Angelina Jolie on 'Maleficent,' crying her eyes out in Sarajevo, and her Oscar leg pop
Angelina Jolie is getting a little horny.
Okay, okay, okay — forgive that shamelessly provocative intro. We’re just talking about preparations for Jolie’s new role as the devilish Maleficent in an upcoming Disney film. “Wait until you see the horns,” she laughs.
In a wide-ranging interview with EW, Jolie explains why a live-action film focusing on the villainous witch may be good for young viewers.
She also describes her fears (and tears) while bringing her Bosnian War movie In the Land of Blood and Honey, to the people who lived through that conflict. [The film debuts on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow.]
And of course, she reacts to all the commotion surrounding her infamous leg pop at the Academy Awards.
“It’s interesting that you just really never know…” Jolie says.
This is her response to the response to her leggy pose at the Oscars, which became a viral phenomenon, inspiring various websites, a Twitter account, and countless imitators (both ironic and sincere).
But that quote might also apply to what she was doing just a week before the Oscars: taking Blood and Honey, the harrowing and heartbreaking war film she wrote and directed, to premiere in Sarajevo, a city that was under siege for four years during the 1992-1995 war.
Before she was sticking her leg out, Jolie was sticking her neck out.
That ethnic conflict claimed the lives of nearly 100,000 in the former Yugoslavia, and emotions are obviously still raw for survivors. Any first-time filmmaker would be nervous facing that audience, but Jolie was particularly on edge, especially since wild rumors about the story provoked controversy during filming.
“War is so complex, human nature is so complex. There’s no filmmaker who has ever figured it out perfectly,” she tells EW. “We just try to shed a light on one corner of something. And that, hopefully, makes you think of all the other corners you’re unable to see.”
Jolie shot every scene in In the Land of Blood and Honey in both English and BHS, (Bosanski, Hrvatski, Srpski, a.k.a. Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian) the official language of the former Yugoslavia. In theaters, she only released the subtitled version (picking up a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in the process). Tuesday’s DVD and Blu-ray discs will make the English version available for the first time.
Considering all the pressure she felt a week before, it was funny to Jolie when the whole world decided to talk about her gams.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Wow, so you caused quite a stir at the Oscars. That’s usually a pretty stuffy affair, but you definitely widened people’s eyes.
ANGELINA JOLIE: [Laughs] I don’t pay any attention to that stuff. I just heard something as simple as that and thought, well, I don’t know. I do what I feel like doing, but don’t actually consider the effect. I just try to, you know, be as I feel like being on a night like that.
Fashion websites say that pose is becoming a trend. Other actresses and models, like Jennifer Lawrence at The Hunger Games premiere, are wearing dresses with the high slit and posing with their legs out. So on behalf of guys everywhere, allow me to say, thank you very much.
[Laughs] That’s funny, very funny.
You’ve heard of Tebowing, right? Where people imitate Tim Tebow by getting down on one knee.
Uh-huh, I have.
There are whole websites that popped up where people were striking your pose. That must have caught you by surprise.
What’s funny is when you have no actual, conscious thought of anything [like that]. You just feel like, “Eh, I like this dress. I feel comfortable in this one.” It’s interesting that you just really never know…
You pulled it off much better than Jim Rash [pictured, the Best Adapted Screenplay winner, who struck her provocative pose onstage after she presented him the Oscar.] Did you find what he did funny?
Of course! [Laughs] No, I had a great night. It was a really fun night.
NEXT PAGE: Jolie’s night of crying in Sarajevo…
Just before the Oscars, you came home from the European premieres of In the Land of Blood and Honey. I imagine that must have been pretty emotional. It’s a heavy movie to live with for a couple of years, but you were finally showing it to the people who lived through the Bosnian War.
Yeah, it was more challenging because we knew we’d be going face to face with the region itself. We went to Berlin first, then Sarajevo, then Paris and also Croatia. This whole process has been very nerve-wracking because it’s my first film, and I’m not that confident, but I wanted to do this because I love the subject matter and I wanted to learn. I had these great two years where I learned so much about a region and history and worked with these actors from another part of the world.
Let’s start with how it was received in Paris and Berlin.
