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Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life - I really am very happy with the second film...

Feature by: Jack Foley

YOU could be forgiven for thinking that Angelina Jolie is something of an intimidating presence - a hellraising actress with a penchant for the obscure, particularly given some of the headlines that appeared during her time with Billy Bob Thornton.

And yet, sat at the Dorchester Hotel talking passionately and eloquently about Tomb Raider 2: The Cradle of Life, Angelina Jolie is one of the politest and most charming stars you could ever wish to meet.

Nothing was too much trouble, whether it was agreeing to pose for a photograph with an over-eager journalist, or answering the odd, cheeky question about what it's like to be a single woman again.

And then there is her life itself, which is more amazing and inspiring than many of the tabloid headlines would have you believe.

Aside from being one of the world's most sought-after movie actresses, Jolie is also a full-time mother and a goodwill ambassador for the UN - the latter two of which have helped to transform her life into something she is genuinely happy with.

But are there times when she finds it difficult to balance all three roles?

"I think sometimes, yeah, it can be hard. But it's so wonderful, and it gives my life so much purpose, especially Maddox, my son, and my work at the UN, it's just such a pleasure to have a day filled with so much responsibility. I'm tremendously grateful for all that."

Indeed, it was her role in the first Lara Croft movie, that made the actress first aware of how little she knew about the world - and how much she could do to help.

"A few years ago, during the first Tomb Raider, and after travelling in Cambodia, I started to realise that there was a lot about the world that I knew nothing about. I'd heard stories about Sierra Leone at the time. But when I came back to the States, I found I wasn't able to follow it as well," she explained.

"So, I called this organisation in Washington and asked if they would teach me, and if I could travel with them, I would pay for it, if they would just point me in the right direction and give me a contact.

"And so suddenly, I was in Sierra Leone. Then a year later, I became a goodwill ambassador, which changed my life; every country I've been to, and every experience I've had.

"I'm now really, really aware of how fortunate we are in countries like this and America, and how little we know about all the other people's of the world, and what they're going through and who they are, as well as how much we can all do."

So was there a particular moment that really opened her eyes to all of this?

"I guess it was in Sierra Leone, when I met a two-year-old girl who had had her limbs cut off... that had happened and everything that that said was just so shocking...."

It is a side of the world so far removed from the trappings of Hollywood one might associate with the actress.

And yet, Jolie has chosen to distance herself from Tinseltown, living in Buckinghamshire, as well as setting up home in Cambodia, primarily because she feels that Maddox, will have a better education for it.

"I think the news is different here, and the papers are different," she explained. "I mean without trying, even, last night there was an hour special on Channel 4 about the Congo, which was on general television.

"I don't feel that this would have happened if I was in the States. I appreciate a lot of that here and I feel closer to other parts of the world."

As for her home in Cambodia, it is located close to a wildlife sanctuary she has helped to establish and is in the process of being made safe - a recent de-mining operation uncovered 48 unexploded mines on the property.

But the actress is equally as candid about explaining her reasons for opting to set up home in a place which might be considered dangerous for a young child.

"My son is from that country and there are little children running around with their parents alright, so I thought that if their children are expected to do that, then mine shouldn't be an exception," she added.

Given the defiant nature of the actress, and her propensity for accepting a challenge, it is little susprise to find that she embraced the adventures that came with playing the part of Lara Croft, whether it was hanging upside down from a mountain, or parachuting into a Jeep.

And she never felt the need for a stunt double, unless insurance purposes meant that she couldn't perform one of the set pieces herself.

"I like heights, I'm very comfortable with them," she explained, in reference to the mountain sequence, in particular.

"In fact, I was probably much more comfortable hanging upside down over 100ft than I was on a jetski in a bikini! But then , we all have our fears."

But while the Lara Croft sequel may have under-performed at the US Box Office, the sequel is something she remains proud of, especially since she confesses to not being entirely happy with the original.

"That was part of the reason of wanting to do a sequel," she continues. "I think we felt there was a lot we had established in the first one, and we got some things right; but there was also a lot I was not satisfied with.... and I really am very happy with the second film."

Whether UK audiences will agree with the actress, or the US critics, remains to be seen, but it is not something that Jolie seems overly worried about.

In fact, when asked about the stress of headlining such a franchise, she refers back to the other parts of her life as mitigating factors in not feeling it as much.

"There is a certain kind of pressure, of course, but fortunately, because of being a parent and the other things I've been doing, I don't take it so seriously," she continues.

"I enjoy making films now, mroe than I did before, when I was trying to be established and trying to work a lot, and just be in this business.

"Now I feel that if I have the opportunity to continue to work, then I am happy.

"There are times, of course, when I wish there were more people on the poster with me - and the other day, I saw this cab go by with me in a silver wetsuit on it, which is just weird.

"But I'm proud of this film, so that makes it easier," she concludes.

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