People like Angelina don’t have attractions, they have addictions.


Just about the only thing staying level was her Greyhound cocktail, a potent mix of grapefruit juice and vodka, as Angelina Jolie swayed and sashayed her way through the lobby of the Sunset Marquis hotel. She was a woman on a manhunt, and her quarry was Billy Bob Thornton. She quickly proved herself to be an equal opportunity seductress, however. Now firmly in the role of Bonny Castle, the ruthless, amoral femme fatale in her latest movie, Original Sin, she was breathing alcohol fumes but oozing sex and seduction. Certainly Billy Bob’s observation that actors’ roles often reflect what is going on in their real lives was never more apt. Spotting Billy’s spiritual healer and registered masseuse, Ingrid Earle, about to leave the hotel, Angelina asked if she knew where Billy was. Then Angie gave Ingrid the once-over and drawled that if she saw her giving Billy Bob a massage, she wouldn’t be able to keep her hands to herself. She was clearly implying an invitation to a ménage. Ingrid smiled and explained that the only happy ending in her work was spiritual. “When she was coming on to me she was very insistent,” she recalls.

Angie’s pursuit of Billy Bob became increasingly frenzied during the winter of 2000. During breaks in her own filming in Mexico, Angie flew to Los Angeles or to Reno to be with her lover, who was filming the comedy Waking Up in Reno, about the redneck world of giant truck rallies, with Charlize Theron and Natasha Richardson. More often, though, she hung around the Sunset Marquis hotel, knowing that Billy Bob was making music in the studio basement. Sometimes, when his cell phone was switched off or he was unavailable for some reason, Angie frantically called anyone and everyone: the hotel concierge and manager, his business associates, friends, and even staff at his new home in Mandeville Canyon. Though Angie was obsessively jealous of his sometime assistant, Odessa Whitmire, who now mainly worked for actor Ben Affleck, she called her frequently to locate Billy Bob. Angie was perhaps right to be wary of the blonde beauty from South Carolina, who was heard ending phone calls to her boss with the words “I love you.”

During this time Angie frequently stayed at the hotel—room 102 was her favorite—spending days in her suite. Such was her notoriety that on one occasion, even though she had requested privacy and housekeeping staff were ordered not to disturb her, the hotel management was worried enough to get in touch with her father after she had remained behind locked doors for several days straight without even contacting room service. When Voight arrived at the hotel, they unlocked the door to her ground-floor suite. Angie emerged disheveled and, according to one witness, “out of it,” but otherwise unharmed.

Once again her emotional tumult and obsession had its roots in her early childhood, the profound unknown wound the emotional jet rockets that propelled her journey. As psychologist Iris Martin observes: “Abandonment makes people go nuts. It means that the minute you become close to someone and you start to have an attachment to them, you constantly think they are going to leave you. So you harass them with phone calls, you show up in the middle of the night, you confront them at work and talk to your friends incessantly about them.”

At the same time, Angie deliberately courted disaster by hooking up with men like Jagger and Thornton, who could prove their devotion to her only by the act of betrayal, Jagger by cheating on Jerry Hall and Thornton by leaving Laura Dern. This was her version of Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle, the victors by definition losers. On some level, their behavior confirmed her preexisting contempt of men, “proving” them to be as unworthy of love and respect as her father.

Yet Billy Bob had one advantage over all her other suitors. As she confessed to her addict friend: “When I am with Billy, I don’t need drugs.” Swapping her desire for heroin for an infatuation for the actor-musician, Angie saw him as her white knight, her savior. Entirely understandable, says Iris Martin. “People like Angelina don’t have attractions, they have addictions.”

In the midst of this emotional frenzy, Billy Bob was playing it very cool. After a while, though, his dismissive “she’s just a kid” stance no longer fooled anyone. “Come on, buddy,” remarked a girlfriend. “You know Angie is crazy about you. I’m not a lesbian, but I would sleep with her.” Given his own insecurities, Billy Bob liked to be surrounded by a harem of female admirers. Not only was he living with Laura Dern, but he enjoyed the company of Odessa Whitmire, was in contact with air-traffic controller Sheila McCombe, and regularly made romantic overtures to other women.

He was now about to make Angie his harem of one, asking her to have his name tattooed where everyone could see it. She did so a few days after her triumph at the Oscars in March, albeit, according to her tattooist Friday Jones, with some reluctance.

