The Brangelina Splits French Connection: How Angelina Jolie Works the Press

The Jolie-Pitts time in France provides a fascinating glimpse into how Angelina Jolie has mastered the art of manipulating the tabloids. “>

NICE, France France givethand France taketh awayat least if youre Angelina Jolie.

Forget Jennifer Aniston. Nothing defined Brangelina more than their love affair with France, especially the south of France, during their 12-year partnership. And no one was more skilled at shaping and marketing every nuance of their epic life on the Cote dAzur than Jolie herself, long renowned as so media-savvy that she never needed a publicist.

But now, as dueling allegations of his pot smoking and anger problem and her liesleaked by sources from both sidesthreaten to break the internet?

Cest fini, said a longtime neighbor of the Jolie-Pitts in Correns, the tiny village in the Var about 90 minutes from Nice, home to the Jolie-Pitts 1000-acre, 25-bedroom Chateau Miraval where they produced a hugely successful ros wine. It was such a beautiful family while it lasted.

The mayor and the director of tourism in Correns sounded markedly less sentimental, however. It was as if they had, as the French say, already turned the page.

It really doesnt interest me at all, Mayor Michael Latz, who dined with the Jolie-Pitts at Miraval more than once during the couples heyday in Correns, told The Daily Beast Tuesday night. I dont keep up with them.

Its too bad but its really their problem, echoed Jean-Claude Sadion, the local director of tourism.

The Jolie-Pitt French connection began when they enrolled their eldest son Maddox in the Lycee Francais in Manhattan in 2007. Soon after they explored French lessons at the Institut de Francais in Villefranche-sur-Mer outside Nice (the director raved about Angelinas accent) and moved into Chateau Miraval as renters before buying the $50 million estate, which is now for sale, a few years later.

Their twins, 8-year-old Vivienne and Knox Jolie-Pitt, were famously born in Nice in July 2008.

How poignant, then, that the marriage would end less than a year after the Jolie-Pitts starred in By the Sea, a poorly-received film written and directed by Angelina about an unhappily married couple at a coastal resort in the south of Franceamid allegations put forth by Page Six that Brad Pitt had an affair with a co-star, the French actress Marion Cotillard.

TMZ reported Tuesday that Angelina was filing for divorce because Brad smoked too much pot, drank too much booze, had an anger problem, and was not a good father. The New York Post followed with the revelation that Brad was having an affair with his current co-star, Marion Cotillard, on the set of their new movie, Allied. Pitts camp countered by telling TMZ Jolie was spreading lies and he was a great father.

French actor Richard Bohringer unwittingly gave credence to accusations that Pitt may have a problem with alcohol when he told Le Parisien in March that Pitt pounded down whiskey on the set of By the Sea.

Was it strange that a couple who so shrewdly personified love, togetherness, and family for so long would not issue the usual joint statement about how they were sad the marriage had ended but would remain friends and focus on co-parenting their children?

Not for those of us familiar with how aggressively Angelina has manipulated the media in the past, even to the point where The New York Times wrote an entire article in 2008 about how she was so scary smart that she didnt need a publicist and negotiated the $14 million sale of photos of her newborn twins to People magazine by herself.

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Make no mistake, Angie struck first and shes probably doing it this way because shes mad, said a veteran international paparazzo who follows the Jolie-Pitts all over the world, tracking flight manifestos and paying off local limo drivers and hotel concierges. Shes leaked the stories, shes the one who made sure she got in front of the story. Thats her MO, its been that way for years.

Its been that way since April 2005, in fact, when the first photos of Brad, Angelina, and her adopted toddler son Maddox were somehow snapped on a remote beach in Kenya just one month after Jennifer Aniston filed for divorce. It was not long after Brad and Angelina finished work on Mr. and Mrs. Smith, where they first met.

Angie doesnt do anything by accident, said the paparazzo, who began following her pre-Brad when she was filming 2004s Taking Lives with Ethan Hawke. She decides what the narrative is going to be and she makes it happen. Lots of times she alerts the paps beforehand when she wants something photographed.

But can she finesse her divorce and paint Pitt as the bad guy as successfully as she once made the Brangelina brand more golden than Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton at their peak?

