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Pretty Woman

Kelly Jane Torrance talks Syria with a siren.

Mar 12, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 25 • By KELLY JANE TORRANCE
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Everyone is talking about Angelina Jolie’s leg.

Cartoon of Angelina Jolie holding the globe

Her right leg, to be specific. The actress presented at the Oscars last week in a striking Versace dress with a thigh-high slit—and proudly stood so as to highlight her stunning gam.

Almost immediately, the leg had its own Twitter account. Even the non-tabloid press obsessed over it, and the star’s figure generally: The day before important Republican presidential primaries, Bill O’Reilly devoted much of his show to concern that Jolie is wasting away, improbably claiming, “Once again the media largely ignoring Ms. Jolie’s physical profile.”

I’d like to bring your attention to another part of Angelina Jolie’s body, one that doesn’t get the notice it deserves: her brain.

Am I speaking about the same Angelina Jolie once described as crazy as often as she was called beautiful? Who wore Billy Bob Thornton’s blood in a vial around her neck? Who shared an unsororal kiss with her brother at the 2000 Oscars? Who considered hiring a hitman to kill herself?

We all, if we’re lucky, grow up. Two months ago, I met Jolie when she came to Washington to promote her directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey. I’d interviewed plenty of celebrities, from Los Angeles to New York City, but I’d never witnessed a scene as electric as that in the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown as reporters awaited their appointments with the actress. Grown men who normally affected a cynical pose about the famous people they met were too nervous to sample the complimentary food and drink. My sister in rural Alberta was treated like a star for being close to someone meeting Angelina Jolie.

Forbes has called her Hollywood’s best-paid actress and the most powerful celebrity in any field. The paparazzi follow every move she, Brad Pitt, and their six children make. Most important, she’s gorgeous.

And, like most bewitching women, she has trouble being taken seriously. With Jolie’s time at a premium, I met her with two other reporters. They approached her much as they might have Marilyn Monroe five decades earlier. But what do you ask one of the world’s most beautiful women?

In the Land of Blood and Honey is set in the brutal Bosnian war of the 1990s. “Is it a political film?” one reporter timidly ventured.
Jolie is goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I knew she’d been to Syria in 2009 to visit Iraqi refugees—alongside Syrian president Bashar al-Assad—and last year met Syrian refugees in Turkey. So I asked her point-blank—hey, she’s a member of the Council on Foreign Relations—whether she’d support a U.N. resolution to oust the murderous Assad.
“It’s not for me to say, because I don’t know what the repercussions of that are. I know that something must be done,” she responded. Regime change might be necessary, but it wouldn’t be a simple solution. “We have to make sure that if he is removed, who comes in next is not worse,” she said. “It’s not just, we replace it, and then a neighboring country takes over, and it’s just an expansion of one of its neighboring countries that might be even more extreme.”

It took some effort to hold my jaw in place. I ask a woman better known for her tattoos than her thoughts about deposing a dictator; she brings up the Islamic Republic, warning we shouldn’t allow Syria to devolve into a satellite of Iran.

Some professional pundits haven’t thought that far ahead. But Jolie had visited Libya—after Qaddafi was killed. That morning, she’d called the U.N.: Syrians are crossing into Lebanon and she wants to meet them. Going into Syria itself makes little sense. “Even if you were allowed in, you’d be directed in what access you’d be given. So I don’t trust it” (a tip for Sean Penn the next time he visits his friend Hugo Chávez).

Jolie won’t run for office any time soon—and let’s face it, attractive women haven’t fared well in the arena. But she has strong sentiments about the American political scene. “This should not be a Democrat or Republican issue, but I’ve spent a lot of time visiting soldiers in hospitals, and I feel that it is a sad day when citizens of a country really can feel so distant from our young men and women who are at war across the world, and dying and in hospitals. It just ended in Iraq and they’re coming home, and they should be able to, whether you’re for or against the war, hold their heads high with the service that they did. They risked their lives.”

But to address the question you really want answered: Angie, as she’s called, looked angelic. Her white blouse was too loose to confirm much about her figure. Her right leg, however, did stand out in a slitted skirt.

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