Every villain is the hero of their own story, which can certainly be said for the title character in Maleficent. Played to wickedly delightful perfection by Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie, Maleficent is so much more than just a villain. Once you learn about the elements of the betrayal that ultimately turned her pure heart to stone and led her to place an irrevocable curse upon the infant Aurora, you will begin to understand how she got her reputation. Directed by Robert Stromberg and written by Linda Woolverton, the film also stars Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Brenton Thwaites.
At the press day, Collider was invited to participate in a small roundtable with the film’s star, Angelina Jolie, who talked about realizing that there was no half-way, once she put on the full costume and horns, what ultimately sold her on her daughter, Vivienne, being in the film and what she was like on set, how big of a role motherhood played in her accepting this project, the process of getting into character, each day, whether she’d consider returning to this character, and how she feels about this film being watched, for generations to come. She also talked about the experience of directing her second film, Unbroken, why it was so much more daunting than her first, why its subject, Louis Zamperini, is so important to her, and how she manages to balance her big family with her hectic career. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
ANGELINA JOLIE: Part of the thing with this role is that you realize that there’s no half-way. If you’re going to do it, you can’t kinda do it. You have to just go fully into it and enjoy it. The original was done so well, and her voice was so great, and the way she was animated was so perfect that, if anything, I just was worried that I’d fail the original. But, I practiced a lot with my children. When I got them laughing, I figured that I was on to something.
You wanted to get them laughing, as this character? Is that really what you were going for?
JOLIE: Well, they laughed, they cried, and they hid in the corner.
Your daughter, Vivienne, is in the movie, as young Aurora, but you’ve said that you were a little reluctant to let her do that. Why is that, and what ultimately made it okay?
JOLIE: Well, Brad and I have never wanted our kids to be actors. We’ve never talked about it. But, we also want them to be around film and be a part of mommy and daddy’s life, and for it not to be kept from it either. We just want them to have a good, healthy relationship with it. This came about because there were kids that would come to set and they would see me, and I would go up and say hi to them, and they would cry. I actually had one children completely freeze, and then cry. It was like terror. And so, I felt so bad. And we realized that there was no way that we were going to find a 4- or 5-year-old that I could be as strong with, that would not see me as a monster. Suddenly, there was Vivi, running around looking like little Aurora and everybody thought, “Oh, the answer is right there.” But then, I had to go home and talk to dad. It’s our kid, so it’s so sweet. The idea of it was so cute to us, as mommy and daddy. But then, there was the fact that she would be in a film. All of that took us a second.
How did she work on the set?
JOLIE: She was good. The first day was the day that she had to catch the butterfly, and she just really didn’t feel like doing it. I actually was holding the pole with the ball on the end, and bouncing up and down and dancing, trying to make her laugh. And daddy was on the edge of the cliff that she had to jump off, making faces and doing all of these things. And her brothers and sisters were egging her on. She eventually did it, but she was taking her sweet time, and didn’t want to do it twice, certainly. But then, when we got to our scene – and we had practiced it a little bit at home – we had a good time together. We played together. I was actually shocked that she was doing so well. Inside, I thought, “Oh, she went back and hit her mark. That’s frightening!”
Have you changed your mind about having your kids in movies, after this experience?
JOLIE: I just want them to like it and do it for fun, only. If, when they get older, they decide to be actors, I would just ask that that’s not the center of their lives. That can be an aspect, but I also want them to do many other things with their lives and get involved with many other things. I don’t think it’s a healthy focus, as a center of your life.
What part did timing play, in your wanting to do this project? Would you have considered it five years ago?
JOLIE: I don’t know. It’s such a great project that I imagine I would have always considered it. After having directed and thinking that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to act, it wasn’t returning to act in anything normal. It was a crazy idea, and I was so challenged by it. My kids are now all watching all of these movies and wanting to play with mommy. It was perfect timing to have them all on set, playing and being a part of the adventure with me. For me, as an actress, I wanted to not do something where I’m taking myself so seriously, and trying to do something for myself an my art. I wanted to remember what it is to play and entertain, and try something bold.
