While interviewing stars at Entertainment Weekly for the last 15 years, I’ve had a few seriously surreal moments — driving down L.A.’s Santa Monica Boulevard with George Clooney in my rental car, or playing an Elton John song on a piano in London…for Elton John. But my most otherworldly celebrity encounter was with Angelina Jolie in May 2008 — partially because I ended up becoming part of the story.
We met at the posh Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat outside Nice, France, for a cover story on her roles in Wanted and Changeling. Though I expected her to be reticent, she was surprisingly candid, talking freely about her polarizing persona, her political views, and even her sex life. We also touched on the paparazzi who dogged her and her family, particularly since she was just seven weeks away from giving birth to her twins, Vivienne and Knox. After our 90-minute interview, when we walked out the hotel’s front door, Jolie immediately said, ”There they are.” I asked, ”Who?” She said, ”The paparazzi.” Sure enough, about a hundred yards away were a handful of photographers. Unperturbed, Jolie kept chatting and thanking the hotel staff. As her driver pulled up, I stuck out my hand and thanked her for her time. Instead of meeting my handshake, she said, ”We’re in Europe, so let’s kiss like the Europeans do.” So we kissed on each cheek and said goodbye.
The next day, I got an e-mail from a friend back in New York City with a link to a photo gallery on the blog Just Jared about the Jolie sighting at the Grand-Hôtel. In several shots I could be seen in the background. One commenter then linked to a paparazzi site that, under the headline ANGELINA JOLIE SMOOCHING ANOTHER MAN, included an extra shot taken from an angle that made it seem as if we had kissed on the lips. That sent a clutch of readers into a tizzy, convinced she was cheating — until one eagle-eyed reader figured out that it was an EW writer and not some new competition for Brad Pitt. But for a fleeting moment, I was both.