For all her pursuit of Billy Bob, those in her circle insist that it was he who issued the ultimatum for her to marry him. Otherwise, he would go back to Laura Dern—who didn’t yet realize that she had been ditched. It didn’t take long for the news to leak, however, the New York Daily Newsreporting on April 7 that Billy Bob and Angelina were now an item, as evidenced by the tattoo on her arm.

Laura Dern’s mother, Diane Ladd, responded with understandable shock. “Billy Bob Thornton is a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Billy Bob told me he wants my daughter to be his wife and I know they’ve talked about having kids. I don’t know how to make sense of it.” Meanwhile, Laura’s father, Bruce, was one of the stars of Billy Bob’s latest movie, All the Pretty Horses, although he was not invited to the Los Angeles bowling alley where Matt Damon, Penélope Cruz, and other costars of the film joined Angie and Billy Bob in a celebration tournament in April.

Diane Ladd would have been even more confused if she had known that Angie and Billy Bob had decided to take a long road trip that echoed the road trip of Daddy and Them, the movie in which he and Laura Dern played a white trash couple with a booze problem. In late April, after Angie finished filming Original Sin in Mexico, they rented a Chevy Tahoe—they found the name endlessly amusing—and spent a few days driving two thousand miles, first to Las Vegas, then to Flagstaff, Arizona, then to Billy Bob’s home in Little Rock, Arkansas, before ending up in Nashville, where Billy Bob planned to lay down tracks for his debut album, Private Radio. “We had a really great time, stopping in motels along the road,” she recalled, saying that the couple had enjoyed themselves so much they considered buying their own motel. During the weeklong road trip, Angie was in full trashy mode, feasting on junk food at roadside diners. “I’d insist on stopping at McDonald’s every half an hour to get a Happy Meal,” she was keen to point out, though both had, at some time, suffered from eating disorders. Their time together was as intense as it was illusory, a temporary escape from Hollywood and the real world.

As Angie was shortly going to be out of the country for six months, their romantic road trip effectively constituted not only their honeymoon but—though they didn’t know it at the time—also one of the longest periods they would ever spend together. There was one problem. They weren’t married. On April 24, while they were away, Angie’s lawyer petitioned the court to finalize her divorce from Jonny Lee Miller. This left the coast clear for them to wed. When Angie left Billy Bob in his Nashville studio, they were planning to spend a couple of nights together when he hosted the Country Music Awards in Los Angeles on May 3. Before that moment madness lay.

While he was recording his album, she intended to return to Los Angeles. By now media speculation about the couple was rife. On April 28 E! entertainment correspondent Ted Casablanca, citing sources in the Jolie camp, announced that they had eloped. Hold your pretty horses, responded Billy Bob’s folks. “They are not married and not engaged,” said his spokesman, as Billy Bob threw himself into his music, his first love and best distraction. He says that his OCD is such that when he is recording he cannot take a break or stop until a track is as perfect as he imagined it. He does not take calls for anything or from anyone—apparently including his increasingly frantic new lover.

After the wild intensity of their road trip, his silence was deafening. Nor were his spokesman’s public pronouncements reassuring. Endless fears assailed the actress: that he had cold feet, that he had gone back to Laura Dern, or even that he had died.

In her heightened state, struggling to stay off heroin and wrestling with her addiction to Billy Bob, Angie went to pieces. She was used to being in full control of a romantic script in which the voice on the other end of the phone pleaded with her to love him or at least to see him. Billy Bob’s inaccessibility unnerved her. Where was her white knight when she needed him most?

Her account of the next few hours is contradictory, incoherent, and inexplicable. “I ended up going crazy because I thought I had actually lost him,” she later told Larry King. In another version of the incident, however, she said that she had had a huge fight with a male friend—though not Billy Bob—and feared that this unnamed friend had been killed or injured as a result of their argument. Angie called her mother, who was alarmed by her daughter’s hysterical mood, especially since she was stuttering for the first time in her life.

Angie flew from Nashville to Los Angeles, where Marcheline met her at the airport and they saw a doctor. At Angie’s urging, they decided it would be best if she were admitted to the Neuropsychiatric Institute at the UCLA Medical Center for seventy-two hours so that she could be monitored. They knew about the place from drummer Joey Covington, who had spent time there following his suicide attempt. On reflection Angie now feels that she had some kind of nervous breakdown provoked by her grief over the possibility of losing Billy Bob. As Dr. Franziska De George observes: “With Billy Bob she must have felt the hope of finally being seen, of opening a door to look into herself and come out. Emotionally she is like a baby. When she couldn’t access him, she was left locked in torment again.” She considers Angie’s decision to place herself under medical supervision rather than resort to her “tried and tested disassociative mechanisms”—taking drugs, cutting herself, and toying with suicide—to be a “tremendous progression, truly admirable.”

