Angelina Jolie is heart-broken about the suffering in Gaza – interview

with Angelina Jolie

The mounting number of civilian casualties, particularly children,  from the sustained bombardment of Gaza has moved millions around the world, but very few celebrities in Hollywood, who often boast about their humanitarian activities, dared say anything, fearing of being labeled anti semites. And those who had the courage to express sympathy with the suffering of Palestinian civilians and children, such as a Selena Gomez, John Cusack, Madonna, Mia Farrow, Mark Ruffalo were subjected to aggressive attacks and even threats, and dismissed as ignorants, who don’t understand what is going on.

Today I had the chance to speak to  Angelina Jolie, at Universal studios where she is editing her new movie Unbroken. She probably understands world conflicts more than anybody else in Hollywood. As  the UNHCR  Goodwill Ambassador, the Oscar-winning actress has travelled to every corner in the Middle East and visited many of refugee camps in that part of the world, donating millions of dollars and providing moral and political support.

Like millions around the world, Jolie is pained by the images of suffering coming from Gaza. “I just can’t imagine anybody who is not broken-hearted when they see all of these children in so much pain, and as a mother, I can hardly…” she pauses, overcome by emotions. ”I force  myself to watch these news programs and to read the papers, but it hurts, and it’s so deeply sad because there doesn’t seem to be an answer for what we can do. If I knew what I could do or what I could say, to in some way to bring an end to this conflict or help with the cease fire, I would do it in a moment.”

In the meantime, Jolie monitors the situation through UNHCR and through her contacts in different governments, focusing on finding an opportunity to achieve a ceasefire in order to get aid in as quickly as possible into Gaza. “We are trying to be as practical, and urgent and immediate as possible, because the greater political solution is something that I certainly don’t have an answer to, but I pray people keep fighting on working to have a cease fire.”

The majority of the 1.8 million residents in Gaza are refugees,  who were forced to leave their homes from what is now Israel in 1948. In the last 3 weeks, 400 thousand of them have been displaced again by the current fighting. With the number of refugees around the world reaching over 51 million -more than the aftermath of World War II, Jolie warns that money is running out and everybody is on half rations.

The irony is that the country who contributes the largest amount of aid, the United States, is also the biggest exporter of weapons. The destruction in Gaza has been executed by sophisticated American weapons and with the help of American money donated to Israel. Yet, the US is the first country to announce a $45 million donation to Gaza recently.

“Honestly, I think we have to look at the bigger picture of how we are dealing with issues in the world and a rule of law and how better to enforce rule of law and look at human security and not just state security,” Jolie concludes.

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Angelina Jolie is concerned about the Future – interview

Angelina Jolie is concerned about the Future

Angelina Jolie is concerned about the Future

“We’re all very concerned about what’s happening in North Korea. I don’t know enough about the situation. I’d, of course, like to know more and I will continue to educate myself on it, and if there’s something I can do, I will certainly do.”

Those words were not uttered by Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton or any politician, but by the hottest Hollywood superstar and one of the most beautiful women in the world, Angelina Jolie!

Wearing a dark blue lace dress by Dolce & Gabbana and nude colored patent pumps by Gianvito Rossi, Jolie ambles into the room in Beverly Hills’ Four Seasons hotel, exuding dignity, humility and serenity. Evidently, this beauty doesn’t conjure up the image of a stateswoman, but her passionate concern for and dedicated support of the victims of political conflicts and natural disasters have gained her so much respect and admiration that in 2001, she was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and in 2007 she was granted a membership in the prestigious Council of Foreign Relations.

Unlike some other Hollywood celebrities, who limit their support to humanitarian causes by making overt donations, Jolie, who runs several charities, is actively involved in the causes that she champions, rallying support from world leaders and raising awareness in the media.

“If I wasn’t able to feel somehow a part of the solution and bring attention to issues when I go to countries, I think it would weigh on me so heavily I certainly have moments where I break down crying and I don’t know why! I can’t sleep at night feeling that I can do something about it and can try to be a part of the solution.”

Having visited a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey last summer, she revealed to me that she is also working quietly behind the scene, talking to Arab and international politicians, urging them to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people and to support them in their struggle for democracy.

The more I talked to Jolie, the more I was impressed by her courage and fearlessness. Undeterred by the perils of war, she has visited some of the most dangerous spots in the world such as the embattled Libyan town, Misrata, to support its people against Gaddafi. She has also patiently posed for photos with Iraqi fans, while visiting terror-stricken Baghdad. The list is too long to fit in this brief article.

