At 28, Angelina Jolie is one of the reigning queens of the red carpet.
Watch Barbara Walters' full report Friday at 10 p.m. on 20/20.
Even before Lara Croft Tomb Raider made her a blockbuster action star, the daughter of Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight had already racked up a number of prestigious awards for her many dramatic roles — including the heroin-addicted, lesbian supermodel Gia.
Three years ago, she took home the top prize of all, an Oscar, for her stunning work as a charming, but dangerously disturbed young woman in Girl, Interrupted.
But for Jolie, the adulation came with an edge. Words like "dark," "weird," even "crazy" began to pop up in connection with the tattooed beauty — and that's just what she said about herself.
Things only got stranger when, at 24, she eloped with then-44-year-old actor and writer Billy Bob Thornton. It was her second marriage, his fifth.
The newlyweds seemed to revel in telling the world about their obsessive love for each other and their quirks. In an ET appearance, for example, Thornton said, "I wear her underwear a lot when we're away. And she wears mine."
Tomb Raider, Cambodia and a Baby Boy
But as Jolie was working on the first Tomb Raider film, set partly in Cambodia, she had no idea then that the movie was about to set her on a brand-new path in life — one that would eventually lead to the end of her seemingly rapturous marriage and the beginning of her life as a mother.
For the film, Jolie spent two weeks on location in Cambodia — a beautiful country with a terrible history of civil war and genocide. Jolie said the experience deeply moved her.
"When we left, I cried for about three days, and I didn't know why," the actress told ABCNEWS' Barbara Walters in an interview airing tonight on 20/20. "I didn't know what that country had gone through, I didn't learn about it in history, and they were so warm, and so beautiful, and so pure and honest, and the country, I just loved the country."
Struck by the poverty she had witnessed, Jolie began traveling the world for the U.N. Refugee Agency as a goodwill ambassador. She went to Africa and Thailand, visiting refugee camps and orphanages. And then, she went back back to Cambodia, where says she made a monumental decision: It was time to adopt a child of her own.
"I've always wanted to adopt. I've always, uh, I don't know whether I was a little kid and I heard about what an orphan was, but I've always felt that I'd find my family across the world," she said.
As happens in all foreign adoptions, Jolie and Thornton had to undergo a U.S. Immigration Service investigation into their fitness as adoptive parents. Jolie admits she was a little nervous about the home visit.
"As an actor you know, you're being evaluated, and then you've got these crazy stories about you, and you're being evaluated whether you can be a parent, and they say that you're nuts," she said.
At the time, one could be forgiven for having a few questions about Mr. and Mrs. Thornton. After all, Rolling Stone magazine had just declared theirs to be America's most dangerous marriage. They famously wore long silver chains with lockets containing each other's blood. They kept a pet rat in a cage in the bedroom. And for their anniversary, Angelina gave Billy Bob a grave plot.
But Jolie was deemed fit to adopt a child. Back once more in Cambodia, she says it took only an afternoon to fall completely in love with the baby boy she and Thornton named Maddox.
No, We’re Not Friends
But just two years into their marriage, shortly after Maddox was adopted, Jolie and Thornton separated. Jolie says they had been drifting apart even before they brought Maddox home.
"He started focusing on certain things, his music, and different films," Jolie told Walters. "I started focusing on traveling a lot, and really wanted to, and knew Cambodia, and really wanted to adopt a child. … Billy and I just became very different people, and that was before Maddox even came home. And, by the time Maddox came home, we were kind of living apart."
After all of her public passion for Thornton — and having his name tattooed on her body — Jolie says she and her ex-husband now have no contact at all.
While some thought their relationship seemed extreme, Jolie says she simply wanted to make her husband happy.
"I wanted him to feel good. I believe that's something that you do. That's something a wife would do, for … to or for her husband. And, and at the time I meant it. I thought he was amazing. And, now I just feel like I don't know him. … We're not friends." she said.
Still, Jolie says she has no regrets about her marriage to Thornton. "I think you make mistakes, and you learn from then, and if you become a better person from those lessons learned, then that's good," she said.
Jolie says she's happy raising Maddox. "It's an amazing thing to take care of a child and to have a child trust you and love you. That makes me feel like I somehow have a purpose. … I didn't know what I would be like as a parent. So, I've learned that I love being a mom. … If he's OK, if he's healthy, nothing else matters to me. And, that's just such a clarity. I never knew."
Jolie says she'd like to adopt another child, but doesn't plan to have a biological child. "It's this weird feeling that if I had a … biological child next year, then there would be that kid out there that I would have adopted, that now isn't adopted and is living in an orphanage," she said.
This summer, Angelina says she plans take some time off to go back to Asia with her son. His heritage and its gentle Buddhist traditions will be an important part of his life. She's building a home there and plans to live there for months at a time.
