As Angelina Jolie awaits the release of 'Unbroken,' she says directing husband Brad Pitt brought them 'closer'
Her WWII survival drama, about Louis Zamperini, is set for Christmas Day; she teams up with Pitt in 'By the Sea'
The family that yells together stays together.
That’s at least Angelina Jolie’s marital tip for the year. After finishing her grueling WWII film, “Unbroken,” the star and second-time director moved on to the only subject more punishing than war — marriage — then cast her newly- minted hubby Brad Pitt as her onscreen combatant.
Jolie tells the Daily News that directing Pitt while the two made her marital crisis drama, “By the Sea" — opening next year — made her fall in love with him more.
“It brought us closer,” she says.
So, stressful subject matter makes the heart grow fonder — at least, it does when you’re both tough-minded, thick-skinned Oscar winners.
“The last time we worked together” — on the 2005 film, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” where they met — “it was a lighter movie. So sharing something in a deep artistic way, it’s something I think is necessary for artistic couples.
“I hadn’t realized how good it would be for us.”
Now, as for the yelling:
“The scenes on ‘By the Sea’ were so tense that we let out (any stress) on camera. There’s really heavy fighting in it, so I think sometimes the crew felt like, ‘Mom and Dad are having a fight!’ — because Brad and I are the producers too,” she said. “Success or failure, it’s all on us.
“But it was all oddly freeing. We both wanted to do something as artists ... and push each other. So we got this opportunity to go out there and play.
“I had missed being that free as an actor, and to do that depth of work, and what a pleasure it was to do it with Brad, because I really saw him as an actor, not just the man I loved,” she says. “In the end, it was an amazing thing, because there’s no actor who wants to help me more, or push me more as an actress, or give me more as a director or writer than my husband, and there’s no man I want to see succeed more than him. We were so there for each other.”
Pitt’s support has certainly come in handy, starting with Jolie’s pre-emptive double mastectomy in 2013 and through the fallout from the leaked emails from Sony’s hacked computers — including one missive from uber-producer Scott Rudin that tartly described Jolie as a “minimally talented spoiled brat.”
When Jolie had to skip the subsequent “Unbroken” premiere in L.A. due to chicken pox, Pitt and three of the couple’s six kids, plus Pitt’s parents, stood in for her.
Though married only since August — and globe-trotting from sets around the world to homes in Los Angeles, New Orleans or France — Pitt and Jolie are dedicated to setting aside Christmas as family time, she says.
“Our tradition is, well, being somewhat traditional,” Jolie reveals, even cozily referring to herself and Pitt as “Mom and Dad” when detailing their household holiday.
“Dad is the main one to deal with the tree, Mom and the kids help decorate, and then we put all the kids to bed. And, as anybody who has a big family knows, [the gifts] take a really long time! You have to be very organized when you’re wrapping them and putting presents around the tree. And you have to make sure no one gets up and leaves before everyone else is done.
“It’s all a bit military! We’re constantly cleaning up the wrapping paper and getting coffee, like any other parent,” she says.
And like other parents, Pitt and Jolie must deal with the inevitable problem of limiting the expectations of kids who have spent all year staying nice rather than naughty.
“We make a point not to spoil them, but there’s usually that one item they've been wanting for a long time that we’ve held back until Christmas,” she says. “They’ve each got that big thing.”
This year on Christmas, Jolie will unwrap “Unbroken,” her old-school WWII adventure film about Louis Zamperini, a real-life hero who spent years in a Japanese prison camp.
Based on Laura Hillebrand’s nonfiction book, “Unbroken” is a paean to resilience, telling the true story of Zamperini, the son of Italian immigrants in Torrance, Calif., who ran in the 1936 Olympics before becoming an Air Force bombardier during the war. After a crash in the Pacific, Zamperini (played by Jack O’Connell) survived 47 days on a raft, enduring starvation, dehydration and shark attacks.
He was “rescued” by the Japanese only to be imprisoned in work camps and subjected to cruel treatment by a sadistic sergeant for the last two years of the war.
Zamperini sold his story to Universal Pictures in 1957. But it took two generations and Jolie — a Best Supporting Actress winner for “Girl, Interrupted” — to film it.
“Had someone said, ‘What kind of film are you looking to make?,’ I would never have said one with plane crashes and sharks,” says Jolie, who nevertheless crafted a movie that feels very much like a classic Hollywood epic of survival.
“I would never have attempted it. But it came with the territory.”
That territory also forced Jolie, whose role as a Special Envoy for the U.N. has brought her to numerous war-torn countries in the last dozen years, to think more broadly about war.
“Any time a soldier goes to war it should be supported, and they should be able to feel good about their service to their country, regardless of what the government’s choices are,” Jolie says. “But there are certain wars that I would be very hesitant about, wars that aren’t clear on the need for the soldiers on the ground and the tactics being used.
“It’s very difficult for soldiers today, because they’re not seeing the outcomes promised,” says Jolie, who also co-chairs the Clinton Global Initiative’s Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was appointed an Honorary Dame by Queen Elizabeth II this fall.
“We haven’t been able to focus on prevention of conflict, on political solutions. We owe them that, so we’re not putting them in harm’s way to solve problems that we are not solving politically.”
So in other words, if Hillary Clinton becomes President, will Jolie serve as Secretary of State?
“Who could say anything but ‘Yes’?” she replies with a grin.