From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Outside the Casa del Mar and Shutters hotels in Santa Monica on June 6, the scene resembled a presidential visit crossed with an episode of Paparazzi Gone Wild!: clamoring photographers and a massive security detail—including 12 guards and two armed police officers—patrolling the grounds. Inside, though, the mood was playful, as Mr. and Mrs. Smith stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt promoted their new action-romance. When one reporter—who, like all the attending journalists, was required to sign a "loyalty oath" vowing not to ask personal questions—inquired about the stars' onscreen chemistry, Pitt replied, "Between me and [Smith costar] Vince [Vaughn]? It was palpable. I mean, we knew immediately when we looked into each other's eyes..."

Step one-two, step one-two: In a carefully choreographed pas de deux of Smith publicity, Pitt, 41, and Jolie, who turned 30 on June 4, were alternately jokey, wary and cautiously candid as each star opened up—separately—for the first time about the months-long tempest surrounding their relationship. "People want answers about what's happening...but I need to know what's happening first," Jolie told W West Coast bureau chief Christopher Bagley in the magazine's current issue, which features photographer Steven Klein's explosive pictorial essay of the two stars (see photographs on following pages). And in an interview with Diane Sawyer, which aired on ABC's Primetime Live June 7, Pitt denied that Jolie was a "home wrecker" and implied that their relationship—Pitt's divorce from Jennifer Aniston remains unfinalized—has yet to be defined. Asked if he and his costar are now embarking on a romance, he said, "There's a lot still to, I guess, put into place...Listen, I don't know what the future is just yet." On the subject of Aniston, he was more direct, telling Sawyer that their split "doesn't mean you lose the love," though he admitted that "it's difficult now as we determine what the next juncture is."

At the June 7 L.A. premiere of their film, Pitt and Jolie only fleetingly shared the red carpet. But if Mr. and Mrs. Smith have remained cagey, others are more forthcoming about their chemistry, which audiences can finally judge for themselves in the film (see review on page 33). "Their onscreen chemistry is 100 percent them," says Smith director Doug Liman. The sparks were evident from the first day of shooting in winter 2004, says Liman, who notes that the pair had no prior rehearsals or meetings. "What you see in the movie is Brad and Angie's first moments together," he says of the film's opening sequence, set in a marriage counselor's office. "Onscreen they just immediately clicked."

Until the Smith premiere, offscreen the duo had avoided being photographed together ever since they were spotted beachcombing in Kenya with Jolie's 3-year-old son Maddox in April. Pitt recently wrapped the Morocco shoot for his upcoming drama Babel; Jolie returned to Kenya in late May on a humanitarian mission and has since been in New York City and Los Angeles on Smith promotional duty. So what's next for the pair? Pitt told Sawyer he has already entered a "new chapter," calling it "a really interesting time—it's a shake-up year...I make my choices and I live with those. I like that. My mistakes are my mistakes. My wins are my wins—that I can live with."

1ST LOOK

Marriage License

When he reteamed with Jolie to shoot a steamy 60-page photo essay for the July issue of W magazine, Pitt had marriage on his mind—its dark side. With renowned photographer Steven Klein behind the camera, Pitt himself came up with the concept: He and Jolie play a disillusioned married couple against a backdrop of suburban melancholy and the Kennedy assassination in 1963, a time in America when, Pitt said, "the facade was still being maintained but things were starting to crumble." (It's also the year Pitt was born.) Fairchild Publications creative director Dennis Freedman says there was "absolutely not" a hint of romance between Pitt and Jolie during the two-day March shoot in Rancho Mirage, Calif., which began the day Jennifer Aniston filed for divorce from Pitt. But "as professionals, Brad and Angelina were extraordinary together," Freedman says. "They had an incredible amount of trust."

IN SHOTS THAT RANGE FROM BACKYARD FUN (RIGHT) TO BEDROOM GUNPLAY, PITT SAID HE WANTED TO SHOW THE MALAISE BEHIND A PERFECT MARRIAGE: "YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT'S WRONG BECAUSE THE MARRIAGE IS EVERYTHING YOU SIGNED UP FOR."

FIVE BRAD LOOKALIKES PLAYED THE COUPLE'S CHILDREN. "BRAD SHOWED A GREAT CONNECTION TO THESE KIDS," FREEDMAN SAYS. "HE WAS INCREDIBLY PATIENT AND SENSITIVE. HE TOOK THE TIME TO MAKE THEM COMFORTABLE."

ARCHITECTURE BUFF PITT SCOUTED FOR THE CLASSIC 1950S MODERN HOUSE WHERE THE SHOOT WAS SET. "EVERY DETAIL WAS BRAD'S CONCERN," SAYS W'S DENNIS FREEDMAN. "HE WAS INVOLVED EVERY STEP OF THE WAY."

"ANGELINA FROM BEGINNING TO END REMAINED IN CHARACTER," SAYS FREEDMAN, WHO NOTES THAT BOTH ACTORS PICKED THEIR OWN CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES. "SHE BECAME THAT DISILLUSIONED HOUSEWIFE WHOSE LIFE STARTED TO UNRAVEL."

Michelle Tauber and Chris Strauss. Michael Fleeman, Marisa Laudadio, Lycia Naff and Jenny Sundel in Los Angeles and Mary Green in New York City

  • Contributors:
  • Michael Fleeman,
  • Marisa Laudadio,
  • Lycia Naff,
  • Jenny Sundel,
  • Mary Green.