Ken Tucker
June 13, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Why Angelina Jolie’s wild ways are to be applauded

Despite the mixed to negative reviews of her new ear blaster summer film ”Gone in 60 Seconds,” Angelina Jolie will certainly be around a lot longer than her movie’s titular minute. With her languorous acting talent, her snarling Catwoman sexiness, and her willingness to use her arms as tattoo memo pads to remind her who she’s married to at the moment, Jolie’s got the makings of a media character who’ll be TV talk- and entertainment news-show material for years to come — a girl who interrupts, but won’t be interrupted.

Jolie crosses Madonna’s sexual assertiveness with Gary Busey’s helmetless hambone act. Last week, she put on a fine piece of performance art during an appearance on ”The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” Ostensibly there to plug ”Gone in 60 Seconds,” Jolie immediately hijacked the conversation by presenting Jay with a printout of some of the monologue jokes he’s made about the Oscar-night affection she showed her brother. Saying that Leno’s yuks had upset her family, Jolie dared him to read some of the incest jokes in front of her. Leno hemmed and hawed and spluttered, read one of the mild ones, and collapsed in a welter of excuses that included the assertion that he, in his role as car hobbyist, once helped Jolie’s new husband, Billy Bob Thornton, fix one of Thornton’s vehicles.

Jolie got a big kick out of discomfiting Leno, and the EW Online interview that appeared last Friday suggested that as far as her union with the four-times-wed Thornton is concerned, it’s going to be one swooshing swingblade of a marriage. Responding to a tabloid story that she’d stabbed her new hubby, Jolie told EW Online, ”If I wanted to kill him, I’d kill him.” Funny, I don’t remember quotes like this when Emma Thompson was married to Kenneth Branagh, do you?

I’m all for Jolie’s ”take me or leave me” public persona; beyond being good copy, it’s always good to have a few celebs around who don’t like to play tidy games with the media — it keeps us on our toes, lest Angelina or Billy Bob chop them off. In fact, my only worry for Jolie is an avuncular, professional one: Is it really a good idea that her next role will be that of ”Tomb Raider” babe Lara Croft? Yeah, yeah, I can practically see the drool from some of you videogame voyeurs, but whenever competent actresses take on these cartoonish boy-toy roles — from Jane Fonda in ”Barbarella” to Lori Petty in ”Tank Girl” — the results are almost always lousy movies and, for the star, a career tarnish that can take years to buff clean. Before Jolie knows it, Leno may have fresh joke fodder he can use without shame.

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