; I'm not going to see you for weeks.'" After Gia wrapped in 1997, Jolie announced that she had given up acting for good, because she felt that she had "nothing else to give." She separated from Miller and moved to New York, where she enrolled at New York University to study filmmaking and attend writing classes; she later described it as "just good for me to collect myself." Encouraged by her Golden Globe Award win for George Wallace and the positive critical reception of Gia, she resumed her career.
Jolie returned to film in the 1998 gangster movie Hell's Kitchen. Later that year, she appeared in Playing by Heart, part of an ensemble cast that included Sean Connery, Gillian Anderson, Ryan Phillippe, and Jon Stewart. The film received predominantly positive reviews, and Jolie was praised in particular. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Jolie, working through an overwritten part, is a sensation as the desperate club crawler learning truths about what she's willing to gamble." Jolie won the Breakthrough Performance Award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.
In 1999, she starred in the comedy-drama Pushing Tin, alongside John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, and Cate Blanchett. The film received a mixed reception from critics, and Jolie's character—Thornton's seductive wife—was particularly criticized. The Washington Post wrote, "Mary (Angelina Jolie) [is] a completely ludicrous writer's creation of a free-spirited woman who weeps over hibiscus plants that die, wears lots of turquoise rings and gets real lonely when Russell spends entire nights away from home." She then co-starred with Denzel Washington in The Bone Collector (1999), an adaptation of a crime novel by Jeffery Deaver. Jolie played a police officer haunted by her cop father's suicide, who reluctantly helps Washington track down a serial killer. The movie grossed $151 million worldwide, but was a critical failure. The Detroit Free Press concluded, "Jolie, while always delicious to look at, is simply and woefully miscast."
"Jolie is emerging as one of the great wild spirits of current movies, a loose cannon who somehow has deadly aim."
—Roger Ebert on Jolie's performance in Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Jolie next took the supporting role of the sociopathic mental patient Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted (1999), an adaptation of author Susanna Kaysen's memoir of the same name. While Winona Ryder played the main character in what was hoped to be a comeback for her, the film instead marked Jolie's final breakthrough in Hollywood. She won her third Golden Globe Award, her second Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Variety noted, "Jolie is excellent as the flamboyant, irresponsible girl who turns out to be far more instrumental than the doctors in Susanna's rehabilitation."
In 2000, Jolie appeared in her first summer blockbuster, Gone In 60 Seconds, in which she played Sarah "Sway" Wayland, the ex-girlfriend of car thief Nicolas Cage. The role was small, and The Washington Post criticized that "all she does in this movie is stand around, cooling down, modeling those fleshy, pulsating muscle-tubes that nest so provocatively around her teeth." She later explained that the film had been a welcome relief after the emotionally heavy role of Lisa Rowe. It became her highest grossing movie up until then, earning $237 million internationally
International success: 2001–present