The daughter of Hollywood star, Jon Voight, and French model, Marcheline Bertrand, has not endured the suffering of those she is trying to help, nor was she aware of the world’s conflicts beyond the perimeters of her birthplace, Los Angeles. In fact, she was known as the Hollywood wild-child for her outrageous on- and off- screen antics, such as arriving at her first wedding in a T-shirt blood-stained with the name of her groom Jonny Lee Miller, wearing a vial of her second husband’s (Billy Bob Thornton) blood around her neck, decorating her body with exotic tattoos and practicing self mutilation with her collection of knives.

Winning an Oscar for playing the disturbed Lisa Rowe in Girl, Interrupted in 2000 didn’t tame Jolie’s wild spirit, but witnessing the misery of refugees in war-torn Cambodia, while shooting Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in 2001 was her epiphany.

“Since the first time I went to a war zone, I was forever changed,” she says. “I will never be self-destructive again. I will never take for granted that I have enough food to feed my children and my children are safe. I will never ever think of these other things that so often fill our minds, especially in this town (LA), that you see people stressed about and that are just simply not important in life. So I am grateful that years ago I was put in the middle of a conflict zone, where I came face to face with what is really happening in the world.”

Having visited over 40 countries in the past 10 years in her effort to raise awareness of human tragedies around the world, the U.N. Goodwill Ambassador decided last year to make a movie about the early nineties Bosnian war, where some of the most horrific atrocities were committed against men and women, while the international community watched idly with callous helplessness for 3 years before the US agreed to bomb the Serbian positions.

The movie titled In The Land Of Blood And Honey tells the story of a couple – a Bosnian Serb police officer, Danijel (Goran Kostic) and a Bosnian Moslem artist, Ajla (Zana Marjanovic) – whose romantic relationship is, like their country, torn apart by the war, and they end up in the opposite side of the conflict. After being arrested by the Bosnian Serbs, Ajla comes face to face with Danijel, who is now commanding the soldiers who are engaged in raping the women and massacring the men of her people. Torn between his love for Ajla and his loyalty to his people, Danijel walks a fine line between protecting his lover without betraying his people.

The international superstar was only 17 when the war in Bosnia erupted, and she knew very little about it. Hence, in her quest to understand it, she read extensively about the subject and spoke to officials from the United Nations, the government of Bosnia, the US government, journalists who covered the war, and the victims of the war.

“The more I read and researched the former Yugoslavia, the more I was very emotionally affected and I was actually ashamed of myself for knowing very little.”

Eager to find answers about the primal nature of man that could spawn so much violence against others, particularly women, and the impotence of the international community to respond and protect the victims of violence, Jolie wrote the script as a form of private meditation, without envisaging turning it into a movie.

“I never thought about being a director,” the Oscar-winning actress stresses. “But when suddenly it was a reality and people from all sides of the conflict decided to come together to make it, I felt compelled that it was an important story and I should stick by it.”

But fierce resistance in Bosnia to Jolie’s project quickly emerged when the press falsely reported about her intention to tell a love story between a Muslim woman and her Serbian rapist. Appreciating the sensitivity of the subject matter, Jolie responded by offering the script to Bosnian officials, who eventually approved it and granted her a permit to film the required exterior scenes in their country. The movie, however,  was mostly shot in neighbouring Hungary, which offered better replicas of Bosnians locations, particularly Sarajevo, which had been mutilated beyond recognition during the war.

“The war was only 15 years ago, so sensitivities are running high and I have a deep sympathy for people that are nervous, but I asked at that time that people give us the chance to tell the story. It’s frustrating when somebody doesn’t understand your intentions or accuses you of something, but you have to hold strong and know that your heart is in the right place and the final product will be something that is what you intended and that they be patient.”

To ensure authenticity and balance in telling her tale, Jolie cast actors from all sides of the conflict and from different backgrounds. Listening to her actors’ war stories, she drew valuable knowledge and gained deeper understanding of the conflict that helped shape the film into its final form.

“It was so important for me that this would be a film that they would feel that they’d want to support and feel that it’s good and healthy to bring this dialogue.”

In spite of her firm conviction in the integrity and the message of her film, one week before the first screening of the movie, Jolie completely broke down under the heavy weight of the pressure to do justice to the victims of that hideous war.

Brad (Pitt) found me crying and I said ‘I’m afraid that I’ve failed. I’m afraid that I’ve failed this subject matter and these people that put their faith in me.’  I’ve never felt more pressure because I’ve never done anything that’s meant this much to me and that’s had so many people I care about, who are now my friends, and a whole country that is watching all of us. But I try to just live a good honest life and focus on my family and do the best I can.”

