Among the world's most fascinating women, mega-star Angelina Jolie plays opposite the equally fascinating movie star, Johnny Depp in the Paris-to-Venice chase movie The Tourist. Angelina recently sat down with Buzzine for an exclusive interview and gave the inside scoop about their time together shooting the new thriller, her upcoming directorial debut, and what it is like to work on location with an entire family along for the ride...
Buzzine: Your wardrobe in this was absolutely gorgeous, and I know Colleen Atwood certainly deserves credit for that. But did you have some input into the styles and what you wanted to wear? Did you get choices?
Angelina Jolie: She was very specific about what she liked, but I did certainly chime in about things I thought were right for the character--things I thought were too much or... We wanted to make sure she had a kind of sexiness but it was fun--that it had elegance and a fun to it. Instead of a big, high slit, we put a bow on the bum. We wanted to have something more playful and sweeter, was my thought, and her thought as well.
B: They had a kind of classic, Grace Kelly look in a way. Especially in the first outfit you wear...
AJ: It was very different than anything I've ever worn. It took me a while to get the heels and the gloves and how to hold the handbag. I think everybody knows I'm not necessarily that female in that way, so it was a little bit of an exercise to get in there.
B: You have a wonderful walk. The camera was feasting on the way you walked throughout the movie. Were you conscious of that?
AJ: I was conscious because the first time I did it, I had the camera about a foot behind my rear end following me down the streets of Paris. And I thought, "Oh, this is so uncomfortable. This is the most bizarre..." because there's one thing when you're walking, but when somebody is watching the way you walk, you actually become very aware of it... and in five-inch heels or whatever I was in on cobblestone, it was not the most pleasant. But you get into it and you kind of have the fun of being a girl. I think it was fun for me to discover that because I tend to... Having come off Salt and even literally being a guy, it was nice to re-discover being female.
B: Paul Bettany was just talking to us about the elegant feel of the movie. Were you conscious of that?
AJ: Very. When you meet Florian, you'll see that he's very...every detail of that, and every little bit of...down to "She wouldn't wear diamonds during the day because of the way she was raised. And she wouldn't do this because of this..." I think my note that I got probably every day was 'slow down,' because I think as a very modern woman - we attack things. We're aggressive. We move through. We're like New Yorkers. I think he was trying to teach me about a certain way of being bred, or elegance has this kind of...that time moves around you, you don't move. You don't meet it. So this is the hardest thing for me, to kind of take a deep breath and just glide a little more. But she took me a really long time.
B: What was the coolest part about playing with Johnny Depp?
AJ: Oh, he's just such a nice guy. He's so funny. He's so fun to hang out with. He's the friend you're just so happy to come to work and do scenes with. And he's just a brilliant actor. He's often thought of so much for his deep character work, but it really comes from an artist who's willing to try things--not just somebody who's just doing these fun things. He's a real experimental, deeply feeling artist who gives a lot and tries a lot, and is very gracious on set to everybody and to his fellow actors. So he was just a pleasure.
B: This makes two action-adventure films this year. What's drawing you to these particular films?
AJ: I love that you think this...is it action? I haven't seen it. I actually did it because of the opposite, kind of. Maybe for me it wasn't action--maybe there's action in it, but I didn't get to participate that much in this one.
B: You're kind of floating in the...
AJ: I float, yeah. Honestly, this one came about in that I had finished Salt and Brad was to work next, and he had a small delay in his film, Moneyball, so we had a few months and I questioned if there was anything out there that shot in a great location. Honestly, that was the phone call I made. And it was something new that I hadn't done before, and I got this call that there was this film that happened to shoot in Venice and Paris, and it was a real lady. So I was interested, and then Florian came on board. It was just a pleasure--one of those really nice films to work on.
B: The film feels consciously evocative of another era: Did you watch anything to get a sense of those kind of classic films and the elegance that extends?
AJ: There were lots of things we were supposed to watch. I didn't watch everything on my list, but I did watch To Catch a Thief and just became more aware of those periods. But at the same time, you watch those movies and you don't want to mimic. We wanted to make it modern, so I was nervous with her. I didn't want to make her too precious. I wanted to have her a little warmer. So I didn't get too caught up in behaving like a princess. I didn't fall into the trap of mimicking an old movie. It had texture, but it would also be relatable.
B: I heard that when you first got to meet Johnny, you went to his office ahead of time, before he even got there, and got a feel of his office. And you got to look around at his paintings and pictures. Was there anything that stood out in his office?
AJ: Do you think I'll tell you what's in his office? No, I was on time, for the record. I was not early. But you walk into somebody's office, you see what's important to them. And he's got lots of books and lots of pictures of his children, so it's immediately somebody you feel at ease with.
B: Did you have a way to inspire yourself for this role?
