Jolie s wickedly good role
Angelina Jolie. Picture: Disney

Fledgling movie star Vivienne Jolie-Pitt is giggling playfully with a babysitter in an adjoining hotel room, the five-year- old happy in the knowledge that her mother is close by.

"She's my shadow. She wants to know where I am at all times. I had to take her from school early today because she had to come here and hug mummy," smiles her mother, Angelina Jolie, indulgently when we meet in Beverly Hills.

A super-mum as much as a superstar, Jolie and partner Brad Pitt would prefer their brood of six chose careers outside of Hollywood but when all the toddlers who came in to audition fled in tears after seeing Jolie in her full evil regalia of horns and eerie amber lenses, Vivienne was the only one left smiling.

You'd pretty much have to live under a rock to not know that Jolie is the face of Disney's iconic villain Maleficent, a misunderstood woman with whom the actress has long identified. "I was afraid of her but I loved her too," she says.

While the other kids in the playground were playing fairytale princesses, a young Jolie always favoured Maleficent, the evil

fairy who in the original 1959 animated Sleeping Beauty curses the infant Princess Aurora to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die before her 16th birthday.

"I think we all know the story of Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent and what happened at the christening but we've never known what happened before and what drove her," says Jolie, 38, herself unfairly cast as the villain in the piece when she and Brad Pitt famously got together nine years ago, although there are always two sides to every story.

"In the same way as Maleficent, I think I was born quite open- hearted, trusting, more loving and then, like everybody, there are different things in my life that made me trust less and become more alone and more angry and more careful," says the actress whose late mother, Marcheline Bertrand, struggled alone to raise her children without the support of their absent father, Jon Voight.

"But then something brings her (Maleficent) back and makes her realise who she was meant to be and so I felt like my family did that for me; they helped me to be light again."

The famous parents are frequently photographed in far- flung corners of the world with their family - Maddox, 12, Pax, 10, Zahara, 9, Shiloh, 7, and twins Knox and Vivienne - and it's clear the children bring them so much joy.

After months spent vamping it up in Pinewood Studios, undergoing a four-hour process that involved prosthetic cheekbones and ears, contact lenses, elaborate make-up and a urethane-horned headpiece, Jolie is still channelling her inner Maleficent, dressed from head to toe in black; black nails, black lace Valentino dress, black Louboutin heels and smokey eyes.

Mother, philanthropist, tireless humanitarian, the word goddess comes to mind when your are sitting just a few feet away from this woman whose almond-shaped blue eyes, spectacular bone structure and puffy lips all come together in an improbable juxtaposition of perfection.

However, she does confess to some flaws. "My biggest thing is I don't know how to do nothing. As a mother I have to learn to be able to just be home and enjoy my family and let everything . . ." she sighs, the words fading away.

One of those itches she simply had to scratch was directing Unbroken, a big-budget epic chronicling the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II. It is a project so daunting that it had been in turnaround for 55 years.

Jolie and various members of the family moved to Australia last year, where much of the filming took place, casting British actor Jack O'Connell as Zamperini alongside Aussies Jai Courtney, Alex Russell and Jordan Patrick Smith.

"Unbroken may be the hardest thing I have ever done," she admits. "Louis is 97, he's my neighbour, we have spent a lot of time together, he's helped me through so much in my life and he's been a guiding light for many people through his journey and his wisdom, so it's a big responsibility to take that life and put it on to film, because it's such a big life it doesn't really fit in a film."

She loved working in Australia. "The crew was extraordinary and the teamwork, which I think was also very important, especially in the last prison camp he was in, where he lived with many Australian soldiers, and there was even 60 boxes of Australian soldiers that they carried out of the camp in the end. And so it wasn't really us bringing the film to Australia, it was more about coming together on something where it's our shared history."

Unlike her hero Zamperini, Jolie confesses she is not a turn-the-other- cheek kind of person. "No, but I am trying to learn more about that from Louis because the message of Unbroken is very much about forgiveness but it's hard. I think in Louis' story they hurt him and he was able to forgive. I think it's different if maybe somebody hurt me but if somebody hurt my children, I don't know if I could."

Directing, she says, gives her a sense of fulfilment she doesn't always find when she's merely acting in a film. It also gives her more time to be with her family in a future where she plans to be a strong presence as they move into their teens.

For the time being, she and Pitt enforce certain ground rules at home.

"Cell phones are never at the dinner table, that's a no-no," she says. "They do some stuff online but no Twitter or Facebook or anything like that.

"They are not completely cut off to stuff but we try to guide it and protect it as much as we can."

She shakes her head and smiles when you ask if she has any advice for raising teens.

"No, but somebody said to me that the best thing to do is just not say very much. You give them as much guidance while they are growing up, before they are teenagers, and then when it's their turn to try things and express things, you just have to listen a lot.

"Brad has known for a while that I love my humanitarian work and I love directing and writing and so he has seen this coming, I think," she says. "But I am not retiring, I will do one or two movies if they come - the right ones - but I think that I have been in front of the camera for so long in my life and it's nice to step back."

The West Australian

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