The Inside Truth About Brad Pitt And Angelina Jolie’s Divorce

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were once heralded as Hollywood’s favorite power couple. From shunning traditional views on marriage to championing adoption, Brangelina only seemed to go from strength to strength. But behind closed doors, their marriage was crumbling away and eventually coming to a screeching halt in 2016. And though the dust had begun to settle from their mysterious break-up, shocking allegations and lengthy legal battles seem to have revealed what really drove them apart.

A controversial start

So how did a couple who, on the face of things, had it all go from being one of the world's most adored couples to stars of a very real, and very disturbing, real-life soap opera? When Brad and Angelina first met on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith in 2004, their spark was undeniable. As we all know, though, Pitt was still married to Jennifer Aniston at this point. A rocky start that wasn't much helped by the fact that Jolie was fresh out of her previous marriage to Billy Bob Thornton. With speculation rife, the pair were embroiled in a whirlwind of tabloid scrutiny right from the start. 

"I could not look at myself"

Despite Jolie's insistence that she and Brad only got together after his split from Aniston, the timing led many to believe that there was a crossover. After living through the messy aftermath of her father's adultery, Jolie has remained firm on her stance towards cheating, "I could not, could not look at myself in the morning if I did that." Although she's admitted that she and Brad started falling for each other while he was still married, even that was enough to cause a feeding frenzy for the public.

A sign of things to come

Naturally, fans rushed to take sides, with many dubbing themselves as either "Team Angie" or "Team Jen." Undeterred by the controversy that tainted the start of their romance, Pitt and Jolie went on to enjoy a picture-perfect relationship — at least, that's how it seemed. As their love blossomed, things progressed at speed. Just one year after getting together, Pitt officially adopted Jolie’s children, Maddox and Zahara. And soon after, they expanded their family to include Shiloh, Pax, and twins Knox and Vivienne. In light of the facts, perhaps signs of their downward spiral were lurking just below the surface all along.

The marriage secret

Still, although Pitt and Jolie made regular appearances together on the red carpet, away from the glare of camera bulbs, the couple liked to keep their personal lives strictly private. For starters, there was the whole 'are they aren't they' speculation surrounding their engagement. And then take their wedding, for example. Although the 2014 celebration at the family's now much-contested Château Miraval venue was a low-key affair — all the kids took the main jobs, even down to the cake — there was a secret the pair were holding on to.

Forgotten vows

Opening up to Vanity Fair, Jolie revealed that she and Brad had actually got married in secret before the laid-back celebration in France. As well as playing key roles like cake makers, ring bearers and flower girls, the Jolie-Pitt kids also took charge of the vows. "They did not expect us never to fight, but they made us promise to always say, 'Sorry,' if we do." And with the French chateau now the center of yet another messy legal battle between Jolie and Pitt, those vows really have been buried deep. Shortly after tying the knot, however, the two made yet another huge leap in their relationship.

Behind closed doors

While on honeymoon, Jolie and Pitt began working together on movie By the Sea, both behind and in front of the camera. But rather than highlight the strength of their bond, the film seemed to stoke the first fires of separation. With its leads cast as husband and wife, By the Sea tells the story of a once-happy marriage falling apart. And though their on-screen roles were fictional creations, Pitt and Jolie soon found life imitating art, with the pair's turbulent performances resulting in plenty of tension behind the scenes.

Brought out the worst

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2015, Jolie revealed how the film brought out the worst in them. “It was an emotionally charged set,” she explained. “Even though the characters are very different from us, when you act, you still express real emotion.” And with their famous split taking place just a year after the film's release, people couldn't help but speculate about whether what they were seeing on screen was, in fact, a reflection of what things were really like between the couple.

Pushed to the limits

“We wanted to see how far we could push our relationship,” she added to The Telegraph a few months later. However, she insisted that nothing on screen represented their personal lives. “Brad and I have our issues, but if the characters were even remotely close to our problems we couldn’t have made the film,” she remarked. Whether or not their on-screen portrayal signaled deep-running cracks, there was an even more problematic part of their relationship that neither could ignore.

The disciplinarian

Besides the stress of filming together, Brad and Angelina also had conflicting ideas when it came to parenting their brood of six. According to reports by TMZ, Pitt, who described himself as a disciplinarian to The Telegraph in 2015, took a harder line with his children than Jolie did. In light of Angelina's harrowing allegations, it makes sense that Brad's supposed harshness formed a wedge that would finally tear them apart.

Where it all went wrong

In September 2016 Jolie, Pitt, and their children boarded a private plane inbound from France to the United States. According to court papers filed by Jolie, the events that took place during the flight would be enough for anyone to file for divorce. For reasons unknown, it's claimed that Pitt was abusive to both his wife and children during the journey on their private charter. Conflicting reports have been leaked through the years of what exactly happened on board, but it seems that Pitt's alleged anger was unleashed on more than one family member.

