Most recently, we’ve come to know Angelina Jolie as Chelsea Handler’s main squeeze, but she’s also one of the most fascinating actors and humanitarians the world has ever seen. I had the chance to go to Paris to attend the press junket for The Tourist, and I spoke with her about what it was like to film in Venice, working with Johnny Depp, and how she may or may not be similar to her character of Elise Clifton-Ward.
Q: You were one of the main reasons this film finally got made. Why did you want to do it?
Angelina: You know some of these will have a great intellectual answer and some of these are just… There was suddenly a window where Brad was doing Moneyball, and I asked if there was something shooting in a great location that’s a character I haven’t done before. Someone said there’s this project shooting in Paris and Venice, and I said “OK, now what?” It kind of started like that. But then I looked at it and thought, “well I don’t want to make the mistake of an American doing a European style film and it becoming too American.” I’ve always loved Florian’s work and I felt in very safe hands, and then Johnny was in, and it was this lovely project. But it was part of my desire to go to Venice.
Q: I read that this was your first time actually meeting Johnny when you sat down to talk about this project. What was your chemistry like on screen and working together?
A: I had never met Johnny but I liked his films. And I think you could tell by watching his films that he’s a very likable person. You assume he’s a nice guy. And he is. It was a pleasure. Brad had known him a little bit and said he was a great guy. We met in his office one day and talked mostly about kids and France. It was just easy to talk to him and we had fun together. We seemed to have a laugh quickly.
Q: How important was it to watch the original (Anthony Zimmer)?
A: We all made the decision to not watch it. We knew the original script was based loosely on it but Florian wrote the final final draft. It took steps and steps away from it and it got tailored to each different personality attached to it. There were a few big things that were adjusted more about emotional connection, not so much plots but there were some big sweeping things. It’s hard to describe. It’s not a remake.
Q: Can you talk about your lasting impressions of working in Venice?
A: Venice is just heaven to work in. For any of us to be stuck in for two months, Venice is pretty much at the top of the list. It was beautiful for the children. Funny in some ways… you go to work and you don’t know whether you’re stepping up into a boat or down into a boat depending on the tides. And then you drive your boat into some other place in the water. It was just odd to be in boats all the time. Loads of fun. Then we had dinners and halfway we had to get throw boots on because by the time you were done eating the water had risen so everyone walks home in their wellies.
Q: Johnny Depp’s character respects that Elise is a “very grounded” person. Do you think you’re grounded in real life too?
A: I think that’s true. Especially in comparison to how I’ve been in my life, you become more and more grounded with children and the older you get. At the same time, I think being grounded allows you to be even more free. There’s a funny misconception about what it is to be grounded. When you’re younger and wild you don’t have as much control over life and you don’t have the ability to do things with as much bravery because you don’t understand it and when you’re older you can tackle bigger things and you can handle them. So I’m grounded but my children keep me in chaos like I’ve never been in. Things seem fuller but much more grounded.
Q: How do you balance your production schedule and your home life?
A: Well Brad and I have never worked at the same time. One good thing about being an actor is you work pretty solid when you work, you usually work 5 days a week and you only work for a few months and then you’re off at home for months. I’ve been fairly lucky as a mother with the amount of time I get to spend with my children. When I was filming and we were in production in the recent thing I did, Brad was at home with them everyday so he would take them to school. He’s an extremely hands on, wonderfully committed father. Sometimes it’s nice to have extra daddy time with them so it benefits in a different way.
Q: Can you talk about the wardrobe for The Tourist?
A: It was so much a character in the film. This film is… really what Florian and I discussed early on is something that is a pleasure and it was an escape into a lovely world how you wish Paris and Venice was. You wish everyone felt this elegant for a moment. So Coleen, she’s just extraordinary, I felt like I was back in one of these old time movies where they twist you around and add this and move this and build your wardrobe around your shoes, gloves, handbag, the thing in your hair — they all match. It was fun the first two weeks, but I was glad to step away because it was a lot of maintenance.
Q: Did you watch old movies to prepare for filming?
A: We all did watch some of those old movies but then I found that we wanted to both get a sense of the old movies while still getting ready to make a modern one. Florian was good at this, guiding us. Especially my character — she couldn’t be somebody pretending to be a certain way. It might feel too staged. We had to learn about that behavior but relax and forget. But we did watch To Catch a Thief… I have difficult sitting down and watching movies. Brad sat me down and we went through them for a few nights. They were fun, but I didn’t want to start mimicking a certain personality, and even those old films — they’re very staged. I didn’t want to get into something where I couldn’t be organic.
Q: What’s your interpretation of the role you play in the film?
A: I think we made a decision that she wasn’t empowered. That’s something Florian and I discussed. We wanted it to be someone who was raised a certain way, to take care of themselves a certain way, and that’s who she was as opposed to some kind of vixen. She has a bit of a heart, so it doesn’t fall into some cold person.
Q: But she turns heads. We see several scenes where people just turn and look at her. When she goes on the train, she finds a guy who just stares at her. She’s very aware of her seductive ability. It’s almost fun for her. Do you identify with that at all?
A: That was mostly Florian instructing me on that. I’m not necessarily that person. I’m traditionally not that person.
Q: Did you ever feel any pressure working with Johnny Depp?
A: No I work with Brad, so I don’t think so. You know, Johnny is such an easy person to be with and work with. But I think we both wanted it to go well. It’s so odd, there’s these things about what you are in the press but at the end of the day, the big thing we did was we all got together, Brad and myself, him and Vanessa, our boys ended up playing video games all night while we drank wine and talked. It was just fun and lovely.
Q: Do you have any idea what you’re doing next?
A: No, I’m unemployed.