Angelina Jolie Discusses Maleficent, Motherhood, and Humanitarian Efforts #MaleficentEvent
*Disney provided me with an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles to attend advance screenings of Maleficent and Planes: Fire and Rescue and to attend press junkets for both films. No other compensation was received. All thoughts are 100% my own.*
In Disney’s live-action film Maleficent, in theaters May 30th, Academy Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie adds depth and humanity to the titular character, one of Disney’s most iconic villains. The script, written by Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and 2010’s Alice in Wonderland were also penned by her), tells the origin story of Maleficent, Mistress of All Evil.
The morning after having the opportunity to see Maleficent, a film one could say I have been waiting for since I was a little girl and became fascinated with the villainess, our group of twenty-five bloggers was given the incredible gift of sitting down with Angelina Jolie to discuss her transformation into Maleficent, her daughter’s onscreen debut as young Princess Aurora, and balancing an acting career while raising a family and continuing her humanitarian work.
Although my heart was racing as Ms. Jolie entered the room at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, she set the tone for the interview that followed with a gentle softness and approachability. Inarguably one of the most powerful and influential women in Hollywood today, Ms. Jolie is incredibly down-to-earth, someone I would easily want to spend more time with talking about any number of topics.
Ms. Jolie is well known for her roles in action films and dramas specifically for an adult audience, although she has done voice work in several animated films that more widely appeal to a younger audience. Maleficent is her unforgettable debut in a live-action film that covers a wide demographic, ranging from young children around the age of seven (or younger, depending on the child) to adults who grew up loving the animated classic Sleeping Beauty.
“I was just so moved by it,” Ms. Jolie said of Woolverton’s script. “I didn’t really identify with the princesses,” she revealed. “I was fascinated by her…it’s like a little kid seeing Marlene Dietrich for the first time. It was like seeing this elegant, powerful woman who seemed to be having such a great time…so I was a bit fascinated with her,” Ms. Jolie said in regards to the character of Maleficent.
Ms. Jolie first heard about the development of Maleficent from her brother. “He was like, Ang, you’ve got to make a call to Disney, you’ve got to try to get in on this.” She said she was very happy to receive the call about becoming attached to the film. “Just the idea of a Disney movie, having children, and just being a big kid myself and wanting to do a little bit of that was fun.”
At first, Ms. Jolie was concerned as to how Linda Woolverton could write a story about Maleficent that would make audiences have empathy for a woman who has cursed a baby. “I think she did an extraordinary job,” Jolie said of Woolverton’s script.
To physically transform into Maleficent, Ms. Jolie spent about two and a half hours each day in hair and makeup. The headpiece that Ms. Jolie wears in the film has the appearance of looking heavy, but “they worked so hard to make it not heavy. My hair was in these really funny little, little buns…my hair was used as kind of the thing that held the horns on…And then they also had detachable horns, partially for weight, and also because they kept knocking myself out.” With the horns on, Ms. Jolie stood at about seven-and-a-half feet tall.
Before the creative team found the right look for Maleficent, Ms. Jolie tried many other looks to capture the essence of the character. “We went through a few stages, where, in trying to find her, we had a few that weren’t so great…there was a period where we thought, okay, well, she’s got wings so she’s part bird-fairy, maybe she had feather hair…And then at the end of the day, we kind of said, it has to be that, because it is a real film and she has real scenes and emotional scenes, it can’t be so much makeup that you’re staring at some pasted makeup; the soul has to come through.”
One of the things that stood out so strongly to me as a young child watching Sleeping Beauty was Maleficent’s voice. In the film, Ms. Jolie’s voice is spot on. She sweetly credited her children as helping her find the voice to use for the movie. “I was giving them baths and I was doing this thing where a few nights in a row I would tell them stories in the bath. And I was trying out voices, and a few they’d say ‘please stop.’ And I kept trying and trying. And then I did that voice and they couldn’t stop laughing…And for the look and everything, I would kind of run it by them, and if it made them happy, or made them smile, or they were interested in it, then it was right.”
Ms. Jolie’s daughter, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, made her debut as the young Princess Aurora. It was a tough decision for her and Mr. Pitt to make to let their daughter be in the film. One of the challenges the Disney team ran into in trying to cast a small child in the role of a five-year-old Princess Aurora was finding one who was not scared of Ms. Jolie in full costume and makeup. “What four- or five-year-old…can I be really mean to and say things like ‘I don’t like children’? We realized it was probably Viv. And it took us a while to make sure that was an okay thing to do.”
Ms. Jolie described Vivienne’s butterfly scene as a challenge to film. “Like any four-year-old, she just decided she didn’t want to. So there’s some really funny outtakes of Brad and I…I’ve got the stick with the blue ball that’s supposed to be the butterfly and I’m kind of running in front of her. And Brad’s off the edge of the cliff, kind of trying to dance and make her jump into his arms. And she made us all work for that. The people at Disney did say it was the funniest dailies that they had ever seen.”
Ms. Jolie balances her time between motherhood, directing, acting, and doing humanitarian work. She graciously credited all of the people in her life who make it possible for her to be so involved in all of the things that she loves. “I’m at a very lucky position…I have a supportive partner, and he and I are able to take turns working often. When you make a film, it doesn’t take all year round. When I direct, it does, but I get to decide when I leave in the morning and when I come home at night, and I can edit in my bedroom…I have a very rare luxury with my job to have my kids on set with me every day and homeschool. Other mothers have it much harder than I do and don’t have the means to have the assistance I do.”
Ms. Jolie’s voice grew soft and pensive when she began to open up about her own upbringing. “I don’t feel like I, by any means, do anything exceptional. My mom was a single mom and she had a lot of difficulty and gave up her dreams to make sure she could take me to my auditions and support me. Nobody acknowledged her for what she did.”
Aside from her contributions to the entertainment industry, Ms. Jolie is an influential humanitarian. She talked for a few moments about her efforts and how other women can begin to make waves in their own community. “The most important thing we do is raise our children with love and compassion to become great people and thoughtful of others, and that’s the most important thing. If everybody did just that, we’d have a very different world. And encourage our children’s education and help them to be conscious of the world around them. I think mothers have the most powerful role.”
Ms. Jolie told us about a conference in June called PSBI that will be held from June 10th to the 13th in England. The summit will be open to the public, and its focus is on ending sexual violence in conflict. If you are interested in becoming involved or even in attending the conference, follow the hash tag #TimeToAct on Twitter, like End Sexual Violence in Conflict on Facebook, and follow the UK website for more information.