- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

NEW YORK — Angelina Jolie sounds like a majority of critics as she pounds away at 2001’s “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” the film adaptation of the video-game sensation of the same name.

The actress, whose quirky personal life has drawn as much attention as her Oscar-caliber chops, critiques her own one-dimensional lead.

She’s just getting warmed up.

“I was definitely not doing another one,” Miss Jolie says during publicity interviews for the 2003 sequel, “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life,” at New York City’s Essex House earlier this month.

“But we had a chance of doing it right, and I don’t like to leave something unfinished,” she says, a serpentine tattoo peeking out from under her short-sleeve top.

Besides, the 28-year-old actress can use a successful franchise like “Tomb Raider” to secure her pick of other projects.

She already has nabbed a key role in Oliver Stone’s “Alexander the Great,” playing leading man Colin Farrell’s mother during his childhood years.

The brunette actress appears to have had plenty of say in the creation of “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.”

The film features a more complex portrait of the hard-driving explorer’s character, as well as a genuine romance with an old flame (Gerard Butler). That, combined with plenty of exotic locales, gives it a hardier pulse than the original.

Lara Croft is “a little less video vixen and a little more lady” this time around, she says.

Miss Jolie endured an enhanced bustline in the first film to appear more like the video character. She’s happier without the accouterments this time around and scrunches her nose at the thought of plastic surgery.

“I love flaws, scars and wrinkles. … When you see life in a body or a face, it’s beautiful,” she explains.

That may help explain her attraction to her second husband, grizzled actor-director Billy Bob Thornton.

Anyone who read their dual interview in US Weekly magazine won’t soon forget how equally icky and disturbing their maniacal professions of love seemed.

Today, the wild child in Miss Jolie occasionally bubbles out — she confesses to being an “adrenaline junkie” who thrives on performing her own stunts.

She gently disputes the wild label.

“God only knows what everybody is saying is ‘wild.’ I’ve explored life. I never intentionally hurt another person,” she says. “They think it’s wild when I seemed imbalanced or when I was getting married or getting a tattoo. … Now I live in the middle of the jungle with tigers.” (She lives part time in her adopted son Maddox’s native Cambodia, in three huts on stilts. She spends the rest of her time in a home in England.)

“My sense of wild is odd,” she says with a girlish giggle.

Yet her current poise doesn’t appear to be a facade.

Some might say a maturing actress and single mother comes along with a new, improved “Tomb Raider” and the actress credits her increased traveling schedule with that evolution.

“I’m a much more compassionate person, more aware of the world I live in,” says Miss Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees who practices what she preaches when she donates millions to humanitarian causes.

Her first visit to Cambodia, to shoot the 2001 “Tomb Raider,” proved the impetus for so many life changes.

“It’s beautiful; it’s honest,” she says. “I love my neighbors. They’re amazing people who have survived so much,” she adds, alluding to land-mine victims who live nearby.

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Angelina Jolie Voight was born in Los Angeles in 1975, the daughter of Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight. The young actress first came to attention in 1998 playing the title role in “Gia,” HBO’s true tale of drug-addicted supermodel Gia Marie Curangi.

Later turns in “The Bone Collector” (1999) and her Oscar-winning role in 1999’s “Girl, Interrupted” proved her acting abilities matched her lush beauty.

A trio of oddities — her bizarre courtship with Mr. Thornton, a rocky relationship with papa and a strange post-Oscar comment that she was “so in love” with brother James Haven — cemented her oddball status.

The press stings, but she does her best to avoid it.

“I try not to read those papers or watch those TV programs, but it’s strange when you’re going through a divorce and everyone’s aware of it,” she says, measuring her words.

“Cradle of Life” co-star Mr. Butler was aware of Miss Jolie’s negatives before joining the cast.

The actor, recently named the lead in the upcoming movie version of “The Phantom of the Opera,” got the scoop on Miss Jolie from her former crew mates.

He was working on the upcoming “Timeline” in Canada, a shoot featuring crew members who had just worked with Miss Jolie on “Beyond Borders.”

“They raved about her,” he says. “I trust those kinds of people rather than the press.”

He learned about the actress’s tenacity firsthand during a difficult “Tomb Raider” stunt in which the two fall from 150 feet in the air.

They performed the rope-based sequence “40-odd times over two days,” Mr. Butler recalls.

“Stunt guys are insane. They thrive on the craziest stunts. Even they said, ‘We hate this one,’” he says.

“Angelina didn’t have one complaint,” he adds. “I kept looking for a chink in the armor.”

Perhaps her weakness remains the institution of marriage, but it sounds as if Miss Jolie may be putting the prospect of a third husband — she was married briefly to actor Jonny Lee Miller before Mr. Thornton — on hold.

“Now the idea of marrying a man would be making him a father to my child, and I don’t have a lot of faith in permanence in marriage,” Miss Jolie says.


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