Every family has its unique rites of passage, those generational milestones that mark a child’s growth and remind parents of their own similar experiences, years earlier. In the Jolie-Pitt household, one such event is the day a kid begins collecting daggers. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s seven-year-old son, Maddox, like many boys his age, has lately developed a fondness for guns and knives, and Jolie proudly notes that the predilection runs in the family.
“My mom took me to buy my first daggers when I was 11 or 12,” she recalls. “And I’ve already bought Maddox some things. We take him to a special shop.” She emphasizes that the knife blades are dulled so they’re not dangerous, and that the purchases are accompanied by discussions about violence. But, she says, “we also talk about samurais and about the idea of defending someone as good. We talk about everything.”
Any concerns that Angelina Jolie—the onetime badass babe who’s now better known as a tireless human-rights crusader and contented mother of six—has gone completely soft are quickly dispelled during a visit to her family’s rented château in the South of France. Shortly after I’m escorted onto the 988-acre property where the family has been living since June, Jolie, who moments before was breastfeeding her seven-week-old twins, zooms up the dirt driveway in a Yamaha all-terrain vehicle, wearing a long black dress and dark sunglasses, her hair whipping in the wind. A bit later, as Jolie maneuvers the ATV over a series of potholed trails while giving a tour of the compound’s Provence-perfect vineyards, forests and olive groves, she inadvertently steers us into an area where local hunters are tracking wild boar. “Bonjour!” she shouts to one bemused man who’s armed with a rifle, before driving us back toward a cross fire–free zone.
As she sits down for the interview in a stone cottage, Jolie apologizes for perhaps seeming a little drained. Pitt has been away at the Toronto Film Festival, so she’s had the six kids to herself. (There are nannies, of course, including the couple’s first part-time live-in helper; Jolie says she and Pitt were starting to get “loopy” while attending to the twins and trying to find enough time for the others, so for now someone stays over a few nights a week.) But if the actress is overwhelmed, or if she’s savoring this rare break from round-the-clock feedings and diaper changes, she doesn’t show it. She brightly mentions that she and Pitt intend to add at least one more child to the mix.
Fierce maternal instincts also lie at the heart of Jolie’s latest film, Changeling, which debuted at Cannes this past spring and opens in the U.S. in October. The movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, is based on the bizarre true story of Christine Collins, a demure Los Angeles telephone-company supervisor whose son disappeared one afternoon in 1928. When the boy wasn’t found and no leads turned up, the corrupt LAPD, in an attempt to cover up its own negligence, tried to pressure Collins into accepting another child as her own.