JOLIE: It had a lot to do with it. Also, the artist in me felt that it’s good to do something bold, every once in awhile, that you’re not comfortable with and haven’t done. I was a bit nervous to take her on. I don’t have a big theater voice. I don’t do things that are comedic. This is such a crazy idea. I’m a fairy. I’d come and hear, “How was your day, honey?” And I’d be like, “I was a fairy. I don’t know.” But somehow, it’s great to jump into things you’re not sure of and you haven’t done and that are a little scary. That’s what we have to do, as artists.
What surprises you about what appeals to your kids, when they watch the movies that you show them?
JOLIE: My boys saw an early cut of Unbroken the other day, and I thought they would be talking about the sharks. Instead, they asked me about one of the characters deaths, and I was surprised by that. I think what children can handle and what they’re interested in is much deeper than people assume. It’s why sometimes we make things too simple for them. With a film like this, people say, “Is it too dark for children?” It’s not. They want to understand things that frighten them. They want to see dark things that happen, and they want to see how to rise above them. They don’t want to be hidden from all things, and have everything sweetened. I think that’s something that always surprises me about children.
One of the dark scenes is when Maleficent’s wings are taken. What do you want kids to take away from that? Is there a lesson there? Was there any relationship to how you felt with the surgery that you had?
JOLIE: No, not at all. The surgery was something I did that was a choice I made, myself. That was something where I was happy to have the option and the health care and the ability to make the choice to be around longer for my children. It was a wonderful thing. What happened to her was more like a rape. It was something that she had no choice in, and it was something that was done with evil intent. I think people will see it and they will see that it’s abuse. It’s being bullied and hurt. We’ve all had that moment where somebody really hurt us, and it changed us. So, I think children will identify with that in different ways. It will upset them, but then, they’ll also get angry with her, hopefully, and they’ll want her to grow past it. And they’ll go on that journey of understanding how you could ever evolve past that, and what that is.
JOLIE: It wasn’t that much. The creation of it took a little time, to figure out how to do the horns and how to get them on my head and how to get them to stay. We used my hair in braids to nail it down. It was a head piece, with the horns. It wasn’t like a headband. So, we’d put my hair in these little balls, and then you’d put the head piece over and pull the braids through, and you’d use that to anchor it. We had different horns. At first, they were too heavy. And then, we got them softer. We had some that would snap off because I kept banging into things. It all slowly came together. We tried different things, and some of the things didn’t work. We had feather hair, at one point. We went that crazy. We said, “Well, she’s a bird. Maybe she has feather hair.” But when we finally got to it, we just wanted to have a character where, when you’re seeing the dramatic scenes, you feel that you can watch her and I can perform without people staring at the make-up. We wanted to really find a balance, so that it was an enhanced face, but it still felt like a soul could still come out through that face.
Why did you alter your nose?
JOLIE: Well, my nose is not very strong. It’s a fine nose, but it can be a cute nose. I wanted her to have a stronger nose, so she had a little piece to make it less of a slope and more of a bump. We wanted everything to have angles. We wanted to take the softness out of my face, and make Maleficent sharper and stronger.
Is Maleficent a character that you could imagine returning to, in the future?
JOLIE: Nobody has asked me about that. I don’t know. I can’t imagine. I’m not dead, at the end of it. She’s still there. I don’t know. I loved playing her.
Why did you feel so strongly that this was the story that you needed to tell?
JOLIE: Well, I wanted to do something that my children could see. I wanted to have fun and explore different art and performance, in a way I hadn’t done. But most of all, I read Linda’s script and I was really moved by it. I actually got very emotional when I finished it. I thought it was one of the best scripts I’d read, in a long time, because of the issues it dealt with. I thought it was, in fact, an important story to tell.
Why was Robert Stromberg the right director for this?
