Inside Angelina Jolie's Relationship With Her Mother

The model, actress, writer, producer, director, humanitarian, and clothing and jewelry brand owner has been in the spotlight for over two decades. Angelina Jolie's stardom kicked off with the 1999 film "Girl, Interrupted," playing the complex character of Lisa, and snowballed into blockbuster flicks like "Maleficent" and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." She also branched out with impactful, philanthropic ventures, all the while, Jolie was transforming into the ultra-famous superstar we know today.

An aspect of her life that's much less focused on though, is the relationship she had with her mother, Marcheline Bertrand. While Jolie's father, Jon Voight, has been a public fixture since the '60s, acting in films like "Midnight Cowboy" and "Heat," her mother led a much quieter life. Bertrand was born in 1950 in Illinois and studied acting. She had a couple of small television and movie roles in the '70s and '80s but ultimately became known for her humanitarian work. Bertrand married Jon Voight in 1971 and they had James Haven and Angelina Jolie together before breaking up in 1976 and divorcing in 1978, potentially due to Voight's infidelity.

Jolie's childhood wasn't as simple as many would think, but she remained close to her mother until Bertrand died in 2007 at the age of 56 after an eight-year battle with ovarian and breast cancer. This loss had an enormous impact on Jolie and the actress has since spoken publicly in admiration of her mom.

Angelina Jolie was always closer to her mother than her father

Angelina Jolie has been open about the many painful relationships she's had in her life, and the one with her father Jon Voight seems to take the cake. Her parents separated when she was just 6 months old, with Voight moving out and paying child support while Marcheline Bertrand raised Jolie and her brother alone. Jolie saw her father infrequently until she was 11 when he reportedly moved her to Los Angeles to be closer to him, but there was always some resentment on her side, due to her father's infidelity to Bertrand.

In 2002 Voight and Jolie were estranged when he gave an interview to Access Hollywood where he claimed the actress had "mental problems" and refused to accept his help. Jolie issued a response saying: "After all these years, I have determined that it is not healthy for me to be around my father, especially now that I am responsible for my own child."

While speaking on the Awards Chatter podcast, Jolie was asked why she omitted "Voight" from her name. She said: "I didn't feel that close to my father. I felt more my mother's daughter when I was a child." She added that she wanted to have her own identity separate from Voight's Hollywood status. Jolie and her father have reconciled and broken off their relationship again, making clear that the relationship Jolie had with her mom was much easier.

Angelina Jolie is the spitting image of Marcheline Bertrand

When you compare Angelina Jolie to her mother and father, it's obvious she got her looks from Marcheline Bertrand. Marie Miles, the goddaughter of Bertrand, released a series of family photos in 2013 that dated back to Jolie's toddler days. In the snapshots is a young Bertrand, looking like the spitting image of the barefaced "Maleficent" actress.

Speaking about her mother with Marie Claire in 2017, Jolie said: "She was a very natural woman who never spoiled herself, never wore makeup, and wore modest jewelry, but she always had a few special items for when she wanted to feel like a lady." This sentiment is captured in the family photos, and on the days that Jolie is seen without makeup, she looks all the more like her late mother. Even in more recent pictures of the mother and daughter together, they could very well pass as sisters.

In 2008, Jolie was (unsurprisingly) voted the most beautiful woman in the world by a Vanity Fair poll. But it begs the question, if Bertrand hadn't given up her acting career to have children, could she have made it as a star and been voted as the most beautiful woman first? Looking at old photos of her, we would argue that she could have.

Angelina Jolie's mother raised her and her brother as a single mother

Times were tough when Marcheline Bertrand and Jon Voight divorced, leaving her to raise her two children alone. Angelina Jolie spoke to Vogue in 2002 about her childhood and upbringing under her mother's roof. "We weren't poor, but because I was the child of an actor there was an idea that we had a lot of money," she said. After moving from apartment to apartment in New York with her mom and brother, they eventually settled in Beverly Hills so Jolie and her brother James Haven could go to Beverly Hills High School.

