Angelina Jolie talks 'Maleficent,' charity work and being a role model

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:24 AM ET

Elle Fanning offers this excellent description of what it's like to be around Angelina Jolie, her co-star in the new movie Maleficent: "People see on the outside that sort of intensity she has in photographs and on red carpets, and that kind of like, force around her, but then you meet her, and she's just a girl, in a way.

"And we would just talk about normal girl things, like prom, and you get to see her sensitivity — all her kids were on set, and she was so playful … For me to see that, it was so opposite to what I thought she'd be, like a god or something."

Jolie, 38, is here to promote Maleficent, the highly anticipated Disney film about the vengeful fairy (Jolie) who curses the princess (Fanning) in Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is brought to life by the actress in a story that shows how betrayal hardens the heart. And how love restores it.

The movie opens Friday and has an impressive cast that includes Imelda Staunton, Sam Riley and Sharlto Copley.

One of the big attractions of Maleficent, says Jolie, was making a movie her children could see. "And the artist in me felt it's good to do something bold every once in a while, that you're not comfortable with. I was a bit nervous to take her on," she says of the character. "I don't have a big theatre voice. I don't do things that are kind of comedic. This is such a crazy idea — I'm a fairy! I'd come home, 'How was your day honey?' — I was a fairy," she jokes.

"But somehow it's great to jump into things you're unsure of and it's a little scary."

Maleficent was a bit of a family affair for Jolie, in that her daughter Vivienne, now five, appears briefly as a toddler Aurora. That was casting born of necessity, as the little girl wasn't afraid of Maleficent, knowing it was mommy in there under the makeup and scary costumes.

Other children were reduced to tears by the sight of the character.

"Brad (Pitt) and I never wanted our kids to be actors," says Jolie of Vivienne's participation, "but we also want them to be around film and be part of mummy and daddy's life, not to have it kept from them, either. Just to have a good healthy relationship with it."

And if some of them do choose acting one day?

"I would only ask that that not be the centre of their lives, that it's one aspect, but that they also 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 the centre of your life."

No one could ever accuse Jolie of making acting the centre of her life. A writer and director as well as the Oscar winning star of such films as Girl, Interrupted, The Changeling, A Mighty Heart, Mr & Mrs. Smith, and Wanted, Jolie is also known for her tireless humanitarian work. As a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, she has visited every corner of the planet to advocate for those displaced by war and natural disaster. Jolie and Brad Pitt, themselves the parents of six children, donate time and money to charities that benefit children all over the world and to various other environmental and social causes. Jolie has received several honours for her charitable efforts, including the Global Humanitarian Action Award.

On the work front, Jolie recently directed her second feature, Unbroken, a film about Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini. Zamperini survived a plane crash and six weeks at sea on a life raft during WWII, only to then be taken prisoner by the Japanese. The movie will open later this year.

The 97-year-old Zamperini turned out to be Jolie's neighbour, "So I can stand on my roof with a pair of binoculars and wave at him," she jokes. "He's one of the most extraordinary people I've ever met."

Making Unbroken was daunting, says Jolie, prompting a reporter to ask the actress how she juggles all her work and parenting, too.

Jolie says, "I'm not a single mom with two jobs trying to get by every day. I have much more support than most women around this world, and I have the financial means to have home, and help with care and food, so I don't consider it a challenge."

She was able to have her kids with her almost every day on set for Maleficent.

"I actually feel that 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, don't have the financial means, don't have the support. Many people are single, raising children," she says. "That's hard."

Twitter: @LizBraunSun

liz.braun@sunmedia.ca

 


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