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Interview with Angelina Jolie
An On-Location Interview with Angelina Jolie
Breaking from the action with the star of Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.
May 23, 2003 - Angelina Jolie's in a chipper mood. Not simply because she's performing many of her own stunts, and pressing the powers that be to allow her to do more, as she likes. Not because the expectations of the first Tomb Raider are no longer on her shoulders. And not because she's in the groove of playing Lara Croft, digital adventurer turned big-screen icon (whose need for speed, or heights, isn't too far removed from Jolie's). Most likely it's because this globetrotting adventure, Tomb Raider 2: The Cradle of Life, is almost at a close and a break in the production storm is only few days on the horizon.
Keeping up the pace, Jolie has just jogged from the 007 stage to the nearby Stanley Kubrick building, and a corner production office. The office happens to be home to more than a few of the set designer's miniatures, including the Hong Kong set and the film's namesake Cradle of Life set. There's also a miniature version of the Luna Temple set, the life-size version of which Jolie was on mere moments ago. She's in the middle of filming a scene in that partially submerged underground temple, where the crew is now hard at work setting up the next shot. In her Lara Croft skin-tight silver pants, straps and gear, with her hair braided, pulled back and wetted (the scene has water leaking from cracks in the Temple's ceiling), Jolie catches her breath for a moment, and glances back toward the doorway. "I was just, you know... I'm in the middle of doing it. It's just me jumping around, it's not my being nervous," she kids. On a movie set, so the saying goes: hurry up and wait. Add to it: unless they need you, then run. Meaning she could be pulled away from us any moment at Director Jan de Bont's beckoning to resume her perilous (yet safety-harnessed) climb over the set's tilted, 30 ft. statue of Alexander the Great.
On some imported chairs (from another office), amid the miniatures, we set in for a chat about what makes Ms. Croft, and Tomb Raider 2, tick.
Q: Producer Lloyd Levin told us that there's a lot more complexity to the character this time around. Can you talk about that?
ANGELINA JOLIE: Yeah, there was a lot that had to be established in the first one. And so we didn't have all lot of time to get into who she was, and what she fears, and what she loves, and what makes her laugh, and what she finds sexy. (She smiles bashfully.) And all the things that just make for an interesting film. So it's been great to explore all of those things and put her in situations where she's forced to kind of come out of her stoic exterior. I think we get to know her much more.
Q: How much more physically taxing is the stunt work with this second film? I mean, there's a lot more stunt work, and a lot more sort of variety and stuff. How much more physically taxing has it been for you to perform in these situations?
JOLIE: Well, I don't know if I'm getting used to it, or maybe I am getting used to it. It seems fun, and I still love it and it's fun. It's different now. There is more of a variety of things and it's (here she has to stop to adjust the belt that she's wearing, somewhat cumbersome, as if an example of what she's explaining) – it's taxing. Personally I don't like the water, and I've had to spend a lot of time in it (she says with a laugh), but it's just something... something that's not one of my favorite things. But I've loved all the things with the animals, and I've loved the heights. So, there are some favorite things and favorite days, and then there are days where it's a bit tedious. But it's all a great job at the end of the day and it's all a fun adventure.
Q: What's been your favorite day so far?
JOLIE: Hmmm... (She looks upward with a smile, and puts her hand to her chin.) I liked the horseback riding a lot. There's a lot of trick horse riding. That, and kendo with Hillary (played by Red Dwarf's Chris Barrie). It was very funny. It was just fun.
Q: Lloyd showed us the skydive sequence. Now what were you thinking about doing that scene? Did you actually get to go up to the top of the building under construction?
JOLIE: Uh huh! Yeah, I think everybody's got their things that make them uncomfortable ... I happen to be personally very happy when I'm dealing with heights. Which is fortunate for this. So I loved it. I thought I was lucky that I got to get [up there]. (She motions with her hands as if to exemplify being close to the edge of the building's edge.) There were a lot of issues about me going too close to the edge and all that.
Q: Have you ever skydived apart from working on a film?
JOLIE: Yes. Pretty amazing.
Q: Did you want to do that base-jumping yourself?
JOLIE: (She laughs.) Yes.
Q: Had you brought it up that you'd like to do it?
JOLIE: I'd just like to do it. But ... certain aspects of that are a real skill, and there's permits and everything. So, part of a dive I might be able to do, in a different way outside of getting in the air one way or the other.
Q: What did they say when you asked them to do it?
JOLIE: I think they expected that of me. And they just said, "Can we talk about it later, please?" And, "Can we just, um, get off the building!" (She laughs.)
Q: Do you have any accidental injuries, you know, from doing stunts or more stuff?
JOLIE: Yes. I do. I'm missing a slight piece of my right elbow.
Q: How did that happen?
JOLIE: On a boat. Boat collision. And, a shotgun shell went in my eye, but that was more of a funny thing that didn't... that just stopped us for a bit. You know what I mean. It wasn't like a burn or anything. It just kind of stalled us for a few hours.
Q: Do you feel anything when comes to doing these stunts and action sequences?
JOLIE: Yeah, it's a period of a point of stupidity (she says with a laugh). Yeah. I like it. I think it makes me... it makes me feel very alive and happy. I'm very happy and very excited when my adrenalin is going.
Q: Now did you actually swim with sharks?
JOLIE: (She looks away for a moment, as if we've stumbled on a secret subject.) That is also a point of discussion. But we've done certain things that are in the beginnings without the sharks, and now they're... There still [considering it]. But it's not [really dangerous]... it's fun. It's not unsafe to swim with the sharks. So I think it's just a matter of getting sharks in the middle of England, too. (She laughs.) Do you know what I mean? But it's quite safe to swim with certain sharks I think as long as you're not bleeding. (That elicits a small amount of nervous laughter from the journalists.) Which is why [Lara] slices herself in order to attract them. You know, if they smell blood they'll... but if they don't, they're sort of fine. (She shrugs her shoulders.)
