By Michele Manelis.
"I don't enjoy being single. It's not something I wanted," an emotional Angelina Jolie tells news.com.au.
"There are no upsides, there's nothing nice about it." Her eyes fill with tears. "It's just hard."
The Oscar-winning movie star is in Los Angeles to promote her third directorial effort, a Netflix film, First They Killed My Father. She hasn't talked to the press since her split with Brad Pitt last year (she filed for divorce last September).
As any parent knows, the effects of divorce are often hardest on the kids. Now a single mum, Jolie, 42, says of their six children: "They have been amazing. They have been there for each other [to the extent that] I have never seen. It's been so moving to see how much they have helped each other, stood together, the big brothers helping the little kids and all of them helping me." She smiles.
"They have really come into their own during this time. They are finding themselves and their voices."
Jolie looks fashionable, as always, and her makeup is flawless. She is friendly but there is a distinct air of fragility about her. And no wonder. She has certainly endured a lot in the past few years.
In 2013, she underwent a preventive double mastectomy after it was revealed she carried the BRCA1 gene, which gave her an estimated 87 per cent risk of breast cancer and 50 per cent of ovarian cancer. (Jolie lost her mother, grandmother, and aunt to cancer). Two years later she went under the knife again, this time to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes after a cancer scare. This caused her to begin menopause.
I asked her about the recent story in Vanity Fair in which she described herself as feeling "even more of a woman" after menopause. She explains, "I wanted other women to know that you can go through menopause and you can go through a mastectomy and still feel very much like a woman."
Admirably, Jolie retains a positive outlook. "With so much in life, you have to focus on how much worse it could be. And I am so happy I don't have cancer, and I am so happy that I had the surgeries which will hopefully prevent me from getting cancer. If I get it, it will be delayed a few years and chemo will be delayed a few years, and the exchange for that peace of mind is quite good," she says.
"Just living every day and even if you're going through chemo, you have to find the ability to live and love and laugh. It may sound like a postcard, but it's true."
With her multi-pronged career and hectic life as a single mum, how does she make time for herself?
"Well I think every mother knows that it's hard. I always ask myself that question and I am not very good at it. I am told often that I should try to find more time for myself, but I do love being a mom."
What's it like being boss of such a brood?
She laughs. "Listen, when you have six kids, you realise you are the boss of nothing."
Her film, First They Killed My Father, is based on the 2000 nonfiction book by Loung Ung, a Cambodian author and survivor of the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge during its barbaric reign.
It is the country to which Jolie felt a strong connection when shooting Tomb Raider. It is also the birthplace of her eldest child, Maddox, 16, who serves as executive producer on the film.
Though it would be an understatement to describe the film as emotionally gruelling, Jolie hopes it will act as a cautionary tale for the residents of Cambodia.
"Seventy per cent of Cambodians are under 30, and so they will be the future of the country. And if they watch this film and they don't want that to be repeated, and if they want to learn from it and move forward, then they will be the ones to take the country forward."
Despite her personal trials and tribulations, she has retained her adventurous spirit, notably her penchant for piloting. She lightens up. "I still fly. Actually my boys are all flying. They are all taking lessons, even Knox (aged 9). He likes it, but you have to help him with the pedals.
"Actually, they are flying this weekend. They are flying so much that there is no space for mom!"
Jolie recently shelled out US$24.5 million for a mansion in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles.
"I've started cooking lessons. I'm not sure how good I am at it," she admits. "But cooking is one of those things when you are settled in your life and you [can] take that time, [when] you can enjoy food and cooking. Somehow I am very impatient and I am a little bit erratic, so it's very hard to stand in the kitchen, but I am really trying. I've learned with the kids that if I cook, they all hang out. They just love it, but they often take over and tell me that they can do it better." She smiles.
"So then I had a thought that maybe it's a genius thing for a woman to say, 'I can't cook,' because now all my children can cook really well. I joke that I did it on purpose."
And her best recipe? "I can't follow a recipe. I am not one of those people. I don't like to follow the rules, so I am a little bad at that."
It seems there are two Angelina Jolies. The "wild" one from 20 years ago (when she was first introduced to me as "Jon Voight's daughter" before our interview for the 1997 movie, Playing by Heart), to the one the world has got to know as filmmaker and humanitarian.
"Well, there's probably 12 of us," she jokes. "Now I need to rediscover a little bit of some of the feeling of the old me, actually. I think we lose our way a bit and we get overwhelmed. I've had a lot happen in my life, from certain people passing to health issues to raising the children. It's been a very good time to absorb a lot and develop a lot and grow."
What would like she to see in her future? She pauses. "When I think about where I was ten years ago, I wouldn't have thought I'd be where I am now with regard to my family life, my marriage, my career," she says.
"But now, I think I'm at an age where you just want to be healthy."
DID YOU KNOW...
Samuel L. Jackson swears a total of 122 times throughout The Hitman's Bodyguard - that's more than one swear word per minute of the film's 118 minute run time.