Monday, December 8, 2014

'Unbroken': Angelina Jolie On Fighting For The Film & Casting Jack O'Connell

Angelina Jolie is rising up the ranks as a director, but it hasn't been an easy road.

In order to get her latest film, "Unbroken," greenlit by the studio, the Academy Award-winning actress had to do a lot of preparation, pitching and convincing.

"I think as I was trying to convince them that I could do it, I was trying to convince myself," Angelina told Access Hollywood's Shaun Robinson at the "Unbroken" junket in New York City. "The first film I directed dealt with war in Yugoslavia, but it was very personal, it was a much smaller film. And this film, I wanted to do it because I loved the subject matter and I love what it said and I believed in it, but I would never have thought to take on a film that had plane crashes and sharks and re-creating the Olympics and races and all of that.

"So I had to really convince them that I had a handle on the structure of the story, but also the technical aspect and how to execute it," she continued.

Despite Angelina's clout as an actress (and the acclaim she received for directing "In the Land of Blood and Honey"), studio executives were hesitant about her ability to take on such a large scale project.

"They were right to question it. They were absolutely right to question it," she said. "And so I really had to convince them and work really hard to kind of lay out how we were going to do the different fighting scenes, how the budget was going to work, and I had to find the actors that would make it happen – because without them, we didn't have a film."

To keep herself busy during the long wait to hear if she'd earned the studio's approval, Angelina wrapped presents.

"It was near Christmastime and I had went in for my big final pitch and I had everything on boards and all these things, and I was working and pitching, and then I didn't hear anything for three days," she explained. "And so, I did, I wrapped every tiny little silly thing that was in a stocking for all the [kids] -- I just couldn't stop. I had to do something 'cause I couldn't think 'cause I was so flustered."

Angie's temporary gift wrapping obsession made husband Brad Pitt a bit concerned, as he could see how much the story of "Unbroken" meant to his wife.

"I think he was worried about me. I think it was because… the difference between either spending two years of my life walking in this man's footsteps and what that would do for my life and my children's life, versus not having that experience, and that's what was in the balance," she said. "And I knew if I could have that experience, I just knew what it would mean and to me, and I really felt compelled to tell the story."

Adding, "I believe in it."

Having known Louis Zamperini (an Olympic runner and Air Force airman, who was taken prisoner by the Japanese in WWII, and whose true story is told in "Unbroken") personally, Angelina knew exactly what she was looking for in an actor when it came time to cast the role. And when she met Jack O'Connell, she knew immediately that he was the man for the job.

"I'd been looking for Louis for so long and I really felt [Jack] was him. I'd seen his work and I knew a bit about him, and then as soon as the door opened there was something about the way he held himself," she said. "He has a real strength and masculinity, but he has a humility, and there was just something about him that, and through the whole meeting I kept smiling... I just felt, 'I hope he believes in me to direct him through this. I hope he feels connected to me, I hope he feels safe with me, and I hope he wants to do this and we can pull it off together,' because I knew I'd found him and I didn't want him to leave the room."

"Unbroken" hits theaters on Christmas Day.

-- Erin O'Sullivan

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