LOS ANGELES - There is strand of silver around her neck. On the end of it is a glass bubble filled with her husband's clotted blood. Angelina Jolie believes in keeping part of Billy Bob Thornton close to her heart - at all times.
"I'm sure I should get a therapist. I've been told that for years, but I've never paid attention," she says. Long black hair flowing loosely down her back, Jolie arrives for an early morning breakfast interview looking surprisingly demon free. In a white Gap T-shirt and khaki pants, she could be any other stepmom and wife who has errands to do after promoting her $100 million summer flick Tomb Raider (2001), opening in the UK on July 6th.
You almost hate to ask the personal questions now. Jolie could really kick your butt after those daily three hour workout sessions and protein drinks gulped to play cyber-babe Lara Croft in the movie which opened in the US on June 8.
But although her arms are still sinewy and her gaze direct, she visibly softens when you mention her Significant Other. "I'm the last person to believe in love. I was prepared to be completely alone for my entire life," she says. "But I met Billy Bob and knew it was true love because I kept walking into walls. That's the kind of daze I was in." Forget the tabloids who predicted their marriage wouldn't last. "My love for him is deep. It's like the love you feel for your family, but it's more. You know you really will spend the rest of your life with this person which is an amazing, calming feeling."
There is nothing calm about Lara Croft who has to abandon all pretty pretenses to save the universe this summer -- with brawn, brains and her breasts. Afterall, it's not every hero who happens to travel the globe in the tightest cotton T-shirts. But that's also the Lara of the hit video game which to date has sold over 21 million units. Of course, Hollywood doesn't have a great history of turning video games into movies which is why Jolie who had just won an Oscar for Girl, Interrupted (1999) was a bit skeptical at first.
"I thought it was the craziest thing I ever heard," she says. "I mean, I was flattered, but I thought it was ridiculous. I don't like video games. My ex husband (Trainspotting (1996)'s Jonny Lee Miller) used to play 'Tomb Raider. ' I would walk by him and say, 'Oh, look at her breasts. '"
"But then I met with the director and he told me it wouldn't be campy or stupid. I realized it was a real movie with a solid character."
Getting some solid muscle mass wasn't easy. "It was two and a half months of tough training," Jolie says. "I had just wrapped a period piece (August's Original Sin (2000)) and I was drinking wine and smoking cigarettes and having a great time."
"Then I got to the 'Tomb Raider' set and the great adventure began. They had me on bunjis. I'm dog sledding. They had me up at seven each morning and handed me a protein shake. Suddenly, a nutritionist was giving me five meals a day." "But you had to do these things to maintain your energy," she says. "And I liked the intense training because there is only one way to do something and for me it's in extremes."
"The only thing that bothered me upfront were the conversations about if a man could hit a woman in the big fights. I said, it's two people fighting. Let's not bring gender into it." But in other scenes, Croft almost goes girly in long frocks and sipping tea. "I loved that she's very much a girl. She wasn't trying to be a man. And she didn't have a thing against me. She was even very flirty and very curvaceous as well as being a warrior deep down."
Her warrior tendencies worried director Simon West. "Angelina was doing triple back flips on the set. She was doing the bunji jumps from 50 feet up in the air. She was laughing. The stunt doubles were clinging to their safety ropes," he marvels. "For one scene where Lara surfs through the air on a thin log, her stunt double refused to do it. Angie said 'no problem'. Within a week, she was going, 'I love it! Let's go again!'"
"I've always been ridiculously fearless" she admits. "I feel alive when I'm afraid. And you know what? The worst thing that happens is I die. At least I lived" .
"Of course, at times I said, 'I'm an actor. What am I doing? Please, somebody get me back to my hotel room.'"
"One night, I was sitting in my bathtub with all my bruises and cuts. I was crying and thinking, 'What am I doing? I can't pull this off? I can't even keep the guns straight. I keep hitting myself with her stupid braid," Jolie admits. "But after a few months of pushing yourself, you're suddenly swinging on a bunji rope and realizing, 'Wow, I'm not hitting the wall."
Back at the proverbial ranch, Jolie had one person who felt her pain. Nope, not Billy Bob who is afraid to fly and didn't log much time on the set. Instead, it was her father, actor Jon Voight who plays her father in the film. Jolie asked him to be in the movie. "I called him and got Jon's answering machine. I said, 'It's Angie and this is not a bad call. No more tattoos and I'm not pregnant. I just want you to be in a movie with me.'"
Jolie says the movie was a way to "reconnect with my father. My parents divorced when I was little and my Dad was never really absent in my life, but we didn't spend all the time we could together. My Dad was very supportive, but there were still questions that I wanted to ask him. So this movie was great because it gave us quiet time to spend together. "
"We said the things that needed to be said. Jon and I finally came together as father and daughter," she says. Angelina grew up with her brother in Los Angeles. It was a quick rise to fame after the hit cable movie 'Gia' which led to films including Pushing Tin (1999) where she met Thornton and her Oscar winning Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Along the way, she became famous and infamous. You might have heard that she wrote the name of her first husband on her shirt in his blood before they married. There was that affectionate kiss to her brother. And then there was her hooking up with Thornton. "I knew he was the one because when I met him, I couldn't breathe. In fact, I walked into a wall. And if that's not true love -- nothing is."
In her spare time, Jolie has to deal with her celebrity. "I don't mind when people come up to me on the streets. I honestly feel like I'm friends with the world," she says. "Everyone is on this grand adventure with me. Just follow me and let's take it to the next step." Next is a comedy where she will play a Marilyn Monroe type bombshell. There are already rumors of a ''Tomb Raider'' sequel.
One problem? She still can't play the game. "Billy Bob's kids ask me for advice on how to play it,"she says with a moan. "I called Paramount. I called the videogame maker and said, 'Somebody walk me through it because this is really embarrassing.'"