They first got to know each other on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Brad Pitt, who was still married to Jennifer Aniston at the time, was then introduced to Angelina Jolie’s toddler son Maddox. At the time, sources on the film said that Jolie, now 47, would show up at Pitt’s trailer and tell him: ‘Maddox would like to say “Hi.”‘ Pitt, now 58, was enchanted – by the boy and his mother. After starting his romance with Jolie in 2004, he formally adopted Maddox in 2006. As we now know, his relationship with both has since sadly ruptured, after the fight on board a private jet in September 2016.
After the incident, Maddox then 15, reportedly declined to see his father when a first meeting was brokered between Pitt and his children. ‘He doesn’t really see himself as Pitt’s son,’ a source told US Weekly at the time. Another added more bluntly: ‘He never wants to see Pitt again.’ In the years since, Pitt and Jolie have been entangled in a custody battle, and Maddox has gone his own way. He’s now 21, has graduated from university in South Korea, and is working on films with his mother. And this week, the ugliness of the schism with his adoptive father has been laid bare. On Thursday, as the result of a freedom of information request, an FBI report into the alleged altercation on the plane which ended the Jolie-Pitt marriage was released.
Per the documents, Pitt is said to have remarked that one child: ‘Looked like a f***ing Columbine kid.’ The legal papers don’t spell out which child this was, although Radar Online reported that sources close to the actor claim that Pitt was referring to Maddox. Jolie also claims that Pitt said to the children during the heated exchange: ‘Mommy’s not OK. She’s ruining this family. She’s crazy.’ Sources in the Pitt camp describe the release of the information as a ‘media stunt to inflict pain.’ It’s hard to disagree – Pitt was not arrested or charged and no further investigation was undertaken by the FBI; he was never deemed a danger to the children.
The release makes no difference legally in their divorce. What it does do is embarrass Pitt, who is currently finishing a global press tour to promote his new film Bullet Train. But what is the truth about the Pitt-Jolie family life before the break-up? And what drove Pitt into the drunken rage which has led to a drawn-out divorce battle, and a new era of sobriety for him? The first thing to note is that there was nothing conventional about the experiment in family living conducted by Pitt and Jolie. For instance, from an early age, adopted son Maddox had an interest in guns and knives, a passion that Jolie was happy to cultivate.
In an old interview with W Magazine, the actress said that her own mother had taken her to ‘buy her first daggers when she was 11 or 12,’ adding that she had ‘already bought Maddox some’ from a ‘special shop.’ Soon afterwards, he drew a picture of a machine gun on her mother’s day card – and Jolie revealed in a 2017 interview with Entertainment Weekly that Pitt had the image made into a gold trinket to hang on a chain, saying at the time: ‘He’s all into war and guns. So for Mother’s Day he drew a machine-gun, and Pitt had it made into a necklace, which is really sweet. It’s really cute.’ This is reminiscent of the children’s doodles which were sewn into her wedding veil. Not many brides would drift down the aisle with the words ‘buttock futtock’ carefully applied – but then again, Jolie was not any bride.
According to sources in France, where the family spent holidays at the Chateau Miraval, the children ‘always ruled the roost’ – hence, their artwork taking center stage at the wedding. It seems that an ‘anything goes’ principle applied for the family-of-three adopted children – Maddox, from Cambodia, Pax from Vietnam, and Zahara an orphan from Ethiopia – plus twins Knox and Violet, and daughter Shiloh. Jolie started her family in 2002. Having filmed Tomb Raider in Cambodia, she decided that she wanted to adopt an orphaned Cambodian baby – even though her second marriage to actor Billy Bob Thornton, had recently ended. She later said: ‘Our marriage was falling apart before I adopted and by the time Maddox came home, Billy and I were apart.’
As the scandal over Pitt’s marriage break-up with Anniston raged, she was spotted playing with Maddox in Central Park, looking the picture of loving motherhood. An untrue and damaging suggestion started to circulate that Pitt had to leave Aniston because she had not wanted to give up her career and have babies with him. The opposite was true. In fact, in a 2005 interview with Vanity Fair, Aniston slammed the rumors, saying: ‘I’ve never in my life said I didn’t want to have children. I did and I do and I will!’ Meanwhile Jolie’s own father, John Voight, was not convinced by her reinvention as the ultimate mother. When she adopted Maddox he begged her to seek help for the ‘serious symptoms of real problems’ he thought she showed. Voight added, bluntly: ‘She has never been normal.’
Born on June 4, 1975, she is the daughter of actor Voight and French Canadian actress Marcheline Bertrand. Her parents separated in 1976, and she and her brother, James, were then raised by their mother. Apparently, she took her parents’ break-up hard, and the relationship with her father has since been difficult. She struggled to get over the fact that he was not faithful to her mother, and she spent years watching him from afar, wishing that they had more of a relationship. ‘My mom was in a lot of pain. My father had an affair, and then there were a lot of challenges with child support and alimony,’ she told the Guardian in 2021. ‘I didn’t feel that close to my father,’ she also shared in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. ‘I felt more of my mother’s daughter when I was a child.’
As a teenager, she was sexually precocious, moving her 16-year-old boyfriend into the family home when she was 14. By her own account, she even tried drugs. The writer Ian Halperin said in his recent book about Brangelina that she was sent to see the school therapist and claims that a report written about her by the medical professional, and seen by him, said that she is ‘inclined towards anti-social psychopathy’ – a serious and startling claim. Psychopathy is characterized by a lack of empathy, coupled with a use of charisma, manipulation, sex, violence, and intimidation. She previously self-harmed, once telling an interviewer: ‘I collected knives and always had certain things around.
