Kung Fu Panda, in theatres this weekend, stars Angelina Jolie as an animated tigress. It's a movie she did for her children, she says in this freewheeling interview, where she talks about raising the humanitarian crises in China and Myanmar, and what it's like to raise a rainbow family.
—What are your plans after your twins are born? Will you take a break?
—There's one project I'm hoping to do. Ideally, I would like to not go to work for a year. I haven't read a script in a year, I'm not looking for more right now, I'm very happy to be home. Brad is looking at work.
—Did you always want a big family?
—I went through many years thinking I was never going to be stable enough and be able to give enough of myself to be a parent. I always loved children but I didn't know if I would ever be ready to be a good mom. But I never planned on having children biologically. I was just dead set on always adopting, it felt right to me, children that needed a home. But that changes when you meet somebody you love; your family changes, that was my big surprise.
—Is this it for you? Have you decided?
—More babies. Who knows?
—You bought a house in Switzerland recently. How's the decorating?
—I'm actually not good at it. Brad is great with houses, he has a great eye for structure, for architecture. Not just the idea of something grand, but that this is a nice breakfast area for children because the light is beautiful in the morning, he can see that. When I first moved back to England, I put up all the bookshelves and forgot a breakfast table. We sat on the floor for a week.
—Is Kung Fu Panda for your children?
—My kids loved the movie. I can say I did it for them, but I also loved doing it. But for my kids especially, because two of them are from Asia and so when I found out it was going to be in Asia and was into history and culture and there would be morals, I was decided. Then I got to be a cool tiger so it impressed my children.
—The film says it's fine to be a fat panda if you're happy. Is that a good message for overweight kids?
—The big picture here is, whatever it is that makes you different is okay. My favourite message movie was Dumbo – his ears made him special. It's that same message; whatever is unique about you is you and you should embrace it.
—Everybody's been talking about your tigress traits. Do they help or hinder you in your life?
—I love the tiger. We have an animal sanctuary in Cambodia that protects animals including tigers and I have a tiger tattoo I got in China when one of our tigers was found cut in half. Besides being wild, they are also very independent, majestic creatures. So any way I'm compared to a tiger I would be honoured. But the side of me that maybe likes to fight, I suppose can sometimes get in the way but I think every woman has that.
—As a mother, what kind of stories do you like to see in animation?
—Well, our kids watch a lot of Disney classics but our biggest issue is culture for our kids. Even the colour of the children in the cartoons is to make sure that somehow there is enough. Yet there's still not a Disney Princess that is African and its difficult because our daughter is getting into princesses right now and it upsets us. It's why I love this film – it's perfect for my children. It deals with a lot of issues, even being an orphan.
—As you get older, do you change your perspective towards films?
— I think I'll be working a lot less. I find the films will become few and far between as I get older.
—How does it feel to be named one of the world's 100 most influential people?
—I'm sure I am on a lot of other weird lists. But no, I think that was in reference to myself and Brad and some of the choices we made in our work and philanthropy... that's an important aspect in our lives and we are glad we are able to accomplish what we set out to do.
—Are you working with charities in the wake of the Chinese earthquake?
—Yes, absolutely. I'm in contact with people at UNHCR. I work with children who have gone through any kind of trauma, but right now the process is to see what's being allowed in, which is different from Myanmar. I will be active as much as I can be and as much as China wants.
—With what's going on in Myanmar now, how do you justify spending time at such a lavish festival like Cannes?
—Well, this is my job and I'm very fortunate to be an artist. I don't look down on people who are fortunate enough to have a lot in life, but at the same time I expect them, as I expect myself, to be as generous as possible with all that we've been fortunate to be blessed with; but my daily life is being at home with my kids and understanding what makes me a better person and parent. That's my focus. The UNHCR has been responding to Myanmar and I've been following it and I have visited, not recently, but in the past have met the Burmese on the Thai border and I've spent the night there.