Before Brangelina was even a thing—and therefore before it was not a thing anymore—Angelina Jolie was caught up in another controversial relationship, with fellow actor Billy Bob Thornton this time. After meeting on the set of Pushing Tin in 1999, the two Hollywood rebels entered a drama-fueled whirlwind of a romance that contained every defiant behaviour you could think of, from a Las Vegas wedding and a now-removed tattoo to blood necklaces and underwear swapping. This relationship was absolutely wild—toxic, some might even say.
Those of you who are already familiar with the endless list of scandals and tabloid-worthy rumours Thornton and Jolie’s relationship consisted of might have noticed the similarities between the iconic duo and 2021’s most talked-about couple, Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) and Megan Fox. MGK designed Fox’s engagement ring with thorns so that whenever she would try to take it off, her finger would get lacerated? Talk about controversial/borderline dangerous behaviour. Come on, the 90s couple walked so that MGK and Fox could pretty much run.
If you’re not yet sure what we’re talking about right now, here’s everything you need to know about both relationships so that you can make up your own mind about the disturbing similarities they have to offer.
When the two actors met in 1999, they were each involved with someone else—Thornton was engaged to Laura Dern and Jolie was dating Timothy Hutton, freshly out of her marriage with actor Jonny Lee Miller.
In Pushing Tin, Jolie and Thornton played a married couple working through the strains of their relationship following a bout of infidelity. It soon became clear that the two co-stars felt a spark from something more emotional than their performances.
Not only was Thornton cheating on his fiancé with Jolie, but in May 2000, the two of them thought it would be a good idea to go to Las Vegas and get married out of the blue. And yes, Dern was still married to Thornton at the time. After the news about the wedding came out, Dern commented to Talk magazine that she “left our home [hers and Thornton’s] to work on a movie, and while I was away, my boyfriend got married, and I’ve never heard from him again.”
Reporting on the wedding, Ranker wrote, “According to the reverend who presided over the Vegas nuptials, the couple went casual for their ceremony. Jolie pulled her hair back, didn’t worry about getting too made up, and said ‘yes’ without too much pomp and circumstance.”
After marrying, the couple purchased a massive Beverly Hills home from Slash, the lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses, for $3.75 million. This purchase seemed to solidify the couple’s commitment to one another and showed that they were settling down—if ‘settling down’ can even be used to describe what was about to happen next.
After the couple split, Thornton stayed in the home until he put it on the market in 2012.
Jolie and Thornton couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. While walking the red carpet at the premiere of Gone in 60 Seconds, which Jolie played a role in, the freshly married couple kept kissing in front of the paparazzi, completely fine with letting the whole world into their private life. When a correspondent for MTV News asked the couple about the most exciting thing they’d ever done in a car, “individually or together,” Thornton said: “I think it was today. My favourite one in a car was today, just before we got here. What is this, MTV? Well, you want me to be honest with you? We fucked in the car on the way here.” Ba-dum tss.
The premiere PDA wasn’t a one-time thing either—let’s just say that the sexual chemistry between the two celebrities was hard to miss. In the June 26 issue of US Weekly, the couple gave the magazine an interview where they spoke of their deep love for one another, as well as all the amenities they were installing in their home, because why not? That included the “padded room,” where, supposedly, they would go in the middle of the night when they were so in love that they “[wanted] to kill each other.” No biggie.
Thornton also said that he was on the verge of a heart attack whenever he and his wife locked lips. Jolie used the time to talk about how Thornton affects her bones to the marrow, and she insinuated that they spent most of their time being intimate. She told US Weekly, “It’s amazing that we actually leave the room—ever. But you know what? It’s beautiful and I think I’m going to [perish] every few minutes. Then I feel so complete and safe and warm and in love and then I just feel like I’m on fire and I’m so excited and I didn’t know I could feel that through my entire body.” If that doesn’t sound like a slightly outdated version of Fox’s infamous Instagram captions, then I don’t know what does.
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Not to kink shame or anything, but publicly saying that you like to exchange underwear with your wife for the day or wear your partner’s blood around your neck was pretty fearless at the time—or simply questionable, it all depends on how you look at it.
In any case, both Thornton and Jolie were very open about the intimate details of their relationship. In a 2000 interview with The Morning Call, the former dispelled myths about his eccentric lifestyle and his marriage with soon-to-be Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft.
On the underwear rumour, Thornton cleared up that it was a rarity and that the rumour stemmed from a mix-up on the way to the gym. He explained, “I did wear my wife’s underwear working out in the gym one day and a guy saw it. But I don’t wear my wife’s underwear every day. I wear it, like, occasionally.”
Okay, so the underwear rumour might have been slightly blown out of proportion by the press—what about the blood vials they were known to wear around their necks? The couple infamously started wearing each other’s blood in small vessels mounted on chains back in 2001. Speaking to Insider in 2018, Thornton explained, “The necklaces were a very simple thing, ‘Hey let’s poke our fingers with a pen and smear a little blood on there and when we’re away from each other we’ll wear the necklace.’ It was that easy. But by the time it came out in the press, it sounded like we were wearing a bucket of blood around our necks.”
Bucket of blood or only a few drops, it comes as no surprise that MGK has been said to wear a few drops of Fox’s blood around his neck…
During the summer of 2002, claims of Thornton’s supposed infidelity started cropping up. At the time, the actor was allegedly seeing a therapist for sex addiction. It was said that he slept with the therapist, and when Jolie found out about it, she was devastated. Rumours aside, Thornton revealed in 2018 that the couple had, in fact, separated because of their differences—he was agoraphobic, she was a social butterfly.
Shortly after these rumours started making the rounds, their relationship came to an end. Around this time, Thornton supposedly removed or covered up his tattoos dedicated to Jolie. Meanwhile, Jolie waited until 2005 to remove her own Billy Bob tattoo.
While speaking with Vogue in 2004, the actress explained that she got into the relationship too early, and that they both changed too much to make their marriage work. “It took me by surprise, too, because overnight, we totally changed. I think one day we had just nothing in common. And it’s scary but… I think it can happen when you get involved and you don’t know yourself yet.”
On Thursday 20 January 2022, Thornton’s son Harry, 27, told Page Six that MGK and Megan Fox were nothing more than “copycats” of his father’s past relationship with Jolie. It’s not hard to see why he would say that—the modern-day power couple clearly took a page or two off Thornton and Jolie’ book. Both relationships are written in the same font, if you will.
PDA on the red carpet was only replaced by, well, tongue-stricken PDA on the red carpet too. Scandalous interviews with celebrity tabloids turned into scandalous interviews with the likes of GQ followed by some cryptic and cringe-worthy Instagram captions. Blood necklaces stayed in place, only filled with two new starstruck lovers’ blood.
While Thornton was problematic too—just Google pictures of him before he met Jolie and you’ll understand how much of a phase his relationship with her was from the beginning—his substitution, in the form of MGK, proved to be even more so. This, put on top of how little privacy we now give celebrities, can only lead the copycat couple to a more toxic relationship than their predecessors.
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