Angelina Jolie on her new film and new journey after divorce
Angelina Jolie gets personal about her difficult year
Angelina Jolie's new directorial effort, First They Killed My Father, is based on a book of the same name she picked up on the street in Cambodia for a couple of dollars when she was there 17 years ago shooting the action flick Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
The Hollywood superstar befriended Loung Ung, the Cambodian author of the 2000 non-fiction memoir and survivor of the Pol Pot regime, and the two planned to make the movie adaptation for years with no success - until Netflix finally agreed to finance it.
Premiering on the streaming service on Friday, First They Killed My Father is Ung's account of her childhood experiences during the Khmer Rouge years.
At our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, Jolie - who co-wrote the screenplay with Ung, a human rights activist - describes her film as the story of a war through the eyes of a child (played by Sareum Srey Moch) but also one of a country devastated when the Khmer Rouge stormed in with unspeakable brutality.
Families were shattered, and children were sent to work at labour camps.
It is Jolie's most personal film yet, but mostly it is for her first child, Maddox, who was adopted from Cambodia 16 years ago as a seven-month-old baby.
He is listed as a producer on First They Killed My Father.
The 42-year-old US actress said: "I told him, 'One day, son, you will be ready, and you will tell me when it is time to go deeply into your country. I need your help, and you have to do it with me.'
"And one day he said, 'I am ready.' It made him have to go really deeply into the research, into the daily work, into the edit.
"Also, because it is a child's point of view, having somebody younger in there to say, 'You are losing my attention,' 'A kid wouldn't be looking at that' or 'That is too complicated, I don't understand that' (was good)."
When Jolie first met Ung through a landmine charity, Ung was aware of her but had never seen her movies. Jolie recalls asking her for advice about adopting Maddox.
She said: "I asked her how she would feel, as a Cambodian orphan (herself), if I adopted a Cambodian orphan. And had she said the opposite, my life would have been very different.
"Instead, she was supportive. So she has known Maddox her whole life, and Maddox has known Loung's story his whole life."
Jolie counts Ung as one of her closest friends, and Maddox calls her "auntie".
"Seventy per cent of Cambodians are under 30, so they will be the future of the country," Jolie said. "If they watch this film and they do not want history to be repeated, then they will be the ones to take the country forward."
Jolie has been a citizen of Cambodia since 2002, and she has a house there and started the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation there.
In February, she premiered First They Killed My Father for the Cambodians at Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap.
Jolie's wild-child days are long past, and while she is focusing on her humanitarian work, she admitted that the past year has been difficult.
She has been teaching at the London School of Economics and taking care of her six children - Maddox, 16, Pax, 14, Zahara, 12, Shiloh, 11, and nine-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne - since filing for divorce from US actor Brad Pitt in September last year.
She also developed hypertension and was afflicted with Bell's palsy, a facial muscle and nerve condition that causes paralysis.
It was also well-documented that she underwent a preventive double mastectomy in 2013 to pre-empt the ovarian cancer her mother died of.
Then there was the surgery in 2015 to remove her ovaries, leaving her struggling with early menopause.
Jolie said: "You just focus on how much worse it could be. And I am so happy I do not have cancer and that I had the surgery - hopefully that will prevent me from getting cancer.
"If I get it, it will be delayed a few years, and chemotherapy will be delayed a few years, and the exchange for that peace of mind is quite good.
"I feel sometimes that yes, my body has taken a hit with all of the things I had to do. And then emotionally it has been a very difficult year on top of it."
She said she copes by trying to laugh as much as possible.
"We tend to get so stressed that our children feel our stress, and they need to feel our joy.
"For everything that we go through, just living every day, whether you are healthy or even if you are going through chemotherapy, find the ability to live, love and laugh," she said.
She explained that she does not manage to do it all, even though that is the perception.
"I have not worked, actually, other than focusing on the work in Nairobi and my teaching.
"I actually spent most of my days just taking care of the children. So maybe it appears I am pulling it all together, but really I am just trying to get through my days," she said.
"And I think that if you love what you do, then you tend to push forward and enjoy it."
While she would not address her divorce, she did say she does not like being single.
"I do not enjoy it. It is not something I wanted. There is just nothing nice about it. It is just hard," she said.
Jolie, who last acted in 2015's By The Sea, which she also directed, added: "This is the first time I have actually been kind of doing (press interviews) in a really long time. It is not easy. I am a little shy at this time, because I am not as strong inside as I have been in the past."
She assured that the kids are doing okay too.
"They have been amazing. It has been so moving to see how much they have helped one another and stood together - the big brothers helping the little ones, and all of them helping me," she said.
"They have really come into their own during this time, and they are finding themselves and their voices. I know that they will have one another for life, and it gives me great peace to know that the day I pass away... they will take care of one another."