Angelina Jolie Disputes That the Casting Call for Her Film Was 'Exploitative'

Jul 31, 2017 at 2:05 p.m. ET
Image: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

Angelina Jolie is currently under severe scrutiny, but she's actively trying to combat that scrutiny with her side of the story.

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Lately, the Oscar-winning actress has been doing press for her upcoming Netflix film, First They Killed My Father. In one interview with Vanity FairJolie had apparently described the casting process used to find a child to play the film's lead.

According to Vanity Fair's description, an improv exercise during casting was performed that involved putting money on a table, asking the children to think about why they needed the money before taking it. The children were then "caught" and asked to make up a lie to explain why they took the money. The exercise was based on a real-life experience of Loung Ung, whose memoir inspired Jolie's film. Many of the children who auditioned for the role were from orphanages and slums.

"Srey Moch [the girl who was chosen for the film's lead part] was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time," Jolie told Vanity Fair. "When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion … When she was asked later what the money was for, she said her grandfather had died, and they didn’t have enough money for a nice funeral."

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When news broke about the exercise, many criticized it on social media, saying it exploited the underprivileged children who hoped to land the role. But Jolie has responded strongly that that's not true. She issued a statement trying to clear the air and saying that the safety and comfort of the children was put first during auditions.

"Every measure was taken to ensure the safety, comfort and well-being of the children on the film starting from the auditions through production to the present. Parents, guardians, partner NGOs whose job it is to care for children, and medical doctors were always on hand everyday, to ensure everyone had all they needed. And above all to make sure that no one was in any way hurt by participating in the recreation of such a painful part of their country’s history," she wrote. "I am upset that a pretend exercise in an improvisation, from an actual scene in the film, has been written about as if it was a real scenario. The suggestion that real money was taken from a child during an audition is false and upsetting. I would be outraged myself if this had happened. The point of this film is to bring attention to the horrors children face in war, and to help fight to protect them."

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It would appear that Jolie's statement is trustworthy and that this may all be a result of a simple misunderstanding or misrepresentation of how this film was actually cast. Considering Jolie has long worked as a humanitarian and United Nations ambassador, she seems like just the right person to be tackling this film and furthermore appears to be the kind of person who would put the safety of children first. We hope the backlash calms down soon.