Abusive behaviour

As stated by Jolie herself, things went downhill almost immediately after takeoff. Before long, Pitt reportedly "pulled her into the bathroom." Then, "Pitt grabbed Jolie by the head and shook her, and then grabbed her shoulders and shook her again before pushing her into the bathroom wall," the court filing adds. Distressing enough in itself, the situation took a darker turn still. When one of the children tried to step in, court files claim that the actor then "lunged" at his own child. On the brink, Pitt's alleged behavior didn't settle down for the rest of the flight, either.

FBI investigation

After the shocking altercation that Jolie claims took place between her and her then-husband, Pitt was supposedly aggressive throughout the rest of the journey. Whether or not abuse actually happened during the flight, the actor’s actions were reportedly strong enough to make child services step in. Following the dramatic incident, both the FBI and the LA County Department of Children and Family Services began investigating Pitt. Nonetheless, neither organization found any evidence of wrongdoing.

"Irreconcilable differences"

With the plane incident being dredged back up as a factor in the couple's legal battle over their jointly-owner Château Miraval, Pitt has denied all claims yet again. Whatever the truth of the matter is, however, whatever took place on board seemingly triggered the end of the couple’s marriage and 12-year relationship. Shortly after the plane landed, Jolie filed for divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences." She also applied for physical custody of the kids, and attorney Robert Offer claimed via a statement that she hoped to preserve the “health of the family.”

Speculation runs wild

But while Jolie declined to comment further, Pitt spoke up in a statement released to People magazine in 2016. “I am very saddened by this, but what matters most now is the well-being of our kids. I kindly ask the press to give them the space they deserve during this challenging time,” it read. And while the lengthy legal battle dragged on, people began to speculate about other causes for the couple's messy split.

Another affair?

Just like with Pitt’s separation from Aniston, critics quickly jumped to accuse the actor of destroying his marriage through infidelity. This time around, the tabloids were filled with rumors of an affair between Pitt and his Allied co-star Marion Cotillard. Amidst the rumors, Cotillard herself took to Instagram to dismiss the story as untrue. Commentators had yet another theory, though.

Health scare

On the other hand, further sources posited Jolie’s health as another reason for the split. In 2013 the actress had a mastectomy in order to preemptively combat breast cancer, strains of which took the lives of both her mother and grandma. By some accounts, Jolie began to turn her back on the showbiz lifestyle, which, as a result, may have alienated Pitt.

The battle continues

Currently, the two stars are still engaged in thorny divorce proceedings as well as negotiations over the custody of their children and the ownership of their château. And the legal battle clearly took its toll on the Fight Club actor. In the early days of the split, Pitt canceled press appearances for Allied and even showed alarming signs of weight loss. But with Brad turning inwards, Angelina spoke out.

Breaking the silence

Jolie, meanwhile, broke her silence on the issue of her separation from Pitt. In 2017 the Maleficent star told BBC World News, “It was a very difficult time and we are a family, and we will always be a family. And we will get through this time and hopefully be a stronger family for it.” And in 2021 the star shared a similar sentiment, "I just want my family to heal," she shared in an interview with The Guardian. Presumably, Jolie still wishes the best for her family, but reports from Pitt's side of things suggest otherwise.

Hurting the family

An inside source suggested to TMZ that Jolie's repeated claims only aid in "adding inaccurate information for attention," and that "it hurts the family." Either way, one of Hollywood’s most celebrated romances is now a thing of the past. So with both Brad and Angelina both so focused on the health of their family, it begs the question — how have their children changed growing up at the center of all this turmoil?

A loving family

The Pitt-Jolie family is a large one. Shiloh has three older siblings – Maddox, Pax, and Zahara – and two younger ones, the 14-year-old twins Vivienne and Knox. But Shiloh was Pitt and Jolie's first biological child. Maddox, Pax, and Zahara were adopted – Maddox from Cambodia, Zahara from Ethiopia, and Pax from Vietnam. That didn’t stop the children from growing up as loving siblings, though.

A media frenzy

The adoptions garnered a lot of media interest. Jolie had to jump through a variety of legal hoops to adopt Maddox, a process made all the more difficult when she separated from Billy Bob Thornton at around the same time. And when Jolie entered a relationship with Brad Pitt, it didn’t go unnoticed that he became the legal father of the adopted children. Yet the announcement that Jolie was pregnant with Pitt’s child whipped the media up into a frenzy.

The Brangelina craze

This was hardly surprising considering the grip that “Brangelina” had on the world. Fans had followed every move the two A-listers had made since they had first gotten together on the set of their film Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The love triangle with Jennifer Aniston – the Friends actress who Pitt had divorced after meeting Jolie – only added to the drama and scandal of it all. A Pitt-Jolie baby was the final step. People couldn’t wait to meet the child.

Shiloh was born in Namibia

Pitt and Jolie were so determined to have their new baby in peace that they actually left the country. A month before Shiloh was born, they temporarily moved to Namibia so they could avoid the paparazzi and the media. But even though their army of fans couldn’t follow them there, they did get the news that they were hoping for. On May 27, 2006, Jolie gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

They couldn't outrun the paparazzi

The Namibian authorities had cracked down hard on the paparazzi. Reporters weren’t allowed access to the area Pitt and Jolie were staying in without express written permission from the couple. Security screens were set up around their hotel. But even that measure didn’t entirely work: a South African photographer was arrested after twice trying to get past security to take pictures. Such was the power of Brangelina.

