Maleficent – Angelina Jolie interview
Compiled by Jason Palmer and Rob Carnevale
ANGELINA Jolie talks about some of the joy and challenge of playing Maleficent in this new take on Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
She also talks about having fun with playing wicked, going home every night and being silly with her kids and getting her own daughter in one scene through necessity. She was speaking at a UK press conference.
Q. Maleficent offers new look at Sleeping Beauty with the idea of the villain centre-stage. It’s a different perspective. Was that part of the appeal?
Angelina Jolie: Yes I think… I remember hearing that they were going to make a story about Maleficent and thought: “How could you possibly make a film where the centre character curses a baby and in way make that?” But Linda Woolverton really wanted to back up this story and understand how she became evil and I think that’s a really interesting thing to do and to question about human nature. There’s a lot in this film that we hope answers for people that love the original and love the christening and love the fun of her and their wickedness, and love Aurora and all her loveliness. But then also we also wanted to make it more for modern audiences where it goes to more complex characters and makes the relationships more complicated. So, we hope it’s not just a new spin but that we updated it to make it more meaningful and give it more resonance.
Q. Despite the new perspective on the villain, presumably it’s still a lot of fun to play a wicked character?
Angelina Jolie: It was so much fun, yes [smiles]. It was hard at first. I was actually quite afraid to do it because the first one was done so perfectly. I thought she was so cool when I was young – so elegant and powerful and such a great voice. As an actress, I do film, I don’t do theatre, so I don’t actually have that voice. I’m not used to that kind of performing. And she not only had to have this big voice but there’s no halfway. You have horns… everything about her, I had to embrace my bizarre and my silliness. Yes, it’s a beautiful story and it has a lot of depth to it but we got a little crazy and had a little fun and I hope that that resonates and you’re entertained by it. I wanted to entertain, so I hope it did.
Q. How was your childhood with fairytales? Were they a big part?
Angelina Jolie: I wasn’t into fairytales when I was little. I was of the generation of the earlier Disney films where many of the female characters, with the exception of the Maleficent’s, were not little girls that I admired… the little princesses. They weren’t characters that I identified with. I think that’s very different now for my girls and more recent films.
Q. Do you read your kids fairytales?
Angelina Jolie: I usually make up stories for my kids. I don’t… I like to tell them stories and make up any kind of crazy to involve them in characters. The kind of fairytales I don’t like are the ones with happy endings, where there’s just good and evil and things are perfect. I think when there’s a good story for children it has a moral tale, so that’s what I try to teach my kids.
Q. Can you tell us what fascinated you about Maleficent from the time you first saw her?
Angelina Jolie: I was always curious about her. And I can’t tell you how much fun it was when I first got the script. It was like unwrapping a mystery of where it all came from and who she was really was… much more than I expected. Linda Woolverton did something really special and unexpected. I think all kids are curious. They’re drawn to the bad guy and they’re drawn to things that are dark. It’s not just simply a desire to be wicked. I think there are things that frighten us in life and, especially children, they want to understand and take it on or understand it so it frightens them less.
Q. Do your kids show any signs of becoming actors?
Angelina Jolie: We never have intended, and we still don’t, to put our children into film and encourage them t be actors. We want them to be happy in whatever they wish to be. But the reason we ended up needing to put Vivienne in the film because there was a character when Aurora is five and she has to not see me as a demon and all little kids who came to the set – the crew would bring their children – but they’d all see me and be terrified. They would cry or they would freeze and they certainly couldn’t do a scene with me. So, it was genuinely out of necessity that it had to be Vivienne so that we could have a good scene. But I don’t know if there’s… it’s so funny to us. Like anybody, it’s our little girl so we see her and she’s just funny and sweet and the idea that she’s in a movie is still kind of funny to her mum and dad.
Q. Was she an easy character to shake off at night? Or did you sometimes take her home with you?
Angelina Jolie: Um, you’d have to ask my family. I thought I did. I thought I came home lovely [smiles]. The interesting thing about her is that as much as she’s a villain and she’s dark and she’s considered mean, I was very playful as her. So, it is a film where it’s not me playing such a heavy role that I come home and my children have to feel the weight of a performance and this kind of darkness. I came home very silly. My children loved Maleficent’s voice so they would make me do it at home and walk around. So, I think she actually brought out the child in me to be a part of this kind of film and I think I was fun.
Q. After becoming a world famous villain and experiencing her complexity. Is there anything in her character or behaviour that you might envy or admire?
Angelina Jolie: Well, you haven’t seen the film but there is a lot more to her. She is actually somebody I did in the end like. What’s interesting is that for all of us in this room, for everyone watching her, there’s a side of us that would like to be completely free and use our voice to the fullest and have as big a laugh as possible and just really indulge in this kind of behaviour. But there’s very little opportunity in life where you can do this and explore this side of yourself and you can test your power and your voice and your strength and she was that character for me. I didn’t know my voice could be that strong and I didn’t know I could have that much fun. So, she certainly has a freedom that in daily life, certainly, I don’t have and most people don’t have.
Q. Have your children expressed much of an interest in seeing your films and have you had to be selective in which ones you’ll let them see?
Angelina Jolie: Yes… very [smiles]. The older ones recently saw Mr and Mrs Smith and I think they thought that was the funniest thing they’d ever seen because, of course, watching your parents fight as spies is some strange sort of childhood fantasy. So, yes, they have started to. But they’re not as excited about it, which is kind of great. Sometimes it’s fun. My littlest one, Knox, sees Tomb Raider and thinks mummy can do all those things. But this one is maybe the one I’m most excited about because this is really one we can all see and I think it’s one they’re all going to like.
Q. How do you feel about forever being an inspiration to drag queens now that you’ve played a Disney villain?
Angelina Jolie: [Laughs] I would be thrilled if it’s embraced by the drag queens. I think we all share a love of this kind of costume. I’m with them!
Q. If you had to choose a song to lip sync to, what would it be?
Angelina Jolie: I wouldn’t know. It would be a Queen song. I couldn’t pick one in particular, but it would definitely be Freddie Mercury.
Q. Where does acting fit in with your priorities now that you’ve got directing as well and your work with the UN?
Angelina Jolie: It’s going to be taking more of a back seat. I’ve had a wonderful career and I’m very happy to have had all of the opportunities that I‘ve had to tell stories and work for as long as I have. I’m sure there’ll be a few more films but I’m happy that I’m able to be selective and have fun with characters like this. But I would like to focus more on writing and directing and, above all, I would like to focus more on my work with the UN and PSVI. I do hope that everyone is aware of the conference on sexual violence from June 10-13 and it’s an open event. I hope everybody comes.
Q. Did you take anything home from the set?
Angelina Jolie: I do have some horns at home [laughs].
Q. Did you draw on anyone from real life when it came to playing this role?
Angelina Jolie: I really did study the classic animated because I thought that actress was so wonderful;. She had such an amazing voice and I thought the original design was so amazing. But I also listened to a lot of tapes of British theatre actresses and tried to learn from them. As Americans, we don’t have such a gift with language. So, I tried to study that – but no one person in particular.
Maleficent opens in UK cinemas on Wednesday, May 28, 2014.