In a surreal instance of life imitating art, Angie found herself in a ward with a group of troubled young girls, many of whom had seen her Oscar-winning performance in Girl, Interrupted. “In some weird way it’s nice to know that everybody’s insane,” she recalled.

Angie’s breakdown arose from her inability to “self-soothe” her fears in the way that most people are able to do. As Iris Martin observes: “We all self-soothe by going to the mother within, and she doesn’t have that infrastructure. It is one of the reasons why she is a brilliant actor. Ordinary people don’t lose themselves that easily in a person or a process.”

Eventually Marcheline located Billy Bob and, against Angie’s wishes, asked him to see her. In their first conversation on the phone, she was still barely able to speak and couldn’t stop crying. They were reunited shortly before the Country Music Awards, her trauma further bonding the couple.

On May 5, 2000, within twenty-four hours of his arrival in Los Angeles, they had tied the knot in Las Vegas. For $189 they reportedly bought the Beginning package at the famous Little Church of the West wedding chapel, where six thousand quickie ceremonies take place each year. Billy Bob wore jeans and a baseball hat, Angelina a blue sleeveless sweater and jeans, walking down the aisle to the traditional strains of “Here Comes the Bride” and carrying a rose and carnation bouquet. Watched by the best man and witness, Billy Bob’s cinematographer friend Harve Cook (curiously, her mother was not present), the bride promised to love and honor but not to obey her director boyfriend. The wedding ring that Billy Bob placed on Angie’s finger was almost an afterthought, purchased for $29 from a woman selling jewelry in a bar. Duly betrothed, they walked down the aisle as man and wife to the sound of the Righteous Brothers singing “Unchained Melody.” “The wedding was perfect for us,” said Billy Bob later. “It was cheesy and beautiful and profound and intense and lighthearted and humorous. It was everything.” For a wedding present he gave her a white rat called Fat Harry.

Soon the world knew what had been apparent to the cast and crew of Original Sin. As Antonio Banderas observed: “It was very obvious that this girl was in love. When somebody’s in love, you don’t hide it. I was very happy for her because actually I like Billy.” The need for acknowledgment, for everyone’s good wishes, was strong for the new bride, who was now stepmother to Billy Bob’s sons, William and Harry. “We were becoming a family. We wanted everybody’s blessings, [and] when I couldn’t be near him I started to go nuts,” she recalled. She said later that her “whole family” helped pack her bag the night before she went to Vegas. “They were so happy,” she told Us Weekly.

Her brother, whom she called the minute she walked out of the chapel, wished her happiness and hoped that “this [was] it.” A few weeks later, he described himself as Billy Bob’s brother-in-law, “for now.” Her father, typically, was blindsided, surprised that she had tied the knot with a man he hadn’t met. When a writer for Empire magazine inquired if Billy Bob had asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage, “a long, uncomfortable pause” ensued. Angie was more upbeat, telling writer Elizabeth Snead: “My dad likes him. My dad loves me so much he’s never seen me so happy.” When he finally met his son-in-law, Jon Voight gave him and Angie wedding presents of rings, poems, and a self-penned drawing of the couple, and he later helped them move into their new home.

If Voight was surprised, their friends were perplexed by their impulsive behavior. One of Billy Bob’s friends, who heard the news on the radio, left him a message on his answering machine saying, “Dude, I told you to fuck her, not marry her!” Lauren Taines later discussed the union with Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, predicting, “Trust me, this girl is going to break Billy Bob’s heart.” Billy Bob himself later told friends that he had never been so impulsive in his life. (Or, he vowed, would be again.) But no one’s shock and misgivings could touch those of Billy Bob’s fiancée.

Laura Dern has a reputation in Hollywood for crying ugly. Her face contorts into a grimace, and racking sobs convulse her body. What she did on-screen was nothing compared to the way she howled in pain as she absorbed the fact that Billy Bob had left her for Angie.

She was filming the comedy Novocaine in Chicago when she heard the news from a tabloid reporter. “I went to work one morning and he ran off and married Angelina Jolie,” she told friends in disbelief. She had never for a moment seen it coming; their last conversations had been about starting a family together and her upcoming role in The Gift, the movie he had written with her firmly in mind. Their lives seemed just peachy, Billy Bob quoted in the May issue of Men’s Journal as saying, “I’m now happily involved with someone who’s my best friend.” A month later he was singing a different tune in Us Weekly: “I want her to be happy. But it was over. That’s all.” The sorest part was that she had been left for the girl she regularly babysat for on Saturday nights. Sitting in her trailer in Chicago, she told friends: “How can I do a comedy when my whole life has been destroyed?”

