Angelina Jolie: “I’m looking forward to the day when we finally stop asking a woman why she makes movies”

Invincible will be broadcast tonight on France 3. At the end of 2014, we met her director, Angelina Jolie.

Update January 28, 2019: On the occasion of the first broadcast in the clear of Invincible , Angelina Jolie, at 8:55 p.m. on France 3 , we are republishing his interview with First end of 2014. It achieved for two other dramas : Sea View and First They Killed My Father , which should be released before the end of the year.


Interview of December 2014: The simple story of the adventures of Louis Zamperini is incredible in itself: grown in California in the early twentieth century, the son of Italian immigrants was on the verge of falling into crime when he discovered middle distance runner Famous for having raced at the 1936 Olympic Games, he joined the Air Force during the war. After his plane crashed in the Pacific, he drifted with two other survivors on a lifeboat for forty-seven days before being captured by the Japanese and interned in insane conditions. His survival story was the subject of a book ( Invincibleby Laura Hillenbrand, translated into French at the Presses de la cité) whose reading has traumatized Jolie to the point of inspiring a film. She managed to convince Universal to finance her project, with the blessing of Zamperini in person, whom she had meanwhile discovered was his neighbor for years. When she became her friend, she consulted him regularly and shared with him the progress of the project, until his death last July at the age of 97. Jolie talks about her intimate relationship with this story, and how difficult it is for her to assert herself as a director.

You have shot under the direction of actors like Robert de Niro or Clint Eastwood . How did this experience affect your own approach to staging? Each of them had their own style, of course, but they had in common that extra bit of sensitivity that allows them to know what the actor needs every moment: a little more space, a hint of advice but not too much, or clarification on the right tone of this or that scene. They are aware of the steps through which an actor goes to build his character. All that, they gave it to me, and I hope I did the same for Invincible’s interpreters.

It’s hard for you, become a Hollywood director? It’s very hard. Especially after so long considering myself an actress. I like the staging and I do my best to learn, but I still lack a form of self-confidence, which I strive to build. It’s harder than anything I’ve done so far. Invincible even more than In the Land of Blood and Honeybecause this is the first time I make a film for a studio, and that the tasks to be done were considerable given the size of the budget, correct but modest. It was necessary to reconstitute the California of the 1920s, the 1936 Olympic Games under Hitler, three prison camps, a forty-seven-day raft trip … Not to mention two plane crashes, which require specific logistics. I had to learn a lot, listen, ask lots and lots of questions. And then, I felt an extra responsibility to do well because I had become close to Louis at the end of his life. It had become a personal affair.

You are finishing a third film ( By the Sea ) and you still have a fourth one planned. You’ve opened the door for Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman who are also planning to go on stage. What does that say about Hollywood today? Honestly, things are very split in my mind. I do not think the same way when I work as an actress or when I’m in the position of the director. I am convinced that every filmmaker is different, whether male or female, whether he was an actor before or not. It is this personal background that allows everyone to find their own way, which determines the type of stories we want to tell, the way we treat them, the groups of people we are trying to reach. how do you think of communication with the public?

Ten years ago, it would have been just unthinkable for stars like the three of you to go on stage. I do not know (she gets annoyed). I imagine there is an evolution, yes. But what matters, whoever you are, is gaining the trust you are given. And for that, you have to work very hard. That is all. I try to ignore the other jobs I’ve been able to do, not to think about who I am, what I’ve proven I can do, or how people can see me . I look forward to the day when we finally stop asking a woman why she makes movies. I do not make movies as a woman but as a person. And I tell stories of men, because I love my husband and my son, and that it fascinates me to tell stories that are addressed to them.

