We’ve talked about being evil, now let’s talk about something good that you did. Exactly a year ago, you were in the middle of some serious medical procedures – the double mastectomy you chose to have after tests determined you were genetically likely to develop breast cancer. First of all, I’m just wondering — how are you today?
Good? You’re 100 percent?
Yeah! I’m very happy I made the decision. I was very fortunate to have great doctors and very, very fortunate to have a good recovery and have a project like Unbroken to have something to be really focused on, to be getting healthy for, to be able to just get right back to work.
Nobody knew — you could have kept your decision a secret. You got away with it. But in May you wrote that essay for The New York Times, My Medical Choice, revealing the procedure and urging other women to get tested. What kind of reaction have you personally gotten from that?
I feel very, very close — much closer — to other women, and women who are going through the same thing. Wherever I go, usually I run into women and we talk about health issues, women’s issues, breast cancer, ovarian cancer. I’ve talked to men about their daughters’ and wives’ health. It makes me feel closer to other people who deal with the same things and have either lost their parents or are considering surgeries or wondering about their children.
You talked about very intimate things. In the piece you said, “On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.” That’s something patients certainly think about when making those decisions, but it’s not always easy to talk about.
Sure, and I did want to. The reason that I wrote it was to try to communicate and help and connect with other women and other families going through the same thing. And … I was very, very moved by all the support and kindness from so many people.
It makes you embarrassed to talk about that part, doesn’t it?
[Smiles] Yeah, a little bit.
I just imagine you must get mail –
I do, and it’s lovely.
Was all that reaction helpful for you, too? Healing?
There’s still another surgery to have, which I haven’t’ yet. [Jolie is also genetically at risk for ovarian cancer, which is what took her mother’s life at age 56] I’ll, you know, I’ll get advice from all these wonderful people who I’ve been talking to, to get through that next stage.
So you did this to support them, and they’re a support for you too, because you’re still facing your decisions.
Sure, of course — yes!
I think there are a lot of ways every one of us can make small, positive differences in people’s lives, but it’s rare to get a chance to come out and do something on a big scale that a lot of people see, that changes lives. Maybe saves them.
Every one of us has something.
I think sharing your story the way you did was extremely cool. It’s the closest we get in real life to magic, you know? So, nice job. [Extends fist over table.]
[Laughs] Thank you. [Fist bump, with explosion. Laughs.]
You have since directed Unbroken – the story of Louis Zamperini, a street fighter, turned Olympian, who meets Hitler at the 1939 games, and ends up serving in World War II. He crashes in the Pacific, survives being lost at sea, and is placed in a brutal POW camp … The story is inspirational, and true, and almost unbelievable.
I’m drawn to fighters. Strength of will — what we need to pull us through. I don’t know how anybody could not be drawn to that man’s story—it’s just—there’s so much—so many different people pulled something from his story whether it be faith, forgiveness, resilience, athleticism, pure heroics or also, someone who is quite a troubled youth, who didn’t know whether or not he was worth anything, you know?
Before you signed on to Unbroken, there were these rumors circulating that your directorial follow-up to 2011’s In The Land of Blood And Honey would be 50 Shades of Grey. That turned out not to be the case, but how close did that actually come to happening?
I — I was just — [laughs and shakes her head – for a long time. Jolie fully blushes.]
There’s a story here! I can see you almost want to tell it. Do it!
[Laughs, after another long, contemplative pause … ] I came very clear out of the gate: after Blood and Honey, if I ever directed again, it would have to be a certain kind of film. You know, I’m looking forward to seeing what Sam [Taylor-Johnson] does with 50 Shades and she’s amazing. I — I think they’re just … it’s funny, I think with directing, you just think: I’m better at telling some stories than others but um, who knows?
Both movies you’ve directed are very heavy. Somber dramas about serious subjects.
I think about that, too. The films that I’ve directed are both real stories. Even though the first one I wrote, it was based in history and you have such a responsibility — you have to be very careful of how you balance it. One day it might be fun to direct something where I don’t have to be so careful. I can be completely, completely um … bold and wild and irreverent and dark.
It’s good to know you still have that dark side if you need it.
[Laughs.] I know!
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