Biographer Andrew Morton, known for tackling high profile people in his works, is at it again, this time chronicling the life of Angelina Jolie in Angelina: An Unauthorized Biography, out Aug. 3. Earlier this week, the New York Times published a review which noted the obvious lack of sourcing throughout the book. I set out on a three-day journey to read Morton’s book and see what all the fuss is about.
As it turns out, the critique is not that far off. Although I thought many of Morton’s revelations were interesting, I found myself questioning the credibility of his research throughout all 16 chapters. There are seven pages of ‘source notes’ at the end of the book, but it’s really just a letter from Morton acknowledging the people who would speak with him. (Angelina is not one of them.) Morton said he relied on “original research and interviews with contemporaries” for the most part. But I would say the majority of the book relies on interviews done by other people, including two quotes from interviews Angelina did with Entertainment Weekly in January 1998 and November 1999. (I checked. At least these two quotes were placed in accurate context.) Many of his other sources spoke only with the promise of anonymity. And while that’s fine and dandy, there are too many anonymous sources to make me believe everything he writes. I kept wondering “Who said so?” and “Why should I believe this?” as he drew his many conclusions. For example, he quotes a psychoanalyst who has more than 20 years of experience, but has never treated Angelina. This doesn’t scream credibility to me.
Here’s an abridged list the book’s, um, highlights. (If you do choose to read it, you’d be OK skipping the first four chapters. They’re boring.)
- Angelina’s mom, Marcheline, had feelings for Al Pacino. Morton claims she was in romantic turmoil over her feelings for Pacino and Jon Voight. When Voight proposed, Pacino begged her not to marry him. But Marcheline went along with her mother’s wishes, and chose the more successful of the two men at the time and married Voight. (It really is a small world. Even for famous people.)
- Morton also claims Marcheline gave her children the names Angelina and James because they were anagrams of Al Pacino’s full name, Alfredo James Pacino.
- During the filming of Voight’s Conrack, he and Marcheline went on a long drive. They saw a church bus with the name “Shiloh Baptist” painted on the back. Voigt wanted to name his next child Shiloh Baptist, but Marcheline said no. She later recommended the name for her first biological grandchild. (For a woman who hated her ex-husband so much, this is quite a big step.)
- Both Angelina and her brother, James Haven, were given middle names with the intention that they would drop their surname to go into show business. (Well, that plan definitely worked.)
- At 14, Angelina’s boyfriend, Anton, moved in with her at her mother’s suggestion. Apparently, Marcheline gave up the master bedroom for her teenager daughter. This was all in the name of keeping a close eye on their budding relationship. (WHAT?!)
- Angelina wanted to be successful without using her father’s famous last name. But her mother told an agent that he could start telling people she was Jon Voight’s daughter, unbeknownst to Angelina. “To this day Angie doesn’t know that it was her father’s name that helped her get her first big break.” (Well, I’m guessing she has a hunch.)
- After the 1998 Golden Globes, Angelina partied with Leonardo DiCaprio after their agents set them up. They didn’t hit it off in the long run, but they did share a shower together. (Morton actually said Leo didn’t “float her boat.” Eww.)
- In 1999, Angelina received a tattoo of Billy Bob Thornton’s name way below her bikini line. The book reveals it was tattooed in Helvetica. (A nice sans-serif choice, if you ask me.) That tattoo has since faded.
- Billy Bob Thornton and his “morbid fear of flying and a hatred of harpsichords, silverware, and antiques, particularly French furniture. Born into poverty, he was literally terrified of putting a silver spoon in his mouth.” (Hatred of harpsichords? )
- In September 2002, Jolie officially had Voight removed from her name. But Morton said at one point she told a Toronto newspaper, “I actually hate Jolie. I would rather have been Voight.”
- She’s quoted talking about adopting a child from Russia, but it didn’t work out. (Can you imagine being the almost child of Angelina Jolie? Neither can I.)
So what do you think? Is this a book you want to read? And do you trust Andrew Morton’s research on a person he’s never (to my knowledge) spoken to?