“I try to be selective with my improvising,” said Jason Butler Harner, who is her co-star in Clint Eastwood’s upcoming “Changeling.” So he checked with the director first. “Clint approved,” he said. “He could see it happening and he said, ’Do it and we’ll see what happens.'”
Jolie was supposed to be pushing Harner against a wall. It was the movie’s climatic scene, and her character, Christine Collins, was supposed to be confronting his character, Gordon Stewart Northcott, and asking him, “Did you kill my son?” (The film is based on a true story; in the 1920s, Collins’ son was abducted, and another boy was “returned” to her instead. When she insisted that the second boy was not her son, she was deemed hysterical, when actually it was a case of LAPD corruption).
“I had talked to her at the beginning of the day,” Harner said. “We had a big scene, and we’re supposed to be coming out of our corners, so it was a ’How do we do this?'”
Nowhere in that talk did he mention he was planning to lay one on her, however. But Eastwood approved because he likes to shoot and use things that actors don’t expect — a scene they might well believe is just a rehearsal, for instance. So for the big climax being shot the last week of a 35-day shoot, he wanted Jolie to be caught off guard — and she was.
“She slapped me and she held me and she hit me and it was great,” Harner said. “She totally went with it. She’s really smart. She’s beautiful, but she’s really smart, and she’s a great actress.”
The scene takes place in Northcott’s prison cell on the eve of his execution.
“That guy invited the parents of the kids he killed to come the day before he was executed,” Harner said, “so he could tell them where the bodies were, or how he did it. But when they got there, he said, ’I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ He was demented and deserved a lot of things [to be done to him]. Including a slap, at the very least.”
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