It is a year since the bombshell that Hollywood’s most intriguing couple, originators of the celebrity couple portmanteau and impressive propagators of the species, Brangelina, split. And now they have each had their say in perhaps two of the most curated, calculated and CONTRASTING interviews of all time.
Much like their union more than a decade ago, their split has been mired in drama. The rumours quickly swirled that apparently history was repeating itself and that Pitt was unfaithful with a co-star (Marion Cotillard) – this was vehemently denied by all camps. However, it seemed cause for the split was to be placed pretty squarely on Pitt’s shoulders in any case, with his alleged substance abuse cited as one of the main causes for the break-up.
An incident with the couple’s oldest child, 15-year-old, Maddox on a private flight to Los Angeles led to an anonymous phone call alerting authorities, this triggered an FBI investigation which was subsequently resolved without any charges. Less than a week later, however, Angelina Jolie, filed for divorce and Pitt was cast out.
A mea culpa-leaden cover interview in GQ last May painted Pitt as a man on a journey of introspection, a man who is broken down and soul-searching.
“Pitt wears a flannel shirt and skinny jeans that hang loose on his frame. Invisible to the eye is that sculpted bulk we’ve seen on film for a quarter-century,” reported GQ writer, Michael Paterniti. The accompanying shoot showed the 53-year-old star battling the elements in some of America’s most epic and hostile locations. He was shot in a prayer-like pose in the Everglades, shirt billowing to reveal a tortured-looking rib cage that brought to mind faintly crucifixion-like imagery. In White Sands he is on his knees, arms crossed across his chest, presumably seeking redemption in $3000 Armani. In another portrait, he stares down the camera lens, eyes sorrowful, brimming with tears. Okay, we get it GQ, he’s on a journey.
In the piece, Pitt talked about his art A LOT:
“I’m making everything. I’m working with clay, plaster, rebar, wood. Just trying to learn the materials. You know, I surprise myself. But it’s a very, very lonely occupation. There’s a lot of manual labor, which is good for me right now. A lot of lugging clay around, chopping and moving and cleaning up after yourself. But I surprise myself. Yesterday I wasn’t settled. I had a lotta chaotic thoughts—trying to make sense of where we are at this time—and the thing I was doing wasn’t controlled and balanced and perfect. It came out chaotic. I find vernacular in what you can make, rather than giving a speech. I find voice there, that I need.”
His talk of his children is confined almost exclusively to this one paragraph:
“Family first. People on their deathbeds don’t talk about what they obtained or were awarded. They talk about their loved ones or their regrets—that seems to be the menu. I say that as someone who’s let the work take me away. Kids are so delicate. They absorb everything. They need to have their hand held and things explained. They need to be listened to. When I get in that busy work mode, I’m not hearing. I want to be better at that.”
Meanwhile, Jolie’s Vanity Fair interview published this week – while still accompanying a shoot of outsized, unearthly beauty and glamour – is rooted firmly in this world, the world she now inhabits as a single working mum, battling health troubles (she reportedly suffered from Bells Palsy last year) and, above all else, minding her children.
“I think it’s very important to cry in the shower and not in front of the children. They need to know that everything’s going to be all right even when you’re not sure it is,” she told Vanity Fair.
She defends the family’s often unorthodox set up and is extremely careful when discussing her former husband.
“Our lifestyle was not in any way a negative. That was not the problem. That is and will remain one of the wonderful opportunities we are able to give our children,” she says. “They’re six very strong-minded, thoughtful, worldly individuals. I’m very proud of them.”
While sticking rigidly to the party line of “We care for each other and care about our family, and we are both working towards the same goal,” she does admit that a year ago “things got bad” before quickly correcting herself: “I didn’t want to use that word . . . Things became ‘difficult.’ ”
“It’s just been the hardest time, and we’re just kind of coming up for air… we’re all trying to do our best to heal our family.”
“We’re all just healing from the events that led to the filing . . . They’re not healing from divorce. They’re healing from some . . . from life, from things in life,” she states cryptically.
“There’s the chaos surrounding the practical day-to-day—playdates, doctors appointments, packing and unpacking, and organizing mealtimes,” she says, clearly far more preoccupied with logistics than Pitt with his angst and his whittling.
In stark contrast to Brad who has been popping up all over the place since the split (a surprise appearance at the Golden Globes back in January, his stint as the disgruntled Weatherman on Comedy Central’s The Jim Jeffries Show and even new dating rumours, he’s reportedly “struggling” to keep a fledgling relationship with Sienna Millar under wraps), Jolie is putting her art on hold:
“I’ve been trying for nine months to be really good at just being a homemaker and picking up dog poop and cleaning dishes and reading bedtime stories. And I’m getting better at all three.”
“I’m just wanting to make the proper breakfast and keep the house. That’s my passion. As I go to sleep at night, I think, Did I do a great job as a mom or was that an average day?”
What struck me most about Jolie’s surprisingly candid interview is that no matter how talented, rich or powerful a woman you are, at the end of the day it falls to you to keep the show on the road. While Pitt is going on a journey of self-discovery, Jolie is crying in the shower and keeping the children’s life in orbit.
Of course with any celebrity narrative, decisions are made, undoubtedly by an entire team of strategists, about what to reveal and conceal. However, it has to be said it is interesting that the couple that was the poster couple for the unorthodox, forward thinking 21 century family model has fallen back into the tired roles we’ve seen time and again among men and women. It’s a generalisation and undoubtedly there are devoted fathers and selfish mothers, but more often than not, the man is largely indulged, while the woman must simply get on with things.