Was it a set-up – by her? If not, how could the world’s most media-savvy superstar allow herself to be photographed last week on a hotel balcony in Australia not just apparently arguing with husband Brad Pitt - but smoking a cigarette to boot?
If it wasn't staged, it's awkward on many levels, especially since Jolie’s decision to undergo a bilateral mastectomy last year after testing positive for the BRCA1 cancer gene has had a worldwide impact. Time magazine even ran a cover story about Jolie’s decision to have the operation and its influence on other women titled “The Angelina Effect.”
“Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and minimize the risk as much as I could,” Jolie said at the time. Singer Melissa Etheridge was roundly shamed when she criticized Jolie’s decision saying “I wouldn't call it the brave choice. I actually think it's the most fearful choice you can make when confronting anything with cancer."
I’m already doing Jolie’s PR for her. Maybe it was a prop cigarette. Maybe she and Pitt were running lines for the 1970s-era movie set in France, “By the Sea” that she she wrote and directed and in which they co-star.
Or maybe she’s like Gywneth Paltrow, who has been quoted as saying she allows herself one cigarette per week. Or maybe the video the Australian tabloid used when they first posted the story was doctored.
Other than that, I got nothing. Jolie is smack in the middle of a typical Jolie-Pitt media extravaganza leading up to the December premiere of the new movie she directed, “Unbroken.” The current roll-out (I covered the 2008 media blowout that culminated in the birth of her twins in the south of France and an estimated $14 million payday from PEOPLE for exclusive photos) is right on schedule with both new and familiar elements:
Besides fronting Vanity Fair and Entertainment Weekly, Jolie almost blushed while thanking her stalwart Aussie film crew at a press conference for “Unbroken” last week in Sydney and did a quick Australian accent. She referred emotionally to Pitt as a “great man” and spoke of the 1940s-style love letters they exchanged when he was filming “Fury” in London and she was directing “Unbroken” in Australia.
This week she was photographed by a crush of paparazzi with two of her daughters at Lee’s Art Shop in midtown Manhattan, a go-to spot for the Jolie-Pitts whenever they’re in town, and especially when they have an upcoming project to promote. Last night Jolie appeared in stark winter white, a red poppy affixed to her Ralph & Russo gown, accompanied by several British Armed Forces veterans at the London premiere of "Unbroken."
On the Today Show this morning, Jolie reiterated what both she and Pitt have said more than once since they married in August after being together nearly 10 years. Marriage, she told Tom Brokaw, “ provides an “added level of security and comfort.”
Jolie also indicated that despite being an Oscar-winning actress, reportedly a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination for Best Director, screenwriter, Special Envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees, mother of six, licensed pilot and perpetual size O, she is down-to-earth.
“I have moments where I'm like, 'I'm gonna be a better wife. I'm gonna be a better cook.' And he's like, 'Oh, honey, know what you’re good at. Know what you're not,' " Jolie said, laughing. " 'No, no, I'm gonna get this wife thing down!'”
But since Jolie has always had the image thing down, I’m waiting patiently to see how the cigarette shot plays out. But I have faith in her. Not for nothing did The New York Times once devote an entire article to her mastery at crafting and controlling her image – all without a publicist.
I’ll bet anything that where there’s smoke, Jolie will make sure there’s no fire.
Dana Kennedy has anchored and reported for CNN, ABC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Fox News. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, Time magazine, People, the Daily Beast, Huffington Post, the Hollywood Reporter, Huffington Post France, Departures magazine and more. Her first reporting job was at the Palm Springs Desert Sun.