As the enormity of his betrayal began to sink in, so, too, did the practical reality. Their house was in his name, so she could not live there. Her old rented home in Coldwater Canyon, which she had intended to buy before she met Billy Bob, was now sold. She was effectively homeless. For some time, too, the star of the kinky thriller Blue Velvet had experienced the creepy nightmare of being stalked, forcing her to engage the services of celebrity security expert Gavin de Becker. The breakup with Billy Bob left her in a bind; she wasn’t a big moneymaking star and yet, because of the stalker, was not able to live in a regular, unprotected house.

While in Chicago she met Oprah Winfrey and poured out her tale of woe. The talk-show host was outraged and encouraged her to sue Billy Bob, even putting Laura in touch with the legal team that had represented her during her long fight with the Texas beef industry over remarks she made on her show about mad cow disease. Laura followed Oprah’s advice and sued her former partner, eventually arriving at a confidential settlement that ensured that she could never mention him in interviews in return for a lump sum payment, estimated at around $800,000.

At the time, though, nothing could compensate her for the torment she was going through. It was a struggle trying to be funny on set. To make matters worse, she discovered that Billy Bob had ordered the security codes to be changed on the locks to their Mandeville Canyon home so that Laura could no longer gain access. While she had no wish to stay there—or, for that matter, to even see the place again—it contained all of her memorabilia, her prestigious movie awards, treasured photographs, and important business correspondence. The night before the locksmith was due to arrive, Laura Dern made urgent phone calls from Chicago to a handful of close friends, including Friends actress Courteney Cox and singer Sheryl Crow. In a late-night operation worthy of a Hollywood heist movie, they rolled up in their SUVs and proceeded to rifle through the house, taking everything Laura owned and cherished.

It was small consolation. When she returned to Beverly Hills in June, she was a changed woman. “She looked spent, like she had cried the life out of herself,” observed a friend. “She was still in love with Billy Bob and not ready to move on.” As she licked her wounds, she made sure that the tight-knit celebrity community knew that she was now homeless and living out of a suitcase, staying at the Four Seasons hotel, in Meg Ryan’s guesthouse, or with Sheryl Crow. “She played the victim card to the hilt,” recalled an associate.

A few weeks later, she was casually browsing through CDs at the now-defunct Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard when she had a bizarre spiritual experience. As she was looking at a Ben Harper CD, an angel appeared before her, hovering above the “A–M” aisle in the pop/rock section and telling Laura that the Californian musician was her true soul mate. “Call him, call him,” the angel implored, before fading away. Laura did as she was bid, or rather, in the way of Hollywood, she asked her publicist to call his publicist.

Neither Laura Dern nor the bossy angel seemed any more troubled by the awkward fact that Harper was married, with two toddlers, than Angie or Billy Bob had been about his engagement to Laura. Dern and Harper duly hooked up, officially in the fall of 2000 when he was separated, and within weeks she was pregnant, giving birth to Ellery on August 21, 2001. It was doubtless a wild rumor that when Harper’s wife, Joanna, discovered her husband’s tryst with Laura, she stormed backstage at one of his concerts and punched him in the nose.

For her part, Laura was transformed by the new man in her life. “Something that one might have thought would destroy her made her stronger,” said her friend singer Melissa Etheridge. “When she told me she was pregnant [with Ellery], she was very proud and very excited. She was saying, ‘This is the next new chapter in my life.’ ”

No sooner had Angelina opened a new chapter in her life than she promptly closed it. She arrived in London in early May, days after her marriage. The carefree road trip was soon a distant memory, a rather dazed Billy Bob back again in his Nashville recording studio while Angie was instantly cocooned by the studio, the Lara Croft producers keen to protect their $100 million investment. Much was riding on a girl who was struggling to come off heroin, and who had been a patient in a mental hospital just a few days earlier. Nerves were not helped by the fact that the script was not yet finished and wouldn’t be until June. Director Simon West, whose only previous writing experience had been for a Budweiser commercial, was frantically reshaping and rewriting three previous attempts by teams of scriptwriters. At least that left plenty of time for Angie to get in shape—and get in character.