Louis Zamperini, the hero of Invincible , is a fighter. Did you identify with him on this point? Of course, I feel drawn to his fighting spirit. But when I asked him what this film was supposed to be about, he said, “The important thing is not that the audience thinks I’m amazing, but realize that if I could do that which I have done, who am just so ordinary and imperfect, so they too are capable of it. He was born into a poor family of Italian immigrants, he often got into trouble when he was young, made all sorts of bad choices, and nothing could suggest that he was going to become a great man. After the war, he sometimes hit bottom, falling into alcoholism. But he always knew – and in that, yes, he is an example – that it is not the past that counts, and that it is still time to make the right choices.


Which brings to the theme of forgiveness. What this story reveals is that hatred and pain from terrible experiences can destroy you slowly. Louis has found in himself the resources to get up and move on, but I do not know how he has done to forgive and find peace. This is a question that I must solve for myself. I often wonder what would happen if someone hurt me, and I like to think that I could forgive. But if someone touched my children, for example, I can not say how I would react.

It was partly faith that allowed Louis to find the peace you are talking about. What is your position on religion? Every day we see the negative sides of religion when it is exploited for a violent purpose. I wanted to be very clear about the central themes of the film – in particular, that of faith – to make them universal and to make sure that they can reach people of all faiths. Who is God? Who do you talk to when you pray? Do you see God in the light of the rising sun? Or in your human brothers? Or when your mother kneels on your knees to come back from the war? These are questions everyone can understand. If we could focus on the common values ​​of faith, the world would be more livable.

Another striking aspect of this story is the relationship between Louis and his torturer, Watanabe. Why does Watanabe refuse Louis’ forgiveness? One has the impression that one finds the light, and that the other chooses to remain in the darkness. This is your interpretation. I’m not sure we can judge Watanabe. We know nothing of his childhood, of what it was to grow up in Japan at that time. By seriously studying Japanese culture, the devotion of the Japanese to their emperor, their vision of the war and the West, one would perhaps understand the behavior of this man. We can not judge someone without putting ourselves in his place. Understand me well: I hate what he did, his brutality, his behavior. But I do not pretend to know him or know where he comes from. In my opinion, he was a mental patient. I believe that after the war, he did not manage to evacuate what was gnawing at him, as Louis could or did. But we will never know for sure.

This terrible character is reminiscent of Douch, the Khmer Rouge camp guard ( featured in Régis Wargnier’s film Le Temps des confeux, released before Christmas) . At the end of his life, he converted to Catholicism because he sought forgiveness. Yes. I have a Cambodian son, and I keep myself informed about the activities of the Khmer Genocide Court. I conclude that one must never consider history, even contemporary, by pretending to know with certainty what is absolutely good and what is absolutely wrong. We do not win anything to see the world in black and white. We must try to understand what makes some think that they have a real good reason to be destructive, violent and hateful. The inhumanity of man towards man is very difficult to grasp, at least for me. It would almost tend to reassure me …

In your films, you use the context of war as revealing of the character of men. It is a very conscious step, yes. War reveals the best and the worst of human nature. By turning to the land of blood and honey , I was trying to understand how friends, neighbors and even lovers can become mortal enemies. In Invinciblewe go further: how to overcome traumatic experiences and then achieve anything positive? Where does the human mind draw this strength? It was very important for me to try to get an answer to this question, because I felt overwhelmed by all the testimonies I received after working for twelve years with refugees. I witnessed the effects of war on civilian populations. I needed to believe that desperate people always find something to hang on to. If an individual like Louis, with his faults, can do it, then there is hope.


The Coen brothers wrote the script. What was their contribution? Did they bring their chief operator Roger Deakins? No, Roger was already engaged. But there is no doubt that their presence helped to mount the film. We were lucky that they were available and that they love this story. One of their sons had read the book. We were all very nervous about our first meeting with them, but they were very supportive and helped us a lot in understanding that we needed to stay focused on the message, not give in to the temptation of the book in the film, which was impossible anyway. As fathers and brothers, they have a vision of humanity that I could not have brought from myself. They also injected humor as soon as possible, on a subject that does not lend itself to it a priori. And obviously, because of their experience as filmmakers, they write in a very clear way, very visual, no frills. And that’s particularly valuable for a director.

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