Jolie went through a rebellious stage when she was a teenager and when she was 14, her boyfriend moved in with them. Speaking to Cosmopolitan about her mother's decision to allow this, Jolie said: "My mother is so caring and nurturing, and the choices she made for me were not irresponsible. When I was 14, I was either going to be reckless on the streets with my boyfriend or he was going to be with me in my bedroom with my mom in the next room because I was going to have a boyfriend. She made the choice, and because of it, I continued to go to school every morning and explored my first relationship in a safe way ... it kept me out of trouble."

Angelina Jolie's mother inspired her to become a humanitarian

Something Angelina Jolie and her mother had in common was they both harbored strong beliefs that compelled them to pursue a life of philanthropy. Jolie worked for the UN Refugee Agency, spending 11 years as Goodwill Ambassador and 10 years as Special Envoy. She raised awareness and support for refugees, visiting countless displaced people worldwide. She also co-founded the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, Draw Me To Safety Campaign with War Child UK, and established the Maddox Pitt-Jolie Foundation and the Jolie-Pitt Foundation. Much of her activism and donations were inspired by her mother.

In an interview with Marie Claire France, Jolie was asked how her mother impacted her ethically and morally. She replied: "I remember as a little girl she took me to a dinner party for Amnesty International. She always sought to try to understand the complexity of the world. She had a big heart that sensitized her to the violence of the world. She was praying for peace and couldn't stand all this violence."

Marcheline Bertrand was also a co-founder of two important organizations. She and her partner John Trudell, a Native American poet, co-founded the All Tribes Foundation and, after her cancer diagnosis, they co-founded the Give Love Give Life organization. In Jolie's acceptance speech after winning the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, she said her mother taught her that "nothing would mean anything if I didn't live a life of use to others" (via YouTube).

Angelina Jolie started acting to help her mom with money

Understandably, Angelina Jolie was exposed to acting at a young age by two film-loving parents. However, it wasn't necessarily a path she chose for herself. In the Awards Chatter podcast, Jolie said: "I never had parents who suggested I could be anything else." She later said: "I realized how much it was for my mother when she passed away because I felt very differently about it as soon as she was gone. I think when I started acting ... It was a job and I wanted to help my mom with bills."

Jolie enrolled in a theater group at age 11 and began working while she was still a child. She told Vogue in 2002, "Since I first started working, my mom was kind of my manager. And she's f****** great."

But, in speaking to Domhnall Gleeson in 2015 for Interview Magazine, she had a slightly different outlook, seeming to now realize Marcheline Bertrand might've been living a little bit vicariously through her. "My mom always wanted me to be an actor. And I started going to theater and going on auditions young. I only realized about five years ago that I actually didn't want to be an actor," she said. "I grew up with my career being thrust upon me. It took me a long time to believe that I could do more than that one aspect of our business."

The death of her mother affected her deeply

When Marcheline Bertrand died in 2007, Angelina Jolie took it hard. But to make matters worse, the paparazzi were hovering like flies, so she took some time before she spoke about her mother's death publicly. In an interview with Esquire, she said: "My grandmother also died young, so my mother always thought it could happen to her. But she lived to see her grandchildren, lived to see both me and my brother in a nice place. She was a real mother that way. She waited till everyone was okay. Then she closed her eyes."

In a 2008 press conference for her movie "Changeling," Jolie spoke of her mother again, holding back tears. "You can only just focus on how grateful you are," she said (via YouTube). "When you love somebody that much, you're happy when they're out of pain, period ... as much as you miss them, the important thing is that they don't suffer."

After many years had passed, Jolie published a touching tribute to her mother in The New York Times for Mother's Day. She said: "When I look back to that time, I can see how much her death changed me. It was not sudden, but so much shifted inside. Losing a mother's love and warm, soft embrace is like having someone rip away a protective blanket." She detailed getting a small tattoo in honor of her mother and finding, "consolation and strength," in memories.

Angelina Jolie said her mother would have thrived as a grandmother

Before she died, Marcheline Bertrand got to meet three out of Angelina Jolie's six children. And although she may be gone now, Jolie still calls on her for guidance. In speaking about her mother with Elle France, she said: "She would have thrived as a grandmother. I know how much she would have contributed to their lives and I am sad they will miss out on that. I would give anything for her to be with me at this time. I've needed her. I talk to her often in my mind and try to think what she might say and how she might guide me."

