Next month marks six years since Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt, with whom she shares six children. The legal proceedings surrounding their divorce have been gored by bitter child custody woes, an arguably petty dispute over their once-shared chateau and vineyard, and unsettling allegations of abuse. And some emerging details about the latter beg further scrutiny.
You might remember that Jolie’s filing arrived just five days after the highly publicized—yet never publicly addressed—altercation involving her, Pitt, and their then-15-year-old son, Maddox, that almost immediately prompted an FBI investigation of Pitt on suspicion of physical and verbal abuse and child abuse. Just months later, Pitt was cleared by the FBI.
Apparently, Jolie was unsatisfied by the investigation, because she’s just been revealed to be the “Jane Doe” who sued the FBI in April 2022, a story that was originally covered by Politico. Jolie’s anonymous suit alleged that she’d filed countless requests for a copy of the department’s investigative file to gain a “better understanding the FBI’s investigation and obtaining information necessary for her children to receive medical care and trauma counseling.”
The FBI investigative records, obtained by Rolling Stone, lay bare Jolie’s account of the altercation in shocking detail. According to an interview summary, Jolie told FBI officials that Pitt’s alleged outburst during a flight on the family’s private plane was precipitated by his consumption of several alcoholic beverages while on board. At one point, Jolie alleges, he “poured beer on (Jolie) and the blanket she was under,” and by the time the plane landed in Los Angeles, it had sustained $25,000 worth of damage from spilled red wine. She said the altercation occurred when one of their children (presumably Maddox) referred to Pitt as a “prick.” The actor allegedly responded by approaching the child as if he was “going to attack,” so Jolie “jumped up” and grabbed Pitt around the neck, “like in a choke hold,” at which point he threw himself backward, flinging Jolie onto a row of seats.
Jolie also told officials that Pitt yelled at her, “grabbed her by her head,” “pushed her into the bathroom wall,” repeatedly struck the ceiling of the plane with his fist, and told her she was “fucking up this family.” She likened herself to “a hostage” and claimed that when she suggested taking their children to a hotel to rest, Pitt replied: “You’re not taking my fucking kids.”
Though the report notes that Jolie submitted photographs of her alleged injuries and journals from their children, FBI officials ultimately decided not to pursue charges against Pitt: “It was agreed by all parties that criminal charges in this case would not be pursued due to several factors.”
Of course, that was likely vindicating for Pitt, whose team has emphatically suggested that Jolie filed the FOIA request to make the FBI records public as part of a scorched-earth revenge plot against the actor. “Angelina and her team have been desperately trying to find something. This is all for show. This is all information that she already had five and a half years ago. There is nothing new here,” a source “close to Pitt” told Page Six. Neither Pitt nor Jolie has publicly commented on the FBI investigation.
Jolie has remained mostly mum about the dissolution of her marriage to Pitt and the 2016 incident since it transpired, opting only to obliquely allude to both in the press. The most recent example of such came in 2021, when she gave a bombshell interview to the Guardian. The publication attempted to relitigate some of Jolie’s interpersonal issues, inquiring what the last five years had taken from her. Her reply left much to the imagination: “I mean, in some ways, it’s been the last decade. There’s a lot I can’t say.” Notably, Jolie also recently championed the Violence Against Women Act, calling the updated law “personal.”
While not a one of us is entitled to the full explanation of what exactly Jolie’s full FBI statement entails, the public has been made privy to some of the more recent strife. Despite the fact that Jolie has maintained she has “proof and authority in support” of her abuse claims, Pitt was granted joint custody of the former couple’s five minor children in May 2021. But the battle over custody is ongoing. Prior to the ruling, Jolie requested to have the judge, John W. Ouderkirk, removed from the case given he “failed to disclose” certain “ongoing business and professional relationships” he allegedly maintained with Pitt’s attorney. Her request was denied, but Jolie appealed and won. Pitt’s team called it “a minor and inadvertent administrative error,” and as of now, full custody remains squarely with Jolie, though Pitt reportedly “gets to see” the children on occasion.
The couple’s chateau and vineyard dispute, too, has proven ripe for public fodder. Earlier this summer, Jolie reportedly sold her shares of Miraval, the chateau and vineyard she and Pitt once shared, to a Russian oligarch. Pitt was not thrilled about the move and immediately filed a claim that she’d harmed the reputation of the wine business. “Jolie pursued and then consummated the purported sale in secret, purposely keeping Pitt in the dark, and knowingly violating Pitt’s contractual rights,” Pitt’s legal team wrote in the filing. Jolie’s team fired back: “After the events that led to Ms. Jolie filing for divorce and her years devoted to caring for their children, Ms. Jolie and the children have not been able to return to the property, and she made the difficult decision to sell her stake in the business.”
Much of what led to the former pair’s divorce currently amounts to a lot of speculation, but Jolie did discuss how her ex-husband’s professional relationship to convicted sexual predator Harvey Weinstein caused her harm, after she told Pitt about an incident with the disgraced producer earlier in her career. Jolie divulged that, despite her experience, Pitt asked Weinstein to produce 2012 noir thriller Killing Them Softly, which the Weinstein Company later distributed. “We fought about (Weinstein’s involvement),” Jolie said, specifically noting Pitt’s enthusiasm about partnering with Weinstein. “Of course it hurt.”
Pitt has a different account of his relationship with Weinstein. In 2019, the actor told CNN that he confronted the producer at a movie premiere in the mid-1990s—going so far as to physically threaten him—upon discovering that he had allegedly invited Pitt’s then-girlfriend, Gwyneth Paltrow, to his hotel room and suggested in-room massages. Paltrow told the same story to the New York Times. To be clear, it’s entirely possible that both Pitt’s and Jolie’s accounts are accurate.
Pitt hasn’t directly addressed Jolie’s abuse allegations, but he has been candid about getting sober in 2016 after the divorce, and his pride for Zahara, one of his and Jolie’s daughters, who just began college. It’s only rumored that he’s “pushing” to see his children.
While it’s important not to rush to judgment, it’s also impossible not to draw parallels to the recent defamation trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. The latter also alleged domestic abuse—with one incident occurring on a private flight—and accused her ex-husband of having a substance addiction. She also documented her injuries, pursued justice just after filing for divorce, and became considerably more involved in political activism around domestic violence after following the split. And Depp claimed she was trying to make all this public—and even inventing some of it—to get revenge on him and ruin his reputation.
While new details and allegations continue to emerge about Jolie and Pitt’s undoing, their conflict hasn’t yet escalated to an acerbic public trial. Frankly, I shudder to think of a reality in which it could.