"If you have money, if you have success, if you’re an actor; these are all the things that should make a person happy. I was miserable," she tells THR.
Jolie was born into a Hollywood family, the daughter of actors Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand, so it was perhaps inevitable that she would wind up in the family business. And yet, she says she never felt completely comfortable in front of the camera, almost walking away before her back-to-back Golden Globe wins in the late 1990s, and describing herself as "miserable."
While she's not appearing on the big screen as much lately, she's more committed to filmmaking than ever with her fourth directorial effort, "First They Killed My Father," selected by Cambodia as its foreign-language entry into the Academy Awards this year. A trip to Cambodia during filming of "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" would open her eyes to the larger world, and the country she would fall in love with; she currently has duel citizen ship in the United States and Cambodia. That experience would also spur her into her ongoing humanitarian efforts and help steer her professional career.
Here are 7 of the most interesting takeaways from the hour she spent talking about her life and career with THR's Scott Feinberg:
Threw Up After Seeing First Film
A lot of actors aren't that impressed with their first film work, but Jolie said she literally vomited after seeing herself in "Cyborg 2," her film debut, for the first time. "I had in my mind what I think the film was going to be," she said. "I never thought it was going to be a great film, but I thought that it was okay and I gave my all."
Even now, the actress remains hyper-critical of herself and her performances, saying that after that screening she almost immediately signed up for acting classes, and even considered quitting. "I just felt like I’d embarrassed myself and I didn’t know if this was something I could do for a living," she said.
With Success Came Misery
Success and the fame that comes with it have not been easy for Jolie. "The years that would follow that I would win awards and lose my privacy were not necessarily happy years," she said. "I was very, very lost because I didn’t like that life, having that public life."
Jolie nearly quit acting after filming "Gia," for which she won her second Golden Globe. She even enrolled at NYU, explaining, "I thought I had expressed what I could as an actor and now I wanted to figure out who else I was."
"I’d done what everybody said you should do, become an actor," she said. "People tell you if you look good enough, if you have money, if you have success, if you’re an actor; these are all the things that should make a person happy. I was miserable. I was completely unhappy."
'Tomb Raider' Changed Her Life
Ironically, the film that would change the direction of her life was her post-Oscar film, "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider." Many couldn't figure out why she even took the role, and she even turned it down initially.
"I’d seen the video game and thought it was a ridiculous idea. And then they came out and said you’ll travel the world and train with the British military," Jolie said. "I thought, who could possibly say no to that. And thank God I did, because I traveled the world and went to Cambodia and my life changed."
Acting Was More for Her Mom
While she'd known for years that she wasn't always comfortable in front of the camera, Jolie had a huge realization after the death of her mother in 2007. Bertrand had given up her own acting career to raise her children.
"There’s a lot that’s not in my nature to be an actor," she said. "I realized how much it was for my mother when she passed away, because I felt very differently about it as soon as she was gone."
She said growing up in Hollywood home is a large part of why she wound up in the industry. "A lot of people in this town think that being an actor is the greatest thing in the world and the greatest thing to be, and so you’re pushed to be that before you really are able to consider other ways of life," she explained.
Film as Marriage Therapy
Jolie cast herself opposite then-husband Brad Pitt in 2015's "By the Sea" in part as a way to bridge the communication gap in their marriage. She had found an earlier film project with her father to be therapeutic in helping with her strained relationship there.
Was it a healthy decision though? "It should have been because we had met working together (2005's "Mr. & Mrs. Smith"). We worked together very well," she said. "But there was a heaviness during the situation that carried on. It wasn’t because of the film, it was something that we were dealing with."
While the film didn't ultimately fix things, as Jolie filed for divorce in 2016, she's still glad for the project. "Maybe it didn’t solve certain things," she said, "but we did communicate something that maybe needed to be communicated to each other."
The Recurring Scene in All Her Films
It was pointed out to Jolie by one of her fans that there is a scene that has recurred so far in all of her films, and she had no idea. In every film there is at least one moment where one character is down on their knees in front of another character, who is standing.
Constantly self-analyzing and still trying to figure herself out through her art "I wonder if there’s something to that idea of something I’ve always been trying to find in life," she mused. "When you’re up against something, you have to find what you stand for and then you have to fight for it; your will and your drive.
It begs the ultimate question: "Will you stay standing or will you fall?"
She's Looking for an Action Film
When pushed to explain her draw to action movies, Jolie said she chooses film rolls based on emotion and what she feels she needs at that point in her life. "I tend to do [action movies] when I need to feel strong," she explained.
"Wanted" came in the wake of her mother passing, while "Tomb Raider" was her need to step out of herself and explore life.
"I’m looking for one now, in fact, because at this time in my life, I need to--"
"Kick some ass?" Feinberg asked.