Meeting Angelina Jolie to Talk About 'Maleficent' and Motherhood

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You could sense the quiet excitement in the room as we waited for the iconic Angelina Jolie to arrive. It was like every one of the 25 bloggers who were in attendance - along with the Disney PR reps we work closely with - were so nervous we didn't know what to do with ourselves. You could hear a pin drop, but if we had opened our mouths the squeals of delight might shoot out an bounce around the walls like a bucket or rubber balls kicked over.

Angelina Jolie at Blogger Interview Maleficent Event
Image via Louise Manning Bishop/MomStart

My hands were shaking and palms sweaty as I furiously typed out tweet after tweet. "Waiting for Angelina to arrive!" "OMG I can't believe Angelina Jolie wants to talk to us", all hashtagged #MaleficentEvent. It was like I was a part of movie history - never before had Hollywood royalty like Angelina wanted to chat with regular women in this fashion. We had a lot to ask and she had a lot to say.

Angelina came in wearing a black Stella McCartney sheath with delicate lace sleeves and insets along the neckline. She also wore her now-famous Maleficent inspired Christian Louboutin wedge heels, the very same ones she wore to the Paris photo call just two weeks prior. She was much smaller than I imagined, maybe because she has such a big personality and reputation of a brilliant actress, mother, and humanitarian. I didn't know you could fit all of that into a 5'6" frame.

"Oh, this is so fun. I was so curious what this group of 'Mommy Bloggers' was. This is fantastic!" she said as she scanned the room and smiled, almost making a point to look at every single one of our faces in an acknowledgement of motherhood solidarity. She sat down, cracked open a bottle of Fiji water and took a sip. As she talked I noticed little nervous mannerisms, like looking down as she spoke and passing the blue water bottle cap through her fingers (painted in Nocturnelle from the Maleficent Collection by MAC). Was she as nervous as we were?

Angelina Jolie at U.K. Premiere of Malificent mage: © Richard Goldschmidt/London News Pictures/ZUMAPRESS.com
Image © Richard Goldschmidt/London News Pictures/ZUMAPRESS.com

What brought you to this moment with a family Disney movie? 

AJ: I read this script and I was just so moved by it. I thought of myself as a little girl, and I thought of all the kids I know, and I just think of that thing of feeling different, feeling outside, and also as a woman, feeling abused and if you’ve ever been abused and then you put this wall up. You become darker and you’re not able to be this soft person that you were born to be.

How much of the Maleficent story did you know before you read the script?

AJ: I didn’t really know anything, I was fascinated by her.  I didn’t really identify with the princesses [as a little girl].  Maleficent was like seeing this elegant, powerful woman who seemed to be having a great time, so I was a bit fascinated by her.  When there was a rumor that the movie was going to be made, I got a call from my brother. And he was like, 'Ang, you’ve got to, you’ve got to make a call to Disney, you got to try to get in on this!'.  So I was very happy when I got the call.  So just the idea of a Disney movie, having children and just being a big kid myself, and wanting to do a little bit of that was fun.  I joked with Linda [Woolverton, writer] - I said, 'how could you possibly make a story where people have any empathy for somebody that curses a baby?'  And I think she did an extraordinary job.

How did you find your voice that you use for this film? 

AJ: I my kids helped me find it.  I always tell stories, I’m sure we all have a few voices.  I was giving them baths and I was doing this thing where a few nights in a row I would tell them stories in the bath.  And I was trying out voices and a few they’d say, 'please stop' (laughs).  And then sometimes they’d listen and they’d kind of be more engaged.  And I kept trying and trying and trying. And then I did that [Maleficent] voice and they couldn’t stop laughing.  And so I kept doing it more and more.  They still make me do it.  I had to do it the other night for bedtime.  I would kind of run it by them, and if it made them happy, or made them smile, or they were interested in it then it was right.

Maleficent via Disney Studios
Image via Disney Studios

What was it like working with Vivienne (her daughter, who plays young Aurora) in the film?

AJ: It was a tough choice to do it. I think everybody knows the reason why I objected, but I was really scaring other kids - but it’s not frightening for children.  I keep saying that, but I did scare. I kept thinking I was a Disney character and I’d want to talk to them.  And they’d get mad and essentially leave. So we realized what four or five year old little girl can I be really mean to and say things like, 'I don’t like children'? We realized it was probably Vivi.  It took us a while to make sure that that was an okay thing to do.  I just wanted to play with her, and it was really fun. The first day she had to catch the butterfly and, like any four year old, she just decided she didn’t want to.  So there’s some really, really funny outtakes of Brad and I. I’ve actually got the stick with the blue ball, that’s supposed to be the butterfly and I’m kind of running in front of her, and Brad’s off the edge of the cliff, kind of trying to like dance and make her jump into his arms.  And she made us work all for that.  It was the hardest working. The people at Disney did say it was the funniest outtakes that they’d ever seen.  And it exists somewhere, I haven’t seen them, I should get them.  But it was lovely to do it.

On Maleficent Hair and Makeup

How long did it take you to get ready for filming with the hair and makeup?

AJ: I think it was about two and a half hours at the end of the day.  We had a great team (lead by makeup artist Arjen Tuiten). So it wasn’t too bad.

Were the horns heavy?

AJ: They were so great. They (costumers) worked so hard to make it not heavy.  My hair was in these really funny little buns in order to get the head piece to stay and was used as kind of the thing that held the horns on.  They also had detachable horns, partially for weight, and also because I kept knocking myself out. I was about seven and a half foot high. So the first few days, I was just a complete mess.  So they made them magnetic, I could snap them.

What did you think the first time you saw yourself in full makeup and costume?