Angie was met at Heathrow by the burly tattooed figure of Mickey Brett, the former bodyguard of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, hired to protect the studio as much as the actress. He was under instructions to report any misdemeanors, as were all members of the new court surrounding Angie. As part of her contract, she was under an eleven o’clock curfew, a production executive explaining: “She’s just not allowed to go out on a tear. She knows the score, but the curfew is just to protect everyone.” Often movie underwriters insist that leading actors take drug tests and have physical exams before they will insure the production. While it is not clear whether this rule was invoked for Lara Croft, Angie had to be healthy and in top shape because she was doing most of her own stunts. She had her own one-woman boot camp, which included a nutritionist; a dresser; two personal trainers, including Josh Saltzman, who got Sarah, Duchess of York, into shape; three stunt doubles; a judo and boxing instructor; a body double; a makeup designer; and a dialect coach to round out her vowels so that she spoke just like Lara Croft, a sexy yet wholesome upper-class English archaeologist who lived in a mansion but could get down and dirty with the best.

Brilliant, tough, witty, and voluptuous, Lara Croft embodied the qualities of the “other girl” whom Angie had long aspired to be. For her new film role, she had to be positive, bright, focused, and confident. Edgy and wicked, too—but in a wholesome way. Even Lara’s sexual appeal was strictly PG-13, focusing on her ample bosom and tight shorts. “She enjoys being a lady, but there’s a side to her that just wants to get free and wild and dirty and do something dangerous,” Angie said of her new persona. “There’s a part of me that wants to be like Lara Croft. There’s a part of me that is Lara Croft.”

For the Method actor in Angie, this was her rehab role, the best chance she would ever have of getting clean. She was forced to enjoy a veritable feast of cold turkey. Not only had she given up heroin, but cigarettes, sugar, and booze were off-limits, too. Vitamins, kickboxing, and yoga were her new diet, with side dishes of bungee ballet, weight training, deep-sea diving, dogsledding, and gymnastics.

Original Sin director Michael Cristofer, who understands her psyche better than most, shrewdly observed: “When she did Lara Croft, she needed to find and explore and live inside that part of her personality that was strong and healthy and physically in extraordinary shape. I think she had come out of a really bad time and she was getting herself together in a very good way through the shoot of that film.”

While she had clearly moved up in the world—the faux biography of Lara Croft included the fact that she was a boarder at the Scottish alma mater of Princes Charles, Andrew, and Edward—her heart belonged to Billy Bob and his down-home Arkansas world. For a girl who immerses herself completely in her roles, even when the cameras have stopped rolling, this was a first for Angie, the actress living as both the poised, independent, and cultured Lara Croft and as Billy Bob’s outrageously sexy wife. The vivid contrasts at the heart of her Gemini character were now apparent, Angie the first to acknowledge this duality. “I like to collect knives but I also collect first-edition books.” As Princess Diana’s former astrologer, Penny Thornton, who has carefully studied Angie’s birth chart, noted: “She is a natural iconoclast, a dominant strong personality who is bold and ballsy and refuses to be manipulated by anyone.” Angie’s chart indicates that during her marriage to Billy Bob she came closest to her true nature, while playing two roles at once: Mrs. Good Old Girl and the self-contained adventuress Lara Croft.

In early June 2000, just after her twenty-fifth birthday, Angie was back in down and dirty mode as she and her husband—Angie in black leather trousers and a gray T-shirt, Billy in a loud print shirt and a baseball hat—groped, kissed, and pawed their way along the red carpet for the Hollywood premiere of Gone in Sixty Seconds. “Hey Angie, give us a little Billy Bob action,” yelled the photographers as the newlyweds smooched for the cameras. FORGET GLAMOUR—LET’S WATCH JOLIE AND THORNTON NECKING, headlined the Chicago Tribune.

The couple oozed sex, the tabloids enjoying a feeding frenzy as Billy Bob and Angie held court at the Sunset Marquis hotel and freely discussed every thrust of their rampant love lives. An indication of what a freak show they quickly became was that when Billy Bob ate papaya fruit for breakfast—his usual morning repast—it was said that he could only eat orange food because of his many and varied obsessions. Even though they had only spent a few days together as lovers and rather less as a married couple, they were as eager to dissect their sex lives as are juveniles who think they have discovered sex for the first time. They were so into the first flush of unbridled passion that each would have been hard pressed to say on which side of the bed the other preferred to sleep.

In a series of no-holds-barred interviews, they were so obviously into each other that Us Weekly declared, “Forget unconditional love. Thornton and Jolie have unbounded love, the kind of perpetually boiling body heat that inspired poets and pay-per-view programming.” With this wall-to-bedroom coverage, Gone in Sixty Seconds, which was poorly received by the critics, earned more than $230 million worldwide.

