Exclusive Excerpt From 'Brangelina'
Everyone knows who Brangelina is -- the dynamic and altogether gorgeous Hollywood couple comprised of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. But what's behind the couple ... and is there a proverbial Oz -- a man behind the curtain that is Brangelina? Ian Halperin examines this in his book 'Brangelina: The Untold Story of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie,' and PopEater is exclusively running an excerpt from the book that takes a look at the man credited with creating the supercouple's image and reputation. Read It After the Jump!
An Exclusive Excerpt From Ian Halperin's 'Brangelina' Below (Want the book? Buy it here):
[Trevor] Neilson's specialty wasn't deciding where philanthropic dollars could be spent most effectively; it was advising benefactors on how to use their giving to enhance their public image. This became clear when Jolie launched her thinly veiled broadside on Madonna over the adoption of baby David. Assuring the media that she was 'horrified" by the attacks on the singer, Jolie proceeded to dig the knife in. 'Madonna knew the situation in Malawi, where [David] was born," she sniffed. 'In that country, there isn't really a legal framework for adopting. Personally, I prefer to stay on the side of the law." Of course, Madonna had in truth adopted the baby legally and had not flouted any of Malawi's laws, as Jolie implied. So why did she appear to undermine the humanitarian efforts of another celebrity? The answer is Trevor Neilson.
'Neilson is a genius," another Hollywood philanthropy advisor gushed. 'This is the same guy, remember, who turned Bill Gates from Scrooge to Albert Schweitzer. He practically created Brangelina. Pitt and Jolie may hate the term Brangelina when it's used by the tabs to gossip about their lives," she explained, 'but it's become a very, very powerful brand. It's practically synonymous with goodness in the public's mind." She credits Neilson with intertwining the couple's philanthropy with their acting careers, which she says is another example of his genius. 'Their philanthropy is the source of their power," she explained. 'I can't name another example of that phenomenon in my entire career, and I've been doing this since the eighties."
As for Jolie's apparent 2007 attack on Madonna: 'That was Angelina's way of saying, 'There's not enough room in this racket for the both of us.' She was saying, 'Get out of my way, b----, you're horning in on my turf.'" The attack on Madonna came just as Jolie was solidifying her image as 'Saint" Angelina. 'Madonna was starting to work on some of the stuff that Jolie thought she had a monopoly on. Africa was her domain. I think Madonna was starting to hang out with Bill Clinton and his foundation, and that was another area that Brangelina thought was their territory. I'll bet Neilson had a hand in that."
Why did the whole world know about Jolie's globe-trotting humanitarian efforts, while Madonna was attacked as a dilettante? 'That's easy," she said. 'Angelina brings the cameras along, and there's nothing wrong with that. She'd argue that by conducting her missions in the public eye, she's helping bring the world's attention to very important issues. Can you argue with that? Do you think most of her fans had ever heard of Namibia before she went there? Do you think they ever thought of anything associated with celebrities other than what dress they wore on the red carpet?"
She said that Barbra Streisand is another celebrity who gives very quietly and whose foundation is considered a model. She described Dolly Parton as a 'genius" at using her money to achieve results. 'Have you ever been to Dollywood?" she asked. 'Dolly Parton practically rescued the entire Smoky Mountains region out of poverty. That's why she built it." Among the other celebrities she cited is Madonna, who has been raising money for AIDS and gay causes practically from the first time anybody heard of her. As for Jolie, 'I'll cut the nuts off anyone who says that Angelina Jolie's humanitarian activities are phony," she warned. 'She and Madonna do a lot of good."
Likewise, British entertainment journalist Annette Witheridge of the Daily Mirror, who has covered Jolie extensively, believes Jolie's efforts are sincere. 'I want to believe her humanitarian work is for real," she said. 'I don't think anyone could see such awful suffering without being affected. [The actor] Rupert Everett once went half-heartedly on an Oxfam mission to Africa. He hated it, couldn't wait to get home. And when he did, he realized that the sight of starving orphans had got to him. He couldn't get them out of his mind. Before he knew it, he was back on a plane working for Oxfam, still does stuff for them to this day. Maybe Angelina felt the same way. I can certainly understand her wanting the children to connect with their roots and from there taking on more and more commitments for UNICEF, etc. Pre-Maddox, I could not have imagined her popping up as a Mother Theresa character helping starving orphans. Motherhood clearly changed her."
Indeed, individually and together, Pitt and Jolie appeared to be everywhere lately, acting as professional do-gooders. Both the news section and the entertainment section of the newspaper seemed to report about their activities almost daily. One day she was testifying before a congressional committee, the next she was invited to sit in at the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations alongside such power hitters as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Condoleezza Rice. She was giving millions of dollars of her own money to various causes and, with Neilson's help, had set up a foundation with Pitt, who was busy with various humanitarian enterprises of his own, including a widely hailed effort to build houses in Katrina-devastated New Orleans. They were indeed helping to change the world, whatever their motivations.
When the couple announced that Jolie was pregnant with her first biological baby and was expecting to give birth in the spring of 2006, there was the same frenzy of media interest that accompanies most major celebrity births. But not every celebrity has the connections to bend a foreign government to their will. Jolie and Pitt announced she would give birth to their child in the southwest African nation of Namibia. The desire to get as far away from prying paparazzi was perhaps understandable. But when Namibia announced that it was refusing to grant foreign visas to foreign journalists without written permission from Pitt and Jolie, something more clearly was at play. Again, the tactic had the mark of Trevor Neilson all over it.
The image-controlling mastermind was at it again in the summer of 2008 when the couple was expecting twins, setting off a bidding war between celebrity magazines vying for the first photos. The money, they announced, would be donated to their foundation, which continued to do good work around the globe. Nobody could accuse them of exploiting their babies, knowing that the money was going to help end world hunger. But it was more than money that Neilson was looking for this time. According to the terms of the deal proposed by Jolie, the winning bidder was required to 'offer coverage that would not reflect negatively on her or her family."
People magazine won the bidding war, and the resulting photo spread was a fawning portfolio. Notably, the hated term Brangelina appeared nowhere in the captions or accompanying article. At the same time, perhaps to deflect criticism, the magazine released a statement denying there were any terms placed on its coverage, and insisted that People magazine 'does not determine editorial content based on the demands of outside parties." Yet two years earlier, People had also negotiated with Trevor Neilson on the sale of photos of Maddox, just after the couple adopted him in Cambodia. In that negotiation, Jolie explicitly made coverage of her charity work part of the sale and People appears to have acquiesced, though it must be said the restrictions actually benefited a good cause. In a December 2006 memo sent by Neilson to editors who wished to bid on the Maddox photos, they found, 'While Angelina and Brad understand the interest in their family, they also expect that the publications who purchase these photos will use them in a way that also draws attention to the needs of the Cambodian people."
The New York Times asked a respected publicist and media expert whether he believed the couple's humanitarian efforts were an attempt to shape their image. 'Presto, they come out looking like serious people who have transformed a silly press obsession into a sincere attempt to help the needy," said Michael Levine, CEO of one of America's leading entertainment P.R. firms, LCO-Levine Communications, which has represented Michael Jackson, Bill Clinton, and Cameron Diaz, among other powerful celebrities.
But Neilson labeled this kind of criticism as 'cynical nonsense" and retorted, 'People don't realize the complexity of what Angie is doing. A lot of her charity work is done quietly and not in front of the media." Former US Weekly editor Bonnie Fuller agrees, but with a caveat. 'She's scary smart," Fuller said. 'But smart only takes you so far. She also has an amazing knack, perhaps more than any other star, for knowing how to shape a public image."
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