"I want him to know how wonderful his country is, and his people are, and I want him to be proud of that," she said.
Knives and Cutting and Sex
And Jolie struggled hard to find the clarity she found in motherhood. There have been times when she says her history mirrored that of her characters a little too closely — especially the damaged ones — Lisa, the mentally ill young woman in Girl Interrupted; Gia, the drug-addicted supermodel. Jolie has admitted she flirted with a heroin habit herself at one time, and that in the past, she often thought about suicide.
"I used to think I was unstable, because I had this thirst for something. I could never figure out what it was. I couldn't sleep at night, and I always wanted to be somewhere else, and I have a window tattooed, uh, this little box, and it's because wherever I was, I wanted to be somewhere else. And, I always saw myself, wherever I was in life, staring out the window," she said.
Jolie talked once about there being darkness in her life, but says the suffering and poverty she has seen around the world have changed her. "I would be ashamed to think that I have anything to complain about."
She admits she's been a bit wild, but says her wildness was more about being silly and free than destructive. Her destructiveness, she says, was only self-destructive.
She says she had a fascination with death and even studied the science of preparing bodies for death. She said she took a home course when she was just 15 years old.
"I thought I'd become a funeral director when I wasn't going to be an actor. … I thought I would be good at helping some people with the grieving process and with trying to get them to talk about and understand who this person was," she said.
Jolie also developed a fascination for knives. She says she still collects them.
"I've always been fascinated by other cultures and history and honor and fight and so they … they are not shiny, brand-new sharp knives from the store. They're antique beautiful knives from other countries, and they are locked in a case so my son does not touch them," she said.
But as a teenager, her fascination with knives was self-destructive in nature. She talks openly about how she once cut herself to express pain. For Jolie, knives and cutting also had a sexual lure.
"I didn't ever feel enough. I didn't feel close enough to another person, I didn't feel alive enough. … Nothing ever felt real and honest enough. And so because I had knives around … early on in my first sexual relationship, I got knives out and had a night where we attacked each other," Jolie said.
Jolie says she still has scars from the encounter, but said, "It didn't hurt, it was cold, and it felt so primitive and it felt so honest."
She says she no longer cuts herself because she's a mother. "I have a child now. I think when you make a decision to have a child, you cannot think about suicide again and you can't be self-destructive."
Single for Good?
These days Jolie spends much of her time on the road shooting movies. She's currently in Montreal finishing a feature due out next year. And Maddox accompanies her wherever she goes.
Last summer in China, Maddox was a constant presence on the set of the second Tomb Raider picture. Her role as mother, Jolie says, comes first.
As much as she loves parenthood, Jolie says she doesn't see herself taking the plunge and getting married again.
"I understand great friendships, and great loves in your life, but what a marriage is, I don't really know if I'm meant for marriage," she said. "And I think now having a child would mean that this person would become a father to my son, and that would have to be permanent, and I haven't had a good experience with that, and with my father, or with the men in my life, seeing long relationships. So, I don't want to have a temporary father for my son."
Jolie says she's not dating and misses certain aspects of being in a relationship, but hasn't found anyone — male or female. She's made no secret of having had an affair with another woman.
"I consider myself a very sexual person who loves who she loves, whatever sex they may be," she said.
Her one relationship with a woman happened in 1996. "I wasn't looking to have a relationship with a woman. I was surprised when I suddenly found myself having these feelings I always had for men, but for a woman, and wanting to kiss her and wanting to touch her."
A Hello and Goodbye With Her Father
In two weeks Angelina Jolie will save the world again in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. The sequel to the wildly popular original Tomb Raider is expected to be among the summer's hottest movies.
Jolie's father, Jon Voight, appeared in the first film with her, playing the heroine's father — a man who apologizes for his shortcomings as a parent. Though it seemed the two were growing closer, Jolie says she and her father have no relationship.
The film "was kind of a goodbye in a strange way. It was a hello and goodbye," Jolie said. "The good memories I'll have are around that time."
Jolie's more recent memories of her father are deeply painful. Last summer, just after her breakup with Thornton, a tearful Voight appeared on Access Hollywood claiming his daughter needed help with what he called her serious mental problems.
"She's my kid. And if she gets help, I pray that she will be able to know and to feel true love in this life," he said.
Jolie said she was hurt, but not surprised, by her father's remarks. The most painful aspect of his comments, she said, was the possibility that they could have affected her relationship with Maddox. "They could have decided he's right, she's crazy, let's remove that child from her custody, and that's unforgivable," she said.
"I've been crazy in my life, and I've been wild in my life, I've never been a bad person. I've never intentionally hurt other people just to hurt them. And I'm trying to do a lot of good things with my life."