Girl, Undaunted

updated 06/25/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Believe the rumors: Angelina Jolie really does carry drops of husband Billy Bob Thornton's blood in a pendant around her neck. And you know what? Big deal. The couple also used their blood to sign wills they rewrote earlier this year. And get this: As a first wedding-anniversary present, Jolie, 26, gave Thorton, 45, his-and-her grave plots in Louisiana. Okay, so Hallmark it's not, but Jolie's skewed sentimentality makes sense to her. The Japanese death symbol she has tattooed on her arm, for instance, is not a sign of morbidity to her but of vitality: a reminder to live each day to its fullest. And as for that blood-filled amulet, says her brother James Haven, 28, it's just a keepsake of a man she misses when work keeps them apart. "If wearing blood vials keeps her calm, knowing it's going to be okay because she is going to see him again, then great," he says. "That's fantastic for her."

But hardly behavior befitting a pretty little angel. No, best forget the literal translation of her name; for the fiercely unorthodox daughter of Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight, heavenly hellion is more like it. Since she first hit the public's radar after winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Girl, Interrupted in 2000—bizarrely declaring herself "in love" with her brother in her acceptance speech and planting a kiss on his lips—Jolie has made chitchat of subjects rarely heard even in Hollywood: her teenage foray into self-mutilation, her past interest in drugs, her former lesbian longings. (Yet her interest in her brother, she insists, is purely familial, and she coolly told a squirming Jay Leno last year that his incest jokes were "pathetic") Clearly, Jolie has just the edge to play Tomb Raider's Lara Croft, the take-no-prisoners videogame action babe worshiped by cybernerds worldwide. "She's top on my list," says Dominic Sena, who directed her in last year's Gone in Sixty Seconds, "of women who are beautiful and could kick you in the nuts."

And then some. Jolie's save-the-world way with guns, martial-arts moves and bungee-jumping—stunts she performed almost entirely herself—is meant to leave Raider audiences gasping. They did her father, who plays the specter of Croft's dead father and watched as his daughter came off the set bruised and scarred. "Like her, I want to do things as much as possible myself, so I can't scold her for it," says Voight, 62. "I can only say, 'Take every precaution.' " Not that she listens. On the contrary. While the two were rehearsing their lines, the star of such classics as 1969's Midnight Cowboy made the mistake of offering his daughter a few ideas for the scene. "Angie would say, 'No, I'd never say or do that,' " he recalls. "And she was absolutely right. I was like a secretary; I'd write down everything she said—and that's what we'd do."

Her admiring father relishes Jolie's company at work—and on the golf course too. "It's the only place I can teach her something," says Voight jokingly. But theirs was not always an easy bond. Angelina Jolie Voight (she dropped her last name when she started acting) was just a toddler when her father and mother, former actress Marcheline Bertrand, 51, divorced. Though "my dad was always, like, one phone call away," says brother Haven, an actor-director in Los Angeles, "there are abandonment issues that stay with you." Angelina's edge showed up early on, recalls Haven. Performing in a mock commercial at age 4, Jolie warned pretend customers to eat at their grandfather's Little King sandwich shop in Las Vegas—or "I'll punch you in the mouth."

But the childhood mischief—getting into trouble for kissing boys on the playground—turned more serious when, at 14, she had her first real boyfriend move in with her at her mother's L.A. house. Then came cutting her body—in response, she has said, to her inability to feel anything emotionally. "That was my bad time," Jolie told Talk magazine last year. "But by the time I was 16, I had gotten it all out of my system." She graduated from Beverly Hills High at 16 and moved into her own apartment and focused on acting, which she had been studying since she was 11. After appearing in several music videos, she won her first film lead in 1995's cyberthriller Hackers—and the next year married her costar Jonny Lee Miller, then 24, wearing a silk blouse decorated with his name written in her blood. Some two years later they split up, and Jolie had his name—etched on her arm—covered up with another tattoo. Though her career was soaring, she grew increasingly uneasy. In 1998 she won her first Golden Globe as wife Cornelia Wallace in the TNT miniseries George Wallace. But playing the doomed, drug-addicted bisexual supermodel Gia Carangi in the 1998 HBO biopic Gia—earning a second Golden Globe—hit frighteningly close to home. Though she does no drugs now, she told Mirabella in 1999, "Heroin has been very close to me in my life. I felt like I could go down like Gia if I weren't careful."

The pace of her career didn't help. Between 1999 and 2000 she played a cop on the track of a serial killer in The Bone Collector, a sociopath in Girl, Interrupted, the wife of an air-traffic controller (played by Thornton) in Pushing Tin and a car thief in Sixty Seconds. By the time she found herself in Mexico early last year filming the due-this-summer thriller Original Sin with Antonio Banderas, she was just coming out of what Haven calls another "dark period." The romance that developed between Jolie and the four-times-divorced Thornton after wrapping Tin seemed, almost literally, to save her (though it didn't do much for Thornton's fiancée at the time, Laura Dern). Distant now is not only her gloom but her self-professed selfishness: Earlier this year Jolie traveled to Africa with United Nations relief agencies to dispense food and clothing to refugees. As she says of the man she married in a $189 Las Vegas ceremony a few months after they hooked up, "My life is complete. I found my match."

As for their future, those close to the couple—who share a passion for tattooing and chattering publicly about their sex life—can only wish them good luck. "They stick by each other and care deeply for each other," says Voight. "You're always going through things with young people and hoping they'll come out the other side," he adds with a note of paternal reserve. "Hopefully, she will not do anything she can't recover from."

Karen S. Schneider
Michelle Caruso, Mary Green, Elizabeth Leonard and Pamela Warrick in L.A. and Pete Norman and Richard Eaton in London

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