His 1999 drama about women in an mental asylum, Girl, Interrupted, won Jolie an Oscar — and instilled in her the importance of cast bonding.
”It was a family of actors. I remember James did a lot of improv where we would be our characters and just be in the ward…. I would just barge into everybody’s rooms and do whatever it was that I felt like doing. That was my character!” she laughs. ”The director would help the artist find a family, and then the director backs off. I think that’s something I applied.”
She picked up tips about shooting in a language she doesn’t speak from her Changeling director, who shot his 2006 WWII epic Letters From Iwo Jima in Japanese.
”He often talked about the discipline of acting,” says Jolie, who shot two versions of Blood and Honey, one in the Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian language and the other in English. ”What’s interesting is it pulls the director to focus on behavior more. It [makes] us not get stuck in text, and pay more attention to the nuances of actors’ facial gestures, their body language, their emotions.”
Jolie admires how the director, whom she worked with on 2004’s Alexander, pours his anger and doubts into movies like Platoon and Wall Street.
”When men bring their experience and their pain, their frustrations to projects, they’re by no means simple — they are weighted with something. Oliver has that,” Jolie says. ”Blood and Honey was born of my frustration at the lack of [international] intervention in a crisis. The world is aware…but people are continuing to die.”
In the early ’90s they made a commercial for YM magazine together, but Jolie has since gotten to know him through his work with Brad Pitt. (He’s also been circling her Cleopatra project.)
”He’s such an intellectual, and he has such patience. This is something that I have yet to learn. I need a little of that…. He just focuses; he’s a bit of a perfectionist, and that’s something I am not. I just don’t have that patience in life. In my heart, I want to try to do something like that if I can.”
He minimized the presence of the film crew partly to create a sense of intimacy on 2007’s A Mighty Heart.
”I tried to give the actors what I would have wanted as an actor. He taught me how to do that, because A Mighty Heart was an experience where I could be completely free, unaware of the camera,” Jolie says. In Blood and Honey, ”there were certain scenes where we would try to [put] the camera far enough away where they wouldn’t see it, or not move the camera forward so they knew it was a close-up.”
Robert De Niro
The fellow actor-turned-director inspired her with his ”fire” on 2006’s The Good Shepherd.
”The intensity with which he approaches his roles is the intensity with which he directs,” Jolie says. ”And so it’s a force of nature.”