Born Angelina Jolie Voight in Los Angeles, California, she is the daughter of actors Jon Voight and the late Marcheline Bertrand. Jolie is the niece of Chip Taylor, sister of James Haven and the god-daughter of Jacqueline Bisset and Maximilian Schell. People often assume that Jolie’s mother was French, because of her name, but Jolie’s grandparents were French-Canadian. On her father’s side, she is of Czech descent, and on her mother’s side she is French-Canadian and “Iroquois”.
After her parents’ separation in 1976, Jolie and her brother were raised by their mother, who abandoned her acting ambitions and moved with them to Palisades, New York. As a child Jolie collected snakes and lizards and had a crush on Mr. Spock. She regularly saw movies with her mother and later explained that this had inspired her interest in acting; she had not been influenced by her father. When she was 11, the family moved back to Los Angeles and Jolie decided she wanted to act and enrolled at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, where she trained for two years and appeared in several stage productions. She later recalled her time as a student at Beverly Hills High School (later Moreno High School), and her feeling of isolation among the children of some of the area’s more affluent families. Jolie’s mother survived on a more modest income, and Jolie often wore second-hand clothes. She was teased by other students who also targeted her for her distinctive features, for being extremely thin, and for wearing glasses and braces. Her self esteem was further diminished when her initial attempts at modeling proved unsuccessful. As her despondency grew, she started to cut herself; later commenting during an appearance on CNN, “I collected knives and always had certain things around. For some reason, the ritual of having cut myself and feeling the pain, maybe feeling alive, feeling some kind of release, it was somehow therapeutic to me.” At 14, she dropped out of her acting classes and dreamed of becoming a funeral director. Her self-loathing led her to embark on a rebellious period in her life; she wore black, dyed her hair purple and went out moshing with her live-in boyfriend. Two years later, after the relationship had ended, she rented an apartment above a garage a few blocks from her mother’s home. She returned to theatre studies and graduated from high school, though in recent time she has referred to this period with the observation, “I am still at heart—and always will be—just a punk kid with tattoos”.
Jolie has been long estranged from her father, blaming his infidelity for the break-up of the family, though a reconciliation was attempted, and he appeared with her in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. In July 2002, Jolie filed a request to legally change her name to “Angelina Jolie”, dropping Voight as her surname; the name change was made official on September 12, 2002. In August of the same year, Voight claimed that his daughter had “serious emotional problems” on Access Hollywood. In the October 2004 issue of Premiere Magazine, Jolie indicated that she no longer wished to pursue a relationship with her father, and said, “My father and I don’t speak. I don’t hold any anger toward him. I don’t believe that somebody’s family becomes their blood. Because my son’s adopted, and families are earned.” She stated that she did not want to publicize her reasons for her estrangement from her father, but because she had adopted her son, she did not think it was healthy for her to associate with Voight. Voight has not met his grandchildren.