Angelina Jolie Didn’t Expect to Live Past 40 and 6 Other Revelations From WSJ Cover Story

The actress who stars alongside Brad Pitt in “By the Sea” opens up about her mother’s death, her kids, and teenage depression

Angelina Jolie shoot like a girl
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Angelina Jolie has been pretty tight-lipped about her personal life over the years, but she’s opening up about her teenage depression, recent health decisions, and her mother’s death while promoting “By the Sea,” a new drama she directed and co-stars with husband Brad Pitt in.

Jolie told the Wall Street Journal in an extensive new interview that the film was actually written as she was coping with her 57-year-old mother’s death in 2007. Pitt, who also spoke to WSJ for the piece, said she never imagined herself living past 40.

“This is a woman who had watched her mother, aunt and grandmother become sick and eventually succumb, all at an early age,” he said of his wife, who underwent a double mastectomy in 2013 and had her ovaries removed earlier this year. “Her drive, her absolute value in herself, is defined by the impact she can have during her time here — for her kids and for the underprivileged and those suffering injustices.”

Here are 6 more of the most interesting disclosures Jolie and the people that know her best shared with WSJ:

1. In the future, she would like to direct more than act, although Jolie has noticed that she plays an action-hero when she feels like she needs to hide from something: “I did ‘Wanted’ after my mother died, and I did ‘Salt’ after I had twins. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I go through these moments where I just want to pull the covers over my head, so I go get aggressive instead.”

2. She was depressed in her teenage years but never could really understand why: “I grew up in L.A., where focus is very inward. I didn’t know why I was so destructive and miserable. I didn’t appreciate or understand my life. I was raised in a place where if you have fame and money and you’re decent-looking and have the ability to work in this industry, you have everything in the world. Then you attain those things and realize you still couldn’t be more empty. I didn’t know where to put myself.”

3. She is very accessible. Multiple sources in the story said that Jolie doesn’t show up to meetings and events with a manager or agent, and doesn’t send anyone else to do her dirty work. When preparing for films, she has a very hands-on approach. For example, when Jolie first approached award-winning producer Graham King about “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” he says she was extremely well-prepared. “She turned up in my office with the location, photos, storyboards, casting information. The train was leaving the station. When she said, ‘I’d love for you to produce this movie,’ I was already hooked …Whether it’s interviews, photo shoots or directing films, she gets involved herself.”

4. “By The Sea” is very reflective of her relationship with her mother and has acted as a coping mechanism for her regarding her mother’s death in 2007. In fact, she wrote the script shortly after she died. “I gave myself the task that it would be about grief and how different people react to and process it.”

In one scene, Jolie talks to the local barkeep about forcing himself to love his terminally ill wife enough to let her die.  “That’s me speaking about my mother,” Jolie said. “I think maybe his character came from the purest place inside me.”

5. She isn’t one of those celebrities that travels to a third-world country, takes a picture holding a baby and calls it a day for advocacy work. “The trips are never about her; it’s about what she sees and how she uses it, how it feeds her advocacy work,” says Marie-Noelle Little-Boyer, a U.N. external relations officer.  “She has the rare ability to sit down and spend hours with refugees, but she has an equally deft touch when she advocates for them with political leaders … I sometimes think she spends more time in the field than a lot of my colleagues … It’s just refugees and her in this intimate space. There’s no place for anything Hollywood or celebrity.”

6. She is scared to death about having her kids worry about her, and that stems from her mother’s death as well: “Even if I’m going through something, I make sure they are very aware that I’m totally fine. I’ll stop and make a joke, I talk to them. I never, ever want them to have that secret worry and feel that they have to take care of me.”

“By The Sea” opens in theaters on Nov. 13. The print edition of this interview hits newsstands on Nov. 7.