It was also difficult for them. They were right next door. So there’s a question of when [the U.S.] got involved, but they were right next door and didn’t get involved. There are a lot of feelings for everybody, deep-seated guilt in all of us. Nobody walks away feeling good about this time in history. [The film] is supposed to make us look back and question what went wrong.
During filming, you dealt with a lot of false rumors that this was a twisted romance about a rapist. First it was a Bosnian women’s group…
It was the Bosnians at first, but then it switched to the Serbian side later, though not all Serbian people. Both times when things got heated, neither side had seen the film.
And you lost your permits to film until you showed the script to the Bosnian cultural ministry to prove it wasn’t anything like that.
Leading up to it, there were lots of questions on all sides, and lots of speculation. That speculation was causing people to be threatening toward the movie. They didn’t know, and heard rumors, and of course they’re scared and they’re sensitive. The war is still very fresh. We all got caught in the moment of that [controversy], but fortunately it was more of a moment.
When you were finally showing the public at large what the movie was really about, I imagine you felt some relief in addition to nerves.
In Serbia and Croatia, I just walked in with arms open and said I had no ill intentions, so strike as you will. I love Bosnia so much, so emotionally for me, if this was going to be a place I might hurt in some way, or not be welcome in any way, it would have really broken my heart. That’s really hard when you care and have become close to so many people there.
Where did you show the film?
They wanted to screen it for over 6,000 people in what was the Olympic stadium [used in the 1984 Winter Games]. During the war it became a morgue, so to go back and walk out on stage in front of 6,000 people… You don’t know if they going to throw something at you, or God knows what. I was there with the cast, who are all from different sides of the conflict. But we had a beautiful, positive reaction, and then we all broke down and cried.
During the movie?
When we came out after. We didn’t know what we were going to walk out in front of, but it was very, very moving. Then we met with victims from the war after, and basically stayed up until three in the morning crying, with people telling different stories about their experiences. That’s the most beautiful thing that could come out of this, getting people talking again, even if it means sometimes getting people upset. You debate again.
You’ve said you’re writing a script about the war in Afghanistan next. How’s that coming along?
I have been writing something, because I’ve been there a few times — Afghanistan and Pakistan — in the last 11 years, and it’s a part of the world we’re all quite aware of now, but… I’m not sure. I’m going to actually see this weekend what people think of [the script]. But I like it and I’ve enjoyed doing the research.
What’s next for you as an actor? You were in talks to do a Luc Besson film?
I do hope to work with Luc one day, but we haven’t figured out what that is. The next thing I’m doing is Maleficent for Disney. I start it in June, and it’s a really great script. I’m having a lot of fun. I’ve already got my horns fitted. My kids are very happy.
In this version, Sleeping Beauty is the nemesis instead of the good guy?
It’s not anti-princess, but it’s the first time they’re looking at this epic woman.
Is it sympathetic to her, or is she a straight-up villain?
It’s both. I hope in the end you see a woman who is capable of being many things, and just because she protects herself and is aggressive, it doesn’t mean she can’t have other [warmer] qualities. You have to figure out the puzzle of what she is.
So there are some redeeming qualities to Maleficent the witch?
It sounds really crazy to say that there will be something that’s good for young girls in this, because it sounds like you’re saying they should be a villain. [Maleficent] is actually a great person. But she’s not perfect. She’s far from perfect.
There’s a tradition of taking a classic character who is a villain and telling the story from his or her perspective. John Gardner did it with the 1971 novel Grendel, and more recently we got the witch’s story in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, and the musical it inspired. We like it when the bad guy is deeper than we thought.
In general, it’s a very good message to say, “Let’s look at something from the other side.” But then also, what our challenge will be — and the script writer [The Lion King and Alice in Wonderland’s Linda Woolverton] has already cracked it — is not to simplify it, not to just reverse the story but tell a bigger story that doesn’t point the finger [at Princess Aurora] either. It doesn’t flip it.
Since it’s a Disney film, will this version of Maleficent be close to the one we know from their 1959 animated film?
We’re still figuring out the look. We’re experimenting with different things. But the horns are the horns — you can’t deny them. You have to have horns.
In the Land of Blood and Honey