It's difficult enough for any actor to disappear into a role. Now try doing it when you've got one of the most recognizable faces on the planet, which is splattered virtually every week on a magazine cover. Such was the task facing Angelina Jolie as she played Mariane Pearl in "A Mighty Heart."
Directed by acclaimed British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom (of "24 Hour Party People" and "Wonderland" fame), the film recounts the tragic story of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was murdered after following a lead in post-9/11 Pakistan five years ago.
MTV News spoke to Jolie about the film, the legacy she wants to leave and her battles with the press, which continue even as she promotes this movie.
MTV: Unlike some real women you've played in the past, like Gia [Carangi in HBO's "Gia"] and Cornelia Wallace [in TNT's "George Wallace"], you actually know Mariane Pearl pretty well. So how did you approach portraying her?
Angelina Jolie: I did know her a little, and I've gotten to know her more since. It took it out of being kind of an acting job. This was going to represent a time and a message for a family that I've come to know and care about. They're my friends. And so the responsibility of that became really daunting and more pressure than I've ever had on anything. And yet [Mariane] is so gracious and just wants everyone to do their best and would not have been a hard critic.
MTV: Like you, Mariane was the focal point of intense media scrutiny through this ordeal.
Jolie: The things that were misprinted put her husband's life in more danger, like somebody being careless enough to report that [Daniel] was dead, when he wasn't yet. That kind of misuse of journalism is so disgusting. It is something that I have not had to confront. But I do know slightly what it feels like to be under attack when you're having a private moment — certainly nothing to the extent of what she felt. I imagine it 100 times what I feel. It must have been horrible.
MTV: The film works on a number of levels. It's a thriller, a mystery, even a love story. How does it play for you?
Jolie: You know, when you're in something, it's hard to analyze it. I did think that Michael did an amazing job of making it feel very real, capturing the energy of the case, the feeling of Pakistan, the chaos. This film could have been very difficult to watch. And somehow Michael navigated his way through it, to make it clear and interesting and not too complicated.
MTV: As we speak, you are probably one of the most famous people on the planet. Do you feel your fame gets in the way of promoting a film like this?
Jolie: I suppose, but if I really believed it would have been a negative too much, I wouldn't have done the film. I would have stepped off. I believed in this, and Mariane believed that the heart of the film would surface beyond anything else.
MTV: What are your priorities now in terms of your film work, in terms of the body of work you want to leave behind?
Jolie: I feel very proud of a film like this. And I feel very fortunate that I've had a chance to work on great projects. I'm looking forward to a film I get to do with Clint Eastwood ["The Changeling"]. It's so cool, and it's a great script. What an amazing chance to work with an amazing man, a hero of mine. I don't have big dreams of how many more things I want to do. I want to spend a lot of time with my family. I want to travel. I'd like to be less in the public eye. [She laughs.] So we shall see.
MTV: Recently there was a lot of attention given to the agreement your representatives asked journalists to sign, asking that they refrain from personal questions. It seems like the majority of the press on this film has concerned that story.
Jolie: I think the majority of the stories have been about the film. And I think that certain news outlets have decided to try to make it about other things. I'm glad it was cleared up between me and my representation. I didn't know [the agreement] was out there. It was excessive, and I'm glad it was corrected. But I know why they did it, and I appreciate what they were trying to protect. And that is it.
MTV: A request like that seems ironic since you more than anybody have been so open throughout your career.
Jolie: I feel like I'm a pretty candid person.
MTV: Do you ever just want to scream, "What more can I give you? For a decade I've been telling you what's on my mind!"
Jolie: Let's go have a cup of coffee! [She laughs.] I can cry on your shoulder. Yeah, I feel like I've had a very open relationship with the press. And I've only just asked, when I could, to try to protect my family and some privacy. But I've never blocked a journalist from a serious story, and I never would think to do that. That would be a horrible thing to do.
Check out everything we've got on "A Mighty Heart."
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