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A 'Mighty' Act Of Friendship

Angelina Jolie was friends with Mariane Pearl before portraying her. The actress took the role for Pearl's young son.

January 09, 2008|Gina Piccalo | Times Staff Writer

She was interrupted by a knock on the door. Lunch had arrived -- a platter of cheese, some dark, nutty bread and strawberries. When Jolie answered, the shock of recognition was clear on the waiter's face. He trembled as he set down the tray. Jolie must have noticed but spoke to him without a trace of pretension.

SHE is among the most famous actresses in the world, but having grown up inside the star machine -- her father is actor Jon Voight -- weathering a series of very public personal melodramas, she has learned a thing or two about managing her persona. She has no publicist -- which in itself is an act of courage in Hollywood -- working instead with the same manager she's had since adolescence. And she has preserved a down-to-earth demeanor, offering an unguarded smile and surprisingly firm handshake.

On the set of "A Mighty Heart," Winterbottom said, Jolie tried to bring a sense of camaraderie to the shoot. "Taxi drivers who'd never acted before, people from Britain and Pakistan -- she made everyone feel very much a part of the group," he said.

Dede Gardner, president of Pitt's Plan B Entertainment, which produced "A Mighty Heart," said this lack of airs served her portrayal of Mariane Pearl. "There's an honesty to the performance that has to do with who she is as a person, related to who Mariane is as a person," Gardner said. "I like to say they share some DNA. I think they really function similarly in the world. They're two of the only people I've ever met who really truly try to exist in a borderless world and really try to comprehend the globe at large. I think that attitude definitely informed how Mariane handled this tragedy. I think it's how Angie lives as well."

"A Mighty Heart's" critical acclaim didn't help it at the box office -- the tragic subject matter proved too dark for summer moviegoers. There was some speculation that it was too soon to revisit those events on screen. But Jolie said she wasn't surprised. It's a story that doesn't lend itself to the theater experience, she said.

Ultimately, Jolie said her intent in taking on this role had nothing to do with the box office or even her own career. She did it for the Pearls' son, Adam, now 5.

"All I could think about," she said, her eyes welling with tears and her voice wavering slightly, "was I have this one opportunity to show this little boy how much his mother loves his father."

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gina.piccalo@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

ACTING SUCCESS, UNINTERRUPTED

Angelina Jolie starts off this award season with nominations for a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award, both for her portrayal of the real-life Mariane Pearl in "A Mighty Heart," which was released in June. Here are a few wins she's chalked up.

Oscar

2000: Supporting actress, "Girl, Interrupted"

Golden Globe

2000: Supporting actress in a film, "Girl, Interrupted"

1999: Actress in a miniseries or TV movie, "Gia"

1998: Supporting actress in a series, miniseries or TV movie, "George Wallace"

Screen Actors Guild Award

2000: Supporting female actor, "Girl, Interrupted"

1999: Best female actor in a TV movie or miniseries, "Gia"

MTV Movie Award

2006: Best fight, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," shared with Brad Pitt

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