JOLIE: Well, it was Disney’s choice. I think they felt strongly about hiring somebody who was very into the creation of world, even though he hadn’t directed before. The script was so strong that we felt that all of the pieces would come together. Even though he hadn’t directed before, we felt the script would help direct itself because it was so strong. And he did really have this focus on the creatures and what the world would look like and the feeling. I haven’t seen the 3D, but I’m sure his history was instrumental in making that work.
JOLIE: You just never know, especially when you make something. You hope you make it the best it can be, but you don’t know what’s going to connect and what’s going to last. These last two days are the first time I’ve talked to people who have actually seen the movie. You just don’t know if the things that you intended came across. When I see it with an audience will be the first time that I can feel everybody absorbing it and know if it worked. If it does, I would just love that. I think it is a really good story, and I think it’s one that has good messages in it. It’s entertaining, and all of that, but when we can make stories for children that they can walk away from, having thought about things they don’t normally think about, or learned a little something, or felt heart-warmed by something, then we’ve done something better.
Now that you’ve had the experience that you had, as a director with your first film, and knowing that you came out the other side of it with something you were so proud of, did the experience feel different, the second time? Did it feel like a hat you were more assured and comfortable with wearing again?
JOLIE: Yes. I jumped into something so much bigger, so it was daunting, in a whole different way. In the Land of Blood and Honey I wrote and it [took place] in a few rooms. There were certain things to tackle, and certainly the politics of it to balance. But getting into Unbroken, there were two plane crashes and shark attacks and 47 days at sea and three prison camps and the 1936 Olympics and races. You wake up in the morning and you think, “God, there’s a way to do that, isn’t there?” There’s a way to direct races. You don’t just show up at work and cover it this way or that way. It’s something I actually had to really understand. I had to really understand how the Bombardiers went in formation, who was where and what happened. It was just so much more. There were days where I didn’t know if we would be able to tack it all and accomplish it all. We didn’t have that much money, and we didn’t have that much time. So, it was a new scare.
Why is Louis Zamperini important to you?
JOLIE: He’s my neighbor, so the great thing is that I can stand on my roof with binoculars and see him. He’s just one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met. Many people know his life. I didn’t really have grandparents and I didn’t grow up with my father, so maybe there’s something to that, and to getting to know an older man and getting that wisdom. That’s the greatest generation, and it’s the last few years we’ll have them with us. To learn as much as we can from them is so important because the world has changed so much, in their time. When it comes to who we are and our relationship to each other, during his time, to be of service to your community, to your family and to your country was normal. It was not exceptional. Now, people are more aware of what they want for themselves and the easy way to get something done. Whereas before, it was so much about the pride and the hard day’s work and the responsibility, certainly coming out of the Depression and going to war. It’s not just that he’s heroic and he’s exceptional, but he is of the generation that we must learn as much as we can from, in order to make this next generation strong enough.
How do you find a balance between your work life and family life? You’ve got six kids and an amazing career, so how do you make it work, especially when you and Brad are each off doing World War II epics, at the same time?
JOLIE: Well, that was hard. The kids went back and forth sometimes, and we’d each have some, but most of the time, I had them all and it was hard. But I’m not a single mom with two jobs, trying to get by, every day. I have much more support than most women, around this world, and I have the financial means to have a home and help with care and food. So, I don’t consider it a challenge. My kids are here, upstairs. They home school, so we travel everywhere together. They were on set, almost every day, for Maleficent. We travel everywhere together. When I feel I’m doing too much, I do less, if I can. I’m in a rare position where I don’t have to do job after job. I can take time, when my family needs it. I’m editing now. The nice thing about being a director is that I can say, “I can only get into the room after the kids are at school, and I have to be back for dinner. And they’re coming for lunch.” I actually feel like women in my position, when we have all at our disposal to help us, shouldn’t complain when we consider all of the people who are really struggling, and don’t have the means or support. Many people are single, raising children. That’s hard.
Maleficent opens in theaters on May 30th.