Photography by Steven Klein July 2005
Angelina Jolie's 2015 film By The Sea, which she wrote, directed, and starred in, alongside then-husband Brad Pitt, was about two couples trying to work through their problems. So, naturally, when Pitt and Jolie announced their separation less than a year after the film's release, some couldn't help but wonder if the little film held any clues. Turns out: kind of. In a new in-depth podcast interview with The Hollywood Reporter's "Awards Chatter," Jolie confirms that, yes, the film was something of an attempt to try and revive her relationship with Pitt.
"We had met working together and we worked together well," she said. "I wanted us to do some serious work together...I thought it would be a good way for us to communicate. In some ways it was, and in some ways we learned some things."
Though, the couple's real life situation couldn't help but inform the collaboration.
"There was a heaviness probably during that situation that carried on and it wasn't because of the film. It was something that we were dealing...things happen for different reasons, and things…why did I write that exact piece? Why did we feel that way when we made it? I'm not sure."
The film finds Pitt and Jolie starring as an American couple, her a former dancer and him a writer, who decide to stay at a hotel. It's by the sea, obviously. Though, the pair isn't exactly on good terms at the time. Pitt's character wants to write a short story and drink, and is upset that his wife is no longer interested in physical intimacy with him. Jolie's character, meanwhile, seems depressed and pre-occupied
The pair is briefly brought together by spying on a young, attractive couple with a healthy sex life who end up staying next door. Through their mutual voyeurism things actually seem to get better, until Jolie's character decides to try and seduce the young husband and things just blow up from there. We soon find out Jolie's character has been grieving after two miscarriages, and Pitt's character thinks she's jealous of the younger couple's ability to bear children.
The films ends with both couples having patched up their relationships. So, that's nice.
Jolie and Pitt's actual relationship didn't end quite as neatly, and she says that when she wrote the script she was going through certain issues as well.
"My life has been… I've had many, many extraordinary very fortunate things happen and it's also been many things over the years that had been challenging. So that wasn't a particular time when I wrote it...I had my mastectomy right before I had Unbroken. Over the span of that decade, I did lose my mother. I did have my mastectomy, and I did then have an ovarian cancer scare and have that surgery as well, and other things of course that happened in life that you go through."
Despite everyting, Jolie says she doesn't have regrets about making the film, despite the fact that it didn't quite end up mirroring real life.
"A piece of art can be something that's healing or something that's difficult. I don't know. I'm glad we did that film because we did explore something together. Whatever it was maybe it didn't solve certain things, but we did communicate something that needed to be communicated to each other."
Jolie, of course, is busy promoting her latest directorial effort, First The Killed My Father, which may very well end up nominated for an Oscar in the foreign film category (it qualifies as a Cambodian production), but she also reveals there was a time she almost quit Hollywood all together.
"It's so hard to explain yourself when you're still a mystery to yourself. Again, I think I've always been in this kind of struggle with being an actor, or being public. It never answered everything for me. It wasn't suddenly I got to act and then why would I make choices? I make choices because I still wasn't me. I still wasn't feeling a complete and whole as a person. After Gia, I separated from Jonny [Miller] and I separated amicably and we're still very close friends but we were young and I was moving to New York. There's life to be lived and we needed some space to do so and help each other grow."
"So I moved to New York on my own, didn't know anybody and got an apartment and started to go to NYU. I thought I had expressed what I could and wanted to figure out who else I was. I was ready to kind of have a different life. I had grown up, ya know, Hollywood and New York but mainly Hollywood. I'd done what everybody said you should do, become an actor, this is what should make you happy right? People tell you if you look good enough, if you have money, if you have success, if you're an actor, this is… these are all the things that should make a person happy, I was miserable. I was completely unhappy."
Yet, she's made peace with her career choices and is preparing for her return in front of the camera. A sequel to Maleficent has already been confirmed, and the actress is said to be circling a number of other projects. Whichever role is released first would, in fact, by Jolie's first onscreen appearance since By The Sea.