AJ: I was really happy because we went through a few stages where, in trying to find her, we had a few that weren’t so great. There was a period where we thought, 'okay, well she’s-she’s got wings, so she’s part bird fairy, maybe she had feather hair'.  So we went in many, many different directions.  And then at the end of the day, she has real scenes and emotional scenes, it can’t be so much makeup that you’re staring at some pasted makeup. The soul has to come through.  So it had to be enough to be a creature enough but still be able to have very serious scenes.  So I think they did an amazing job.

What did your kids think the first time they saw you in full costume?

AJ: I realized it was a bad idea, it was bad parenting on my part that I should have brought them in early and have them watch me get in my makeup.  But I thought it would be really fun to surprise them.  Some of them were fine, they just got a little quiet. Pax ran away from me.  And I made the mistake of thinking he was playing a game and I chased after him.  And then realized he was upset. And so he had to come in the makeup trailer and watch me take everything off.  

It was interesting because we actually wondered about Maleficent, why is she considered the most evil?  I mean, obviously she what she does, but what is it about children that they see her, and I think that’s what happened to my children.  It was that because it’s a woman, and an older woman, it's mom.  And to my kids it was that a woman that should be nurturing was now the figure that was slightly terrifying. The mom had disappeared and they were really wanting to know where mom went. I think that’s actually why she’s particularly disturbing for children.  And why maybe children will embrace her  because it does feel that you should be safe with an older woman.

Angelina Jolie and Unbroken
Image via Universal Studios

On Being Executive Producer and Her new film Unbroken

You’ve executive produced on other film before, how was this film different as a producer?

AJ: I kind of just ended up as a producer by nature of having to do so much. I ended up having to deal with the costumes, or deal with some of the stunts or the effects, or the makeup. So they felt at a certain point that I should.  But it wasn’t like the kind of work I do when I produce things, like Unbroken (her new film out in December) or other things.

Will we see more family oriented movies now that you’ve gotten a taste of this?

AJ: Well Unbroken, is a heavier movie, but we’re aiming for PG-13.  And I think it’s very important that it’s for young people, because there is so much out there that is just so aggressive, and there can be entertainment.   I’m not against, but I did want to make Unbroken, because I wanted to do something that I felt was inspiring and that young people would be inspired by.  My boys saw it for the first time the other day and I watched them sit through the whole film, and I wanted their heads to see if they’d move. They asked me so many interesting questions about faith, and life, and death, and war.  And it’s very important now we can talk to our kids about real life issues, and real stories, and real film, about something that makes them walk away for it feeling like there’s a chance, and that the spirit inside of them can rise up against anything, and they can feel good about that, and no matter how they start, they can rise.  That’s the message behind Unbroken.  But for Disney characters, we’ll see, we’ll see if I get cast again. I did like my horns, so maybe I’ll get another shot at it.

On Motherhood

As a mom, humanitarian, entertainment how do you do it all?  I’m a mom to twins and I can hardly keep up with them and you have six kids.  How do you do it all?

AJ: I’m at a very lucky position.  I have, I have a supportive partner and he and I are able to take turns working often.  When you make a film, it doesn’t take all year around.  When I direct it does, but I get to decide when I leave in the morning and when I come home at night, and I can edit in my bedroom and would be there in case there’s an emergency with the children.  So I have a very rare luxury with my job to be able to have my kids with me on set every day and home school. Other mothers have it much harder than I do, and don’t have the means to have the assistance I do.

I don’t feel like I, by any means, do anything exceptional.  My mom was a single mom and she had a lot of difficulty and she gave up her dreams to like to make sure she could take me to my auditions and support me. And nobody acknowledged her for what she did, so that was hard.  But mine’s not too bad at all.  I can’t complain.

Have your children seen the movie yet?

AJ: They hadn’t, not the finished.  They saw an early cut, which had a lot of really bad effects. They were very sweet about it.  They’re going to see it for the first time when its 3D. But they did see enough and they saw Vivienne’s scene and the other kids think it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever seen.  Because she is at home my little shadow and I can never get her to like give me space.  So it was very funny that no matter, even at a monster I couldn’t quite get her.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
Image © Dennis Van Tine/UPPA/ZUMAPRESS.com

On Her Efforts as A Humanitarian

Can you talk about your humanitarian efforts? How can a regular mom start small in our own community and do good for others?

AJ: I think the most important thing we do is we raise our children with love and compassion to become great people and thoughtful of others.  If everybody did just that, we’d have a very different world.  And encourage our children’s education and-and help them to be conscious of the world around them. I think mothers have the most powerful role.  There was even examples of Taliban fighters who stopped because their mothers stopped them, because the mothers became educated.  They couldn’t stop the men, but they, educate the mothers and the mothers got them back home. So the mother’s a powerful thing.  I think beyond that it is there is so much to connect to and there is so much that can be done.  As you see now with the situation with the Nigerian girls, that’s not government, that’s the masses speaking out and pushing for government change.  It sometimes doesn’t feel like every voice counts, but it really does.  

There’s a conference in June I’d love you to be aware of that I’m doing, the Foreign Secretary of England, June 10-13, 2014 which is called PSBI, it’s the largest summit ever to end sexual violence in conflict that is open to the public in England.  We’ve realized that it’s not just governments, and it’s not just NGO’s, everybody has to come together. So NATO will be there, peace keepers will be there, governments will be there, and it’s open to the public, and NGO’s, and victims, and doctors will be there.  So everybody together will spend four days. I think that’s what these things take, it takes all of us very tightly working together.

Maleficent opens everywhere May 30th, 2014

*I was provided with a paid trip to do this interview

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