The most expensive baby pictures

Pitt and Jolie remained in Namibia while the media back home went wild with speculation about Shiloh. What did the baby look like? When would the first pictures of her be released? Luckily, Pitt and Jolie had that covered. They sold Shiloh’s baby pictures via Getty Images with the proceeds going to charity. The magazines People and Hello! subsequently snapped up the U.S. and U.K. rights to the images for a record-breaking sum.

"Already an iconic figure"

The fervor around Shiloh reached such a height that she even got her own wax figure at Madame Tussauds. The model baby was placed in a cradle beneath the waxworks of her parents. “Even though she’s just a few months old, Shiloh is already an iconic figure in world popular culture,” Madame Tussauds manager Janine DiGioacchino told People at the time. Not everyone ends up being a pop icon before they can even talk.

Brad's lookalike

Eventually, Jolie and Pitt returned from Namibia and resumed their lives as A-list actors. They soon also set about giving Shiloh another sibling. On March 15, 2007, they adopted another child. This was three-year-old Pax Thien, from Vietnam. And in December of that year, Jolie shared her thoughts on Shiloh’s place in the family. “Shiloh looks like Brad,” she told Look. “It’s funny because she’s almost going to be the outcast in the family because she’s blonde and blue-eyed.”

The power of genetics

As Shiloh got older and was seen out and about more often, people began to compare her to her mother. And, as a toddler with long, flowing hair, Shiloh did look like Jolie. Meanwhile, the internet soon discovered that Shiloh looked remarkably like her mother in old pictures that captured Jolie as a youngster. However, as little Shiloh grew up, she began to look more like her other parent.

Like father, like daughter

Shiloh’s blonde hair, her facial features, her eyes: they all came directly from Brad. When pictures of the two were set side by side, the resemblance was almost uncanny. The media found it adorable: a little girl looking like her father rather than her famously beautiful mother. Then they observed that Shiloh preferred to dress like her father, too.

Her unique sense of style

When Shiloh was seen on the red carpet or out and about with her family, she was normally wearing a suit. Her mother and sisters wore dresses, but she preferred pants and shirts. She also kept her blonde hair cut short, also like her father. And the media couldn’t help but comment on Shiloh's unique sense of style.

People felt the need to comment

“Why Is Angelina Turning Shiloh Into a Boy?” the cover of Life & Style magazine rudely asked in March 2010. The magazine’s coverage included the opinion of the religious group Focus on the Family, which claimed that the lack of “gender distinction” could be harmful. A rebuttal soon came from the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Our society needs healthy, well-rounded children whose interests and tastes are as diverse as the children themselves and are not limited by outdated stereotypes of gender,” they told The Advocate.

"She thinks she's one of the brothers"

People started to wonder whether Shiloh was questioning her gender identity, even if she was too young to fully understand it. An interview Jolie did with Vanity Fair in June 2010 only added further fuel to these rumors. “[Shiloh] likes to dress like a boy,” she said. “She wants to be a boy. So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys’ everything. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.”

Chaz lends his support

In 2011 Chaz Bono – son of Cher and Sonny Bono and one of the most famous transgender men in the entertainment industry – said he would offer help to Jolie, Pitt, and Shiloh if it was ever needed. “I would love to talk to them at some point,” he told E! Online. “[And] at least let them know we have this resource for them if they ever need it.”

A painful separation

But come 2016, Shiloh was in the news for different reasons. She and all her siblings were suddenly bystanders in a painful and extremely public separation. After a reported “altercation” between Brad Pitt and Maddox aboard a plane, Jolie filed for divorce from her husband. He wasn’t a fit father, was the implication across the media.

Nasty rumors

Although details of the “altercation” between father and son were kept as secret as they could possibly be, other rumors spread. Some anonymous sources claimed to celebrity gossip sites that Pitt’s drinking and drug use had gotten out of control. Others suggested that Pitt had been carrying on an affair with his Allied co-star Marion Cotillard, which she quickly denied.

Hard on the whole family

In 2017, further anonymous sources claimed that the divorce had hit Shiloh very hard indeed. “Shiloh’s not the same bubbly kid she was before Brad and Angie split,” a source told Radar Online. “She doesn’t understand why Brad can’t be there on their family trips to Disneyland.” If true, it’s a testament to how close the father and daughter were.

An unbreakable bond

“Shi’s the one who really takes after Brad. She’s the most complex and sensitive. Their bond is unbreakable, but the separation is taking a toll on both of them,” the source added. “Shi really misses hearing Brad’s bedtime stories… She’s asked to spend nights with Brad. But, so far, Angie is sticking to the court-ordered supervised group visitation since she has official custody.”

Shocking new information

Luckily, however, Pitt isn’t entirely gone from the lives of his children. He still sees them, albeit not as much as he used to. Jolie has also spoken about her hope that they can remain a family in some capacity. There’s still a high possibility that Brad Pitt and Shiloh might walk the red carpet together someday in the future.