It barely requires mentioning that Angelia Jolie an Academy Award-winning actress and one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, with a Marvel movie due out later this year (Eternals) and her latest, Those Who Wish Me Dead, premiering on HBO Max this week. And while people tend to trace the origins of her career back to movies like Hackers and Foxfire in the mid-'90s, far fewer people talk about — or even know about — her earlier screen appearances in a handful of music videos from the early '90s.
Of course, actors and actresses getting their start in music videos has been a thing basically since music videos have been a thing. And that's not even getting into bands casting already famous celebs with their music videos. This is some actual before-they-were-stars action we're talking about. Sometimes we can look back and spot backup dancers like Jennifer Lopez (in Janet Jackson's "That's the Way Love Goes" video) or Channing Tatum (in Ricky Martin's "She Bangs"). Sometimes it's early modeling work for eventual actors like Djimon Hounsou in Janet Jackson's "Love Will Never Do" video. Looking back through music video history, you can pick out the Zooey Deschanels (The Offspring's "She's Got Issues") or Katy Perrys (Gym Class Heroes' "Cupid's Chokehold") and even a RuPaul (shimmying her way through the B52s' "Love Shack"). Some performers are able to directly parlay their music-video notoriety into stardom. Courteney Cox famously spring-boarded into her acting career via her performance in Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" video. And of course there is the queen of the mid-'90s music videos, Alicia Silverstone, whose performances in a trio of Aerosmith videos in 1994 and 1995 led to a film career that included the essential teen comedy Clueless.
So, really, the route taken by Angelina Jolie via early-'90s music videos was an early trailblazer for Hollywood career paths. Of course, Jolie had a leg up from the beginning, being the daughter of Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight, who had a hand in her very first screen role years earlier — a bit part playing his seven year-old daughter in the 1982 Hal Ashby-directed film Lookin' to Get Out. It would be another 10+ years before she's appear in another film, but before that Jolie appeared in a handful of music videos from artists like the Lemonheads and Meat Loaf. None of them were as widely famous as "Dancing in the Dark" or the Silverstone Aerosmith videos, and once Jolie began to get famous for her film and TV acting, no one ever really mentioned the videos again. Which makes them a fascinating and largely undiscussed rabbit hole to tumble down.
Jolie only appeared in a handful of music videos in this era, and in most of them she played some variety of runaway teen, which is partially on the commentary of the era (for whatever reason, from "Janie's Got a Gun" to Soul Asylum, the concept of the runaway teen was thick in the culture at the time) and partially the box that she was already being put in, as evidenced by the bad-girl roles she'd eventually get in Hackers and especially Foxfire. She was reportedly cut out of Lenny Kravitz's video for his 1991 song "Stand By My Woman," although some claim some fleeting glimpses remain (it's honestly not worth trying). She's more recognizable in The Lemonheads' video for "It's About Time." The Lemonheads were the Boston alternative band formed by Evan Dando, Ben Deily, and future Our Idiot Brother and Juliet Naked director Jesse Peretz. In the video, Jolie plays the girl whom Dando is cheating on his girlfriend with; we only see her briefly in the beginning.
By far the highest profile music video gig Jolie got in this era was for the Meat Loaf video "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through" in 1994. Just the year prior, Meat Loaf had stormed back into pop culture relevance with the sequel to his breakthrough hit album Bat Out of Hell. For his third single, written by the recently deceased Jim Steinman, "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through" is a typically bombastic ode to the power of rock music to save wayward souls. In the video — directed by Michael Bay (!) — Jolie is that wayward soul, a runaway teen who flashes back to a screaming fight with her father (played by Meat Loaf), then encounters what for all appearances appears to be a genie who lives inside an exploding jukebox (also played by Meat Loaf, in heavy makeup and maybe facial prosthetics), who convinces her to return to her family, all while an omniscient Meat Loaf (playing himself) belts out about the power of rock and roll.
The creepiest video of the Angelina Jolie music video era was the one she starred in for Italian singer Antonello Venditti, for the song "Alta Marea," an Italian cover of Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over." In the video, Jolie plays Venditti's girlfriend, reciting a love letter to him as he flashes back to some steamy moments from their relationship, including scenes of them making out. At the time, in 1991, Jolie was 16 years old, and Venditti was 25 years her senior, so that is decidedly creepy, no matter how much cultural mores may be different in Italy, and/or may have changed in the intervening 30 years.
Over the the next decade, Jolie would breakthrough into the mainstream with roles in HBO's Gia and feature films like Pushing Tin and Gone in 60 Seconds, before winning an Oscar for Girl, Interrupted. But her brief era as a teenage music video star offers a pretty wide range of experience, as well as being pretty instructive about the ways in which beautiful teenage actresses were presented for pop cultural consumption at the time.
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.