Indeed, Jolie and her famous partner, Brad Pitt, are so attached to their 6 kids that they take them with them wherever they go. In fact, Brad and the kids joined Jolie in Hungary, while filming In the Land of Blood and Honey.

“They came and went to school in Hungary, and then they came to visit the set after school,” she smiles. “When we had a break, the cast would come and play soccer with my kids and we would all laugh. We would do anything that brought levity and kind of love because it was so dark. Off set, I was happily with my kids, hugging, probably smothering them with love because of the nature of the subject matter.”

During the hour of our conversation, the 37-year-old actress discussed with deep passion, profound understanding and genuine concern,  the troubles of the world from the debt crisis in Europe to the  revolutions in the middle-east, from rape camps in the Congo and famine in Africa to the plight of refugees in Cambodia.

“I am very concerned about the future,”  exclaims Jolie, like a caring queen broods her kingdom. “I feel you have to be somewhat optimistic because if you lose hope we lose everything and we start to crumble.”

In spite of her grand authoritative words, there is no perceptible arrogance in Jolie’s voice. To the contrary, the humanitarian celebrity speaks with utter humility, sincere innocence and complete selflessness.

“I’m just trying to be a good person and learning about all aspects of life,” she says. “We both live the Hollywood life, but this is not our lives, so I try to give myself that education and travel. I’ve loved being an actor and I appreciate the blessing I’ve gotten from being part of it, but it is a small part of what is happening around the world. So that perspective has never been lost on me.”

Having said all that, Jolie insists that her family precedes everything else in her life. “I wake up first and foremost as a mom,” she smiles.

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Brad Pitt: Success, Money and Fame

Brad Pitt: Success, Money and Fame

Brad Pitt: Success, Money and Fame

Brad Pitt is arguably the most famous actor in Hollywood, but one could argue that the source of his fame was not his superb acting talent, but his handsome look and his headline-grabbing romantic entanglements with Hollywood’s hottest female stars. His celebrity status as a hunky Hollywood icon soared into the stratosphere in 2001, after he married the equally beautiful and popular Friends’ TV star, Jennifer Aniston. In 2003, the implosion of that marriage and dating superstar, Angelina Jolie, catapulted him into Hollywood’s ultimate celebrity, generating more tabloid headlines than any other star.

Despite his immense fame and leading man looks, Pitt has spent much of his career trying to eschew bloated box office in favour of riskier, lower profile work. Following an impressive break-through performance in Thelma and Louise (1991), he actively subverted his hunky image by taking on ugly and often crazed characters in films such as 12 Monkeys (1995), Fight Club (1999) and Snatch (2001).

Pitt has also invariably tried to downplay his handsome, heroic looks off-screen. Hence, I was not surprised when he showed up to the interviews, both in Cancun and Toronto, wearing a scruffy beard, long hair and a T-shirt. But however hard Pitt attempts to melt in with the mortals, fans will continue to treat him like a God.

The night before the interview in Toronto, I watched how the crowd erupted in wild screams, shaking the earth beneath them, when Pitt, accompanied by his partner Angelina Jolie, disembarked his limo and walked down the red carpet to attend the premiere of his new movie, Moneyball. Pitt was visibly enjoying the adulation of the masses, bumping hands, signing autographs and exchanging words with swooning adorers. These moments, Pitt told me,  remind him of the days when he waited, like his fans, to see his idols in the early days of his career.

“I remember, when I first started, that seeing people I respected suddenly made me feel special or something good was going to happen,” he smiles, reminiscing.
The superstar finds that invoking such joyous feelings in the hearts of his fans is very liberating. But he admits that fame, which opens so many doors for him wherever he goes in the world, can also be confining.

“I haven’t seen a hotel lobby in 15 years,” he exclaims. “I got to go up the ass end of the a hotel and out the same way. I’ve been in Toronto for 48 hours and I’ve only walked across the street to the premiere.”

“It’s a trade off, but we get our moments. It’s just the good and the bad,” he adds.
Indeed, unlike many of his peers, the 47-year-old actor is rarely spotted in Hollywood parties. Probably because he needs an army of bodyguards every time he ventures out of his home. But he says that he would rather devote his time to his young family.

Pitt is famously the father of six children with Angelina Jolie: Maddox, aged nine, who was adopted from a Cambodian orphanage when he was seven months; daughter Zahara, six, who was adopted from an Ethopian orphanage; biological daughter Shiloh, five, who was born in Namibia; Vietnamese Pax, six, and twins Knox and Vivienne, who are three.

“My concerns deal with family and safety and doing what is important to them,” he enthuses. “Angie and I talk about it. We made a commitment to raise a family together so everything else is secondary.”