During one typically overblown poolside chat at the Sunset Marquis, Angelina opined, “You know when you love someone so much you can almost kill them? I was nearly killed last night and it was the nicest thing anyone ever did for me.” Billy Bob further explained: “I was looking at her sleep and I had to restrain myself from literally squeezing her to death.” Angie added that in their new house they were going to install a padded room so that they could “go crazy.”

During what was less an interview than a piece of performance art, Billy Bob marveled at the way Angie moved her wineglass—“That’s almost sex,” he mused—adding that they had known each other “since the dawn of time.” For her part she got off on the way he said “football,” stroking and nibbling him during one interview and pointing out that if one day they spontaneously combusted it would be from an overload of sex. Angie admitted that her nickname for her husband was “lunch,” as in “lunch box,” relating to his prodigious manhood.

When it came to specifics about anything other than their sex life, they were evasive, Angie saying that they first became “amazing friends” during the filming of Pushing Tin: “I just wanted to be near him all the time. And I missed being around him when work was over.” Asked about her drug use, she waffled before Billy Bob interjected: “I like to say things that are true and say them hard. She does not take drugs.”

Just so that everyone had gotten the message that they were head over heels in love—“Sex for us is almost too much,” declared Billy Bob—they planned to weld their Oscars together (if Angie could find hers). As a final flourish, they gave each other necklaces with vials of their own blood. That they were later revealed to be lockets with a couple of drops of blood to remind each other of their passion and commitment was rather lost in the madness, as the stories about them became ever more lurid: Billy Bob was said to have hired a nurse to extract his blood so he could send it to Angie while she was filming in London, and they were rumored to keep a knife under the pillows to slash at each other with during wild sex sessions. Meanwhile, Angie confessed to Talk magazine that she had lived with a guy when she was just fourteen. Her “considerate” father had given the union his blessing, she said somewhat disingenuously. Little wonder that Jon Voight later described her behavior at this time as “exhibitionist.”

When Angie appeared on The Tonight Show, it was her mother who was on her mind. She brandished a piece of paper in front of Jay Leno that contained the incest jokes he had made following Angie’s notorious kiss with her brother at the Oscars. With a hooting, hollering audience on her side, she berated the comedian for his “stupid” wisecracks, saying that they had made Marcheline feel sick. Anyway, she continued, she and Billy Bob had better things to do than watch late-night TV. The audience got the hint, whooping their approval. Then she returned to her favorite subject, Billy Bob, describing him as “the sexiest creature that ever lived.”

“I love him and you know that,” she chided Leno. “We are perfect for each other.”

In the sexual froth and foment, it was easy to forget that Billy Bob was an artist of quirky genius and Angie one of the most accomplished screen actors of her generation. Besides the primal sexual pull, it was one of the main things that attracted her to him, or the idea of him, in the first place. She wanted to live like an artist. Only later did she come to realize that living like an artist was not the same as living with an artist. Angie was not hardwired to be an artist’s muse or helpmate.

In June, after four weeks of marriage, most of them spent apart from her husband, Angie was confident enough to tell USA Today that she felt “more content, safe, centered and alive.” She had more surprises in store. Having previously been interested only in adoption, she shocked her circle when she told an Australian newspaper that she wanted to make her husband a dad again. “I would love having children with Billy,” she said. “But I know that some people fall in love with their child so much that they don’t put as much focus on their husband or wife, so right now I am getting to know my husband and his children. But if we had a child, it would be amazing.”

When they were in Hollywood, the couple stayed at the Sunset Marquis, the Four Seasons, and the Peninsula, living a very ordinary life. They drove around Beverly Hills in her black pickup truck, going to the movies and eating out at regular diners. Nothing fancy for this pair. It wasn’t long, though, before people noticed Billy Bob making some very out-of-the-ordinary requests. As hot as their sex life seemed to be, it apparently wasn’t enough. Hotel staff complained that Billy Bob, whom they knew as a polite Southern gentleman, was acting totally out of character, hitting on girls in the hope, some observers believed, of encouraging a threesome with him and Angie. Aggressively sexual behavior was typical for Angie, as witnessed by numerous heterosexual women she had met. It was different for Billy Bob. He might have had a harem, but between the sheets, he was a conventional, one-woman guy. “She was into chicks and it seems that was his job, to bring her the girls,” recalled one of Billy Bob’s former lovers, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “While nothing came of it, it appeared she was trying to get a threesome going. He was hitting on girls for her pleasure. This was within a month of them marrying. People were horrified. It was the talk of the place.” Psychologist Iris Martin sees Angie’s behavior as “bizarre”: “Angelina cannot connect with anybody emotionally. Nobody in their right mind gets married and then starts having threesomes. It doesn’t make sense. It seems that he was not as exciting as she thought he was and so [she] lost interest.”