Those of us here who witnessed Brangelina at its zenithparticularly during the biggest, most lucrative media circus of the 21st century when Angelina gave birth to twins at the Fondation Lenval hospital on the Nice seafrontfelt a sense of dj vu at how the news of the divorce broke so unexpectedly Tuesday.

Everyone from George Clooney, ambushed by a cameraman at the United Nations, to an editor of one of worlds biggest celebrity weeklies speaking privately basically said the same thing: We didnt know and we never saw it coming.

Sure, the divorce filing was more spectacular than when it turned out the Jolie-Pitts had married in secret at Miraval in August 2014 and in a secret civil ceremony in California even before thatbut it was in keeping with the stealth, self-generated scoops Angelina has engineered since her earliest days with Pitt.

Her skillsand pretty much everyone who covered the couple gave her most of the creditwere never more clear than back in May 2008 when reporters began chasing the Jolie-Pitts all over the Cote dAzur as they dominated the Cannes Film Festival and then left the world breathless as it awaited the birth of their twins.

Jolies ability to evade, surprise, and stymie the media that summeras if she and Pitt were co-starring in their own real-life spy movieled one photographer from London to dub her Angelina Bourne.

Back then, betting on which hospital Jolie would choose for the birth of her babies was as charged as a craps table in Monte Carlo. Hordes of media combed facilities from Monaco to Nice hoping to be the first to figure out where Jolie would be. But all were caught unaware when she stealthily landed onto the roof of the Lenval hospital after dark in a helicopter and holed up serenely in a seafront suite several days before anyone knew she was there.

She stayed at the hospital for three weeks before giving birth, and competition to be the first to report the event was fierce, especially among Fleet Street media who bribed whomever they could among the hospital staff.

The long press vigil outside Fondation Lenval was unlike anything Nice had ever seen.

Its Fort Alamo! trumpeted the local newspaper, Nice-Matin, which began running stories about the hospital under siege and sneering at the foreign media, especially Americans.

The temperature outside was hotter than normaland so were the tempers of the paparazzi.Conspiracy theories started to fly. Some were sure Angelina checked out of the hospital and was back at Miraval, awaiting an August due date.

Others were convinced the babies had been born on June 29, the day Angelina arrived at the hospital and the news was being suppressed.

As always, the paps watched each other as much as they did the hospital, where Brad Pitt often visited with some of the couple's children, often carrying both Shiloh and Zahara in his arms.

Ive had it, one photographer fumed over the phone to me one night after he had chased a boat containing what he hoped was Brad Pitt from Monaco to St. Tropez. We saw Bono but no Brad. Im sick of this story.

They were furious when news of the birth of Vivienne and Knox finally broke on July 12and it turned out the Jolie-Pitts had arranged in advance to tip off only one journalist: a local reporter from the Nice-Matin. It didnt help when the reporter decided to really rub it in by headlining his story le jour le plus scoop.

Angelina and Brad even managed to whisk their newborns home to Miraval by skipping the helicopter and using a decoy black car and one of the chateaus SUVs. But by then the $14 million deal to buy the photos was done; the pictures were shot behind the secluded gates of Miraval and most of the international media went home.

The Jolie-Pitts have continued to dazzle on the red carpet at Cannes since Angelina made her debut there in 2007 on Pitts arm. During the festival they always stayed at the best bungalow, the Villa Elena, at the Hotel du Cap, and liked to eat dinner at Tetou, a chic restaurant on the beach at Golfe-Juan.

But a British tabloid writer who covered the couple extensively during their time in France said she was always haunted by something she noticed during Angelinas long hospital stay in Nice before her babies were born.

Nobody ever visited her except Brad, her kids, and her brother, she said. Its like she had no girlfriends. Jennifer [Aniston] had girlfriends. Whos going to be her support system now? It seemed like Brad was her whole life.

Maybe, except that French media and US Weekly began reporting in May about Jolies close relationship with a member of the British House of Lords, Arminka Helic. Jolie, who met Helic in 2012 when Helic was an aide to British Foreign Secretary William Hague, considers her a mentor, according to Us.

As for the Cotillard rumor, nobody knows for sure.

All I can tell you, said a male photographer whos made millions photographing both Brad and Angelina for more than a decade, is that hes an active guy.

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