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Whether she’s tackling films, family, or philanthropy, Angelina Jolie has never been one for small measures. As she prepares to terrify children worldwide as Disney’s deliciously evil Maleficent (the film opens on May 30th), the actress and director works with Saint Laurent creative director Hedi Slimane on a shoot that spotlights her stripped down, very real self for ELLE’s June cover—as well as a 16-page portfolio that will be featured in more than 20 editions of ELLE around the world.

Jolie spoke candidly with ELLE deputy editor Maggie Bullock about life with her fast-growing children (Shiloh’s got a half-pipe!), doing only the work that really matters (including the biggest passion project of her career), and why she and Brad are still passionate and “more interested in each other” than ever.

In this exclusive preview, Jolie reflects on the perception of her early years in the spotlight:

The tumult of her twenties, was “misinterpreted as [me] wanting to be rebellious,” Jolie says. “And in fact it wasn’t a need to be destructive or rebellious—it’s that need to find a full voice, to push open the walls around you. You want to be free. And as you start to feel that you are being corralled into a certain life, you kind of push against it. It may come out very strange, it may be interpreted wrong, but you’re trying to find out who you are.”

What she hit upon was a deep and abiding fear “of a life half-lived,” she says. “I realized that very young—that a life where you don’t live to your full potential, or you don’t experiment, or you’re afraid, or you hesitate, or there are things you know you should do but you just don’t get around to them, is a life that I’d be miserable living, and the only way to feel that I’m on the right path is just to be true to myself, whatever that may be, and that tends to come with stepping out of something that’s maybe safe or traditional.”

On what she used to think her life would be like…

“I never thought I’d have children, I never thought I’d be in love, I never thought I’d meet the right person,” Jolie says. “Having come from a broken home—you kind of accept that certain things feel like a fairy tale, and you just don’t look for them.”

On how her relationship with Pitt has evolved over the past eight years…

“You get together and you’re two individuals and you feel inspired by each other, you challenge each other, you complement each other, drive each other beautifully crazy. After all these years, we have history—and when you have history with somebody, you’re friends in such a very real, deep way that there’s such a comfort, and an ease, and a deep love that comes from having been through quite a lot together.”

On casting her daughter Vivienne in Maleficent and how she and Pitt feel about the kids getting into show business…

“For young Aurora, they needed a child who wouldn’t be fazed by the Mistress of All Evil hissing “I don’t like children” in her face. “And my little Vivienne—we call her my shadow, because there’s nothing I can do to shake her. I can be tired, I can be grumpy, I can be in a terrible mood, and she doesn’t care. It’s ‘Mommy, Mommy,’ and she’ll cling to me,” Jolie says. “We knew that she would still do that thing, she’d still smile at me and insist that I pick her up. So we couldn’t really cast anybody else.” Pax and nine-year-old Zahara (or ZZ, as Jolie calls her) also appear in the film, in cameos in the christening/cussing scene. (No Shiloh, however. “I asked Shiloh about being Aurora, and she laughed in my face,” Jolie says, with evident pride. “She said she’d be a horned creature.”) But don’t expect a repeat engagement. “Brad and I made the decision that we wouldn’t keep them from sets and the fun of making movies, but we wouldn’t [glorify it either]—we wouldn’t make it a good thing or a bad thing. But I would really prefer they do something else,” she says. Anyway, “after two days of it, Brad and I were so stressed we never wanted to do it again.”

The full interview can be found exclusively in ELLE’s June issue, available on the digital newsstand now, and on newsstands in select cities starting May 13, and nationwide on May 20. For more exclusive sneak peeks throughout the month follow @ELLEmagazine on Twitter and @elleusa on Instagram.

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