The Secret Behind Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent Performance

Angelina Jolie in Maleficent
Before Angelina Jolie ever walked into the interview room, there was a nervous energy. How could there not be?! One of THE most celebrated and private actors of our generation was minutes away and every single question I wanted to ask her suddenly vanished from my brain.

The night before meeting Angelina, I watched Disney’s soon to be released Maleficent in 3-D. Angelina Jolie stars as the title character who we all remember as the ultimate villain from Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty. The new film peels back the layers of the characters from the fairy tale we are familiar with and takes us to their starting point. In other words — how did Maleficent become the kind of evil woman who would curse a baby?

When Angelina walked into the interview room the next day, she was far removed from the heightened persona of Maleficent. In fact the first thing she says is how intimidating it is to be in a room with mom bloggers. The room laughs, and then everyone leans forward to the edge of their seat to soak up her every word.

When she was a little girl she was fascinated by Maleficent. Angelina explains, “I didn’t really identify with the princesses at the time.” She laughs and then continues, “It’s like a little kid seeing Marlene Dietrich for the first time. It was like seeing this elegant, powerful woman who seemed to be having a great time and she was so … just her voice. So I was a bit fascinated by her.”

The voice is really something that will give you chills in the best way. Angelina Jolie is darkly commanding as Maleficent. When I watched her on screen the night before, I realized she was now joining the ranks of a handful of other actresses who have played larger than life villains: Glenn Close in 101 Dalmatians and Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada instantly come to mind.

I told Angelina that it looked like she was having a lot of fun playing this part, and I asked her how she found the unique voice she used for the film. Her answer was not something I was expecting. I thought surely she used a voice coach or maybe just stood in front of the mirror making sounds, but Angelina shared that the secret behind her Maleficent performance was her kids, stating:

I always tell stories. I’m sure we all do and all of us have a few voices. I was giving [the kids] baths and I was doing this thing where a few nights in a row I would tell them a story in the bath and I was trying out voices. A few of them they’d say – please stop! And then sometimes they would listen and they would kind of be more engaged.

Angelina continued testing out a voice for the character of Maleficent until she and her children found the perfect one. She knew it was the right voice when the kids kept asking for her to use it more and more. She says they still make her do it, and just the other night she had to use her Maleficent voice during bedtime.

Angelina also had her kids on her mind as she spoke about another project she is working on, Unbroken. This film about an Olympian who becomes a WWII POW will be the second feature film Angelina has directed. She let her older boys screen the film (currently in post-production), and she watched them as they watched the movie. This film, she says, is heavy, and she is aiming for a PG-13 rating. After watching the film her sons had questions about faith, life, death, and war, and Angelina believes as parents we shouldn’t shy away from being ready for those conversations. She revealed:

I think it’s really very important we talk to our kids about real life issues, and real stories … about something that makes them walk away for it feeling like there’s a chance, and that the spirit inside of them can rise up against anything, and they can feel good about that. No matter how they start, they can rise.

Angelina knows she is in a very lucky position as a mother: She has a supportive partner and she is able to have a flexible working schedule. While she doesn’t consider what she does as a parent exceptional, she doesn’t take any of it for granted. Emotionally she explains, “My mom was a single mom and she had a lot of difficulty and she gave up her dreams to make sure she could take me to my auditions and support me. Nobody acknowledged her for what she did, so that was hard.” So Angelina says she won’t be complaining about balancing work and life.

It was so wonderful to be able to talk to Angelina this week. I had no idea what she would be like and it was lovely to discover that what drives her every day is the same thing that drives all of us – our kids.

(Although I bet Brad does some motivating too, JUST SAYING.)

You can see Angelina Jolie in Maleficent when it opens in theaters on May 30th.

Image Credit: Disney

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