In a 2012 issue of Marie Claire, Jolie became notably upset when discussing Bertrand. She said: "I wish she were here. I am never going to stop missing her. My mum was born to be a grandmother; she would have just loved it. She did meet some of my children, and she was fantastic. Maddox still remembers everything about her."

In every interview Jolie has given about her mother, she's given candid, emotional responses that truly convey the love she feels for her late mother and how much she misses Bertrand. In more recent interviews, it's become clear that Bertrand has also become a source of inspiration for Jolie in her own motherhood.

Angeline Jolie was inspired by her mother's parenting style

Angelina Jolie famously adopted Maddox Jolie-Pitt from Cambodia before she was with Brad Pitt. Later, the couple went on to adopt two more children together and have three children biologically, making a massive family of eight. It's a lot of work to be a mother to so many children, but now that Pitt's out of the picture, Jolie has managed by drawing from Bertrand's mothering.

Sitting down with The Sydney Morning Herald, Jolie spoke of the influence her mother has had over her own parenting style. "My mother was very gentle. I can be many things in my work and in life, but I am very warm and gentle with my children. That kindness and warmth is a foundation that's unbelievably important. She gave me many other things and taught me many lessons. But if you don't have that base, to feel valued and safe, then it's hard for any of the other messages or lessons to land," she said. "Who you are to the children is everything."

Jolie also spoke of the lessons she learned from Bertrand, with The Sun, saying: "We would jokingly call her Marshmallow, instead of Marcheline, because she was the most gentle person in the world. But when it came to her kids, she was fierce in their protection ... If anybody ever tells me that I am a mother to them like my mum was to me, it will be a great compliment."

Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy after her mother passed away

When Marcheline Bertrand died from cancer, she had been battling it for many years. Her mother had died young as well, and Angelina Jolie realized she was very much at risk herself. In 2013, she penned an article for The New York Times in which she described her decision behind getting a preventative double mastectomy. "I carry a 'faulty' gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. My doctors estimated that I had an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer," Jolie wrote.

She wanted to be proactive and decided to undergo the surgery, which included several procedures that spanned three months. Jolie managed to keep the procedures under wraps but said that she wanted to write the article in hopes that other women benefit from her experience. Following her double mastectomy, she said: "My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87% to under 5%. I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer."

In 2015, Jolie wrote another piece for The New York Times detailing the preventative procedure she underwent, removing her ovaries and fallopian tubes. Having had success with this surgery, she wrote: "I feel feminine, and grounded in the choices I am making for myself and my family. I know my children will never have to say, 'Mom died of ovarian cancer.'"

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their daughter after Marcheline

In the past, Jolie discussed how she paid tribute to her mother with a hand tattoo, but she also had another meaningful way to honor the late Marcheline Bertrand. Knox and Vivienne Jolie-Pitt were born in 2008, and when Jolie and Brad Pitt had their twins, they decided to name them after important members of their families. While Knox was named after Pitt's grandfather, Hal Knox Hillhouse, Vivienne Marcheline was named after Bertrand.

Jolie spoke previously about how she knew Bertrand would have been an incredible grandmother. Although she only met three of Jolie's children and died before Vivienne Marcheline was born, Bertrand would have adored her. When Shiloh Jolie-Pitt was born, Bertrand told People: "My heart is overflowing with joy with the new arrival of Brad and Angelina's third child. Maddox, Zahara, and Shiloh are deeply loved children. They have very kind and caring parents who love and support each other in every way."

Bertrand was of French-Canadian descent, and with the Jolie-Pitt twins having been born in France, it was a fitting eponym. Although Vivienne Marcheline Jolie-Pitt has grown up somewhat in the spotlight as the youngest of Jolie's children, she had a minor part in "Maleficent" and just might follow in with her mother's and maternal grandmother's passion for acting. Either way, she carries the name well and Jolie is doubtlessly the supportive mother to her as Bertrand was to Jolie.