Angelina Jolie is pounding down a rib eye and a pint of Guinness in her favorite Upper West Side dive when a lovesick bartender — impressed, perhaps, by her carnivorous glee and the mildly obscene cartoon on her T-shirt — offers his hand in marriage. An uncomfortable reporter tries to intervene, but it’s unnecessary. ”He’s cute,” Jolie purrs, unfurling a long leg onto a leather banquette. ”And I’m looking.” The bartender wipes the drool off his chin and scurries away.
If you had the misfortune to have a name that means ”pretty little angel” (a name Jolie ”hates,” by the way), you might have a tendency to overcompensate too. Jolie, 24, may be irrefutably pretty, but she’s hardly little. Her arms are sticks from wrist to stem, but the rest of her is deluxe, from her Lara Croft figure to those surgically untouched lips (which are called ”bee-stung” so often you’d think she grew up farming honey).
And Jolie will have to wait a long time for her halo. Though she’s frequently described as actor Jon Voight’s daughter (Jolie is her middle name; her mother is former French actress Marcheline Bertrand), she has achieved notoriety as a tattooed, knife-collecting devil with an interest in mortuary science and a strained relationship with her dad (her folks separated when she was 1). Many U.S. moviegoers have never even seen Jolie act — though TV viewers were knocked out by her Emmy-nominated, Golden Globe-winning work in the TNT miniseries George Wallace and as a drug-addled supermodel in the HBO biopic Gia — but nearly everyone seems to know she brings knives to bed and has a tattoo near her bikini line. Much of this information has appeared in stories that prematurely christened her the Next Big Thing with a fervor that would make George W. Bush jealous. And much of the Jolie persona, she admits, is her own loose-lipped doing.
”I read things I’ve said and don’t realize I’m being a ‘bad’ girl,” she says between meaty bites. ”I do like being sexual, I do collect knives, I do like tattoos. I like dark things. But there’s a side of me that’s soft. I love my family; I want to be a mother.” The knife collection, she’d like to clarify, dates back to a childhood thing for Renaissance fairs; she also has an antique battle-ax from Europe and an African spear. ”Don’t pin me down to one thing,” she says, jabbing a steak knife into gristle.
Jolie may have some new weapons in her arsenal. In the coming weeks she’ll appear in two high-profile projects that could finally deliver on her oft-promised date with stardom. She splits a marquee with Denzel Washington in Nov. 5’s The Bone Collector, a serial-killer thriller directed by Phillip Noyce (The Saint). She returns Dec. 21 with a straitjacket-ripping turn opposite Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted, which takes place inside a women’s mental hospital. Given the success of Double Jeopardy, there’s hope that Jolie’s tough-talking Bone policewoman will bring in the female ticket-buying hordes. And there are whispers that her Jack Nicholson-in-drag Girl role could nail her a Best Supporting Actress nomination.