An interesting thing about interviewing A-list Hollywood celebrities is that you are rarely left alone with them. And they don't come more A-list than Angelina Jolie.
I went to New York to talk to her about her new film, Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood. We had our own suite at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, and the luxury of a full 25 minutes with Ms Jolie.
Usually, the PR company, who are paid by the distributors of the film, arrange filming with obvious publicity shots of the film behind the interviewee, and control the amount of time with a star - routinely between four and seven minutes, strictly timed. The room is usually full of people, make-up artists; publicists; those who hold the stopwatch and tell you when to wrap up. The level of control is staggering.
Moments before Angelina (celebrity culture breeds a rather odd familiarity) arrived, a young woman came into the room and said in a contrived, casual manner: "Oh by the way, no personal questions, please".
I more or less ignored her. Although there had been much in the press about how she was losing weight (she had just recently given birth to twins) and how there were rumours of an estrangement between her and the father of her children, Brad Pitt, and naturally, the PR really wanted to avoid stories about her life, but focussed instead, on the film, I also knew that I would do what I always do: gauge how comfortable the interviewee is with any question, let alone a personal one.
And then, she walked in. I interview a lot of very famous people and am not prone to be being star-struck. But I was nervous, because the level of management in the movie business can turn perfectly nice, ordinary people into aloof, prima donnas. And there was the added anxiety of control.
But she walked in alone, and we were without any PR interference for the entire interview. I am sure that is partly why Angelina Jolie was relaxed, engaging and the kind of person I could easily have spent a day with, just shooting the breeze.
And for all the constraints of such interviews imposed by PRs, she mentioned Brad in her first answer, talked about her children and the importance of family life to her, and how she really will not carry on acting for very much longer. She plans to do fewer and fewer movies and more and more work with children's charities around the world, which has given her more purpose than she ever had.
She is one of the least controlled celebrities I have met, and it accounts for the ease she conveys. Obviously, she lives in a rarefied world, far removed from ordinary life for the majority, but the encounter proved to me that she revealed a down-to-earth quality which may otherwise have been lost or muted, had there been zillions of people faffing around her.