Angelina Jolie lost her mother in January, and the experience has made her acutely aware of her own life.
"I suppose I'm very aware of time and of memories and of doing — and enjoying — life," she told TODAY’s Ann Curry in an emotional interview. "I want to be a great mom like my mom was. And I want to also do the things that I love."
She both laughed and cried with Curry during the interview, given a month before the release of her new film, "A Mighty Heart," co-produced by her companion, Brad Pitt.
In the movie, she portrays Mariane Pearl, the wife of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl who in 2002 was kidnapped and brutally murdered by al-Qaida terrorists while on assignment in Pakistan.
The last year for the star who has been named both the most beautiful and one of the most influential women in the world has been, in her word, "heavy."
She finished a wrenchingly emotional movie, then on May 27 of last year gave birth to a daughter, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt in Namibia. In January, her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died at age 56 after a long battle with cancer. On March 15, she adopted Pax Thien Jolie — her third adopted child and fourth in all — a 3-year-old from Vietnam who had been abandoned at birth.
And now her film is debuting to rave reviews in an out-of-competition showing at Cannes.
"I'm at a strange place in my life," Jolie told Curry. "I think that that happens when you lose a parent — you drop into a different kind of serious.
And yet, at the same time, you want to enjoy and laugh as much as possible every day."
She laughed at that, but a moment later she teared up as she talked about how losing her mother made her appreciate her own family that much more.
"I'm holding onto my family really tight at this moment because of that," she said. "And trying to be as good a woman as I can be in my life."
"That’s what got — got me crying."
And then through the tears, she laughed again.
"I didn’t mean to make you cry," Curry apologized.
"No, no. It’s all right," said the woman who launched a thousand tabloid headlines. "It's a part of life. . . .I lost my mom. It's a natural thing for a child to lose a parent. I lost my mom too young, but it happens. And I'm happy she's out of pain, 'cause I love her."
Bertrand raised Jolie from when she was a girl after separating from her husband and Jolie’s father, actor Jon Voight. Jolie remains estranged from Voight.
But the 31-year-old actress, who devotes large portions of her time and money to humanitarian causes throughout the world, said her loss could not be compared to what Mariane Pearl went through when her husband was kidnapped.
Mariane was working in Karachi as a freelance journalist with her husband when he was abducted. She was five months pregnant at the time and had to face armies of photographers and reporters while her husband’s fate remained unclear.
Nine days after his abduction, Pearl was beheaded and the video posted on the Internet. Mariane would write a book about her experience with the same title as the movie. She personally called Jolie and asked her to portray her in the film. During the filming in Karachi, the two became good friends.
"Mariane lost her husband in a way that is not natural and is unfair," Jolie told Curry.
Similarly, Jolie saw no real comparison between the paparazzi who have followed her through much of her career — especially when she began dating Pitt, with whom she now lives — and what Mariane Pearl endured.
"I don't know what it's like to have lost my husband and somebody do that to me," Jolie said. "It's very different. . . .I just haven't gone through what she's been through. And so I just think being stopped by paparazzi is one thing. Having cameras in your face when your husband is kidnapped or he has lost his life is something that is totally different and can never be compared."
Watch Dateline NBC Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET/ 9 p.m. CT for Ann Curry's interview with Angelina Jolie and there will be more of her interview Thursday on TODAY.