March cover star Angelina Jolie talks family, feeling comfortable in her forties, and holding on to her inner punk March cover star Angelina Jolie talks family, feeling comfortable in her forties, and holding on to her inner punk


Angelina Jolie is as much the all-action heroine at home and in the international arena as she is on screen. For the March issue of British Vogue, Edward Enninful caught up with the indefatigable star in her historic LA estate to discuss her latest directorial project, her book with Amnesty International and her continuing fight for the rights of women and children.

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Craig McDean

As the sun came up on Los Angeles on the first Tuesday of November last year, it brought with it the promise of an auspicious day. At 7am, the polls in California opened for a generation-defining American election, as the British Vogue team pulled up to a discreet estate tucked away in a quiet corner of Los Feliz, topped by an eye-catching Italianate Revival villa, built in 1913, and steeped in Hollywood history. Just like its owner.

Angelina Jolie – actor, film-maker, humanitarian – had invited us to spend two days with her, to let us into her world. To say the home she shares with her six children – Maddox, 19, Pax, then 16, Zahara, then 15, Shiloh, 14, and 12-year-old twins Vivienne and Knox – is full of life would be an understatement. Laughter, chatter, food, rabbits, dogs, lizards, political debate, music appreciation, impromptu haircuts and Zoom meetings are all part of the day-to-day. (The children ended up jumping into the photos, too.) As has been the way of late, I joined remotely from London to style the shoot. Angelina, who wears her clothes until they’re completely worn out and has a love for vintage, shared a few of her own treasured pieces.

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Angelina is the star of two British Vogue March 2021 covers.

Craig McDean

It was a remarkable day… and night… and day. As the hours ticked by, we were all checking our phones compulsively between shots, watching the election results creep in, feeling ever more tantalisingly buoyant. A few weeks later, Angelina, 45, and I caught up to talk, her warm laugh and thoughtful pauses as bewitching in conversation as they are on the big screen.

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What follows is a portrait of a woman, a mother and a rebel at heart. With two decades of experience as a humanitarian and human rights campaigner under her belt, and with a host of new artistic projects coming, she was, I found, in a reflective and open-hearted mood, cautiously hopeful for both her future and the world’s. As ever, what strikes you most about Angelina is that, no matter what life throws at her, her fire remains undimmed.

Edward Enninful: Angelina, what a pleasure it is to be talking to you today. There’s a new president moving into the White House; some positive steps, in terms of vaccinations, are being made in the pandemic; and we’re on the cusp of a new season. Despite everything, are you feeling a little hopeful?

Angelina Jolie: Well, I put a lot of my hopes for the future on the younger generation. Maybe that’s because I live with six kids, aged 12 to 19, so I see that particular group – and I certainly see how much more pressure they are under than we were at their age. They’re quite overwhelmed with a lot of information that we were sheltered from. But I see Mad [Maddox] online speaking in Russian to someone or talking to Korea, or Shi [Shiloh] saying hi to her friends in Namibia, I see there’s this new way young people can connect and know each other in this global way. It’s how they’ll start to solve our problems.

How have the past few months been for you? I know you’ve been at home in Los Angeles with your children.

I think that like most families, we have had this bigger thing happening with the pandemic. But of course you also have these life markers. We went into it having just gotten out of the hospital with Zahara [who underwent surgery early last year], and we were so happy she was OK that we entered lockdown in a different state of mind. But, you know, there are also these other markers of life: Pax going into his senior year, but not being able to enjoy all that it is to be a senior; Zahara finally getting her driving licence, but she’s taking the test with the driver wrapped in the full outfit with the masks. It’s not how you imagine these moments. But birthdays go on, and I think that for many people, it’s made us all feel very human together. There’s something beautiful about that.

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Angelina with Zahara, Vivienne and Knox.

Craig McDean

There definitely is. We had the great pleasure of photographing you at your home, which also happens to be the former estate of Cecil B DeMille. How wonderful…

I wanted it to be close to their dad, who is only five minutes away. I felt a little pressure moving in. Like I had snuck into where DeMille and Chaplin would hang out. I love most that there is no entertainment room, but lots of pathways and places to walk and think. I feel very fortunate we have that at this time.

Can you describe a typical day for your family?

Well, I was never very good at sitting still. Even though I wanted to have many children and be a mom, I always imagined it kind of like Jane Goodall, travelling in the middle of the jungle somewhere. I didn’t imagine it in that true, traditional sense. I feel like I’m lacking in all the skills to be a traditional stay-at-home mom. I’m managing through it because the children are quite resilient, and they’re helping me, but I’m not good at it at all.

Oh, I don’t believe that!

Well, I love them. I feel like we’re such a team. It may sound clichéd, but you love and you try, and even if you burn the eggs, that doesn’t matter in the end. But also, you’ve met our kids. They’re pretty capable.

That’s a testament to you. You should be proud.

Thank you [laughs].

So, we had a wonderful time over two days shooting this story. I knew how important it was for us to reflect through the photography where you are now as a woman. Where do I find you in your life and your outlook?

I’m feeling that I’ve come through a few things. I’m trying to be hopeful. I think this is something we’ve all discovered through the pandemic.