Q: So you're still discussing whether or not they will let you do that?
JOLIE: Yes. I'd like to. It was one of my fantasies, so that was one of the things I requested. But now they can do all these magic things with computers. So you think you get to do something in a movie and you find out you don't get to really do it.
Q: You don't really expect them to let you swim with sharks?
JOLIE: I don't know. I might, maybe when the film's over, go and bring a camera. (She laughs.) I think we've been discussing that [TV show] Fear Factor. We've been discussing and maybe I can do an episode for the opening of the film, then I could do all the things I want to do... there. You know, their way. Surrounded by producers.
Q: Could you discuss working with Jan de Bont, the pre-planning? I mean, he's an action film guy, he's done that stuff.
A knock is heard on the open door behind Ms. Jolie, and it's the second assistant director, with a walkie-talkie and earpiece headphone, talking for a moment to the first assistant director on set. At this point I was thinking we'd have to pick things up later, if ever, considering how busy everyone is.
"Ah, got to go now!" Jolie exclaims.
"Terribly sorry to interrupt. And we're ready," he says.
"OK. I'll be there in a moment," she replies.
JOLIE: (Turning back to the subject at hand.) Well, we came into this one with a very solid script. And had a lot of... there were a lot of things planned out very early on with a lot of lead-time. The majority of the crew, 90% of the crew is the exact same, so a lot of the sets being designed and built, and wardrobe and all of that was worked on very early. [Jan] is very, I don't know. I don't ... watch dailies. (She laughs.) [Although] I've heard it's all coming along very well, so he's obviously doing a very good job.
Q: How are you with the wardrobe this time round?
JOLIE: Very good! Yeah, we had a great [time]. We tried to mature her, make things a little more interesting.
Q: That skydive shot was pretty well done.
JOLIE: Yeah, that was Simon Crane. There is our stunt coordinator. Shot that.
Q: He was on the first film, too?
JOLIE: Yes. He's wonderful, wonderful.
Q: So is he the one who says you can or cannot do this?
JOLIE: Simon? Yes. Simon. You can ask Simon about his issues with me. Simon's great. But Simon checks to make sure I haven't unscrewed a safety.
Q: How much training did you have to do for this film? I mean, did you have to do intensive practicing for weeks on end?
JOLIE: No. But there's a lot of the, um... there's this stand-up Jet Ski that is harder than it looks. So I kept saying, "Can't you find something that's easier than it looks, something that looks very hard and is very easy?" (She laughs.) [For training] it was that, and there was a lot of the kendo. There's this big rifle drill, and it was very fun to learn, but it's the very specific military, 27-point thing. So that kind of stuff, and just a lot of the physical training. Last time it was a lot and it was a lot of just getting me into kind of this type of personality. Now it was more precise: underwater gun work or stick fighting or rifles. It was just getting a little more. I know how to do certain things, and they just assume I can do that. (She laughs.) Which cracks me up.
Q: How painful was it, this film?
JOLIE: It's not bad. I don't know, I think I'm just, you know, I'm happy. I'm a mom now (she adds with an all-knowing smile) so nothing is more exhausting. So my training is not, you know, I mean it's really all... it's all fun.
Q: What's the difference in the feel of the film this time around? Lloyd described the first film as being more cartoony for you as an actress. But what about this time?
JOLIE: That the first one was more cartoony... Yes. The first one. I wouldn't say cartoony, but it was fantasy-like, you know. I think we had to walk that fine line of [Lara Croft having] been in the game and then introducing her to being real. And now, we can just make for that much more human and that much more dark, or harder. I think also for me there was that first time I had to walk out in shorts and some tight outfit. And I personally just found that really uncomfortable. And now I kind of, you know, I don't mind. And I've gotten into enjoying being her, whereas last time I think it was little... I still found it ridiculous when it looked in the mirror. And now I still do but I'm enjoying it.
Q: What's different about that for Tomb Raider 2?
JOLIE: Well I think now she's more of a woman. Now she's sexier to me. We've added things and changed her a bit, so she's, um... she's a little less cute and she's a lot more aggressive.
Q: How much influence have you had in the way that she's developed?
JOLIE: A lot. Just simply with sitting around figuring out what it was that she feared a lot, or what it was that she loved, and I think they assumed that I would know that because there's other things that she and I have in common.
Q: Is there a particular area where you have a lot in common with her?
JOLIE: Yes, I think we both love adventure. We're both slightly nuts (and with that comment, of course, she laughs). We both have relationship issues (she continues laughing) and find ourselves alone. That seems to suit us. She's a fighter, and I'm very happy when I'm fighting for something I believe in, and I will fight all-out for something I care about. What she fears is very similar to mine which is something happening to somebody she loves, or being confined.
Q: Did she have maybe a slightly different motivation for this film, story-wise? Or is it still, just wanting to go out and do the adventure?
JOLIE: There's a reason: the enemies are better in this one. There are quite a few. And so part of it is certainly if [Pandora's Box] gets into the wrong hands. There's that and what that is. And so protecting [everyone] from that. But also, yes, Bryce and Hillary are pulled also more into the story, and if they're at risk that's obviously a big thing to her. And she does have (she smiles) romantic issues or some kind of issues with the men in this film. So you see the woman, kind of. There are different motives. But at the end of the day I do think she loves the adventure.
When Angelina Jolie is working on a film it's a catch-her-if-you-can situation, so we were fortunate to have caught her when we could. The second assistant director is waiting at the door. Shifting her mental gears to playing Lara and returning to that action in the Luna Temple, she adjusts her belt and says, "I better get back."
-- Steve Head