Once back in London, Angie did not exactly morph into the ladylike Lara Croft. During preparation she encouraged her boxing trainer and stunt double, Eunice Huthart, then the women’s world kickboxing champion, to get her first tattoo, and ignored her curfew in order to go see a group of Elvis impersonators at an off-the-beaten-track nightclub. For a girl who loved Madonna, Michael Jackson, and punk, Angie’s willing embrace of one of Billy Bob’s rock-and-roll icons had a touch of the Laura Dern school of romance about it. Just as Lara Croft would have turned up her finely bred nose at Angie’s night out at the Jazzmines club in unfashionable Bromley in darkest Kent, so her screen character would have been unable to stomach her eating habits.

Angie frequently ignored the advice of her nutritionist and ordered her driver to stop at a McDonald’s so she could get her fix of hamburger and fries. At the London premiere of Gone in Sixty Seconds, she turned up in leather trousers and a T-shirt, clutching a small bunch of flowers and wishing for all the world that she was somewhere else. No sooner had she made her way down the red carpet than she sneaked out of the auditorium in Leicester Square and went for a hamburger. “I was hungry and don’t like to see myself on the screen all the time,” she explained.

In the computer game, the voluptuous Lara Croft was a 36DD cup size, whereas at that time Angie was a mere 36C. The race was on to increase her ability to fill a bra. Teenage boys, who made up the bulk of the expected audience, notice these things. It ended as a compromise. Angie appeared on-screen as a 36D.

Even the Queen took second place to her cravings. In July Angie stalked out of the Cartier International Day polo match, held in the presence of Her Majesty and attended by British high society and international celebrities on the grounds of Windsor Great Park. She put down her glass of champagne, reportedly dismissed the likes of fellow actors Minnie Driver and Billy Zane as “pompous assholes,” and ordered her driver to find her the nearest McDonald’s. “I love Big Macs,” she later explained. Her early departure from one of the highlights of the social calendar excited much irritated comment, model and polo player Jodie Kidd saying tartly: “Well, that’s just typical. She’s American, after all.”

With principal photography beginning at the end of July, she had now to leave her trailer-park persona behind and start living to the manor born, in a baronial castle specially constructed on a soundstage at Pinewood Studios in north London. The start of filming also coincided with a personal celebration for the leading lady, who learned that she had finally been cast by director Oliver Stone in his latest movie, Beyond Borders, a high-minded romance set in refugee camps based on the work of Doctors Without Borders, an organization that won the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. When she was first sent Caspian Tredwell-Owen’s script during the filming of Original Sin, she had cried as she read the story of a well-to-do American socialite, Sarah Jordan, who falls for a dedicated doctor striving to save lives in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere. During their passionate affair she comes to see the world through the eyes of hard-pressed international relief workers.

In spite of her enthusiasm “to take the journey,” Oliver Stone had other actresses in mind. When his first choice, Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, became pregnant, he turned to single mom Meg Ryan. Then Ryan dropped out, saying she didn’t want to be away from her eight-year-old son for so long. This left the role free for Angie.

As with all his actors, Stone encouraged Angie, whom he describes as a “natural-born actress,” to do her own research into her role. “He was one of the first people to tell me to start reading international papers and to educate myself,” she recalls. While she was in London, he was visiting UN-run refugee camps in northern Kenya and the turbulent southern Sudan in order to learn firsthand about the dire conditions. “I want to make it as real as it can be,” he said.

While preparing to dip her toe into the world of international relief, Angie first had to throw herself into the grueling twenty-week shoot for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. She appeared in virtually every scene and performed her own stunts, which left her with torn ligaments and a battered, bleeding, and bruised body. “She was totally fearless. I had to decide how much jeopardy I wanted to put her in,” commented director Simon West. On one occasion she was swinging on a moving log fifty feet off a concrete floor and asked to take off her safety harness—a request West denied. “If she fell, she would be dead. I didn’t need that,” he said, displaying the classic auteur’s altruism.

