When Angelina Jolie first put on the costume and the horned headdress to play the iconic Sleeping Beauty villain in Maleficent, she knew there was no other way to play the character than full throttle.
“I think that was part of the thing with this role is you realize that there’s no halfway. If you’re gonna do it, you’re gonna have to just to fully get into it and enjoy it,” Jolie said.
“The original was done so well. Her voice was so great and the way she was animated was so perfect. If anything, I just was so worried I’d fail the original. But I practiced a lot with my children with my voice. When I got them laughing, I figured I was on to something. Well, they laughed, they cried.”
Speaking of her kids, as teased in that first Maleficent trailer, Vivienne makes her screen debut as the younger version of the Elle Fanning character, Aurora (who becomes Sleeping Beauty). It was not an easy decision by Brad Pitt and Jolie to have Vivienne in Maleficent.
“Well, Brad and I never wanted our kids to be actors. We never talked about it as a thing. But, we also want them to be around film and be a part of mommy and daddy’s life and for it not to be kept from them either -- just to have a good healthy relationship with it,” Jolie admitted.
The entire thing came about when other kids (children of Maleficent stars and actors) would see Jolie and she would greet them in full costume. “I would go up and say ‘hi’ to them and they would cry. I actually had one child completely freeze and then cry, it was like terror. And so I felt so bad. But we realized that there was no way that we were going to find a four or five-year-old that I could be as strong with that would not see me as a monster,” Jolie said.
“Suddenly there was Vivie running around looking like little Aurora and everybody kind of thought, ‘Oh, the answer’s right there.’ But then I had to go home and talk to dad and we both sat around thinking that it’s our kid, so it’s so sweet -- the idea of it’s so cute to us as mommy and daddy. But, then the fact that she’s in a film and suddenly it’s the world and film and all that.”
Vivienne’s onset experience was totally geared towards her needs, and whatever she felt like doing, mommy and daddy were there to support her.
“She was good. The first day was the day she had to catch the butterfly and she just really didn’t feel like doing it. So, I actually was holding the pole with the ball on the end and bouncing up and down and kind of dancing trying to make her laugh. And daddy was on the edge of the cliff she had to jump off, kind of like making faces and doing all these things, and her brothers and sisters were kind of egging her on,” Jolie recalled.
“She eventually did it. But she was just taking her sweet time! But then when we got to our scene -- we’d kind of practiced it a little bit at home where I’d say, ‘Okay, I’m gonna say go away and then you try to get back.' So by the time we did that, when we did it together we had a good time. I was actually shocked that she was doing so well. Inside I thought, ‘She went back and hit her mark! It’s frightening.’”
When it comes to whether any of her other children could appear in movies, Jolie has a keen idea of how it would work, kind of like it did on Maleficent.
“I just want them to like it like this. I want them to do it for fun only. And if, when they get older they decide to be actors, I would just ask that they not [make it] the center of their lives,” Jolie said. “They also [need] to do many other things with their lives and are involved in many other things. Because I don’t think it’s a healthy focus as a center of your life.”
Regardless of her brood’s future, one thing is for sure. They will always be close to Jolie and Pitt, regardless of where in the world their jobs take them.
“They home-school, so we travel everywhere together. They were on set most every day for Maleficent. When I feel I’m doing too much, I do less if I can and that’s why I’m in a rare position where I don’t have to do job after job, I can take time when my family needs it,” Jolie said.
“I can edit now (on her film Unbroken). It’s the nice thing about being a director. I can say, ‘I can only get into the room after the kids are at school and I have to be back for dinner, and they’re coming for lunch.’”
Does she then take a stab at the controversial comments made recently about moms by Gwyneth Paltrow? You decide!
“Women in my position, when we have all at our disposal to help us, shouldn’t complain when we consider all of the people who are really struggling who don’t have the financial means, don’t have the support, and many people are single raising children -- that’s hard.”
For Jolie, after directing Blood and Honey, she was not sure about returning to acting. In fact, she lined up another directing project, the currently filming Unbroken. But there was something about the opportunity to let loose as Maleficent -- that she jumped all over it.
“After having directed and thinking that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to act or how good I’d be -- the challenge of it wasn’t returning to act, it wasn’t anything normal. It was such a crazy idea and I was so challenged by it,” Jolie said.
“My kids are now all watching all these movies and wanting to play with mommy. It was perfect timing to have them all on set, playing, being a part of the adventure with me. And for me, as an actress, to not do something where I’m taking myself so seriously and I’m trying to do something for myself and my art -- but just play. Just remember what it is to play and entertain and try something bold. It was, in fact, an important story to tell.”
It also had to do with the old adage about artists growing by taking risks. “The artist in me felt it’s good to do something bold every once in a while, that you’re not comfortable with that you haven’t done. I was a bit nervous to take her on. I don’t do things that are kind of comedic. This is such a crazy idea I’m a fairy. You know, I’d come home and ‘How was your day, honey?’ ‘I was a fairy, I don’t know,’" Jolie said and laughed. "It’s great to jump into things that you’re not sure of and you haven’t done and it’s a little scary. That’s what we have to do as artists.”
Jolie famously had a double mastectomy that raised awareness the world over. When asked about whether she channeled that feeling when Maleficent had her wings removed, she said those thoughts never entered her mind. “The surgery was a choice I made myself and something that was I happy to have the option and the health care and the ability to make a choice to be here around longer for my children. It was a wonderful thing,” Jolie said.
“What happened to her was more like a rape and something that she had no choice in and something that was done with ill intent. I think people will see it and I think they will see, you know, for children it’s abuse. It’s being bullied. It’s being hurt. For everybody, we’ve all had that moment where somebody really hurt us and it changed us. I think children will identify with that in different ways, and it’ll upset them but then they’ll also get angry with her hopefully and then they’ll also want her to grow past it.”
Some wonder whether Maleficent is too scary for children. Jolie, as a parent of six, has clear thoughts on the issue.
“I think a film like this, people say, ‘Is it too dark for children?’ It’s not. They want to understand things that frighten them. They want to see dark things that happen and they want to see how to rise above them,” Jolie said. “They don’t want to be hidden from all things and everything sweetened. I think that’s something that always surprises me about children.”