Angelina Jolie, Sarajevo Film Festival 2011
If Angelina Jolie decided to quit making movies, would you miss her?

The 36-year-old is thinking about winding down her acting career, she suggested in an interview this weekend with the Financial Times. (Link is subscription only, but an article at Access Hollywood includes major excerpts.) She says she no longer loves acting "as much as I did," and that she and Brad Pitt would like to devote more time to raising their six kids and to their philanthropic work. "As Brad and I get older we're going to do fewer films. I've been working for a long time, he's been working for a long time," she said. "We've had a nice run and don't want to be doing this our whole lives. There are a lot of other things to do."

Jolie remains a huge star at the height of her international popularity, but if she did quit acting, would there be an international outcry? After all, despite having appeared in nine movies in the last five years, she seems to have been absent from the screen for quite a while.
The Tourist
Look at some of those recent movies. Many feature Jolie in roles that any competent Hollywood leading lady could have played. Her role in 'The Tourist' was largely decorative. 'Salt' and 'Wanted' required a lot of physicality but (because those characters were deliberately opaque and mysterious) not a great deal of subtlety in acting. Her role as a spy's ignored wife in 'The Good Shepherd' was especially thankless. And would you miss Jolie if someone else's voice was behind Tigress in the 'Kung Fu Panda' films?

Only a few of her recent roles have played to her strengths. 'A Mighty Heart' was informed by her passion for international current events. 'Changeling' was an acting challenge that sent her character into a mental hospital -- an extreme version of the setting where she won her Oscar a decade ago, for 'Girl, Interrupted.' And 'Beowulf' called upon her to revive the slinky sex-bomb image she'd long since abandoned, even though you didn't technically see her in the film.

Granted, actors threaten to retire all the time without ever making good on those threats. Jolie could do so without actually quitting filmmaking; she's already transitioning to a behind-the-camera career with her directorial debut, 'In the Land of Blood and Honey,' opening Dec. 23. Focusing on the 1990s war in Bosnia, it neatly dovetails with her humanitarian work in refugee camps and crisis areas.

The Top 10 Angelina Jolie Movies
Still, it seems like Jolie has already been winding down her career for a while now, gradually absenting herself from major screen roles, even the ones she actually played.

Much of the fascination with Jolie doesn't have anything to do with her acting career in the first place, but rather with her history of high-profile romances (occasionally accompanied by scandal), her many kids and her philanthropy. In those respects, she's a lot like Elizabeth Taylor.

Taylor never really retired, though during the last 20 years of her life, she let her acting career grind to a halt. Nevertheless, she was famous enough that she could coast on that fame for the rest of her life and use that celebrity clout to advance the charitable causes that were important to her. Jolie could follow that example, and movie fans wouldn't even have to miss her. Whether or not she retires from movies, she'll never really be out of the limelight.


Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.

The Career of Hollywood Vixen Angelina Jolie
categories Features, Hot Topic