Angelina Jolie may have signed on for The Changeling because it was directed by Clint Eastwood. But it was the true story that will stay with her forever.
“I found myself telling people this story of this script. It’s a great justice story as well as a story about love and loss,” Jolie says of The Changeling.
The Changeling challenge
“When I first read the script, I kept saying ‘I’m not going to work now.’ But I kept telling everybody the entire story – everybody who I could get their ear. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. You would think that no one would buy the script. It’s too much. It’s not realistic enough to be a movie. But because it is real it is just…and there is so much more to it. There’s so much more to the Northcott killings. It could have been even longer and even more interesting with things put pack in because there are more layers. It is, it is an extraordinary film.”
On so many levels, Jolie had found her next project. “In the end, I couldn’t shake it and decided I wanted to do it. Knowing that he was going to do it,” Jolie admits while pointing to Eastwood, “kind of was everything. I’ve always wanted to work with him. But also knowing how difficult this film would be and know that I would be taken care of by somebody who would help me get through it.”
The Changeling is a haunting film that should be earning Oscar nods come nomination season. Jolie was especially proud of this film and dominated the conversation with Eastwood concerning her amazement of the reality behind The Changeling.
“I read the script and thought it felt accurate. As a mother, I couldn’t stop reading. When she got back up I’d think ‘good, you’re back up.’ And when this would happen to her I’d think ‘I hope you do something about that’ and she did and I’d think ‘good for you!’ She’s just a woman who I came to admire and feel very sorry for,” Jolie admits.
Eastwood wanted Jolie for the part and considered no one else. When Jolie received the script for The Changeling, anyone around her knew the actress had her next project.
“She was very much a woman of the time,” Jolie says. “In the beginning of the film she’s a working mom who’s into her job. She’s loves her son and she’s busy. But she is a woman of 1928. There is something small about her and apologetic about her. The script allowed for this transition to find her strength through the torture she went through and really coming to terms with what her rights are what she lost. To me, one of the main moments where things change, is when she realizes they just can’t do anything else to her. She’s lost what’s important to her and now she’s going to fight for everybody else. I think that’s a wonderful human transition.”
Although her compatriot, Brad Pitt, was never considered for any parts in Changeling, his immediate excitement of the script is one of the reasons Jolie graces national movie screens October 31 in one of the year’s most emotionally riveting films. “You find yourself wanting to get very aggressive about a situation because you’ve been wronged. Instead, you’ve been feeling like a little woman facing this authority of men and at a time when that was such an authority. It was such a final word. They could easily say ‘you’re emotional. You’re a woman. You’re a mother not thinking clearly.’ A lot of that people would say, ‘that sounds right.’ It’s terrifying.”
Watching Jolie in The Changeling is one of those moments in film that transcends time. Sure the setting on the screen is the 1920s, yet Eastwood’s film resonance knows no decade.
Clint’s cinematic charm
The director, as he sees all his films, saw The Changeling as an opportunity to grow. “When I say I learn something from every film, sometimes it’s the process or something about generally making the film. You learn a lot about people about relationships and you get to know wonderful people like Angelina. John, I knew before (In the Line of Fire). You watch actors dealing with trying to transmit their emotion – it’s very exciting. That’s the greatest part about film directing. Watching other people and how the mechanism works and if they have trouble, to try to give them the mechanism. Or at least, lead them to it because you can’t do it for them. But, sometimes you give them a clue that maybe just does the job, or maybe not. But it’s the great fun of trying to make films,” Eastwood says.
Eastwood has been at this for a while and audiences hope decades longer. “Having done it so much for 50…54 years, you start thinking,” he pauses as Eastwood’s voice becomes his trademark whispery, ‘damn, I’ve been doing this more than half a century. You think somewhere accidentally something will sink in somewhere that you can utilize.”
The transcendent actress for our time
Jolie is no stranger to stirring emotional portraits. Most recently, her astounding turn as Marianne Pearl in Pearl – may have missed the mark at the box office, but with DVD, award and critical accolades, the film has seen and its unquestionable power reaching hundreds of millions.
For Jolie, the appeal of the film was also working with John Malkovich. Like audiences everywhere, she found two sides to a talented actor.
John’s always one of those actors that…I’ve always respected him. I’ve felt he’s one of those real artists. He knows his craft,” Jolie says. “But, you don’t know John. It was so nice to get to know John because he’s just a pleasure. He is a very, very intelligent, very kind man – very intelligent.”
Also, as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador to the world for causes big and small, Jolie was able to effortlessly channel her global and personal passions into her role of a woman desperate for answers in a world full of questions. “Because it’s a real story and because it’s what someone really suffered in the system and how she fought the system,” Jolie says.
Jolie won an Oscar for her portrayal of a wounded soul in Girl, Interrupted, and in Changeling, she inhabits another character whose wounds audiences watch get deeper as the film progresses. “I admired her and there was a strength in what she learned and how she rose above it that I wanted to share with the world.”