Suzanne Tenner
November 16, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST
We gave it an A-

Mangold was finishing up the testosterone-loaded ”Cop Land” when he got a call from Ryder, asking if he’d be interested in directing Susanna Kaysen’s 1993 memoir of the author’s nearly two-year stay in a mental hospital. Mangold said yes to the executive-producing star but asked permission to rewrite the script, which three screenwriters had already tried their hands at. ”My fear was that the project was headed to a touchy-feely Lifetime movie,” he says. ”I wanted to make a woman’s picture with balls.”

Jolie (”Gia”) also wanted to make the film, and begged for the part of Kaysen’s ward mate: ”I’d read the book years before and had underlined most of my character,” she says. ”I loved her [and] identified with her.” The actors filmed the movie in a Harrisburg, Pa., mental institution and behaved accordingly. ”I thought it would be a very dark time for me, and in some ways it was,” says Jolie, ”but I lived completely on impulse. If I wanted to kiss someone, I did, and if I wanted to throw something, I could.”

Says Mangold: ”Being on the set with mostly women was no different than my other features, except that Whoopi Goldberg [who plays Nurse Valerie] was constantly in search of the alpha female who would pull them into menstrual alignment.” Which explains why she’s the center square. BUZZ FACTOR: 6

Go to the official website.

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