Mariane's husband Daniel was kidnapped and executed while on assignment for The Wall Street Journal. His wife was five months pregnant at the time.
But you may not know that after his murder, Mariane Pearl and Angelina Jolie became friends. Brad Pitt's production company had committed to bring "A Mighty Heart" to the big screen even before he and Jolie became an item.
"I never really believed I'd be capable of playing her. I think when you know somebody and you respect them you take who they are so seriously," Jolie tells The Early Show national correspondent Tracy Smith.
Jolie not only looks a lot like Mariane Pearl but she also managed to adapt her French accent.
Asked what she thinks the key was to that transformation, Jolie tells Smith, "I worked really, really hard. I studied every interview she did over and over."
Photos: "A Mighty Heart" In NYC
"And tried to just go into as much, you know, as much technical work as possible probably to help me stay away from the emotional nerves," Jolie adds. "I focused a lot on how much they loved each other and tried to imagine that great love and, in response to that, the great pain of loss."
"A Mighty Heart" is dedicated to the Pearl's son, Adam, who has become a playmate of Jolie and Brad Pitt's oldest son, Maddox.
"This film is funny because Mad knows Adam so well. So he kept coming to set and saying, 'Why are you dressing up like Adam's mommy every day?" Jolie explains.
"Isn't that funny? And then I found myself in a really heavy conversation with him and trying to explain why I'm telling a story about Adam's mommy. And in that kind of — I can only imagine how difficult a conversation she must be having," Jolie explains.
It's that ability to empathize with others that's key not only to this role but to her life in general.
Since 2001, Angelina has visited refugee camps worldwide, considering it her job to give a voice to people displaced by war and famine.
"I know from visiting refugee camps in northern Uganda and Sudan, you feel like you can't do enough. I mean despite of all you do, do you get that feeling that it's never enough?" Smith asks.
"I did ... I've joked about this before that my first few years traveling I just cried," Jolie explains. "I was just crying. I was just emotional. I couldn't help anybody. And then I got angry. And then I thought that 'Wait a minute, we are all very intelligent people, we've all evolved over the centuries to find better ways to handle situations we can handle this.' And what is it that needs to be changed?"
So she has lobbied in Washington and she gives a third of her salary to charitable causes. Jolie knows she can use her celebrity to bring attention to causes that matter but it's an interesting paradox: one week she can be among tribal members in a third world country, the next, walking the red carpet at a premiere.
"It seems like you play all these roles. You speak for millions of refugees. You also have to balance the needs of the paparazzi and the celebrity-obsessed public. You're also a mom," Smith points out. "And the needs of the public, yeah, but it is a weird balance, right? How do you do that, how do you make sense of that?"
"I don't try to," Jolie says. "I've lived my life to just, from what I believe in and however it's interpreted, I've never understood and I can never be responsible for. I just do the best I can to be who I am."
Jolie and Pitt are now parents to four children, three of whom they adopted abroad. And she says the role she relishes most is that of mother. Jolie has talked about eventually having between seven and 14 children.
"Yeah we're going to fall somewhere in between. It's nice and open," she tells Smith.
Asked what's next for her growing family, Jolie says, "Right now we just have our fourth child home just a few months. So we are making sure that he is feeling really centered and at home and at the same time making sure the other three have our time and love and attention. So once we feel like we were able to balance that and have a little room for more then we'll have another one."
Add to that balance what could be a busy award season. There's already talk of an Oscar nomination. But for now, Jolie wants to focus on Mariane's message.
"I think, one, it's a beautiful movie about love and family and holding on to each other and moving on and embracing life," she says. "And we have to come to a place of openness and tolerance in order to really get through this."
Will she make more political films? Jolie says not necessarily: she's now working on her next film, a thriller that's being shot in Prague, in which she plays an assassin.