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At 10:50 a.m., Angelina Jolie is well into juggling a hectic day by the time she settles into a private booth at New York City's Mandarin Oriental Hotel, happily exhales and orders breakfast: scrambled eggs, whole-wheat toast and tea. She's already taken meetings about two movies - and played travel agent for six young tourists. "We just got the kids sorted," she says with a relieved sigh. "There's a section that's going to the Statue of Liberty. Z wants to get her hair done. And Mad wants to go buy music and then walk in the park. Everybody's on their way." For the tightly bonded family of eight—Jolie, 38, fiancé Brad Pitt, 50, and their kids Maddox, 12, Pax, 10, Zahara, 9, Shiloh, 7, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 5 - their journey has evolved in surprising ways. In an intimate interview, Jolie talks about everything from her health a year after her preventive double mastectomy to her kids' role in her new movie Maleficent (for more on the film, out May 30, see page 78) to just how the couple of nine years envision that long-awaited wedding. (Could the dress code be camo?) Looking back - and forward - Jolie says she's content. "Make bold choices and make mistakes," she says. "It's all those things that add up to the person you become."

On her Mother's Day

It was lovely. Brad's really creative with the kids, so they made a bunch of things like pillows and notebooks. Knoxy made me a picture of Maleficent and they made it into a ring. [She shows off an etched gold ring.] It's so cute! And then Vivi made me stationery and pillows for my office. What's nice is they seemed to genuinely be happy. Sometimes you see it's something kids are forced to do, or they're forced to wear something. My kids never do that. They force me to wear silly things. I loved Goofy when I was little. So Pax drew me a Goofy shirt. I wore that with a crown Vivienne found for me.

On life with Brad

'We've been through so much. We've gotten a lot closer, which I think naturally happens with raising a family together. You have history. You have so many memories. All your memories are based on time together, so you don't have separate experiences. You have this person you live with who really knows you, and you know them so well. You're not lovers or boyfriend and girlfriend as much as you are a family.'

On her health since undergoing a double mastectomy in 2013

I'm good. I'm feeling really good. I'm really happy about the choices I've made, and I feel even more connected to other people, especially other women. Women [fighting cancer or, like Jolie, diagnosed with the faulty BRCA1 gene that predisposes them to cancer] approach me and write me letters. Also, it's very touching with men. Almost on a daily basis, I talk to somebody about their wife. It's really meant a lot to me. I wasn't anticipating all the support and understanding [when she went public]. I'm so used to negative press. I thought that it could be derailed and simplified into something that would make me uncomfortable. But I felt I needed to take that risk. I was very surprised. [She's planning further surgery to have her ovaries removed, though she hasn't said when.] It's not a very big secret that my mother died of breast and ovarian cancer.

On Maleficent, her first onscreen role since 2010's The Tourist

I was nervous. Once we did it, it felt like, "There's no turning back now. I'm 7½ feet tall and have horns with pointy teeth and contacts and a big old cape. There's not another way to do this other than to suck it up and have a great time." It's one of those characters where you want the audience to have as much fun as I'm having, so I can't take myself too seriously. I haven't been able to have fun and entertain audiences as much as I'd like to because of the types of movies I've done. So this one I feel I can really be an entertainer.

On her daughter (and costar) Vivienne

'Vivi is one of those people who's got a good goofy side, thank God. But she's naturally very feminine. She likes to pick flowers, likes to tell little stories. She likes to take care of her animals. She's very sweet. If I tried to be like Maleficent and say something scary, she wouldn't care. She'd just laugh and hug me tighter.'

On Viv, Pax and Zahara appearing in the movie

I don't want our kids to be actors. But we realized early on that 4- and 5-year-olds were not going to be comfortable in a scene with me. I would say hello to kids and they would cry. So I went back and said, "Oh my God, maybe ..." Because Vivienne, we joke at home, she's my shadow. I actually can't get her to go. So Brad and I had a long talk about it because it wasn't an easy choice to kind of make her more public. But we thought less of that and more of time spent on-set with Mommy. Pax and Zahara are in the christening scene for a moment. Their teachers played their mothers. It's just a cameo, but there will be memories that'll mean something to our family. And selfishly, I knew I would perform better if they were in the room. They're my secret weapon. It made me so much more playful.

On how the kids have changed her

Like every parent, when you start your family, your life completely changes. And you completely live for someone else. I find that the most extraordinary thing. Your life is handed over to someone else. From that moment on, they come first in every choice you make. It's the most wonderful thing. I love being a mom, and I love our family. It's just so much fun to watch them grow up and meet the different people they are. They're so uniquely different and they're so funny. I read a great article stating scientists believe that siblings have more effect on a child than their parents. I think there's a lot of truth to that. I'm watching them kind of raise each other and affect each other. In the middle of the night you hear them telling each other things or the older ones explaining things to the younger ones. Most of the time Brad and I just laugh. You figure they'll get corrected somehow sooner or later. Homework's hard. Especially math. My kids joke with me. They tell me they have homework. I say, "Okay." And then I sit down and they say, "It's math." "Noooo! Not math! English, history, anything!"

On what's next

I'm still working on Unbroken [the movie she directed about World War II hero Louis Zamperini, due out this December]. In production, I thought, "Oh, this is why nobody has made this for 56 years." How do you tackle it all? The hope is that the film will be as inspirational as Louie. I love directing. So I'm having meetings on ideas of things to possibly direct. And there's a few pending projects, like Cleopatra, which I've been working on forever. It's the hardest one to get done, so it's either going to be one of those that you just walk away and say, "It was too hard," or it comes together beautifully and you really take it on.

On the movie she plans to make with Pitt

I wrote something a few years ago for Brad and me. Just for fun. Just an independent little art piece. Because we don't get to do those as much as we'd like. But it's something really small and experimental.

On their wedding plans

We will get married, and we're not really in a rush, so we're just waiting for it to be the right time with the kids, with work, when it feels right. We talk about it occasionally, and the kids talk about it with us. We all kind of think about how we imagine it or what it might be. So we've started to do that but we haven't made any definite plans. But we are discussing it with the children and how they imagine it might be. Which is verging on hysterical, how kids envision a wedding. They will in a way be the wedding planners. It's going to be Disney or paintball - one or the other! We've got a lot of different personalities in the house. They've got some strong opinions. It will be fun. That's the important thing. When we do it, it will feel like a great day for our family.

On what she's learned after a year of ups and downs

You can never prepare for everything, because it's all those things that build up to who you are.

On her legacy

'To be in any way a positive contribution, that's all anybody wants to be. It's all I've ever wanted to be. I wanted to be an artist, be a mother. You want to feel that in your life you've been of use, in whatever way that comes out.'