Saturday, December 13, 2014

Only In Hollywood

Angelina on having a happy family life


LOS ANGELES—When asked what she does for “me time,” Angelina Jolie chuckled and said, “People ask me that so often, that I’m starting to think I have a problem and I should be doing something about it. I don’t rest well. I like being in the middle of the set and trying to solve the puzzle or this film. I’m happy when I’m useful. I’m really bad when I’m just sitting around (laughs).”

On shooting “Unbroken,” a drama chronicling the remarkable true story of Olympic runner and World War II hero and prisoner Louis Zamperini, she said, “I was very happy my children were with me. They’re homeschooled, so when they could be on the set—or any time I could get away from the set—I hang out with them, play board games, or color on the floor.”

The film, starring Jack O’Connell as Zamperini and Japanese rock star Miyavi, is based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book that chronicles Zamperini’s resilience in the face of many hurdles, including 45 days adrift at sea and being taken prisoner by Japanese forces.

“It’s a lesson for all of us in how to walk through this life and how we take care of each other,” Angelina said. “We’ve all got the best of us in us, whatever that may be, and we try to rise to it. It is something I teach my children. They, fortunately, met Louis and they were very influenced by him.

Strength of spirit
“I probably irritate my children because of how many times I say they should be more like Pete (Zamperini’s brother, played by Alex Russell). Pete was the best brother in the world.

“It’s knowing that there’s a strength of will and spirit and deciding that, any time you see an obstacle in life, instead of being overwhelmed, you see it as something that you will push past and you will learn from. You will meet that challenge with your chin up and do the best you can.”

She added, “One of the reasons I really wanted to do this film is, as we all know, there’s so much that happens in the world, so much to be disheartened by and to be concerned about through my work with the United Nations. I was looking for something to restore my hope and faith. I can always use those reminders.

“I read his (Zamperini’s) book and I was comforted by his story. I wondered what it would be like to follow in his footsteps; what I would learn and what I could then contribute. It’s very important to get these stories out there. It’s important that we understand human nature.”

With candor, Angelina said, “I don’t forgive easily. It’s very hard for me. I don’t know if I could ever forgive somebody who hurts my children.

“I wanted to understand how Louis did come to forgive and why he felt it wasn’t only important, spiritually, but also as a tool of survival because he was, in fact, so eaten up by the hatred that was destroying him.

“So it’s very important to tell people that hate is very damaging to the victim. Forgiveness helps you move forward and enjoy your life, your children and your freedom. Freedom comes hand in hand with justice and forgiveness. I do not believe anybody who’s been treated in such a manner should be expected to forgive if there has not been justice.”

Can’t lose faith
On whether she [occasionally] loses faith in humanity, Angelina said, “I once asked Jane Goodall that. She said, ‘You’re not allowed to lose faith. You’re not allowed to lose hope on behalf of all people who are suffering around the world. How dare you even consider it?’ At times I feel overwhelmed but we can’t just [lose faith in humanity]. That is why stories are important—we are inspired again to fight another day.

“When I spend time with refugees and victims of rape, I’m always astounded by their strength, resilience and ability to love beyond their pain and abuse. You realize that what we face is little in comparison. That’s what I saw in Louis.”

Bigger challenge
While her acclaimed directorial debut, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” was also a war drama, Angelina stressed that “Unbroken” was a bigger challenge.

“The first film was intimate and small,” she said. “I feel very comfortable with actors and acting but when everybody’s looking at you, asking how we’re going to do the bombing raid, you realize it’s a new skill. Directing plane crashes, shark attacks, recreating Hitler’s Olympics— these are very separate skills that are like, for five different films. So almost every other day, I had to rise to the challenge. It’s the hardest I’ve done creatively.”

Angelina choked up when she brought up her late mom, actress Marcheline Bertrand, as she answered a question on how her passion for acting has changed over the years.

“I realized when my mom passed away how much of my acting career was motivated by her desire to be an actress and how happy I was to show her the films and how excited she was,” Angelina said. “When she was gone, it wasn’t the same.

“I like being behind the camera. I like shining a light on other people. I don’t love the spotlight. I’m more comfortable in my boots with the crew and being able to protect a story. I liked that with ‘Unbroken,’ from beginning to end, I did my best to protect every aspect of the story, not just come in for a few months and then wonder what the whole film will be. I could shepherd it and give it a different kind of focus.

“I prefer that and I still enjoy acting but it’s not like I used to when, if it’s an interesting role, you go, ‘Oh, that’s interesting. I’ll do that for a few months.’

“It has to take me out of my comfort zone like ‘Maleficent’ did. That’s the only film I did after my first directing film. I have to push myself as an actress in the craziest possible way to find some new joy and try something bigger and bolder to exercise a different muscle.”

In her transformation from a Hollywood figure with an increasingly controversial reputation into an accomplished writer-actress-director, not to mention a dedicated humanitarian and mom, she credited adopting her first child, Maddox, for waking her up.

She pointed out, “When you’re younger, you’re so aware of what you wish for, what hurts you, [you look inward] as teenagers should. Then you get to a certain point in your life and you look around you, at the world, and you see the reality of life. You sober up and you realize how fortunate you are. That happened to me when I went to my first war zone. It was like somebody smacked me in the face and I was never that inward-looking or selfish again.

“Then, of course, the joy of becoming a mom. When you decide to become a mom, when you adopt a child, this decision, this process, it’s not giving birth, it’s for this little person. I remember on Madd’s first day home, he just sat there and stared at me. We both looked at each other. I thought, oh my, here we go. I don’t know how to do this and we’re going to figure this out together but yes, you have a new commitment.

“We can all say we want to live for others and do nice things but when you have children, your life is secondary to anything that they need and anything that they want in life. It’s a wonderful feeling to live for others. It really gives you peace.”

In parting, she reflected, “I never planned to do all of this in my life. I was never somebody who wanted a big résumé that showed I accomplished a lot of things. I didn’t want to become a director and have that title.

Just telling stories
“I just wanted to tell stories and that was the best way I could. Like everybody, I just try to do the best with my life but if I only accomplished my motherhood and being a wife, maybe I’d be a little itchy and frustrated. But I would be happy and I would give that my best. So if it was all gone tomorrow, I’d be happy for having had the experience.

“But while I am working, I’m trying to do the absolute best I can on every front. It’s more when it comes to films like this or politics, if you see a need that needs to be filled and you have an opportunity to speak about it, say something, you make a film about it.

“I’m the hardest on myself. I’ve been in this business for a long time. I’ve been thought of in many ways, written about or judged. You just try to be the best person you can be and hope that my kids see me. They’re my judge, my barometer for how I’m doing in my life. There can be a lot of   expectations or thoughts of me but I suppose they expect me to be a great mom. They’re right—I should be.”

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