The Maleficent actor, 48, opened up about her health condition in an interview with WSJ Magazine published on 5 December. Speaking about her Bell’s palsy - a neurological disorder which temporarily paralyses one side of the face and causes it to appear droopy and lopsided - Jolie explained how the dissolution of her marriage to Pitt ultimately impacted her health.
“My body reacts very strongly to stress,” she said, as she discussed feeling “terrified” to portray opera singer Maria Callas in an upcoming film. “My blood sugar goes up and down. I suddenly had Bell’s palsy six months before my divorce.”
The Academy Award winner first revealed she was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy in 2017, amid a “difficult year” following her split from the Fight Club star. She previously shared in a Vanity Fair cover story that she developed the facial paralysis condition due to the stress from her family and relationship issues. “Sometimes women who have families put themselves last, until it manifests itself in their own health,” she said at the time. However, she credited acupuncture with helping her make a full recovery.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Bell’s palsy “causes sudden weakness in the muscles on one side of the face” but may be temporary and can significantly improve over time. The disorder is known to be an inflammation of the nerve which controls the facial muscles and could potentially be the result of a prior viral infection. While it’s unclear whether increased stress is a direct cause of Bell’s palsy, experts have suggested that stress can weaken your immune system, which results in damage to your facial nerve.
Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt in September 2016 after two years of marriage and 12 years together. The former couple are parents to six children: Maddox, 22, Pax, 19, Zahara, 18, Shiloh, 17, and 15-year-old twins, Knox and Vivienne. Since then, the pair have been embroiled in divorce proceedings concerning child custody and disagreements over their various properties.
Prior to their divorce, Jolie and Pitt purchased French vineyard Château Miraval together in 2008 for a reported £20m. In 2021, the Girl, Interrupted star sold her stake in the French winery to a subsidiary of Stoli Group, owned by Russian-British businessman Yuri Shefler. This prompted a lawsuit from Pitt, who claimed Jolie’s stake was sold without his approval and a violation of his “contractual rights”.
She filed a cross-complaint in October 2022, which contained allegations that Pitt had “choked” one of their children onboard a private jet in 2016. The court filings, which were obtained by The New York Times, claimed that Pitt “choked one of the children and struck another in the face” and “grabbed Jolie by the head and shook her”. The filing also states that, at one point, “he poured beer on Jolie; at another, he poured beer and red wine on the children”.
Jolie filed for divorce just days after the alleged fight took place on a flight from France to Los Angeles. Following her allegations of abuse, representatives for Pitt called the claims “completely untrue”. His lawyer, Anne Kiley, added that Pitt had been on the receiving end of “every type of personal attack and misrepresentation” but would not “own anything he didn’t do”.
“Brad will continue to respond in court as he has consistently done,” she added.
As for their children, the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood actor was granted joint custody of their six children in May 2021. Just one month later, a California appeals court disqualified the private judge used in Pitt and Jolie’s case. The Salt star currently has sole custody of their children, while Pitt has visitation rights.
Elsewhere during her interview with WSJ Magazine, Jolie opened up about her close relationship with her children. “They are the closest people to me and my life, and they’re my close friends,” she said. “We’re seven very different people, which is our strength.”