One of the more telling—and quieter—moments in the action movie, which went on to shoot in Iceland, Cambodia, and Venice, was Jon Voight’s turn as Lara’s father, the late Lord Richard Croft. The interchange formed the emotional backstory to the movie, the whole adventure helping Lara find a sense of peace following the loss of her father. Angie personally approved the choice of her father to play the role, a far cry from her previous attitude toward being associated with him professionally. It was a sign of her confidence that she now overshadowed him as an actor, as well as a tentative personal reconciliation. The weeklong shoot with her father, scheduled for early October, had to be delayed when Angie flew to Los Angeles to be by Billy Bob’s bedside after he was admitted to the hospital suffering a viral infection. At first it was thought that he had a heart complaint, an illness that runs in the Thornton family, his brother Jimmy Don having died of a heart attack at the age of just thirty. Such was the concern that President Clinton, a former Arkansas governor, personally called Billy Bob’s mother, Virginia, to check on his condition. It helped that it was an election year; Billy Bob had recently appeared at a fund-raiser for Democrat presidential candidate Al Gore, then vice president.

When she returned to film the scenes with her father, Angie perceptively observed that their interaction was “a kind of goodbye in a strange way.” As she said: “It was a hello and goodbye.” Perhaps more accurately, it marked the ending of a period of her life. The movie has them professing sentiments about love and respect and lost time that appear to be both narrative-driven and reality-based. “I wanted to say a lot of those things to my dad,” admitted Angie. “And he wanted to say them to me. And I wanted to hear them.”

It seemed that father and daughter could connect through acting better than in real life, using words written by others but interpreted by them. Father and daughter did write a further scene, but it was never made. Angie finally got to hear what she had always wanted her dad to say. “I miss you and love you always and forever,” Lord Richard tells Lara. In the movie he dies when she is still a child, just as in real life he left when she was still in the cradle. “The time was stolen from us, and it’s not fair. I’ve missed you,” she tells her father in a sequence in which he reappears in a tropical tent when the hands of time have been shifted backward. For his part, Lord Richard apologizes for leaving Lara. It was a profound moment. What daughter, however proud and haughty, would not melt in the face of her father’s protestations of sorrow at the time stolen from them? “I am with you always, just as I’ve always been,” says Lord Richard to his daughter in a final sequence before she bids farewell to his spirit. On camera Lara was duly dewy-eyed; offscreen Angelina was in tears.

“Jon and I could not stop crying,” she later told TV reporter Ann Curry. “We’d have to stop takes. We’d walk on the other sides. We didn’t talk in between takes. We met in that tent and we’d walk away and meet in the tent until the scene was completely over. Then we kind of hugged each other.” On reflection Angie found it profoundly sad that the closest moment she ever had with her father was played out in public. It was also one of the rare times that she publicly acknowledged any positive influence he’d had on her life, telling the Los Angeles Times: “All my life my dad was always there for me, but I was very independent as well, and he’d always send me letters, books and information. And in the end we did the same thing with our lives—acting. So our scenes ended up becoming very personal.”

For his part Jon Voight was thrilled that at last his professional dream had come true. He described the shoot as a “joyous” time, father and daughter laughing and loving together. “It seemed like the beginning—there was a little hope coming through at that moment in time,” he later recalled.

He said hello, she said goodbye. “We seemed to understand each other and it was fun, but afterwards he returned quickly to old habits of being judgmental,” she told writer Andrew Duncan. During the shoot Voight was worried about her stunts—“She’s done things that I would never do and I wish she wouldn’t”—and encouraged her to take up his health regime of yoga and vitamin supplements.

As working with her father had been a completion of sorts, it was the other man in her life she needed most, Angie convincing her husband to overcome his fear of flying—and genuine antiques—to join her in London. With a great effort of will—“It was a sign of how much he loved her,” noted a friend of Thornton’s—he endured the eleven-hour flight to Britain. Just so that the world got the point, she told the Daily Mail, “I need him in my bed. I told him I was going to lose my mind if he didn’t get over here.”

Such was the automatic association among Angie, Billy Bob, and sex that when they paid $3.8 million for the home of his friend Slash, from Guns N’ Roses, it was immediately assumed that their huge basement had been converted into a sex dungeon. In fact, the onetime speakeasy was a music recording studio, perfect for Billy Bob to pursue his major artistic passion in life.

The real irony about their eleven-thousand-square-foot “love nest” was that their new neighbor was comedian Steve Martin, who Billy Bob had once feared would lure his fiancée Laura Dern away from him. Just three months on, Martin was no longer relevant to the script.

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