Every villain is the hero of their own story, which can certainly be said for the title character in Maleficent. This untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the classic Sleeping Beauty shows the level of betrayal that ultimately turned Maleficent’s (played to wickedly delightful perfection by Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie) pure heart to stone and led her to place an irrevocable curse upon the infant Aurora. 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.
During a roundtable at the film’s press day, actress Elle Fanning (who plays Princess Aurora, aka Sleeping Beauty) talked about what it was like to work with Angelina Jolie, their first meeting, exploring the tender side of the relationship between Maleficent and Aurora, working with green screen, acting while her character was supposed to be sleeping, and how strange it is to have a toy of herself. Check out what she had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
ELLE FANNING: I was extremely nervous to meet her. You hear that name and it’s the most famous, ever. You know exactly who she is and what she’s done. I remember during rehearsals at Pinewood Studios, I didn’t know that I was going to meet her that day. We were doing costume fittings, and then everyone started saying, “She’s here! She’s here!” And I was like, “My god!” The knot was growing in my stomach. And then, I turned the corner, and there she was. She was there in no horns or anything. She was normal, with normal clothes. Because we’re both big huggers, she gave me a giant hug, right away. She shook my shoulders and said, “We’re gonna have so much fun working together.” To have Angelina Jolie just hug you right away was really impactful. It’s funny because, even though I still get butterflies when I see her, and even though we’ve worked together, you can’t help but feel that way. People see that intensity that she has in photographs and on red carpets, and that force around her, but then you meet her and she’s just a girl. We would just talk about normal girl things. We talked about prom. I got to see her sensitivity. She’s super playful. All her kids were on set and she’d yell, “Cut!,” and she’d be in her whole outfit and pick up Vivie and Knox on each hip. She was such the opposite of what I thought she would be.
What movies of hers stand out for you?
FANNING: Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Girl, Interrupted. That’s one of my favorite movies, so, I really love that one.
There’s such a tenderness between Aurora and Maleficent, and it’s actually rare to see two women on screen like that. How did you feel about that aspect of the film?
FANNING: I know. I’m glad that our film is like that. Also, the way it ends up, it’s more of a maternal love and a friendship love that wins out, over a romantic love with a guy. That was a nice take on it. Especially her being so powerful and being a leading lady, she’s totally in charge of the whole film, and she’s a women. I thought that was great. When I started filming, I was such a huge fan of the animated one. I was like, “I feel like we’re breaking some weird Disney rule.” Maleficent and Sleeping Beauty aren’t supposed to talk to each other. They’re enemies. But the way it turned out, it’s a fresh take on it. For the modern world, we need to have a modern story, and it is. It’s very different.
What was it like to work with the green screen? Is there a secret to making that believable?
FANNING: This movie is the most special effects heavy that I’ve ever done, especially with Rob coming from Avatar and his background on things. Whenever you would have a hair change or a wardrobe change, you had to stand on this turntable where they’d turn you, inch by inch. You’d have to stand there like you can’t move, so that they can make virtual you out of that. And then, they can put you on screen in front of a backdrop that they’re creating, so it’s helpful for them. I have no idea how any of it works, but you do have to use your imagination in a crazy way. You don’t want to get too wrapped up in the technical bits of it because you’re still playing a character and you’re trying to accomplish being your character the best you can, instead of worrying about where things are. But at the same time, you do have to worry about things where they are. The special effects people can put as much stuff in as they want, but if the actor doesn’t believe that it’s around and that it’s happening, then you can lose it.
FANNING: No. The three fairy aunties, when they were tiny, did all their stuff in green suits on a green stage. I never acted with them. I just was looking at cardboard cutouts of them. But, we had sets. People made beautiful sets with the hills, but then behind that would be a blue or a green screen to make it look bigger, or there would be little tennis balls for creatures and stuff.
How was it to act while yor character was supposed to be sleeping?
FANNING: Some days I’d go in and get dressed, put on everything, and then just sleep the entire day. It was so nice. It was so funny. But then, you can’t really act. One time, I did fall asleep laying there and it was so scary because that could be so bad. You could mess up the scene, if you started moving. It was hard because I had to fight myself not to fall asleep.
Is this your first movie you’ve done where you get a toy version of yourself?
FANNING: It is, yeah! At the Disney Store, I’ve seen little me, and it’s so strange. My grandma went to the Disney Store and saw all of the Aurora dolls and grabbed all of them. She went to the register and they were like, “You can only take five.” So, she only got five.
Maleficent opens in theaters on May 30th.