‘For some reason, the ritual of having cut myself and feeling the pain, maybe feeling alive, feeling some kind of release, it was somehow therapeutic to me.’ By the time she was a mother, her own mother was engaged in a long and devastating battle with breast cancer. She died in 2007, aged 56, after being diagnosed in 1999. Perhaps she felt that the experience would act as a bulwark against the coming grief; however, Jolie was conflicted about having a baby of her own, and opted to adopt. ‘Having a child of my own would make me feel that there was a child out there who did not have a home because I had chosen to have a baby,’ she told an interviewer in 2005. Pitt did not feel the same way. After they fell for each other on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, he helped her to adopt Zahara, and then encouraged her to have a child that was biologically theirs, Shiloh. And what she and Pitt have built in these years is perhaps the ultimate dysfunctional household.
THE CRACKS START TO SHOW: JOLIE AND PITT START SLEEPING SEPARATELY – AS ACTOR SEEKS SOLACE IN ALCOHOL
Both of them worked periodically, and the whole family spent years crisscrossing the globe. They settled at one time in New Orleans, and in France, and called a myriad of hotels a temporary home. Jolie at one time would rent a suite at a Los Angeles hotel, even though she and Pitt had property in Hollywood. Reports published in a number of US magazines at the time claimed that the actress used to ask for the suite that she had booked for her mother when she was ill, and would go up to her room and spend time alone and weep.
Pitt struggled with managing the relationship and the spotlight; he would drink heavily and said more than once that he would wake up still drunk from the previous night. His friend Quentin Tarantino alluded to his pot-smoking habit, which Jolie disapproved of. One hotel employee, Anna Kowalski, alleged that Jolie and Pitt habitually slept in separate rooms as long ago as 2010, and had little to do with each other, with Jolie sitting alone drinking wine in the bedroom of the suite, and Pitt sitting in another room with a beer. As the kids grew older, she found a passion for charitable missions, and would bring them along. Zahara and Shiloh were taken to Ethiopia to scout locations for a medical center, while Maddox went to Iraq as a birthday treat.
THE KIDS AREN’T ALRIGHT: NANNIES QUIT OVER THE CHILDREN’S UNRULY BEHAVIOR
At home there were no rules, except that the children weren’t encouraged to make any friends outside of the family circle. For a time, Maddox liked to speak French, even though the rest of the family, with the exception of his mother and brother Pax, struggled with the language. Shiloh, for some time, only answered to the name of John and dressed in boy’s clothes, including neckties and fedora hats. The habit arose because of her passion for the Peter Pan movie. One former nanny, who quit in despair, reportedly said that the children insisted on breakfasting on items like pizza or chocolate, and enjoyed a diet of junk food, particularly Cheetos. A source told DailyMail.com that the nannies varied in number between six and nine, with each having one child as their key responsibility. They were, the insider claimed, rotated every six months to prevent the attachment becoming too settled. When Shiloh was three and Zahara five, both would carry blankies, even on a trip to the grocery store, with photographers capturing the youngsters with their comforters on several occasions.
THE TIES THAT BIND… AND BREAK: JOLIE’S BROTHER JAMES MOVES IN AND BECOMES A SECOND ‘DAD’ TO THE KIDS
As the marriage entered its final year, Jolie’s brother James moved in with her and Pitt, having been hired as the chief nanny to their brood. He was her great support – who can forget their unsettling kiss on the Oscars red carpet in 2000 – and according to a DailyMail.com source, having James around stoked the tensions which ended the marriage. That insider claimed that relations were so sour between the two men of the house that Pitt used to make James fly economy when the rest of the family were in first class. And some magazines suggested that the younger children had fallen into the habit of calling James ‘Dad’ by the summer of 2016.
Soon after the split, though, the arrangement was terminated – the reason being that he was simply worn out by the ‘shattering’ job. Since the breakup, there has been endless court-appointed therapy for the children, who shuttle between their warring parents in their respective LA homes via chauffeur cars, accompanied by security.
NO END IN SIGHT: PITT AND JOLIE’S BITTER CUSTODY BATTLE RAGES ON
Jolie has primary custody, while Pitt sees them for a certain number of hours on a school day, and every other day of weekends or holidays. Every minute, issue seems to be a flashpoint. At one point, their judge issued a ‘cellphone protocol’ saying that Pitt needed to know the children’s phone numbers so that he could speak to them or text them, without her intervening or supervising; Jolie was warned of serious consequences if she created a distance between him and the kids. Last year, the actress successfully had the judge thrown off the case after filing a statement of disqualification based on undisclosed ongoing professional relationships with Pitt’s counsel.
This meant that his judgement – a 50/50 custody split – was also nixed, meaning that the former spouses have effectively started the legal proceedings again ‘from zero.’ It is likely that the renewed legal battle will take years to resolve. When the custody fight started, they were aged between eight and 15. Now only three of them – Shiloh, 16, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 14 – are under 18. Zahara, who Pitt has always doted on, just started college in Atlanta. He and Shiloh, 16, have a strong bond, and it seems that it is his ‘beautiful’ daughter who is making him smile again.
They spend time together at his main residence in Los Feliz, where she enjoys watching films and art and listening to music with Pitt. Reports suggest: ‘They spend a lot of their time together in his art studio being creative.’ Shiloh has blossomed into a beautiful young woman, with a passion for dancing and taste for Converse shoes and cut off shorts. She looks in danger of being taller than her mother before the summer is out.
His current sunny mood seems to be down to the realization that as the children grow older, they can make their own choices about who to spend time with. He’s just bought a family home in Carmel where he hopes to do just that. Jolie, by contrast, hopes to embrace a more nomadic existence. She sees her future abroad – possibly in Cambodia, where she has property, or in Africa, and she’s complained about being forced to stay in Los Angeles until the kids are 18 because of Pitt. The battle, then, goes on.