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(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Film

The morbid career path Angelina Jolie nearly followed

As far as contemporary Hollywood icons go, you don’t get much more definitive than Angelina Jolie. One half of the former power couple and global brand that was ‘Brangelina’ with ex-husband Brad Pitt, she’s one of those rare figures that invariably uses her status for gregarious means, and has duly been one of the most respected A-listers for what is seemingly an age.

However, to only discuss her celebrity would be a disservice to Jolie, as she’s also a remarkable creative. As an actor, her extensive filmography contains a wide range of projects, ranging from the iconic live-action adaptations of Tomb Raider to the psychological drama Girl, Interrupted, as well as the likes of Changeling and The Tourist. 

She’s even moonlighted behind the camera, writing and directing successful titles such as the 2014 war drama Unbroken. A true artist, just last year, she co-authored the book Know Your Rights: and Claim Them, which explains the essential human rights of people aged under 18. 

Notably, in recent years, Jolie’s film work has taken more of a backseat role as she’s concentrated on her many humanitarian efforts across the world, but she’s still managed to star in a handful of box office hits including as the titular character in Disney’s Maleficent series and as Thena in Marvel’s Eternals.

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Although Jolie is one of the most productive celebrities out there, for a time, when she was in her 20s, she debated pursuing a completely different career path, and if she did, we would not be writing about her numerous accomplishments today. It is well known that she lived life on the edge when she was younger, and in addition to her hedonistic proclivities, she had a strange obsession with death, and was close to picking a career that would have allowed her to explore it further.

It was once alleged by someone claiming to be her former drug dealer that the walls of her New York apartment were adorned with pictures of dead bodies and murder scenes. Compounding this macabre perspective, famously, she even wore the dried blood of her ex-husband Billy Bob Thornton in a vial around her neck. 

Looking back on this confusing period, Jolie thinks that it was just an ephemeral stage where she was trying to discover who she truly was. She said to Elle“…[I]n fact it wasn’t a need to be destructive or rebellious – it’s that need to find a full voice, to push open the walls around you. You want to be free.”

Captivated by death at that time, Jolie reasoned that if acting wasn’t to work out, she’d become a funeral director. However, it wasn’t completely morbid. She had a refreshing take on the profession, and her ideas for how she would approach it were very progressive. 

Looking back, she told 60 Minutes: “It sounds like this very strange, eccentric, dark thing to do but in fact I lost my grandfather and was very upset with his funeral. How somebody passes and how family deals with this passing and what death is should be addressed in a different way”.

This contingency as a funeral director was one of the first indicators that Jolie had an innate desire to change the world for the better, even if it came in a somewhat unexpected form. Ironically though, Jolie’s acting career would be incredibly successful, and this would allow her to make a profound mark on the world in countries ranging from Cambodia to Syria.