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From the PEOPLE Archive: Angelina Jolie on Her Relationship with Brad Pitt: 'We Have Each Other's Backs'

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Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce from Brad Pitt after two years of marriage and 12 years together. In 2010, a year and a half after giving birth to twins Vivienne and Knox, Jolie sat down with PEOPLE to discuss her relationship with Pitt, their family and getting back to work. Read the feature story below:

Ask any new mom: The first day back on the job after maternity leave is a killer. But when your career involves drop-kicking bad guys and dangling from the side of a 10-story building, the transition is a little more jarring. So it’s not surprising that last February, after taking 18 months off to be with her twins Knox and Vivienne, Angelina Jolie arrived on the New York City set of the political thriller Salt feeling out of sorts. “It felt a little strange to be back,” she tells PEOPLE, laughing at the memory. “I kept thinking, ‘I’m not an action star; I’m somebody’s mom. What am I doing here?'”

Make that six little somebodies-all under the age of 9. Not that juggling motherhood and movie stardom has ever appeared to be too tough for Jolie, 35, who also has the benefit of homes around the world, private planes and a flexible work schedule. But the star says what truly keeps her life in balance is her kids’ dad. While she filmed Salt in New York and D.C. and the upcoming thriller The Tourist in Italy earlier this year, Jolie leaned on Brad Pitt, her partner of five years, to tackle daily parenting duty. “Brad’s an extraordinary father,” she says of Pitt, 46. “We have each other’s backs.” It’s an unconditional support Jolie says has transformed her life. “Brad knows me completely, exactly as I am, every part of me,” she told Parade this month. “He loves me. The kids love me. They know all my flaws and oddities. And they accept them. And so I can feel complete.”

Finding that “something authentic,” as Jolie says of their relationship, is critical when you’re the most talked-about couple in the world. In addition to an endless barrage of gossip about breakups and surprise pregnancies, a new unauthorized biography by tell-all author Andrew Morton promises to keep the rumor mill churning. On the set of Salt, “[the tabloids] would say, ‘Angie’s pregnant!’ and I would be standing with her, like, ‘There’s not a chance!'” says producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. In reality, those who have spent time with the couple say they’re in a good place. “They have their own way of dealing with each other like any loving couple,” says di Bonaventura. “You never saw any fights. It got to the point where [the gossip] was almost amusing if it hadn’t been so mean.”

VIDEO: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Were Last Seen Publicly Together in July


Behind closed doors, the couple’s daily life is one of constant motion, much of it provided by their busy crew of mini-movers: Maddox, 8, Pax, 6, Zahara, 5, Shiloh, 4, and 2-year-old twins Knox and Viv. Whether the family is at home in Los Angeles, Manhattan or the South of France, “I begin each day listening to Viv and Knox talking,” says Jolie. “They always wake up first and have the cutest conversations when they think everyone is still asleep.” Might they add more little talkers to the mix at some point? “We’re not opposed to it,” she told Vanity Fair recently. “But … we want to make sure we don’t build a family so big that we don’t have absolutely enough time to raise them each really well.”

The brood-who are tutored by a traveling teacher-were a fixture on the Salt set. “One day we had all the kids on-set at this abandoned airport factory,” says costar Live Schreiber, whose sons Sasha, 3, and Samuel, 19 months, enjoyed playtime with the Jolie-Pitt kids. “I remember all the kids running around having these squirt-gun fights.” Between takes Jolie and Schreiber traded parenting tips. “We were like, ‘Oh, you’re doing time-outs.’ And ‘Yeah, that’s probably just teething,'” says Schreiber.

More daunting for Jolie was taking on the role of superspy Evelyn Salt 18 months after delivering twins. “The thing is, when you have six kids, you say, ‘I just don’t have the time to train like I did for [2001’s] Tomb Raider,'” says Jolie. “I’d had babies, and it was just getting my boots back on and punching again.”

Having Pitt in her corner eased the transition. “I feel fortunate to have a relationship where I actually feel safe enough to imagine growing old together,” she told Vanity Fair. As for marriage, “we’re not against getting married,” she said. “It’s just like we already are.”

Still, there’s one thing she admits she does fear: the looming teen years. “I’m not ready,” she says, cringing as she considers the idea. “I’m glad I have a few more years. I’m not ready for them driving or dating. I break out into a sweat at just the thought.”

For now, she’s content to enjoy the messy, noisy, busy chaos of the early years. With The Tourist wrapped, it’s Jolie’s turn to take on full-time parenting duty while Pitt shoots the drama Moneyball. “Our plan is just to have really great relationships with our children, so when we hit that time where they don’t want to talk to us, we’ve instilled some good values already,” she says. “We’re working on it now.”