Superstar actress Angelina Jolie has flipped behind the camera writing, producing, and directing her first feature film In the Land of Blood and Honey.
Following the footsteps of many other actors-turned-directors, like her Changeling director Clint Eastwood (but unlike her partner Brad Pitt, who has disavowed any interest in directing), Jolie took on the daunting production casts and the film has since been nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film (although the film is considered a United States production, it is set during the Bosnian War, was shot in Hungary, and the cast primarily speaks Serbo-Croatian).
Jolie admits that while working on the production side was difficult, her acting background tremendously assisted her in both the filmmaking and casting process. When asked how her acting background influenced her roles of writing and directing In the Land of Blood and Honey, Jolie responds, “Well, certainly as a writer, I think I was probably able to flip characters in my head, as if I was playing different roles in order to write the different people because you kind of have to be one person, and inhabit him and write from his voice and be her and write her voice, so I think that helped. As a director, I hoped that I was able to help the actors by giving them the space and the respect they need and the trust. I gave them what I always felt I needed when I was working. And I would protect Zana [Marjanovic, the film’s star] in the scenes where she was very vulnerable, or had to deal with scenes with sensuality or nudity. I would be very considerate and only put in the film what was necessary for the story telling. With the big emotional scenes, I would try to protect them from the crew, from the noise. So you’re just trying to make these safe spaces and you try to help them.”
Being that Jolie has certainly had some nightmare auditions in the past, did she use her new production roles as an opportunity to work over her potential cast members?
Actually, Jolie believes she was a bit too soft on them, explaining, “I was really sensitive to it because I remember the days of auditioning and being nervous and so I really didn’t want to make people have to jump through hoops to do auditions and be nervous and make them more nervous. I kind of wanted to hire everybody [Laughs]. But I was always very conscious of that in making sure people knew and had strong feedback even if they didn’t get the part. It was hard, I didn’t want to put the actors through much and I actually saw each of their auditions once they got scenes and they all auditioned and I was pretty sure after I saw just a scenes once because after they did scenes, they talked. So I got a sense of them as a person and then I saw their scene work and then I pretty much cast them from that. And the people that I thought were going to be the ones, and I would say to Gail [Stevens, the casting director] ‘What were they like when they came in? Were they nice to everybody? Were they humble? Were they gracious?’ Because this was very important to me. And she would say ‘Especially these people were really, really lovely human beings, because of the subject matter.’ So then we sent the script out without my name on it, we just sent it to them and the few who we wanted, we just had our fingers crossed, because we knew how sensitive it was when they read the whole script, would they be comfortable with it. Fortunately they were.”
Via NBC Bay Area