His family, however, has not been a distraction from but a catalyst to performing in and producing high-quality movies.

“I actually enjoy it more than ever now. It’s been kind of freeing. It forces you to find projects that are worth investing your time in if it’s going to take you away from your family.”

Pitt has recently starred in Terrence Malick’s epic “The Tree of Life,” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and the true-life drama, Moneyball, which he has also produced. Moneyball has received glowing reviews and is already predicted to feature prominently in this year’s awards season.

In Moneyball, Pitt inhabits the character of Billy Beane, the manager of the embattled Oakland A’s baseball team. Faced by a certain demise of his club due to the loss of his best players to bigger teams, Beane, with the help of a Yale-educated economist Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), utilizes statistical analysis to recruit overlooked and undervalued players to his team. The outcome of his method changes the way the game is played and permeated other competitive sports and even businesses.

Penned by Oscar-winning screenwriter, Steven Zaillian, Moneyball changed directors several times before it was green-lit by Sony Pictures.  In fact, the studio pulled the plug on the project after the first day of shooting with director Steven Soderbergh. But thanks to Pitt’s dogged support of the project, the studio agreed to give it another chance with a new rewrite by another Oscar-winning screenwrtier, AAron Sorkin, and a new director, Bennett Miller.

“We remounted and rebooted and started again,” Pitt smiles. “Being an unconventional story, complex material with sabre metrics and economics at the forefront of it, which is not necessarily nail biting, edge of your seat material, it was complicated to crack and it took this evolutionary period.”

Pitt’s passionate support for the movie stemmed from his determination to play Billy Beane, a fiercely competitive middle-aged family man, who, driven by a desire to win and reinvent himself, turned to management after failing to live up to expectations and become a baseball superstar.

“The film is about how we value things,” Pitt enthuses. “How we value each other and ourselves; and how we decide who’s a winner based on those values. The film questions the very idea of how to define success. At the end of the day, we all hope that what we’re doing will be of some value, that it will mean something and I think that is this character’s quest.”

Beane’s story resonates deeply with the Oklahoma-born and Missouri-raised actor, who dropped out of college in the early eighties and headed to LA with only $300 in his pocket to pursue his dream: a career in acting. Pitt took extra jobs in small movies before offers of small parts in TV shows gradually trickled in, which eventually lead to meatier roles on the big screen.  Success, he insists, came after a long string of failures.

“I see failure as the next step that leads to the next win. I don’t hang on it too much because I see things as seasonal. I’m in a cold, hard, dark winter and then it’s spring again. I won’t make that mistake again. Right that and it leads to something else.”

The Troy star believes that he learned to navigate the maze of the film business through trying and failing.

“When we are starting out, we rely on the advice from people who have been in the business. Sometimes it’s good help and sometimes it’s not because only you can decide what’s best for you. I’d made a couple of decisions that I was told were in the best career-maintenance-wise. It was all the best intentions but because I wasn’t into it, I couldn’t service or help the project. In fact, I became a weight, a hindrance to the project.”

Pitt has just wrapped shooting his first zombie movie, World War Z, in the UK. Remarkably, the only zombie movie that he has seen is Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later.

While not making movies, Pitt, along with Jolie, spends his time championing charitable causes around the world. They regularly visit and donate millions of dollars to victims of natural catastrophes or military conflicts around the world, including the hurricane in New Orleans,  the earthquake in Haiti and the floods in Pakistan.

Speaking to Pitt, it’s evident that he loathes the vacuity of frivolous fame and wants to be remembered not for his sultry look, but for being a great actor, a loving family man and a generous philanthropist. It’s also evident that Jolie, who has infused his life with substance by introducing him to the troubled world beyond Hollywood, is the crux of his existence.

Brad and Angelina fire up Toronto

The crowd in Toronto went crazy last night when Hollywood royal couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie emerged from their limo and glided down the the Royal Thompson Hall red carpet. Waving their hands and smiling, the couple obligingly signed autographs and  shook hands with the swooning fans.
Pitt was attending the premiere of “Moneyball”, in which he portrays the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, who pioneered a new mathematical method of evaluating players and assembling a team, which enabled him to resurrect his team from a certain failure and elevate it to the top of league.
The other stars of the movie, Jona Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Anna Faris also attended the screening.
Earlier, Festival’s crowd had been treated to glimpses of the stars of George Clooney political drama “The Ides of March”: George Clooney, Paul Giamatti  Ryan Gosling, Philip  Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomie. 
Both films were enthusiastically received by film fans and critics, raising their prospect for Oscar recognition.