One of the things I respect about you is the way you never lose sight of your passions. You’ll soon be publishing a book for children and young adults with Geraldine Van Bueren QC and Amnesty International – can you tell me a little about it?

It’s called Know Your Rights (And Claim Them). We want to help young people to identify who or what is blocking them from accessing their human rights, and how to try to overcome that. The message to young people is, no one has the right to harm you, to silence you.


Young people are engaged and ready to fight. But there is a level of misinformation we never faced growing up. We want the book to help give them the tools to strengthen their fight and empower them in a very practical way.

Important work.

Maybe it’s just the young punk in me, but I like the spirit of the youth. I believe they can see right and wrong with more clarity. I see a lot of older people making excuses for certain behaviours, and it tends to be the younger person who is quicker to say, “But this is simply wrong, and we stand against it.” I’ve wanted to remain that person.


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British Vogue’s March 2021 cover star Angelina Jolie at home in LA.

Craig McDean

You’re the special envoy for the UN Refugee Agency. You’ve been with them for 20 years, I think?

Twenty years this year.


I started in my early twenties, putting on my boots and backpack, and going out to try and figure out what the hell was going on in the world. I tried to give myself a broader education than I’d had at school. I grew up in a very empty place, in many ways, so had to go to find a wider understanding.

Have you changed through it?

I went through a phase of being so shocked and angry about a system that tolerates millions of people being displaced by war, genocide and persecution. I’m still just as angry about injustice, but whereas my younger self wanted to tear down the system, I’ve learnt I have to fight to try to change it from within.

How do you feel when you look back on your work with the UN?

I have a love-hate relationship with the UN. I love when I see practical solutions and protection for those in most need. I love to see people from around the world risking their lives for that. What I hate is how little focus governments have on actually solving the reasons people flee. I hate it when we don’t speak out and defend the rights of all people equally. And I hate when I feel the focus isn’t encouraging people and countries to be independent, but seems to benefit from them being broken.

Do you feel the discourse around refugees has evolved at all during the past two decades?

I think if anything it has worsened. We speak as if refugees are a burden. But they’ve had to adapt. They have a different skill set, a different look in their eye. They’ve confronted their own humanity in such a profound way. They’ve stood up to oppression. We should honour their fight. Honour the people who’ve fled bombs and protected their kids.

You’ve directed films and documentary films, and you’re about to go back behind the camera for the biopic of war photographer Don McCullin. Don is one of my favourite photojournalists – what made you want to adapt his autobiography for the big screen?

I’m still very nervous. Even the other day, I thought to email him to ask him some questions, and I was composing my email to get it just right. He’s incredible. The story is about Don, but it’s also equally about the conflicts he has been witness to, and the lives of the people within the now-famous photographs, who they were, and the often darker truth of those conflicts.

And you’ll be playing a big-screen comic-book creation later this year in Marvel’s ‘Eternals’, with Richard Madden and Salma Hayek. I hear that there might be a gold bodysuit involved?

I love this cast, and that we all came together. I signed up to support Chloé [Zhao]’s vision and Marvel’s commitment to expand the way we see “superheroes”. Running around in a gold bodysuit was not how I imagined my forties. But it’s good crazy, I think.

Do you feel as if you’re at a happy stage in your life?

I don’t know. The past few years have been pretty hard. I’ve been focusing on healing our family. It’s slowly coming back, like the ice melting and the blood returning to my body.

It’s a journey…

But I’m not there. I’m not there yet. But I hope to be. I’m planning on it. I do like being older. I feel much more comfortable in my forties than I did when I was younger. Maybe because… I don’t know… maybe because my mom didn’t live very long, so there’s something about age that feels like a victory instead of a sadness for me.


So I like it. I’m looking forward to my fifties – I feel that I’m gonna hit my stride in my fifties. Though we were on the trampoline the other day, and the children said, “No, Mom, don’t do that. You’ll hurt yourself.” And I thought, “God, isn’t that funny?” There was a day I was an action star, and now the kids are telling me to get off the trampoline because I’ll hurt myself.

I love that. Kids will always tell you how it is.

Even at their young age they know that what matters is to feel safe and loved and stable. To not see those you love harmed. To know your own mind and truth and not to live a lie.

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Angelina gives her eldest son, Maddox, an impromptu haircut at home in LA.

Craig McDean

You’ve made a concerted effort to raise them to be global citizens. Why is it so important to parent them in this way?

They are from across the globe. When I see Mad in Cambodia, it’s his home. He is a Cambodian man, and at the same time, he is also an American citizen and a global citizen. But it’s not just important for him to go there, it’s important for his siblings to go there, too. We’ve been very blessed to have a family of different cultures and races. We are all learning from each other.

You’ve built a family out of individuals.

Aw, well I feel like it’s a big deal if they accept me, you know? I mean, that’s the thing for a lot of mothers, and for a lot of parents regardless. But I think even more so if you have adopted children. They have to choose you, too. It’s not the parents’ family and they’re in it. It’s our family.

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Angelina wears a Dior trench coat in the grounds of her historic LA estate in the March 2021 issue of British Vogue.

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