Director Angelina Jolie jokes she 'stole it all from Clint' Eastwood
'In the Land of Blood and Honey' filmmaker on taking the big step behind the camera
This is not your typical Angelina Jolie interview. This is not an interview discussing Jolie's humanitarian efforts across the globe. This is not an interview pestering Jolie about whether she thinks' longtime companion Brad Pitt will finally win an Oscar this year. This is not an interview diving into the ridiculous tabloid headlines that follow Jolie on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. This isn't an interview fishing for a bite on whether Jolie will star in sequels to "Salt" or "Wanted" or if and when the Kay Scarpetta movie is going to happen. No, this is an interview about Angelina Jolie the director.
Somewhat out of the blue, Jolie wrote and directed "In the Land of Blood and Honey," a drama set during the Bosnian War in the early '90s. Moreover, the final cut is completely in the language of the region, not English. To say this would be a challenge for any filmmaker is an understatement. For a first time director? Eye-brow raising. But, the 36-year-old icon has learned from some of the best including Oliver Stone, Robert Zemeckis, Robert De Niro, Martin Campbell, Mike Newell, Michael Winterbottom and, none other than Clint Eastwood over her career. Sitting down to chat about "Blood and Honey" late last week in Los Angeles, in an interview you can see embedded at the top of this post, Jolie was more than happy to discuss who influenced her already impressive and confident style.
"I stole it all from Clint," Jolie jokes. "I think certainly as an actress there have been many experiences where I realized, 'This is helping me.' 'This is not helping me.' With Clint, I learned from him, certainly is -- it's a family. There is no bad energy on set. There are no people fighting. He works with great people because he knows they are great at what they do. He lets them do their thing and he steps back and everyone becomes a family that respects each other and works happily together. Him and Michael Winterbottom I pulled a lot from in the way he works with actors and the kind of freedom that he gave me when I worked with him.
Still, Jolie confirms her job behind the camera on "Blood and Honey" was the result of her passion for her screenplay based on the ethnic unrest that Europe and the United States mostly ignored until thousands of Bosnians had been killed in atrocities not seen on the continent since WW II.
"It was really quick," Jolie recalls. "I was asked if I wanted to direct and I always adamantly said 'No.' And I meant it. And even when I was writing I was writing as a secret side project because it was me trying to express these things that are on my mind, but never intending to do anything with it. Then I was pulled into the themes of this film and the themes of this conflict. I was pulled to Bosnia somehow by the themes and the people and the cast. And suddenly, we were there, but it was very fast."
Joining Jolie for our discussion where to of her leading ladies, Zana Marjanovic and Vanessa Glodjo, who play sisters torn apart by the conflict.
"I tend to work with first time directors a lot," Marjanovic says. "It's always a lovely experience, but I've never worked with such an experienced actress at the same time who is the director and this is tremendously important."
Jolie shot in both English and BHS (Bosnian language) and was limited to two takes in each. She edited the film in English first with editor Patricia Rommel ("The Lives of Others"). Then, a Bosnian editor joined them to figure out which takes in BHS worked best for the flow of the picture. Jolie, the producers and the distributors eventually decided to release the more authentic BHS language cut with English subtitles.
Jolie notes, "Because the subject matter was so heavy and the scenes were so heavy it brought out a lot of laughter and love and unity because everyday you wanted to hug everybody. But we were challenged."
"I don't even know if you know this," Jolie says to both Marjanovic and Glodjo. "But the producers who were putting the bulk of money into it for us said, 'You can't do it in two languages. You're a first time director, you have a short enough schedule, you don't have enough money. Two languages is insane.' And I said, 'I talked to the actors. They said they can do it. You have to trust us.' And they said, 'If the first week you go over, you have to do it in one. So, we went into this week - you're first week - and we actually gained a day in our first week."
That would be impressive for any production. On a typical independent film it would be a godsend. For a film as complex "Blood and Honey"? It's the sort of result that may find Jolie behind the camera again sooner than she thinks.
For the complete interview watch the embedded video at the top of this post.
"In the Land of Blood and Honey" opens in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 23.
For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.
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