AJ: I think it was just a combination of what we all think in our minds is female--the different references--that my mother had a real softness to her and she was very gracious. Vivienne, my youngest daughter, is extremely female and very naturally just a real girl, so I kind of played Vivienne in the film. But I guess I tried not to pin it down to one person as much. The accent I based on an English woman. So it's a combination.
B: When you're working with Mr. Depp and he's deliberately playing the least cool person alive...
AJ: Which is impossible for him...
B: But he's speaking badly, and most of the time he's got a horrible electronic cigarette... How much time did you spend biting the inside of your cheek to not break out laughing? Or are you able to just lock in and focus and get through the scene very elegantly?
AJ: I did. There's some footage floating around--I'm surprised hasn't surfaced--of a good, God, 20-minutes to half an hour... There was a good run where we could not stop laughing. We wasted a lot of film and got a lot of producers a little frustrated because we just couldn't get through it. We just couldn’t stop laughing. So yes, we failed quite a few times. And the outfits of his character are very, very funny.
B: Most recently, you've been working on your directorial debut. What's the status of that project? Are you done filming it? And how was it behind the camera?
AJ: I am done filming it. I go back to edit in January. And it was great. It was really nice to have an opportunity to take the spotlight off myself and put it on some brilliant actors that are from an area... I'm excited to show their work and their talent to the world because I'm very, very proud of what they gave and what they did. So I just felt lucky to be there for them.
B: You mentioned that part of the reason for doing this film was the location. Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like working in Venice? The good and the bad--if there is any bad about working in Venice...
AJ: There's not a lot of bad. The good was just everything. The kids had a great time. You feel, as a parent, you should be responsible to teach your kids about culture. So you get this gratifying "done." You just drop them in Venice for two months and they go to museums and have an Italian teacher, so that was great. Some of the funnier things were more just logistically, I think. There was one scene where he had to jump into my boat. I come in and he jumps in, and we did a few takes and he jumped in the boat, and the boat and the water were about a foot apart. Then we had to move the camera for the other side of the water and do the same thing. But about two hours had passed and it was now about five feet lower. So his jump became...I thought he was gonna go in the water. But he somehow made it. But we only did it once. So it was things like that. You'd go out of your room in the morning and you were either stepping up into this boat and it's all wet, or it's really, really deep low. It's funny things like that. It's odd to be living in the middle of so much water. But it was just fun.
B: Had you seen the movie The Lives of Others before?
AJ: I did. I had seen The Lives of Others and I loved it. I didn't know if it was just that I wanted to go to Venice or if there was something more in the material. I know that when Florian and I sat together, I think I even said, "Somebody that does deep art like The Lives of Others--I'm curious why you're interested." And we had this discussion about how people often confuse something as art only if it's very dark or very unhappy or very depressing or very emotional, but that art should also make people just feel happy and be beautiful. And that's not a lesser art. So I thought that that was his view made me really more excited about just doing something that was lovely. And I thought that was his approach. So I wanted to work with him and I was thrilled when he wanted to do this.
B: Perhaps a sequel to this, where your character and Johnny's go on more adventures...?
AJ: Somebody said there's a great TV show of two English people that are like spies and they're always drunk. Does anybody know this? If it's the sequel, it would be that. Whatever that is.
B: Being here in Paris, what do you love most about this city? And how much time do you actually get to spend out?
AJ: Not much. We spent a lot of time in south of France, but we love being in Paris. It's Paris. Every time we're here, we're always trying to figure out which new... We went to the Monet exhibit, and we want to go to the museums...taking the kids out. So it's just a very, very elegant, beautiful place that makes you feel elegant if you can lose yourself in it a little bit.
B: Are you fluent?
AJ: No. I wish. I will be. I'm working on it. My kids are passing me, which is driving me insane, so I'm about to get back in class.
B: The first part of the movie, was that a distraction for you, or were you at all nervous about how they always talk about how American audiences don't like subtitles?
AJ: I took it as a great challenge. I love doing things that I just simply haven't tried before, even if I fail. I just wanted to try. It was a challenge having a director who could speak five languages because he's very specific about...his French is perfect. His Russian is perfect. I think he taught Russian philosophy to Russians in Russia. I mean, he's just beyond...so the bar was set pretty high with him as a director. So it was only that I knew he wouldn't let me slide.
B: May I ask about Kung Fu Panda 2?
AJ: Yes, you can.
B: Have you done all your voiceover work on that? And is that coming out next year?
AJ: It is coming out next year. I've done most of it. I have a little bit more to do because I think it keeps changing, so they call me back. Jack Black goes in and improvises and I have to go back in and respond to it. But I loved that first one. I think the themes are so beautiful, and I think the next one even gets into the themes of adoption, which are obviously close to my heart. So I'm very excited.
