July 11, 2005 12:00 PM

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had been playing it safe: staying several feet apart on red carpets, hopping private planes, keeping out of sight when off-duty save for a rendezvous on a remote African beach. But on June 28 they spread their wings—and their arms, cozying up in easy affection as they made their way with Jolie’s son Maddox through Luton airport outside London. Five days earlier the two, who have never acknowledged a romance, also showed their born-to-be-wild side—even if on an outing with Maddox that didn’t much exceed 5 mph. Standing in a field near her house in the bucolic village of Fulmer in Buckinghamshire, England, on June 23, Jolie initially kept her son at her side as Pitt tooled around on a dirt bike. But even at 4 (which he turns this month), boys will be boys. And Maddox, says an observer, “was very excited, watching Brad ride around. He kept looking at his mother, asking when he was going to have a ride.” When Jolie gave her consent, Pitt took over. “Brad put a safety helmet on him, then talked quietly to him, showing where to hold the handlebars,” says the source. (In the U.K. as well as most U.S. states, children are legally allowed to be passengers on motorcycles if they are wearing helmets.) “Then, with the boy safely tucked in front of him, he shouted, ‘Let’s go!'”

And so they did, slowly riding around a dirt path—as his mother’s whatever-it-is with Pitt revved into a higher gear. On cruise control for the past several weeks, Pitt, 41, and Jolie, 30, have taken care not to appear too close, stepping back from the togetherness they inadvertently displayed when a photographer snapped shots of them playing with Maddox on Kenya’s Diani Beach in April. The distance they kept at the L.A. premiere of Mr. and Mrs. Smith on June 7 was a strategy to avoid photographs of them together, but it also may have echoed their own emotional uncertainty. “People want answers about what’s happening…but I need to know what’s happening first,” Jolie said in July’s W magazine. Pitt repeated the sentiment to Diane Sawyer on ABC’s Primetime Live June 7: “I don’t know what the future is just yet.”

A month later, they both seem closer to understanding. Their new level of public togetherness may have to be put on hold in the near future, though. A spokesman for the antipoverty One Campaign, Pitt is scheduled to participate in the July 2 Live 8 concert to raise public awareness about the plight of Africa’s poor. Meanwhile Jolie, whose work as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees helped spark Pitt’s interest in the issue, plans to make another visit to Africa in the near future. In August she’s due to start filming the CIA drama The Good Shepherd opposite Matt Damon, most likely in New York City. Pitt’s next movie, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, starts filming shortly after.

So what now? If their life were a scene from Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Pitt and Jolie would zoom off into their happy ending at 155 mph on the $19,000 MV Agusta F4 Brutale S motorbike that she bought last year. But in real life, the two, ever more sure of themselves as a couple, seem content to focus on a happy now: making Maddox laugh, for instance, by zooming around and around, kicking up dirt on a little patch of grass. As the witness recalls, “Brad kept riding back close to Angelina so she could share in the fun and see how much her son was enjoying the excitement. All three of them seemed so happy together.”

Karen S. Schneider and Tom Gliatto. Bryan Alexander and Neil Michael in London, Mary Green and Ryan Pienciak in New York City, Julie Jordan in Los Angeles and Shia Kapos and Kelly Williams in Chicago

You May Like