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What's at the center of Angelina Jolie's life?

Humanitarian work and son, Maddox, most important to "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" star, she tells the "Today" show's Ann Curry.
/ Source: TODAY

On-screen, Angelina Jolie and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” co-star Brad Pitt are two hardened hit men dueling to the death. Off-screen they were a couple of movie stars clowning around. But Jolie had a lot more to talk about with the “Today” show’s Ann Curry than her new movie. In Jolie’s life, her humanitarian work and her son have taken center stage. 

Film clipBrad Pitt as Mr. Smith: We have an unusual problem, Jane, because you obviously want me dead, and I’m less and less concerned for your well-being.

Angelina Jolie: I kept laughing through the whole thing. We had to cut all the time because I was ruining his takes and falling over laughing.

Though Angelina Jolie says filming her latest movie, "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," was a lot of fun, she has found her most rewarding work in real life.

Jolie: To actually feel like you've done something good with your life and you're useful to others is what I was always wanting, and was always looking for.

Ann Curry: You know, it's amazing to hear you say all this, because when we first met, I would say that you were less focused on the outside, on others.

Jolie: Yes.

Curry: And much more focused on yourself. But there has been a tremendous evolution in you in the space of less than five years, since I first met you.  What caused the sea change in you?

Jolie: I know. I grew up. I feel very fortunate that I had certain opportunities to have new experiences and have my eyes opened.

Jolie began her voyage of discovery four years ago, when she swapped the glitz of Hollywood for a far less glamorous role — goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Refugee Agency.

Since then she's made countless trips to developing countries and donated millions of dollars to charity.

Jolie:  I just started to see the world as it really is and it completely shocked me and changed my opinion on everything — on life and my values and certainly my own sense of self.

And that sense of self has embraced motherhood for the first time. A few years ago she adopted her son, Maddox.

Jolie: Becoming a mom, as any mom will know, is just — it's everything.

Curry: Something inside you has changed with this boy.

Jolie: Yes.

Curry: You're seeing yourself through his eyes.  His eyes filled with that unconditional love.

Jolie: Yes.  And that focus I think you have when you're a mother, where no matter what, no matter what day it is, or whatever craziness is happening — like all this stuff, you know.  Get your hair and make-up done.  You do an interview.  You're all taken very seriously.  Then you come home and they pee on you or something. And you just feel like, thank God I know that this is the most important thing. They keep you so focused on just the right thing in life.

Curry: What is possible in your life now is to feel this enormous gratitude.

Jolie: Yeah.  You wake up in the morning and you want to do something.  You want to work to fight to change things.  Curry: You've been quoted as saying, “I think now if somebody would have taken me at 14 and dropped me in the middle of Asia or Africa, I’d have realized how self-centered I was.  And that there was real pain and real death.  Real things worth fighting for.”

Jolie: There are some amazing fights to be had out there.  And I think that's what maybe I didn't know at 14.  I wanted to fight, I have an aggression in me, and I'm brave, and I want to stand up against something. If I knew that I could be on the front lines in protecting somebody, then I would have understood what that fight was for.  And, instead, I fought myself and nearly killed myself a lot of times.

Curry: What do you say to people listening right now, young people, who are drinking too much, doing heroin, cutting themselves, what do you say to them about what is possible in life?

Jolie: I would say to step out of your environment. To travel. Violence isn’t cool. Drugs aren’t cool. Death isn’t cool, because when you see it — so rampant in a society that's just killing everybody and there's no choice in the matter, you don’t see it the same way anymore.