B: This is almost an Italian movie. Do you see yourself doing a Spanish or Mexican, or South American movie?
AJ: I would love to. I've never been asked, but I would love to branch out and be involved by other directors of other cultures and other languages. I'd love to try, if given the opportunity.
B: Your family is obviously part of an interesting, engaged, professional life you have. The characters you play always have engaged, interesting, professional lives, but they're rarely parents. Does that say a lot about the state of modern screenwriting or what audiences want? Or is it just that those are simply the roles you're interested in?
AJ: I'd love to play a parent. I'm sure I'll start to. Salt had a child, but I actually decided she wouldn't because I felt that somebody whose life is in danger wouldn't have a child. I guess I play a lot of characters that I question whether or not they should have children because of the decisions they've made in their lives. But I would love to play more of those characters. I would love to play a mother.
B: Well you had a great mom role in Changeling.
AJ: Oh, thank you. Yes. I did. She was quite a mother, wasn't she? Christine was an amazing woman.
B: Now that you're working as a director, has it changed your view of how you see your work as an actress and, as well, as a director?
AJ: It has. I think I had such a wonderful experience being more with the crew. I think actors, because we're in the world of the characters and the world of the movie, kind of are more isolated. It was really fun to wake up and be a part of the entire crew and family with the entire crew, and not being isolated. I was much more aware of the process and every different layer of the process. It was just a different level of working that was very, very exciting to me, and I was really excited to watch other actresses work and do scenes that I maybe would have liked to have tried to do, but then I see them do them and they do them better than I could imagine, and I'm thrilled. So I've learned a lot, but I wonder how it's going to be when I go back to just being the actor.
B: At this point in your career, what's most important to you, in terms of your professional choices?
AJ: It's getting harder to make decisions to just want to do something to work. I'm like everybody. I'm trying to find things that are extremely challenging or mean something to me deeply. Sometimes something like The Tourist comes up and it's just fun. But I think it's not as easy to find projects now. It's not as easy to find something that means so much that you have to do it. You kind of have to be home or you have to do other things, but you don't have to work as much as you do when you're younger and you're trying to figure out your work and who you are. That's why I'm unemployed at the moment.
B: Was there a director you worked with in the past who you sort of modeled your process after?
AJ: I'm sure it's a combination of quite a lot of directors. I learned a lot from Clint [Eastwood], who's an extremely economic director. I learned a lot from Michael Winterbottom, who really gave a lot of trust in the actors and allowed them to live in the space and then capture them in the space instead of trying to manipulate and make it too set and too staged. Working with [Robert] DeNiro taught me a lot about being an actor's director and what that is. So I have learned a lot from pretty much everybody. Hopefully I've picked up something from everybody I worked with.
B: There's a part of you that's drawn to projects like Beyond Borders or A Mighty Heart. What are your emotions for films like A Mighty Heart where you invest so much of yourself and it essentially fails at the box office?
AJ: I've never done anything for box office. I've been lucky that I've been able to maintain a career where I cannot do well at the box office. But you do the projects you love, and I think you do films knowing that certain films are not those types of films. I think we all knew, going into that film, that it was not the kind of film and not the kind of subject matter that a lot of people wanted to go out of their way to sit with for two hours. It was very hard to do, emotionally. It's a very hard story even to talk about.
It's a very hard time for people to live through and remember, and how it connects to even the modern terrors of today. A lot of people don't want to revisit them or relive them. So I don't think any of us going into it felt that it was in any way one to be financially successful. We went into it simply to have that great experience of making a film we were proud of. So we found it a giant success.
B: Still, you want people to see it...
AJ: I don't know. I mean, I certainly would love people to see it because I love Mariane [Pearl], and I think her story and what she went through and who she is as a person and her family and what they represent is a very beautiful thing and important. So I'm sure it has some kind of life. To me, just even a little life for that is spreading a little bit of something you think is important. It's wonderful.
B: What is your favorite French movie?
AJ: I don't really watch a lot of films. I don't. If I had to, like, buzzer in, that’s not the one I'd pick. Pick another category.
B: Favorite French song?
AJ: "Frere Jacques."
B: You have this career. You've got six kids. You've got a husband. You've got your philanthropic work. When do you find time for yourself? Do you purposely work out certain times where "this is gonna be Angelina time"?
AJ: You start to. You just give that up at a certain point. You even try to take a bath and everybody comes in. You just give it up. And it's okay. But I try, when everybody goes, you try...but no. I'm even surprising myself because I'm somebody that likes to be alone. I'm surprised how much I'm very happy to be surrounded by everybody in my family and not be alone. It's all right. I feel that comfort, which is surprising even to me. But it's all right.
Columbia Pictures 'The Tourist' is in theaters from Friday December 10, 2010.